Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Baked Chicken Taquitos (Flautas)

Today's post is sharing a recipe that hits several criteria in my book. It's a tasty recipe to make up for the family. It's one that is easily doubled. It freezes well so you can make some for later. It makes GREAT leftovers. 

I originally found the baked chicken taquitos recipe on Pinterest. It comes from a blog called "Chef-In-Training." The recipe can be found here. If you follow it to the letter, it's a good recipe. It's easy to prepare in advance (read: during nap time) and simply cook when it's time to eat. I love that they're baked instead of fried like a traditional taquito. Speaking of which, are taquitos supposed to have corn shells? A quick wiki search just told me that a flour tortilla is actually a flauta. Good to know. 

If you've read many of my posts on recipes, you probably know I don't settle for a recipe "as-is." I'm constantly experimenting as well as utilizing what I have on hand. Here is my alteration of the recipe:

4 oz (half package) cream cheese softened
3 roasted green chiles, chopped
1/2 lime (squeezed for juice)
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder 
3/4 tsp onion flakes 
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (more on this in a minute)
1 cup shredded mexican/fiesta cheese
about a dozen small tortillas (I use flour as they stay rolled better)
sea salt or kosher salt
cooking spray

The inspiration for some of my changes is because I received some gorgeous green chiles in my bountiful basket last week. I roasted all of them on the grill (hi heat, 4-5 minutes per side until charred, put in glass bowl covered with plastic wrap until cool, peel skin, de-seed and chop). I'm nuts over roasted peppers or chiles. The flavor is amazing. In addition to the roasted chiles, I had about 1 cup of seasoned shredded chicken in my freezer. It was left over from the last time I made chimichangas. The meat is so flavorful I thought it would be great in the taquitos/flautas. You can find the recipe to make this seasoned chicken here on "Mama To The Max." I only had half the amount of chicken I needed, so I added one large chicken breast's worth of shredded chicken to the mix. It wasn't seasoned, but there were enough other spices to make up for it. There are a few other tweaks I made to the recipe based on the flavors of the seasoned chicken (less onion, no garlic, more cumin, less chili powder). 

Basically you mix up all the ingredients, spoon about 2-3 Tbsp into a tortilla, and roll tightly. If you want to freeze and cook later, do it now. If you want to cook, spread on a cookie sheet so they're not touching, spray lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt. Cook in 425 oven for 12-15 minutes. If you're baking from frozen, I've found a 375-400 oven for 20 minutes seems to work better. The basic recipe makes a dozen using the 8" tortilla size. I wouldn't recommend using larger tortillas. 

The roasted chiles and seasoned meat made this dish SO much better. I'm a flavor junkie, so this hit the spot. Plus there were extras for both my husband and I to eat for lunch today. Can't beat that!

Sorry, I don't have pictures, but you'll have to trust me on this one. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Homemade Pizza Pockets

I'm always looking for a new idea for lunches for the kiddos. I'm good at branching out and trying new recipes for dinners, but it's much tougher for lunches. During the week, I feed my girls plus one or more day care kiddos. I want their lunches to be healthy (obviously) but I also want them to be fun, delicious, easy to eat.....perhaps I set the bar too high. Anyway, I thought I'd try a variation on homemade pizza.

My kids (including the daycare kids) love making homemade pizza. Playing with dough, topping it on their own, the finished product is so much more fun to eat when you've made it yourself. I didn't get a chance to make up a batch of dough in my bread machine so I thought I would try some puff pastry dough. I had some in the freezer and figured it would make a good crust. I let it thaw, and then unfolded on a piece of parchment paper to prevent sticking. Once it was about room temperature, I rolled it out slightly with a rolling pin, then cut it into fourths. I cut some pepperoni into smaller pieces and cubed some real mozzarella cheese. Drop just a spoonful of pizza sauce in the middle of each square (not too much or it will make the pocket soggy), top with your favorite toppings, fold in half and seal with a fork. Bake at 375 for 10-13 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before serving. I gave the kids a little pizza sauce for dipping their pockets. Voila! A fun lunch the kids helped prepare, plus much healthier than buying the frozen ones at the store. Kids loved them!! Enjoy!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Five Quick Camping Tips

