Archive for Make Ahead Meals
I know it’s not entirely true, but I feel like I have been away from home for the entire month of March.
Asa had a basketball tournament the first weekend of the month. We were home for a few days, then we went to Branson and were gone for six days. The end of this week we are going to Kansas City for LTC. Phew! It’s hard to get ahead when you can’t even catch up. And it’s hard to catch up when you’re not even home. And it’s hard to be home when…well, when you are traveling. (Profound.)
Anyway, Saturday I was home. Yay for me! I had big kitchen plans. I decided that I wasn’t going to go anywhere all day, that I certainly wasn’t going to change out of my sweat pants, and that I would get caught up on some work, and spend several hours cooking. I’m so glad I did! I got my email inbox down to 82 (It had made its way up to well over 200 last week) and spent four hours cooking and baking. I now have some healthy convenience foods in the freezer, as well as several snack items that might just last two whole days around here.
I put two jars of peanut butter into the fridge to have ready for later. Then I used one batch to make Healthier Rice Crispy Treats and Mudballs (thinking of my awesome cousin Jayme the whole time, since she’s the one who gave me that recipe).
I should also mention that the day before, I had made 80 Chicken Fried Steak Strips.
I had the boys help me take them off the cookie sheets and put them into freezer bags for
easy meals in the future. I love getting that mess out of the way in big batches!
I then made two dozen eggs worth of Easy Breakfast Casserole. I put the 9×13 dish in the freezer to thaw and bake another day. I baked the two round dishes for our lunch.
While they were baking, I began shaping 64 Butterhorns. I baked several to go with our egg casseroles for lunch – yum! – then shaped and froze the remaining butterhorns. I love having these in the freezer to pull out, thaw, and bake when I need them for company!
I froze the shaped rolls on cookie sheets,
then popped them off the next day and put them into freezer bags.
Last, I made a double batch of Homemade Poptarts. We ate some of them for breakfast on Sunday morning, and the rest went into the freezer. These are so good when warmed in the toaster oven, served with fruit and a glass of milk!
I should also mention that I roasted two chickens and made broth for the freezer. It’s always great to have homemade chicken broth on hand!
As you can imagine, my wheat grinder, oven, and dishwasher got quite a workout that day! And I slept really well that night. :)
What’s your favorite food to have on hand for snacks or easy meals?
We had been traveling for two weeks. We drove from Nebraska to California and back again. We saw friends and loved ones along the way. We waited in traffic, slowed down while car accidents were cleared away, crawled along to be careful of icy roads, and took detours. Our body clocks got messed up because of the time changes. Our digestive systems got messed up because of the fast food.
We got behind on our work. We came home to deadlines, expectations, loads and loads of laundry, and a Christmas tree that needed to be taken down and put away.
After spending an enjoyable holiday with family – I found myself being so tired upon arriving home that all I could think of was how miserable I was. I had so much catching up to do, I didn’t know where to start. I just wanted to sleep. But no matter how much I slept, I somehow couldn’t get caught up on rest. My body was exhausted. And ultimately, I didn’t have time for extra sleep. There was too much to do!
The point of this post is not to invite you to my pity party. I’ve prayed through it. I’ve caught up on sleep. I’m over it. :)
But we all have times like this don’t we? Times when we are so overwhelmed and exhausted we can hardly see straight? It’s not fun.
While I was in the “thick of the sludge” last week, at one point I groaned and wearily told Matt, “You know what I really want to do? I really just want to skip all the rest of the work I need to do and go into the kitchen and cook all day!”
Matt told me to go for it. But I whined that I “didn’t have time to take a break like that.”
Finally, once I realized that I wasn’t able to be productive anymore at the computer, I threw my hands in the air and went into the kitchen to start grinding flour. :) I then proceeded to spend the entire afternoon baking, cooking, and baking some more.
By the time I was finished, my back was aching, my feet were tired, and my kitchen was a mess. But I felt completely refreshed, recharged, and ready to tackle my other projects once again.
