Freezer meal stock up (+ giveaway)

This is technically round 3, but I promised, and never delivered rounds 1 & 2. How long can I blame these sorts of things on being a new mom? Does the grace period wear out when G turns 1? If so, I am squeezing another 5 weeks out of that excuse!

The cost

A lot of food we buy is organic (dairy, meat, and the dirty dozen for sure), so that does up the cost a bit. But overall I think we spent about $200 between Costco and Safeway (use the Just4u app!), and wound up with 18 freezer meals, all of which will give us plenty of leftovers. Probably 36-45 meals total. This breaks the price per meal down to roughly $4.40 per meal. Not too shabby, and cheaper than my soy latté this morning. On the day of, some of the meals will require add ons like cooking some quinoa, or making a salad, but nothing over the top price or money wise – maybe $50/week for produce, yogurt, milk, and other staples as we run out (less in the summer).

Picking recipes

This go round I mixed in some tried and true freezer meals with some new ones. Most meals made in the crock pot can be turned into freezer meals. They are my favorite kind because they are quick and easy, for the most part. You just dump, seal, and freeze. I also love making yummy marinades for meat – they are perfect for the grill. And finally, casseroles are a good standby. The ones I pick are more time consuming than most, of course.

For freezer meal inspiration I have a pinterest board, pick and choose recipes from Once a Month Meals *(OAMM, formerly Once a Month Mom), and use tried and true family favorites. My burlattas have actually been featured on the Once a Month Meals 2011 November menu too!

*I haven’t done a full OAMM menu yet, however, because I’m not a fan of tangy sauces, and am not a huge meat eater. So customizing a menu to my own taste is something I take the time to do. But if you aren’t picky about that sort of thing, OAMM is a GREAT freezer meal resource!

The method

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First I compile my favorites and newbie recipes. I make a grocery list (sorted by area of the store), and create a word doc for directions. For a big cooking day I try to chop all my veggies the day before during G’s nap. This doesn’t always happen, but makes the process smoother. The next morning I’ll throw chicken in the crock for shredding (pretty much all my menus require some shredded chicken – it’s best with some taco seasoning thrown in the mix), and get to filling freezer bags (either ziploc gallon size or foodsafe bags for our vacuum sealer) with my dump and go meals. Then I attack the casserole dishes one by one. I’ve attempted making more than one at once (i.e. making pasta while sautéing the ground beef/Italian sausage mixture and rolling enchiladas), but I usually miss a step with something, or forget to throw in an ingredient or two. So I figure it might take a bit more time to focus on one at a time, but haste makes waste, right?

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After I do my dump meals I flash freeze the casseroles before vacuum sealing them. Flash freezing is very easy – I just make a flat space in my freezer, lay a cookie sheet down, and then place whatever meal I need on top of the cookie sheet. After 45 min to an hour I can usually vacuum seal. Some things take longer (like the pulled pork, I needed to wait for the Dr. Pepper to freeze a bit more before sealing otherwise the liquid would all go out of the bag). Sometimes I leave them all night, it just depends on what comes up and gets in the way of the process!

We generally eat 1-2 freezer meals a week, and cook 1-2 times. Once I have a full freezer I often will double recipes once a week, and freeze the second half. That way I don’t have to do big cooking days – which can be really difficult with a little one. Once the freezer starts to get low I start looking for inspiration again. Also, some of my girlfriends are getting into freezer cooking and we swap meals. I’m trying to rope more friends in, as swapping can really add to the variety of your freezer.

This rounds recipes – all were doubled

** indicates a tried and true recipe

Dump & go crock pot meals:

Mustard Lime Chicken – can be baked or grilled. I doubled and will probably cook in each style to decide what I like best for the next go round. I suspect grilling will win!

Chicken & Dumplings** – I’m looking for a non-condensed soup version if anyone has a recipe suggestion. Though this one is really tasty. I used the Cascade Farms Organic peas/carrots/corn blend for the veggies because it was 50%. Score! Not having to chop veggies is priceless for bulk cooking days!

Pulled Pork**- this one was tripled because of the cut of meat we bought, and it is SO tasty! I’d like to find a recipe that doesn’t use soda, but Dr. Pepper is pretty magical, so I guess I can handle it every once and a while.

Pesto Ranch Chicken Thighs – an easy crock pot meal to serve over rice, quinoa, or pasta.

more time consuming & casserole style meals:

Cream Cheese Spaghetti **-  I’ve made this with spaghetti, ziti, and fusili. I like the fusili the best. I do half (local, organic) ground beef and half Italian sausage. Do not attempt to add mushrooms! I tried last go round and the filling was way too watery. Doubling the onions and bell peppers works though. And do not neglect the French fried onions at the end of the cooking process. I’d never eaten a French fried onion before this meal, and man, I was missing out!

