Monday, January 30, 2012

Freezer Meal Update

So, Friday morning Ben and I went to Sams to procure all of the makings for my freezer meals.  That part of the mission was definitely accomplished.  I went to lunch with some amazing friends, and then did some school work Friday afternoon. So, I finally started working on actual cooking about 4 PM. Here's how it went down.

I had found some potatoes in the pantry, so I washed them up and stuck them in the oven to bake.

I chopped onions and carrots, and threw them in with a whole chicken I had in my freezer. I boiled the chicken, ending up with a cooked chicken to shred for meals, and also quite a bit of stock.
I started a huge pot of rice (8 cups water, 4 cups rice -- thanks Shanna for the advice and words of wisdome regarding freezing rice! That will come in handy!)

Scrambled 18 eggs.

Cooked 2 lbs of sausage (in crumbles)  while the eggs were cooking.

Once the eggs and ssg were done, I rolled about 16 breakfast burritos, and then bagged up the rest of the sausage crumbles for other recipes.

Then I bagged up the rice into 3  side dish portions, and 2 main dish portions. I didn't end up doing the fried rice recipe, however I don't think it will take much time to heat and "fry" the rice on that night's dinner.

I bagged up the cooked chicken that had been cooling. I'll probably regret not shredding it, but I just stuck it in a bag whole.

It was at this point that my Food Saver decided to stop sucking the air out of bags. Wahhhhh!

Then, I strained and put the stock in containers to freeze. I absolutely love having homemade stock to use for recipes. 

Next I made the "Asian" marinade for the salmon, and made 2 dinners worth of asian salmon. I had a little salmon left over. It wasn't enough for a meal, but Kevin through it on the smoker today while he was smoking the pork shoulder. It was delicious and he made a salmon dip this afternoon that was AMAZING!!

I used the same Asian marinade (I tripled it) and bagged up some chicken (2 meals) and pork chops (1 meal) in that. Then, I made the sweet and sour sauce. I coated chopped up chicken breasts in corn starch, and bagged the sauce separately. I will finish the chicken on the sweet and sour chicken night and serve it with fried rice.  I also just threw the leftover sauce to marinade some pork chops for a different dinner. 

I pretty much was exhausted at this point and decided to finish Saturday.

On Saturday morning I started some black beans, fully intending to finish my cooking spree. However, I opted instead to spend a fun day with my family.  Sunday, I ended up doing a decorating project, but I did manage to separate and freeze the rest of the meat.  I kept balking at the dishes that involved bread crumbs. Something just keeps telling me that is better done on the same day it is eaten. I could be completely wrong, as I am no freezer meal expert.  But, between being exhausted and just completely ADD, I made that choice.

I do feel good that I have a good amount of dinners that just need to be pulled out and cooked.  I also feel good that I have a good stock of meat in the freezer, which will cut down on the amount of days where I have to run to Publix to get stuff for dinner.  This will be a huge time saver, and less face it save money too!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In Which I Depend Upon the Kindness of Strangers

If I've learned anything in life, it's that if you can't laugh at yourself, you will be miserable, and if you happen to have a fiasco, it's all OK if you think of it in terms of having a good story to tell.

I had this idea.  Well, I can't take the credit for all of the idea, because I first saw it on Pinterest.  The thought was to take giant foam panels (designed for insulation, purchased at Home Depot) and cover them in fabric, and affix them to the wall for decoration.  We've been looking for something to go towards the top of our walls in the Family Room. It has 20 foot ceilings, with a ledge dividing it about  10 feet up. So, we have some stuff up there, but recently we painted below the ledge red on just that wall, and it's been seeming like it needs something. Additionally, since we put wood floors in, our house is quite echo-y. And we have 4 boys, so echo-y plus loud = crazy town.  As much as I try to let them be, there are times when the noise is just too much. SO. I thought this project would be awesome to 1. look good 2. be cheap (ish) and 3. maybe, just maybe soak up some sound. 