It’s amazing really. Sometimes when we have too much to do, we need to just step back and do something else. By doing so, we will be refreshed and ready to tackle our to-do list again.
Cooking refreshes me. I love it. And then I end up with great food to feed my family too. It’s a win-win!
What recharges your batteries? What activity do you love to do when you need a breath of fresh air? Making crafts, cleaning, cooking, something else? I can’t wait to hear!
This post is about two weeks overdue. I started some freezer cooking before Christmas, took pictures of my progess, then never got around to posting about it. :)
During this particular freezer cooking session, I practiced the “Cook Once Eat Twice” method. If you have never tried this, you really must. It is a huge time saver!
The basic idea is this: If you’re planning to make a recipe, if at all possible, at least double the recipe so that you can freeze the second batch for another time. I love doing this and find that it is the simplest way to get healthy foods into the freezer for quick, effortless meals in the future.
To start this freezer cooking session, I mixed up a triple batch of Whole Wheat Tortillas. In the meantime, Malachi finished the final page of first semester’s math book. He was so excited!
(Oops, I forgot to mention – before I started making the tortillas, I put several pounds of hamburger meat in a pot to brown. Okay…carry on.)
Once the tortillas and hamburger meat were finished cooking, I made two pans of Cheesy Salsa Enchiladas. Then I used the rest of the meat/salsa mixture and the remaining tortillas to make Meat and Cheese Burritos.
Once that was all finished, I made a double batch of Giant Breakfast Cookies. These are great to eat fresh, and great for freezing for future breakfasts and snacks. Even if I forget to thaw them the night before we plan to eat them, they defrost quickly in a toaster oven.
Now that our Christmas Break is coming to an end, I’m hoping to put a few more items in the freezer, such as:
I’ll update you as I get these projects tackled. :)
Have you been doing any extra cooking/freezing lately?
Ah, Freezer Food…
I have a blast thinking through which meals will be helpful to have on hand to pull out with a moment’s notice. I spend hours preparing it. I experiment with new recipes that will keep nicely in the freezer. I store the healthy, prepared food carefully away for the “busy days”. I keep note of it in the back of my mind, thankful that it is there in the freezer if I need it.
And then I hoard it. I hesitate to use it, even on busy days, knowing that there just may be an upcoming day that’s even busier when I will need that particular frozen meal. So I quickly cook something else, even if I don’t have time, saving the frozen, prepared meals for a “busier day”.
Hello, Laura?!!? Every day right now is a busy day!!! You’ve found yourself coming and going every day for the past three weeks. You’ve barely had time to sit at the computer and you are getting more and more behind on your work. Apples are coming out your ears, waiting to be made into applesauce and canned for the winter. You desperately need to go check the garden to see what else is ready to preserve. God continues to put people in your life to serve, there is school work to be done, phone calls to return, and you haven’t been able to keep up with the nasty dishes crawling out of the kitchen sink since the end of July.
Exactly what kind of busy day are you waiting for that will qualify as a “good day to pull out some freezer food”?
Um…apparently I have been waiting for the days when we are chasing ourselves off to six soccer games, or well…I don’t know. There truly will be days that are busier than those which I am experiencing right now. But barely.
On a day when I feel overwhelmed with everything on my “must-do” list – that is the day for the Freezer Food to come out. That is what it is for, after all.
Here’s a picture of today’s BBQ Chicken Sandwich right before I threw it at my husband
when he came home for ten minutes between soccer practices.
Fresh tomatoes and sweet peppers from our garden made this a great meal,
all of which I put together very quickly since I utilized my frozen food stash of BBQ Chicken.
Today, I am incredibly thankful that I spent the time a few weeks ago to stock my freezer with ready-to-eat foods. And today, I hereby give myself full permission to USE THEM!
Oh, and if you were worried, I didn’t really throw the sandwich at Matt. I handed it to him carefully so as not to fling bbq sauce and tomatoes, and I even managed to slap a kiss on his cheek as he headed out the door again.
