Crock Pot Lasagna

I love lasagna, but the frozen varieties aren’t quite delicious or nutritious enough for my taste, and I have been trying lately to curb our consumption of processed or ready made foods as much as possible.

But every time I made homemade lasagna in the oven, I found it dry when it was fully cooked. I thought I would have to choose between processed foods or dry lasagna. . . until I found out that I could cook lasagna in the crock pot. It’s genius, I tell you!

I started out by taking a veggie crock pot lasagna, and I substituted some of the veggies for ground meat and increased the overall sauce portion. My recipe works really well, but the lasagna is a little less sturdy than oven-cooked lasagnas. It is super moist, flavorful, and delicious, though, and definitely worth a try! My favorite part is that it is chock full of vegetables, but doesn’t really taste like it – so it truly is a family friendly one pot meal!

amywilla.com: Crock Pot Lasagna

IMG_5288IMG_5283The Recipe

  • 1 zucchini chopped
  • 1 handful spinach leaves, chopped
  • 2 leaves of kale, chopped
  • Mushrooms finely diced (optional)Finely diced garlic (optional)
  • 1 lb ground beef (browned)
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese (I make my own, but store bought works too!)
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1 egg
  • Basil (to your preference)
  • 4 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 package traditional Lasagna noodles (not oven ready)
  • 3/4 lb shredded mozzarella cheese

In a medium sized bowl, mix ricotta cheese, and finely chopped kale and spinach together. Mix in your preferred amount of basil

In a large mixing bowl, mix tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, and cooked ground beef with the chopped zucchini (and garlic if you choose to add it).

Spray your crock pot with cooking spray, and spread one smooth layer of pasta sauce mixture in the bottom. Lay uncooked lasagna noodles on the sauce mixture, and then layer the ricotta cheese mixture and lastly the mozzarella cheese. Repeat this layering twice, and then repeat the sauce-noodles part of the layering, ending with the remainder of the sauce and the rest of the mozzarella cheese.

Cover, set your crock pot on high for 4 hours, and set it and forget it! In 3-4 hours, you will have a bubbly, delicious italian entree to serve. No worrying about oven temperature, or whether your lasagna will be too dry (or burn, for heavens’ sake!) Just yummy delicious fall apart and melt in your mouth lasagna chock full of a great balance of protein, dairy, carbohydrates, and vegetables.

IMG_5290What an easy and great family meal. It’s truly one of my favorites, and I’m so happy to share it with you!

Healthy Faves – Banana Peach Smoothie with Chia Seeds

Living in Northern New England, and now in Alaska, I miss a lot of things about the South. I miss Southern Hospitality. . . obviously, I miss my family, but most of all, on a daily basis, I miss the food places I used to frequent – especially Smoothie King. I’d swing by and order a Peace Slice (or sometimes Caribbean Way) with whey protein powder and it was nutritious, delicious, and oh so easy.

So, I made my own delicious recipe for a smoothie that I think I love more than a Smoothie King Peace Slice!

The Recipe:

1 cup frozen peaches (about 6-8 slices)

1/2 a banana (nosh on the other half while you make your smoothie, or appease a toddler with it!)

1/4 cup vanilla flavored (or plain) greek yogurt

1 swirl of honey

1/4 cup frozen mango chunks

1 dash of cinnamon

1 teaspoon chia seeds (or more, if you like!)

milk and/or ice to make your desired consistency (see instructions below)

Instructions:

Place your frozen peaches and banana chunks in a blender or blender bottle with 1/4 cup milk. Blend.

Add yogurt. Blend.

Add mango chunks and blend.

Add and blend ice to reach the desired consistency of your smoothie (or conversely, add milk if you like your smoothies liquidy 1)

Enjoy!

  1. I personally like mine pretty icy and thick

Easy Crockpot Homemade Mac & Cheese

Welcome to the November 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Feeding Your Family

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared recipes, stories, and advice about food and eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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While I shop with the health of my family in mind, buying as many foods in a state as close to their natural state as possible, and making sure we all eat a balanced diet that fuels our bodies and encourages us to try new healthy foods. . . one of our favorite dishes is mac and cheese. I mean, who doesn’t LOVE mac and cheese? But the boxed varieties are full of preservatives, and not very creamy anyway, and the homemade kind is too difficult, with too many steps to mess up along the way – right?

WRONG!

