Five Summer-Friendly Freezer Meals

Ahh, summer is finally in the air here in Minne!  Which means the grill is going and our typical weeknight meal consists of grilled chicken and whatever frozen vegetable I can find in the freezer.

Typically my husband and I eat healthier in the summer, but ever since I got back from a long work trip I’ve been eating horribly.  Basically whatever I can find in the cupboard/eating out/just plain old unhealthy-ness.

Essentially I’ve been a super slacker in the cooking department lately, so when two of my friends had babies I figured it was the perfect opportunity to dust-off my imaginary apron and get back in the kitchen!

Quick side bar – you are probably wondering why babies lead to food.  Essentially I don’t know what people need with newborns so I just cook since that is more in my comfort zone.  I received some good feedback from my friend, Steph, when I delivered these meals to her – she said they got a bunch of food the first week the baby was born but then ran-out.  So if possible try to provide food maybe a couple weeks into the pregnancy (and of course freezer meals give them more flexibility).

Alright back to food – My go-to for freezer meals are usually a healthy take on comfort food.  So given the warm weather my goal was to find food that would seem fresh but was still freezer friendly.

Below are five Summer Friendly Freezer Meals (plus a couple of sides/desserts) that I gave a shot!  I spent $200 on groceries – but that made 3+ batches of each dish plus sides, so 15 complete meals (with at least two meals per batch) plus 4 batches of bars.  boom.  Here they are:

1.) Almond-Apricot chicken with Cherry Tomato Crisp

These are two recipes I was super into a few years back but haven’t made in awhile.  The chicken is a nice change of scenery (and who doesn’t love goat cheese?!) and the cherry tomato crisp is a colorful yet easy side dish.

I didn’t take the best pictures, but I promise both are tasty!

Almond-Apricot Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into small pieces (about 1/2 of a package)
  • 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of the almonds, goat cheese, and apricots.  Season with a dash of salt and pepper.
  • Lightly beat the egg and place in a small bowl
  • On a plate, combine the breadcrumbs and remaining almonds
  • Create an assembly line of sorts with the chicken breast, apricot mixture, egg, and finally the plate with the bread crumb/almond mixture
  • Cut a slit into one side of each chicken breast, deep enough to fill but making sure to not cut through the chicken breast
  • Stuff each breast with 1/4 of the goat cheese mixture
  • Dip each breast into the egg, then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  • Transfer each breast to the skillet and cook until golden, 3-4 minutes on each side
  • Bake for about 15 minutes until heated-through

**If you want to freeze, place chicken in a plastic bag and place in freezer.  To prepare, thaw and cook according to directions.

Cherry Tomato Crisp

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices white sandwich bread
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbl fresh parsley flakes
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 5 cups cherry tomatoes

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • In a food processor, combine the bread, Parmesan cheese, parsley, olive oil, and garlic (season with salt and pepper)
  • Pulse until bread is chopped
  • In an 8×8 inch baking dish, arrange the cherry tomatoes in a single layer
  • Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture
  • Bake until the crust starts to brown and tomatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes

**If you want to freeze, cover pan with cling wrap then tinfoil and place in freezer.  To prepare thaw and cook according to directions.

2.) Garlic-Marinated Chicken with Red Potatoes and Asparagus

This was my grill meal – nothing in this recipe is hard or crazy, but pre-marinating and cooking the potatoes just makes it easier!

Garlic-Marinated Chicken with Potatoes and Asparagus

Chicken Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts (about 6)
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic (or 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic)
  • 2 Tbl white-wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 Tbl fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Chicken Directions:

  • Whisk together all marinade ingredients and combine with chicken
  • Let the chicken marinade for at least 10 minutes
  • Grill until browned or bake 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until cooked-through

**To freeze, place the chicken in a plastic bag and place in freezer.  To prepare, thaw and cook according to directions.

Veggie Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 1/2 pounds asparagus
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp homemade Vinaigrette
    • 1/4 Cup white-wine vinegar
    • 1 Tbl dijon mustard
    • dash of salt/pepper
    • pinch of sugar
    • 3/4 Cup olive oil

Veggie Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Place the potatoes on a pan with a drizzle of olive-oil and a dash of salt and pepper and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping half-way through
  • In a large bowl combine the asparagus with 1 1/2 tsp olive oil.  Cook in a skillet over medium heat, 4-5 minutes until cooked through, stirring occasionally.  Once cooked, toss with 1 Tbl of the homemade vinaigrette.

**I cooked the veggies then froze with the vinaigrette on the side, serve with the chicken

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3.) Crockpot Jambalaya

Ever since I had Jambalaya at a restaurant in Asheville, NC (at Mayfel’s, check it out!) I have been craving it.  It is comfort food but with plenty of spice, flavor, and protein.

