Apr 132016
 

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Breakfast today is to be muffins. My fall back has been chocolate zucchini muffins, but I am ready for a change.

Several jars of Green Tomato Pie Filling sit on the shelves of the pantry needing to be used. My initial thought was to use the bread recipe, making muffins instead.  However, I do not have plain yogurt and it seemed a bit to complicated for me this morning.

A search online search resulted in a zucchini recipe I think would work well with a substitution … and I have all the ingredients.

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A Few Changes:

1. I left out the extra spices as the canned filling already had them included.

2 I blended up the 2 cups of pie filling before stirring it into the batter.

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Results:

After adding the filling I realized I did not cut down on the sugar in the recipe. This did not turn out to be an issue, though in the future I would adjust the sugar to help them be a bit healthier.

The batter was very thick, making me concerned about sticking to the wrappers. It clung a bit, but the papers came off easily.

In all, I am very happy with the results (2.5 dozen muffins) and will repeat this recipe in the future.

Next time, though, I could do without 3 boys trying to be up at 5:30 a.m.  This would help cut down on the prep time for me.

Oct 192015
 

Chickens in Pen 2

A few weeks back … yes, it has taken me that long to get to this task … a few weeks back I found a package of chicken breasts on sale.  I knew there were already some in the freezer, but also knew that adding more at a good price might save me later.

Last week was an unofficial ‘Soup Week’, focused on mainly beef soups.  I had planned to add in chicken, but did not have recipes pulled together.  Tonight (Monday) supper was late and just the kids and I.  We had an appointment at home after school and I was unsure as to when it would end.  The smart homemaker would have put something in the crockpot this morning.

The homemaker who lives here was doing well to address behaviors, instead of letting them slide for schedule sake, and get said kid to school without needing to take them in AND make it to an OT appointment in Big Town only 5 minutes late.  Okay, this particular homemaker should have gotten up at 5:50 a.m. when the kids did, but she was hopeful they would go back to sleep.  No such luck.

For supper I determined I would make a simple chicken and noodle recipe.  I had chicken to use, as well as peppers and random tomatoes hanging out in the fridge.  Adding all to a pan, I included onion and Mrs. Dash Lime Fiesta seasoning.  This meal was the catalyst I needed to find chicken recipes.  My hope was to add some to a slow cooker, cook them over night and add them to the freezer tomorrow.  Several were found that fit the bill and one that will be cooked tomorrow.

white wine herb lemon chicken with noodles in bowls

I visited my favorite slow cooker website – A Year of Slow Cooking (also known as Crockpot365).  Here are 3 recipe I plan to try with the chicken breasts I have left:

The first two will be added to the freezer, along with left overs from tonight.  The last one will be the meal for Wednesday night.  A good thing as Wednesday holds another meeting at home.  It will be quick, but it not something for which I want to have a big mess in the kitchen.

This is also a good plan as I will some some items in  the fridge and garden that will need to be used up soon.  I love it when I can add what I have and not have to make a trip to the store.  That was my goal for this week, to not have a major shopping trip.  So far it seems like I will only need to pick up a few things.

Do you have a favorite chicken soup recipe that works well in the slow cooker?  If you are willing to share I would love to take a look.  Even better if it can then also be frozen.

May 042013
 

 inside of freezer

After April’s “eat what is in the freezer” month, I realized that my freezer was just plain unorganized.  Add to this the times I set out to make a meal, or several, only to find that jar of sauce that I thought was in the fridge actually wasn’t anymore, and chaos was slowly starting to creep in.  Organizing my pantry was a big help, but it needed to go further.  So I did a little searching.

Mom’s Budget has several printable lists that I found very helpful.  Specifically I printed out the Freezer Contents List and the Freezer Cooking Prep Worksheet.  I took a look at the monthly menu planner, but realized the space was not big enough for me to write in all three meals for the day.  If you only plan one main meal for the day, then it might work for you.

