Chipotle Butternut Squash Chile

One of my greatest loves during the fall and winter months is soup. Not broth. but chunky, hearty, filling soup. It’s easy, comforting and warms you up down to your toes. Soup leaves the kitchen smelling homey. It is easy to double or triple a batch for company. Easy to store, reheat and freeze…and you can cook it so many ways. If you search our posts, we have no shortages of soup here. While I can’t complain about the winter being warmer this year, it has left me less in the mood for soup.

Last week, though, I found myself craving a bowl. I ransacked my fridge to see what I had. Last year I made a delicious butternut squash black bean and quinoa chili, but have since lost the recipe. In my search, I stumbled upon this Chipotle Butternut Squash Chili with Avocado from Cookie & Kate. I already knew that butternut squash and black beans were an excellent combination, and I felt that you can’t really go wrong with chipotle and avocado, especially since I had recently learned to pick a perfectly ripe avocado. So I gave it a go…

The results were far better than I hoped. We ate it back to back meals, and leftovers. My hubby was quite disappointed when it was all gone. The recipe calls for about an hour of cooking time and a half hour of prep, but I cut this way down, by throwing everything in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes. To adapt it for the pressure cooker, I started by sauteing onions, bell peppers and squash in a pan with olive oil. (Costco sells pre-cut squash!). Once soft, add garlic, chili powder, chipotle, cumin and cinnamon and just enjoy the fragrance. Add the bay leaf, black beans, tomatoes, and broth, put the lid on and cook for 20 minutes. At this point I simmered my chili for about 10 minutes until it was reduced, in the future I will put less liquid… though truth be told, I think pureeing it in a blender for a hearty creamy soup would also be absolutely scrumptious

There are notes on the original recipe, that you may be able to cook this in the slow cooker also.

You can top the chili with corn tortilla strips/chips, avocado, cheese, sour cream, red pepper flakes, cilantro, hot sauce or whatever else you think would be good. I topped mine with cheese, sour cream and avocado. Find the recipe here; and let us know what you think!

Feta Pesto Pasta


This meal is so simple I’m a little embarrassed to even make a blog post out of it. I wouldn’t, except it’s become a family favorite and my husband would happily eat it every night of the week if it were up to him. These days I’m feeling less than inspired to be ambitious in the kitchen, being 33 weeks pregnant and sporting a significant waddle. Honestly, all I want to do is sit on the couch with my feet up, eating my fetus’ weight in Butterfingers, and work on various craft projects for the nursery. 

What Butterfingers do to ya.
This meal is almost exclusively from Costco (everything but the pasta), but can easily be done with ingredients from a regular grocery store. You just won’t be able to brag that you made 8 meals out of a $9 jar of (the best ever) pesto sauce! Considering a small 4 oz jar at the grocery store is about $5, that’s a very good deal. This dish is so quick to prepare that it is literally done by the time you boil the pasta.

A great use for leftover rotisserie chicken.

My method is to start my pot of water to boil, roughly chop leftover cold chicken (don’t forget to save the carcass for chicken broth), and dice the onion before adding the pasta to the boiling water. Next I throw the onions in a hot skillet to sauté, then add the sun dried tomatoes and chicken just long enough to heat them through. The results look like this:

Onions, sun dried tomatoes, chicken.

When I strain the pasta, I add the cold pesto sauce to the hot pot and dump the pasta in on top of it. This is referred to as “Being Too Lazy To Dirty Another Pan.” Next I simply combine all the ingredients and stir, topping with feta. Voila!

This is probably the tastiest 15 minute meal I know how to make. I have bags of Costco rotisserie chicken in my freezer that will make this meal even easier (as if that’s possible) after this baby comes. The onions and sun dried tomatoes are completely optional, and I’ve substituted fresh chopped tomatoes, broccoli, goat cheese, and other frozen veggies in the past. 

Feta pesto pasta

Feta Pesto Pasta

  • 1 box pasta (penne or rotini works best IMO)
  • 1-2 cups diced cooked chicken (rotisserie works great)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 heaping tablespoons sun dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons pesto
  • feta cheese

Cook pasta according to package. In the meantime, chop onions and chicken. Saute onions, adding chicken and tomatoes and stir until heated through, then remove from heat. When you strain the pasta, add the pesto sauce to the hot pan and cover with hot pasta. Stir all ingredients together and top with desired amount of feta. Serve with garlic bread for best results (and maximum carb overload).