Summer is for camping, at least for my family. Living out here in Montana, there are so many wonderful places to camp. My husband and I enjoyed tent camping before we had kids. We live in a place where there are bears, so we don't tent camp much since the kids have come along. Some good friends of ours gave us a 1969 Skamper tent trailer a few years ago and we've put it to good use. Here's a pic of our sweet set up from a few years ago. Not many people in 2013 camp with a 1969 camper and an 1988 suburban.

This weekend is Memorial Day. In more years than not, the weather is crappy over Memorial Day. Usually it's raining, sometimes snowing. The one year we had a big camp trip planned we got rained out the whole weekend. We stick close to home for the most part. This year, I happened to find out that a nearby campground has a tipi site people can reserve for camping. The campground is family friendly, it's about 30-40 minutes from home and is adjacent to one of the most popular state parks (Lewis and Clark Caverns). I reserved it for my family for one night (that's all that was available) and we're going to have an overnight adventure in the tipi.

Since we've been so lucky to have the tent trailer, most of our camping gear is stored inside it. It's been a long time since we car camped and I wanted to make sure we had everything we needed for the night. This mama entered list mode. As I've been working on my lists and packing up our Toyota, I thought I'd share with you 5 quick camping tips that make trips easier. These are helpful for the experienced or novice camper. You might know these or they night be new. Hopefully, you find it helpful.

1. Food. You're not going to be camping long without food. One of the things I do is make a list similar to my meal planning lists at home. I write down what we're eating for meals and tape it to a big tote. This way my family knows what is planned and what is available to eat.

2. Save space. Yes, I am one of "those" people who save condiment packs. I pop them in the drawer in my refrigerator. When camping time rolls around they're handy because I can pack less than a baggie full of condiments and save space in my cooler. Who wants to pack around full size bottles of condiments?

3. Save Space Even More. My kids have been out of baby food for years, but I still keep a few jars at home to use on occasion. The jar you see below has our coffee creamer in it. We've become snobs and drink only the italian sweet cream creamer in our coffee. Again, I don't want to bring the big bottle, so I put a little in my baby food jar to use for the morning cuppa joe.

4. Clean Up Is A Breeze. We have a great Coleman camp stove. It has a regular burner with a separate part that is either a grill or a griddle depending on which part is place on the stove. The grill is very handy, but is a pain in the butt to clean. I just line the bottom with a little aluminum foil to catch any drippings. When we're done, we can wad it up and throw it away with minimal cleanup left.

5. Pack It In, Pack It Out. Lots of the campgrounds in Montana are fairly remote, plus there are countless other places to camp that aren't in an established campground. Because of these, we're always prepared to pack out whatever we brought, including trash. I saw a great tip on pinterest to fold up plastic grocery bags into little triangles (think the paper "footballs" from childhood). It allows me to pack quite a few bags in a small space so we have enough receptacles to remove all our trash.

You probably noticed many of my hints are reusing or repurposing items from around the home. It's a great way to get the kids thinking about how we can reuse items instead of throwing them directly in the trash.

We're looking forward to our overnight camp trip. It's sure to be an adventure we're remember for years! Happy camping!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Resist the drive thru! Homemade breakfast burritos

We all do it. Time runs short, we get up late, the kids are nuts/won't get dressed/are sleepy and we run out of time for a good home-cooked breakfast. You might scarf down a bowl of cereal. You might grab an apple or banana to eat on the go. Will you make it to lunch on that? What the heck? Just run through the drive thru at your local fast food joint or coffee hut. A good breakfast burrito costs $3-4 plus you're likely to get a beverage too. Those quick meals can add up fast. Here's a great alternative that will take less than an hour of time and save you some money too!

