I'm in the mindset of baby prep these days and I want some grab and go meals ready in the freezer for when this little one decides to arrive. This particular dish has turned into one of my family's favorites...the kids just call it "taco night" and it's literally such an easy dish to put together and double batch so it's the perfect "one for now, one for later" recipe. Same amount of work but 2 family meals ready to go.
This recipe also happens to use a lot of pantry staples such as rice, quinoa, beans and salsa. Nothing fancy and it's substitution friendly, which is also helpful for this quarantine period that we're finding ourselves in these days. You could make this without meat for a vegetarian option. No quinoa? No problem. Just go with all rice...or all quinoa...whatever your preference. I used freshly chopped peppers and onions but a bag of frozen will do just fine. Light on salsa? Add in some drained, canned diced tomatoes.
Here's what you'll need:
-Approximately 2 lbs of chicken breasts or thighs
-3 cups salsa (an additional cup will be needed when you use the freezer meal)
-2 cups cooked black beans (I buy my beans in a bag and prep them by soaking over night but you can adjust the amount based on canned beans if that's what you have or prefer to use)
-3 cups of rice, quinoa or combination
-2 bell peppers
-3 TBS olive oil
-1 tsp garlic powder
-2 tsp chili powder
-2 cups shredded cheese (an additional 2 cups will be needed when you use the freezer meal)
Fixings for Serving Options
-hard taco shells
-sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
-chopped lettuce and tomatoes
Spray the inside of a crock pot with non-stick cooking spray. Place the chicken breasts or thighs in the crock pot and spread 2 cups of salsa on top. Cover and set on high for approximately 3 hours. At around 3 hours, use two forks to shred the chicken (it should shred easily when fully cooked). Once fully shredded, return the lid and reduce to low while you prepare the other ingredients.
On the stove top, prepare the rice/quinoa per the instructions on the package of grains. Once cooked, set aside. In a skillet, heat up 3 TBS of olive oil on medium heat. Chop the onion and peppers. Add the onion to the heated olive oil and stir fry 2-3 minutes until it begins to soften. Add the bell peppers, garlic powder and chili powder. Stir fry the onion, peppers and spices for approximately 10 minutes until softened. Remove from heat.
Get 2 casserole dishes approximately the size of 9x11 or 9x13. I used a reusable 9x13 dish for the dish I was cooking for dinner that night and I used a 9x11'ish disposable casserole dish for the one I placed in the freezer.
Spray the bottom of the casserole dishes with non-stick cooking spray. Divide the rice/quinoa in half and line the bottom of each dish with the grains. Then divide the chicken mixture in half and spread on top of the rice/quinoa layer in each casserole dish. Top each dish with half of the beans and stir fried peppers/onions. Stop here for the dish that is going into the freezer. Allow to cool, cover with foil, label and place into the freezer.
For the dish you are cooking now, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread an additional cup of salsa on top of the veggies/beans and top with 2 cups of shredded cheese spread evenly across the top of the dish. Cover and bake for 30-40 minutes until the cheese is bubbly, melted and the dish is heated through. Serve with the optional fixings!
When you're ready to use the freezer meal, transfer it into the fridge approximately 2-3 days ahead of time to thaw safely. Then pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, top with the additional salsa and cheese and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. Enjoy!
I originally created this recipe idea with school in mind as my kids go to a "nut free" school due to allergies. Obviously, we're out of school for at least the next few weeks over here in the U.S. but these granola bars have still come in handy for an afternoon pick me up snack when that home schooling energy is starting to drop each day.
These are easy to make, require no baking and you could easily substitute your favorite nut butter if that's your preference. Don't have cranberries? No problem...throw in some raisins or other dried fruit. Swap in a different type of chocolate chip! I'm all about the adaptable recipes these days as we all seem to be experiencing grocery stores that are doing their best to restock but are hit or miss with certain ingredients.
