Freezer Friendly

This, my friends, is liquid gold. Pure liquid gold.

Fresh squeezed lime juice

One post-preschool-drop-off morning last week, I spent the better part of two hours driving around west Houston scouting the price of limes. Grocery stores roll their weekly prices on Wednesdays and with our annual Tequila & Taquitos Bash approaching, I needed to find the most affordable source for limes.

My first stop?

The price of limes

NOPE. I’ve never paid more than .20/lime. Ever. And in recent months, I’ve actually been completely spoiled with .10 limes.

Although I did watch in complete wonder (horror? envy?) as a woman loaded 10 limes into a bag without so much as batting a (totally fake) eyelash and moved on. As in, $6.90. For 10 limes.

Fresh squeezed lime juice

I needed 230 limes. As in ~$160. In just limes. So not gonna happen.

The rest of my stops were met with only slightly less budget-breaking prices: .44-.45. And then I rolled into my last stop, found .25 limes, and began the tedious process of digging through the bins looking for The Perfect Lime.

The Perfect Lime
Not only are limes expensive these days thanks to the basic economic principle of supply, demand, and entprenurial drug-cartel hijacking, they also aren’t very good quality. More than 75% of that bin was full of hard, under-ripe limes.

Hard under-ripe limes do not a good margarita make. Or a good anything else.

Fresh squeezed lime juice

I look for smooth limes that give quite a bit when you squeeze them – because those softer, squishier limes? They’re ripe. Full of easy-to-extract lime juice. Full of easy-to-extract future margarita. Totally worth the [gulp] .25 each.

I also prefer the rounder limes – my juicer sometimes balks at the more football-shaped limes. And when I’m going to juice 230 limes over the course of 4 days, I prefer fewer problems and interruptions.

So you’ve hoarded limes for LimeMageddon. Now you are ready to juice and freeze.

The Perfect Lime Juicer
It’s any appliance that plugs into a wall and makes juicing 230 limes go as quick and as painless as possible. We have a 5-year-old Breville Citrus Press. (Sigh. I really do miss the DINK days.) It’s insanely heavy duty and has seen literally thousands of citrus halves over the years, from tiny key limes to the gigantigrapefruit from the RGV… and even pomegranates! Pull lever, count to 3, discard peel. Repeat. 229 more times.

And when the very sad day comes and the Breville isn’t repairable for less than $25, we’ll buy the Applica Citrus Juicer.

The Perfect Lime Margarita
Just say no to the neon green mix from a the bottle. Just say no to pre-bottled, pasteurized lime juice. Just say no – and give major side eye – to cutting your perfect lime margarita with lemon juice. (No, it’s not the same.) (Yes, everyone will be able to tell.)

If you want to drink the perfect margarita, you have to go fresh. Lime juice, water, sugar/sweetener, tequila, orange liqueur and maybe a rim of salt. That’s it. No preservatives, no food coloring, no fakesies anything.

Homemade Margarita Mix Recipe

Make your own homemade margarita mix.

Homemade Margarita Mix Recipe

Ditch the sugar in favor of a “I can’t believe this is only 118 calories” Skinny Margarita.

Blue Margarita Recipe

Two words: Margarita Popsicles.

Blue Margarita Recipe

Or tackle any one of the 24 other margarita recipes we’ve whipped up.

The Perfect Lime Juice Storage
Any freezer food-storage option will do, but if you’re going to be measuring your liquid gold lime juice stash in quarts (or gallons!), I cannot recommend these 32 oz storage containers enough. Food safe, secure seal, and they hold 3.5 cups of lime juice (with headroom for freezing). I have 6 of them in my freezer right now – that’s 21 cups – with 75 limes left to juice.

To use the lime juice, I put the frozen container in a sink of water deep enough to come up 3/4 the side of the container and let it thaw. I use what I need and if I won’t be using 3.5 cups of lime juice in the next few days (it happens… sometimes), I simply refreeze the juice.

Now you’re ready to hit the market and sort through the windfall of Lime Suckage to get the most margarita for your buck. So ladies and gentleman, start your hoarding!

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King Ranch Chicken Casserole

That is King Ranch Chicken Casserole. And it’s Texas’ contribution to the category of amorphous, 50-Shades-of-Brown, one-dish comfort foods that taste far, far better than they look.

But I’m not doing it justice.

To describe King Ranch Chicken a little more favorably – and in a manner totally worthy of that warm bowl of comfort that’s perfect for a chilly Texas fall night – think of it as a cross between a TexMex lasagna that’s made with tortillas rather than pasta and a chicken pot pie that’s lighter on the vegetables and sports a topping of corn tortillas and golden brown and bubbly cheese rather than a flakey pie crust.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Absent in this casserole are the much-maligned cream-of soups. If you want to use them, you can. But making the homemade cream-of soup that serves as the base for King Ranch Chicken is only slightly more work than cranking open a couple of cans with a manual opener. And you get to take a pass on all those 15-letter ingredients and the extra sodium.

Present in this casserole is a generous dose of green chiles for mild warmth and a mountain of shredded cheese to contribute to that oozy, melty, and magical amorphous blob.