I found this crockpot recipe on Pinterest from Spicy Southern Kitchen (can’t have a freezer meal blog without a crockpot meal!) and after some taste-testing I think it is a keeper!

4.) Spring Risotto with Peas, Mushroom, and Zuchinni

My lovely friend, Leigh, once told me that Risotto is the adult’s Mac & Cheese which is a fantastic description.  I usually don’t make risotto because honestly I think it takes way too long but multi-tasking while making it definitely helped and it was worth the time!

Spring Risotto with Peas, Mushroom, and Zucchini

Ingredients:

  • 28 oz. reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 Tbl butter
  • 1-2 large zucchini cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 Cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 Cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 Cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish

Directions:

  • Heat broth and 2 1/2 cups water in a saucepan over low heat to keep warm
  • In a large skillet or pot, melt 2 Tbl of the butter over medium heat
  • Add the zucchini and mushrooms (season with salt/pepper), and cook until veggies are softened 8-10 minutes
  • Remove the veggies with a slotted spoon and set aside
  • In the same pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion.  Cook until soft about 5 minutes seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • Raise the heat back to medium and add the rice, cooking until translucent around the edges stirring continuously
  • Add the wine and cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes
  • Cook the rice by adding 1 cup of hot broth at a time (stir until the broth is absorbed before adding more).  This process will take 25 to 30 minutes
  • Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and peas until combined
  • Remove from heat, and stir-in the remaining 1 Tbl of butter and the Parmesan cheese

**To freeze, place in a plastic bag and place in the freezer.  Simply thaw and re-heat to prepare!

5.) Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

This is a recipe my mom used to make and one of the first recipes I made in college (which means anyone can do it)!  This one isn’t crazy healthy but good comfort food and the curry adds some good flavor!

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages frozen broccoli (I substituted a broccoli/cauliflower/carrot medley)
  • 6-8 cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1 Cup mayonnaise (I substituted Greek yogurt)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 Cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 Cup croutons or bread crumbs

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cook the chicken breast – place a small amount of water in a skillet and heat with the chicken breast around 45 minutes until tender (flip halfway through).  Once cooked chop into 1″ pieces
  • Cook the vegetables according to package directions, and spread in the bottom of a greased 9×13 inch baking dish
  • Place the chicken breast on top until the pan is covered
  • Mix together the soup, mayonnaise, (or Greek yogurt), lemon juice, curry powder, cheese, and croutons
  • Spread over the chicken until pan is covered
  • Bake about 1 hour (covered)

**To freeze, cover with cling wrap and tinfoil then place in the freezer.  To prepare, thaw and remove cling wrap, then re-cover with foil and bake according to directions.

OK finally onto the desserts!  In true Minnesota fashion I made two pans of bars.  When I lived in DC for a few years I realized that the term “bar” is not universal and the more I thought about it kind of doesn’t make sense.  Here is the description according to Wikipedia:

“Dessert bars, or simply bars or squares, are a type of American “bar cookie” that has the texture of a firm cake or softer than usual cookie. They are prepared in a pan and then baked in the oven. They are cut into squares or rectangles.  They are staples of bake sales and are often made for birthdays”

I chose a couple of bars that have been on my Pinterest board for awhile and they were great!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars from Bake or Break – they have a nice mild peanut butter flavor and are super soft/chocolate-y too!

Funfetti Gooey Bars from Crazy for Crust – these are basically a combination of funfetti cake with vanilla frosting and sugar cookies.  Super sweet but SO GOOD!

*Note the batter at first was super crumbly, but just stick with the mixing and it gets a bit thicker.  You still need to kind of “clump” (or press) it together.

Enjoy!

Megan

Thriving Foster Pups – Pupdate

Happy Thursday (and almost Holiday weekend)!  I don’t know about you, but the week before a holiday I am DRAGGING.  The days seem long and I’m counting-down to the weekend.  So when I got a text with the world’s most adorable picture (below) my day and week was made and I felt the need to share the love!

Chance Prom

A photo of Chance from his foster – he attended doggie “prom” at his doggie daycare!

This is a photo of Chance from our first round of foster pups – in a tiny hat.  with a bow tie.  attending “prom” (too much cuteness!!!).  Apparently his new fantastic owners are out of town so brought him to Doggie Day Care at La Dee Dogs in Waite Park, MN where they hosted a “Doggie Prom.” I feel like this photo couldn’t get any better!

We of course haven’t forgotten about Mr. Roogs.  It has now been almost three weeks since we said goodbye to our most recent foster pup, Reuger (now Eddie) and many have asked how he is doing.  I made it one whole (almost) day without checking-in and his new family has been great about putting my mind at ease.  As expected it took him a few days to settled and “pep up” but now he is doing great!  She takes him for walks daily which he loves, and he enjoys having the entertainment of her two boys.  He of course has been a snuggle bug with them and is just as food motivated as ever (he got into the cat’s food)!