Here's what you'll need for these granola bars:
-3 cups rolled oats
-1 cups unsweetened coconut flakes (you can use sweetened if that's what you have)
-1/2 cup sun butter
-1/2 cup honey
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1-2 tsp cinnamon
-3/4 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit
-3/4 cup dark chocolate chips + 3-4 TBS more for drizzling
Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together the rolled oats, coconut flakes and cinnamon. Place a small/medium sized pot on stove top and add the honey and sun butter. Melt together on medium heat. Once smoothly melted together, pour into the bowl of oats and allow to sit and cool together for 2-3 minutes. Then add the dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips and mix together. Work the mixture to get the sticky sun butter/honey "glue" to incorporate with all of the dry ingredients.
Pour the entire bowl of ingredients into the baking pan and use a rubber spatula or spoon to spread and flatten the granola bar mixture throughout the pan. Place in the fridge to chill for 2-3 hours.
Remove from the fridge, lift the parchment paper up and out of the pan and slice into bars. For storage, place the bars in an air tight tupperware or fridge safe container and keep in the fridge. The bars will begin to fall apart if they are stored at room temperature.
Enjoy! I hope that this finds you all well in the midst of these crazy times.
We're getting closer and closer to this baby's arrival and I officially began gradually stocking our freezer last week so that we have some meals and baked goods on hand after baby's arrival. Since that start, the coronavirus shut downs have heavily moved forward and for good reason, but I don't know if the grocery store availability will have us dipping into those baby meals sooner than later. Regardless, the meals won't go to waste and I'm grateful that we have some preparations in progress. We're certainly in new terrain at this point and I hope that you and your families are healthy and safe wherever you are.
One of the preparations I'm making for baby's arrival is this updated version of these new mama cookies. I made a previous version here with our last delivery, but I wanted to update with a new recipe that was closer to a classic oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. They're packed with ingredients known to help increase milk supply, but I call them new mama cookies because they're wholesome and convenient for all sleep deprived mamas, regardless as to how they choose to or need to feed their sweet little baby. A wholesome cookie is going to come in handy if you're up every 1-2 hours, every night for months.
The star ingredients in these cookies, aside from the dark chocolate chips, are oatmeal, flax seed and brewer's yeast. Brewer's yeast can have a little bit of a strong odor and a bitter taste so I keep the amount to 1 TBS in the entire recipe. These may make a sweet little surprise for any friends or family that are expecting. What mom wouldn't love someone to show up with homemade cookies?
Here's what you'll need to get baking:
-1/2 cup butter at room temperature (grass fed preferred)
-3/4 cup coconut sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1 1/2 cups oat flour (to make oat flour, I simply processed 1 1/2 cups oatmeal in my high powered blender. You could also use a food processor or purchase oat flour already processed if you prefer)
-3/4 cups oatmeal
-1/4 cup flax seed
-1 TBS Brewer's Yeast
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp baking powder
-1-2 tsp cinnamon
-1 cup dark chocolate chips
In a large bowl, use a stand or hand mixer to cream together the butter and coconut sugar. Then add in the eggs one at a time, mix and add in the vanilla. Once these ingredients are combined, begin to add in the dry ingredients of the oat flour, oatmeal, flax seed, brewer's yeast, salt and baking powder. Mix together with the mixer on low/medium until a cookie dough forms. Fold in the 1 cup of dark chocolate chips. Cover the bowl of prepared cookie dough with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for approximately 1 hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie tray with parchment paper. Using a small cookie scooper or spoon, scoop out the cookie dough into roughly shaped domes and place on the prepared cookie tray approximately 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 degrees for approx. 11 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes before gently transferring to a wire baking rack to finish cooling.
This recipe makes approximately 35 cookies, depending on the size of cookies that you scoop. You can serve them immediately or freeze in a freezer bag once they have cooled completely.
Stay safe and healthy friends!
New England wife and mom. Faith, fitness, yoga, baking and constantly cleaning my kitchen.