Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

I haven’t made this recipe in a while, and I really don’t know why.

This Spicy Shredded BBQ Chicken is great.  And it’s a Freezer Crock Pot meal, so you store them in the freezer, and then on the day you want to eat it, you just pull the bag out of the freezer and dump it into the crock pot.

A bit of work to shred it, but after that, you’re done!

And there’s leftovers, too.  Can’t beat that!

This recipe makes two bags, but you easily can double or triple it and fill up your freezer.

But remember, it IS spicy.  If you’re looking for a more mild version, go easy on the chili powder and consider using fewer green chilies per bag (the recipe calls for 2 oz) or splitting the 4 oz can between 4 bags instead of 2.

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

Here’s what I love about this (besides the ease of cooking and the leftovers):  you just dump all the ingredients in a bag.

That’s it.

The prep is literally this:  dump everything in the bag.


Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

Make sure you write your instructions on your freezer bags first, before you fill them.

Then prop up the bags on the counter by folding the edges over themselves to keep it open.

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

Okay, okay…. there is ONE step before the dumping.

You do have to dice up the onions and garlic.

I use a garlic press and squeeze those babies right in the bag.

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal


Chicken in the bottom and everything else piled in on top.  You may have to cut one chicken thigh in half if you have an uneven amount in your package.

And I guess you could – theoretically – measure out everything, but when it comes to the tomato sauce and chilies, I just go ahead and dump or scoop what looks like half the can into each bag.  It’s close enough.

After that, the easiest way to mix it up is to massage the bag gently with your fingers for a minute.

Then you’ll want to squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bag.

Lay each bag flat in the freezer on a tray or large box or anything that will allow it to freeze flat.  Smooth flat any lumpy sections that might be sticking up.

Check after a couple of hours.  Once frozen solid, the bags can be stacked or arranged on a shelf in an upright position.

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

When you take the bag out of the freezer, run it under the cold water in the sink for one minute to break up any large chunks – making sure the bag is still sealed and no water gets inside.

Then dump it in the crock pot.  Cover and cook.

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

You can flip the chicken over a few times and stir it, if you like.

Or you can just leave it and let it cook.  It doesn’t need stirring.  But I compulsively check on crock pot stuff if I’m home when it’s cooking.  Especially if it smells good.  ;)

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

Once it’s cooked, remove the chicken to a bowl or plate and shred it with two forks.

As you work, add the shredded chicken back to the pot.

It should shred easily, and it’s best to have it shredded finely so that the sauce can cling to all the tiny moist pieces, but even if you’re in a super hurry, you can still mush it up pretty quickly.

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

Doesn’t that look good?  And it’s not even mixed in yet!

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

Stir the shredded chicken back into the sauce and set the crock pot to the “stay warm” setting until you’re ready to serve it.

And there are so many ways to serve it.  I sometimes serve it by itself with rice on the side, or you could put it on the rice.  You can put it on a salad, in a taco, on some nachos, or – like in the photo at the top of the page – in a hamburger bun.

If you put it in a bun, you’ll want to toast the inside of the bun to help hold in all the juicy goodness.  Maybe even top it with a little cole slaw.

From one bag, we made a dinner of sloppy joes (in the hamburger bun I mentioned), and then the next day, I constructed some taquitos with the leftovers, pictured below.  I put a little chicken and a little cheese in a 6-inch tortilla, rolled up 15 of them and put them in a 13-by-9-inch dish with some nonstick spray.  Then I baked them at 375°F for about 20 minutes and we dunked them in a little dish of sour cream to eat.  My kids devoured them.

(Oh… and I turned on the broiler for a minute and walked away.  Don’t do that.  Don’t ever walk away from an active broiler… just sayin’)

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

Here’s the recipe:

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal


2 to 3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 sweet onion, diced
3 to 4 garlic gloves, diced or pressed
8 oz. can tomato sauce
4 oz. can diced green chilies, drained
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sweet or smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dry powdered mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Label two gallon-sized freezer plastic bags with the instructions:  Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken.  Cook on low 5-6 hours (or high 3-4 hours).  Remove chicken, shred, return to sauce, stir, serve.

Evenly distribute all of the ingredients between both bags; for example half the chicken (even if you have to cut one thigh in half), 4 oz. of tomato sauce, 1 ½ tablespoons cider vinegar, et cetera, in each.

Gently massage the bag to mix the ingredients and press out as much air as you can before sealing.  Lay the bags flat in the freezer, on a box or tray, and allow to freeze solid.  Then you can stack them or store them upright until ready to use.

When ready to eat, dump the contents of the bag into a crock pot.  You can run the closed plastic bag under cool water in the sink for a few minutes to make it easier to break it up.  Put the lid on the crock pot and cook for 5 to 6 hours on low or 3 to 4 hours on high.

Remove the chicken to a plate or bowl and shred it with two forks.  Allow it to cool first, if you need to.  Return the shredded chicken to the crock pot and stir well.  Serve or put on the “keep warm” setting until ready to eat.

Serving suggestions: over rice, inside hamburger buns, inside tacos or burritos, on a salad, or all by itself.

