Episode 69 You Need a Backup

Everyone has days where their plans change. Life happens, but it doesn’t have to derail you. Have a backup. Marie defines a backup as a meal you can get on the table in 20 minutes or less with ingredients you have in your house at all times.

 

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas are one of my favorite backup meals. They come together quickly with pantry staples. Other great backup meals include Chicken Noodle Soup and Breakfast for dinner.

 

Links from this episode:

Weekly Meal Planning Sheet: FeedYourFamilyTonight.com/plan

Meal Planning Notebook

Instagram

Facebook

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

French Dip Sandwiches

Instant Pot Lemony Chicken

ALDI 101

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

Every family needs a couple of dinners that are your “backup” plan. These are meals for which you always keep the ingredients in the house. You can pull these meals together in 20 minutes or less when all your plans fall apart and you end up home at dinnertime, and everyone is hungry and cranky. Bean and cheese quesadillas are one of those meals in my house. I always have tortillas in my freezer, a can of beans in my pantry, and cheese in my fridge. In less than 20 minutes, dinner is served.

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

Corn or Flour Tortillas (Whichever your family prefers. Corn are usually gluten free.)

1 Can Refried Beans

1 Cup Shredded Cheese (I usually use cheddar, but monterey jack, pepper jack and Mexican blend all work well.)

Optional Extras

Pickled Jalapenos (chopped fine)

Green Onions (white and green parts sliced thinly)

Salsa

Sour Cream

Guacamole

Pico de gallo

Directions

When making quesadillas for a family, I find it easiest to use a large pancake griddle. You can use a nonstick or cast iron skillet, but it only cooks one at a time and I can usually get three on my electric griddle. You will need two tortillas for each quesadilla. I like to lay out one for each person in my family. Spread the refried beans on one tortilla per person. You do not want to make it too thick or it will ooze out the sides when you cut them. For a 6 inch tortilla I use 2-3 heaping Tablespoons of beans.

Heat the griddle to high heat or heat up the skillet over medium high heat. Place the tortillas with beans on the hot griddle or skillet. Divide the cheese among all the quesadillas and top with any optional toppings. Place a second tortilla on top of each quesadilla. Cook over high heat for about three minutes until brown. Gently use a spatula to flip the quesadillas and cook the second side for another 2-3 minutes until the cheese is melted and the tortilla has browned.  **Note** I like to sprinkle a little extra cheese around the edge of the tortilla. It will get brown and crisp and is my favorite part to eat.

Remove the quesadillas from the griddle or skillet to a cutting board and use a pizza cutter to slice it into 6 triangles. Serve with salsa, sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo if you wish.

Episode 68 ALDI 101

Do you love ALDI? Are you nervous to shop at ALDI? Marie talks about all the things she loves about ALDI. What do you need to know before you shop at ALDI? What do you want to avoid when shopping at ALDI? It’s ALDI 101. All the basics for shopping at ALDI.

-Bring a quarter

-Bring grocery bags, but if you forget, grab a box in the store or buy a couple of paper bags at the checkout for 7 cents each. (You will save so much that it is okay to buy a few bags.)

-ALDI has the best prices on conventional produce and good prices on organic produce.

-All house brand items are free of synthetic food dye.

-If you try an item and do not like it, they will replace the item and refund your money with a receipt, so don’t be afraid to try new items.

-Watch out for “Special Buy” or “Seasonal” items. If you find a product you like, go back right away and stock up because it may not be back again for a year.

-Non-food “Special Buy” items are okay, but you may do better to purchase those at other retailers. It’s like going to Target, you can go home with more than your list if you are not careful.

-Best buys in the store:

Frozen Berries

Conventional Produce

Apples

Cheeses

Charcuterie Meats

Dairy like milk, butter, and yogurt

Almond Milk

Frozen Ground Turkey

-Watch Prices Carefully

Cooking Oils (Coconut, Olive, Avocado)

Organic Produce

Paper Products

Health Items

-Pack your groceries according to where they go in your home.

Refrigerator

Pantry

Deep freeze

Snack Cabinet

-Pack your grocery bags “Square.”