Paleao meatloaf – I made this with Italian Sausage, instead of ground pork. I have no idea of that is paleo compliant, (probably not!). I’ve never made meatloaf before, can you believe it?!? I actually rarely cook meat, I’m more of a chicken or fish kind of gal. But this recipe was super easy, and allowed me to finally use the almond meal I bought at Trader Joe’s forever ago and forgot about. Also, you top the meatloaf with bacon. And as we all know, bacon is amazing. I also made these in silicone cupcake liners so I could pop them out when frozen and just pop 3 or 4 in the oven at a time. If I get adventurous this week I might make some mashed potatoes and freeze them in the silicone cupcake liners for single servings as a side for these meatloaves. Which would totally ruin the paleoness of this meal, haha.

Avocado chicken enchiladas – This was made the following day after the chicken had cooled & was shredded. I added a small onion (diced) to the sauce. I filled my tortillas (purchased from a local Mexican restaurant for a more authentic taste) to the brim. I think one enchilada will be a substantial meal, so this should yield us 7 meals.

The verdict

We’ve only had one of the freezer meals for this round so far, (pulled pork), and it was a total keeper. We had pulled pork sandwiches one night, and used as taco filling another night. We still have plenty leftover too!

And exciting news, I’m pairing up with Jenn at The Wannabe Housewife for a $100 cash giveaway! Enter through the rafflecopter below 🙂

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What are your favorite freezer meal recipes or freezer meal websites?

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Happy Halloween!

School was a lot of fun today. Remember the rush of Halloween as a kid? Barely able to sit in your seat because you were dreaming about your costume and the anticipation of all the candy you were about to receive? It was enough to make me burst.

Yeah, a lot of that going on today.

Instead of letting the impending sugar rush get to me, I planned some fun Halloween themed activities. We’re working on friendly letters in writing, so we wrote to monsters and described what we were going to be for Halloween. During Readers Workshop I read Halloween by Jerry Seinfeld, and we did a sensory image exercise (while listening to Seinfeld read it himself!).

My favorite is, “Wait, what is this? The orange marshmallow shaped like a peanut? Yeah, we’ve got enough of these already.” I hate those things!

Their homework tonight is to write down how many pieces of candy they receive. Tomorrow we’re going to practice median, mode and range with our data.

Tonight, however, I’m dressed up as a lazy witch, and I’m handing out candy to the neighborhood kidlets.

Lazy witch = hat, black sports bra, black t-shirt, black yoga pants and black socks. I got lots of compliments on my hat, however. And that is what I live for. Compliments from kids on my sense of style. Don’t be jealous. You know you do to.

I have a mask on too, however, as I live in the neighborhood I teach in and I’d prefer if my students don’t know where I live. I’ve had three kidlets from my school so far, including one from the class next door, and none of them recognized me.

In between dishing out the goods I’m working on our meal plan for this week. I barely have any of it written, so instead of Meal Plan Monday, I’m bringing you a recipe. In the words of Chelsey, I’m sorry I’m not sorry.

Chicken Burlattas

for the black bean version, click here

Yields 10 burlattas

Ingredients

1 cup dry short grain brown rice

3 cups shredded chicken (leftover rotisserie chicken from Costco works great! Or 2 chicken breasts)

2.5 cups shredded Mexican cheese, divided

2 14 oz cans red enchilada sauce

1/2 a medium yellow onion, diced

10 flour tortillas (We prefer Guerrero for this recipe)

Directions

If making your own chicken, (rather than using leftover rotisserie chicken), bring a large pot of water and place chicken breast inside. Cook 20 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in the center. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and shred.

Meanwhile, bring brown rice and 2 cups water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.

Once rice is cooked and chicken is shredded, add both to a large bowl. Add 1 can of enchilada sauce, 2 cups cheese and the diced onion. Mix well. Split mixture evenly between 10 tortillas. Place in a 9×13 glass pan, sprayed with cooking spray, or split between two 8×8 glass pans. Top tortillas with the second can of enchilada sauce and remaining cheese.

Bake 30 minutes. Serve topped with plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Enjoy!

I split them between two pans, one lined with aluminum foil for freezing. I flash froze the whole pan for 1-2 hours. Then I removed the burlattas from the pan and wrapped them with more aluminum foil. They will keep up to 6 months.

How did you celebrate Halloween? Did you dress up?

An ode to the Arrested Developement

Recently someone stumbled upon my blog by googling arrested development chicken instructions. This isn’t the first time this phrase has lead to my blog, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

So I thought, why not throw that image up again? Someone clearly wants to see it.

If you know me in real life, you know I have a slight obsession with Arrested Development. I started watching the show during it’s first season, and was immediately intrigued by the lack of a laugh track, the wit and my fondness for characters I would despise if I met them in real life. I even did a presentation on the show for my Communications and Media course.

