Category Archives: Mega Cooking

Chicken Crescent Bundles

My husband is a true cowboy in all areas, meaning: Beef is his first favorite among meat choices. Here in our mid-western corner of “bovine” country, it’s not uncommon to have cattlemen that refuse to eat chicken. Yes, even to rudeness. Thankfully my dh is not that way, because I happen to love chicken. My point is, dh rarely asks for chicken dishes and he occasionally asks for this one. It’s from my friend Jana, who sometimes comments here. Super recipe. Another one for you, Andrea!

Chicken Crescent Bundles

  • 3 small or 2 large chicken breasts (4 cups worth)
  • 2 packages refrigerated crescent rolls
  • 6-8 oz cream cheese
  • 4 TB butter melted, divided
  • 1 TB chives
  • garlic, pepper–just a little
  • seasoned croutons
  • 2 TB milk

Cut up cooked chicken and mix with cream cheese, chives, seasonings, and 2 TB butter and 2 TB milk together in large bowl. Seperate crescent rolls into 8 rectangles, pinching seams. Put 1/3 cup chicken filling on middle of each rectangle, close dough around chicken pinching ends together. Brush w/remaining butter and sprinkle with crumbs.

If freezing, you can wait on the butter/crumbs or not, your choice. I freeze them on trays, and once frozen I dump them into freezer bags. This way they’re frozen with no chance to stick together in the bag.

Bake at 350*F for 25 minutes if fresh, 35 minutes if frozen.

Jana, remember the first time we had these together? You’d just driven 10 hours to visit me, and we had a big 4th of July gathering at Pastor Woody’s house. We’d not decided about attending, unsure whether you and the girls would be up to it after the long trip…but you not only were up for it, you had this great recipe. We threw it together and got so many compliments on it at the potluck that night.

Great memories!

Chicken Tetrazzini

Another mega-cooking favorite, posted here for Andrea, who is cooking ahead in anticipation of her second baby’s birth. This particular recipe is from my friend Laurie. Friends are the best cookbooks, you know.

Each batch makes 12 servings; this is an easy one to triple.

Chicken Tetrazzini (3x, 2x, 1x)

  • 1.5, 1, .5–16 oz package spaghetti (I use angel hair pasta)
  • 3.75, 2.5, 1.25 cups–finely chopped onion
  • 9TB, 6TB, 3TB–margarine or butter
  • 1.5, 1, .5–cup chopped green pepper
  • 16.5, 11, 5.5 cups–cooked, diced chicken
  • 12, 8, 4 cups–grated Monterey Jack cheese*
  • 6, 4, 2–10.75 oz cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 3, 2, 1–10.75 oz soup can milk
  • Salt and Pepper

Break noodles in half, cook as directed until al dente, drain. Saute onions in butter. Thoroughly mix onions and remaining ingredients with spaghetti. Put mix in containers (to freeze) or pans (if baking immediately), according to meal-size preferred by your family. If freezing, I just double bag family meal-sized portions in gallon freezer bags.

To serve: Thaw and place in baking dish. Bake uncovered at 350*F until bubbly, about 30-40 minutes.

I have an earlier post on mega-cooking which explains the column format above (3x, 2x, 1x). I tried to format it like that for this blog, but it was a mess. It’s just an easy reference for me when planning grocery lists. I can decide if I want to double or triple without thinking too hard about it!

*For shopping purposes, 12 cups cheese=3lbs

Homemade Pizza Pockets

Here’s another favorite. This one comes from my friend Cara, of the “homeschool mommies mega-cooking days”… My favorite thing about this recipe is how quickly the dough rises. You can’t beat this recipe for taste and ease of preparation.

Remember, I make several batches at a time with this–that’s why it’s called “mega-cooking”–so this recipe makes 4 batches.