She also managed to get a photo of him where he doesn’t look miserable (he is notorious for sad face photos) so I’d say he is doing great!

These updates make me SO happy, and I’m lucky so far the adoptive families have kept me (and all of you) up-to-date on these fantastic dogs!

Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Megan

 

Bittersweet Goodbyes – The Downside to Dog Fostering

Well, today was hard.  After almost four months, Reuger found his forever home!

This is obviously an extremely positive thing – logically I know this is why we foster, logically I know that he will thrive with his new family, and logically I know he will be a happy dog.  Well I’m an emotional individual and at this particular moment say screw logic, I miss my pup.

Reuger has been a part of our family since January and we have been through a lot together.  We have watched him transform from a timid, slow, and extremely sick dog to the goofy, sweet, playful pup he is.  We took him to vet visits, we know his quirks, and while we hate when his cold nose nudges us demanding attention, we love his snuggles.  We can both honestly can say we love the little guy.

And what really breaks our heart the most is knowing the he loves us back.  I can’t help but worry he will think we gave up on him.  Again, I am probably giving his mental capacity too much credit and logic would tell me dogs are adaptable but man that is the worst part about this goodbye.

Many people have asked why we don’t just adopt Reuger.  And actually the most common response I get when I say we foster is “how do you not keep them all.”  The only thing really keeping us from adopting is that if we had two dogs with our lifestyle/home we couldn’t keep fostering.  There are too many more pups to save for that!  While the goodbyes suck seeing pictures of Chance with a giant smile and the joy these families get from these dogs makes it worth it.

We also have final say in the forever families of our foster pups, and Tracy, Reuger’s new owner, gives me a great vibe.  She has stuck around and waited for Reuger while he went through another round of treatment and knows ALL of his quirks/some of the issues we have had with him.  Her and her boys will be great for Reuger and I can’t wait to see some pup-dates!

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Don’t let his sad face fool you, he went to her without looking back!

 

Alright I’m off to have a glass of wine (or a few) and some comfort food (mac and cheese…even though I’m lactose intolerant because I can…)!

 

Roogs – Pupdate Round 2

I figured it was time for another Reuger pup-date!  Before I get into the latest (some good and some bad, poor Reuger) I want to show how much progress he has made.

If you remember when we got Reuger he was in pretty bad shape.  He was put on antibiotics (Ketoconazole and Cephalexin) for 60 days and as you can see from the below he looks so much better!

before after

The first photo was taken about a week after we got Reuger, and the second after two months.  I mentioned in my last update that Reuger was acting and feeling so much better, and that has only continued to improve.  The hair on his backside has filled-in even more since this photo!

Alright so back to the latest – since Reuger had completed his medications he was ready to be adopted.  He was posted to the Secondhand Hounds website (check-out his bio here!) and to get the word out on this cool dude we brought him to an adoption event at Bentley’s Pet Stuff in Edina.  He did GREAT at the event and people liked meeting him!

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After the event Luke and I went out to a dinner, and when we got home Reuger was a different dog.  Extremely docile, crabby/agitated, and lethargic.  He even became aggressive towards us when we tried to move him which was not like him at all.  We thought maybe the day was just too much for him, but after a few days we got approval from Secondhand Hounds to bring him back to Burnsville Parkway Animal Hospital.

The bummer thing about dogs is that they can’t talk (although helpful I always found Clifford a bit creepy…) so it was tough to figure out what the issue was.  He didn’t have any wounds, didn’t seem to be in pain, and his blood work came back pretty normal – all good but not helpful in diagnosing!  They decided to put him back on Cephalexin thinking maybe his infection had come back and he wasn’t feeling well.

After about a week of being on the medication he finally was back to himself.  He just finished a mini two-week dose yesterday so I took him back to the vet to see next steps.  They thankfully decided we are going to try keeping him off of antibiotics to see how he does (fingers crossed).

While we were there we also had the vet look at a few bumps that appeared on his leg and on a couple of his paws.  They took a biopsy and essentially aren’t sure what it is!  Good news is that they don’t think it is anything serious, but to be sure they are going to send a sample to a lab to confirm.

Alright onto some good news – Reuger has not been aggressive with us since his “funk.”  He stayed with Luke’s parent’s (thanks Terry and Roxie) while Luke and I were on vacation and was great for them which made us feel better about him being with a new family!

His new flow and charming personality has also made him a hot commodity!  We have a SECOND meeting with a very interested (and fantastic) family this weekend, and have three other applications waiting as well!

