Not a recipe – but a way to keep your ingredients fresh, for any recipe!

This post isn’t about a recipe – but, rather, a review of the truly INEXPENSIVE vacuum sealing device that I’m now using!

I purchased the Mueller vacuum sealer from amazon. This vacuum sealer was $49.97, with a $10 coupon. So, $40 for a sealer that works great!! Check it out here: Mueller Vacuum Sealer.

The sealer comes with some bags to start, but I also ordered an additional roll of bags, also from amazon.

This roll, which will last a long time, comes with a cutter – it was priced at $19.99, but I had a $5 coupon, so I got it for $15!! Can’t beat that!

I’ve mostly used it to vacuum seal meats for the freezer (that’s really what I bought it for), as I like to buy the big family packs and separate for individual use.

Today, I needed to separate some ground beef – I used the air tight / moist food setting, for the beef and it worked perfectly. Before sealing, I kind of ‘flattened’ the ground beef (leaving plenty of room for sealing), to allow it to take up less storage space in the freezer.

Don’t forget to label it and it’s ready to go into the freezer! Ive been so pleased with being able to: save $ by buying family packs, keep my food fresher for longer, and keeping my freezer nice and organized!

You can certainly use it for more than meat, and I am sure I will at some point – but, even if you only ever use it for meat – it’s well worth the investment!

If you decide to try this vacuum sealer, let me know – would love your feedback!!

Queso Blanco with Green Chilis

It’s not a recipe, I won’t pretend that it is – how could something with 2 ingredients, that you make in the microwave, be a recipe?!

What it IS – is a delicious, savory snack that couldn’t be more simple to make! It could also be a great tailgating appetizer!

It starts with a small block of Velveta Queso Blanco ‘cheese’ (cheese product – don’t judge! I don’t eat it a lot, but occasionally do enjoy this ‘liquid gold’) and a small can of diced green chilis.

Just start by cutting the cheese product into chunks and put in a microwave safe bowl.

Then melt in the microwave, on high, for 5 minutes – I did take it out and stir it a couple times, to keep it from scorching.

Once it is fully melted – just dump in your chilis and stir!

I ate it with corn tortilla chips, but it would be good with veggies as well! I think a tablespoon of milk (or jalapeño juice – yum!) may have been nice and made it a little less thick.

So easy! And, so delicious!!

Chicken Noodle Soup (stew??)

It is still 90+ degrees where I live, but I love soup – so, despite the heat tonight – it was a chicken noodle soup night. It started as soup – but, ended up pretty thick, so maybe it is more of a stew. Regardless – it was delicious!!

I started out with chicken, which I cooked in my instant pot (from frozen). PERFECTION! I decided to use both chicken breasts and thighs. I cooked them on the poultry setting, for 30 minutes, with 1 cup of chicken stock.

The truly brilliant thing about this chicken is how I shredded it. I’m not saying that I am brilliant (I saw this somewhere else), I’m saying that it worked brilliantly! Literally, less than a minute and 2 chicken breasts and 3 chicken thighs – perfectly shredded. How was is shredded, you ask?? With a hand mixer, in the instant pot!

From now, to the end of time, when I need shredded chicken – it will be cooked in the instant pot and shredded with a hand mixer!

I set the chicken aside and got busy getting my veggies (carrots, celery and onion) ready to go in my dutch oven. I just sliced and chopped the veggies to similar size and it was ready to go!

I added a small amount of oil in my dutch oven and cooked the veggies a little bit before I added the chicken broth. Only for maybe 5 minutes or so – just to seal in a little bit of flavor in the veggies!

Then I added my broth – brought the pot up to boil and cooked the vegetables for about 10 minutes. Next, I added in the shredded chicken, with any broth that was in the instant pot and brought it back up to a boil.

The final step was to add the noodles and allow them to cook through. For the pasta I used, that was about 8 minutes.

The only thing left was to enjoy this delicious soup!!

Chicken Noodle Soup approx time to make recipe, including prep: 1.5 hours

Shredded Chicken (see instructions below)
5-6 carrots, chopped
4-5 stalks of celery, chopped
1/2 onion, diced
8 cups of chicken broth
1 lb of pasta
1 tbsp garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt to taste

Shredded chicken
1 cup of chicken broth
2 frozen chicken breasts
3 frozen chicken thighs
Instant pot
** Add all items to instant pot and cook on poultry setting for 30 minutes. Quick release once instant pot finishes and shred with hand mixer

  • Chop vegetables
  • Add oil and vegetables to large pot or dutch oven – cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Add broth to pot, along with the seasonings, bring to boil and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add shredded chicken to pot and bring back up to a boil
  • Add pasta and cook until pasta is done

Pasta with Chicken, Tomato and Lemon Sauce

Let’s face it – Mondays are hard! And hard days need easy dinners. Between needing something easy and the fact that I didn’t make pasta this past weekend, pasta seemed like the best option (can you tell that I missed my pasta this weekend?? I did – I admit it, I did!).