Episode 67: All Things Breakfast Sandwiches

Two of my four kids really need to eat a hearty breakfast in the morning. My husband is a big fan of a hearty breakfast too. Making breakfast sandwiches and freezing them for busy mornings is one of my favorite ways to feed my family. I like to make big batches of sandwiches, wrap each sandwich in parchment paper and put them in the freezer.

My favorite breakfast sandwich is a Spinach Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich. I bake eggs and spinach into a casserole, cut the casserole in squares and place it on a toasted English muffin with pesto and cheese. Once the sandwiches are assembled, I wrap them in parchment paper.

Tips for success:

-Toast your English muffins or bagels under the broiler

-Let cooked fillings come to room temperature before wrapping and freezing sandwiches

-Use pre-cut sheets of parchment paper to individually wrap the sandwiches (you can find a huge box of pre-cut parchment here)

-Re-heat the sandwiches at 50% power in the microwave. Mine takes 3 minutes.

 

Recipes and links from this episode. (May contain affiliate links)

Spinach Egg and Cheese Breakfast Sandwiches

Turkey Sausage

Breakfast Casserole

Spinach and Hash Brown Breakfast Bake

500 pre-cut parchment sheets (affiliate link)

This post contains affiliate links which helps fund the cost of producing a weekly podcast at no extra cost to you.

Simple Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

This week is Valentine’s Day. Most of us like to celebrate in some way. Perhaps you are planning a romantic dinner with your special someone, or maybe you are like me and want to plan a celebration that includes your kids.

We always celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family. When I was a kid my mother would make a nice dinner that always included pink biscuits that were cut into hearts rather than circles. It was a small and simple way to mark the occasion.

This year, I plan to make a nice dinner for the family. We don’t usually have dessert on weeknights, but I will be making some chocolate dipped strawberries. You can buy chocolate dipped strawberries at the grocery store or local bakery, but they are very expensive. This recipe makes a full pound of strawberries for very little money. It uses simple ingredients, but there are a few tip to ensure success.

Tip 1- Use room-temperature strawberries. Sometimes strawberries are refrigerated and sometimes they are sold at room temperature. I like to store mine in the refrigerator to keep them fresh as long as possible. I recommend taking them out of the refrigerator and washing and drying them a few hours before you dip them.

Tip 2- Dry the strawberries completely. Water is the enemy of chocolate and can cause it to seize. A drop of water in a bowl of melted chocolate will cause it to solidify and crumble. Once chocolate has seized, it can no longer be used for dipping.

Tip 3- If you are using a zip top bag for the white chocolate drizzle, cut the tip of the corner off before you put in the chocolate. I have put the chocolate in the bag and then cut off the corner and I find it harder to get a good clean cut. If you cut the bag before you can get a nice small hole.

Tip 4- DO NOT REFRIGERATE DIPPED STRAWBERRIES – I don’t mean to be dramatic, but this is really important. When you refrigerate the dipped strawberries they will start to “weep.” The strawberries release a little liquid and then they separate from the chocolate. This causes them to feel mushy in  your mouth and the chocolate shell slips off. You can make them up to 1 day in advance, but keep them at room temperature.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

1 Pound Ripe Strawberries, washed and dried well at room temperature

1 Cup Chocolate Chips (I like semi-sweet.)

1 teaspoon Coconut Oil

2 Tablespoons White Candy Melts (optional for drizzling)

Directions

Line a baking sheet or large cutting board with wax paper.

Place chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl that is not too large. You want the chocolate to be deep enough to dip. You could also use a 1 cup glass measuring cup. Add the coconut oil to the chocolate chips and microwave on high for 1 minute. Gently stir the chocolate. If it is not completely melted after stirring, microwave another 20 seconds. Stir well and repeat 20 second intervals until the chocolate is fully melted, but be careful not to overheat the chocolate as it will burn easily. The chips will hold their shape even when melted so it is important to stir frequently.

Pick up the strawberry and gently lift the stem away from the flesh leaving it attached. Holding the stem, dip the strawberry in the melted chocolate, turning to coat all around. Let the excess drip off and then set the strawberry on the wax paper. Continue until all the strawberries are dipped. Make sure to leave a little room between each berry so you have room to add drizzle.

