Sunday, June 23, 2013

Salsa Verde Shredded Chicken

We love chicken cooked this way! I use it in many Mexican style dinners and it is so easy to cook up a large batch.

I place 5-6 frozen chicken breasts in the crockpot. Then I dump in a bottle of salsa verde. We like the mild version, but you can make it as spicy as you like. I add 1-2 tsp of chicken bouillon. That's it - put the lid on and cook for 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. To prepare ahead and freeze, just combine everything in a gallon ziplock bag. To use, thaw and cook as above.

When you can poke a fork into the chicken and twist easily, you know the chicken is ready for shredding.I lift it out of the crockpot and into a casserole dish so the juices don't get all over the place while I shred it with two forks. (Reserve all the remaining liquid in the crockpot - the next post will tell you how I turn it into delicious enchilada filling.)

Here is my pile of shredded chicken. I usually plan it so that I use some of the chicken for dinner and freeze the rest for another night. To freeze, allow to cool completely and bag in freezer ziplock bags or containers.
You can top a taco salad, roll some in a burrito, make enchiladas, bake up some chicken nachos, top a tostada, use it in white chicken chili - really your options are about limitless. 

You can do the same thing with red salsa or picante sauce. You can also substitute pork roast for the chicken. It really is that simple - 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Setting Up a Makeshift Kitchen

Let's face it - remodeling a kitchen is never easy! One of the most challenging things about remodeling is figuring out how to have daily life continue through the process. When we were without a kitchen for 8 weeks, eating out was not an option. We did not have the budget for it financially or the time each evening to go out to a restaurant and still make it to all of the kids required activities and events. Setting up a makeshift kitchen and planning ahead for meal preparation was our only option.I took some pictures of our setup in case seeing them would be helpful to anyone else out there needing to do the same thing.

We took over half of the family room in the basement. We borrowed a folding table from my sister to be our counter. The dresser gave us space for little odds and ends that were essential. It also provided a spot for the microwave. Under the table became our cupboard space for lunch boxes, leftover containers, mixing bowls, waffle irons, etc.

We set up our own folding table to be our eating/homework/project space. I'm so glad we created space for this second table. It made life flow so much easier to not have to completely clear off my cooking space every time it was eating time. It also gave us the space to have family dinners like we were accustomed to. We could not get our regular kitchen table down the stairs or we could have just used it. The bend in our stairs required that we use folding tables.

The bathroom served as our water source. It was a bit inconvenient to be cooking around the corner in the family room, but the table gave me more space. We did end up plugging some items in on the bathroom counter though so we did not pop the family room circuit. It became a little comical as we learned that we could not run the microwave with the lights or TV on. We could not use the electric frying pan on the bathroom counter with the lights on either. It became a bit tricky. We also did many dishes in this little sink.

I cleared off the bathroom shelves to give us a little more storage space for important items.

We used two large plastic dish pans to help us transport dishes. We filled them up with dirty dishes after each meal and then carried them up to the laundry room where we had a larger sink for doing dishes. We then allowed the dishes to dry on top of the washing machine before using the black bins to cart the clean dishes back downstairs. We ate on paper plates, but used glass bowls and each had our own colored cup so we could have multiple drinks of water throughout the day without washing the cups every time.

Here is a close-up of some of what we had under the table. 

Inside the dresser drawers - 

I'm grateful we took the time to set up a well thought out space. It really did make the ordeal go by more smoothly. The other thing we did was get an old piece of carpet from a friend who lays carpet for a living. We stretched the piece of carpet over our own carpeting to save it from stains as we lived downstairs. I hope these thoughts help someone out there who is preparing for a similar experience. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Microwave Caramel Cereal Snack Mix

Caramel Cereal Mix is loved by all the kids and adults who have ever tasted it! It never stays around long. We love to take it to game nights or other pot luck events. By doing it in the microwave, it can all be done in a flash and a flurry.

Begin by melting the butter and brown sugar mix in the microwave.

Combine the cereal and any other goodies like pretzels and nuts in a clean, brown grocery bag.

Add the baking soda.

The mixture will turn this light, brown color when you add the baking soda. (The kids think you just did a neat science trick.)

Pour the caramel mixture in to the bag and mix well with a long handled spoon.

Fold the top of the bag over and shake. Microwave for about 90 seconds - each microwave is a little different so you may have to adjust the time slightly.

The bag should look like this when you are done - 

Tear open the bag and allow the mix to cool. It's pretty impossible to keep snitching hands out of it entirely. Once cooled - enjoy! Store any remaining mix in an airtight container - you probably won't have any leftover for long.

Microwave Caramel Cereal Snack Mix

1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ tsp salt
½ cup butter
½ tsp baking soda
¼ light corn syrup
10 cups Corn or Rice Chex or Cheerios
Peanuts, cashews, pretzels - optional

Measure cereal into a large brown paper grocery bag. Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, and salt in a glass bowl. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes in the microwave. Remove and stir in baking soda. Pour caramel mixture over cereal and shake and stir until coated. Roll down the top of bag to close. Place bag in microwave and microwave for 90 seconds. (Each microwave is a little different so you may need to adjust cooking time.) Lay bag on table and tear open the side of the bag to allow the mixture to cool. Don't hesitate to double the recipe. If you do, you will need to shake the bag after cooking for 90 seconds and then return to the microwave for an additional 90 seconds. Try a mix of different cereals, popcorn, and nuts for a sweet snack mix.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Whole Grain Waffle Mix

When strawberries are in season, waffles with strawberries and whipped cream are always a request at our house. We have a few waffle recipes I use. One is an oatmeal waffle and one is for pumpkin waffles. Here is our other favorite - just a classic whole grain waffle. To make it go quickly in the morning or at night for dinner, I always keep a few mixes on hand.

Combine the dry mix with the wet ingredients right in the blender. Process until smooth. Add a little more water if it appears too thick. (Only do a single size batch in your blender - a double batch is just a little too big - trust me on this one.)

Pour into a heated waffle iron and cook until done (3-4 minutes).

Allow to cool on a wire rack - this keeps the bottom waffle from getting soggy before you have enough made for everyone. You can also freeze any leftovers once they have completely cooled. Then they are ready to pop in the toaster another time.

Whole Grain Waffle Mix
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp sugar
5 Tbsp dry milk powder
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups water

Pour the mix into your blender and add the wet ingredients. Blend until smooth. Add a little more water if the batter is too thick. Cook on a hot waffle iron. Feel free to sneak in a little more nutrition, by substituting 2-3 Tbsp ground flax seed in place of some of the all purpose flour.

(You can make a large batch of the basic mix. Then just measure out 2 1/2 cups of mix to make one batch of waffles.)

There you have it - go grab some of those fresh strawberries and enjoy! The waffles are also great with maple syrup or homemade freezer jam. Yesterday we enjoyed them with homemade blueberry syrup - that is a post for another day. I'm sure your mouth is already watering and you have your own ideas of what you will put on top of these wonderful waffles!