Tag Archives: food

Challenge Accepted! – Cheater Version

So, keeping up with this blog challenge is much more difficult than I expected.  I say that “life happens” a LOT, but let me tell you, A LOT of life happened this month!  I scoured the remainder of the non-completed list of blog prompts, and completed as many as I was able to do at this moment.  I promise to try to fulfill the remainder by the end of September, but this is not a guarantee that it will happen, just that I will try.  Here goes…

September 10 – Show us how to craft something to support our favorite football team.  I have the stuff, just need to make the time!  Sneak peek here.

September 11 – Capture the changing season with photos.  The leaves are not yet changing here.  Boo.

September 13 – What music have you been listening to lately?  My current favorite artists are Mercy Me, Rend Collective Experiment, and Big Daddy Weave.  I am loving Flawless by Mercy Me!

September 15 – What books do you want to read before the year is over?  I want to read Board Stiff, Five Portraits, and Isis Orb by my favorite author Piers Anthony.  I would also like to read How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace by Jordan Christy.

September 16 – Share a recipe using lots of fresh fall produce from the farmer’s market.  You may or may not find this fruit at your local farmer’s market, especially since it is considered a wild fruit.  I moved about 70 miles north of where I grew up, and some people here cannot believe that we eat these!  I am talking about persimmons, and the best dessert by far is persimmon pudding.  I miss it terribly.

By the way, the huge, bright Japanese persimmons you may find at the grocery store are not the same persimmons!

persimmon pudding page

This photo is of a cookbook that was published by my church in 1985, and you can tell persimmon pudding is a popular recipe by the number of times it appears in the book (there is another entry on the following page).  I might just have to make a special trip…

Aunt Nickii's Persimmon Pudding

September 17 – What is one thing you’ve always wanted to do?  I have wanted to go to Italy since I was a little girl.  When I was about kindergarten age, if I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always, “A mommy, a teacher, and artist, and an Italian.”  This is finally in the works for 2017!

September 19 – Show us how to transition an outfit from summer to fall.  Are you kidding?  I am NOT a fashionable person.  About the only way I ever transition an outfit from summer to fall is to add a sweater and/or scarf.  I get so cold…

September 20 – Run a small business?  Tell us how you prepare for the holidays and the end of the year.  Considering my small business is sooooo small, as of now I don’t make any changes due to holidays and the end of the year.  Ask me again when it is actually going somewhere.

September 21 – Tell us about a new blog you recently discovered.  I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  I really didn’t know much about it, so I turned to… Pinterest®, of course!  I found several blogs written specifically about fibromyalgia, but one in particular caught my attention (since I also have rheumatoid arthritis) is Living Life As I See Fit.  For more information about fibromyalgia, check out National Fibromyalgia Association.

September 25 – Take a cue from postsecret and share something you’ve been keeping quiet about.  Today I am having a place on my scalp removed that may or may not be melanoma.  We will hopefully get a good result from the biopsy.

*****************

Advertisements

First Friday Freezer Fest – September Edition

The second go at the freezer meal preparation was a success, with one small mitigating factor – during the process, I forgot to take photos!

…with the exception of this lovely composition of white button mushrooms and mini Portobello mushrooms.  I like to mix mushrooms in my recipes.  It gives a subtle extra note of flavor to the dish, and just look how beautiful they are together!

mushrooms

I did, however, remember to take notes.  What worked well, what didn’t work well (or at all!), how to “fix” the procedures, and what I want to try next are the ideas I am sharing with you today.

This month, I did a few of the preparation needs differently than last time, lessons learned (see the August First Friday Freezer Fest here).  I wrote out not only the meals I wanted to prepare and a shopping list, I wrote out how each item needed to be prepared before beginning.  That helped tremendously!  As a matter of fact, as Friday came closer, I realized that I had two other obligations that day. On Thursday, I did the preparation steps a little at a time throughout the day and put it all in the fridge.  Friday morning, everything was ready for assembly, saving me a lot of time and stress.

