Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Rows and rows of awesome rolled up with delicious - for the freezer

Freezer Meals – Don’t want to hear about them… move along. Want to hear about something delicious to make and toss in the freezer? Read on.
Our freezer is woefully low on freezer meals – so that means it’s time for me to get moving making a bunch. We also were low on chicken stock. That’s perfect! I can hit two birds with one stone. Baked up two chickens, took all the meat off for the casseroles and left the bones for the chicken stock. This time we decided to pressure can our chicken stock. Guess what that leaves more room in our freezer for? Yes! Freezer Meals! At first Andy wasn’t overly thrilled with the idea of canning the stock, but in the end, he was pretty proud of all those jars full of chickeny goodness.
The first freezer meal up is Chicken Tortilla Bake. My mom made this one years ago when I was a kid and I loved it. At the time – my family wasn’t overly thrilled about it. I have been making it ever since. I used the cut up chicken from the two chickens and made a triple batch of sauce. This gave me 8 casseroles. That’s 8 nights I don’t have to cook a meal from scratch for my family. I realize as my kids get bigger and eat more I will need to increase the size of my casseroles. Right now one of my little casseroles feeds us one meal with very little leftovers. I use my homemade salsa in the recipe – which makes it even better, in my opinion. Add some fresh parsley and this dish – even if it’s from the freezer tastes fresh! I prebake these, so the tortillas get nice and crispy when they go into the freezer. I can’t give you a scientific reason why that works – but it does. It was hard to not dig into one of those casseroles as they cool on the counter – but they’ll be worth it some busy day when we come home and dinner is done. Yum!

Zesty Chicken Tortilla Bake
1/2 cup Miracle Whip Dressing
1/2 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Shredded Cheddar Cheese, divided
1-1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup Salsa
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
16 flour tortillas (6 inch)
Make It
Heat oven to 375°F.
Whisk dressing and flour in medium saucepan until blended. Gradually stir in milk. Bring to boil on medium heat, stirring constantly; cook and stir 2 to 3 min. or until thickened. Add 1 cup cheese; cook 5 min. or until melted, stirring constantly. Reserve 1 cup sauce.
Stir chicken, salsa and parsley into remaining sauce; spoon 1/3 cup down center of each tortilla. Roll up. Place 8 roll-ups, seam sides down, in each of 2 (13x9-inch) baking dishes sprayed with cooking spray; top with reserved sauce and remaining cheese.
Bake 25 min. or until heated through.  Serve or Cool and Freeze.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Heart shaped pasta should have had sad faces...

Recipe testing is just another service offer her at the Raatjes household. We test and hate them so you don’t have to.
This round of recipe testing: Chicken Queso Pasta.
I found some heart shaped pasta this Valentine's Day and thought the kids might like it. I also found a recipe I thought we might like. I showed it to Andy – he was all “thumbs up!” Life lesson learned. If something calls for Velveeta – or a Velveeta-like substance – just don’t make it. Andy will not like it. He will think he will like it but he won’t. It will always be too creamy – no matter how much of the orangey yellow substance is added.
Case in Point.
I had steroid shots in my neck on the 13th of February– so I was laying low on the 14th. Figured I could easily make this pasta dish for my family for dinner. I thought it tasted OK – it was a little gloppy and on reheat was NOT good. My family? Oh, how we had to force the kids to eat it, even Andy. I had bought some pink velvet mini cupcakes too – those also were not awesome. So guess who didn’t really do so awesome on a fun Valentine's Day dinner – oh well – I tried. The kids LOVED their Skittles and light up dollar magic wands from Target – always a winner.
Note: you can’t even see the heart pasta. I should have just made pasta and sauce… lesson learned.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Puffs of Yum and Mmmmm!