Crystal at Money Saving Mom posted how she plans her freezer cooking and provides some free planning worksheets.  I like how she laid our her steps to show others what she does.  She is a much more organized person than I, which means I can learn much from her experience.  For example, my shopping lists are not exactly works of great penmanship.  There are sometimes arrows and small numbers (how many of something I need) or items marked off.  So I appreciated that she included the note about rewriting your list if it starts to get messy.  At least I know that she too has to rewrite her list sometimes.  Even if I don’t plan to use her actual forms (so I don’t have to keep printing them off) I am going to keep them on hand to remind myself how my lists should be laid out.

Once a Month Mom as has a OAMM Freezer Inventory Worksheet available.  It is a Google document.  The list has room not only for meals that may be in your freezer, but breads, fruit, meats, snacks, etc.  If your freezer is like mine, this may be what you need as it has more room to include items, not just meals.

 Labeld bags for freezer cooking

Now that I have myself on the right track, I decided to plan some cooking times (another post as this is getting long).  Not only do I like once a month cooking (OAMC), but I like to do several of the items for up to 3 months.  This works for us as we tend to eat a dish only once per month.  An example is Sweet-and-Tangy Roasted Pork Tenderloin.  I had some pork tenderloins and chops ready for the freezer, but wanted to go ahead and make them into something.  In about 15 minutes time I had 5 of these put together and in the freezer.  That meant 1 time of getting things out and 1 time cleaning up.  I save myself about an hours worth of time by doing this – 5 times of potentially doing something -1 time of actually doing it =4 times of not having to do it x 15 minutes = 60 minutes of saved time not having to do something.

Other recipes that lend themselves to multiplying are soups.  It is usually just as easy to make a soup doubled, or tripled, as it is to make it once.

lentil tomato soup in freezer container

When is doing OAMC for multiple months a bad idea?  Here are a few:

  • limited freezer space available
  • budget with no extra money to use
  • none of the ingredients are on sale (but might be by the time you want to make this again – then I would make and freeze one meal’s worth)
  • a new recipe that you haven’t tried and don’t know if you will like yet (ask me how I know this)
  • you are moving soon

When is doing OAMC for multiple months a good idea?

  • you see the next few months being busy (harvest time anyone?)
  • you found a sale on XYZ and need to preserve it (sometimes it is easier to make that ground beef into a meal rather than just freeze it as a lump)
  • there are going to be several pitch-ins or parties coming up
  • there is extra money in the grocery budget now, but may not be in the near future
  • life is already hectic and you need to take something off your plate (pun intended) – not only is cooking prep taken care of, so is menu planning
  • you are looking to break the habit of eating out
  • you are trying to teach several kids how to do this and it is just easier to have them all work on the same recipe at the same time
  • you are okay with planning ahead several meals for next month
  • you have the space

Ingredients for Chocolate Chipotle Chili

I haven’t always done this, and don’t usually think of it as OAMC.  I tend to think of it as “once less time I have to do the dishes”.  For me, that right there is a great motivator.  And so that I am being clear, I don’t want to give the impression that I do 28 different meals for 3 months.  It tends to be 5 – 10 recipes that are made for the upcoming three months, as well as multiple bags of pre-cooked ground beef and/or pre-cut chicken.  Right now those recipes tend to be:

  1. Bree’s Lentil-Tomato Soup
  2. Crockpot Black Bean Soup or Tangy Black Bean Soup
  3. Dad’s Meatloaf with Tomato Relish
  4. Chipotle-Chocolate Chili – from “Don’t Panic – More Dinner’s In The Freezer
  5. Herb Crusted Pork Chops – from “Don’t Panic – More Dinner’s In The Freezer
  6. Superfast Salisbury Steak – I freeze the steak like you would hamburgers and bag up the sauce separately
  7. Sweet-and-Tangy Roasted Pork Tenderloin
  8. Hamburger patties
  9. Butterhorns or muffins or quick breads
  10. meatballs (uncooked)
Chipotle-Chocolate Chili

Chipotle-Chocolate Chili

When I first started doing this, I wasn’t even menu planning yet.  However, I knew that an extra bag of ground beef made supper a lot easier, in case I had forgotten to think ahead – spaghetti was my back up those days.

Do you plan meals or ingredients ahead and freeze them?  Why or why not?