If you don’t have a slow cooker (crockpot), run – not walk- to the nearest retailer to buy one (or borrow one from your neighbor) and collect the ingredients below, and voila! (as Abbey would say): Homemade mac and cheese that is the creamiest, most balanced, most amazing additional treat to your menu will be so so easy. I promise! You don’t even have to make a roux (which is how I have been making my homemade mac and cheese for the last few years, and if you’re saying “what’s that?” don’t worry. You don’t have to make one!!!!).

This recipe, which is one adapted from one that I found through Big Bear’s Wife, was received with great accolades and cries of “it’s so good!” from everyone in the house, ages 2 through well, daddy-age. It’s some of the best mac and cheese I have ever had myself.  It is a super simple recipe that is great for nights when time is scarce immediately before dinner. You can prep the crock pot at lunch time or slightly after (nap time anybody?), and then the mac and cheese is done, and warm and ready for you at dinner. Though I do have plans to figure out a way to replace the condensed cheese soup with something less processed, it really is delicious, comforting, and nearly preservative free just the way I made it.

The Recipe

I have re-written the recipe to the way that I prepared it, which is different from Big Bear’s Wife’s recipe in that my adaptation has fewer cans of condensed cheese soup, a smaller amount of sour cream and grated cheese, and adds an optional partial substitution of muenster cheese along with the cheddar. You can also use whole grain pasta with this recipe. I have not tried a gluten free pasta variety with this recipe, though I would love to hear feedback from any of my lovely readers that DOES decide to try!

16 oz Elbow or Shell pasta (or any small pasta) * This also works great with whole grain pasta!
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated muenster cheese **I love the mix, but 2 cups of only cheddar works, too!
8 oz sour cream
2 can (10oz cans) condensed cheese soup
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon brown mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta for 6 minutes. Make sure NOT to overcook it! It will cook some more in the crock pot. Remove the pasta from the heat, drain and set aside.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and grated cheese on medium-low. Stir this until all of the cheese is melted. Be patient. It may take a few minutes. This may seem strange at first, because the cheese doesn’t look very creamy after this step. Do not worry. The crock pot does it’s magic well.

In a medium to large crockpot combine the condensed cheese soup, milk, salt, mustard, sour cream, paprika and pepper. Stir. Add in the melted cheese and stir well.

Add in the drained pasta. Mix well to combine. Set your crockpot to low, and let the mac cook on low for 2.5 – 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

And as Abbey would say. . . VOILA!

Joe's Apron and Chicken

Enjoy your delicious, creamy, not too cheesy, but just exceptionally amazing (and easy!) crockpot mac and cheese! (Joe thinks it goes really well with chicken fingers and fruit – or applesauce.)

Did you try it? Let me know how your family liked this recipe in the comments!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon November 12 with all the carnival links.)

  • Nut Free Desserts for the Holidays — Becky at Crafty Garden Mama will be talking about navigating the holidays with peanut allergies in the family.
  • Making Peace with My Picky Eater — Once upon a time, there was a boy who would try anything. And then he turned 3. Thus began the dinner chronicles at Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s house.
  • Foodie Morphed by Motherhood — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis reflects on the changes of her family’s food culture since becoming a mother, and shares a snapshot of their current food rhythm.
  • Introducing First Foods — Wondering what your little one should take a bite of first? That Mama Gretchen explains baby-led weaning/baby self-feeding and answers a number of questions that may come to mind!
  • Feeding Your Family — Coconut Oil!!! — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama is a coconut oil devotee. In this post, she shares her favorite ways to include coconut oil in her family’s diet as well as why she feels it is important to do so.
  • We Thank the Earth for its Food! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle spends hours in the kitchen each day trying to make medicine in the form of food.
  • Focusing on Healthy, Gluten-Free Foods for My Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares what her family is doing to eat healthily along with her recipe for gluten-free peanut butter oat bran muffins.
  • Intolerancesustainablemum laments the misunderstanding surrounding food intolerances.
  • Don’t Let Food Sensitivities Ruin Your Holidays! — Rachel, the Titus 2 Homemaker, talks about ways to enjoy the holidays even if you wrestle with food sensitivities.
  • Losing grains, keeping empathy: Paleo and fat acceptance — Lauren at Hobo Mama vlogs about her family’s decision to cut grains to improve health — and hopes she can retain her position as a proponent of size acceptance even as she loses weight.
  • Easy Homemade Crockpot Mac & Cheese — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work, shakes off the blue-box blues with an easy crockpot mac-and-cheese recipe with no artificial dyes or excessive preservatives … just creamy, delicious, comfort-food goodness.
  • Extended Family Dinners — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about sharing family dinners with housemates and why it works for her.
  • Five Suggestions for Eating Healthy During the Holidays — No need to feel powerless when it comes to our highly sugared/processed food culture during the holidays &emdash; Andrea at It Takes Time offers tips to stay on track.
  • How to feed your family — no food required! — Jessica at JessicaCary.com is kind of obsessed with food. But, lately she’s realized there’s more to nourishment than what she cooks up in the kitchen.
  • Food as family medicine: living gluten-free and beyond — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama sticks to her gluten-free guns but sees room for improvement in her pursuit of a real-food family table.
  • Feeding My Family — Challenges and Growth — Susan at Together Walking shares what has been most challenging about feeding her two kids and how she has grown in the kitchen since becoming a mother.
  • How I Lost 75 Lbs — What I Eat & My Top 5 Tips — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares how she and her family became healthy, happy and active.
  • The Weight of Motherhood — Revolution Momma at Raising a Revolution rethinks her relationship with food after struggling with post-pregnancy weight gain.
  • Geek Food: Pumpkin Pasties — While Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy and family might have food sensitivities, their geekery knows no limits. So, when faced with a desire to recreate Pumpkin Pasties from Harry Potter, they do not shy away!
  • Pumpkin Harvest Muffins — This summer Mama is Inspired and family grew pumpkins, and this autumn they are baking scrumptious, healthy muffins out of those pumpkins.
  • Reintroducing Meat to the Vegetarian Tummy — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares some of the considerations she explored before transitioning from a vegetarian diet to reintroducing meat as a protein source and a few tips on making it an easy one.
  • Thanksgiving Meal, Thankful? — Jorje of Momma Jorje has never felt terribly thankful for Thanksgiving itself. Perhaps that could change if she’s a little more invested?
  • 5 Ways to Use Healing Bone Broth — It’s that time of year again, when unpleasant little bugs make their way into our homes. For Megan of The Boho Mama, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, homemade stock or bone broth is a natural remedy.

