Friday, November 21, 2014

FREEZER FOOD RECIPES & THE BEST LASAGNA

I mentioned in my Thanksgiving food post that I might follow up with links to a few freezer meals recipes.  Here is that promised post.  I have been in some sort of food co-op for the past five years, and I love the variety and ease it adds into meal prep.  In my current group, there are 6-7 women, and we each make one dish 6-7 times.  Then, we trade them all and end up with 6-7 different main dishes ready to go.  We trade every other month, so it's not a ton, but every little bit helps!

We traded this week, and due to the holidays, not as many people participated, so those of us that did made two meals each.  I made Creamy Tortellini Soup, and I really love this recipe.  Also note, that if you choose to double it, it will just barely fit into your crock pot - but I made it work!

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I also made and froze Fabulous Chicken - a recipe that I got from my sis and blogged several years ago.  It freezes perfectly!  I just realized that none of the pictures work from that post, so I am just going to rewrite it here for ya.

4 boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup melted butter
1 lg package of shredded Swiss Cheese
1 can of Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 C White Grape Juice
1 package Good Seasons Herb and Garlic

Place chicken breast into baking dish.  Top with swiss cheese.  Mix the soup and juice together and pour over chicken/cheese.  Melt the butter and mix in the Good Seasons, and then pour that over as well.  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.  Easy Peasy!

For this recipe, I froze it right before the baking time, so it will need to be defrosted before I bake it.  

Another recipe I made for next week and froze is Garlic White Lasagna.  This has become a new favorite of everyone I know that has ever tried it.  A friend made it for us the weekend of the IF conference, and I begged for the recipe and have been making it ever since then.  It's my favorite lasagna ever - hands down.  I am not a huge fan of marinara sauce, and this has none. 

My friend got the recipe from her mother-in-law, and after a little digging, I found the original recipe came from a 1998 Southern Living.  The only change from that recipe is that I was instructed to use slices of mozzarella cheese instead of shredded.  I think this makes a difference in the creaminess factor and overall deliciousness.

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I froze it right at the point that it would be time to bake it, so I will just defrost and stick it into the oven.  I got hungry just thinking about eating it on Wednesday night.  Yum.

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With it, I plan to serve this Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes recipe.  I've never made it, but a friend recommended it.  By the looks of it, I don't think we can go wrong.  Fact: I had never deigned to eat brussels sprouts until a couple of weeks ago.  I was shocked to discover how tasty they are!

If you are looking for some yummy stuff to freeze, then I hope this helped!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

HIGHS & LOWS: HAVE LIZARDS GOTTEN INTO OUR HOUSE?

Here's what's up.

High: A warm front came through this week.  And by warm front, I mean like 50 degrees.  I wish the cold didn't bother me anyway.

High:  John got some time away by himself and came back rejuvenated in spirit, which is such a blessing.

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High:  Yesterday while John was gone, I managed to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with friends.  #winning

High:  Our church hosted its Global Village - a night that showcases many of the ministries that we are partnered with throughout the world.  I took the kids and had many friends there to help me.  Seriously, what would I do without them?  The event was well done, and in the vein of helping our kids understand the wider world we live in, it was great to show them some of the stuff there.

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The conversation in our car on the way home was both encouraging and hilarious.  One of the activities that the girls did was get a high five from someone that had glitter on their hands.  This person explained that the glitter represented germs that were on people's unwashed hands, and that some people don't have access to clean water to be able to wash their hands.  Then, they played with play dough to represent making food, and we watched the glitter germs spread into the food ready to be ingested and make people sick.

Later in the car, Lily started asking why people don't have clean water and why we can't just get it for them.  It was both good and hard to see her start to glimpse the mess of a world that we live in, but I did see that she understood a bit.  She started talking about giving them money and looking for other ways to help.  Bella piped in with, "and then they eat play dough and get sick!"  I tried not to let Bella hear me laughing.  So close, yet so far.

Low:  Last night was a major low.  The timing of John's meetings and activities were such that he arrived home really late (1 am).  That in and of itself was not the problem.  William's almost incessant crying was the problem.  I think he's getting some molars, and he's being a big baby about it.  We rocked him, cuddled him, gave him ibuprofen, and even tried bringing him to bed with us - which shows how desperate we were, because we almost never do that, and he still cried.  He didn't have a fever or any other noticeable symptom, other than crying.  t eventually turned off the monitor, because I am an awesome parent.  We all survived to see this morning, so I'm not saying that was a totally bad plan.

Low:  Last night was made worse by hearing frog noises in our house.  When everything is quiet at night (except for the crying child), its hard to tell where the noise is coming from.  Earlier in the evening, I was convinced that a lizard had gotten into our house through a crack between our front doors.  There is a lizard party on our front porch every afternoon on warm days, and I was just certain one had gotten in and that they must somehow make frog noises that I had never known about.

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I was searching under all the furniture with my phone light to see if I could locate stray lizards.  I eventually realized that the noise was coming from a toy that was going off in the cabinet.