Here's what I use (you can change it up depending on what your preferences are):
1 dozen eggs
2/3 pound sausage
1 large green pepper
1 cup shredded cheese (I use fiesta blend)
8-10 large tortillas (more if you use medium size)

This is pretty easy, so I'm going to go fast. Ready? Brown sausage. Dice and cook pepper. Scramble all eggs. Mix in one big bowl. Boom. Done.

Put the egg/sausage mix in the middle of a tortilla, add cheese. Fold ends over center and roll up. Note: you might like salsa or hot sauce or sour cream on your breakfast burritos. Those ingredients don't freeze well. I recommend bringing them separately in a little reusable container.

I like to wrap each of my burritos in cling wrap. It helps protect them from freezer burn. You can also use aluminum foil (but don't use a microwave to reheat with foil!). I wrap each burrito and then place all the wrapped ones in a larger freezer zipper bag. Place in freezer. Tell your family these exist. No sense making them if your family doesn't know to grab them.

When it's a rushed morning, take one out of the freezer and pop in the microwave or toaster oven to warm. Easy peasy.

I took a little time to work out the cost of these things. Mostly because I'm a huge nerd and love figuring this out. Plus it helps me put a little pressure on the husband when he zips out of here and buys his breakfast. I use the big tortillas and fill them pretty full, so it makes 8 big burritos. I use farm fresh eggs and maple sausage which are a little more expensive, so your totals might be slightly less.

Tortillas               $1.16
Maple Sausage   $1.99
Eggs                   $3.00
Cheese               $1.01
Green Pepper     $0.50
TOTAL             $7.66 or $0.96 each

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Product Testing: Palmolive Soft Touch

I have some different kinds of posts for you folks out there in reader-land. Many of you know I'm a couponer. I follow several different blogs, have coupon friends, and co-moderate a coupon oriented facebook page. Part of my "research" is discovering different organizations that are hired for product research. I've participated in countless surveys and from time-to-time get chosen to try a particular product for review. I've tried everything from diapers to yogurt to coffee to household cleaners. Recently, I was selected through Influenster to try Palmolive Soft Touch.

Here's the rub: I'm pretty particular on my dishwashing detergents. I'm allergic to most of them. This is why I don't do a traditional hand washing of the dishes. I use one of those dish wand sponge things to minimize how much "stuff" I get on my hands. And don't suggest I wear gloves. All the household gloves are latex and I'm allergic to latex. I admit, I don't usually buy Palmolive. I buy another brand of dish soap. It works well, doesn't make me break out TOO much and I usually have coupons for it.

But, I'm a good product tester. I stripped off my wedding rings and made up a sinkful of suds to wash the lunch dishes. I'm going to give it the ultimate test: sensitive dry hands, dirty kid dishes, and some caked on pans from breakfast.

I was pleased with the cleaning ability of the Palmolive. The ketchup from the kids' dishes cleaned easily, as did the caked on egg residue from the skillet. I also washed my stoneware baker and it removed all food particles easily and quickly (so I didn't have to soak my stoneware!).

It's been several hours and I have no itching or blisters from the product. (Some hand soaps make me blister within 10 minutes). My hands actually feel as if I put on some lotion. After just one use, I still have dry hands, but I live in a dry climate. I'm interested to see how my hands feel after several uses. I'll keep you posted!

If you are interested in becoming a product tester, comment below! I will send you an invitation to become a member too.

Note: I was not paid to make these statements. I received these products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Memory Keeping for the Digital Age

How many of you keep a scrapbook for your kids? How about a box of stuff to save? Do you ever write things down to record later in a scrapbook or journal? I do all of those things. I really enjoy scrapbooking, but I have a hard time balancing all my hobbies at once. I've pretty much been slacking on scrapbooking for the past 5+ years. I still behave like I'm planning on making scrapbooks. Someday.

The idea I'm sharing isn't mine. I wish I could take credit for it. Actually, it was shared to me by my husband. I can't remember where he heard it. It might have been at the chiropractor's office. Regardless, it's a fun idea and a great way to keep all of the funny things kids say in one spot to share with them one day.