Other helpful hints that I discovered, some the hard way:

  • Put aluminum foil or waxed paper between the stacked bags in the freezer. If possible, don’t stack until frozen.  Several times last month, I would pull a meal out of the freezer, only to find that I could not read all of the directions written on the front of the bag.  This happened because I stacked the bags directly on top of each other, and when the bags froze, the Sharpie® ink froze to the bag on top of it.  Removing/prying apart the bags removed part of the ink.  I had to look up the recipes again to find the missing information in order to have dinner!
  • Place a second label or write the recipe name at the top of the bag where the zipper is or across the bottom of the bag. This way, the recipe name can be seen without having to dig through the stack of meals to find the one you are looking for, or to simply see what you have at a glance.

freezer stack

  • When choosing a freezer meal to prepare, make sure you allow yourself enough time for the meal to thaw completely before cooking, especially if the meal is an oven-baked meal. With the crockpot meals, this step is not as vitally important.  Choose your meal the day before and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  Otherwise, you could end up with some raw chicken in your otherwise delicious dish.
  • If this is your first time making a recipe, follow the instructions and ingredients exactly. My husband and I almost invariably feel that most of my recipes I try need tweaked a little, but I only tweak them after the first try.  For example, most of the recipes that call for a can of tomatoes we agree could use more tomatoes.  I will try that the second time around, but not the first.
  • In recipes that call for fresh potatoes, parboil them first for about 5 minutes, then drain and immediately rinse them in cold water. This will keep them from turning brown and/or mushy in the freezer.
  • When preparing vegetables, go ahead and chop/dice/slice some extra and freeze them, either by the cup or by the individual vegetable. This helps in two ways:
    • When preparing a non-freezer meal during the week, if you need a cup of chopped onions for a recipe, you have the onion chopped and ready to use.
    • You will have less waste from foods going bad before you have used them.

freezer veggies

Recipe List, Grocery List, Prep List

Recipes

Korean Beef

Cheesy Enchilada Quinoa (we like to add cooked and chopped chicken breast to this one)

Minestrone

Tuscan Chicken Stew

Beef Barley Soup

Balsamic Beef Roast

Orange Chicken

Greek Grilled Chicken

Zucchini Mushroom Pasta

Garlic Ranch Chicken

Bacon Ranch Potatoes

Chicken Marsala Meatballs (my husband wished for extra sauce)

Turkey Parmesan Meatballs (I substituted ground turkey for the chicken)

Pork and Lentil Soup

Zucchini Sausage Casserole

Greek Turkey Burgers  ( I accidentally put in cilantro instead of spinach – don’t do that!  Blech…)

Chili Tortellini

Veggie soup (personal recipe)

Hot hamburgers (personal recipe)

Stuffed peppers (personal recipe)

Smoked sausage and sauerkraut (personal recipe)

Shopping

MEAT

Beef chuck roast, 7 pounds           beef round stew meat, 1½ pounds

Ground beef patties, 8                   ground beef, 2 pounds

Ground turkey, 3½ pounds            chicken breast, 10 pieces

Chicken thighs, 16 pieces             ground chicken, 1 pound

Smoked sausage, 1 pound           pork chops, 1 pound

Pork sausage, 1 pound                 eggs, 3

VEGETABLES

Green onions, 2                            black beans, 1 can                         corn, frozen, 4 cups

RoTel tomatoes, 2 cans                onions, 10                                      bell peppers, 7

Diced tomatoes, 2 cans                carrots, 4 pounds                           celery, 1 bunch

Red kidney beans, 1 can              great northern beans, 1 can           zucchini, 4 pounds

Green beans, 2 cans                    spinach, fresh, 3 cups                    chili beans, 2 cans

Mild pepper rings, 1 jar                 tomato sauce, 1 large can              sauerkraut, 1 jar

Tomatoes, 2                                  baby white potatoes, 12                 red potatoes, 22

Mushrooms, 1½ pounds               peas, frozen, 2 cups                       lentils, ½ pound

Sun-dried tomatoes, 1 package    red onion, 1                                    cucumber, 1

Tomato paste, 8 Tbsp                   sun-dried tomato pesto, ¼ cup      lima beans, 1 cup

FRUIT

Orange, 1                  lemons, 2                   lime, 1

STAPLES AND SEASONINGS

Beef broth, 3 cups                         vegetable broth, 4 cups                 chicken broth, 15 ¼ cups

Brown sugar, 1¼ cups                  minced garlic, 1½ cups                  ginger, 2½ tsp

Onion powder, ½ tsp                     white pepper, 1 tsp                        cornstarch, 4½ Tbsp

Chili powder, 3½ Tbsp                   cumin, 7½ Tbsp                            cilantro, 1 cup

Oregano, 1 Tbsp                           rosemary, 1½ tsp                           bay leaf, 4