So, today I headed off to Home Depot to buy supplies. Somewhere along the way, Kevin and I decided instead of fabric, we'd use textured paint.  I had ideas of doing some abstract kind of craziness, but he reeled me in and we decided to keep it a little more simple. So to the Depot I went to acquire foam board and paint. I got there, and immediately got nervous. I obsessed over colors, hoping to choose the right one. I ended up getting all of the things and paid for and headed out the door.  The cashier said "Do you need someone to help you out with this? (Hello 98 x 46 sheets of foam?) "Nope," I said, I think I have it." In retrospect I totally should have let them help me.  So here is the picture.  I had a flatbed cart, with the foam on top. I'm walking to my car, when suddenly, a gust of wind lifts up the top piece of foam and propels it toward my head. I panic and try to keep it from blowing away, when I hear a crack and KNOW the one on the bottom has broken in two. I recover pieces, and two people (customers) run to my aid. A lovely gentleman helped me get to my car, with only a little more drama (another piece broke.) He helped me load the things which suddenly seemed very much larger, into my car (someone remind me to put the seats back where they go tomorrow before I have to get kiddos from school!)  So, finally I drive home with absolutely no vision behind me because there was styrofoam obscuring my rear view. I am so thankful to that nice man for helping me.  Otherwise, I'd have been chasing styrofoam all over the Home Depot parking lot for an hour, only to realize I couldn't get the one remaining piece in my van.

So, my vision of three large panels up there was dashed, and I quickly tried to revamp my plan. When I got home Kevin helped with the measuring and all that math stuff, and then we got down to the painting. They are drying in the front room tonight, and tomorrow we will figure out how to hang them.  I'm actually pretty excited about how it all turned out, fiasco notwithstanding.

I'll post pictures once we get it all on the wall.  There are some work in progress photos on Facebook if you want to check it out.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Big Ideas

I think it's clear that my kids are creative and smart. It's clear to me anyway. Maybe I'm just biased. Who knows! Sometimes these huge ideas they have make me nervous. I don't want to steer them away from being creative, but when they want to build things in the garage using real tools and stuff, I tend to get skittish. We do let them do stuff like this under supervision.

Sometimes they forego the asking for permission part (asking for forgiveness is easier?) and delve right into something. Like the day I walked out of the shower and Mark was making pancakes batter. He had a bowl of sausage crumbles, the syrup and some peanut butter out and informed me that they were going to make pancakes infused with these things instead of boring old toppings.  So, I ended up helping, but it worked out pretty well.

I do have to chuckle at my 8 year old  using the term infused.  I think - okay I know- we watch too much Food Network around here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Grocery List

My grocery list is surprisingly simple because I already have a lot of the seasonings/ bread crumbs/ condiment items on hand.  As much as I'd love to sit down and make a comprehensive grocery list, I simply do not have time right now. I will try to save my instructions (that I make up as I go) and maybe a few pictures. We'll see how the actual cooking goes though. As much as I want to do this I am nervous. Because it will be a lot of work. But, it will also be a lot of saved time later on, which will come in quite handy on those days I have to run off to school, or really need to study.  I will buy as much as possible from Sams Club since buying in bulk works best there.  So, here is my shopping list.

2 bags boneless skinless ckn breasts
2 pounds shrimp

2-3 pounds of salmon
Turkey cutlets 2 pounds
4 pounds hamburger meat
18 eggs
peppers and onions
4 packs of tortillas
shredded cheddar cheese
OJ concentrate (buy extra for drinking)
white wine or ckn broth
white rice
chopped carrots
soy sauce

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Menu - based on other people's freezer meals


Breakfast Burritos - You can adapt these to your taste and the ingredients you have on hand, but breakfast burritos are a favorite in this house. How easy to have some in the freezer for the rushed mornings - you know you have them too!

Lunch -

Chicken Nuggets - Do you know how many times I ask Ben what he wants for lunch and he says chicken nuggets?  And I pop some Tyson frozen nuggets on a plate and microwave them?  This has GOT to be better! Both healthier and cheaper... I love the idea of making my own "convenience" foods.

Bean Burritos - Cook up some beans in the crock pot, and mash; fill up a tortilla and top with cheese.  Wrap in foil and freeze. Another yummy lunch for Ben and I, and a few of my kids would even take this to school for lunch.

Dinners -

Asian Salmon - I'm trying to get more fish on the menu, so this will hopefully be a hit!
Teriyaki Salmon - With some random teriyaki sauce recipe.
Chicken Kiev - We do get tired of chicken in this house (ok, we = Kevin) but hopefully this Alton Brown recipe, adapted for the freezer won't fail!

Schnitzel - I will say here that any time eggs are called for in a recipe I use a substitute due to Ben's egg allergy. He isn't severely allergic, but when he eats eggs his eczema flares up and he gets very, very itchy. The substitute I use most often is Ener G Egg Replacer and it works quite well in most recipes that don't call for more than 2 eggs. In a dish like this, you'll never miss the egg!

Have Kevin smoke  a pork shoulder - Alright fine, my husband probably won't come to your house to smoke a big chunk of pork. However, if  you can cook one in your crock pot, or oven. OR have your hubby (or hey, if you aren't as inept at charcoal as I am, you maybe could do it yourself.) The point is you can cook up enough meat for 3-5 meals in one slow cooked cut and use it in bbq sandwiches, tacos, or just eat the pulled meat with some veggies. A great source for tips on how to smoke things is Deejay's Smoke Pit .