Mamatography Week 44

We have finally started settling into a good, healthy rhythm here in our new home at Coast Guard Base Kodiak in Kodiak, AK. Just in time for winter to blow in!

Abbey Ballet 2013

Abbey has been enjoying preschool Monday through Thursday and dance class on Friday afternoons!

Joe Oct 2013

Joe has been busy doing lots of toddler stuff. . .

throwing birthday parties for Thomas the Train and taking pictures of his toes, to name a couple.

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We have also been busy with crafts. . .

I’m pretty sure I caught Joe red (rem, green) handed in this pic!

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Abbey LOVES the perler beads craft set Grandma sent her on her birthday!

Daddy and I have also been enjoying crafting with her.

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I have been getting crafty myself. . .

now that my college semester is over, I can focus again on my Silly Bear Handmade shop.

Pumpkin Carving 2013

Halloween found us carving pumpkins

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And trick or treating! Abbey was a Pumpkin Fairy

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Joe was Leo from the Little Einsteins.

Though lots of people guessed Harry Potter.

Mya October 2013

The week wouldn’t be complete without capturing some canine portraits. . .

POttery Painting Datesy

And I had to photograph the masterpieces that Hubs and I painted on our date-afternoon to the coffee house and painting’ place.

I cannot WAIT to see them after they are fired, all bright and glossy and beautiful! It was so fun to leave the kids with a sitter and go do something relaxing and creative with my love.

Joe's Apron and Chicken

I also made Joe his own apron for helping in the kitchen this week.

 I’m not sure how much he likes it. . .

. . . but he sure likes homemade chicken fingers and mac and cheese! Who doesn’t?!

That was our week – how was YOURS?!

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That was our August. How was YOURS?

mtbadge2This post is part of the Mamatography 2013 Project with Diary of a First Child and Momma Jorje.

We are taking (at least) a photo a day to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!

Making Pizza Together

The other day for lunch, the Silly Bears really wanted to make pizza.

Lucky for them, mommy has all the ingredients on hand to make dough, and though we didn’t have mozzarella cheese, I figured cheddar would do.

We used the Quick No-Rise Pizza Crust from Kitchen Trials to make our dough. I don’t mind allowing dough to rise (obviously, judging by the amount of bread I make!) but the kiddos wanting pizza that very second drove me to google “no rise pizza dough” and this recipe was great!

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Abbey is getting really good at kneading dough.

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Joe is studying her form.

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Peeeeeeeeze can I do it, Abbey? Peeeeeeeze!?

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“Joe. You can open the cheese. You’re really good at that!”

