Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

I promised my insights for freezer meals and apparently peaked the interest of many of my readers!

While I may not be the best expert on freezer meals, I do try to use them about once a week.  My philosophy is, if I am already going through all the work to make some form of food, why not make a bit extra and stick it in the freezer for later?  The extra effort is quite minimal compared to having to start all over from scratch.  Plus, there is nothing greater than zero prep for dinner the night you pull it out.  My kids actually get a bit more attention from mom on those nights :)
I generally stick to main dishes, like this tasty Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf, but I also do other foods as well.  I know it isn't the best for the environment, but yes....I use disposable pans, bags and plastic wrap for my freezer meals.  Please don't get after me about that.  I don't have room in my cupboards for any more pans and containers!  There are 8 of us stuffed into this little house here people!!!!

My favorite disposables are from Sam's Club because you can buy heavy foil lids to go with them, they are dirt cheap in bulk and much better quality than the dollar store!
When I freeze breads, cookies, muffins, waffles, pancakes or the like, I freeze them individually on a cookie sheet first, then wrap them tight in plastic wrap.  Freezing them hard first makes them easier to wrap, but also cuts down a lot on freezer burn.  My kids love pulling one out as needed and tossing them in the microwave/toaster for a few seconds.  As a mom of six, self-service food equals sanity!
So, if you haven't already noticed, I have begun including freezing instructions at the bottom of my recipes that are appropriate for the freezer.  They are the bright pink instructions, so you can't miss them.  Unless, of course, you are as color blind as my 12 year old....poor kid!
Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf
makes 1 regular sized loaf or 2 smaller loaves in foil pans
(recipe adapted from Joelen)
1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 C fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2-3 cloves garlic finely minced
1 onion, grated
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 C fresh parmesan cheese
1/2 C pasta sauce
1/2 C shredded mozzarella cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease loaf pan with spray.
2.  In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.  Lightly mix together with your hands, but do not over handle or it will get tough.  Place into loaf pan and form into a loaf.  Top the meatloaf with the pasta sauce.
3.  Bake for 50-55 minutes, then remove to add the mozzarella cheese.  Return to the oven to melt the cheese.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving so it won't fall apart.
**For gluten free, use gluten free bread to make your crumbs.
**For freezer meal, make as stated above, but divide into two small foil pans.  Top with sauce, cover with foil and freeze.  To serve, defrost in the fridge for one day, then bake as listed above, but reducing the time to about 40 minutes.

Cinnamon Streusel Scones

So this past week has introduced our family to the drama of prom dress shopping.  I know what you are thinking....it is only February, right ?!?!?  When my daughter was asked three weeks ago, I was shocked at how early the invitation came.  I guess if you really have someone specific you want to take to prom, you've got to get in there before the other guy!

Due to our family standards in our dress, finding a modest and fashion forward prom dress is almost impossible.  I tried to convince my daughter that I could sew her a beautiful dress, but she wouldn't even consider that an option.  I don't blame her.  The last dress I made for her was an Easter dress when she was 4 :)  All she could picture was a baby blue a-line dress with adorable white ruffles.
After this week full of drama, tears and sticker shock, we all needed a great treat for breakfast this morning.  My kids all adore my scone recipe and I love creating new variations.  I really wanted to try white chocolate and raspberry, but knew child #2 would use them as another sign that I don't love him if his breakfast contained chocolate.
Everyone loved them, and were already calling dibs on the leftovers for after school.  That is always a sign of a recipe home run. Otherwise, they just eat it because Mom won't let them have a bowl of cereal instead.
Cinnamon Streusel Scones
makes 18 medium scones or 12 large
(recipe adapted from allrecipes.com)
Scones:
1 C sour cream 
1 tsp baking soda
4 C flour
1 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
1 C butter
1 egg, beaten
Streusel:
4 Tb butter
1/2 C flour
1/2 C brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
dash of salt
optional : 1/2-3/4 C chopped pecans

1.  In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and baking soda.  Set aside and allow to bubble up.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Cut together all the streusel ingredients in a medium bowl.  You want the butter to be small little pieces.  Set aside.
3.  In large bowl or food processor, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, zest and salt.  Cut in the butter until pieces are pea sized.  Stir in sour cream mixture and beaten egg.  Mix just until moistened.  (I had to dump mine on the counter at the end and knead it lightly to get it into a ball)
4.  Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead briefly.  Roll dough into a 3/4" round.  Use a pastry brush to moisten the top of your dough with milk.  Press streusel onto the top of the circle.  Cut into 12 wedges and place them 2" apart on baking sheet.  (This makes BIG scones.  For smaller ones, form into 2 rounds and cut each round into 8 pieces.  Bake in two batches)
5.  Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden brown on the edges and tops are not soft or mushy.  Cool completely and drizzle on powdered sugar icing if desired.

Baked Pesto Chicken

Honesty time:  I had to bribe my children to eat this dish.  The green color completely threw them for a loop.  I tried to explain to them that it was just pesto and that they would adore it.  They love pesto on pasta and pizza.  I guess slathering it all over chicken was just too big of a jump for them.
Once I promised a big bowl of ice cream for finishing the chicken, all six of them ate it.  And not to say "I told you so," but they loved it.  Even my oldest said, "It is really good Mom, but I just don't like how it looks!"  I have another pan of it in the freezer, so hopefully it will go over a bit smoother next time around!

