Monday, May 28, 2012

Schezuan Sauce Mix

I'm back on another stir fry kick- It's always been one of my favorite meals. I've completely given up on those bottled sauces (if the price wasn't bad enough, the sodium content will do it!), but I like to have a bunch of variety. Here is my latest concoction!

Schezuan Sauce Mix

1 tablespoon corn starch
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

This is a mild sauce suitable for small children, for a spicy sauce add more cayenne to suit your tastes.

What else you'll need

1/2 cup cold water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
oil for frying
1 pound boneless meat cut in strips or chunks
4 cups chopped veggies (I use Costco frozen stir fry mix because I'm lazy and it's very good!)

Combine mix with water and soy sauce and stir until smooth. Stir fry meat in the oil first (I like to dust my chicken with 1/2 cup of flour mixed with 1 teaspoon of salt to give it that 'fried' take out taste sometimes).

Once chicken is cooked fully add sauce and vegetables and cook until vegetables are warm and sauce thickens. I served mine on a bed of rice. It was delicious!!!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Creamy Bacon Carbonara Mix

Most pregnancy symptoms are very unpleasant. I wouldn't wish morning sickness on my worst enemy. BUT... once in a while you get one that you actually enjoy and this pregnancy I have experienced the mythical disappearance of lactose intolerance.

For the past 6 years dairy products have not been my friend and it's become worse over time. But in the past few months things have changed- first cheese became ok again, and now I'm even ok with dips and desserts and creamy sauces. I know this is a limited time offer, so I'm milking it for everything it's worth (no pun intended!). One of the things that I've been enjoying is my creamy pasta creations, so I've been mixing it up...

Creamy Bacon Carbonara Mix

2 tablespoons powdered milk
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 tablespoon bacon bits
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

What else you'll need

2 cups cold water
1 cup uncooked pasta
2 tablespoons butter

In a saucepan dissolve the mix in the water and stir in the butter and pasta.

Simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking until pasta is tender and sauce thickens.

I served it with steamed veggies and (surprise surprise) leftover roast chicken.

It was creamy, delicious and something I'm certainly going to miss in a few weeks when I'm not longer able to eat it anymore!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nest it up: Freezer meals and meals with cooked chicken

I will be full term on Friday (yikes!) and the nesting has shifted from organizing and cleaning to cooking. When my daughter was born with colic we were totally unprepared food wise because we didn't realize that when you have a small human bomb in your house screaming up to 20 hours a day that you can barely find the time to eat let alone cook. There were days when I wouldn't even get breakfast until after 4 pm it was that bad. Those first weeks I lived on pizza pockets and peaches.

This time we're hoping for one of those 'easy' babies but not holding our breath. We're totally expecting a repeat of last time, and this time with a child to feed we need to be prepared. Which is why I'm filling the freezer and mixing it up.

I have a system in place- depending on how hard the day is. Some days I'm going to need something I can microwave and eat right away. Other days I just need a little help to get me going. I know that my big road block when it comes to cooking while tired is dealing with raw meat. So I'm trying to get that obstacle out of the way in advance.

Freezer meals are a great concept, but often not the best reality. Some foods don't freeze well. Other foods don't mesh with the season (who wants a hot comforting meal in a July heat wave?). Some foods are both tasty and appropriate, but not the healthiest (how many times can you eat lasagna and baked pasta casserole really? Do you really need all that starch and cheese?), or just take so long to prepare for freezing that it's just too much work to save yourself a little time along the way.

Meat freezes really well. So do certain vegetables. Starches like pasta, rice, potatoes and root vegetables do not. They tend to get mushy and tasteless. They give freezer meals a bad name. Cheese intended for melting freezes fine, milk based sauces do not. So you need to pick things to make knowing these things.

I have been doing some double and triple batches of meals I know to freeze well rather than spend entire days cooking dishes using similar meats, although that is also an option. Here are some of the things we're using. I like to use large ziploc freezer bags to save space. Each dish is linked to the page that includes the seasoning mix and recipe if you click on it.

