Pantry Salsa & Baked Tortilla Chips

Pantry Salsa & Homemade Tortilla Chips

Last summer I was so excited to start my garden.  I planted 10 tomato plants, with the hopes of having enough to last us a year.  By the end of the summer I had *maybe* 5 tomatoes turn out. Five!  It was such a bust.  This year I am hoping things will be better.  Fingers crossed!
Since we didn’t have any yummy garden tomatoes for salsa, I found a recipe for salsa using canned tomatoes.  I was such a skeptic, but this salsa is SO good.  And you can whip up a batch in less than 5 minutes!
Here’s what you’ll need:
  • 1 jar diced tomatoes (I like the organic Kirkland brand)- for an extra kick get the RoTel with chiles
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 jalapeno
  • Handful of cilantro, juice of half of a lime
  • Salt (also a sprinkle of cumin or Mrs.Dash Fiesta Lime seasoning is tasty)
  1. In a mini chopper, add onion and the juice from the canned tomatoes (just strain into chopper).  Pulse until in small bits.  Add jalapeno.  Pulse again.
  2. Now add tomatoes and pulse for about 30 seconds.  Finish with cilantro and lime juice.  Pulse until blended.
  3. Put into a bowl and season with salt!

That’s it!  SO tasty and people will never know it’s from canned tomatoes.  It will last about 5 days in the fridge, although it never makes it for more than 1 day in our house!

Fun add ins:

  • 1 cup of fresh pineapple, diced
  • 1/2 can of drained and rinsed black beans

You can serve with store bought chips, or bake your own!

What you need:

  • 1 package of corn tortillas (we like Mission ultra thin the best)
  • Cooking Spray
  • Salt
  1. Heat oven to 375
  2. Slice tortilla into triangles.  I like to make 10 chips out of each tortilla.
  3. Place a cooling rack on of a cookie sheet.  Spray chips lightly with Pam and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Bake 6-8 minutes.  These go from golden to burnt quickly, so keep your eye on them!

FYI: If you are on Weight Watchers, it’s only 1 point for 10 chips!  Since the salsa is 0 points, this is a great snack!

 

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How to Bulk Prep Chicken for Quick Meals

Bulk Prep Chicken
One of my favorite quick meal tips is to bulk prepare items. I have been doing a Bulk Prep Chicken day every few months for a couple of years when I get a good price. I like to stock up, prep and then be done with it until it’s time for dinner.

 
I often get my chicken from Zaycon Foods in 40# cases when they come to town, but I’ve also done multiple family packs from the store before too. It’s all what works for you when you do it. In fact, sometimes starting with one family pack and testing some of these ideas is the right start for someone who isn’t sure if it works for them…. instead of investing in 40# and once and then finding out it’s not what they want to do.

  • The first rule I follow is to repackage. By repackaging into smaller meal size portions, you avoid having to wait for large clumps of chicken to thaw for use and you don’t have eat chicken multiple days in a row if you thaw more than a meal’s worth.
  • The second rule I follow is to use quality storage bags. No dollar store bags for my longer term storage in the freezer, they just don’t cut it.
  • The third rule is no more than 3-4 months at a time since I’m not using freezer paper. I start seeing freezer burn more after about the 4 month point, but before that there is little to none with the other things I do.
  • Fourth, don’t freeze air. Remove as much air from your packages as possible. It takes up space and helps freezer burn set in if it’s there.
  • And last, don’t freeze styrofoam. It takes up space, creates air pockets and doesn’t allow your meat to thaw evenly when you take it out of the freezer.

I first start by doing a quick trim of any fat and skin on the meat. I try to make my prep packages as lean as possible.

The first batch goes to the grill. I put several meals worth of the chicken on it to grill up with no seasoning. Then I package it in meal portions for use on salads and in fajitas later.

  
While the grill is going, I move on to processing the majority of the rest of the chicken.