Red pepper flakes, 1¼ tsp            poultry seasoning, 1 tsp                 Greek seasoning, 1 tsp

Thyme, 2 tsp                                 ranch dressing mix, 1 pkg              parsley, 1 Tbsp

Bread crumbs, 1½ cups                flour, 1 Tbsp                                   nutmeg, 1/8 tsp

Basil, ½ tsp                                   stuffing mix, 1 box                           dill, ¼ tsp

OILS, VINEGARS, SAUCES

Soy sauce, ¾ cups                         sesame oil, 1 Tbsp              rice wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp

Sriracha, 1 tsp                                salsa, 2 cups                       enchilada sauce, 1 large can

Orange marmalade, ¾ cup            BBQ sauce, ¾ cup              hot sauce, 1 cup

Worcestershire sauce, 4 Tbsp       white wine, 2 Tbsp               balsamic vinegar, 5 Tbsp

Vegetable oil, 1 tsp                         olive oil, 2 cups                   Marsala, 1 cup

Pizza sauce, 1 can                         cream of chicken soup, 1 can

GRAINS AND PASTA

Sesame seeds, 1 tsp                       quinoa, 1½ cups                  ditalini, 1½ cups

Rice, 2 cups                                     barley, 1 cup                        spaghetti, 1 pound

Dry tortellini, 1 pound

DAIRY

Mexican cheese shreds, 4 cups               parmesan cheese wedge, 1¾ cups

Heavy cream, ¼ cup                                ricotta cheese, 1 cup

Mozzarella cheese, 1 cup                        butter, 2 Tbsp

Greek yogurt, 1 cup                                 feta cheese, ¼ cup

Getting a Grip on the Groceries

This morning, I stood in the laundry room, staring at the shelves of food in the adjoining pantry.

My thoughts?

“My pantry is a mess.  I have no idea how long the leftovers have been sitting on the shelf in the kitchen fridge.  I cannot find anything in the side-by-side freezer without setting off a small (sometimes not-so-small) avalanche.  Don’t ask me to even begin to tell you what is in the garage refrigerator/freezer or the stand-alone freezer!”

Frustrated?  Oh, yeah, very much so.

frustration

Being frustrated by anything is usually the first step to finding a fix for the problem.  So, in my frustration, I yanked everything out of the pantry, before even taking a photo to show you the jumping-off point.  My apologies that you didn’t get to see the mess – no, not really.  Among the normal amounts of the normal items that a normal family would have in a normal pantry, I discovered these bonus treasures:

  • 7 bags of marshmallows (mix of regular, mini, and colored/holiday – 1 bag of regular and 1 bag of mini unopened)
  • 3 bags of coconut (all opened)
  • 2 bags of lentils (both opened)
  • 2 bags of couscous (both opened)
  • 3 bags of rice (all opened)
  • 1 bag of beans I swore I had and could never find until I bought another bag (both bags unopened)
  • 5 bags of chocolate chips (1 unopened)
  • 2 bags of butterscotch chips (both opened)
  • 1 box of nine Samoas (opened, cellophane not closed)
  • 1 jar of baby food (I did not buy this)
  • 1 box of instant stuffing mix (I don’t remember buying this)
  • 4 boxes of cornstarch
  • 1 can of Spam (bought as part of a joke gift for a white elephant Christmas exchange at our home, and left here by the “winner”)
  • 2 canisters of Italian bread crumbs (both opened)
  • 1 packet of microwave popcorn (I didn’t buy this either)

{Confession:  I was secretly excited about the Samoas Girl Scout cookies until I saw the open cellophane wrapper.  There were still nine cookies in the box.  I have lived to tell you that all nine cookies were still good, very good, each and every one of them!  I am afraid to find out just how many chemical additives were added to keep them so well preserved…}

After wiping down all of the shelves (we have glass topping the wire racks to make cleaning easier and to keep the pantry items from tipping, falling through, or getting caught on the wire racks), I re-organized the pantry by grouping items that are used in the same meal preparation processes together as much as possible.

pantry organization

All of the dry items used for baking are together, all of the “other grains” are together: barley, oats, quinoa, rice, and so on.  For the ground grains, such as flours, cornmeal, sugars, I cleaned and re-used extra-large pickle jars.  For the larger “other grains”, I re-used one gallon sweet tea containers.  Some other staples, like sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and others that I buy in bulk, are stored in smaller re-used containers to maintain freshness and ease of storage.