Meals that taste just as good once frozen and reheated

Fajjita filling

Lemon chicken


Spaghetti Sauce

Taco filling

Sloppy joes

Pulled pork

Sweet and sour chicken

Buffalo chicken

General Tso's chicken

Beef Vindaloo

Teriyaki Chicken


Shawarama filling


Hunan chicken/beef


Honey garlic spare ribs or wings

Stir fry

Korean BBQ

Pot Roast

Honey mustard chicken

Broccoli beef stir fry

Most of these meals require other things that are very fast to make- buns, pasta, rice, tortillas, ect. You can buy and freeze some of the bread related products along with the ziploc full of meat or buy them fresh. I find it's not too daunting to boil some pasta or steam some rice while the meat portion of the meal is in the microwave. I also either steam or microwave any frozen veggies I want or need to use. On the most hectic of days a bowl of microwaved frozen green beans will round out a meal.

If you don't have time to cook a lot of food in advance, you can also just prechop and marinade the meat in the freezer, then dump it in the wok or slow cooker. This works for meals/links listed above such as fajitas, tacos, sloppy joes, pulled pork, sweet and sour chicken, buffalo chicken, General Tso's chicken, beef vindaloo, teriyaki chicken, stir fry, souvlaki, shawarma, hunan chicken, honey garlic ribs/wings, korean bbq, honey mustard chicken, or broccoli beef (minus the broccoli). As outlined in the post prep it up you can dice or cut the chicken into strips then pour in the marinade with it and freeze it together.

For the days when I know I'll have a bit more time and energy, but still not enough to prepare an entire meal, I've been freezing cooked chicken. I really hate dealing with raw chicken when I'm tired or hungry, but don't mind handling cooked meat at all. I often pick the leftovers off a roasted chicken and then freeze them. What's even less work is to poach a package of chicken breasts or thighs. You just boil them until they are fully cooked and then freeze them whole to chop up or shred later.

Some meals I like to make with pre-cooked chicken:


Fried rice

Chicken and dumplings/chicken stew

Chicken pot pie

Creamy curry casserole

Pad thai

Spanish rice

Creamy chicken fusili

Chicken and rice casserole

With an arsenal of frozen meals and pre-cooked chicken I feel much more prepared. Now if I get an easy baby I can use my free time for what I want- relaxing! And if we get another wild one... well at least we will be fed this time.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Chicken and Rice Casserole Mix

As always I've been looking for quick meals I can throw together with some leftover chicken and here is one I came up with recently.

Chicken and Rice Casserole Mix (single use)

1/3 cup powdered milk
1/4 cup corn starch
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper

What else you'll need

4 cups cold water
1.5 cups uncooked rice
2 tablespoons oil or butter
1 cup diced cooked chicken

Combine mix with cold water and stir well.

In a buttered casserole dish combine mix and water, rice, oil and chicken and cooked covered for 1 hour at 350 degrees F, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Casserole is ready when rice is tender and fluffy.

I served my casserole with steamed broccoli the first time I tried it and salad the second. It was a nice, easy meal and delicious too!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Eggplant/Chicken Parmesan Mix

I'm due in one month from today! While I totally expect to go overdue like the last time I've been mixing it up like crazy these past weeks to make sure I have a surplus of recipes to post once the baby is born. I remember what it's like- when even EATING food is sometimes impossible never mind concocting and photographing a new recipe! We hope this baby won't have colic like our first did but we're not banking on anything!

Last week after the delicious vegetarian buffet at my sister's wedding I was craving eggplant, so I decided to create a mix for...

Eggplant (or) Chicken Parmesan Mix

1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

What else you'll need

2 large eggplants OR
4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 jar of pasta sauce or tomatoes
8 slices of mozzarella cheese
oil for frying

Prepare the eggplant or chicken:

For eggplant- cut into large slices

For chicken- butterfly each breast into two thinner pieces and pound as thin as possible with a meat cleaver.

Dip eggplant or chicken in mix and fry in oil until golden brown. Spread a layer of pasta sauce on the bottom of a glass baking pan, place breaded eggplant/chicken on top, top each piece with mozzarella. Continue layering sauce, pieces and cheese until all is used up.