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Sometimes, I dabble in insanity.
Read this post at your own risk and do not try this at home. Long story short: Last Friday I did too much. I over-did myself. I completely wore myself out. But shucks, I sure did check a lot off of my “Preparing for Fall” T0-Do list.
Why did I over-do? I think it’s because we didn’t have any other plans (except to go to a friend’s house that night to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremonies), and I decided that it was a good day to have a cooking marathon. I didn’t plan anything else. All my boys were busy building forts and otherwise having fun on their own. I did manage to speak to them and smile from time to time.
Early in the morning, I put two big chickens in my stock pot to cook. I got a few other things done (like getting laundry started and putting the boys in the Lego room to work on cleaning it) while it cooked. Matt deboned both chickens for me while I made tortillas for burritos. Love that guy.
I ended up making a quadruple batch of tortillas. That’s a lot of tortillas! (The recipe is in my Totally Tortillas ebook.)
I was then able to put together 30 Chicken Burritos. They are now frozen and ready to pull out and bake for fast lunches.
Somewhere in there, I started six pounds of meat browning so I could make Sloppy Joes. I later froze this in four portions for four meals in our future.
I had fun experimenting with my Whole Wheat Pizza Dough and made a bunch of mini-pizza sized crusts. I baked them each for about 6 minutes. Now they are frozen and ready to pull out, top, bake, and eat!
I decided that since I only had a few packages of boneless, skinless Smart Chicken in my freezer to make Crunchy Ranch Chicken instead of Chicken Patty Sandwiches. We like the ranch chicken and little better and it is sooooo nice to have these made up and in the freezer to quickly throw into the oven at meal time. (My Crunchy Ranch Chicken recipe isn’t on my site, but it is in my What To Do With the Chicken In Your Kitchen ebook.)
Here is an updated list of what I have accomplished so far:
- Clean and organize our “School Room”.
Help the boys get their bedroom and the “Lego Room” cleaned and organized.(More on that later)
- Type up book lists and writing goals for the boys for the year.
- Take the boys on our traditional “school supply shopping, then eat lunch out” celebration.
Here are the kitchen projects I’d like to work on so that our fridge, pantry, and freezers are stocked and ready for busy days ahead:
- Make a double batch of Homemade Chewy Granola Bars for grab and go snacks.
- Make a batch of Whole Wheat Graham Crackers.
Put together a boat load of Meat and Cheese Burritos for the freezer. (Except that I made Chicken Burritos instead.)
- Bake at least one batch of 24 Corn Dog Muffins for the freezer.
Cook two Pizza Casseroles and freeze.(Made an extra Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole on Sunday and decided to call it good.) Make 4-6 pounds of Sloppy Joe Meat for the freezer. Experiment with Whole Wheat Pizza Dough to make frozen pizzas. Make a double batch of Chicken Patty Sandwiches for the freezer. (Except that I made Crunchy Ranch Chicken instead.)
- Make a double batch of Whole Wheat Calzones for the freezer.
- Refill all jars in my pantry with beans, rice, etc. for convenience.
Make sure Taco Seasoning, Ranch Dressing, and Italian Dressing Mix jars are full.
- Make four batches of Peanut Butter.
This wasn’t on the list, but since I had some extra shredded chicken, I quickly made some Homemade Barbeque Sauce, stirred it in, and stuck it into the freezer for sandwiches later.
I truly had a blast, because cooking all day is what I call all sorts of fun. But by the end of the evening, my feet were more than a little bit fat from standing on them all day. Then we went to our friend’s house to watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony, and I promptly put my feet up and fell asleep on the couch, missing a good portion of the event. I woke up somewhere around the marching in of Brazil, fell back to sleep, then awoke again with Romania.
Yo. I was the life of the party that night.
