Saturday, January 22, 2011

Taco Pasta

I was wondering how to make tacos ahead of time and I experimented with a few different pasta ideas.  This one is by far the best that I was able to come up with.   I started with spicy cheese soup, but was unhappy with all the added calories and fat.  So now this recipe has a tomato based sauce with a little sharp shredded cheese on top.  Much better! 


2lbs lean ground beef                        7.50
1 lb penne pasta                                1.00
2 pkg taco seasoning                         1.00
2 cans diced tomatoes                       1.88
1 can diced green chilies                      .78
1/2 onion chopped                              .15
1 green pepper chopped                     .60
1 bunch cilantro chopped                    .74
8oz sharp cheddar cheese shredded  2.04


Put a large pot of water on medium high heat for the pasta.  When the water is boiling cook pasta to lowest recommended cooking time on the box.  Meanwhile in a large pan cook the ground beef and drain.  Add chopped onion and green pepper, cook until just starting to get tender.  Add two packages of taco seasoning and two cans of diced tomatoes (don't drain the liquid from the tomatoes).  Also add the can of chopped green chilies.  Stir well. 
Colorful huh?  I like a lot of color in my food.  Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the meat mixture.  Once thoroughly mixed, remove from heat and stir in chopped cilantro to desired taste.

Now pour the pasta into three different 8x8"pans.  Top with one third of the shredded cheese. 

Cover with foil.  Put one pan into the oven for dinner and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes just to melt the cheese.  Put the other two meals into the freezer for a later date.  Once thawed the freezer meal bakes at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to warm all the way through. 
This pasta tastes great just like this, but feel free to top with sour cream, fresh salsa, shredded lettuce or extra cilantro.  If you want to pack more veggies in this meal you can chop celery and carrot very small and stir in with the meat.  Sweet corn is also a nice addition to the meat sauce.  Yum!
I was able to make three meals for $5.23 each.  This is an easy way to have taco flavor any night of the week.  Just throw them in the oven to bake and no assembly required! 

Christie aka Keeza

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stuffed Chicken

This chicken looks so fancy and has a lot of flavor.  We like this for Sunday dinner.  When you cut into the chicken breasts you get lots of color. 


8 medium chicken breasts (boneless skinless)    8.66
1 box chopped frozen spinach                           1.42
8 oz crumbled feta (two containers)                   4.00
1/2 C reduced fat mayo                                      .10
8 slices of bacon                                               3.18
salt, pepper and Greek seasoning to taste


Thaw and drain the chopped spinach.  Add the spinach and feta to a medium bowl and mix well with a fork. 
Stir in the mayo.  This will work as a binder to hold the filling together. 
This picture is about half the amount you will have.  Now take the chicken breasts and carefully cut each one along the side to open them up like a book.  They wont always turn out perfect, but no one will notice.  Just try your best. 
Now sprinkle the outside and inside of the breast with salt, pepper and Greek seasoning.  If you don't have Greek seasoning you can use some thyme and oregano.  Then take two large spoonfuls of feta & spinach mixture and place it on one half of the chicken breast.

Then fold the other side of the breast back over top of the cheese.   Wrap one slice of bacon around the breast.  This will help hold the cheese in while the chicken is cooking.
Now repeat this process with the other chicken breasts.  When you finish you will have 8 stuffed chicken breasts.  I put two breasts on a foil lined baking pan for dinner and place the other 6 breasts into two labeled freezer bags.  Make sure when you place the breasts into the freezer storage bags you lay only three side by side in the bags to prevent them from freezing together into a solid brick.  Then when you would like to thaw them for dinner, only take out as many as you need for that dinner and place them on a plate in the fridge to thaw for two days. 

When you are ready to bake, place the desired number of stuffed chicken breasts on a foil lined baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then place the pan under the broiler for 2-5 minutes to crisp up the bacon on the outside of the chicken.  This is how mine looked with a side of wild rice.

I was able to make 8 stuffed chicken breasts for $2.17 a breast.  If you do not want the added calories and fat from the bacon you can omit the bacon and secure each breast with a toothpick or two to help keep the filling in.  If you do not care for goat cheese you can easily substitute 8oz of shredded mozzarella.   In the summer we sliced heirloom tomatoes (thanks Alicia) and baked them along side of the breasts.  Then when the chicken was cooked we slid the roasted sliced tomatoes on top of the breasts and it made an awesome sauce.  Mmmmm mmmm!   This chicken looks so fancy you can serve it to guests. 