Pizza Pockets

  • 2 batches of dough*
  • 2 lbs cooked sausage, or hamburger or meat of some sort
  • 1 pkg Mozzarella cheese
  • 2 cans chopped mushrooms, or whatever toppings you enjoy. I usually add chopped onions, bell peppers and black olives to mine if I have them on hand…things my family usually passes on…

*Dough

  • 2 pkgs yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 5 cups flour4 TB oil
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  1. Dissolve yeast
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients
  3. Knead
  4. Rise

Assembly Instructions for Pizza Pockets:

  1. Separate dough into 16 balls (I usually vary the sizes a bit and get more balls/pockets. I make small ones for my younger girls.)
  2. Flatten into circles with rolling pin
  3. Stuff with ingredients and fold dough over, sealing at edge.
  4. Cut two or three small “steam” slits across the top with a knife. If I’m making different varieties, I cut twice for hamburger, 3 times for pepperoni, etc.
  5. Bake at 350*F for 8-12 minutes, or till crust begins to brown.
  6. Cool completely, place in freezer bags, with bag of sauce separately.

To eat, you just stick the frozen pockets on a baking sheet, reheat them in the oven, and serve alongside individual dishes of dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce for each 4 pockets
  • seasoned with garlic powder, minced onion, and Italian seasonings to taste.

Mix well and heat before serving.

Chicken Lasagna

In one of my mega-cooking posts, I mentioned that ingredients for Chicken Lasagna are always on my shopping list when chicken is on sale…and I’m finally getting around to posting the recipe, because more than a couple of you have asked me in the past for it, and I keep forgetting to deliver. Sorry!

So here it is:

Chicken Lasagna

  • 1 (10 oz) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (10 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • garlic powder to taste
  • 8 lasagna noodles
  • 4 cups chopped, cooked chicken
  • 3 cups cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1 16 oz bag California veggies*
  1. Combine soups, broth and garlic in bowl
  2. Layer noodles, chicken, veggies, soup and cheddar cheese
  3. Top with mozzarella cheese
  4. Bake at 350*F for 30 minutes
  5. Cool, wrap, freeze (or eat if you’re not filling the freezer!)

I always double or triple this, and freeze it in disposable aluminum pans. Thaw it the night before and you’re all set the next day for a hearty home-style feast.

For more tips on mega-cooking, and how my friends and I “get it done”, be sure to follow the link!

*I steam the veggies in a saucepan on stove till slightly cooked, and then chop them with my food chopper before layering them in. Personal preference!

Mega-cooking for Camping Trip

When I mention campsite cooking, I get the same response from almost everybody:

“When I’m on vacation, I don’t want to cook!”

So don’t cook while you’re on vacation, cook ahead of time, like I did, and let your husband do the grilling and reheating! Honestly, our biggest worry was keeping ice in the coolers, the meal-fixing was a cinch.

And look at it this way, if you’re camping, and eating food you would have eaten at home anyway, you’re only out finances-wise for gas and any sightseeing expenditures you decide to splurge on.

Here are a few things I did that would be classified under mega-cooking, in the weeks before our trip:

  • Every time I browned hamburger I put aside some in a container in the freezer. By the time we left I had enough browned meat to use for the biscuits and hamburger gravy.
  • The campsite manager warned us ahead of time that South Dakota nights are cold, so I decided to make chili and beef stew–something to stick to our ribs. I just doubled these meals ahead of time, and stuck the extra portions in the freezer. They reheated great in a cast iron skillet over the campfire.
  • In the same way I baked extra cornbread, muffins and biscuits to accompany our meals. I froze the muffins because I made them 2 weeks prior to our trip. The unfrozen cornbread and biscuits reheated in foil on the grill were as good as fresh from the oven!
  • Take some mixes along…I bought a McCormick’s homestyle white gravy mix that only needed water added. I also took a box of pancake mix that only required water to mix up.

I took some frozen yellow cake, planning to serve it with blackberries and whipped cream. Unfortunately, the gallon-sized bag I had the cake stored in was punctured and let melted ice in…ruined the cake. But we enjoyed the sugared blackberries over crumbled blueberry muffins.

My mom gave me a bagful of clean peanut butter jars…these were perfect for transporting eggs. I cracked them into the jars ahead of time and just stuck them in the cooler. Mix and pour for scrambled eggs to eat plain, or mixed with foil-cooked potatoes, or in breakfast tacos. Then toss the jar!