I love recipes that are so easy to double.  One for now, one for later!  Many of you have noticed the addition of freezer instructions to some of my recipes.  I've had some emails asking how I use freezer meals and my own tips.  I'm working on putting together a post all about freezer cooking so stay tuned!
The original recipe instructs it to be baked while covered in foil, but I baked it uncovered instead.  I'm glad I did.  It makes quite a bit of sauce on it's own when baking.  If it would have been covered, it would have boiled instead of baked!!
Baked Pesto Chicken
(recipe adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen)
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 C basil pesto
3/4 C grated mozzarella cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Trim chicken of excess fat.  Slice lengthwise into 2-4 pieces, depending on size of breast meat.
2.  Spread some of the pesto in a thin layer across the bottom of your 9 x 13 pan.  Lay the sliced chicken on top, then spread on the remaining pesto.
3.  Cook, uncovered for 25 minutes.  Remove pan from the oven and top with the cheese.  Return to the oven for another 5-7 minutes until completely cooked.  Serve the sauce in pan over noodles or rice, or just over the cooked chicken.
**For freezer, use a disposable foil pan and cover tightly with foil or foil lid.  To bake, allow to thaw in fridge before cooking, or bake frozen for about 50 minutes or until chicken is done.

Banana Muffins

The other morning during the religious education class that I teach, we had a great debate about exactly when a banana is perfect for eating.  (What this had to do with the Old Testament, I'm not quite sure....)  I like the banana peel to still have a bit of green on the ends.  I won't even consider eating one that has any brown spots on it.  Too "banana-y".  My students laughed at that one.  How can a food taste too much like itself?  I don't know, but I don't like bananas when they do.
The only people in our home that will eat a truly ripe banana are the two little ones.  This often leaves me with many over-ripe bananas.  I used to toss them until I discovered that you could freeze them.  Just throw them as-is, peel and all, into the freezer.  When you are ready to bake with them, just set them on the counter for about an hour.
I made a double batch of these muffins because my "banana shelf" in the freezer was packed.  These are my kids favorite banana muffins and they freeze so beautifully (freezer directions in the recipe).  In the morning, my kids pull one out of the freezer and pop it in the microwave.  Talk about stress-free mornings!
Banana Muffins
(recipe from The Best Recipe)
makes 18 muffins
3 C flour
1 Tb baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
10 Tb butter, room temperature
1 C light brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 C plain yogurt
1 1/2 C finely diced banana (about 3 small)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly spray 18 muffin tins.  You could use liners, but the muffins won't rise as much.
2.  In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and soda, salt and nutmeg.  Set aside.  In an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar for 2 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.
3.  Mix in 1/2 of the dry ingredients.  Mix in 1/3 of the yogurt.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with yogurt, until incorporated.  You should end with the dry ingredients if you have divided it correctly.  Fold in the diced bananas into the finished batter.
4.  Divide the batter evenly among the 18 muffin tins.  Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack.
**To freeze, allow muffins to cool completely, then place them on a cookie sheet.  Freeze until hard, then individually wrap them in plastic wrap.  Good for 6 months in the freezer.  To thaw, just leave on the counter overnight, or pop in the microwave still wrapped in plastic wrap for 25 seconds.

Low Carb Sugar Free Chocolate Cream Pie

"First time I say it, you obey it."

I have repeated those words over and over (and over) in an attempt to teach my children a lifelong lesson.  However, it didn't seem to be setting in and my attempt to teach was getting nowhere.

We've been working hard to recognize the positive choices our kids make, instead of just the negative.  So last week, we began giving positive reinforcement for immediate obedience to a parent.  

When they obey the first time, they get a simple check mark on a chart.  A full chart results in an age appropriate reward.  You would think something as simple as a check on a chart would fail miserably as an incentive, but I have the 6 most obedient children in the world right now :)  Even my teens are jumping off the couch at the sound of my voice!!!

I know the "newness" of this will wear off eventually, but it has been positive reinforcement for us as parents.  We need to find more ways to praise our children along with loving correction.  Correction alone isn't enough.
This pie is my dietary form of loving correction and praise all wrapped together in one :)  After indulging a bit too much after Christmas, my body was really craving something sweet and indulgent.  I wanted to stay on my diet, so I created this decadent dessert.  I could have eaten the whole thing in one sitting, but I limited myself to one piece.

While I won't be eating it everyday, I will reward myself with this crazy-good treat as positive reinforcement when I obey my dietary rules :)
Low Carb Sugar-Free Chocolate Cream Pie
1 recipe almond crust, baked golden brown in pie pan
1 small package sugar free instant chocolate pudding
1 C skim milk
1 C heavy whipping cream

1.  Bake crust according to directions and allow to cool completely.
2.  Using an electric mixer, beat together the pudding, milk and whip cream until thick.  Spread into the cooled crust and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Homemade Fabric Softener


Since my most popular posts are my homemade laundry detergent and homemade Shout, I figured I need to post my final homemade laundry recipe to complete the deal.
I just recently started using this recipe when I ran out of my store-bought softener.  As always, I was skeptical.  I had all the ingredients in my cupboard, so I gave it a go.  So glad I did.  I adore it completely!  In fact, I just made my second batch of it this morning.  You can store it in your old fabric softener container, or use a clean milk jug.
The cost for 3 quarts comes in around 75 cents!!!  I used cheap Suave Mango conditioner and it worked perfectly.  It smelled heavenly and left a hint of the mango scent on my clothes.  I wanted a bit stronger scent on my dried clothes so I added some orange essential oil to the mix.  Just a few drops did the trick.  My clothes really smell delicious now!

So there you have it.  All my laundry secrets revealed.  And since I save so much money on my laundry, I don't feel guilty walking into my favorite kitchen supply store and buying another bowl I don't need.

My name is Carole, and I have a bowl problem......
Homemade Fabric Softener
(makes about 3 qts for 75 cents!)
6 C warm water
3 C white vinegar
2 C hair conditioner - pick a scent you like but use something cheap!
essential oil, optional

1.  In a large bowl, combine all three ingredients together and mix.  Whisk gently or you will get bubbles.
2.  Pour into your container and measure out as you would with store bought fabric softener.
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