We like marinated meat, but waiting for hours is not my style. Because of that, I started putting the marinade in the bag in meal size portions before freezing. It serves two purposes: it helps protect from freezer burn (the marinades don’t freezer burn as quickly as raw meat) and then when I take it out in the morning to thaw it marinated the meat while thawing on the top shelf of my fridge and is ready for the grill when we want to make dinner that evening.

  
Then in large quantity it goes into the freezer.

 
Another thing we like to do in large quantities are our own Chicken Strips. By breading or baking with seasoning and then flash freezing, we have better than the national brand tenders at a fraction of the cost.

Cut the chicken into strips. Then, make your own breading or use something like Shake N Bake or Kraft Fresh Take and dip the chicken in water, coat and bake! About 20 minutes at 350 does the trick unless you cut them very thick.

  
If you prefer a non breaded tender you can spray your baking sheet with Pam and season to your tastes. I like Mrs. Dash for these… they come out tasting kind of like Buffalo Wild Wings Naked Tenders. Again, 350 for 20 minutes does the trick.

 
After the majority of the chicken is prepped and put away, it’s time to go back to that pile of rough trimmings.

I do mine VERY rough so I have some small chunks of meat that can still be used. I go back and cut a little closer and fry up the small cubes of chicken with a little bit of Pam Spray so they are unseasoned and flexible for later use in casseroles and even boxed dinners as we desire later.

 
And what to do with the rest of the trimmings, skin and fat?

Why your own broth of course! I put them all in the slow cooker with some seasoning and let it simmer overnight on low. The next morning I have broth I can quickly put into a container and store in the fridge or freezer for later use.

  
But, I’m not done yet. What about the bit of chicken that’s left?

If I don’t have time to mix it into chicken salad right then, I put it in a dish for later. A little salad dressing and seasoning and you have a quick lunch or mix it with taco seasoning for chicken tacos. Lots of options!

 

How do you prepare your bulk prep chicken?


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Taco Salad Dip {Customizable & Meatless Options Too}

Taco Salad Dip
This Taco Salad Dip was always my mom’s go to dish for a family reunion and the first dish to be emptied when it got there. It’s easy to make, easy to customize and great for beating the urge for a taco during the warm days of summer.

Taco Salad Dip

8oz Sour Cream
8oz Cream Cheese
1/2# Taco Meat – cooled
4oz Shredded Cheese
Tortilla Chips

Top with Lettuce/Tomato/Onion/Black Olives or other taco fixings as desired

Mix Cream Cheese and Sour Cream. Spread mixture into casserole dish. Layer taco meat, cheese and selected veggies. Chill. Serve with chips on the side to dip.

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**For a meatless option: blend 1/2 packet of taco seasoning in with the cream cheese/sour cream mixture**

There are just so many ways you can customize this dish. When I make it for family events I usually end up breaking it up into a couple smaller Glad or Ziploc containers (find them on Amazon here) and leave onions and tomatoes off one dish and put them in the other. I’ve also made the meatless version when I’ve had the craving for Taco Salad Dip and didn’t happen to have taco meat or hamburger ready to go for it.

Enjoy!

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Butterscotch Brownies Recipe

Butterscotch Brownies
This is one of those things that we looked for as soon as we walked through my grandmother’s door when I was a kid. If she knew we were coming, there was a fresh batch of Butterscotch Brownies waiting for us.

Butterscotch Brownies

2/3 Cup Margarine
2 Cups Brown Sugar
2T Hot Water
2 Eggs
2t Vanilla
2 Cups Flour
1t Baking Powder
1/4t Baking Soda
1t Salt
Butterscotch Chips

Directions:

Melt Margarine. Add Brown Sugar and Hot Water then allow to cool.

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Beat in Eggs. Then add Vanilla, Flour, Powder, Soda and Salt. Mix.

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Preheat oven to 350*. Grease 9×13 pan. Put mix in pan then sprinkle with Butterscotch Chips.

Bake for 25 Minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool, cut and enjoy!


