Taco Soup II

My friend Faith, we are on an Allergy Free Cooking group on Facebook-- and now friends, posted this recipe for us this week and with her permission, I thought I would share.

I know I already have several "Taco Soup" recipes on this blog, but it's such a great concept that I thought, why not another? This does have variations from my others, so I hope you will enjoy!

This is a very flavorful but NOT a hot/spicy chili type dish. If you want more heat, I recommend adding it in the form of sliced jalapenos and hot sauce to serve, but not cooked into it. It's much harder to control the heat/spice over such a long cooking period and it will tend to get hotter/spicier as it cooks.

Taco soup

1 cup textured vegetable protein, rehydrated (or 1 lb ground meat, browned)
2 medium onions, chopped
1-2 bell peppers, chopped
2 sm-med carrots, peeled and grated
1 15 oz. can chili beans
1 15 oz. can black beans (or red or kidney, we prefer black), drained, rinsed
1 15. oz. can no salt added corn, drained
1 can water
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes (I like to get the petite dice)*
1 can green chilis (sorry don't remember the ounces on that one)*
1 packet taco seasoning (I use a homemade mix)
1 packet ranch dressing mix (I don't use this during Lent)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp sea salt

Place everything in slow cooker; stir to combine. Cover and cook a reeeeaaaaally long time - I tend to put mine in after supper one night and leave it on low until supper the next night, but 8 hours in a newer crockpot will work (seriously, though, longer is better!!). It doesn't look appealing when it's done but man does it taste amazing!

Serve with extra sour cream and cheddar to top, if desired. Cornbread works really well as an accompaniment, too.

*Two cans of diced tomatoes with chilis - NOT Rotel - will also work.

Gets better the second and third day and freezes very well, you just need to add a bit of water as it heats to loosen it up.


Perfect Oat Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies (Wheat free)

As some of you know, I've been cataloging good wheat free recipes (that don't have much to do with a freezer) on this blog for a while. Mostly because I don't want to lose these recipes and know the best place to share them is on the website. This is so when I go to a friend's house and want to make wheat free treats, I know exactly where to get the recipe.

Today's wheat free treat is a Chocolate Chip Cookie that holds up to the chocolate chip cookies of old. These even gives nestle tollhouse a run for its money! No really!

The original recipe is from Pampered Chef's Gluten Free cook book. Haven't seen it? You should really check it out and it's only $8! Such a good deal. But I digress!

So this recipe called for Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour blend... Blech. No thanks. I've tried this on numerous occasions and it's horrid. I mean really horrid! So, like a good recipe crasher, I decided to hack it up and see if I could make it FABULOUS without ruining my appetite!

The result? The perfect Oat Flour Chocolate Chip Cookie! No like really. I've eaten three.

Yields 36 regular sized cookies

Dry Ingredients:
3 cups Oat Flour
3 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Mix together and set aside.

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups of packed brown sugar
1 cup of butter (two sticks)

Cream together in a large mixing bowl with hand mixer.

More wet ingredients:
2 eggs
2 tsps of Vanilla

Add eggs and vanilla with hand mixer and blend well. Now add dry mix to bowl and beat until the dough looks like your joe average cookie dough!

Now add in one WHOLE package of semi sweet morsels and stir with bamboo/wooden spoon. Stir until combined.

Parchment line your cookie sheets (Makes for easier clean-up) and I used the pampered chef medium scoop (2 tablespoons worth scoop) to make perfect rounded balls. I love my scoops!

Place in preheated oven at 350 for 14 minutes. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before you move them. This was the tip from the original recipe and since I know GF recipes can be tricky (because they don't bind well) I wanted to make sure I obeyed! But after waiting, I believe this cookie could have been moved a lot earlier and cooled on the wire rack. But it didn't change the cookie process.

Seriously. Seriously. These are the best GF cookies I've ever eaten. PERIOD. Even my Oatmeal cookie recipe I love more then life itself might have to get a hack to see if it will come out as thick and delicious as this. Seriously.

(For those asking, I'm not a Pampered Chef consultant, nor have I ever been one. But everything I use in my kitchen is Pampered Chef. So when I refer to a product, I will try to use a link to help you purchase. The products used in this recipe are as follows: Stainless Mixing Bowls, Medium Scoop, Easy Read Measuring cups, Bamboo Spoons, Adjustable Measuring Spoons, Large Sheet Pans, and Stackable Cooling Rack. )


Taco Bake (Freezer Style)

Often I come across a recipe that I NEED NEED to make a freezer meal out of. And this is one of those times. *hands in the air Gangnam Style* In fact, when I typed (Freezer Style) in the title, I may have rose to my feet and Gangnamed a bit. I digress...