Luke has been gone this week so I’ve been on puppy-duty.  We have enjoyed facetiming Luke and as you can see below Reuger loves to tease Stella with her favorite bone (which essentially is any bone Reuger has) 🙂

Facetime

While we have loved having him as part of our family for three-plus months, we want him to find his forever home.  Hoping all goes well this weekend and with the results of his bump!

Side bar – check out this adorable Chance update:

“He has gotten really big…AND his love for digging in the snow has taken a new turn.  Muddy!! :)”

chance

Peanut Butter Cheesecake & Chocolate Brownie Mousse Dessert “Boats”

Ahh, spring is in the air in MN which means the Gopher Football spring game is right around the corner.  To celebrate and take advantage of the great weather our fabulous Gopher tailgate crew got together for a mid-season tailgate BBQ!

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In true MN sports fashion the last few months have been a roller coaster for Gopher fans.  Our team boycotted their bowl game over a horrible assault incident, our new coach was fired for backing the team, then we hired the crazy coach that is Mr. PJ Fleck!

PJ seems to be bringing positive attention to Minnesota, and Gopher fans (like myself) have a new enthusiasm for the 2017 season.  However you can’t help but laugh at some of his puns.  I mean the guy literally said he “eats difficult conversations for breakfast!”

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Alright you are wondering how this all relates to desserts – so back to our tailgate party.  I offered to bring a dessert and knowing two of his most common phrases are “oars in the water” and “row the boat” I decided I needed to somehow figure out a way to make a boat-shaped dessert.  Challenge accepted (let’s be clear almost 100% of the time I am competing with myself).

My Google and Pinterest searches kept bringing me back to this site using Old El Paso mini soft shell tortilla boats as the base.  I didn’t want to do ice cream, so I brought back the peanut butter cheesecake and chocolate brownie mousse desserts I made for one of my engagement parties!

They received comments like “flecking fantastic” and “elite” so I’m calling it a success!  See the recipe below – of course you could fill the boats with any of your favorite dessert fillings 🙂

Cheers, and Go Gophers!

Dessert Boats

“Boat” Base:

Ingredients:

  • 20 (roughly two and a half packages) of Old El Paso regular or whole wheat soft shell mini taco boats *I found these at Super Target
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • One package chocolate almond bark
  • Optional: one cup chopped peanuts

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
  • Line cookie sheets with aluminum foil
  • Brush melted butter over each soft shell “boat” and place on the cookie sheet
  • Bake 5-8 minutes until “boats” are a bit crispy and the edges browned
  • Let stand to cool 10-15 minutes
  • Melt almond bark according to instructions and spread chopped peanuts on a plate
  • Once the “boats” are cooled, grab them carefully and dip the top edges into the almond bark then into the peanuts
  • Set upright and allow to set (10-15 minutes)

Boats are now ready for their filling!!

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cheesecake Filling:

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2/3 Cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Cups whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Optional: chopped peanuts & melted chocolate for garnish

Directions:

  • Beat whipping cream with a mixer until it starts to thicken and soft peaks form
  • fold-in peanut butter and cream cheese, mixing until combined
  • Add powdered sugar and finally vanilla, mixing until combined
  • Place filling in a piping bag or large plastic Ziplock bag
  • Pipe the filling into the “boats” (batch makes 8 to 10)
  • Top with crushed peanuts and drizzle melted chocolate (I used the leftover almond bark from dipping!)

Chocolate Mousse and Brownie Filling:

Ingredients:

  • 1 Box of your favorite brownie mix, baked and cooled (you will need oil, eggs, etc. to bake it)
  • One box instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 1/2 Cups 2% milk
  • 1 Cup heavy whipping cream
  • Optional: top with melted chocolate

Directions:

  • Bake the brownie mix according to package directions, set aside to cool
  • Beat the pudding mix and milk on medium speed until it is a pudding consistency
  • In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until it thickens and soft peaks form
  • Fold the whipping cream with the pudding mixture and put into a piping bag or large Ziplock bag
  • Crumble the brownies into “chunks” and place in the bottom of the boats (makes 8-10)
  • Pipe the mousse over/in between the brownie chunks
  • Drizzle with melted chocolate (again I used the left over almond bark)

*This recipe is also really good if you add 2-4 ounces of cream cheese!

Now you have your two types of boats!

For the “Oars”:

Ingredients:

  • Pretzel sticks (32 – 40, two per “boat”)
  • Gummies (I used spiced gummies, 32-40 two per “boat”)
  • Almond Bark, melted according to package directions

Directions:

  • Stick the pretzel into the gummy
  • Then dip the gummy into the almond bark until covered

Set on the the sides of the “boats” and you are ready!

**Note, these don’t taste very good – spiced gummies dipped in chocolate – my husband recommended using rolos instead and I would do that for future “boats”!