White Bean Chicken Chili

     We recently hosted a small Christmas card family get together for my husband’s family (mostly as a last ditch effort to force ourselves to actually send some out this year). Everybody came with their Christmas cards and address books, and the plan was to make it a group activity. Every year my husband and my intentions and plans for Christmas cards get more elaborate, and each year we fail miserably. This year we were going to take photos for the cards at a Christmas tree farm, the children frolicking like tiny adorable wood nymphs among the trees, me looking like a winter goddess, and my husband manly and strapping as he cut down our tree in his annual Christmas kilt. The reality? It’s the day before the Christmas card party. My 10 year old has lost his only slightly festive and dressy sweater: reindeer t-shirt substituted. We were unable to gather our brood and leave the house as planned that morning before baby’s naptime: instead we rolled down the driveway at 4:45 p.m., just as the sun was going down. My husband is a man determined at this point, and still considered making the trek even after his GPS announced we were 40 minutes from the tree farm. Needless to say, pictures were NOT happening. A 10 minute trip to Home Depot for a tree was in our future.

Last year’s Christmas photo. Will probably take us another 12 months to do this year’s.
     Thankfully, the party was much more successful than our efforts to document our family for the holidays. While the company was awesome, the cookies were divine (OMG everybody must try the Jo’s peppermint cookies from World Market), and the children were adorably well behaved and entertaining, the white bean chicken chili was the piece de resistance. I’ve always loved beans, and this recipe is one of my favorites. This time, however, was off the charts due to borrowing a page from my mother’s brilliance and the innovation forced by missing ingredients. On a side note, my mother successfully freezes cooked beans, and I suspect this meal would translate well into a freezer meal. It is also very cost effective, as I fed 10+ people for under about $15.
     At the last minute I realized I did not have a sufficient amount of frozen homemade chicken stock (gasp!) in the freezer. Thankfully, I had some frozen homemade chicken bouillon squares my mom had made as an experiment, which she made by reducing a gallon of her chicken broth down to approximately 1 cup, then freezing on parchment paper. At the time I had no idea how concentrated these squares were, so I started with the two cups of water and 3-4 squares of the bouillon (approximately 2 in. squares). The broth this made was deep brown like beef broth, and smelled amazing. I had no idea this recipe could taste this good until I took my first bite. 
     My husband, who is usually a man of few words at the dinner table, muttered to himself at least 3 times, “Wow, this is really good.” Even more impressive, my 10 year old took his first bite then looked at me and said, “Wow, I had no idea this was going to taste like this!” This soup received rave reviews from my husband’s family, and was the perfect recipe to make a triple batch and feed a crowd of 10+. The original recipe calls for it to be cooked in the slow cooker (Low, 3.5 hours), but I’ve done it both in the pressure cooker (High, for 20 minutes) and in the oven (250 for 2 hours) with great results.
Best served with crusty bread or cornbread. 

White Bean Chicken Chili

3/4 pound chicken thighs, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (I’m lazy and mash jarred diced jalapeno with a fork)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 15-oz cans white beans (I prefer Great Northern, made from scratch to avoid BPA)
3 cups chicken broth (or water with a few squares of reduced broth bouillon, recipe HERE!)
Optional toppings: sharp cheddar, sour cream, cilantro
Directions:
1. Brown cubed chicken in oil
2. Add onions and garlic the last few minutes and cook until the onions are translucent.
3. Rinse and drain beans into oven-proof pot/pressure cooker/slow cooker, and add broth and spices.
4. Mash the beans lightly a few times with a potato masher, as this thickens the final soup into a creamy stew-like consistency.
5. Add chicken and onion mixture into oven-proof pot/pressure cooker/slow cooker and stir.
6. Slow cook on low 3-3.5 hours OR pressure cook on high 20 minutes OR bake at 250 for 1.5-2 hours or until chicken is tender.

Uncle Guy, a satisfied customer who came back for seconds.

FYI – Best. Cookies. Ever. (Buy them here at World Market). I wish I could un-learn of their existence.

