The BEST make ahead chicken enchiladas

Well, we’ve been in school for a month. Things are plugging right along. Routines are settled and we are trudging our way to Thanksgiving break.

So…I’m an Auburn grad and back in oh….2001-ish,there was a restaurant in Auburn at the College Street exit, right by Philly Connection for those of you that know the area, called Blue Moon.  They had the most delicious chicken enchiladas. I would beg my then boyfriend (now husband) to take me there.  SO GOOD. The restaurant closed the next year and I have always missed these enchiladas. Well guys…I cooked them tonight.

I teach on Tuesday nights from 4:00-6:00, so every Monday night after my girls are asleep, I make dinner for Tuesday night.  When I do, I choose something that only requires to be put in the oven, so totally prepped.  For tonight I made an adapted version of this recipe .  They were delicious and perfect and just like those enchiladas I loved in Auburn! If you have a busy night coming up, make these the day before (takes about 20  minutes once the chicken is cooked).  You’ll thank me later, they are awesome.

Auburn Restaurant Copycat Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas


  1. Soft Flour Tortillas (as many to fill your dish.  My 9 x 13 could fit 12 of the smaller ones)
  2. 3 tbsp of flour
  3. 2 cups vegetable broth
  4. 1 cup sour cream
  5. shredded or cubed cooked chicken (about 2 cups)
  6. 2-3 cups of cheese: cheddar or Monterrey Jack
  7. 3 tbsp butter
  8. 1 can rotel (drained)


  1. Combine the chicken and 1 cup of cheese
  2. Fill the tortillas with this mixture, roll them up and stack side by side in the greased casserole dish
  3. After that is done, melt the butter in a pan.  Whisk in the flour to form a smooth paste
  4. Add the broth and whisk for several minutes until the mixture is thick and bubbling
  5. Take this off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes.  Temper it by whisking in a small amount of the sour cream.  Then mix all the sour cream and the can of drained rotel.
  6. Pour this deliciousness over the tortillas.

If you are cooking ahead of time, stop here, cover the tortillas, and pop them in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile…the next day …..

  1. Turn on your oven to preheat at 375.
  2. Uncover the enchiladas and put them in for 30 minutes.
  3. When they are bubbling and just about ready, top with the cheese and put them back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until gooey and melty.
  4. Serve with guacamole and chips….




Working Mama’s Guide to Staying Organized During the School Year


With the girls going back to school next Thursday, I’m working through our morning routines and how we can stay on top of things (a.k.a. Mama keeping her sanity).  I don’t know about you, but I have to start my day off feeling ready- otherwise I’m stressed and unorganized from the get go. Here are some tips that we use around the Cowell house to stay organized during the school year.

  1. Meal plan.

I plan and shop for meals a month at a time.  If I’m going to spend an hour planning for one week, I might as well power through and plan the entire month- then it’s done! I make a huge list of all the meat, frozen, and nonperishable items and shop for those during the first week of the month. Then all I have to do is hit the store for a quick produce, eggs, and milk trip once a week. I’ve been doing this for a year and a half and it is a lifesaver! I’m committed to dinners together at home as a family.  (and…my budget and healthy eating doesn’t allow much eating out)

2. Pack lunches for the whole week on the weekend

Dan and I started this last year and it was great.  On Sunday afternoon/evenings we’d spend about 30-45 minutes and pack ours and the girls’ lunches for the whole week.   Each evening, all we had to do was grab it and pack it up.  What a time saver for busy weeks!

3. Get everything ready the night before

Before I go to bed, I pack up all of my work stuff, the girls’ school stuff, and anything else we would need for the next day.  Lunches are packed and ready for the next day and sitting in the refrigerator.  If I can, I go ahead and put things in the car.  If it can’t tolerate the heat overnight, I put it right by the door.  There is nothing that will stress me out more than flying around, looking for stuff while I’m trying to get out the door.   Seriously worth about 15 minutes of your time.

4. Iron clothes for the week, including church, on the weekend

Sometime during the weekend, I pop in a movie or watch an episode of Fixer Upper and iron all my, Dan’s and the girls’ clothes for the week.  It takes 45 minutes to an hour, but it is a huge help each morning. I go ahead and pick out shoes and jewelry and have everything ready to go.   I even look ahead to the weekend and iron for any events that weekend as well as church Sunday morning while I have the iron up.

5. Clean the kitchen, straighten up before going to bed

After we put the girls to bed, Dan and I do a big sweep of the house. We put everything away, clean the kitchen, and start the dishwasher.   I can’t stand to start my day, walking into the kitchen or living room and it being a mess.   Talk about stressed out first thing.  With two people, it only takes us about 30 minutes.