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Mya helped us clean up the extra cheese pieces. . .

about 12 minutes in the oven . . . And then, VIOLA! Pizza!

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I couldn’t get a picture before the kiddos begged be to cut it up and serve it.

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Abbey even helped clean up. Go, Abbey!

What do you like making with your children?

Mamatography August 2013

Yep, it’s that time again: When Amy gets so busy that her Mamatography posts go from weekly to monthly.

That happen to any of you other mamas out there? I hope it’s not just me!

Since we finished our BIG PCS from Maine to Kodiak Island Alaska, I have been busy busy busy setting up our home, caring for our kids, meeting new friends, getting used to the island, training a new dog, starting my new semester of Public Health classes, and mapping out my classes left until graduation and cheering with joy that I’ll have a BS in Public Health in 2015! Yippee!

I have also been seeking out and enrolling Abbey in a preschool, enrolling myself in an online lactation conference (to continue my lactation-specific education for the IBCLC requirements), figuring out what toddler experiences there are available for Joe here on the island. . . and consequently remembering that Joe will be 3 this coming Spring. O – M – G. How is that happening.

What else. . .

I’ve also been planning Abbey’s birthday party, trying to wring out of the Silly Bears what they would like to be for Halloween (so that I can order in the required materials and get to planning and sewing) . . . oh, and I’m trying to set up a La Leche League meeting for the area AND re-establish my Silly Bear Handmade shop after the move.

And Hubs has been gone to school in VA for 3 weeks.

*Deep Breath*

But I have been taking pictures!

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I have now finished this knitting project – - – a cotton hoodie from Toddler Hoodie pattern on Etsy for a special family member who turns one in a few weeks!

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And this lovely project is now hanging in my kitchen window – - – used up some scraps on this one (that seems to be a theme with my sewing lately. . . you’ll see later)

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Aha! More scrap busting going on in this photo – - – see if you can spot what this eventually became in one of the other August photos as you scroll down!

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Abbey, who is turning 5 in September, has celebrated quite a few milestones recently: She weaned from the breast at the end of her full-term breastfeeding experience, she moved all the way across the country with us, and she started swimming lessons! I love this girl. So Much.

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Joseph wasn’t such a fan of Abbey getting to swim and him not being able to (gotta be four to take swim classes, buddy! His response: “I AM four!” LOL).

But his new love interest, one of my new Coastie Wife friends, pepped him up with a surprise visit during Abbey’s swim class one day. He was very pleased.

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Our handsome man modeling the fleece-crotched training pants I made him. Like Abbey, he is now having less interest in using the potty, but I’m hoping with gentle reminders, we’ll be out of diapers and potty learned around 3, like she was.
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They’re super cute though – the trainers. I’m loving them. His little knees and cinnamon roll belly button are to die for too, though.

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We’ve been doing lots of baking on rainy days. . . It’s easier to bake in our new kitchen. It’s about the same size as our kitchen in Maine, but not galley-shaped, and not a walk through area (unless you’re coming in the back door) . . . I like the space and Abbey likes being in it with me!

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Blueberry Biscuits. Yummy.

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Super easy (and sooooo delicious french bread)

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And on a sunny day, we have lots of park time and coloring with sidewalk chalk!

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Oh, and hiking.

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And salmonberry picking.

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Thankfully for my husband’s psyche, Abbey hasn’t dressed up Joseph as a girl in quite a few weeks. Glad I snapped this jewel when I did then!

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We love dress up, but we love coloring more.

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And we love our new puppy, Mya.

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Raven stayed behind at Nana and Papas house because we weren’t positive that we wouldn’t harm her physically or emotionally by driving her (or shipping her) all the way to Kodiak. She is enjoying being spoiled rotten by her “grand-people” and though we miss her, we know she is happy and healthy and that is all that matters!

Abbey constantly tells Mya stories about “our other dog Raven”

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I couldn’t help but post this picture of Joseph in a classic toddler moment. The “I refused to take a nap, so then we went on a hike to pass the time, and I fell asleep on the sofa when we got back.” One of many classic toddler moments. IMG_3671

Another knitting project. I can’t ever just do one thing at a time – - – can I?

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Mya again.

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Abbey being a puppy with Mya under my desk in my sewing room/office. Love my work buddies.

Have you seen the completed project yet? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, scroll back up the top. . .

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My human work buddy brought me her rainbow bear to sit in my sofa pin cushion. So sweet.

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Ah, there she is! My work buddy and my little mermaid!

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Joe lined up all the ducks he could steal from the lifeguard’s basket and set them all up looking out the window.