Years ago I wrote about my Aunt Betty's Cream Puffs - they were amazing then and still amazing now.
My family's Christmas was the day after Christmas this year. My folks made us breakfast - awesome breakfast. What do you bring for dessert for breakfast food? Cream Puffs. They are like donuts but better.
Andy still is not the biggest fan of chocolate on top of his Cream Puffs, so he had special puffs with powdered sugar. I will say that he did enjoy a few chocolate covered puffs at home.
My favorite part of baking cream puffs is making the actual puffs. I find it amazing that when you cook the flour and butter, then beat eggs into it, what bakes up are these amazing puffs. This time I added Cool Whip to my pudding. Why? Why not? Pudding is fine, but added cool while? Even MORE amazing. It also extended it a bit so I had lots to squeeze into each puff.
Can't wait to make these puffs again - maybe I need to find another reason - Tuesday? Tuesday seems like a great reason to celebrate the day and make some cream puffs. Maybe I'll even do half and half with powdered sugar, I do like Andy and an awful lot... he's pretty neat.

Betty’s Cream Puffs
What you need!
1 cup water
½ cup butter
1 cup all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 box prepared vanilla pudding
Canned Chocolate Frosting

What to do!
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat water and butter to rolling boil. Stir in flour vigorously over low heat about 1 minute or until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and beat in eggs, one at a time. A stand mixer works great for this. Scoop mixture by spoonfuls on cookie sheet.
Bake 35-40 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
Using a ziptop bag or pipping bag, fill the puffs with vanilla pudding. Frost with canned frosting or powdered sugar.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Blondies have more fun

For a few months now Andy's been meeting with a group of guys in a mentorship group. Sometimes they meet at our house so that gives me an excuse to bake something for them.
I love blondies but sometimes they are so dry and do not taste all that great. Somehow with the magic of cake mixes, they are pretty amazing. Toss in some chocolate chips? Melt some extra chocolate from the fridge to drizzle on? Instant winning treat.
Please note the amazing triangle cut. The recipe I followed suggested such a fancy cut. I'm pretty sure Andy thought I was crazy, squares are good, but they aren't nearly as fancy as triangles. Does the shape change the taste? why are pies round? But the slices are triangle? those are pretty awesome - so why would THESE be even better as triangles. Ok, I'll stop now, I'm weird - I get it... whatever.

Chocolate Chunk Blondies
1 box vanilla or golden vanilla cake mix
1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons water
2 eggs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks/or chips
1/3 cup chocolate frosting

1 Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease or spray bottom only of 13x9-inch pan. In large bowl, mix cake mix, butter, water and eggs with spoon. Stir in chocolate chunks. Spread evenly in pan.
2 Bake 21 to 26 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool completely, about 1 hour.
3 In small microwavable bowl, microwave frosting uncovered on High 20 to 25 seconds or until melted; stir. Drizzle over bars. Let stand about 30 minutes or until frosting is set. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Or for triangles, cut bars into 6 rows by 2 rows, then cut each bar diagonally in half to form triangles. Store covered at room temperature.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Fruity Appetizer Helps Bring the Magic

Christmas this year with Andy's family was at our house after a weekend of partying in Wisconsin with his extended family. I wanted to make Pretzel Magic but knew I wouldn't have time to get it done and set, if I made it too early - it would be a water mess. Instead, I tried something different, I made a dip out of it!

Instead of the crust, I got Pretzel thins, which normally aren't enough pretzel, but to pick up delicious strawberry cream cheese dip? Oh yes. I mixed the strawberries with homemade strawberry jam so it had the sweetness going for it. It was a winner for us for sure. Also, it counted as a fruit course. You know how important it is to get all those different food groups in.... dairy, sugar, sweetness, awesome, deliciousness, I could go on…

Pretzel Magic Dip
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup whipped topping

1 cup diced strawberries
1/2 cup strawberry jelly/jam

Beat together cream cheese and sugar. Fold in whipped topping. Spread in bottom of pie plate or decorative plate.
Combine strawberries and jelly/jam and pour on top.
Serve with Pretzel chips for dipping.
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