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Whole Cooked Ham Freezer Bulk Prep Ideas

Ham Freezer Bulk Prep
 

Easter and Christmas are typically the best seasons of the year to stock up on ham. It’s when we see the lowest price per pound. I like to do my stock up and then instead of freezing a whole ham and trying to figure out what to do with it later, prep it for my freezer in easier to use meal size portions.

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I start by having the meat department at my local store slice the ham for me. Walmart, Family Fare and Meijer have always done this for FREE for me, so there’s no cost incurred. I have a portion of it sliced deli thin and the remainder sliced into about 1/4″ ham “steak” thickness.

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When it gets home, it’s go time. I slice the “steaks” again into sizes that are easier to cook in a frying pan later on. We like to just pull them from the freezer and thaw them, then put them in the pan and let them heat and carmelize for a main dish. These are done in portions that make 1 meal for a family of 4 and stored in a quart size freezer bag.

It’s important to note, the cooked ham will last a lot longer in a freezer without freezer burn than a raw meat will because it’s already been cooked.

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After the majority of the ham has been packaged, I take the ends and small pieces and dice them up. They get packaged in portions for use in omelets, casseroles and scalloped potatoes.

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The portion that I have sliced into lunchmeat is divided two ways. First, we make freezer sandwiches for school lunches. These are just bread, meat and cheese. They come out of the freezer in the morning and go in a lunch box. They are thawed, but still cold when the kids go to eat them later.

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The remainder is portioned into freezer bags so they can be thawed in smaller portions as we want to make sandwiches over the summer.

Do you bulk prep ham? What else do you like to do with it?

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Lemon Buddies Snack Mix Recipe

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Lemon Buddies

1 12.8 Box of Rice Chex
1 1/4 cups Vanilla Baking Chips
1 Lemon
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
1/4 Butter/Margarine

Microwave Baking Chips and Butter and mix until smooth. Add and mix in the juice from one lemon, then stir in cereal. Put powdered sugar in a large ziploc bag, then add the cereal mixture a little at a time and mix. Lay on cookie sheet to cool.

Enjoy!

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Cheddar Bacon Turkey Burger {Using Kraft Fresh Take!}

turkey collage

Raise your hand if you are ready for grilling season!!

In our house, when we say “burger”, it’s turkey.  I feel a lot of people think turkey burger = dry hockey puck.  If you haven’t tried to make your own turkey burgers yet, this is a great recipe to get you started.

When you are buying turkey for burgers, make sure you get the package that says “LEAN” (or 93%), not “EXTRA LEAN”.  Extra lean will be super dry, that is a better variety for lettuce wraps or tacos.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 package ground turkey (usually 1.25 lbs)
  • 1 package of Kraft Fresh Take Cheddar Jack & Bacon
  • Grill seasoning (we like McCormicks Montreal Chicken)
  • Buns and whatever toppings you prefer
  1. Heat up your Foreman grill, or whatever your are cooking your burgers on
  2. In a large bowl, mix turkey and Fresh Take together.  Season with about 2-3 tablespoons of grill seasoning.
  3. Place on grill.  Remember, since it’s turkey you have to cook it completely through!  If you would like to season with some seasoned salt now, go for it!
  4. Place on bun and top with your favorite condiments!

Enjoy!

We have tried many varieties of Kraft First Take and love them all!  The Chili Lime Panko makes excellent fish tacos!

Are you a turkey fan?

 

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Pretzel Crusted Buffalo Chicken Salad

Buffalo Chicken Salad

Whenever we go out to eat, I am always drawn to buffalo flavored items.  Love it all, but it never seems to be healthy!

One day I discovered Pretzel Crisps in buffalo flavor and I became addicted.  I saw someone making pretzel chicken on TV and I thought: “Why don’t I crush these up to bread chicken?”.  Voila! Buffalo chicken salad.

(Side note: buy your Pretzel Crisps at Target.  For some reason they get MUCH larger bags for the same price!)

This is a perfect light, but filling dinner or lunch.  Also, I can just eat these tenders without the salad.  If you make them into bite sized pieces, they are perfect party food!