So the original recipe came from Sandy's Kitchen. Thank you Sandy! Very much. However, since I'm not counting calories, just making good healthy foods, I won't use the fat free suggested and I may go overboard on the cheese, but that is just me. Which means, I'm crashing this recipe in so many ways, it's going to be amazing.

At the point I'm writing this, the recipe has been created and stuffed into the freezer. I haven't defrosted and cooked it yet, so I don't know if it's going to work yet as a freezer meal. However, I've eaten it as a make right now and consume meal. Super easy and very delish!

Half a block of of Cream Cheese (softened)-- 4oz
2 Eggs
5 Tablespoons of half and half
1/2 teaspoon of taco seasoning

Wisk this all together then poor into greased 9x13.

Sprinkle 1 Cup of shredded Mexican blend cheese over the top of the mix and pat down.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until bubbly and it looks like a crust. It's actually quite cool and believe or not, I took a picture!

So now you need to let this cool while you put together your topping. Now with this topping, the original recipe asked for a cup of tomato puree. However, since I'm allergic to tomatoes, here is where the crash comes in. I'm going to use jarred roasted peppers for my puree. They are highly delicious and whirr up perfectly into a fabulous sauce that has the Mexican flare. I put a whole jar of them in my blender and whipped them right up.

4 cups of cooked ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning
1 cup (ish) of roasted red pepper puree
1 small can of green chilies (4oz)
1 cup of Mexican blend cheese

Now here is where I crashed the recipe again. It requires you to mix the ingredients and then top with cheese... well, we are cheese fans. Plain and simple, so I mixed some cheese into the topping and then topped it too.

Then top with the cup of cheese.

Now if you were to bake this now, you need to bake it at 350 for 20 or until hot and bubbly. Serve like casserole but top with taco toppings like olives, tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.

Since I'm going to try this as a freezer meal, I used my pyrex 13x9 with lid. Brilliant invention, but not air tight, so I used Press and Seal to keep it nice and freezer friendly. I wrote the instructions on the wrapper and then sealed it up with the lid. My lid is red not blue, and I cut slits in the handles to accommodate the Press and Seal, making sure the seal was still intact.

The day before I want to cook it, I pull it out and allow it to defrost in the frig and cook like directed at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

It turned out fabulous and the kids thought so too!


April's Meal Plan

As I planned April's meals, I realized it was time to share the details of what this looks like for me. I have the OAMC How do you start? post, but I know it's also nice to see EXACTLY what one does and how it's accomplished.

So bare with me as I fumble through my memory to recall all my steps. :)

Before you begin:
I made sure the kitchen was clean. No one can think about prepping 24 meals in a dirty kitchen. Trust me here, it just makes it easier. 

I made sure all my measure cups, bowls, spoons, pans and gallon sized freezer bags were ready to go. Good rule of thumb is to have one WHOLE BOX of freezer/storage bags available when you do a whole month of meals. Because most of the time you want to bag your meal in a freezer bag, then put another on the outside. IF you are tricksy, the doubled bag on the outside can be reused next month. But trust me when I tell you it's needed, because if one of those bad boys spring a leak, holy buckets. Just don't trust a single bag with liquids.

Now it's time for family involvement. Oh, I've done it without family input, but then I end up with a few meals that someone won't eat. Usually, I ask for what they're craving or what they liked from last month (because we nearly always have a new recipe) and what they hated. The Clam Chowder from last month was a big NO from the kids (that was only because they found out I made them eat clams). But at least we had some likes and cravings to go off of.

So I grabbed my pen and paper and wrote down the things they wanted.

Italian Pork Chops
Corned Beef

You'd think with just five meals, it might be too hard to plan a whole month, but actually these are just your base starters. So I look at the fajitas and Carna Asada, and think, hummm peppers, onions, tortillas. Okay, what else has these ingredients?

Tatery Goodness has peppers and onions and it also has potatoes. So I should probably buy a big bag or potatoes and make a double batch because it's cheaper that way. And the corned beef will need potatoes.

Now what about the two pork meals. Well, buying a large pork loin from Costco for $20 will give me 2 Kalua Pork meals, 1 Italian Pork Chop, and what if I made Pork Fajitas too? Never had pork fajitas! Let's do it.

Now, let's jump back to the chicken fajitas. If I buy the large $20 pack of boneless skinless chicken at Costco, I can get 6 meals out of that. If I do two chicken fajitas instead of one, then that still gives me four portions of chicken.  But I also have tortillas that I need to use again. Ah! Mexican Chicken. Perfect.

And if I use two portions of chicken in Mexican Chicken, I'll have plenty of  left overs to make Enchiladas  which means I can buy the super big bag of corn tortillas and make my own taco shells too for tacos!