For the Sail:

Ingredients:

  • Toothpicks
  • Paper
  • Hot glue or left over almond bark

Directions:

  • Cut the paper into triangle or “sail” shapes
  • Hot glue (or I just used left over almond bark!) to stick the toothpick to the sail
  • Stick into the boats and you are good to go!

Dessert Boats

 

 

Work-Friendly Baby Shower

A lovely co-worker of mine is having her baby soon and we wanted to do something fun for her!  Our goal was to have something low-key and not super awkward since it was during work hours and we work with mostly men 🙂

If you have read any of my posts before, you know that a key to planning for me is advance prep…unfortunately life happened and I didn’t start prepping for this party until 8:00pm the night before (oops) but by keeping the recipes simple, having great co-planners, and indulging in a glass of wine/real housewives while I cooked/crafted I was able to pull it off!

See below decor, food, and games – it turned out super cute and mom/baby were pleased 🙂

The Decor:

The party was hosted on a Friday afternoon in a conference room at work.  Despite being at work, we still wanted it to feel like a baby shower.  The conference room was huge so I was nervous about any decorations getting lost, but by creating a few focal points we were able to dress it up!

The main focal point of the room was the food table (I mean everyone loves food so that makes sense right?!).  I found the pomander tissue “shower” idea on Pinterest and had been wanting to try it for awhile!  I have always bought tissue pomanders at Michael’s/Target and never again – I used a tutorial similar to this and it took literally minutes to make each one.  I will admit the “rain drops” took some time – I used paper and string I had at home and cut the paper into tear drops then hot-glued to the string and taped behind the pomanders (and the good news is these can be re-used)!

I purchased a white plastic table cloth at Target and found the banner there as well (why make it when you can buy it?!).  I’ve also found that you can’t underestimate how helpful serving-ware can be in creating a mood for your party.  Although the food would have tasted fine coming out of random tupperware, it just looks so much better when it all matches and there are different levels.  Conveniently for me I got married two years ago any my sister is a registering expert so I have a ton of white platters, bowls, etc.!

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The food table!

Another “food table trick” of mine is to add a cute place for people to keep track of their drinks on the cups.  I used the same paper as the “rain drops” and cut-out little hearts, then hot-glued them to plastic champagne cups.  Adds a pop of color and a little detail!

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The next focal point was the gift/game table.  It is amazing what a flower bouquet from Target and a homemade sign can do to a conference room table!

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Finally (although the pictures aren’t great) we added streamers and a gold “F” in front of the chair the mom-to-be was sitting to draw the attention to her!  These tissue streamers were also purchased from Target and I use them for many of my parties!

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The Menu:

Baby shower food is some of my favorite, because it can be so whimsical and sweet.  Since this was an afternoon party I kept the food pretty “snacky” with representation from both the salty and sweet sides:

  • “Dunkaroo” Dip: This is one of the first recipes I ever “pinned” and I’m not sure why I haven’t made it lately.  Anyone who was born in the late ’80’s knows how exciting it was when you opened-up your lunch to find the amazing frosting/cookie snack that was a Dunkaroo (and if you don’t you missed out – blame your parents).  This dip tastes just like Dunkaroos and is super easy to make!

Dunakaroo Dip

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2 Cups light cool whip
  • 1 Box funfetti cake mix
  • Graham crackers or vanilla wafers

Combine the yogurt, cool whip, and cake mix and serve with cookies/crackers of your choice!

  • Pineapple Raspberry Punch

Combine 2 liters of lemon/lime soda, one gallon of pineapple juice, and one container of frozen strawberry lemonade for this awesome punch!

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  • Chocolate covered strawberries and Chocolate Mousse Cups

I used to think making chocolate covered strawberries was such a pain, but I dipped two cartons of strawberries in white almond bark in less than 15 minutes – this may be a new go-to treat!

For the mousse cups I used the pre-cooked Phyllo shells and filled them with a made-up chocolate mousse that turned-out really good!

I mixed 4 ounces cream cheese, one small box sugar free instant chocolate pudding mix, and 2 cups light cool whip.  Then I added some vanilla almond milk to help the consistency.  I brought the filling in a bag and filled the cups right before the party so they wouldn’t get soggy.  I will admit that I could have filled them better, they looked like poop in a cup, but they were SUPER tasty (and I may or may not have continued to eat the left-over filling with the left-over vanilla wafers all week)!

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  • Mini Meat and Cheese Kabobs with Crackers

Simply cut summer sausage and crackers into cubes, skewer on toothpicks, and serve with crackers!

  • Popcorn and Sugar Cookies

So I had all intentions of making my grandma’s famous cookie recipe (remember this one?) but I just ran out of time so I went with the still cute and yummy store-bought sugar cookies!

The menu was getting more sweet than salty, so I added 3 types of popcorn with the “she is about to pop” theme – one cheddar, one caramel, and one kettle corn.