 

Feb 262013
 

I hope you all are not tired of all the series I’ve been doing lately.  With winter still being very much here there isn’t a lot of day to day activity in the garden to report on.  Instead there has been a lot of getting ready for the 2013 garden season.  This has meant creating a garden calendar and getting all the indoor projects done.  Once the warm weather comes, I would rather be focusing on outside rather than stuck inside doing these things.

Redoing the front flowerbed and the bathroom were the two largest projects on my list.  The next is redoing my raised beds.  This will happen very soon, but not just yet as I need to gather a few more materials before beginning.  The next large project on my list would be adding wood chips and edging to other beds in my yard.  At this moment the ground is too frozen to do that.  Since those two projects can not be done now I have been seeing all the little projects that have been either left unfinished or just put off.

Starting March 4, I plan to take 30 days to tackle 21 of those projects.  Knowing that things usually take longer than I plan, I am giving myself an extra 9 days (30-21=9) to complete all the projects.  Some of these projects are garden related (adding a bird bath, for example) while others have no connection with gardening (repainting vents, for example).  What they do all have in common is that they have been put off  over and over.  Not because they will take a long time, but because there has always been something more urgent or pressing or maybe there was just a good book I “needed” to read.  Whatever the reason, now is the time to get them done.

Are there quick projects you have also been putting off that you would like to do?  Start thinking about what those things are now and join me in reducing our to-do lists.

Day 1 will involve making a list of the projects you plan to work on and what materials you may need.  You might want to start working on those steps now, especially if you  have to do some research on the projects.  For example, I just recently found the paint I needed for one of the projects on my list.  The reason I found this paint was because I was inquiring about something to use on the metal strip around my bathroom when I was working to finish the bathroom remodel.  Up to that point I knew I wanted to do this project but had no idea how to go about actually doing it.    Maybe you  have a similar obstacle in your way.  If that is the case, take the next few days to see if you can’t find a solution.  Do you need to call someone for advice?  Look on the Internet?  Find a book?

I will also be providing a link up on Day 1 so that you can share the projects you are working on with others.

Feb 072013
 

This post contains affiliate links.use-it-up-apples

One of the items on my goals list for this week was to do something with the apples I had.  Last fall I got three or four pecks of apples.  At the time I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with them.  That was fine as I didn’t have time right then to do anything.

In December I noticed that there were several going bad in the bunch.  However, we were getting ready to leave for three weeks. Processing apples wasn’t exactly at the top of my list.  Yet, every time I went out to the garage I would see them and start feeling guilty for not having done anything with them.  Last week I decided that this was going to be the week.  They were put on the to-do list.

While trying to decide what to do with them, I was looking through a new ebook I had of muffin recipes.  Toward the back there was one for apple muffins.  AND I had all the ingredients.  Okay, now I knew what I was going to do.  At least, I knew one of the things – make muffins for the freezer for future breakfasts.

In making my menu last week I also saw that I had a recipe for Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Apple-Ginger Sauce.  This recipe called for apple jelly, which I didn’t have.  Apple jelly … apples …. apples I need to do something with.  I remembered having seen a recipe for apple jelly that used the peels and cores.   A quick search online resulted in the directions for doing just such a thing.  Okay, there was my second thing – apple jelly.

I’m skipping ahead a bit here in the story, but I think you all can handle it.  After making all the muffins I needed and wanted, there were still a lot of apples left.  In searching for “apple jelly from peels” I also came across a few other ideas for uses for apples.  Some of these sounded like something we would do – adding apples to oatmeal and shakes, especially.  The remainder of the apples were peeled, cored and diced.  The diced pieces were put into bags, 2 or 3 apples worth in each.  These were labeled and dated, then stuck in the freezer.  They are ready to be pulled out and use.  All 22 bags of them. So that was my third thing – dicing and freezing apples for future use.

After making the first batch of apple muffins, and finding they were a hit, I went on to make four more batches.  Two of the batches I added toffee bits to, as I didn’t have chocolate chips.  These were a great addition.

I had some helpers when making the four batches.  It was fun.  I took videos.  The conversations and “logic” were priceless.  It also took a lot longer than it would have otherwise.