Arrested Development Season 1(source)

After graduating from college, I landed a job in the promotions department for the local FOX affiliate. Arrested Development was now in its third season, somehow missing the first season kiss of death FOX is notorious for. However, the show had been moved too many times, both in days and time slots, and it was clear from my first day in November 2005 that the show would not be renewed for a fourth season.

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Even though I was a lowly assistant, I tried with all my might to convince the staff at FOX headquarters to renew the show. I signed the Save Our Bluths Campaign petition, searched for and found 3-D glasses to watch the much anticipated (at least for me) 3-D episode, and begged and pleaded with my rep to no avail.

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What’s a girl to do? Clearly, the imitating a chicken is a good option.

But be careful not to reenact any of the chicken options while near a campfire. Not that I almost fell in one while doing that exact thing or anything. I just think you might want to take some precautionary measures when choosing the time and place to perform chicken imitations.

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While imitating a chicken you might be compelled to cook some chicken. If this is the case, might I suggest an apron:

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(source) p.s. check out Sarah’s cornballer inspired recipe here.

Or perhaps a coffee cup to enjoy a cuppa’joe while you watch re-runs on lazy Saturday mornings and reminesce:

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And in case you need to make a phone call, or look up more Arrested Development chicken impersonations, pick yourself up an iPhone 4 cover.

Arrested Development phone cover(source)

But whatever you do, please pull up your Netflix account and place all three seasons in your queue immediately. You’ll thank me when the Arrested Development movie debuts.

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What is your favorite comedy from days past?

Chicken Asparagus Quinoa Salad

The last week of school is upon us, which means I am walking around like this:

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p.s. googling running around like a chicken with head chopped off leads to some rather unpleasant results.

I’m desperately trying to organize and clean the library for next year, take inventory (of more than 10,000 books), track down missing books/supplies, remove everything from the walls, and, oh, do my job. Just writing it down made me exhausted.

On Sunday evening I attempted to organize my life. And then the hubs walked in the house and told me we needed to head to the hospital. Somebody blew out his knee playing softball.

I didn’t believe him.

You see, he did the exact same thing 5 years ago. He swung, his body pivoted, his knee did not, and he hit a home run. He hasn’t really played since. So I fully expected him to walk into the kitchen and make some joke about how he needed to go to the ER.

Unfortunately he wasn’t joking. We got home at 11:15 p.m. Sunday night, and none of my to-do items were checked off my work week list. Fortunately, I spent a little time over the weekend pre-writing some posts. Unfortunately, I had McDonalds for dinner and woke up Monday feeling rather crappy.

But the end is in sight. Thursday is the last day of school, and directly after dismissal I am heading out of town to attend a bankruptcy conference with the hubs.

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Scratch that, I will be enjoying some down time at the Sun Mountain Lodge, and the hubs will be attending the conference. I’m looking forward to my long training run in the mountains, lots of reading, sleeping, and coffee drinking in robes from mugs! (not to-go cups!)

Life’s hard. I know.

I haven’t been to Winthrop in years, 12 of them to be exact. I’m hoping to find some quirky and/or divey restaurants to enjoy as well. But until then, I have another recipe to share with y’all.

Chicken Asparagus Quinoa Salad

Serves: 3

Nutritionals: Cal: 299, Carb: 27g, Fat: 12g, Pro: 20g, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 5g

Ingredients

1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed

1 cup chicken broth (or water, if in a pinch)

1.5 cups asparagus, cut into 1 inch chunks

1/2 cup thawed edemame

1 green onion stalk, diced

1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed

1/4 cup feta cheese

6 oz cooked chicken*, shredded (we grill extra on the weekend and shred it for week night meals, you could also use the crock pot method or boil method.)

*Sub with 1 can garbanzo beans to make this a vegetarian dish.

My favorite sauce/dressing (1 TBS EVOO, 1-2 garlic cloves, 1 TBS stone ground mustard, juice of 1/2 a lime and salt/pepper to taste)

Directions

Wash and pat dry your quinoa. Bring 1 cup chicken broth (or water) to a boil, add quinoa. Cook for 15 minutes, top pot with cover and remove from heat. Let pot sit for 5 minutes.

While quinoa is cooking mix your favorite sauce/dressing. After quinoa is cooked, add favorite sauce/dressing to quinoa and place in the fridge to cool.

Meanwhile, bring a second pot to boil and add your asparagus. Cook for 3 minutes, drain and rinse with cool water.

Once quinoa is cooled, add asparagus, cilantro, shredded chicken (or garbanzo beans), green onion, edemame, and feta cheese. Combine and enjoy!

What is your favorite way to prepare quinoa?

Lemon Asparagus Pasta

It is no secret I love lemon. Evidence found here, here, and here. Clearly I should have been born in Italy*.