The Games:

Planning games has always been my least favorite part of hosting for some reason, so I’m thankful my co-worker Lindsay took over!  As mentioned we work with mostly men, so something super cheesy was out of the question.  We opted for one hands-on game and two passive games so people didn’t feel obligated to participate in everything.  Here they are:

  • Celebrity Baby Game: this was our “active game” where we gave everyone two minutes to fill-out this printable form identifying which baby belongs to which celebrities
  • Mad Libs: We passed around a baby-advice themed mad libs that the mom-to-be read at the end and was pretty amusing!

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  • Diaper Advice: Finally we went with the classic diaper advice game – where we set-out diapers and people could write words of encouragement or wisdom for those late-night changes!

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It was a fun shower and the mom-to-be was happy which was the goal!

Cheers!

Freezer-Friendly Turkey and Veggie Enchiladas with Tex Mex Quinoa

A combination of craving Mexican and playing the “what’s in my fridge/pantry” game gave me the idea to make enchiladas!  I had several left-over veggies to use-up so I figured they would be a good way to put a twist on some enchiladas.

While I didn’t realize this until after the fact, these enchiladas give me the perfect opportunity to share an important public service announcement with you – you are likely folding your tacos/enchiladas/whatever-you-make-with-tortillas wrong!

If you didn’t know, there is an art to folding tortillas.  No one wants to pick up their taco or enchilada and have all of the filling fill out (ain’t nobody got time for that)!  I learned the “proper” way to fold a taco/enchilada from my friend Kayla!  Her family owns a fantastic Mexican restaurant in my home-town of Detroit Lakes called Miguel’s (pronounced Mi-gells, not mi-gwells FYI).

I couldn’t write this post with an enchilada that falls apart, so I called her mid-fold and ensured I got the details down to share with you.

So without further ado, here is the correct way to fold your tortilla (Kayla don’t judge, I’m sure I didn’t do it Miguel’s justice):

Step 1: Fill your tortilla and fold-in the “butt” side 1/4 way up the filling (and all this time you have been starting with the side…)

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Step 2: Fold the top of the tortilla 1/4 of the way over the filling (for tacos you usually leave the top open)

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Step 3: Fold the right-side of the tortilla all the way over the meat filling and use it to “scoop” or “slide” the filling to the right/center of the tortilla so it is nice and secured in there (can’t have your enchilada falling apart!)

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Step 4: Roll the tortilla tightly to the left until it is fully rolled

Congrats folks you now know the inside scoop on enchilada folding from Detroit Lake’s finest Mexican establishment, and you are welcome 🙂

OK back to the recipe.  It really isn’t anything fancy but hit the spot and went really well with the freezer Quinoa I had made a double batch of for my friend – a great week-night meal and not crazy unhealthy!

Enjoy 🙂

Ground Turkey and Vegetable Enchiladas

Makes: 6-8 Enchiladas
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 3-4 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 10 oz. can enchilada sauce
  • 1 10 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 7 oz. can diced green chiles, drained
  • 6-8 whole wheat taco shells
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped (optional, for garnish)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Heat ground turkey in a skillet over medium heat until browned then add taco seasoning (I only use 1/2 of the packet so the flavor doesn’t take-over).  Set aside
  • In a small skillet heat a drizzle of olive oil and add the onions – cook until translucent, 1-2 minutes then add the tomatoes and mushrooms, cook for 1-2 additional minutes until softened
  • In a large bowl combine the cooked vegetables with the cooked ground turkey and add the green onions, drained/rinsed black beans, and drained green chiles

Now get ready to get your hands dirty!

  • In the same saucepan you used to cook the vegetables, heat the enchilada sauce on low

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  • Create a station with your enchilada sauce skillet, tortillas, and the meat filling readily available
  • Dip each side of the tortilla in the enchilada sauce so both sides are covered, then “wipe” some of the excess back into the saucepan

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  • Lay the sauce-coated tortilla on a plate/working surface and fill with 1/4 to 1/2 cup meat and veggie mixture
  • Roll-up tortilla so all sides are closed (the “proper” way to do it above!)
  • Place into a baking dish and top with any remaining sauce and desired amount of cheese
  • Bake 10-15 minutes until bubbly and heated-through (*Option, cover and freeze – just thaw and re-heat when ready!)
  • Serve with your favorite side or this awesome Tex Mex Quinoa and enjoy 🙂

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Freezer-Friendly Sausage & Vegetable Lasagna Roll-Ups

A close family member of mine has to have back surgery in a couple of weeks so I wanted to make some easy-to-reheat food for her to have around during her recovery.  When I’m not feeling well I want comfort food so I decided lasagna would be a good fit!  I had some veggies to use-up from a different recipe (posting soon) so I created these sausage and vegetable lasagna roll-ups.  They turned-out to be a great mix of flavors and pretty easy to make (just a bit messy).