Homemade pizza dough - freeze the dough, and on pizza night thaw and add your toppings and bake! Easy and way cheaper than calling for delivery or even buying the pre made crusts....

Turkey Cutlets - Turkey is a great way to incorporate lean white meat without over doing the chicken! 

Shrimp & Orzo - I'm not totally sold on seafood  in a freezer meal. Or orzo for that matter.  However, I will try it because the recipe sounds yum, and then report back on how it went.

Sweet and Sour Chicken with fried rice -  Again, we'll see how the rice holds up to being frozen.  But it's worth the experiment to me.

Sides -

Do you love bread? Me too, a bit too much so I usually pass, but this recipe  is a-mazing.  It's from the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day book. It couldn't be easier, and is delicious! I just need to try out the whole grain version that I've been too nervous to try (due to previous failures trying to make a wheat bread that isn't a brick.)

So, basically if I use this as a basis, I am going to say this is a good start. It won't be a month's worth of meals but if I double up I can have 2 salmon, 2 chicken kiev, 2 schnitzel, 4 meals with smoked pork (2 tacos, 2 bbq sandwiches,) 2 pizza nights, 2 turkey cutlets, and 2 shrimp &orzo, 2 sweet & sour chicken with fried rice. So, if my math adds up correctly, that is 18 dinners where all I have to do is thaw and heat, and throw some veggies on to steam as a side.  Plus, the few lunches and the breakfast burritos.  I think it will work.

Next up, a grocery list for all of this madness!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A book

Mark told me the other day he wants to write a book.  I told him I would also like to write a book someday. We talked about it and decided we could write a children's book together. I told him an idea I had several years ago, and just never acted on. We've brainstormed it together and have some good ideas brewing! I think it is so fun that he is creative and interested in this little project. It's something for us to do together and that motivates me to make it happen even if it is just something for the two of us to share.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Planning Phase

So far 2012 has brought us an amazing vacation, 4 cases of strep (boys), one case of hives (Eric) and one case of pneumonia (Kevin.)  Please, don't let the illness negate the wonderful nature of the vacation. It was awesome and pictures are on face book.  I will attempt to add them here in a later post. 

I'm also very busy with 7 hours this semester. A & P (and lab) and Nutrition. So far things are going well, but I'm studying a lot, and very nervous at the prospect of transition into a full time school load in August (assuming I get into the RN program.) LALALALALALA. I'm trying to take it one step at a time and not think about future stress. Today is enough.

I've become so far behind on blogging that it doesn't even bear attempting to catch up, so I'm jumping right in with what's on my mind right now. And that's freezer meals. I've done this in the past when I've had babies and such and it is a lifesaver!

There are some draw backs for the traditional freezer meals for our family.

1. Kevin is fairly picky, and has some big food NOs on his list. I can't blame him (much -ha ha!) because I suspect these are more like intolerances than just picky-isms. For instance certain textures are on his NO list.  Potatoes, beans, pasta if it's not very al dente. I just can't blame the guy for having texture issues, especially when I notice at least 2 of my kids have the very same issues. Heredity?  Probably.  Also, he gets severe heartburn and/ or acid reflux if he eats a lot of tomato based stuff.  So, spaghetti, lasagna, and any thing else that has a tomato based sauce is out out out. (SOB! I love Italian food. So, the boys and I eat spaghetti every time he's out of town on business!)

2. My time is limited, but I guess that's why I'm revisiting this concept in the first place. Tuesday nights I like to go to Zumba at 6 PM.  Well, that doesn't leave much time to get the kids home and homeworked AND get dinner on the table. Simply reheating or finishing a pre-prepared dinner would make this so much easier. Wednesday nights are a rush as well, with me leaving for A & P lab at 6:15 and not getting home until after 9. While Tuesday night is optional, Wednesday night is a must until the end of April. So, preparation is key. I guess this is less a hindrance to my freezer meal idea, and more of an argument to just go ahead and do it.

3. I am trying to count calories and lose some more weight, but after some googling I feel like this isn't as much of a set back as I had once thought.
So, since many of the pre arranged lists and menus are out for us (see items one and three) I need to sort through it, add it what we already eat (Hello Friday Taco Night!) and get my act together on a menu plan and perhaps THIS weekend get some meals together. It may not be a whole month's worth, but even if I can get a week ahead that's a start.

So this is the planning phase. I will do my best to link the sites I have found that are helpful, and list any recipes.

Maybe this will be a new start to revamp my sad, lonely blog as well.

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