Buffalo collage

Here’s what you will need:

  • Sweet Baby Rays Buffalo Wing marinade
  • Boneless chicken tenders, about 1 pound
  • Pretzel Crisps: Buffalo Wing style- crush them
  • Bolthouse Farms yogurt dressing: chunky blue cheese (Saves SO many calories!)
  • Light Blue cheese crumbles
  • Panko or plain breadcrumbs
  • Flour
  • Egg Beaters (or regular eggs)
  • Franks Hot Sauce
  • Canola oil
  • Salad fixins: romaine, shredded carrots, cabbage, cucumbers and celery

1.  Marinade chicken overnight in buffalo wing marinade.  I usually just throw them in frozen.

2.  Take chicken out of marinade and pat it dry.

3.  Get 3 bowls (I use pie pans) out and get ready to batter the chicken.

  • First: Flour (2 cups), seasoned with cayenne pepper if want more heat
  • Second: Egg beaters (about 1 cup), with a few dashes of Franks Hot sauce (4 regular eggs)
  • Third: 1.5 cups of panko & 2 cups crushed buffalo pretzels

4.  Heat a large pan over medium high heat.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of canola to pan fry the chicken.  Oil should lightly cover pan.

5.  Bread chicken.  Coat in flour, shake off.  Coat in egg and finally in pretzel crumbs.

6.  Add to pan and cook 3-4 minutes on each side.  I like to heat the oven to 300 to transfer tenders after cooking.

7.  Chop up salad fixings and toss in dressing and blue cheese.  Top with chicken.

  • If you are not a fan of hot chicken on your salad, cook earlier in the day and then add to your salad later.

Enjoy your salad!

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PF Chang Copycat Lettuce Wraps

lettuce wraps

All over Pinterest there are recipes for chicken lettuce wraps “just like PF Changs!”.  Who doesn’t want that?  Those ones are so tasty and light!  The problem with the copycat recipes are that you need to buy at least 10 condiments that you’ll barely use!

I like to serve the lettuce wraps with some brown rice and potstickers (aka: steamed dumplings).

*Heads up, at Costco they have the BEST chicken potstickers in the freezer department.   Even the girls love them!*

You can add whatever condiments you want to them.  We like hot mustard and sriracha.  Chow mein noodles or rice noodles are nice for a crunch too.  Another great option for a crunch is to add sliced almonds and green onions to the brown rice, after cooking.
Make sure to start the brown rice before you start cooking, about the same time you start to marinade the chicken.  The recipe packet calls for ground chicken, but I mostly just grind my own raw chicken tenderloins in a food processor before the marinade.

Here’s what you need:

  • SunBird lettuce wrap spice packet (Only $0.04 at Meijer with coupon!)
  • 1.5 lbs of ground chicken
  • 2/3 cup of mushrooms
  • 1 can of sliced water chestnuts (2/3 cup)
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • 1 head of iceburg lettuce
  • 1 cup brown rice (cooked)

Just follow the instructions on the packet and assemble!

Enjoy!

 

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Zucchini Bread – Yummy & Easy

My kids LOVE to bake – and Zucchini Bread is one of their favorites!
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Here is my favorite recipe!

Kristen’s Zucchini Bread

3 Eggs – lightly beaten
2 Cups Shredded Zucchini
2 tsp Vanilla

3 Cups Flour
2 Cups Sugar

1 Cup Applesauce

3 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
Dash Nutmeg

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Combine the eggs, shredded zucchini and vanilla. Stir until blended.
Combine Flour and Sugar – stir.
Gradually mix the flour sugar mixture into the zucchini mixture, until well blended.
Add in applesauce, mixing as you add in the remainder of the dried ingredients.

Pour into loaf pans, or muffin cups!

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Fill pans up to 3/4 full.

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We’re using our FANCY Nordic Ware Mini Bundt Loaves Pan, Mini Heart-Shaped Pan, and some muffin cups this time.
This recipe will make up to 4 loaves of bread, depending on the size of your pans.

Bake muffins 40 minutes at 350.
Bake loaves up to an hour at 350.

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