I wonder what he was wishing about while Abbey was having her lesson? LOL

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Oh yeah. . . park time!!!!!!!!!

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And my post wouldn’t be complete without a picture of wild-caught fresh alaskan salmon. One of the perks of being up here on this isolated Alaskan island! Yum!

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That was our August. How was YOURS?

mtbadge2This post is part of the Mamatography 2013 Project with Diary of a First Child and Momma Jorje.

We are taking (at least) a photo a day to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies – A Guest Post by Kendra Thornton of Thornton PR

Traveling has opened me up to wonderful places, interesting new people and a huge diversity of tasty foods along the way. Each trip holds sentimental value, but a trip I took to Walt Disney World with family and friends was really special. Food allergies and special diets don’t mix too well with traveling, and it can be a challenge to find suitable snacks on the go let alone suitable meals. Walt Disney World and Resort is considered one of the best places in Orlando for individuals with specific needs. This was an exciting and wonderful find on our trip.

Main Street Bakery was one of my favorite shops. It is located in Disney World, and they surprised me by having delectable gluten-free chocolate-chip cookies. Making gluten-free cookies is never as easy, but I needed to get some tips on how to make these tasty morsels on my own. This is the recipe I came up with to recreate that soft and sweet taste of the Disney cookies I fell in love with.

gluten free choc chip cookiesGluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

-    5 tbsp. of unsalted organic butter
-    ¾ cup of organic-brown sugar
-    ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt
-    2 eggs
-    2 cups of organic (wheat free) oats
- ¾ cup of dark (all natural) chocolate chips

Directions:

Prep Time: 5 minutes. Cook Time: 12-15 minutes. Makes: About 18-24 cookies.

- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Use a large bowl to combine the sugar with the cooled, melted butter until well mixed.
- Add the eggs and salt into the mixture.
- Combine the ingredients together thoroughly and add in the oats. Next, place in your chocolate chips so you have a nice thick consistency evenly spread throughout.
- Place the dough into one-inch balls on your baking sheet and set in fridge for 5-10 minutes.
- Then bake the cookies them for at least 12 minutes (for me it tastes up to 20 minutes sometimes until thoroughly cooked)
- Do not over bake these cookies; however make sure the bottoms are brown in color when you take them out of the oven. They get firmer as they cool.

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These amazing cookies can be yours whenever you choose, and they are almost exactly the same as the famous Walt Disney cookies. I am happy to share these wonderful treats with you, and I hope you will share them with your family and friends too.

About the Guest Author:

KendraKendra is a Travel advocate, TV spokesperson, PR businesswoman, proud wife and mama of 3. She is a long time travel expert who has been packing bags and traveling the world since she was 3 months old! Though she holds knowledge and experience in various areas, she has recently found that her utmost desire is to care for her family in her own home – - – So, she mixes her excitement for travel by bringing the taste of authentic cuisine to her own home with some of her unique recipes. You can find out even more about Kendra by visiting her website, or following her on Twitter.

Stovetop BBQ Chicken

Welcome to the April 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Recipes

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants are sharing their recipes, their stories, their pictures, and their memories.

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Prep time: 5 minutes — Cook time: 20 Minutes — Total Time: 25 minutes

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Stovetop BBQ Chicken (Serves 4-6)

I seriously LOVE Stovetop BBQ Chicken. It’s a relatively new addition to my cooking repertoire, but it’s fast becoming one of our family’s favorites, and a recipe I will for sure pass to my son and daughter as they grow! A new family recipe!

I originally cooked this at a friend’s house when we had a playdate/eat-over. She had been wanting BBQ chicken but it was the middle of winter and using the grill was out of the question. So, she googled and found a youtube video for how to make BBQ chicken on the stovetop. When we made it, we served it with whole grain rice, and it was delicious! So, I took the idea home with me and tweaked it a bit to my tastes, adding mushrooms and changing quantities of ingredients somewhat to fit my preferences. Our family LOVES this recipe, and I hope you will, too!

Ingredients

Olive oil for cooking
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs OR 6 thinly sliced breast pieces
1/2 onion, chopped
2 heaping tbsp chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped bell peppers
3 roma tomatos coarsly chopped
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tbsp BBQ sauce (I like to use a honey flavored one)

Process

In a large skillet, on high heat, sauté the onion, garlic, and bell peppers in the olive oil. When onions have started to soften, lower heat to medium-high and add chicken, cooking 2-5 minutes on each side to brown each side.

Lower heat to medium and add tomatoes, mushrooms, and chopped cilantro. Turn chicken a few times to incorporate all the vegetables and cilantro.