Fast forward to later in the bad night.  John and I, who had not slept much, hear the loud frog noise from our bedroom, and for whatever reason, I completely forgot that I knew it was a toy.  I started asking about lizards again, because I was deliriously tired.  I stopped just short of googling "what sounds do lizards make?" around 4 a.m.  At one point, we were both up, walking around, hunting for the frog noise.  It was then that we realized (my SECOND moment of realization), that the noise was coming from a toy in the toy cabinet.

I feel like I've lost my ever-loving-mind, so that's a low.  I don't think any lizards are actually in our house - so I guess that's a bright side.

High:  At one point last night, Bella came in asking to cuddle and then had to be walked back to her bed crying.  That was another low point, and John actually said, "I don't think this night could get much worse."  My response - "don't say that - because the night is not over."  And to be fair, no one vomited and no one was actually sick that we know of, so it could have been a lot worse.

High:  Today was Lily's Thanksgiving Feast at school, and I got to go eat lunch with her.  I do love seeing her in the middle of the day, and she was pleased to have me there.  I love Thanksgiving, and eating elementary school cafeteria food was sentimentally nostalgic for me.

Low:  Eating a feast with a plastic spork.  This was harder than you might think.  There was no plastic knife to go along with my spork, so making my way through the turkey was difficult.  I eventually gave up and just bit through the large pieces, because I like to keep it classy.

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Low:  Lily made it very clear that she didn't want to purchase a tray of food, but I thought it would be a good experience for her to try the Thanksgiving feast.  #rookiekindergartenmommistake
This morning, as she was getting ready for school, she said, "I hate you when you make me buy a lunch tray."  At that point, I was pretty committed to the plan and explained that there were better ways to tell Mommy that she'd like a packed lunch in the future.  She repaid my stick-to-it-tive-ness by eating two things at lunch.  Her roll and my roll.  Packed lunches it is.  I saw my neighbor with a pizza for her kids, and I realized - neighbor knows what's up.  I'll bring CFA to next years' Thanksgiving feast, because Save A Turkey, Eat More Chicken.

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So, that's been the last couple of days.  Never a dull moment around here.  I'm hoping for an early bedtime for everyone tonight.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A FEW FIRSTS

We're in that time of life when there are still lots of "firsts".  Here's a few of them from the last couple of days/weeks.

Lily's First Field Trip.  This was actually back before Halloween, but I never blogged about it.  I actually got a sitter and got to go to the pumpkin patch with her class!  It was a beautiful day, and I really enjoyed getting to see Lily interact with her peers - a great insight into her little world.

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First Time that Bella Performed in the Bloom Brunch without Lily.  Bella seemed really concerned about finding me in the audience, which was sweet.  However, her concern caused her to totally miss getting little sticks to bang, so she did a good job of banging her knuckles together.  John was able to come, and Bella lit up when she saw him.

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First Time I've Seen William Push Violet on a Car.  Well, really, I just wanted an excuse to include this amazingly cute video that they sent me from Mother's Day Out this morning.  If you just need a smile, take a watch.  These twins of mine are pretty darn cute, and videos like this warm my heart.  I shared it on Instagram, and this is the longer version.



Lily's First "Fun Run."  This was just today, and because it fell right at the twins' nap time, I drove past on our way home to see if I could catch a glimpse of her.  I felt a bit like a creeper looking through the fence with my giant camera, but it was worth it to see her running her heart out.  I don't know for sure how many laps she did yet, but I'm betting it was all 35.  Bella enjoyed the music, and the twins enjoyed sleeping in the car.

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Speaking of the Bloom Brunch - it was an encouraging morning spent with lovely women that I am privileged to share life with.  Plus, they are beautiful.  Double bonus.  Not a "first," but definitely worth sharing the picture.  Anotehr interesting fact is that this group has grown to include four women (including myself) who have sets of twins.  What are the chances?  Another mother is an identical twin and another has twin siblings.  We are a little twin centric, and I'm loving it.

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In other news, both babies can open doors, and William can also unscrew sippy cups, which means Occupational Therapy must be doing him a lot of good.  Though that particular skill is not doing me any favors.  Basically, I have two little mess makers wandering around the house at all times looking for something to mess with.  Here's the first time I found William behind the curtains.  He was tickled to death until he thought he couldn't get out, at which point, he just walked straight until the curtain came over his head and he fell on the ground.  It was quite entertaining to watch, and he took it like a champ.

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First Time I Had the Deli Man Remark on My Nails and Ask Me about Eye-Brow Threading.  So, I was getting baba ghanoush yesterday, and the man behind the counter started asking me detailed questions about my nails.  Then, he proceeded to say, "You're a woman.  Can you tell me what eye-brow threading is?"  Sadly, I did not have a good answer to that question, because I have no experience with it.  It was a funny interaction.

