Thursday, July 11, 2013

Slow Cooker to Freezer Meal plan, part 2

The Great Shopping Trip

Today I dropped the kids off with mom.  I took my shopping list (made yesterday) and started at Woodmans, my favorite 24/7 grocery store.  Total for all the produce and staples I'm going to need for tomorrow was about $50.  I got everything except the meat.

Next I hit my neighborhood grocery store, Festival Foods for their meat selection.  They deeply discount certain meats at the end of the day, so I was able to get about 20# of meat ranging in price from 1.50 -3.00 per pound.  I didn't have a chance to get chicken breasts, but I was able to get several good looking beef and pork cuts.

Later today I might stop by Sam's, where I can get chicken breast for 1.99#.  We'll see.  Otherwise I'll work with what I have.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Slow Cooker to Freezer Meal plan, part 1

At 36 weeks, I am feeling very much like nesting... without the energy.  I want to have meals in the freezer for the post baby haze, but I don't want to be on my feet cooking.  At all.

So, I am going for my tried and true freezer to slow cooker approach.

For my first step, I made my battle plan today.

I got my recipes from here. I picked the recipes I was going to use (I was going to start with 10, but went to 13 and I'm planning on doubling all of them) and made my grocery list.

I love the simplicity of these recipes, but I am adding my own modifications.  I always, always, add veggies to my freezer meals, which means I need about twice as much seasoning to cover the whole meal.

So, first I'm going to load the meat into my trusty, labelled gallon bags.  Then I am going to add the seasoning for 24 or 26 (depends on how much meat I get) meals.  Then I am going to fill the rest of the bag with chopped, freezable produce.

Tomorrow, I will be shopping cheap cuts of meat and in-season, freezable veggies for my grand meal-making adventure.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Spanish Slow Cooker "Skillet" Recipe

So, today was Tuesday after an eventful week, which I knew meant I could put dinner in the morning, or the kids would be having PB&J for dinner.

So, I took stock of A) what I had on hand and B) what they have been liking lately.  If you have kids, you are familiar with the idea that their taste in food morphs on a daily, or even hourly, basis.

Shockingly, everyone loved it.  So, here is the recipe for tonight's win.

Spanish Slow Cooker "Skillet" (adapted from "Spanish Noodle Skillet" in the "More with Less Cook Book")

Throw in the slow cooker:
1 # cooked ground beef (I buy and cook in bulk and freeze in one pound portions)
2 cans diced tomatoes (You could probably substitute six cups fresh)
Corn from three cooked ears (could substitute one can corn)
1 can kidney beans (or two cups cooked)
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 T salt
1/2 t pepper
1 t oregano

Let cook all day.

If desired, sprinkle cheese on top ten minutes before serving.

Voila! Kid approved.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Garden Salad

Today's Dinner: Summer Garden Salad

Mixed greens (spinach and lettuce from my garden)
Grilled chicken (on sale)
Strawberries (also from my garden)
slivered almonds
chow mein noodles
Raspberry Viniagrette (on sale)

Layer ingredients in order listed.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cook Book Review: Practical Produce Cook Book

I know in this day and age that there are a myriad of websites out there to find recipes for anything under the sun.  That's all well and good, of course, but have you ever found an internet recipe that flopped?  In my experience, a tried and true cook book has a better uniform consistency than a search engine (even when the search engine is Pinterest and comes with pretty pictures).

Cook books are becoming underappreciated, so I'm happy to give a shout out to a disappearing breed.

As I'm sure I've mentioned more than once, this year has been the first year that we have been growing things in our yard.  It's been an amazing experience, but sometimes my question, when it comes to fresh produce that I wouldn't normally buy (like radishes), is "what do I do with all this?!?!"

That's where the Practical Produce Cook Book comes in handy.  It's a no nonsense text, no pictures or frills, but it was written by gardeners.  Each chapter is devoted to a different form of produce, making the recipes easy to find by type.  In addition to a variety of recipes for each fruit or vegetable, each chapter has a bit devoted to preserving, canning, freezing or all of the above whatever form of produce you're overwhelmed with at the time.  Most of the recipes don't include exotic ingredients... just basics you'd already find in a well-stocked kitchen.  Each chapter includes a variety of recipes, not just a few basic variations.