When all the vegetables are soft, add 1 tbsp tomato sauce and a splash of water if needed to create a sauce (you should have about 1/3 cup liquid in your pan at this point – most of which comes from cooking the tomatoes and the olive oil you started with, but add water if needed).

Then add 1 tbsp (or more or less depending on your preference) BBQ sauce and lower heat to low, simmering covered for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Salt and pepper to taste (I usually don’t add any salt) and serve with whole grain rice or potatoes, sweet potatoes, and your favorite vegetable!

The Scoop

The whole family LOVES stovetop BBQ chicken, and I’m sure your family will, too. It’s a great meal for any time of year and only takes 25 minutes to prep and to cook. The kids also like to help me cook by adding in the vegetables to the pan as needed. And Joseph loves to stir.

Have fun getting your family active in the kitchen and trying out new recipes!!!!!

What’s YOUR favorite go-to recipe?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • German Red Cabbage: A Family Tradition — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy shares her favorite dish and a part of her family’s history.
  • Rotisserie Chicken Recipes for Meal Planning — Becky at Crafty Garden Mama shares a new recipe that is in her family’s meal-planning rotation. Check out how she uses a rotisserie chicken to get through the week.
  • Grandma Wicken’s Sugar Cookies — Jana Falls at Jananas talks about how special her Grandma’s sugar cookies made her feel.
  • Recipe: Seed and Bean Burgers — ANonyMous at Radical Ramblings shares one of her favourite frugal recipes that is also super-healthy and totally delicious.
  • PULLING Dinner Together For the Kids – Crockpot Pulled Pork — Lisa at The Squishable Baby PULLS dinner together for the kids.
  • The Best Banana Muffin Recipe (Gluten Free & Vegan) — Dionna of Code Name: Mama’s adventures in gluten free baking have not been 100% successful. But today she is guest posting at Fine and Fair to share a banana muffin recipe that will knock your socks off!
  • The Pierogie Mama Whips Up Strawberry Pierogies! — Bianca at The Pierogie Mama shares her family’s recipe for strawberry pierogies…a sweet, summery version of the Polish dumplings that she affectionately named her daughter after.
  • Mom’s Cookbook — Tree at Mom Grooves digs into the big book her mom created for her six daughters and shares a favorite family recipe.
  • Crispy Duck Confit — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama takes the liberty of starting a family recipe tradition with this super simple, totally delicious crispy duck confit.
  • Stovetop BBQ Chicken — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work shares a yummy BBQ chicken recipe that you can make on the stovetop in less than 25 minutes, fridge to table!
  • Twice-Baked Sweet Potato Casserole w/Bacon — Martine at Whey Beyond the Naked Truth shares a naked food twist on an old family favorite!
  • Strawberry Panna Cotta — KerryAnn at CookingTF.com shows you her favorite dessert, a quick and easy Strawberry Panna Cotta that she enjoys so much, she had it instead of a birthday cake this year.
  • Special crepes for a special day — Mikko at Hobo Mama is learning to cook his grandma’s signature holiday meal alongside his dad.
  • Three Favorite Family Recipes: To Eat, To Wash, To Play — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings is back with three family favorites: gluten-free vanilla orange sugar cookies, DIY powdered laundry detergent, and something fun for the kids: homemade “Flubber”!
  • Black Bean Soup Forever — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot shares a soup recipe that’s been around forever.
  • Do you want to know a secret? — SRB at Little Chicken Nuggets lets go of her mac and cheese recipe, a comfort food favourite for friends and family for years.
  • Creating Our Own Family Recipes — Emily at S.A.H.M. i AM shares how she’s trying to create meals that her girls will want to pass down to their own children some day.
  • Vranameer Chicken: A Family Recipe — Luschka at Diary of a First Child shares a recipe that reminds her of childhood and more specifically, of her mother. It’s a South African take on sweet and sour chicken and what it lacks in healthy it makes up for in tantalising to the taste buds.
  • One Recipe, Three Uses: Dishwasher Liquid Detergent, Dish Soap, and Hand Soap — If you love saving money and time, you’ll love this green recipe from Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama, guest posting at Natural Parents Network.
  • Our Family’s Favorite Pies — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares recipes and tutorials for the quintessential American dessert.
  • Deliciously Easy Crock Pot ChiliLactating Girl shares her crock pot chili that is not only quick and easy, but awesome.
  • All-Purpose Crock Pot PorkCrunchy Con Mommy‘s simple “recipe” for cooking perfect pork in the crock pot is for whatever mood her family is in!
  • Family Rules: A Recipe for Harmony — Cooped-up kids + winter weather + frazzled parents can all blend together into a recipe for disaster. Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares what brought back the peace in her house.
  • Favorite Healthy Family Recipes — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her family’s healthy eating experiences along with links to free printable vegetarian recipes that her family has created with love.
  • Grandma’s Banana Bread — Megan at The Boho Mama has early and fond memories of her grandma’s banana bread. It’s love in a loaf!
  • Family Comfort Food — Jorje of Momma Jorje shares a recipe handed down that moms have made for their kids, for regular meals as well as to comfort.