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*The Hubs’ parents had an exchange student (hi Sylvia!) from Italy a few years back and she was obsessed with lemons. She says it is an Italian thing. I believe her.

Another ingredient that blesses my dinner plate (or snack plate, or lunch pate) with great frequency is the oh so delicious garlic clove.

Asparagus, however, is reserved for special occasions. Such occasions usually involve a trip to the farmer’s market, which means they only happen between May and October.

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Put all of these ingredients together and you’ve got a fabulous summer meal.

Lemon Asparagus Pasta

Serves 5

Nurtitionals: Cal: 307, Carb: 36g, Pro: 9g, Fat: 14g, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 3g

Ingredients

Pasta:

8 oz pasta of your choosing (my favorite is Barilla Plus)

2 cups chopped asparagus (approximately 1 inch chunks)

3/4 cup diced green onion

1/3 cup shredded parmesan

*optional: protein source of your choice (chicken, garbanzo beans, tofu), will add extra calories. We added one 8oz grilled chicken breast. (not included in nutritionals).

Sauce:

3 TBS lemon juice

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 TBS stone ground mustard

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions

Boil pasta according to package directions. When 3 minutes remain, add cut asparagus to pasta and continue to cook.

Meanwhile mix all dressing ingredients.

After pasta finishes cooking, drain and add back to pot. Stir in green onions, parmesan and dressing. Serve immediately.

Month of May

Feel free to have Arcade Fire provide today’s soundtrack…

Weekend mornings are much more enjoyable than Monday mornings, wouldn’t you agree?

This weekend I whipped up a (ridiculously large) batch of Gingerbread Pancakes.

I dined alfresco with the hubs under some glorious rays of sunshine.

This morning I dined under florescent light, and my oatmeal was heated via the microwave. But there are only 3 Monday’s left in the 2010-2011 school year. And this is the last week in May…where did the year go?

Spokane seems to finally have gotten the drift that Spring is here…

…but I am wondering how long it will take before Summer arrives.

In preparation for some lovely spring inspired meals, last night the hubs grilled up 4 massive chicken breasts. I will be sprinkling them throughout the work week. Bulk grilling, the spring/summer version of freezer meals!

Meal Plan Monday:

Monday

Lemon asparagus pasta salad w/grilled chicken (recipe coming Thursday)

Tuesday

Gourmet Bean mix soup, salad

Wednesday

Baked Potato Soup* (a cross between this recipe and this recipe…I think) OR twice baked potatoes with grilled chicken

*I don’t particularly want soup multiple nights this week, but I came home with a ridiculous amount of free russets today, so I need to figure out a way to work them into my meal plan this week.

Thursday

Leftovers

Friday

Date night at Wild Sage American Bistro

Saturday

Something carbalicious…I do have to get a 9 miler in Sunday morning after all.

Sunday

BBQ and homemade fries

Do you have a no-fail twice-baked potato recipe or potato soup recipe that I absolutely must try?

What do you do, ooo, ooo

with a Costco Chicken*.

*get it? Klondike theme. Anyone, anyone?

Tonight I found myself wandering the aisles of Costco, yet again. Yes bloggettes, that would be 3 Costco trips in 11 days. In my defense, we have a very small fridge, (only 20 cubic feet), and it fills up rather quickly. So I go when we run out of items completely, rather than when said items are getting close to running out.

Unlike the previous two trips, however, this time I was able to purchase one of my favorite items: Costco rotisserie chicken.

Yes, please.

We used to hit Costco on Monday evenings with great frequency. But instead of a healthy rotisserie chicken for a quick weeknight meal, we would grab a large pepperoni pizza. Only to return to home and dip it in Gregg’s ranch dressing.

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My how times have changed. Their pizza is still pretty bombdiggity, but I feel much better eating a little chicken topped salad. So this week’s foodie goal is to see how far I can stretch this bad boy throughout the work week.

My favorite rotisserie chicken leftover dishes include: chicken noodle soup, creamy chicken and rice soup, burlattas, and caesar salad.

I made my meal plan prior to the Costco trip, so this is subject to change….but here is what I have for Menu Plan Monday:

Monday: chicken caesar salad w/whole grain bread

Tuesday: chicken/steak wraps (on the best tortillas EVER)

Wednesday: chicken & wild rice soup (already made – yay for freezer meals!) + salad

Thursday: date night at either Mizuna or Wild Sage

Friday: Insane in the Membrane [turkey] burgers + sweet potato fries (still looking for a no-fail recipe for these…)

Saturday: Carbo-loading for Bloomsday! Roasted red pepper raviolis with butternut squash sauce & salad

Sunday: Crock pot chicken & brown rice & salad

What is your favorite thing to do with leftover rotisserie chicken?