I’ve taken it a bit easier since that day. Good idea, eh? I really was bordering on being unwise with what I was trying to get done on Friday. And so, I learned my lesson. It would be no good to start our school year off with an exhausted Mama. (Of course, I’m no longer exhausted as my long nap during Opening Ceremony that night was quite refreshing…)
Stay tuned this week for more updates from “the list”. Trust me when I say that nothing else from that list will involve chicken. Or tortillas. Or Legos.
Well, I do still need to at least tell you about the Legos….
Here’s what I am finding to be a pattern, which is not really a pattern at all, but really a random “take it as it comes and try to keep your head above water” lifestyle:
Some days I have plenty of time to cook and be all kinds of ”Little Miss Heavenly Homemaker”. And other days I am so completely busy with family/business/outdoor/appointment/tournament/travel/ministry/school/you-name-it responsibilities, that finding even a moment to breathe, much less put together a healthy meal, is much more than I am capable of. Those are the days you may as well call me “Little Miss Why Pray Tell Do These Children Think They Have to Eat Five Meals a Day and Where In The World Is My Other Shoe?” This is when having healthy meals already prepared in my freezer are a life saver.
(Side-Note: Being a ”Heavenly Homemaker” is something I believe you and I always are, whether we’re grinding flour and making bread from scratch, or whether we’re chucking a store-bought snack toward the back of the mini-van to your kids on the way to an event. As long as our tasks are done with love and with God’s purposes in mind, I believe that sometimes we just have to splurge in an effort to stay sane. But because I love being home, and I love being productive in my kitchen preparing healthy foods, I do feel more “Heavenly Homemaker-y” when there isn’t raisin gunk stuck to my hard wood floor and when I have time to stop and smell the butter melting on the stovetop in preparation for baking.)
During the last few weeks, as I’ve grabbed some hours of time in the kitchen as I’ve found them available, trying to get as much done as possible to make up for the crazy days when I don’t have as much time to cook. I have taken some pictures of the food to share with you. As for the dirty dishes these cooking times have created, I have no pictures. You will just have to imagine those in your head. Imagine the worst, then double it, then drizzle some pickle juice and sour milk over them, and that’ll be just about right. :)
One particular day a few weeks ago, I had several hours to spend in the kitchen. I sort of forgot to stop once I got going. I made a triple batch of Whole Wheat Tortillas (recipe in our Totally Tortillas eBook), a double batch of Granola, four loaves of Honey Whole Wheat Bread, one batch of Chocolate Chip Cookies, and two Green Bean Casseroles (recipe in our Holiday Hospitality eBook). I added ground hamburger meat to the casseroles to make them a one dish meal.
After I made all the tortillas, I made three gallon sized bags full of Meat and Cheese Burritos. And then I passed out. Not really. But almost.
Several days later
after I had recovered when I had an extra couple of hours, I made a double batch of Whole Wheat Calzones. We ate half of them on our way to a soccer tournament that weekend, and the others are still in the freezer for me to grab and serve on another busy day.
Last but not least, I wanted to show you a Pod Racer that I made with Legos. Just kidding. I really just made some pizza crusts for the freezer, and Malachi made the Pod Racer. But since they were both on the counter at the same time, I just took the picture of both. Be glad it was a Lego creation that happened to be on the counter in my kitchen at picture time and not a dirty sock or a dead bug that one of the boys brought in. Not that either of those would ever be found on my countertop…
I’m excited about these pizza crusts (using the dough recipe here), which I rolled thin and used for Grilled Pizza. I’ll share more about that experience soon. I’m super excited to have prepared crusts in the freezer for future grilling!
Made any extra food for your freezer recently? Had any
dirty socks Lego creations on your counter recently?
We have some lovely friends in town that make delicious homemade pizza. Their last name is “Tandy”, and because they have made their awesome pizza for so many, most people around here who know and enjoy their pizza lovingly call it “Tandy Pizza”. If you say, “We’re going to have Tandy’s Pizza for lunch,” everyone will get excited. This family has turned their pizza into a ministry, feeding loads of teenagers each week, making their pizza for large groups, baking it for kids at church camp, and the list goes on. Everyone loves the Tandys and their pizza ministry.