So, whether you're an old hand at gardening, looking for new ways to use your crop, a Community Supported Agriculture aficionado, the recipient of a friend's garden bounty, or just someone looking for new ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet, Practical Produce has something for you.

Grade: A-


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Summer fruit cake?

Birthday cakes for me are a labor of love and have been since I was a teenager.  I loved shaped cakes.  I loved frosted cakes.  I had a whole collection of tips and bags and I could make quite respectable frosting roses.  Back in the day, this was my birthday bible:

Cut ahead to today. As incredible as it may seem, I married a man who doesn't like frosting.  At all.

So, since marrying him almost seven years ago, I have gotten creative with his birthday cakes in a different way.

This year, we had a bumper crop of rhubarb and strawberries in our new garden.  While my love does not like frosting, he does enjoy a good upside down cake and also a good shortcake.  Since I am crazy, I thought it would be fun to do both.  In the cookbook below is a really good recipe for Rhubarb Upside Down Cake.  It's delicious and simple, but not particularly pretty, which made me sad.  So, I sliced up a bunch of our strawberries and threw those on.  Then I 1.5 c of whipping cream with 1.5 T of vanilla instant pudding mix and slathered that on the strawberries.  The result was amazing.  The cake was not too sweet and syrup-y, as upside down cakes have a tendency to be and the strawberries complemented the cake nicely.  The whipped cream added a subtle vanilla flavor that topped it all off nicely.  No ice cream was necessary.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Adventures in Gardening

If there's one thing better than cheap healthy food, it's free healthy food.

Our garden has started producing all kinds of stuff with enthusiasm.

The list of "totally fresh produce I need to find a use for" currently looks like this:

garlic scapes

Feel free to post tips or recipes in the comments for this stuff!  I'm always looking for new ideas. :-)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Leftover MacGyver: The Garlic Chicken and Rice edition

So. Yesterday's dinner was crock pot garlic chicken and rice.  Only one picky eater boycotted.

However, I wanted to clear out the fridge leftovers (and freezer leftovers), but didn't have enough leftovers for a full meal.

So, I sauteed an orange pepper and a big onion in olive oil til they both were soft and the onion was translucent.  Then I threw in all the leftover chicken rice and heated it through.  Once it was all steaming nicely, I added about a cup of thawed homemade tomato sauce (some of the last from last tomato season).

I told the kids it was "Confetti Rice" because of all the pretty colors.  It was a big hit with all but the one picky eater (and she's still on the fence).

We're gonna call this one a win.

My Food Revelation

When life gets complicated, we change.  We adapt. It's part of the beauty of being human.

When life here got crazy between kids and jobs and moves, we adapted.  Cooking has gotten so much more simplified.  At the beginning of our marriage, I would start making dinner around 3:00 and have it ready by 5:00.  It was vital for me to have two hours of uninterrupted time to get that meal on the table.  Seven years and four (nearly five) kids later, I laugh at that earlier version of myself.

Someday, I will again have that luxury, but I doubt it will be soon.  So, for now, we adapt to the resources we have.

In my case, the discovery of freezer to slow cooker cooking changed my life.  I have a round up of recipes and techniques here .  It's so simple, it's genius.  Get your ingredients together.  Get a bunch of gallon ziplocs and label them.  Fill the bags with meat, vegetables, and seasonings.  Freeze.  On your hectic mornings, pull a bag out of the freezer, stick it in the slow cooker and turn the slow cooker on.  Voila!  Dinner is the first thing you get to cross off your lengthy to-do list.

Yesterday I learned that if you have a basic recipe,  like Lemon Garlic "Dump" Chicken (It's better than it sounds, I swear!), you can add 2 cups of uncooked rice and 4 cups of liquid about three hours before serving and it becomes a whole new dish.

Freezer to slow cooker is flexible like that.  You can use the veggies you have, like last year I had a bumper crop of summer squash and green beans and was given a huge kohlrabie, so most of my freezer meals had some of those.  I could also get boneless chicken breasts for super cheap, so we ate a lot of chicken.

Most importantly, I could assemble about a dozen of these bags over nap time.

Quick, easy, cheap.  What's not to love?