6. Set out your workout clothes the night before.

I run every morning,  so I always set out my clothes the night before.  No one wants to be fumbling around for two socks that match at 4:30 am….

7.  Get ready before your kids

This will be a new one for me this school year. I’m planning to be 80-90% ready before my girls get up. That way I’m not panicked to get them ready as well as myself.  We’ll see how that goes.

8. Pick out kids’ clothes for the entire week, on the weekend.

I go ahead and set out five outfits, with socks and bows on the weekend for the whole week. This literally takes five minutes, but saves so much time each morning.  I’m going to give my 3 year old more choice this year in picking her clothes, so doing this on the weekend will save me the discussions (arguments….) with her every morning.

9. Straighten up before leaving the house.

Much like we do each evening, five minutes before we walk out the door, Dan and I breeze through our rooms and main living areas and pick up.   When I get home after work, I do not want to walk into a mess.

10.  Laundry

I hate, hate laundry.  To break up the torture, I do a load or two every/every other night.  It keeps things in check and also saves me from spending all day Saturday in front of the dryer.  Kill me now.

11. Make your bed

Just like the straightening up…making your bed every morning just makes coming home from a busy day so much better. Everything is clean and welcoming 🙂

Hope these are helpful! Any other ideas???

Thanksgiving dinner 2013

The 2013 Thanksgiving was a total success! Dan and I brined and cooked our first turkey, which turned out fantastic! It was two days of cooking that paid off in deliciousness!!

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We used The Pioneer Woman brine….we’ve never brined a turkey, but always wanted to. It was so easy and made the turkey so moist! If the word brine scares you…think marinade.  It wasn’t salty at all.

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Here’s our little man right before going in the oven. We stuffed it with sage, rosemary, an apple and an onion which made delicious gravy!

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AND HERE HE IS! Out of the oven…..cooked to perfection using The Pioneer Woman directions!! It was delicious.  Our full spread included:

  • Turkey
  • Ham
  • Sweet potato casserole (Pioneer Woman)
  • Roasted brussel sprouts
  • Mashed potatoes (done in the crockpot, so easy!)
  • Gravy (from the turkey drippings)
  • Cornbread stuffing
  • Pretzel salad
  • Rolls

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I made two pumpkin pies by roasting a pumpkin and making my own puree. That was so delicious.  Here are the recipes.

I went very simple with the table decorations this year.  I thought it turned out pretty…

photo 2All in all, a very successful day.  We ate about lunchtime which gave us the evening to hang out, watch Dr. Who, and eat leftovers.  So much to be thankful for this year.  My heart overflows with how blessed I am.  I have a husband who I absolutely adore, a beautiful little girl and another healthy baby girl on the way.  Both my husband and I have great jobs that we enjoy and family that we love.  Every day I ask myself what have I done to get all this.

Thankful to the One who makes all things good. Happy Thanksgiving!


Two bowls of soup and some pasta

To round out a November, here’s three more successful meals that we tried this month.

1. Crockpot Tomato, basil and parmesan soup

I made this a little differently than the recipe. I let everything sit in the crockpot all day and cook just like it says. When it got to the end stage of putting everything together, I put the crockpot stuff into the blender and pureed it all (be careful when pureeing hot ingredients! I did half a time.) I made the roux and added the soup.  I personally did not like the parmesan cheese in at this stage. It left the soup with a grainy texture and not smooth.  If you want to parmesan, I would put it in with the soup into the blender and let it get pureed.  That will help the texture.

This soup was very yummy and we had it with grilled cheese made on sourdough! YUMMMMMMM!

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2. Crockpot zuppa toscana

This was absolutely perfect. This is my favorite soup at Olive Garden and this recipe tastes identical. I made it just like the recipe and it turned out delicious. Serve with some rolls and a salad.


3. Creamy garlic pasta

This was great!! It tastes just like a Pasta-Roni without the powdered ingredients.  Highly recommend as a quick, easy, and delicious side dish.  We had it with steak and asparagus! Could also be made gluten free with gluten free pasta.

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To finish out November, I’m making a crockpot roast tomorrow night and then we’ll be with family for the rest of the week.  I’ve worked with my mother-in-law and we’ve planned a great Thanksgiving! I’m making the turkey and I’m so excited!!!  I’ll do a post about our big meal and my adventure in cooking my first Thanksgiving.


Yummy Recipes

The meals planned for November have been great so far.  A couple have been new for me and turned out yummy, so I wanted to share!

1. Wild Rice and Chicken Casserole

I forgot to take a picture of this one, but it is so good.  Someone brought this to us a couple years ago when Dan tore his ACL.  I remembered it and cooked it for one of my friends who just had surgery.  It makes a great freezer meal or a meal to take to someone.  Very different, but absolutely delicious. Give it a try!