Well, a few weeks ago, I finally perfected my own homemade whole wheat pizza crust, and then adapted it to make calzones for a quick, grab and go meal. Malachi, our seven year old, took one bite of his and excitedly declared it to be “as good as Tandy Pizza!”. Now that is quite an honor. Ever since, Malachi has been calling these calzones ”Tandy Pockets”. It seems as though the Tandys are getting the credit for allllll my hard work, but hey, I’m okay with that. (And P.S. it doesn’t really take a lot of hard work to make these. I just wanted to sound momentarily pitiful.) ;)
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
5 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground flour from hard white wheat)
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 2 pouches)
2 cups warm water (The water should feel warm to the touch, but not burn your finger. How’s that for a specific temperature. This is how thorough I am…)
Mix all ingredients together, knead for 3-4 minutes, then allow the dough to “rest” for about 10 minutes (give or take). Use the dough to make two pizzas, baking for about 25 minutes each. (More specific pizza instructions coming eventually). :)
To make Calzones:
Prepare filling ingredients your family enjoys (sauce, shredded cheese, meat, peppers, olives, veggies, etc.).
Divide prepared dough into 18 balls. Roll each on a well floured surface. Top with pizza filling of choice.
Fold pocket in half and pinch ends together. Place each calzone on a baking sheet until pan is full.
Bake the pan of calzones at 375° for about 25 minutes or until calzones are golden brown. Makes about 18 calzones. Serve immediately. Or, allow the calzones to cool completely, then refrigerate or freeze them to serve another time. To reheat, place cold or frozen calzones in an oven or toaster oven for 8-15 minutes or until they are heated through.
You can also freeze these before baking if you prefer. Simply place the raw, shaped calzones on a baking sheet and freeze immediately after forming. Transfer frozen calzones into a freezer bag. Bake directly from frozen state in a 375° oven for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown.
Tandy Pockets Whole Wheat Calzones is super easy, and a perfectly wonderful “Make Ahead Meal“. What are your family’s favorite pizza pocket fillers? And oh yes, these would be perfect for meat and cheese pockets, breakfast pockets, and what else can you think of?
Bring on the soccer games, the soccer practices, the soccer referee schedules (for our older boys), and the general soccer craziness at our house! While the spring soccer season isn’t as intense as the fall season (college soccer takes place in the fall on top of our boys’ soccer) – I still find myself running a little bit ragged trying to keep everyone in clean, matching soccer socks during these weeks of games.
Having a few extra food items ready to warm up quickly to feed the family is helpful during any time of the year. But during soccer season, I find it especially helpful. Therefore, last week, I spent a few hours each day working to get ahead. As a result, I’ve got a freezer packed with healthy, easy to grab and heat meals.
In case you’re interested in seeing a few photos to document my efforts (and some recipe links to motivate you toward getting some food in your freezer too!), here you go:
I made a double batch of Taco Corn Fritters for lunch one day. We ate half, then I froze half. These will warm up great in our toaster oven.
I made two Green Bean Casseroles (using a recipe in this holiday ebook), but I added some hamburger meat to make it an “all in one meal”. These will be perfect to throw into the oven before or after a game. (And by throw, I really mean “carefully slide”. Please do not throw casseroles into your oven, especially when they are in glass dishes.)
These Creamy Chicken and Rice Casseroles didn’t make it into my freezer, as I served them all for High School Huddle on Sunday. But since I put them together during my “extra cooking days”, I decided they would feel left out if they didn’t have their opportunity for a photo shoot.
I prepared seven pounds of Chicken Fried Steak Strips, froze them on parchment paper, then put the frozen strips into freezer bags. These are wonderful to have on hand to grab out and cook up quickly. I was lazy and put several layers on one cookie sheet just to see if it would work. Yay! It worked. (Good thing too, or I would have had seven pounds of chicken fried steak in one huge rectangular chunk!)