I froze them (I love freezer meals!) but you can assemble and cook same-day as well.  Feel free to play around with your favorite vegetables or sub-out the meat for ground beef or ground turkey as well.

Enjoy!

Megan

Vegetable and Sausage Lasagna Roll-Ups

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground sausage
  • 12 lasagna noodles
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1tsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 cups spinach
  • 3-4 mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 Jar of your favorite marinara/pasta sauce
  • 1 15oz. container ricotta cheese (I used low fat)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp parsley flakes
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  • Bring one quart pot of water to a boil and add lasagna noodles.  Cook until al dente (10-12 minutes).  Drain, then set aside
  • Head a skillet with 1/2 Tbl olive oil on medium heat then add diced onion and  minced garlic.  Cook until translucent, around 3 minutes
  • Add the mushrooms and spinach, heat until the spinach is wilted and mushrooms are soft, around 3 minutes, set aside
  • In the same pan, cook the sausage on medium heat until cooked thoroughly, roughly 7 minutes then drain
  • Combine the sausage with 1/2 of the marinara sauce and onion mixture in a medium bowl
  • Combine the ricotta, garlic powder, parsley, basil, and oregano until mixed together
  • Now you are ready to assemble (good time for a wine-refill break)!
  • Cover the bottom of your pan with half of the remaining marinara sauce
  • Lay the cooked lasagna noodles on a flat surface then spread the ricotta mixture over the noodle leaving 1-2 inches uncovered on the end (1-2 spoon fulls – you don’t want to cover the whole noodle because it will fall out when you roll it)
  • Next add a layer of the meat/veggie mixture on top of the ricotta (2-3 spoon fulls over the same covered portion of the noodle)
  • Roll the noodle length-wise starting on the covered side and place in the pan (seam-side down).  Repeat until you have used all of the lasagna noodles
  • Top the roll-ups with the remaining marinara and sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese
  • Assembly done!  Bake at 350 degrees until heated-through and cheese is melted, 10-15 minutes.  To freeze: cover tightly with a layer of plastic wrap, then a layer of tinfoil, thaw and heat!

Stella & Dot Fundraiser

Anyone who knows me knows the way to my heart is through dogs.  So when my husband’s fantastic and generous cousin Sandi offered to throw a Stella and Dot fundraiser for Secondhand Hounds, I was in.  What is better than wine, food, friends, and jewelry all for a good cause?!

Outside of loving this get together’s theme, I was excited to try some fun and cute but healthy(ish) recipes on the crowd (unfortunately summer is coming, it is time to shed the winter coat and get back in shape).  The party was on a Thursday night so I needed to make things that could be prepared in advance and quick to prep day-of since I work full-time.  The start-time was also 6:30pm so I wanted some hearty options as well since this was likely dinner for the ladies.

Here is the menu I chose:

These were colorful and very healthy/easy to make!  I made these in advance and froze which worked just fine.

My aunt introduced me to this dip – I love it because it is light but also very flavorful, and a good change of scenery from the typical cheese dips.

Admittedly I didn’t have all of the ingredients for these (lemongrass, turmeric, white pepper) but they still turned out great (despite having fish sauce in them, I HATE cooking with fish sauce, the smell is awful).  I served them with store-bought peanut sauce as well since I was afraid I had sacrificed some flavor (they actually turned out good!).  I prepped and skewered these in advance and froze as well.

These were actually easier to make than I had anticipated.  Some of the Parmesan crust fell-off when I removed them from the pan but they were still tasty.  These were actually the crowd favorite!  I made these the night before and heated them up in the oven with the rest of the food for about 10 minutes.

  • Buffalo Chicken Bites kind of made-up by me

I have made various versions of these before, but this time my goal was to use-up what was in my refrigerator.  I cut crescent rolls into about 2″ squares and placed them in a mini muffin pan, so they made little cups.  Bake for about 10 minutes, until golden brown then add the buffalo chicken:  1-2 cups of shredded chicken with frank’s red hot sauce and ranch dressing mix.  I started with 1/4 cup hot sauce and 1 tablespoon of the seasoning then adjusted based on flavor.  Place back in the oven until warm, about 10-15 minutes then top with blue cheese and green onion.  These were also made ahead of time and frozen!