Homemade Kolaches – Simple and delicious!

As a Texan transplanted into New England, I get annoyed about several cultural differences. The cult worship of Tom Brady, the awful city driving layout of Boston, and the absence of any even remotely decent mexican food (or, really, ethnic food in general).

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But not until recently did I realize that no one up here knows what a kolache is.

Yummy, soft, fluffy bread covering breakfast foods varying from veggies to eggs and bacon, to cream cheese and fruit? Yes, please! Oh, how this homesick Texas girl has been missing kolaches. . . and to find out that my friends didn’t know what a kolache was!? Oh, no. That had to be rectified.

I had been wanting to have kolaches for breakfast for some time now, and after exhausting myself searching for a bakery or coffee shop that even knew what a kolache was (much less had them for sale) . . . I decided I would make them myself. They wouldn’t be Kolache Factory good, but they’d at least be kolaches.

On Easter Sunday this year, I made them for lunch. We shared them with our friends at the park (who had never ever had a kolache before) and they were so delicious. Making them was easier than I thought it would be, and it was a great joyful moment for me to see my friends enjoy a kolache for the first time.

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My homemade bacon, egg, and cheese kolaches

The recipe and tutorial I used for making my own kolaches is this one from Homesick Texan. The kolaches came out so perfect – hard enough on the outside to carry in your hand for a portable breakfast on the run, and soft but well baked in the center, with just enough warmth in the filling. YUM!

I found it incredibly interesting and honestly, a great relief, that someone else shared my “you don’t know what a kolache is!?” grief as a transplant in New England. The author of Homesick Texan is from hill country Texas that lives in New York.

Apparently, ya’ll, kolaches are a Texan thing. Who knew?

Making Kolaches

- I suggest making the dough and preparing your fillings the day before, and baking them in the morning if you want your kolaches to be ready for breakfast. Working with cold fillings (bacon, eggs, cheese, cream cheese, jam, fruit, etc) is so much easier than working with warm fillings. It’s easier to fold them into the dough and they bake to a perfect warmth in the 375′ oven.

-These kolaches can be baked and then FROZEN and reheated in the oven or toaster oven for 5-10 minutes. What a great idea for getting a filling and balanced breakfast on the run, when paired with some milk or juice and a piece of fresh fruit! (and since they’re home made, you can make them preservative free, or organic, or vegetarian, or whatever your food choice is!)

The Recipe:

Kolaches (adapted from recipes found in Texas Monthly and the HoustonChronicle)

(I made my own adjustments in the method section, specifically between steps 7 & 9)

Makes 18-20 4 inch kolaches
Ingredients:
1 package of active dry yeast
1 cup of warm milk
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups of all-purpose flour
2 eggs
3/4 cup of melted butter
1 teaspoon of salt

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, combine yeast, warm milk, sugar and one cup of flour. Cover and let it rise until doubled in size.
  2. Beat together eggs, 1/2 cup of melted butter (reserve 1/4 cup for brushing on the pastry) and salt.
  3. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and blend.
  4. Stir in about two more cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The dough should be soft and moist.
  5. Knead dough for about 10 minutes on floured surface. You will be adding about a 1/2 cup of flour during the kneading process.
  6. Put dough in a greased bowl and let rise covered until doubled in size—about an hour.
  7. After dough has risen, punch it down and pull off egg-sized pieces. In your hands, roll pieces into balls and then flatten to about three inches in diameter.
  8. Flatten/stretch the three inch pieces with your fingers so that the edges are thinner than the middle, and place your chosen fillings in the center of your circle. Fold up the edges of the dough over the fillings, making sure to press slightly to stick the roll together. You can pick up the dough ball after folding in the fillings and roll it gently in your hands like a dinner roll.
  9. Place filled pieces on a greased cookie sheet, brush with melted butter, cover and let rise again for another half-hour.
  10. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Brush with melted butter when you take them out of the oven and serve warm.
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You may also prefer the “thumb press” method for sweet kolaches. These are cream cheese and strawberry preserves.