Meatball Subs

These meatballs have become a family favorite. I make them regularly. I make at least a double batch and then freeze them in bags of 10-12 meatballs. Unfortunately, I can’t claim ownership of this recipe, it hails from Budget Bytes, a delicious, budget friendly blog. I used these meatballs to make Salisbury steak meat balls a few weeks back (see the post here). They are delicious. While I have managed to find a variety of uses for them, we most commonly use them in classic spaghetti & meatballs, and meatball subs. Both meals are incredible quick and easy. 
I just reheat the meatballs in sauce, put them on a bun, with provolone cheese, and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Super easy, and super satisfying! 

Stuffed Bell Peppers

This is a family favorite and I am happy to say a (somewhat) toddler approved meal. I started making this at least five years ago, and have lost the original recipe. Regardless, I’ve made many changes over the years. The current version has to be the most satisfying, and its very busy-mom/OAMC/freezer friendly!
When I first started making this recipe, I cut the bell peppers length wise, and made little boats. I baked them in a casserole dish. Later I begun doubling our recipe, and freezing a second tray. More recently I discovered that it was possible to make these in the crock pot! Not only does this require significantly less active cooking time, it requires quite a bit less prep. The recipe below makes approximately 10 peppers. I cooked 5 the other day (enough for dinner and left overs) and then froze the remaining peppers. As they are individually freezable, you can choose how many you want to freeze and/or cook in the future. Lastly, I included some suggestions, these are quite customizable to your taste.

Taco Stuffed Bell Peppers

Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans*
  • 1 can pinto beans*
  • 2 packages taco seasoning**
  • 1/2 cup water (per taco seasoning directions)
  • 10 bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup salsa (or Rotel)
  • 1 block cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican/taco cheese
Optional ingredients & toppings
  • additional shredded Mexican/taco cheese
  • sour cream
  • hot sauce
  • crushed tortilla chips
  • Jalapenos
*You can substitute cooked dry beans, I just didn’t know how to make them until recently. Check out Mary’s post for more info. 

**I purchase this ingredient in bulk at Costco. I know some people make their own. (Another project for the future!). Use enough seasoning for 2-2.5 lbs worth of meat.

Directions:

  1. Drain and rinse beans. Set aside.
  2. Brown the ground beef.
  3. Add onions, beans, taco seasoning, and water to the pan.
  4. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until onions begin to soften (approx 5 minutes)
  5. This is a good time to cut the tops off the bell peppers, and clean out the seeds/insides. Set aside for later.
  6. Stir in 1/4 C salsa or Rotel
  7. Add in cream cheese – I slice mine up into chunks to make it easier to blend
  8. Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup shredded cheese based on your preferences
  9. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  10. Scoop the mixture into the bell peppers. Top with shredded cheese
To Freeze: Place peppers upright on a pan or plate. Freeze over night. Wrap individually or put in bag or container.
To Cook (in slow cooker) Place peppers in slow cooker with 1/4 C salsa + 1/4 C water. Cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. You can also use taco sauce in the slow cooker instead of salsa and water.
To cook (in oven): This requires an additional step. Before stuffing, boil bell peppers for approximately 5 minutes to soften and start the cooking process. Then follow the steps listed above. When complete, cover the bottom of a casserole dish with salsa, or taco sauce, place peppers and bake covered for 20 minutes at 350. When cooking this way, I slice the tops of the peppers, then length wise to make boats, so a cover can fit on my dish. You can fit 4 upright peppers in a square casserole dish, or 4 pepper boats (2 whole peppers). They could be frozen this way as well. 
To Serve: Eat each pepper as is or topped with crushed tortilla chips, hot sauce, jalapenos, or whatever other topping you may enjoy.  