Set up an email address for your kids. If you have an ISP that gives you multiple email addresses with your internet service, use that. If you want to set up an address on one of the free sites, there's a little catch. You have to be 13 to sign up for the email. Since you are the one setting it up, it's technically your address so be sure to put your birthdate when establishing the account. If you try to enter your child's birthdate, you'll be kicked to a page about internet security and children. Trust me, I did it.

When your child has a spectacular moment, day, event, story, write an email to his/her email account. When you go to a well child check, email the height and weight to his/her email account. You can always send pictures too. Let the emails pile up. I would recommend logging into the account periodically to make sure it stays active. If you feel inclined, you can even create folders in the account by category so it's all organized.

The thought process is to provide your child with an email address and password when he/she hits a milestone. Perhaps it's graduating high school or turning 18. Maybe it's when he/she graduates college or boot camp. You might want to save it until your child has children of his/her own. Hopefully, it will be a fun trip down memory lane.

In our age of technology, it's easy to send a quick email by smartphone or draft something more lengthy at the computer. You can pass the email address to friends/family to add their thoughts as well. You decide the direction you want to take it. Make it fun. Make it memorable.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Chicken Parmigiana (Chicken Parm for Short)

Sometimes you have a recipe that tastes good, make some tweaks to make it taste great. Today's recipe is one of those. I'm going to warn you up front, this is not a recipe for the calorie counters. This recipe is designed to be FULL OF FLAVOR, so there are some rich ingredients used. You can easily adjust it to cut some of the calories out. I'm going to give you the full flavor version. Take your pick.

The funny thing about chicken parm is that I thought it was short for chicken parmesan. But, there's no parmesan used, at least not in the recipes I've seen. After a quick google search, I found that we've Americanized the recipe from chicken parmigiana to chicken parmesan and there are some recipes that do use parmesan, but the PARMIGIANA is for the breaded cutlet with marinara. That's what I'm sharing today. My original recipe used the word parmesan without parmesan cheese. Weird.

You need:
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (I use 3-4 big guys from Costco)
1 cup Bread crumbs (I like the italian seasoned ones)
2/3 cup French fried onions crushed
1-2 Egg(s)
1 quart Marinara sauce (I use my homemade stuff)
2-4 Tbsp Butter
2-4 Tbsp Olive Oil (I prefer the garlic olive oil)
1-1/2 cups Mozzerella cheese

First, cut the chicken breasts into smaller cutlets. Since I buy the big frozen bags at Costco, they're pretty big pieces of chicken. I cut them in half lengthwise and then in half again top to bottom. You'll want to make sure the cutlets are fairly thin. If you have a medium thickness breast, I'd pound it with a mallet until it's thinner than 1/2". One of the jumbo chicken breasts will make 4 good sized cutlets.

Crack an egg into a bowl and whip with a fork. In a second bowl, put about 1 cup of bread crumbs and 2/3 cup of crushed french fried onions. The french fried onions crumbs is a trick I learned from a friend and it adds so much flavor. Then dip each cutlet into the egg wash, then coat in bread crumbs. Set aside on a plate.

Heat 2 Tbsp of butter and 2 Tbsp of garlic olive oil in a large skillet over med heat. Once the butter is melted, add the breaded cutlets and cook until browned on each side. While they're cooking, pour a little marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish and shake to coat the bottom. Place the browned cutlets into the pan in a single layer. Depending on the size of your skillet, you'll need to repeat this 2-3 times to cook the cutlets. Be sure to add more butter and oil before each browning.

Cover the browned cutlets with the marinara sauce. I use almost a quart of sauce for 1 pan of chicken parm. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese over the entire pan. The pictures here show a cheese blend because that's what I had in the house. It's the end of the month, I'm out of mozzarella. Use what you have.

Bake in a 350 oven for 20 minutes to warm through and melt the cheese. You can also prepare ahead of time, refrigerate and bake when needed. I'd turn it down to 325 and bake a little longer if it's been refrigerated.

Enjoy! The flavors in this are amazing. It's a favorite in my house with my husband and my kids. I think my husband could eat it every week and be happy.