I also packed canned peaches, grapes, applesauce, raisins/craisins/dried blueberries and way more snack items than we were able to consume. (You just never know with my dh, the self-proclaimed snack king) and took dry cereal along as a breakfast back up.

We had milk that needed used up by its expiration date, so I filled two peanut butter jars up and took them instead of the powdered milk I’d planned on taking. Worked great!

Of course, you’ve got to take along hot dogs and ground meat for hamburgers and my girls’ favorite: MARSHMALLOWS to roast…

We ate well, and had food leftover. And by lining the pans with foil before cooking, I saved myself a lot of clean-up.

Have I convinced you yet? 🙂

Recipes: Smoked Brisket and Dill Dip

Thankfully my mother-in-law knows the in’s and out’s of the fair building’s kitchen, and she beat me there on Saturday morning, June 9th. She already had the 100 cups of coffee percolating, was in the middle of making gazillion gallons of iced tea and pink lemonade, so I got busy arranging the various cookies my mom, sisters and I had baked on some beautiful shiny-gold trays…by the time people arrived at 9:30 A.M., I was wrist deep in thinly slicing my cold briskets so I could get them in the roaster…the busy anniversary day had begun!

Hickory Smoked BBQ Brisket

  • 1 3-6 lb beef brisket (trimmed of fat if desired)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • celery flakes
  • onion powder
  • garlic salt
  • salt
  • Mrs. Dash or Crazy Mixed-up Salt
  • 2 oz. (1/2 bottle) Figaro brand hickory liquid smoke

Sprinkle both sides of meat with all the spices. Wrap meat well in aluminum foil. Place in crockpot. Add warm water until even with top of meat. Cover and cook on low 8-12 hrs. Remove from foil and slice meat. Add BBQ sauce.

Mary’s note: This turns out great in the crockpot, but I never add water as this original recipe directs. Also, since I was making large quantities for the 50th anniversary luncheon, I did most of mine in my oven and cut the baking time in half. Do everything the same, just put it in a 9×13″ pan and bake at 350 degrees F for about 4 hours. Works great! Also, it froze well till needed.

Dill Dressing

(great as salad dressing, dip or on top of baked potatoes)

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp. dried onion flakes
  • 1 tsp. dill weed
  • 1 tsp. Lawry’s seasoned salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic granules
  • 1/3 cup milk*

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate overnight.

*Leave out milk to use as a dip.

The two above recipes were the most requested, so I thought I’d pass them along to you, as I’ll be emailing them to several family members anyway. We love brisket fixed that way, it’s so moist and tender, the foil traps all the heat and flavor…mmm!

We fed 75 people at the luncheon, and besides brisket and dill dip, we had sliced turkey, pork loin and ham, Kaiser rolls and wheat buns, sliced bread and all the sandwich fixings…about 10 bags of chips, a big bowl of baby carrots, another big bowl of green and red grapes, and two large containers of potato salad–one flavored with dill pickle, the other with sweet pickle–courtesy of my sweet mother-in-law.

We had a little fun with my dad, with me MC-ing, because it was his birthday as well as their anniversary, then we cleared the lunch buffet away, changed clothes and got ready for the bigger reception at 2 P.M. Cake. Punch (Wowser, that’s another recipe I need to share here–affordable and light like champagne!). Nuts. Mints. Check!

It was a wonderful day, with many people coming all the way from Massachusetts to Oregon to pay tribute to my wonderfulest of parents. My only complaint is there wasn’t enough time to visit with all of them…

At the end of the day, my mother-in-law again showed up and helped us clean, her energy is boundless. I was beginning to feel faint after going to bed at 4 A.M. the previous night, and when the last vehicle other than ours left the parking lot, hubby sent me home with the girls (plus 2 nieces) and stayed to mop the entire building’s floor.