And it's been a while since we've had enchiladas, so I'll make two Mexican Chicken's and two enchiladas. Which takes care of all my Costco sized chicken.

Now, if I buy the ground beef for tacos at Costco, I will have taco meat left over for... OHH! Jill made us Taco Bake once... oh and Taco Soup! And Nachos!

Oh and I should probably make some more refried beans this month since I'm almost out. But that means I need bacon. What else can I do with bacon and I still have those other three chicken portions left in my freezer. Oh! Bacon Wrapped Chicken! And it's been a while since we've eaten the Chicken Caprese!

And with the last chicken portion in my freezer, I will make my Alfredo Bake (not a freezer meal) and then I can make some alfredo just for the kids because they love it.  SO to recap my meals:

Pork Fajitas 1
Kalua Pork 2
Italian Pork Chops 1
Tatery Goodness 2
Corned Beef 1
Carna Asada 1
Tacos 3
Nachos 1
Beans (large pot makes about 20 cups)
Chicken Caprese 1
Alfredo Bake 1
Alfredo Pasta 1

And there you have it. You've now spent an hour in my brain.

Time for shopping
I made a list of all the ingredients in excel and grouped them in two ways.

First by meal then under each meal I did ABC order ingredients That way when I looked at my list, I would be able to mark off each of the items quickly. I do precount my items and write on the first meal that needs onions: "onions 6" if I need six onions. The reason I keep them in MEAL order though, is for the unforeseen BUMP in the meal plan. If I can't find an ingredient or it's wayyyy more then I budgeted for, then I nix it. Just like today. The Carna Asada was 6.99 a pound. Ouch! I picked up Spareribs instead at half the price and just noted to buy more BBQ sauce.

Now it's prep time!
Write I write all my meal names on my gallon zip locks. It's important to do it now because sharpies don't like wet zip locks.

The corned beef just goes straight to the freezer. I don't have to deal with that until the day of. But I will need a bag of potatoes, carrots, and cabbage for that day. So all those will go in a bag next to the corned beef.

If you have any ingredients to prep (like cutting onion, peppers, etc..) do it  now, or have your minions. I only had onions and potatoes to cut this time around because I found already cut peppers in my freezer aisle.

When it comes to meat, I always deal with raw first. Since the spareribs are the easiest, I start there. And the meal is ready in 60 seconds with just BBQ sauce and onions in the bag.

Then, I separated the chicken in all their own bags with labels (except for the chicken bake and caprese, those were frozen in the freezer so I will have to do those later). I then added the peppers into all the appropriate bags. Then onion added where needed. Then while the husband and daughter cut potatoes,  I started adding broth and seasoning to the ones that were needed. Potatoes go into their meal bags and one for the corned beef with chunked carrots. I'll get cabbage the day before.

The Mexican Chicken is just taco seasoning, garlic, and enchilada sauce, so that meal is slapped together in the time it takes to open the can and seal the bag.

When all the chicken was taken care of, I cleaned the counter and took out my pork loin and cut it up. The side with the most fat will be the two Kalua porks and the side without will be my pork chops and my pork for the fajitas. Into the bags they went. I won't put the Liquid Smoke in at this point. I'll put it in the day of. So really the Kalua Pork is just meat in a bag.

I grab my Italian seasoning, throw it over the top of my pork chops and put the other pork into the last fajita bag.

At this point I've already made 10 meals(plus the two enchilada meals will be taken care of with the mexican chicken, so we could call that 12 since slapping enchiladas together is like buttering bread-- oh and we can't forget the corned beef--13.)! I double bag all the rest of these and send the kids to the freezer to get them off the counter.

Next I open my frozen veggies and put them into the bag for taco soup. Add in onions, seasonings, beans, broth and seal is up and send it out. No meat in this bad because I'll use left over WHATEVER I have :) Taco meat or chicken, it's a mystery ;)

Now that all my raw meat is out and packaged for meals, I brown the mongo thing of ground beef. It takes two 12 inch skillets to get it all done. While it's browning I whirr up my roasted red peppers for the Mock Spaghetti sauce I've just decided to create and add to my meal plan. I was thinking about Tex Mex Spaghetti, but knew I couldn't do tomatoes, so I'm trying it my way. Three jars of roasted red peppers, 3 cups of cooked taco meat, onions and some spices over corn pasta and topped with cheese, I think so. But I'll just package the sauce for now. Cook the pasta the day of.

When the meat is done, I package it in 4 cup portions (enough for tacos for three nights), the mock spaghetti sauce gets 3 cups of meat, and I have 4 cups of meat saved back for the taco bake I will make tomorrow.