On another shelf are more baking/cooking items, such as oils and vinegars, pasta and noodles, nuts and chocolate chips, marshmallows and cake/cookie decorating supplies.  These are sorted into various boxes by group.  The boxes are re-used bulk Splenda boxes and mailing boxes covered in decorative contact paper.

On the bottom shelf are the ready-to-eat items, such as canned goods, cold cereal, candy, peanut butter, Nutella, drink mixes, chips and crackers.  Some of these are also sorted into boxes, while the canned goods are on a specially-designed rack, and the cereal boxes stand alone.

The top shelf is filled with kitchen gadgets, and the floor area holds another small rack that stores paper, plastic, and foil goods, and also my potatoes.  Also currently in the pantry are a tub of waffle cones (for an upcoming event), a folding highchair, and a large tub of birdseed.

IMG_3788

In just a few months, I will have a brand new kitchen with loads of cabinet storage, so my pantry will no longer be used for food storage.  But until then, I can hopefully avoid the miraculous re-appearance of seven bags of marshmallows.  We shall see…

(Stay tuned for the Refrigerator Re-Vamp and the Freezer Fight!)

First Friday Freezer Fest!

Julia child

After seeing so many people talk about how terrific this once-a-month-cooking deal is, I decided to try it for myself, to see if the hype lived up to the reality.  The story you are about to read is real.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent… (cue the Dragnet music…)

First things first, I did my homework.  I researched at my favorite research site, Pinterest.  I found out what to do, what not to do, and many helpful suggestions.  The main difficulty I had was that most of these people were cooking for an army, it seemed.  I don’t need near as much food for just my husband and me, even with frequent guests.  With this in mind, I looked for a lot of crockpot meals that were mostly dump it in and go, and these seemed to make the most sense for me.  I planned for fifteen meals.  We eat out occasionally, and even with the pared down recipes, I was still able to sometimes make two bags from a single recipe.  So, fifteen prepared freezer meals, along with some prepared ingredient bags like the taco beef, was plenty for a first run of this system.

Let me tell you, life will happen while you are in this process, so don’t let it throw you too much of a curveball.  My intent was to do all of the shopping on Thursday so I could have the whole day Friday to complete this task.  That did not happen.  My week fell apart about Wednesday, and it was everything I could do just to drag myself through the days.  Friday morning rolled around and I was not ready.  I usually wake between 6:00 and 6:30, so I figured I would start the prep and cooking about 8:00 after I finished my normal morning routine.  I finally got out of bed about 8:15, so that was not happening, and I still hadn’t shopped!

Now, this is something you must understand about me.  I have this weird passion, no – an obsession – with alliteration.  That may not seem to have anything to do with this venture, but oh, it does.  I had already named it “First Friday Freezer Fest,” and I couldn’t change plans unless I was going to wait until the following month!  Like I said, I can be weird…

I hurried through my hygiene routine, because I knew the other parts of my normal schedule would not get done that day.  Thankfully, I had already made my shopping list or this project definitely would have waited another month!   By the time I finished shopping at my three stores (yes, three stores, because I was also taking advantage of sales and coupons for this endeavor), it was almost 12:30 p.m.  And I was already exhausted.

Cue another curveball:  two of my lovely daughters decided that it would be a perfect time to drop in for supper and a visit.  Not that I mind!  I love it when my children come over, and I wish it happened more frequently.  That said, this put a hold on my progress for about four hours.  At least I got some ice cream from Pinocchio’s, which may have made up for the whole ceasefire in my cooking plan.

So I soldiered on, went with the flow, all those other clichés, and went to bed, planning to finish up on Saturday.  This was okay because I had at least started on Friday, so I didn’t have to change the name.  After my Breakfast Club Bible Study group, I resumed the itinerary of cooking, packaging and freezing.  Freezer Fest was done by 2:00 p.m.

In all, this actually took only about six or seven hours, not including the planning and shopping.  I hit a few snags along the way about which no site warned me.  Will I do it again?  Yes!  Will I plan a little better, including time for snags and incorporating back-up plans?  Yes!  Am I happy with the resulting meals?  We shall see.  I already used one freezer meal that never made it to the freezer because it became supper for our daughters’ visit.  It was good, too!

*****************

Here is the list of meals I prepared, along with some helpful (I hope!) hints to make your freezer fest run a little more smoothly.