Healthy and Economical Cooking tips! (Plentiful Pantry Blog Hop – LINKY!)

This is the first installment of The Plentiful Pantry Blog Hop, hosted by yours truly and Gretchen at That Mama Gretchen! We’re exploring ways to make our pantries plentiful and providing fun, savory, and healthy family meals and snacks even in a tough economy.

Won’t you join us? Link up at the bottom of the post with your recipes, tips, and ideas!

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Every time I go to the grocery store or bulk foods store, I stare at the beautiful, already cut, boneless skinless chicken breasts. They can go right on the grill. Or right in the pan – no cutting or messy hands required. I’m almost enticed to pick up a pack. . . until I remember the steep price I’m paying for convenience (and the extra water and chicken broth that’s been pumped into the meant to make it look so nice and plump). Not a good deal.

So, I go pick up my bone-in breast or quartered chicken, and I’m on my merry way, excited about the money I’m saving my family and the way I’ll be able to use and stretch the chicken (and her bones) to their fullest food potential, just a few minutes of sticky hands and cutting required.

The No Waste Way

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Close up of my cooked boney pieces and the chicken stock the boiling yields. Did you know you were missing out on THAT much chicken and stock, buying boneless, skinless?

Usually, I buy my bone-in chicken from the BJs (a bulk food store) and I get six bone in chicken breasts with rib meat for about $12.00. That’s $2 a piece, a little more than I’d pay at the grocery store, but less than I’d pay at the meat market.

I start a large pot of water to boil on the stovetop and prepare to slice my chicken off the bone.

I save one of the pre-packaged 2-piece freezer-ready pouches in the freezer for the next week, and I slice off the breast meat from the other four pieces.

This yields four large breasts of chicken – enough meat for two grilled chicken or chicken parmesan dinners for four (remembering that the serving size for meat is the size of a deck of cards, and my little ones eat less than that).

Then, I drop the four boney pieces in the boiling pot, and lower the heat so that it doesn’t boil over.

I boil the pieces for about fifteen to twenty minutes, adding some salt and seasonings. And then I turn off the heat and let them simmer in the broth that’s created.

I then allow the pot to cool to lukewarm (this takes a while. . . I usually do other things while I’m waiting on it to cool).

When the pot is cooled to lukewarm, I take out the boney pieces and set them in a pyrex bowl to cool off. I pour the chicken stock that I’ve created by boiling the bone pieces into two containers to store in the fridge. The chicken stock gets used in soups.

When the bone pieces have cooled, I rip off the chicken from the bone and have at least four cups of shredded chicken. I use shredded chicken in chicken salad, chicken gnocchi soup, chicken tacos, and buffalo chicken dip.

The Cost Breakdown

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts can cost $2.99 per pound (1.99 per pound on sale)

Bone-in Chicken Breasts with Rib Meat usually cost around $1.79 per pound (I buy mine sometimes for $2.00 because of the freezer packs).

The chicken breasts cut off the bone are the same size as those you buy boneless skinless (because boneless skinless breasts are injected with water and broth to make them bigger).

So, I pay $10-$12 for:

  • 6 cups of shredded chicken
  • six large chicken breasts
  • and 4 quarts of chicken stock.
  • (Total $12)

In the grocery store, that same yield could be accomplished by buying:

  • a pack of 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts for around $5 or more
  • four cans of shredded chicken for approximately $1 – 2 each
  • and four large canisters of chicken stock for approx. $2 each
  • (Total = $17-20)

So, I save my family $5.00 per shopping trip (or more, when bone-in chicken is on sale!) by buying my chicken bone-in and taking the time to use my waste free approach to cut it up, boil it, shred it, and store the stock.

Notes

Fresh Chicken Stock will keep for 3-5 days in the fridge, so I usually freeze half of my stock and use the other half during the week that I cut up the chicken. My two favorite uses for it: Chicken Gnocchi Soup and Broccoli Cheese Soup. Nummy Nummy.

When I cut my chicken breasts off the bone, I usually freeze them, two breasts to a pack, in freezer paper, to ensure that I do not waste any by saving it in the fridge and then forgetting it’s there.

Do you have a tip or trick to make YOUR pantry Plentiful?

Share in our blog hop below! Link up your post, or comment below with your tips as well!

Please take some time to read some of the great Plentiful Pantry posts from our friends linking up on how to stretch a budget and cook savory meals!