As 99% of my pasta recipes do, this one started with onions and garlic. It also included chicken, cherry tomatoes, lemon juice! All good things things in my book!

Ignore that there are 2 lemons here – I ended up only using one.

I started by prepping my ingredients – dicing the onion, cubing the chicken and halving the tomatoes.

Then I cooked the onion and garlic, in a hot pan, with a small amount of oil – until the onions were translucent.

I added the cubed chicken and spices and cooked the chicken through.

The final step of making the ‘sauce’ for the pasta was to add the chicken stock, cream, lemon juice, tomatoes and basil. While I was cleaning up my prep mess (when I can – I prefer to clean as I go – it’s so much nicer to sit down to dinner without having a mess hanging over you!), I let the sauce thicken.

Then I just added the pasta and topped with a little bit of parmesan cheese and stirred well.

To serve, everyone just added as much additional parmesan cheese as they liked.

Despite the heavy cream – this sauce was refreshingly light! A perfect pasta for a Monday night – and will make some mighty fine leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Pasta with Chicken, Tomato and Lemon Sauce

2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 box bowtie pasta
2 -3 cups halved cherry tomatoes (adjust give your tastes)
1/2 white, diced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp garlic
1 tsp garlic salt
2 tsp umami seasoning
Juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
Parmesan cheese (optional)

  • Dice onion, halve cherry tomatoes and cube chicken breasts
  • Cook pasta to al dente, set aside
  • In hot pan, add olive oil, onion and garlic – cook until onions are translucent
  • Add in chicken, salt, garlic salt and umami seasoning – cook chicken until done
  • Add in lemon juice, chicken stock and heavy cream – bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat, add tomatoes and basil – cook for 15 minutes
  • Add in pasta, stir and cook allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
  • Top with parmesan cheese and serve

Mexican Casserole (Taco bake?! What should I call this, really?)

This dish was a huge hit! It will definitely go into our regular rotation.

It really started as a result of having lean ground beef in the refrigerator and a package of corn tortillas, which I accidentally bought (thinking I grabbed flour). What a happy, happy surprise! It was loved by all!!

As already noted, it has lean ground beef, corn tortillas, black beans (which I always have on hand!), corn and tomatoes (and the requisite onions and garlic). Luckily, I had a packet of taco seasoning in the pantry (otherwise, you could certainly use chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper that you have on hand – or whatever combination of those spices you like!).

I started by rough chopping the onions and then I cooked the onions and garlic, in a small amount of oil in a hot skillet.

After the onions were translucent, I added in the ground beef and cooked until browned. Then, added in the taco seasoning.

The next step was to add in the corn, black beans, tomatoes, etc. I did hold off on adding the jalapenos, as I wanted to taste the meat mixture first to determine how much to add. Spoiler alert – I added the whole can.

Once everything was well mixed, I allowed it to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

This gave me plenty of time to grate the cheese and pre-heat the oven.

Then I started putting the casserole together – starting with a layer of tortillas. I ended up with 3 layers of tortillas – but, you can do as many layers as you like (next time I make this, I intend to add more of the tortillas, I only used 4 per layer as I prepared this today).

Once all the layers are in (end with the meat mixture on top), top with the grated cheese and put in the oven (400 degrees) for 20-25 minutes. I did turn the broiler on briefly, at the end, to get a little bit of browning on the top.

I topped it with a little bit of sour cream – and it was DELICIOUS! I definitely went back for seconds!

Mexican Casserole

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 can black beans (drained)
1 can corn (drained)
1 large can diced tomatoes (drained)
1 small can tomato paste
1 packet taco seasoning
1 tbsp garlic
1 onion (chopped)
Small corn tortillas (number will depend on size of casserole dish)
1 tsp oil
1 – 1 1/2 cups grated cheese (depends on size of casserole dish)
Salt to taste
1 can jalapeno peppers (optional)
Sour cream for garnish