Christie aka Keeza

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Porcupine Meatballs

          This is my mom's recipe for cabbage rolls...but I don't care for steamed cabbage.  So I just make the meatballs and her sauce.  The sauce is a sweet tomato sauce, but you could substitute your favorite barbecue sauce.   These meatballs are delicious with mashed potatoes.  


2 lbs ground beef                    7.50
1/2 onion-diced                        .15
1/4 green pepper-diced            .15
2/3 cup instant rice                   .32
1 egg                                       .14
2 cans cream of tomato soup  1.08
2 Tbsp brown sugar
salt and pepper


In a medium bowl mix the ground beef with the onion and green pepper.   Add 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper, the egg and the instant rice and mix until incorporated with your hands. 
Roll meat into 1 1/2 inch balls and place in 8x8 pans.   I was able to roll out 45 meatballs and I put 15 each into three pans.

In a separate bowl mix the tomato soup with two tablespoons of brown sugar.  Add 1/2 tsp of black pepper and stir.  Pour 1/3 of the sauce over each pan of meatballs.
Cover each pan with foil.  Label two of them and place them in the freezer.  Once thawed they will need to bake at 350 degrees for 45 min.  Here's how they look baked with a scoop of garlic mashed potatoes.
I was able to make three pans of meatballs for $3.11 each.  If you'd like to make these traditional cabbage rolls, then make the meat balls bigger and wrap each one in a steamed cabbage leaf.  Then secure each with a toothpick and cover with the same tomato and brown sugar sauce.   You'll need to bake them at least an hour to ensure they bake all the way through. 

Christie aka Keeza

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

   Of all my recipes I am most proud of this one!  I have combined my mother's chicken enchilada recipe, with my mother-in-law's chicken fajita casserole with the convenience of the crock pot.   Once a very time consuming process of poaching and cubing the chicken, mixing the sauce and carefully filling and rolling each enchilada has become super easy.   The filling gets a lot of great flavor from the taco seasoning and cilantro.   Mmmmm!


3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts            3.84
26 oz cream of chicken soup (divided)               2.39
16 oz light sour cream                                        1.98
1/2 onion--chopped                                             .15
2 cans chopped green chilies                              1.56
1 envelope taco seasoning                                    .50
20  small flour tortillas (6 inch)                             3.52
16 oz pepper jack or Monterrey jack cheese       4.36
1 bunch cilantro                                                   .74

Place raw chicken in a medium to large crock pot.  Top with chopped onions and green chilies.
In a small mixing bowl stir together 2/3 of the chicken soup, all of the sour cream and the package of taco seasoning. 

Pour this soup mixture over the chicken and turn the crock pot to low.  Cook 4-8 hours.   Now go run some errands, go to school, work or church.  When you're ready for dinner turn off the crock pot.  Chop the chicken into cubes or shred with two forks.

Then put the chicken back in the crock pot and stir well.  Add chopped cilantro for taste.
This is the filling for your enchiladas.  Now shred the cheese onto a plate and open the tortilla packages.  Grab 3 8x8" pans and place a little of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of each pan to prevent sticking.  Take each tortilla and place one large spoonful of sauce in the center and top with about a Tablespoon of shredded cheese 
Carefully fold the tortilla over the sauce and place seam side down in the pan.  I was able to fit six tortillas in each 8x8" pan.

Now spread two spoonfuls of the reserved cream of chicken soup over top of the rolled tortillas with the back of your spoon.

Sprinkle the top with 4 Tablespoons of cheese.

Once all three pans are filled with chicken enchiladas cover with foil.  Label and freeze two of the pans.   Once frozen and thawed they will bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 min. 

I put one pan directly into the oven to bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes just to melt the cheese since the filling was already hot from the crock pot.  I was able to make three pans of enchiladas for $6.35 each dinner.  Not a bad way to stretch one package of chicken breasts!  This would also be good with a package of boneless skinless chicken thighs.

Here they are hot from the oven.  We like to eat ours topped with salsa.

These would also be good with black beans or rice mixed into the filling. 

Christie aka Keeza