Dessert for supper that night were mini-muffins I has also made.  I ran out of pan but had a muffin or two worth of batter left.  I have two mini muffin pans, so I grabbed those.  They are the perfect size for a bit sized muffin.  Everyone enjoyed fresh apple-toffee muffins.  Even more so the helpers as they knew they had helped to make them.

After all the muffins had cooled off, they were placed into gallon sized freezer bags, labeled with what they were and the date, then placed in the freezer.  These will show up at least once a month for the next 4 months.  They will also be making an appearance when we stay with family over Easter weekend.

As a side note, an added benefit to making jelly or canning anything in the winter is that I tend to not mind the extra heat and moisture in the kitchen.

In all I think this was a great success.  Next time I won’t wait months to use apples.  I now have a plan for the future.  Apple butter, apple jelly, apple muffins and diced apples for oatmeal and shakes.

 

Do you have anything left from last year that you need to do something with?  Did you freeze something to “use later” but haven’t done anything with yet?  What are your plans for these items?

Dec 072012
 

Rinsing the pinto beans

This week I did not have time for a long freezer cooking session.  What I did have, though, were several packages of dry beans in the pantry that needed to be used up.  I’ve looked at them several time wishing for ready to use beans and thinking I should have thought of these the night before.  I used to have only one crock pot, but by a turn of events lately I have acquired two more (2nd hand) ones.  This made the process a lot easier.

The process for cooking beans is the same no matter the type of dry bean you use.  I take that back, don’t do this with lentils.  The do not need to be soaked and cooked for this long.  If you try it with lentils you will end up with completely disintegrated beans. With most others though, the process is the same.

Add water, to cover the pinto beans

I had three different beans to do: pinto, chick peas and black beans (I have no photos of the black beans as I had to use them right away in a pot of chili).

Rinsing chick peas

 Adding water to the chick peas

 I had three different crock pots going, with a different bean in each. If you don’t have a crock pot, or need more than you have, this can also be done on the stove in a pot.

Soak the beans overnight then drain.  Fill with water, again covering the beans.  Turn on low for about 8 hours.  Once they are cooled, measure them out into freezer bags, label, lay flat until frozen then store however you wish.

I measure them out into about 2 cup portions.  This is close to what a can of bean is, if you buy them that way from the store.

 Have you put any extra away in your freezer this week?

Dec 032012
 

These are the ingredients we use to make Chocolate Chipotle Chili (from the book “Don’t Panic, Its in the freezer”, though it may be from their second book), by far our favorite recipe to date.  We do eat other chilis, depending on what we are in the mood for.  However, this is the one most frequently seen on the table.  I served it at a get together last month and all the ladies asked for the recipe … and they weren’t just being polite.

The red peppers turned my cutting board orange.  Most of it left when I washed it.  With time the majority of the color goes away, but the board is never again completely white unless bleached.

 

Chocolate Chipotle Chili

The corn bread muffins, that were in the freezer, were a great accompaniment to today’s meal.  Both parts of the meal were actually in the freezer.  I sat the chili out this morning, finished heating it through on the stove (a crock pot would have also worked), and put the muffins in the microwave for 1 – 1.5 minutes. (The more muffins, the longer the time.) A delicious meal that would have taken over 30 minutes took me about 5 minutes of prep time.   I think I said it before, but I will say it again for good measure, “I love my freezer.”

Now for this week’s menu plan:

Breakfast:

  1. Eggs, toast, fruit
  2. Cereal
  3. Eggs, toast, fruit
  4. Rusks, coffee, tea
  5. Shakes
  6. Oatmeal or grits
  7. Eggs, toast, bacon, fruit

Lunch:

  1. Eat Out
  2. Chocolate Chipotle Chili, corn bread muffins
  3. Salad
  4. Elegant Steak Dionne, roasted potatoes, peas, carrot sticks
  5. Pizza
  6. Meatloaf, stuffing, beets, peas
  7. TBD

Supper:

  1. Sandwiches
  2. Red lentil soup, bread
  3. Turkey Chili
  4. Sandwiches, tea
  5. Chicken with green curry sauce, water chestnuts, rice, steamed carrots
  6. TBD
  7. Crock pot beef stew (using what I have with a recipe as a guide)

Linked up with Healthy Branscoms & OrgJunkie

For more ideas also check out This Week For Dinner and Everyday Moms Meals.