This recipe makes two bags/dinners.  Each bag serves 6 to 8 people.


To print the PDF version of the recipe, click here:

Shredded Spicy BBQ Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meal

Happy Eating!

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Bloody Worms in Jack O’ Lantern Peppers

Bloody Worms in Jack O Lantern Peppers for Halloween

Last year I made Spicy Spaghetti Worms in Jack O’ Lantern Pepper Pumpkins.  

And since Halloween is right around the corner, I made them again.

My girls really love these things.  Granted, they didn’t actually eat the peppers – and I knew they wouldn’t.  The good thing about this, is you can still rinse the spaghetti sauce off the pepper when dinner is over and reuse the beloved “pumpkins” in an omelet or fajita at a later meal.

But there’s something special about being served a bowl of bloody (tomato sauce) worms (fettuccine) in a jack o’ lantern (carved pepper).

Bloody Worms in Jack O Lantern Peppers for Halloween

The peppers themselves were just carved with a small paring knife in much the same design I would do on a pumpkin.  And for the meal, you can totally just throw some bottled spaghetti sauce over some noodles (I used fettuccine because they’re thicker), or you could try out my spicy version by printing this free PDF:

Spicy Spaghetti Worms in Pepper Jack O’ Lanterns

As a side note, I also threw in some chunks of pepperoni into this batch, which is totally optional (but delicious).

Happy Halloween!

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Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

In case you didn’t notice with recipes like Sausage and Gouda Mac and Cheese, I’m a huge mac and cheese fan.

And I like to experiment a little.  Change things up.

Sure, I keep some box mac and cheese mixes on hand for days when I’m feeling super lazy, but macaroni and cheese is not a complicated dish.  One of the things I love about it is the casserole nature of the baked mac and cheese that allows me to wash up all the dishes and such while it’s baking.  Which means easy cleanup after dinner.

For me, easy cleanup = easy dinner.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

Anyway, here are the ingredients for this dish.

I chose Gruyere, which is something I used to eat more of when I lived in Germany, so I like to use it occasionally.

The Capicola is a spicy ham that we put in our cold cut pies around Easter.  Apparently this is an Italian thing.  Either way, I like the ham.

But it CAN be spicy.  And the spice is intensified a little when you fry it, which is why you can see that I only added a small amount to the top of my dish right before serving.  You don’t need a lot.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

I don’t always use heavy cream when making mac and cheese, but usually just because I don’t have it on hand.

It adds a nice thickness.

Whether you use it or just straight milk, though, your roux should reach a point of being thick enough that the cheese doesn’t fall straight to the bottom when you sprinkle it in.

To get to that point, bring your roux JUST to a boil, stirring frequently.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

I switch between Panko and regular bread crumbs.  Whatever I’m in the mood for.

In this recipe, I used Panko.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

Doesn’t that look awesome?

It’s the cooked noodles mixed into the cheese sauce before it’s baked.  You do want it to look a little soupy, because the sauce will thicken up in the oven.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

Here are the bread crumbs before baking.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

I used a 1/4 lb. of Capicola, slicing it rather thinly.

You could use more:  it shrinks significantly when you fry it (like bacon), but, like I said, you don’t really need a lot.

It’s just an accent.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

I threw the Capicola into the pan with just a touch of olive oil to help keep it from sticking.

Fry until nice and dark, but not quite burnt.

Then drain it on paper towels and serve separately.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

Doesn’t that look good??

If your bread crumbs don’t brown enough during the last few minutes of baking, go ahead and broil it for two or three minutes – just keep a close eye since it can burn.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

And there’s the finished product:  scooped into a bowl with a pinch of the crispy, spicy ham.

Serve with some salad and you got a meal.

Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola

 Smoked Gruyere Mac & Cheese with Fried Capicola

Serves: 6+


3 cups Rigatoni pasta
2 Tbs. butter
2 Tbs. flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups Smoked Gouda, shredded
1/2 cup Swiss, shredded
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 to 1/2 lb. Capicola

For Breadcrumbs:

3 Tbs. butter, melted
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook the pasta until al dente, or one minute less than the recommended cooking time.

In a medium saucepan, melt the 2 Tbs. of butter. Stir in the flour to create a roux. Whisk in the milk and heavy cream. Cook over medium to medium high heat until just boiling, stirring frequently. Once it starts to boil, remove from heat and stir in the cheeses and spices. Continue to stir over low heat until the cheese has melted.

Mix the 3 Tbs. of butter with the breadcrumbs.

Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce. Pour into an 8 x 8 inch or a 9 x 13 inch pan. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top. Cover pan with foil.

Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more, or until the cheese sauce is bubbling around the edges. If the breadcrumbs are not browned, broil for 2 or 3 minutes, watching closely.

Meanwhile, while the macaroni is baking, slice the Capicola thinly and fry over medium heat. Add a touch of olive oil if it seems to be sticking. Once the ham is crispy, drain on paper towels. Serve in a separate dish, to be used as a topping.

[Note: if you use a different shape of pasta, you may need to adjust the amount. Also, the ham is only meant as an accent. If you want a significant portion in your macaroni, use 1/2 to 1 lb.]