Did I mention he’d been outside in the barns most of the (hot) day giving horse rides to all the children? What a great man, huh? He loved it, much preferring behind-the-scenes to all the social-mongering going on indoors. *smile*

All in all, a wonderful culmination of a year’s worth of planning.

And now we focus on getting to South Dakota for my niece’s wedding!

Hospitality

“Hospitality is so much more than entertaining. To me, it means organizing my life in such a way that there’s always room for one more, always an extra place at the table or an extra pillow and blanket, always a welcome for those who need a listening ear. It means setting aside time for planned fellowship and setting aside lesser priorities for impromptu teas and gatherings.” ~Emilie Barnes

My favorite memory of impromptu hospitality was the day I introduced myself to another homeschooling mom while at the library. We struck up a conversation. Neither of us wanted it to end, and she invited me and my girls to her home for grilled cheese and chicken soup. It was the most lovely time.

Beautiful Home on a Budget (co-written with Yoli Brogger) and More Hours in My Day are my favorites written by Emilie Barnes. She has brilliant suggestions for simplifyCozy Cabining hospitality, so that it’s less about “impressing” others and more about being 100% there for your company at the appearance of each unexpected guest. I loved her suggestions of keeping certain things on hand all the time, cookies or casseroles in the freezer–ready to pull out at a moment’s notice…and the book on decorating is one every homemaker should own!

How about going for an impromptu moment of hospitality this coming week? Stop by a friend’s and insist she come out with you for Dairy Queen or Starbucks. Invite your nieces over for a tea party this afternoon.

Any other ideas?

Variation on Twice Baked Potatoes

What’s for supper? A question I often call and ask my big sis when toying with the possibilities. (See why I function so much better with meals in the freezer?) Last night I asked her her opinion of Sloppy Joes, and we both agreed: highly overrated. Yuck. I ended up making Pop-up Pizza…essentially an upside down pizza with the dough on top and cheese in the middle. Loved it!

Cream-cheese frosted cinnabuns are cooling on my counter currently. Nothing better on a frigid Sunday afternoon, or more guaranteed to ruin your appetite for supper…

So to keep it light, I’ve got potatoes baking in the oven. Once they’re roasted, I’ll halve them, brush on a mixture of melted butter/taco seasonings and sprinkle shredded Colby-Jack cheese on top. Back into the oven to sizzle and melt and then out to enjoy with fresh fruit and sweet rolls.

If you like this idea and want to go the whole she-bang rather than my “quick and easy version”, scoop out the potato “pulps” into a bowl, add a little sour cream, melted butter and flavor with a bit of taco seasonings (or bacon!). Beat it all together till smooth and refill the empty halved skins. Top with grated cheese and return to oven for ten minutes.

Did you know you could freeze twice baked potatoes? I have, with great success. Let the refilled potatoes cool, package them and freeze. When needed, stick the frozen potatoes into the preheated oven and bake. If I remember right, they only took around 25 minutes to heat up nicely, even from frozen.

What are you having for supper tonight?

On Mega-Cooking

A friend who reads my blog asked me to give more info on mega-cooking. One of my favorite subjects! (I’m always out to snag someone to join me for a morning or afternoon of doubling and tripling meals!)

In years past, several other homeschool moms and I borrowed a huge, well-equipped church kitchen in which to mix and assemble our family-sized meals. The kitchen we used had four ovens, two sinks, every utensil/bowl/baking necessity, and best of all a queen-bed sized island in the middle that made for some exceptional female bonding while we worked! (Wink…)

Armed with the grocery sales ads and our favorite recipes, the six of us would gather after a homeschool day meeting and quickly map out our strategy. This would include decisions on whether to go with ground beef or chicken dishes (whichever was on sale), whether to triple two recipes or double three recipes, and what steps we’d do at home in preparing to assemble. Sometimes, when we were feeling really conscientious, we’d plan an activity for the kids to do while we cooked. (One mom would have kid-duty while the rest of us assembled her meals.) But most of the time, we just let them run hog wild in the gym. Hey, we could watch them while we worked!