Variations & notes: 
  • While it was not part of the first recipe I used, many versions of this include cooked rice. I’ve never made it with rice, but you could add it. In addition to onions, you can add bell pepper (I was left with an entire bowl of diced bell pepper from the tops), mushrooms, or other veggies (like corn).
  • We used salsa since my toddler cannot eat spicy foods, but prior we usually used Rotel. I’d probably add some chipotle peppers in adobo if we could eat spicy now. 
  • I like this combo of beans and meat, but you could double the meat, or use only one type of beans, or do all beans or beans and rice for a vegetarian version. I’ve never tried it, but I bet this would taste good with chicken or pork also. 
  • I’ve seen versions of this made with raw meat. As 6 hours on low in a slow cooker is more than enough time to cook raw ground beef, this would cut way down on prep time, but I’m not sure how mixing all the ingredients (spices) together raw would work. 
  • Finally, we’ve used pretty much this same filling with some additional taco sauce to make taco stuffed pasta shells…. another recipe which is delicious as well as easily prepared and frozen. 

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

This is a family favorite and a good freezer meal. I ran across a great chicken sale, and stocked up. This was one of the recipes that I chose to make with all that chicken. It makes a lot, but I doubled it anyway. One serving makes enough for us to all eat at one meal, and then have left overs the next day. I split the other half between two pans to freezer for later use. I’ll just be able to pop the frozen pans (or defrosted pans) or pasta into the oven for dinner.
This recipe comes from Pearls, Handcuffs & Happy Hour. I used rotini and penne pasta because it is what I had on hand. Both were “veggie” pastas – in case you were wondering about the funky colors. You’ll have to click the link for the full recipe, but here are some pictures of the steps.

First you saute onions, then add peppers and garlic. Add chicken, green enchilada sauce, regular (red) enchilada sauce, salt and some spices. Let that simmer. Add cheese, then sour cream, and then add the pasta in. Be prepared to be amazed. Once done, I used half for our dinner and dumped the remainder into two small square pans lined with foil. I’ll let these “flash freeze” over night, and then pop out of the pans, then into a ziploc bag and into the freezer. (This means my pans are always free). 
Stay tuned for more posts on freezer friendly meals, and how to stock your freezer. 

Quick and Easy Burritos

Burritos are quick, easy, cheap to make and versatile.  They can easily be customized for your individual tastes, and are freezer friendly.  My favorite way to fix them is to fry them until golden brown in a small amount of oil, turning over halfway through. (If they are frozen when you start, be sure your heat is low so that the center has time to heat through.) You can also microwave them or bake them until heated through. I learned to make them from Mexican friends when we were living in Mexico.  When my kids were teenagers, this was a favorite snack to hold them over until the next meal, and the best part was that they could make them themselves.

The picture above is one of Kayte’s burritos (she likes lots of cheese).  All you really need is a flour tortilla and some refried beans, but I prefer to add cheese and usually some kind of meat.  Leftover cooked chicken or pulled pork works well, or I sometimes use a piece of bacon (cooked).  Let your imagination be your guide!  They are surprisingly delicious if you stop there, but adding any combination of toppings right before serving (chopped tomatoes, salsa, sour cream or feta cheese, shredded lettuce or cabbage) takes them over the top.

They are quick and easy to put together.

  • 1 Soft-taco size flour tortilla 
  • 2 heaping tablespoons refried beans (homemade or from a can)
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded or cut in a strip
  • Meat of your choice (optional)
  • Toppings (optional) – salsa, chopped tomatoes, sour cream or feta cheese, shredded lettuce or cabbage, chopped onions)

Put a line of refried beans down the center of the tortilla, top with cheese and meat (if using). Fold the ends in and then the sides over until you have formed a roll.  That’s it!  If you are going to eat it immediately bake, fry, or microwave – you can even eat it without heating if you like since all the fillings are already cooked. This makes one small burrito.  Either make several of these for one serving, or use a larger tortilla, increasing the filling ingredients as needed. To freeze, wrap tightly in parchment paper, foil or plastic wrap and put in a freezer baggie.  I prefer parchment paper, because it can go right into the microwave without unwrapping.

The picture above shows the progression from refried beans to cheese to meat (leftover carnitas).  The picture below shows how to fold the burrito.  Once folded, the next step is to cook or wrap for the freezer.

Here is an easy variation that works well for breakfast.  Heat tortilla briefly (microwave or in a dry skillet), fill with scrambled eggs, sausage or bacon (optional) cheese, chopped onion, chopped tomato, shredded lettuce or cabbage, and/or salsa).  
These are so quick and easy that you can have a batch in the freezer, just waiting to grab to take to work for lunch or to make a quick meals when you don’t have much time.