We all love these Raw Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites – which sound like a dessert – but are really a high protein, healthy snack. They freeze well, or store well in the fridge.
The following picture is not meant to be motivating at all, but rather posted so that you can feel very sorry for me and say nice things about how awful it is that a mess like this happened in the middle of my hard working cooking time. (Woe is me.) I had a pint of cream sitting on my counter that I knocked off with my elbow while grabbing a spoon. It was so very sad. :( And for the record, cream really does splatter quite a long distance across a kitchen.
In happier news, I made Chocolate Chip Cookies for “just in case”. It’s always great to have a batch of cookies in the freezer to grab at a moment’s notice. However, these never made it to the freezer. I ate all 24 of them while consoling myself after I knocked the cream off the counter. Just KIDDING. I packaged them up and sent them with Matt to give to some college students. I think I did eat one or three first – just to make sure they tasted good.
I put my boys to work scrubbing 10 pounds of potatoes, which we baked and turned into frozen hashbrowns. Wow, it’s nice to have these in the freezer for a quick addition to meals.
I put together two big Lasagna Casseroles, which freeze very well and can be baked on a busy day.
Malachi was hanging out with me during one of my cooking times and asked me to take a picture of him doing his math. Hey, if a casserole dish is picture worthy, I’d say my seven year old deserves some camera time too. And no, we don’t require our children to wear fancy button-up shirts while they do their school work. But Malachi absolutely loves his shirt and tie combo and would wear it every day if we let him. Shucks, sometimes we do. Although I do try to wash it occasionally.
Here you see 48 Pigs in a Blanket. They are put together, but unbaked and now in freezer bags waiting for a day when I need something fast to throw into the oven. Oh dear – there I go throwing things into the oven again. Disclaimer: No pigs will be thrown into my oven at any time during soccer season. After soccer season is over, no guarantees. Kidding. I’m kidding.
Last, I made a double batch of Chewy Granola Bars. These are awesome grab and go snacks. Shucks, if you need to throw these, it’s perfectly fine. Throw them into your purse or a bag, or even throw them across your mini van at your kids. Carefully, of course. Here is a picture of the bars right after I poured them into a pan, before refrigerating and slicing them.
Been throwing anything into your oven lately that we should know about? What are your favorite freezer meals? Do you feel sorry for me that I spilled all that cream?
The chicken was on its last leg.
Well actually, the chicken no longer had legs, as it had already fulfilled its glorious life purpose and had been cooked and made into a rich broth and good healthy meat for my family.
Regardless, legless though he was, the last little bit of cooked chicken in my fridge was indeed on its last leg. It needed to be eaten. It could no longer be left alone…neglected, unused, and unwanted.
(It would appear that, apparently, I felt the need to create some chicken drama when all I really needed to say was: ”I had leftover chicken- so I used it.” I can’t just be normal. What fun would that be?)
So the chicken - it was begging to be used. I needed a quick lunch for the family. But I needed to make the meal in the morning and have the capability to reheat it quickly at lunch time. Therefore, I decided to play with my Three Cheese Garlic Chicken Pasta recipe and make it into a “Make Ahead Meal“. The chicken and I are happy to report that my idea worked, and the meal was delicious.
Actually, the chicken has nothing at all to report because not only is he not on his last leg anymore, he is officially gone.
Why? Why do I say these things? I’m going to just give you the recipe already before I say anything else ridiculous about the chicken.
Baked Three Cheese Chicken Pasta
2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pasta
3 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (add more if you like)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
In a large cooking pot, combine cooked chicken, uncooked pasta, milk, garlic powder, and sea salt. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until pasta is tender and the starch from the pasta has thickened the milk, creating a creamy sauce. Remove cooking pot from the heat. Stir in parmesan cheese and cream cheese until it is mixed throughout.
Pour pasta mixture into a casserole dish. (A 9×13 inch pan works well, or any variety similar in size.) Sprinkle shredded cheese on top and bake in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.