That leaves only the Caprese Chicken (Which will have to be put together day of), the Bacon Wrapped Chicken (Which I have to make from scratch my own cream of chicken with no wheat or soy) and the Alfredo's to make. The taco bake will be made ahead and frozen (so I can see if it works as a freezer meal and put it on the blog) but the alfredo's might be saved for the day of. Mostly because Alfredo is an easy sauce to make and I can make it on the fly. And Nachos take the melting of cheese and the defrosting of meat, no assembly required.

So there you have it. My April Meal Plan. 24 meals (which gives my husband leftovers for lunch every day and us at least 5-6 days of left over meals-- specially when we have enchilada since it makes a ton).

And no, we don't plan for eat out meals ever. Since I have allergies the safest place for me to eat is at home.

I also purchased all my monthly breakfast meal items, lunch items, butter, veggie sides, quinoa, fruit,  non essential food stuffs (like chips, hummus, popcorn,  etc), some paper products (TP, Trashbags) and some treats (Jellybelly beans, aussie bites--it was a long day, don't judge me!)... I spent about $500 for a month of meals for a family of 5. Not bad. That is $100 a week per family or $14.29 a week per person. Broken down per day, that is $2.05 a day at around $.68 a meal.

This is a good system! It works! We eat smarter and healthier. Even if I wasn't allergic to the world, we would eat out less because when you take a meal out to defrost, you know it's ready for you. Or if you've already put it in the crockpot, you shouldn't have to stop anywhere because the meal is waiting at home.

I'm usually exhausted after my OAMC days... but it's so worth the effort to have a healthy family and a happy freezer!

Kalua Pork

This might be the easiest recipe on the face of the planet. You need three things and one crockpot and lots of time.

Take 1 Pork Roast and rub liquid smoke all over it. Stick it in the crockpot on low for 12 hours. When it pulls apart with a fork, add a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce and WHAMO, you have pulled pork sandwiches complete with the bits of burnt ends.

Really, you need no other liquid. Just the liquid smoke. I've done this many times and it turns out mouth watering every time.

I will mention that sometimes it's done sooner then 12 hours but never goes over.

I am making it this month, so I will grab pics for you this time.



Crock Pot Carna Asada

Here is another one of those times that I fail at being a photographer. I thought about taking a picture, but then the meal came and went and no picture was taken. There's some leftovers in the frig that DH will have for dinner tonight, so this picture is of our left overs. That I wished I could have over and over again!

So good.

It's safe to say this will become a staple in my freezer. A go-to meal when I've forgotten to defrost anything or when I hear "Surprise! You have dinner guests coming!"

So usually when I do a freezer meal, I suggest a defrost the day before and stick in the crockpot, however yesterday at noon, I realized I hadn't taken anything out to defrost and we had two extra mouths to feed. So I couldn't just tell the lot to "Eat Top Ramen!" It happens, don't judge me.

Into the freezer I delved and scratched my head. It's almost time for me to plan my April, so the pickings are slim. I have about five meals remaining and something I think I forgot to label. Hmmm.

What to choose... I closed my eyes and reached in and grabbed a ROCK SOLID ICE BRICK of food labeled: Carne Asada. I debated on putting the brick of food in the microwave, but decided since it was only noon and this was beef, I had a fighting chance of a finished meal by 5:30 or 6:00. So I cut off the plastic bag (because there was no way I could get that sucker out otherwise!) and quite literally SHOVED it into my crockpot. I may have chiseled off a corner to get it to fit, but I just threw that part in there aswell.

Set it on high and went back to work. At 3:00pm when I finally started to smell it, I moved the two flank steaks around a little but it looked good! I was impressed. At 5:00 I fished out each cut of beef and sliced it across the grain with a really sharp knife into really thin pieces. I then stuck all the meat back in the crockpot and turned it to warm until we were ready to eat.

I served the asada inside a soft taco shell with cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce and a smile! The everyone gobbled it up, which is why I didn't think for a picture. Hopefully later tonight I will grab one.

The thing that most surprised me about this was that I hadn't defrosted and the meat didn't turn out tough or chewy. It was perfect. Ready to make it?

Put the following seasonings in a gallon sized freezer bag:
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper

Now throw in 1 pounds of Flank Steak (or skirt steak)

Press out the air and then massage the spices into the meat. When it pretty much looks like a big mess, you are ready to add the rest.

1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth (I used bouillon)
3 diced tomatoes (but I used roasted red peppers... perfect flavor)
2 jalapeno peppers chopped (mine were very mild)
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced

Seal the bag and place it inside another gallon sized back and write CARNA ASADA 4-6 Hours on High or 6-8 on low. And remember, this meal can go in the crockpot frozen!