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Hope your week is going well!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

PREPPING FOR THANKSGIVING + A FEW RECIPE LINKS

Every other year we have Thanksgiving at our house with John's family.  We are centrally located since they live in Colorado and North Carolina and especially now that another sister lives here, having everyone in the Rock is what makes the most sense.  It really is a sweet time, and I enjoy playing hostess.  However, since everyone is coming from far and wide, a lot of the prep work belongs to me.

I really do enjoy cooking, and I love tradition and holidays, so doing Thanksgiving is right up my alley.  Plus, I'm super thankful.  Obvs.

But - what I have realized is that to be able to host and ENJOY Thanksgiving at the same time requires a lot of working ahead, which is what I've been doing.  Which is why I'm blogging about it.  And - since I posted this picture on Instagram,

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I've had a couple of inquiries about what I'm making and/or what I'm making ahead.  So - if you are cooking for Thanksgiving, you might find this post helpful.  If not - you probably didn't click on it to start with.

I have a Thanksgiving folder in my Evernote that is so helpful to return to every couple of years.  I had my menu from 2012, which included a detailed shopping list for each recipe, and since you really eat most of the same things each year, then this means I had much less planning work to do this year. Super bonus.

Here's what's on our Menu:

Turkey - usually we pressure cook this at CFA, which turns out amazing.  But, this year, John wants a break from being at the restaurant, which I totally get, and we are going to try grilling our turkey at home.  These are the instructions I plan on following - so wish us luck on that!

Stuffing - To be honest, I dislike stuffing and outsource this to my wonderful Mother-in-law on the day of.  She does a great job.  I do buy the stuff for her recipe.

Sweet Potato Casserole - I love this stuff.  Here's a recipe from a dear family friend that I always use. I made this the other night and stuck it in the freezer right before the part where you would bake it.  Then, I'll just defrost and bake the day of!

Casserole                                          Crumble Topping
3 C Mashed Sweet Potatoes             1 C Brown Sugar                              
1/4 C Evap. Milk                              1 C Chopped Pecans
1/4 C Flour                                       1/3 C Flour
3/4 C Honey                                     1/3 C Butter, melted
1 Stick of Butter
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Vanilla
2 tsp Cinnamon
2 Eggs, beaten

Combine in mixer til light and fluffy.  Sprinkle crumble topping over it all.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Mashed Potatoes - I also made this the other night and froze them.  Then, day of, I will stick them in the oven with foil on top until they are heated through.  What I've discovered is that you can almost never bake potatoes too much.  I don't have a recipe - I just keep adding a combination of butter, sour cream, a bit of milk, minced garlic, salt and pepper until they taste good to me.

Aunt Clara's Rolls - Aunt Clara may be gone, but her rolls live on forever.  These can also be made ahead and frozen, though I haven't made it to them yet.

Green Bean Casserole - Another item that I outsource to MIL or someone else day of.  I have a vivid memory of trying to choke down green beans as a child with a reward of an M'M Pumpkin Cookie dangled in front of me.  I mixed them with my spaghetti, because I really didn't like them then.  I still don't like them.

Pineapple Casserole - This is something that is traditional for my brother-in-law, and so he always makes it on the day of.  It's their family recipe, and it really is good.  Because who doesn't love pineapples + sugar + butter.

Orange Salad - We are big fans of regular cranberry salad, so I'm trying something a bit different, and I think my kids will dig it, and maybe once we broach this salad with them, they will start to realize how amazing salads are.  I haven't made it in quite a while, but it seems like a good addition.

1 Lg Package of Orange jello
1 Lg Carton Cottage Cheese (small curd)
1 Sm Can of Pineapple Chunks, drained
1 Sm Can of Mandarin Oranges, drained
1 Cup Mini Marshmallows
1 Md Carton Cool Whip

Mix it all up.
Now - if you're looking at that recipe and a bit confused about the sizes, just know that I'm feeling the same way.  I got it from my mom, and I think I did a poor job of writing it down several years ago.  However, I have a pretty good feeling that this one is hard to screw up.  The ratios are fluid.  Just go with it.

As you can see, our menu is basic and extremely traditional.  I think it would be really fun to mix it up one year, but it's also nice to just do the same things - especially since we only do it once a year!

And, for dessert, I have Pumpkin Cheesecake (I make this using crushed up Ginger Snaps in place of the graham crackers in the crust), Apple Pie and Chocolate Pie.  I am kind of a snob about home made crusts - here's the recipe I use.  Pie crust is also great to make ahead an freeze - in fact, you can make ahead the whole Apple pie and freeze it right before the bake it part.

Just now, as I was looking back through the recipes I have posted in the past, and I found these Cupcakes that look like Turkeys - those were really fun.  It's also crazy to me how little Lily is in those pictures.  Time does indeed fly.

I hope this gives you some ideas if you needed them!  I've also been making food for the rest of the week as well as freezer meals for December.  If I get a chance, I might link to some of those recipes in another blog post - I've found some winners!  Happy early Thanksgiving.