Click here to print the free PDF version:  Smoked Gruyere Mac and Cheese with Capicola


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Garlic-Infused Parmesan Popcorn Recipe

Garlic Infused Parmesan Popcorn Recipe

I’ve always loved cheese on my popcorn.  And I love garlic.

So, one day, I’m browsing recipes and I start looking over ways to infuse olive oil.  Then I thought – hey, I use olive oil to cook my popcorn… I wonder what it would taste like if I used an infused oil instead?

I was not disappointed.

What I love about this recipe is the subtle but certainly noticeable garlic flavor, and, since I’m also a big fan of garlic flavor in my pizzas, I was delighted with the garlic and cheese combination.

I think Parmesan is a perfect match for popcorn.  But, you’ll notice I also added pepper to mine.  That’s because it balances out the saltiness of the cheese while complementing the spice of the garlic.

Overall, I’ve found the final result to be quite enjoyable.  And addictive.

Seriously, I’ve eaten a whole batch of this stuff myself.

Garlic Infused Parmesan Popcorn Recipe

Anyway, first things first:  infusing the olive oil.

You’ll peel and smash the garlic and bring it to a gentle simmer in the olive oil over medium heat, then turn it to low heat.

You need to be careful here – burnt garlic has an awful and bitter flavor, so you’ll want to keep an eye on it.  It should only bubble a little while it cooks.

Since it simmers for 10 minutes but then has to steep for an hour, I will usually stick this pot on the stove while cooking dinner, and let it sit while we eat dinner and clean up.  Then later, when I’m ready to make the popcorn, the oil is ready, too.

You could always make a larger batch of the olive oil, I suppose, but I’ve always done it this way.

Garlic Infused Parmesan Popcorn Recipe

Here is the garlic steeping.  You can see that it is a little browned, but not too much.

I usually turn the cloves only once while they’re cooking, and swirl the pot just a couple times.

I’ve thought about keeping the boiled garlic and using it for something else, but I haven’t found anything to suit that purpose yet.  I’m open to ideas, but mostly, it seems best fit for compost after this.  The flavor has really left the cloves at this point.

Garlic Infused Parmesan Popcorn Recipe

And here is the popcorn, freshly popped.  It’s important to note that, while I infused the olive oil in a small saucepan, I popped the popcorn in a much larger skillet.

Most people use a deep pot for this purpose, but, luckily, I’ve got a large, high-sided skillet that’s perfect for this amount of popcorn.  And easy to clean.

Garlic Infused Parmesan Popcorn Recipe

And the finished product.  Mmmmmmmm… every time I look at this photo I get hungry!

On to the details:

Garlic-Infused Parmesan Popcorn Recipe


1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. pepper

Peel the garlic cloves and gently smash them to release their flavors while still holding their shape.

Place the olive oil and garlic cloves in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat until the oil begins to bubble around the garlic.  Turn the heat to low and continue to very gently simmer the garlic for 10 minutes.  The garlic should be only slightly browned.  Do not let it burn!

Take the pan off the heat and let it sit and steep for one hour.

Discard the used garlic.

In a large saucepan or pot, add the flavored olive oil and 2 or 3 kernels.  Warm over medium heat until the kernels pop, then add in the rest of the popcorn.  Cover.

Leave over medium heat until the popping stops, gently shaking the pan now and then.  This should take only a couple of minutes.

Once the popcorn is done, transfer it to a large bowl.  Drizzle the melted butter over the popcorn and mix well to coat all the pieces.

Mix the parmesan and pepper in a small dish, then sprinkle over the popcorn.  Mix well.  Store loosely covered.


To PRINT the PDF copy of the recipe, click here:

Garlic Infused Parmesan Popcorn Recipe

Enjoy!  :)

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Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

It’s been years since I’ve made roasted pumpkin seeds, but I thought my girls would enjoy it.  So I bought a “pie” pumpkin and cut it open.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Turns out, both my girls thought the innards were pretty “icky.”  I thought they’d have a blast getting their hands into the pumpkin and helping me separate the seeds from the pulp.

I was wrong.

Many “oh gross!” facial expressions and “ickyness” comments later, I wound up doing it myself.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

It was just one small pumpkin, so there weren’t a lot of seeds.

Enough for us, tho.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Once you get the seeds separated from the pulp, rinse them off, and let them dry.  You can stick them in a salad spinner or something, but I just patted them dry.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Then, toss them in a bowl with some olive oil and spices.  I used salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and ancho chile pepper.  But we like spicy food in our home.  If you don’t, just use salt.

And I didn’t measure.  I’m not the measuring type when it comes to spices.  Just make sure all the seeds have something stuck to them.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Spread them out on a baking sheet that’s covered with parchment paper and bake them at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-45 minutes, stirring them about halfway through.

I did mine 45 minutes, but I like them crunchy.  You could test them after 30 minutes if you’re not sure.

Store them in an airtight container.

My girls only ate a few, but I mostly blame that on the fact that we also made chocolate-covered football pretzels that day.  And they devoured the chocolate pretzels.  :)