In a small microwave safe bowl, add the white candy melts. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir well. If it is not completely melted, microwave another 20 seconds and stir again. Repeat until melted. Be very careful not to overheat the candy melts as they burn easily. Use a pastry bag with a small round tip or cut a small piece off the corner of a zip top bag. Add the melted white candy to the bag. Drizzle a fine stream of white candy over the dipped strawberries.

Let the chocolate cool and harden on the strawberries. This will take 30 minutes to 1 hour. Serve at room temperature. Dipped strawberries will last about 1 day. Do not place in an air-tight container and do not refrigerate when storing.

Episode 66 Let’s Talk About Beef Soup

There are two basic ways to make Beef Soup. One is to start with meat and broth, the other is to start with meaty bones and make your own broth. Both have a place. The first type can be a Manic Mom Meal on the table in under 30 minutes. The second takes hours but most of the work is “hands off” and isn’t hard to make.

 

Max’s Favorite Soup is a perfect example of a quick and easy beef soup. Beef broth, browned hamburger, and worcestershire sauce build the flavor.  You can add any veggies you prefer. It is a good idea to stagger adding the veggies to the soup. Start with the heartier root vegetables and potatoes and let them start cooking before you add the quick-cooking veggies like corn and green beans.

 

One thing that is missing from this simple soup is the velvety mouth feel that comes from gelatin. When you make broth from bones, the collagen and gelatin present in the bones give the broth body and texture. To mimic this texture, you can add a teaspoon of unflavored gelatin.

 

It is important to brown the hamburger or chopped meat well. The browning adds flavor to the soup.

 

The second type of beef soup is roasted bone beef soup. I start with meaty soup bones and season them well with salt and pepper. I roast the bones on high heat for about an hour until the meat is deep brown and the bones are turning golden. You can do this in a Dutch oven or on a rimmed baking sheet.

Once the bones are roasted, I simmer the bones in water with a bay leaf, onion, garlic and other veggies for 3-4 hours. You can do this in the oven or on the stove. I find the oven much easier, but if you don’t have an oven-safe pot with a lid, the stove works fine.

 

After the broth has simmered, remove the bones, meat, and discard the vegetables. Remove the meat from the bones and cut into pieces before returning to the pot.

 

If you are adding noodles, rice, or another starch to the soup, I recommend cooking it first so the starch does not soak up all the velvety broth.

If you have questions about Beef Soup, please feel free to email Marie@mariefiebach.com or join me in the Feed Your Family Tonight Facebook Group.

Instant Pot Lemony Chicken

Lemony Chicken

I like to keep cooked chicken in my freezer. It is handy to add to soups or quesadillas. Usually I roast whole chickens and make bone broth, but lately I have been turning to my Instant Pot. I usually have chicken taco meat in the freezer, but that does not go well in chicken noodle soup.

Enter Lemony Chicken. Lemony chicken is my new favorite. I make it with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The light lemon flavor adds so much to other dishes. The recipe makes 3 pounds so there is enough for dinner and extra to put in the freezer. I like to serve it with rice and veggies and then freeze the rest with all the juices from the pot. I add the juices in with chicken broth when making soups or other recipes.

It is amazing how 1 lemon can totally transform the flavor of the chicken meat. If you are new to the Instant Pot, check out Thriving Home and get their free Instant Pot Cooking Times Chart. It really is a great resource. In this recipe, I found that because the meat is stacked without much liquid it takes a couple minutes more to get the meat to temperature.

Instant Pot Lemony Chicken

3-3 1/2 Pounds Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs

1 Tablespoon Coarse Sea Salt

1 Lemon (zest and juice)

1/3 Cup Water

Directions

Using a kitchen scissors, cut off any large fat pockets on the edges of the chicken thighs. It is okay to have a little fat, but you want to cut off the big streaks of fat.

Zest the lemon and place on a small plate or cutting board. Mix the salt and lemon zest together. (I just use my fingers to combine.) Layer the chicken thighs in the instant pot. Sprinkle the lemon zest and salt over each piece of chicken before covering with the next layer. Once all the chicken is in the pot, sprinkle any remaining salt and lemon zest on top of the raw chicken.

Add the water and juice from the lemon and lock on the lid of the instant pot. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes with a quick release.

Remove the meat from the pot and shred with 2 forks. You can eat immediately, or freeze with the juices from the pot to use in recipes later.