White wine chicken with artichokes http://newleafwellness.biz/2015/05/18/crockpot-white-wine-chicken-with-artichokes/

Spaghetti squash with bacon and spinach http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/spaghetti-squash-with-bacon-spinach-and-goat-cheese#.ftLPNVLDm

Ham and beans http://www.food.com/recipe/crock-pot-ham-and-beans-96347

Chicken broccoli stir fry http://passthesushi.com/chicken-and-broccoli-stir-fry/

Chili-lime pork with corn http://www.marthastewart.com/973879/chili-lime-pork-corn-salad?xsc=soc_pin_Chili-LimePorkwithCornSalsa&crlt.pid=camp.ZoiIoY7Q2Jxt

Sweet chili sesame chicken http://www.carlsbadcravings.com/asian-sweet-chili-sesame-chicken/

Hot hamburgers (family recipe)

Chicken chili relleno casserole http://www.ladybehindthecurtain.com/chicken-chili-relleno/

Pesto shrimp http://www.closetcooking.com/2013/06/pesto-grilled-shrimp.html

Smoked sausage and cabbage (two variations – family recipes)

Asian salmon http://damndelicious.net/2014/12/19/asian-salmon-foil/

Balsamic beef roast http://thechicsite.com/2013/07/16/slow-cooker-balsamic-pot-roast/

Corn chowder http://crockingirls.com/recipes/nicoles-corn-chowder/

Potato, broccoli, cheese and egg casserole http://www.cozycountryliving.com/easter-brunch-potato-broccoli-pepper-jack-egg-casserole/

Stacked chicken enchiladas http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/chicken-enchilada-casserole-recipe/#_a5y_p=1587442

***Helpful Hints***

  • Start with a clean kitchen.
  • Eat breakfast or lunch, depending on what time you start. Preparing this much food is difficult when you are hungry.  You may want to plan for a snack break also.  (Just because I am sharing this event doesn’t mean I am against eating out.  My two favorite restaurants?  McDonald’s and Cooper’s Hawk.)

McDs

(Here’s McDs…)

  • Put a bottle of frou-frou wine or refreshing lemonade in the refrigerator to chill.
  • Clear the counters as much as you possibly can, especially if your kitchen is sadly lacking in counter space like mine.

Coopers Hawk countertop

(…and here’s Cooper’s Hawk!  https://www.coopershawkwinery.com/)

  • Make sure all of your dishes are clean, your dishwasher empty, and a new liner in your wastebasket.
  • If you have a cabinet with pull-out bins for trash and recycling, you may want to remove them from the cabinet and place them in the floor near where you are working. It will be tedious constantly trying to open the cabinet with messy and/or very full hands.
  • I filled my sink with hot, soapy water so I could wash multiple use items as I proceeded. This included pieces like my food processor container and blade, my cutting boards (I only have two!), and my colander.
  • If you have those handy dandy bag holders that I have seen on Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/317855686171018469/), use them. If not, you may have a container that will hold a bag open quite nicely.  Just fold the top over the rim of the container so that the bag is held in place and food doesn’t end up on the outside of the bag.  I have one that is perfect!

container

  • Assemble your ingredients and recipes.

iPad recipes

  • Spices and herbs can remain in the cabinet to save counter space if they are easily accessible.

spice cabinet

  • If you know all of the onions (or whatever else you are using) should be chopped, go ahead and do that. Then you are only chopping them once and can measure out the amount needed.  One onion chopped will usually equal about one cup.
  • Have a black Sharpie handy. Write the name of each meal and any necessary cooking instructions on the front of the bag before filling it with the ingredients.

sharpie

  • Most of my chosen meals did not require pre-cooking of any ingredient. I would like to say I planned it that way…  If you have meats that must be cooked, get that started first.  Ground beef can brown while you are assembling other meals, and chicken breast can simmer on the back of your stove.  You could also put the chicken into a crockpot, depending on how much you need to cook, and shred or chop it as needed.

shredding chicken

Bacon is wonderfully simple to prepare in your oven, with very little mess and no splatter burns!

making bacon

  • Placing the bags on their sides in the freezer will allow for maximum storage space and ease in finding just the freezer meal you want. On the left is my upright freezer in my garage.  It is not always this neat or this empty.  In two weeks, it will be filled with a side of beef from the county fair, so organization is very necessary at this time!  My kitchen refrigerator on the right needs a makeover desperately…

fridges

When it is all done, sit back, relax with a glass of chilly refreshment, and revel in the fact that you will not have to put much thought into several meals for a while.