Bake in the oven at 350 F until eggplant/chicken topping is slightly crispy (about 1 hour)

Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

I thought it was delicious! It totally took care of my eggplant craving! My husband said it was delicious except for one thing- it didn't have any meat! But that's ok, because next time I'm making it using chicken. It's a great mix to keep around when you're omnivores like we are because it can serve double duty. You get two different meals in one.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Creamy Garlic Raffaello Pasta Mix

I hit 35 weeks today and all week I've been nesting like crazy. The baby's room is set up, the closets are in perfect order and a whole lot of junk went out on the curb on garbage night. The downside? I had no time and energy left over to cook, so I kept sending my husband to buy rotisserie chickens from the grocery store, whipping up a salad and throwing some baked potatoes in the oven.

We never got tired of chicken and salad. But baked potatoes? Ugh! I needed a new side dish that I could make quickly, so I decided to mix it up and came up with...

Creamy Garlic Raffaello Pasta Mix

2 tablespoons powdered milk
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

What else you'll need

1 cup pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups cold water

Combine mix, water, butter and pasta in a saucepan and stir until well mixed. The Sidekicks this is based on uses sea shell pasta, but we love shell pasta so much we had none left and had to use penne!

Simmer noodles on medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Continue until noodles are tender and the sauce thickens.

Of course, I served mine with grocery store chicken and salad. It was a much needed change from baked potatoes!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

I apologize for only posting once last week but we went out of town for my sister's wedding. Her wedding included a vegetarian buffet that was so delicious that it inspired a mix I'm working on right now and will hopefully post in the near future.

In the meantime...

My daughter is in love with cookie monster and it's no surprise- he reminds her of her daddy. My husband is a complete cookie addict. Some men drink, some men gamble. Mine eats cookies. Lots of cookies.

He's in good shape from the rest of his diet and regular exercise, so this one vice isn't such a big deal. But he tends to buy those cheap packages of chocolate chip cookies that are loaded with trans fats and preservatives. Not something I want the love of my life to be eating on a regular basis. So to keep him safe, I guess I need to bake cookies more often. But it's a lot of work to make them from scratch every time and the only solution is to mix it up...

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix (big batch- why make anything less? makes 4 uses)

5 cups flour
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder

What else you'll need

1/2 cup butter
1 egg or substitute
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine 2 cups of mix with butter, egg and vanilla and mix well. If you are mathematically inclined you might wonder why the amount of ingredients doesn't add up to the amount of mix. This is because a cup of flour is different than a cup of chocolate chips- things are different sizes and when mixed together make for a different volume. I discovered that tonight which is why the cookies don't look as pretty as they should- too much mix, not enough liquid. But cookies are cookies so they are still good....

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes and cool before serving.


I know I'll be making a gigantic batch of this before the baby is born to keep on hand for the cookie monster in my house.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Instant Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Mix

There is very little in this life that is a bigger rip off than those little instant oatmeal packets. Do you have any idea how cheap oatmeal is? Do you have any idea how easy it is to make?

My daughter is a HUGE oatmeal fan. She wants it almost every morning for breakfast. I didn't like the idea of her eating all the sugar in those instant packets so back when she was a baby so I started buying quick oats and making my own for her without sugar. I was amazed at how much cheaper it was- I can buy a 1 kilogram bag of oats for $1.67 and it lasts for months.

Now that she's older I'm introducing more flavor (although I still omit the sugar in hers- just not mine. Her taste buds still haven't been spoiled). This is one of the cheapest versions I make...

Cinnamon Raisin Instant Oatmeal Mix (single use)

1/4 cup quick oats
1 tablespoon raisins
2-3 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt

Big Batch (makes 8 uses)

2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/3-1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

What else you'll need

1/2-3/4 cup water

(1/2 cup makes it like glue and you can make it into blobs that toddlers can eat with their hands, 3/4 cup makes it more soupy and like regular oatmeal)

Combine 1/3 cup mix with water. You can either use boiling water and let it sit, or like me you can just put the water in the bowl cold and microwave it for 1 minute. It's much faster than boiling a kettle AND waiting. My daughter is not very patient when she's hungry!



Sugar can be adjusted to any taste. I make hers sugar free, I put the maximum amount for myself and for those trying to cut back I suggest something in between. It's a very inexpensive breakfast for adults and kids, it's fast and it's great for milk production for all you nursing mamas out there.