  • Chop onion
  • Add oil, onion and garlic to hot skillet – cook until onion is translucent
  • Add in ground beef, cook until browned
  • Add taco seasoning and mix completely
  • Add tomatoes, tomato paste, b lack beans and corn, mix well
  • Add salt, as needed, after tasting mixture
  • If desired, add jalapenos (I used a 11 oz can of picked jalapenos with carrots and onions by San Marcos) and mix well
  • Simmer mixture for 15-20 minutes
  • Start with a layer of corn tortillas in the bottom of an oven safe dish
  • Alternate with the meat mixture, until all meat mixture is one – ending with meat mixture on top. For my casserole, this was 3 layers of corn tortillas.
  • Top with cheese and bake @ 400 degrees – for 30 minutes

Banana Nut Bread

This has been a crazy busy week – so I haven’t had much time to cook. But, today, I took a vacation day and was home with my oldest kiddo! And she decided to make some banana nut bread (using her granny’s recipe)! I won’t re-write it, because nothing beats the handwritten recipe that her granny did!

Thankfully, we had some ‘getting just to their banana nut bread prime’ bananas for her to use. And, we had pretty much all the ingredients (except buttermilk – but she just subbed in cream and it worked out great!)

These bananas were perfect for making banana nut bread – look how easily they ‘smushed’ up!

In no time she had the batter ready to go!

But, she definitely had more batter than needed for a standard loaf pan, so she decided to make some ‘tiny loafs’ too, with some silicone mini loaf pans we have. They all turned out delicious!

And, the best picture – my girl, with her delicious banana nut bread!

Easy Red Chicken Chili

WHAT?! It is Sunday and I’m not making pasta? What in the world is happening here?? Oh, well… chicken chili it is!

This recipe is very easy to throw together and you likely have all of the ingredients on hand. I had 2 chicken breasts (3 may have been better – but, you work with what you have!) that I had defrosted in the refrigerator (thinking that I’d be making pasta – best laid plans, I guess!). Cans of beans and tomatoes in the pantry and some fresh cilantro and Colby & Monterrey Jack cheese. Chicken chili sounded good!

The chicken breasts were separated from a family pack, into a separate freezer bag (it’s cheaper to buy the family pack and repackage to amounts you’d use!). I’ve, since, bought a very inexpensive vacuum sealer that I’m using – if you’re interested in which one I got – let me know, I can do a review on here!!

As all good recipes do, this one started with me chopping up some onion…

Rather than cube the chicken, I decided to cook it whole and then shred it. Given that direction, I sprayed the dutch oven (have I mentioned how much I LOVE my Le Creuset dutch oven? I’m not a fancy person, at all, but was given this as a 20 year anniversary gift from the company I work for – and I, absolutely, adore it!!) with some olive oil – added in the onion and garlic (medium to high heat), cooking until the onions were mostly translucent. Then I added the chicken breasts, browning both sides to lock in the moisture.

While the chicken was browning, I opened the can of chipotle peppers and rough chopped them (my daughters probably wouldn’t be excited to get a mouth full of a chipotle pepper, so chopping makes sense). I did not throw out the adobo sauce, as it really adds to the chili, so hold onto it!!

After the chicken is browned and the chipotle peppers are chopped, it was time to start adding everything to the pot – tomatoes, beans, peppers – all straight into the pot. Also, add the chili seasoning at this time (and any salt and pepper you may want). I allowed the pot to come to an initial boil, then reduced the heat – covered and set a timer. You’ll want to let it simmer for 45 minutes to an hour (longer is better, in my opinion).

Once the timer goes off – remove the chicken breasts from the pot and shred.

Then return to the pot, add some cilantro, cover and simmer for another 30 minutes!

I decided to top mine with some grated Colby & Monterrey Jack cheese (fresh grated is best!) and cilantro – perfection!

Easy Red Chicken Chili

2-3 chicken breasts
1 tsp cumin
1 large onion, rough chopped
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1 small can Rotel tomatoes and chilis
1 large can petite diced tomatoes
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 small can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (chop peppers, reserve sauce)
1 packet of McCormicks chili seasoning mix
avocado spray
salt / pepper to taste
Cilantro and cheese to garnish (I also add some cilantro to the pot of chili at the end of cooking)

  • Rough chop the onion
  • Spray pan with avocado oil and add onion, garlic and cumin. Cook until onions are translucent.
  • Add whole chicken breasts – cook until browned on both sides (locks in the moisture!)
  • Add all tomoatoes, beans and (chopped) chipotle pepper (with sauce) to pot.
  • Stir through to combine all ingredients
  • Add seasoning mix, salt and pepper – stir and bring to boil.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 min – 1 hour.
  • Remove chicken breasts from pot, shred and return to pot.
  • Add cilantro, stir and serve.
  • Top with more cilantro and cheese for garnish (** would also be good topped with sour cream, jalapenos, corn chips, etc.)