  • Veggies and my mom’s famous Dill Dip

Carrots, broccoli, and snow peas served with my favorite dill dip (recipe in this blog post)

  • Fruit Skewers with Peanut Butter Dip

Layered strawberries, pineapple, and cantelope onto wood skewers (that I cut in half) and served with a super easy but yummy peanut butter dip (also known as crack dip in my book club) – just two parts vanilla greek yogurt to one part creamy peanut butter.  I have been known to shamelessly eat this with a spoon by itself 🙂

These little buggers another new favorite dessert party trick of mine.  They are SO CUTE and different than anything I have ever made.  The base is Kodiak Cake Mix which is higher in protein and lower in fat/sugar than a lot of other cake mixes.  My great neighbor Brie introduced me to these and gave the tip to add a tsp of almond extract to the recipe for added flavor.  I used a mini donut pan so the only time consuming part is waiting for the multiple batches to bake.  You place the batter into zip lock baggie and pipe into the donut pan.  For the mini donuts I baked at 350 degrees for 6 and a half minutes – it doesn’t take long so be sure to watch the first time and see what works best for your oven!  Also per Brie’s recommendation I went with a powdered sugar glaze.  I just dipped the little guys into the frosting and they were SO CUTE.  TIP: I made these the night before and stored them in the fridge, when I took them out for the party all of the frosting had soaked into the donut.  They were still very tasty and a big hit, but not up to my visual standards so I would recommend frosting them the day-of.

Outside of food, here are some other fun things I did for the party:

  • Paw Print Wine Glasses: My mother-in-law Roxie helped me pull this detail off last minute!  She cut circles out of black paper and hot-glued them to the plastic glasses as little paw prints for people to write their initials and keep track of their cups!

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  • Dog Treat Party Favors: As a thank-you to my friends for coming, I filled clear/gold cellophane bags from target with dog treats and tied with pink tulle with the note “Thank you for Coming, Love Reuger.” Full disclosure I was going to hand-make the dog treats but ran out of time.  My friends still thought it was cute and it got the point across!
  • Shout out to Total WineSo this isn’t something special, but in preparation for this party i took my first trip to Total Wine.  MIND BLOWN.  This place is a drinker’s heaven!  I walked-in in total awe, then immediately got overwhelmed.  Have no fear their CRAZY FRIENDLY staff is there to point you to their favorite wines of each type all which were under $10!  As you can tell I’m obsessed and wondering why I never checked this place out before.

Reuger (our current foster pup) got dolled-up for the occasion with a bath and “adopt me” bandanna.  He was definitely a hit with the ladies and made some new friends, which is encouraging for when he is ready to be adopted!

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It was so fun getting my girlfriends from different groups together to chit chat and support a good cause!  Thank you again to Sandi for supporting Secondhand Hounds and to all of those who joined.  I have an amazing group of women in my life 🙂

If you are interested in Stella and Dot, a portion of your purchases via this link will go to Secondhand Hounds through the 23rd of March 2017!

 

Happy Hour Couples Shower

This weekend we had the pleasure of celebrating the upcoming wedding of our friends Lindsay and Lee!

Lindsay actually went to college with my husband, and through various visits to St. Cloud State and I’m sure some college shenanigans we hit it off and have been friends since!  Lindsay met this fantastic guy at work (insert Lee) and they are getting married in Mexico the end of March (yup can’t wait to escape this tundra for a bit to celebrate them and get my tan on!)

To kick-off the celebrations, my lovely co-hostesses and I opted for a brightly colored Happy Hour-themed couples get together.  We wanted it to be cute, but still boy friendly so a drinking theme seemed fitting.

Lindsay is that always-there-for-you, ever-so-thoughtful friend so we wanted this party to be extra special for her and Lee!  Here are some of the details:

The Invitations: I usually am a Shutterfly gal, but found these cute invitations on etsy and had them sent to Target for printing.  We were able to host the party at an apartment party room which was the perfect set-up!

presentation1The Decorations:

  • Tissue Paper Pomanders handmade by Kayla (directions on how to make here)
  • Marquee “Cheers to the Hermans” Sign using pre-cut paper from Michael’s makes it way easier!
  • His and Her Favorites – a list of the bride/groom’s favorite things about each other written on a chalkboard sign
  • Helium balloons with photos of the bride/groom at different stages of their lives

The Activities:

  • Photo Booth using a  black/gold and a Hawaiian themed back-drop to pull-in the destination wedding!
  • Guess the Memory Game: Guests wrote a favorite memory of the bride or groom, and they had to guess who said it.  This was an AWESOME game for couples, and got more fun as the drinks were flowing 🙂
  • Guess how many kisses in the jar

The Favors:

  • Blow-up floating flamingo coasters because who doesn’t need one of those for Mexico?!
  • Scratch-off tickets that said “Lindsay and Lee got lucky in love, hopefully you get lucky too”

The Menu: I tell you, with 5 fantastic ladies planning this shindig we did NOT go hungry, lots of good food (I’m probably missing something below :)!

It was so fun celebrating the future Hermans and getting the old gang back together.  A HUGE congrats to Lindsay and Lee, and we can’t wait until Mexico!