If you make this ahead of time, you may need to adjust the baking time so that the casserole will be heated through and through. Also, you can freeze this dish! Simply thaw and bake in a 350° oven for 30-40 minutes.
All this talk about chickens and legs kind of has me hungry for fried chicken legs, which pretty much makes no sense - unless you are in my brain and then it does make sense. Oh people. Be glad you are not in my brain. It is not pretty.
So tell me, what do you do when your chicken is on its last leg? (Yes, I think I am actually talking about leftovers here.)
I am a canned Cream of Fill in the Blank Soup rebel. I have avoided canned cream soups since we began Our Healthy Eating Journey. Why? Because their ingredient lists scare me. (As in, I literally scream out loud, from deep in the back of my throat, when I pick up a can and read it at the store. Not really. But I wonder what my boys would do if I did? Maybe I’ll do that sometime. Not really.)
The ingredients in a can of Campbell’s Cream of Celery Soup, according to the Campbell’s Food Service Website are (and do try not to scream when you read this):
Water, Celery, Vegetable Oil (Corn, Cottonseed, Canola, and/or Soybean), Wheat Flour, Modified Food Starch, Contains less than 2% of: Salt, Soy Protein Concentrate, Monosodium Glutamate, Cream Powder (Cream [Milk], Soy Lecithin), Yeast Extract, Flavoring, Beta Carotene for Color.
Well, at least the first two ingredients are water and celery. ;)
There are all kinds of recipes which share how to make homemade cream soups. I’ve tried some of them, and I’m thankful that the recipes are available. For some reason though, I just haven’t had a loving enough relationship with cream soup to try to keep the homemade varieties on hand.
The question is then, how do you make a casserole without a cream soup? Ah, very simple: I use cream.
Cream of what? No, just cream. Cream. The stuff that rises to the top of your raw milk. Or the thick, white liquid you can buy in the dairy department of the store, usually labeled Heavy Whipping Cream. If you use cream, along with a few spices that enhance your casserole, your dish will be tasty, easy and surprise, surprise: creamy.
Here is how I now make my Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole with real, whole food ingredients:
Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole
4 cups chicken broth (I avoid canned broth or bouillon because they are also loaded with MSG. Here’s my easy homemade chicken broth recipe, which includes frighteningly ugly pictures of a chicken carcass. Again, try not to scream.)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups brown rice
2-3 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 teaspoon (or more) garlic powder
Sea salt, to taste
1 1/2 cups cream (heavy whipping cream, or fresh cream which has risen to the top of whole, raw milk)
In a large pot, bring chicken broth, carrots and onion to a boil at high heat. Add rice, stir, and place the lid on the pot. Reduce heat to low and cook the rice and vegetables in the broth for 45 minutes. (To avoid sticky rice, don’t stir the rice while it’s trying to cook – just walk away and ignore it for the entire 45 minutes. You can do it.)
When the rice is done, stir in cooked chicken, garlic powder and cream. Shake in liberal amounts of sea salt for best flavor. (I use Redmonds Real Sea Salt, which is unbleached and full of natural minerals.) Cook ingredients for about five more minutes to heat the chicken and cream. Serve directly from pot, or pour into a 9×13 inch baking dish. This meal can be prepared ahead of time, refrigerated and reheated in the oven at serving time. Cover and heat in a 350° oven for 20-30 minutes or until hot through and through. Serves eight.
(You can also freeze this meal. To reheat, simply put the frozen, covered casserole into the oven, turn the oven onto 350° and cook for about 1 1/2 hours or until it is heated thoroughly.)
Cooking your rice in the chicken broth gives this dish a wonderful, naturally delicious flavor. And in case I didn’t mention it before, the cream makes this dish…creamy.
Where have you landed on the Cream of Fill in the Blank issue? Have you given them up yet? Have you ever screamed out loud when reading the ingredient list on a can of soup at the store? Do you make your own cream soups? Or do you use another substitution? (Sour cream works well too, in some recipes!)