Did I do it justice that time? Good. Now get out your grocery list and let’s get to work.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

Put it on your menu for a stretch of cold nights this winter when your schedule would high-five your for 2 nights of scoop-and-reheat leftovers. Put it on your menu for a week when store-roasted rotisseries go on sale. Put it on your menu to crush those Thanksgiving dark-meat turkey leftovers.

Either way. You’re gonna want to put it on your menu soon.

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

The ultimate in Texas comfort food, this casserole is made with homemade cream of chicken sauce and corn tortillas.

Ingredients

  • For the chicken:
  • 2.5-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts (or the meat from 1 precooked rotisserie chicken)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • For the cream sauce:
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock, divided
  • 1/2 cup cream (I use fat-free greek yogurt instead)
  • 10 oz can of Rotel tomatoes
  • 4 oz can of green or hatch chiles, drained
  • For the casserole
  • 24 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mix of white and yellow cheddars and monterrey jack)

Instructions

  1. If cooking your own chicken, preheat oven to 425. (If not, you just shaved 30 minutes off dinner prep!)
  2. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, salt, and pepper (or your favorite general seasoning).
  3. Divide it into 2-3 foil pouches and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  4. Let sit for 5 minutes before shredding.
  5. While the chicken is cooking, make the cream sauce and reduce the oven to 350.
  6. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan or pot over medium-high heat.
  7. Cook the onion, bell pepper, and garlic for ~10 minutes, until softened and there's no standing liquid left.
  8. Stir in the chili powder, red pepper, cumin, salt, and black pepper.
  9. Add the flour in 2 batches, stirring until all traces of white are gone.
  10. Add 3 cups of the chicken stock to the pot, 1 cup at a time, whisking until smooth.
  11. Whisk in the cream (or yogurt), and add the Rotel (do not drain it first) and the peppers.
  12. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
  13. Reserve 1 cup of cream sauce before adding the chicken to the pot.
  14. Lightly oil the bottom and a 13x9 baking dish and place the remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock into a bowl wide enough to hold the tortillas.
  15. Dip the tortillas into the stock (I did stacks of 4 at a time) and line the bottom of the baking dish so that the tortillas are 2 wide and 4 long.
  16. Pour half of the chicken mixture into the baking dish and top with 1/3 of the cheese.
  17. Add another layer of dipped-tortillas in the same manner, lightly pressing on them to level the contents of the pan.
  18. Top with the remaining chicken mixture and 1/3 of the cheese.
  19. Add the final layer of dipped-tortillas and press on them to level out the dish.
  20. Spread the reserved cream sauce over the tortillas and top with the remaining cheese.
  21. Bake for 45 minutes, until bubbly and the top of the casserole is golden brown.
  22. Let sit 10-15 minutes to firm up before cutting into 12-squares and serving.

Notes

Yields: 12 servings

Slightly adapted from The Pastry Queen

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Homemade Frozen French Bread Pizza

Before The Little was born, I went impressively overboard on a stock-the-freezer mission. It was part hoarding, part planning-for-the-apocalypse but I just knew I’d never ever have the time or energy to prep dinner again for the next 5+ years.

I wasn’t completely wrong.

Homemade Frozen French Bread Pizza

Most of it was your standard fare (enchiladas, pasta, soups, pizza dough, muffins, pulled pork, etc) – anything to help us feel like we had the ease of shopping in the freezer section for every meal without the calories, unpronounceable ingredients, and sodium bombs that actually come with shopping in the freezer section for every meal.

One of those “quick dinner” nights has resurfaced to become a favorite lately: Freezer French Bread Pizzas. Or as The Little refers to it, “pizza – but not circle pizza, I want long pizza.”

Homemade Frozen French Bread Pizza

Even quicker than homemade personal frozen pizzas, this one starts with a loaf of bread that someone else made. Then you bake the bread for a few minutes, top with your favorite freezer-friendly pizza toppings (no fresh tomatoes – wait ’til later for those), and freeze. My current favorite pizza: the pepperoni and hatch chile. Still.

When you’re read to eat, pop them back into the oven, adding any fresh ingredients (tomatoes go here!), and then enjoy your “long pizza” for dinner!

Freezer French Bread Pizzas

Homemade freezer french bread pizzas, healthier and fresher than store-bought pizza.

Ingredients

  • Loaf of french bread, split lengthwise and into manageable portions
  • Olive oil
  • Pizza sauce
  • Cheese
  • Toppings of choice
  • Gallon-sized freezer bags

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Place cut bread on a baking sheet (use a knife to cut and create a flat spot on the bottom of any bread piece that's wobbly).
  3. Lightly spray or brush the cut surface of the bread with olive oil and bake 7-8 minutes, until crispy and golden (but not overly browned).
  4. Remove from oven and let cool.
  5. Top with marinara, cheese, and freezer-friendly toppings like pepperoni, roasted peppers, etc. Save things like fresh tomatoes for topping just before and fresh basil or arugula for just after baking).
  6. Place back on the baking sheet and put in the freezer until frozen solid, 1-2 hours.
  7. Transfer the frozen pizzas to gallon zipper bags and freeze.
  8. To cook, preheat the oven to 425 and bake 12-15 minutes, until the edges of the pizza are very brown and the cheese is bubbly and melted.

Notes

Yields: Servings vary

Source: Confections of a Foodie Bride

Estimated time: 30 minutes

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