When you’ve mega-cooked for awhile, you gather a repertoire of family favorites. I’ve assembled mine in a binder. Each recipe is written or typed out on typing paper, and I have three columns as follows:

3x 2x 1x Ingredient

Under the “3x” I put the tripled amount of whatever ingredient is first on the recipe. “2x” stands for the doubled amount, and “1x” is the normal recipe amounts. So for meatballs, it might look something like this:

3x 2x 1x Ingredients

6 lbs 4 lbs 2lbs ground beef

And so on, listing each ingredient’s amount in its column. It makes a handy reference when shopping list time rolls around.

Also, there are a couple ways to go when deciding how to freeze your meals. You can line your 9×13” baking dishes with foil, freeze, then pop the frozen lasagnas or casseroles out and store in 2 gallon Ziplocs. Or you can buy foil pans at Dollar General, sometimes 3 for a dollar! If you go the Ziploc route, seal the zippered line all the way up against a drinking straw, and then suction the air out of the bag by inhaling on the straw a few times. This wards off freezer-burn, and the bags stack better in your freezer. Don’t forget your Sharpie pen to label everything as to its contents and the date!

We always cooked our meats prior to our cooking sprees, and usually were at the clean-up stage after two hours of work. On a chicken day, we’d come home with two 9×13” pans of chicken-veggie lasagna, two 9” chicken shepherd pies, and Chicken Tetrazini or Chicken Crescent Bundles. On a beef day, we’d do bierocks, meatballs or mini-meatloaves, and two pans of beef lasagna. Pretty good to have six meals to show for two hours of “friend time”. Especially when you think that most of us spend anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour on meal prep/baking each evening for supper!

You needn’t limit it to main dishes either. Sometimes, we’d make 8 dozen cookies, or frozen fruit salads.

Our homeschool group meets at a different church now (smaller facilities), and we haven’t mega-cooked together in ages. I keep thinking I need to put out feelers at my church, to see if any of the other mommies want to dig up their favorite recipes and gather together to share the cook-load.

By the way, I do have a few other posts under the mega-cooking category over on my sidebar. I’ll try to add to them here and there, so if you’re wanting a particular recipe that I mentioned, let me know in comments!

Freezing Apple Pie Filling

 

In 2004, I discovered this wonderful recipe! Made some adjustments, and ever since, I’ve “mega-cooked” my apple pie fillings. The following recipe truly does store in the freezer for up to a year…in fact, just the other day I thawed one that I’d put up last September and the resulting pie was super!

Apple Pie Filling

  • 24 cups sliced peeled baking apples (6-7 lbs)
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 ½ cups sugar (I use half brown sugar, half white)
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 10 cups water

In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice; set aside. In a Dutch oven (large kettle works) over medium heat, combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Add water; bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add apples; return to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until apples are tender, about 6-8 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes. Ladle into freezer containers, leaving ½ inch headspace. Cool at room temperature no longer than 1 ½ hours. Seal and freeze; store for up to 12 months. Yield: 5 ½ quarts (enough for about five 9-inch pies).

Okay, here are my tips. Instead of quart jars, I use gallon-sized freezer bags. Let the filling cool a bit before filling the bags (one quart per bag) and then flatten the bag to freeze it. This way, you can stack the “boards” of filling in your freezer and slide one out when needed. Less space needed, and the thawing time is shorter. After thawing, I heat mine up on the stove or in the microwave before putting it in my pie crust, and dot it with butter before sealing the top crust.

Along the same lines, you can stack and freeze your pie crusts. Roll them in your 8 or 9″ circles between wax paper, and stack them together in one of those two gallon freezer bags. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using!

For a whole lot of fascinating information on making pie crust, and several recipes for “the perfect pie crust” go to Simply Recipes.

My pastry recipe is an old family one–tried and true–that uses butter-flavored Crisco. In light of that, here’s something I learned, that I’ll pass on, from the above site:

“The problem with shortening is that until recently, Crisco shortening contained a lot of transfats. Fortunately, they’ve come out with a new version, in a green can, that has 0 grams of trans fats.”

Now go make some pie!