Also check out Confessions of a Homeschooler’s December’s Monthly Meal Plan.  If this is a new concept to you, take some time to think it over.  Imagine only having to sit down once a month to menu plan, rather than 4 or 5 times.  It worked for me, perhaps it will do the same for you.

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Dec 022012
 

This evening I spent some time making a detailed two week to-do list. It was a little slow going.  But it got done. {if you read this earlier you probably now notice that this paragraph is a lot shorter.  I decided that all the whining wasn’t necessary.  It did feel good at the time though, so “thank you” to those who let me do it.}

I have a goal at the end of the two weeks, so was planning backwards to make sure everything got done early, rather than rushing around the last couple of days.  I hope to end these two weeks relaxed and ready for some time of enjoyment.  Yes, I know I was supposed to do this part this past week.  However, something came up that required me to finish a project that I have long been planning and hoping to do.  Someone said they needed the information I had been meaning to consolidate, I told them I would get it to them, and last week they called to ask where it was.  Since I had promised it to them, I figured I should get it done rather than make them wait up to a month (after the holidays) because I needed to make a to-do list.

It took me a few days longer to finish the project, but I decided that I would rather do the whole project than just the first part of it asked for.  That would have left yet another project started and not finished.  It was easier to just do it all since everything was going to be out for it anyway.  So, that part of last week’s to-do list was done tonight.  Does that still count?  Since this is my blog, 🙂 , I’m going to say it does.

Last week’s goals:

Trim and repot ficus tree

Continue with Thanksgiving pages as well as morning Bible Times (sometimes these are the same thing)

Finish the rock border on the front flower bedfinished

Add mulched leaves to the front flower bed finished

Make a plan for the upcoming month (there is a lot going on) – it is started and will be added to as I remember things that need to be done

Order one Christmas present – I didn’t get the one I was thinking of ordered.  I had planned on item X, thinking that it could be used for activity A.  However, someone told me that said person did not do activity A, which meant item X no longer made sense to get.  Yes, it would have been nice, but not a useful gift.  Therefore, it would have just been clutter.  Instead, I went to the store and bought a gift for another person.  In the end I am still one gift ahead of where I was last week.

Make list of Christmas gifts I want to give to others – I have all but three people decided upon, as far as what to get them.  Oh, how I long for the days when I had my Christmas shopping done by the end of September.  (I think I’ll add that as a goal for 2013.)

This week’s goals:

1 load of laundry each day

Wash and put away dishes each day

Finish my daily list of things to do (to prepare for upcoming events)

Pick up one hot spot each day

Eat most of our meals from things in the freezer (I want to use up all of our premade meals and the meat we already have, if possible.)

 

It may not seem like a long list for this week.  The reason?  All the small things are written on my daily to do sheets.  I put a line of papers out on my dinning room table; there is a page for each day for the next two weeks.  At the top of each I wrote the day and date.  Then on the last one I wrote my goal – to be ready for the upcoming events.  Then I started to work backwards.  The last day, “what do I want it to look like at the end?  So, what would that morning look like?”  For this event, it meant starting a load of sheets, having a non-rushed breakfast out, doing the one important errand of the day, coming home, loading needed items into the car, vacuuming the house, doing that day’s few dishes and putting them away, are picking up the house.  If all went well, I would have a few boring hours before needing to leave to get where I needed to be.  I then went to the day before that.  “In order to have the last day that I want, what do I need to do the night before?  The afternoon before? The morning before?”  And I worked my way backwards from there.  As I remembered things I needed to do tonight and tomorrow, I would ‘skip’ further back and write those items down.  As I came across something I needed to do or figure out I put a ‘!’ in the margin.  I also had a spare sheet to write down those items I needed to tell people.

When I told my husband what I was doing he asked, “Why all the work?  Why not just make a big list?”  Well, apparently he doesn’t realize how many things need done.  If I made a big list, then the things that need done tomorrow and the next day and the next day and so on would be mixed up with items from next week.  I would constantly be searching my list for items that needed to be done on each particular day.  What if I made it to Friday and then saw an items that was supposed to be done on Tuesday?  Or worse, what if I made it to the end of two week and realized I had forgotten to do something at the beginning of those two weeks and now it was too late?  Yeah, I would rather have a list for each day that I can just pick up, mark things off as they are done, add them as I remember, then throw that paper away when I’m done.  A list of 12 things is a lot less intimidating than one of 50.