  1. 1 box Uncle Ben’s original wild rice (cooked)
  2. 1 can cream of celery soup
  3. 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
  4. 2 cooked chicken breasts or the equivalent…(cut up rotisserie works.)
  5. 1/2 bag of frozen green beans (cooked)
  6. 1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
  7. 2 tbsp diced pimentos
  8. 1 cup fresh mushrooms
  9. 1-2 cups of cheddar cheese just depending on fast

Cook the rice, green beans, and shred/cube the chicken.  Mix everything together in a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Top with cheese.  Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Enjoy!

2. Butternut, Chickpea, and Lentil Stew

This was a totally new recipe for me. I saw the picture on Pinterest and thought it sounded good.  It was absolutely delicious. Very light and has the tastes of fall. It’s what you expect from a fall, veggie soup.  It is called a stew, but it is actually has a nice broth.  I just served it with some Sister Shuberts and it was fantastic.  It would also be great over rice.  For the red lentils in the ingredients, I just used a can of red beans.  The prep is about 15 minutes to get everything into the crockpot, but worth it.



We tried a paleo chicken thighs recipe that was pretty good, but probably won’t make again.  I also made a crockpot version of Olive Garden’s pasta fagoli.  It was okay….

I’ve got a couple more new recipes this month to try, so I’ll fill you in on those.

🙂 Leslie

THE shopping trip


Well, we did it. This is what $500 in groceries, household supplies, and toiletries looks like.  This is everything we will need for our household for the whole month (toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc. etc. etc) on top of all the ingredients for 18 lunches and dinners minus a few weekly produce items and milk. Not too bad.  This averages about $125/week. Not too shabby.   We did shop at Walmart today, which I never do….and I hate to say, but you do save money at Walmart…

The entire shopping trip took from start to finish 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Tonight we are having the Jack Daniels barbeque wings minus the Jack Daniels.  I’m making some oven fries to go along side.

Happy Fall-back Sunday everybody!

November Meal Plan


Spent the day off and on meal planning for the month of November.   Looking at what we’ve got going on this month, I am prepared for 18 meals. If anything ends up being left over, it will just move to the next month.

I create a shopping list based on the 18 meals that I have chosen. One shopping list is for all the meat and nonperishables for the month as well as the produce and dairy for the first week of the month. I plan on doing this tomorrow, so I’l try to remember and do a post about the shopping trip.   I go ahead and make a list of the produce for each week of the month, so I can just grab that on Saturdays, get the produce and go.  So just one big shopping trip.

As I’ve said before, I don’t plan leftover meals. Dan, Sarah and I always bring the leftovers from the night before to lunch the next day, so we don’t usually have many leftovers.

Each week I try to have a chicken, beef, pork, veggie, and soup recipe just so we don’t feel like we’re having the same thing over and over.

My recipes for this month are:

1) Jack Daniels honey barbeque wings with oven fries:

2) Grilled sweet potato and veggie skewers:

3) Wild rice and chicken casserole:  This is absolutely delicious! I’m making it this coming Wednesday, so I’ll post the recipe. I made it for my friend Rachel that just had surgery and she loved it.  Makes a great freezer recipe!

4) PW Sour Cream Noodle Bake:

5) Pork Chops and PW roasted acorn squash: For the pork chops, I’l just season them with salt, pepper, and maybe do some bread crumbs and bake them.

6) Crockpot pasta fagioli:

7) Grilled steak with roasted cauliflower: Nothing fancy when it comes to the steak…

8) Lemon paprika chicken thighs:

9) Pork fried rice: this is my mother-in-law’s recipe. I can post the night I cook it.

10) Spaghetti using spaghetti squash:

11) Crockpot chickpea, butternut squash and lentil stew:

12) Crockpot tomato and basil soup with grilled cheese sandwiches:

13) Tacos: you know… ground beef, taco seasoning, crunchy shells, sour cream, cheese….

14) Grilled chicken with roasted brussel sprouts: I will probably just marinate the chicken in olive oil, salt/pepper, and lemon juice prior to grilling.  The brussel sprouts are just basic roasted with bacon (because it’s delicious)

15) Crockpot zuppa toscano:

16) Balsamic skirt steak with polenta and tomatoes:

17) Crockpot butternut squash, quinoa, and chicken stew:

18) Crockpot roast: This is your basic potato, carrots, and onion with beef broth. I use a McCormick roast seasoning pack.

The Shopping List

SOOOO….based on all this, I made a huge shopping list.  I go through each recipe and write down what it needs.  I also add in our needs for household stuff, special events, etc.

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After I hit the grocery store tomorrow, I will let you know how it goes.  Wish me luck….I think I may try Walmart for some of the things…..yikes.

Leslie 🙂