I’m off to have some dessert, watch a movie and end the day a bit relaxed.  I hope everyone had a great weekend.  What are your plans for this week?

Oct 052012
 

Breads, that great smell of country kitchens everywhere.  I have tried make traditional, regular breads and have not had a lot of success at them.  I have had good luck with other kinds of breads.  My husband has also had luck recently making croissants … he has yet to let me live this one down as they came out beautifully for him the first time.  He was even able to do it again with grand results.  Not always something I am capable of doing.

But the fact that my husband can currently make bread better than me is not something we are going to dwell on.  Instead, we are talking about breads that you can put into your freezer to take out at a future date.  I find this helpful in a variety of situations.

  1. A good price on bread at the store allows me to stock up for the month, or longer.
  2. A gift for family or friends.
  3. A quick, easy, and healthy breakfast.
  4. Someone is sick/death in the family/new baby/just moved and I want to take them some food.
  5. Surprise visitors.  Just add coffee or tea, or use as a dessert.
  6. (fill in the blank with any of the many more reasons)

Let me cover the first reason before moving on to recipes.  We are able to get a national name-brand, non-white bread for $1.09 per loaf!  This is a savings of over $2 per loaf for us.  I make a trip to that store once a month, or less often, and buy several loaves at once.  When I get home, I place them in the freezer.  When we need another loaf of bread, I pull one out of the freezer and let it thaw on the counter or in the fridge.  Yes, it isn’t straight out of the oven, but it is good enough and convenient.  As to straight out of the oven, reference the first paragraph of this post.  I’ve tried and tried, and may try again in the future.  However, for now it is better that we don’t count on having homemade bread, baked by me, to eat from regularly.  Also, the nearest bakery, with $4 bread and half priced Sundays, is about 30 miles away.  Not exactly ‘around the corner’.

Now, on to some of the breads you will find in my freezer.  Many of these can also be made into muffins for quick breakfasts.  If you take a frozen muffin out of the freezer and place it on a plate, it will be defrosted by the time you get dressed, pour something to drink and get some fruit.

croissants – This is the recipe my husband found.  You freeze the dough before forming and letting rise a final time.  It is still not a quick bread, but that part does help in allowing them to be available to us without a trip to the store.

Zucchini Bread – There are so many different recipes.  Everyday Food (Martha Stewart) is one of my favorite sites to get recipes from.  Just doing a search there results in the following recipes: zucchini spice bread, zucchini nut bread and zucchini-parmesan loaf.

Green Tomato Bread – This was a find for me last year, at the end of the season when I had a bunch of green tomatoes and was trying to figure out how to use them.

Pumpkin Bread – A good easy recipe that you can vary by adding different flavored chips or nuts. FYI: I used chocolate chunks in this recipe instead of chocolate chips.  All the chunks settled to the bottom of the bread.  Same thing happened when I used the recipe to make muffins.

Cinnamon Rolls – this is actually a new recipe for me.  I made it initially for breakfast on Wednesday with 2 parts wheat flour and 1 part bread flour.  After making it, and not being thrilled with the outcome, I read the comments.  I decided to give it a second try.  I made two batches very easily that day while doing other things.  Each of the two new batches used different flours.  The goal was to not only have them in the freezer for a quick breakfast, but to also compare the flours and how they affect the rolls.

 

Oct 042012
 

Are you wanting to get a better understanding of what freezer cooking is and how to do it?  Then I suggest checking out Shelly’s, from “Fresh From The Freezer: Healthy Meals for Busy People” online cooking class.  It is free, you only need to sign up.

I have done several freezer cooking posts, but am still signing up for the class.  You never know what you will learn.  My learning as been all hand-on or from a book.  Sometimes seeing someone do it explains it better than any written word can.

I’m not sure how long registration is, or if it is even ever closed.  Either way, if you are intersted I would suggest not procrasting and just do it.