Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lunch from the Freezer

For the past sixteen years or so I’ve been doing some form of freezer cooking. By “freezer cooking” I mean putting either entire meals or the recipe-ready components for meals in the freezer to use at a later date. I’ve done the “cook all day and make whole meals” method, doubled recipes so we could eat one night and freeze the second for later, and just cooked meal or recipe ingredients to put together the night we eat. That could include browned ground beef, cooked chicken, cooked rice, homemade refried beans, cooked meatballs, homemade spaghetti sauce, etc. Freezer cooking was invaluable to me when I was working full time and the kids were in high school.

Even though Greg and I have been “empty-nesters” for a few years, I still do freezer cooking for us, as well as for lunches with the grandboys four days a week. Since I’m picking Brad up from preschool in town right at the time I should be cooking, I try to have it ready before we leave, then tuck it into the toaster oven to get or stay warm during the 45 minutes that trip takes. I like to feed them a hot lunch most days, and they are usually more than ready to eat by the time we get home, so having it ready to go makes the lunch hour much more enjoyable.

Today I pulled the components from the freezer for a delicious recipe of chicken and rice. I had cooked rice, cooked chicken, and homemade chicken stock to use. Then after making the recipe, I was able to put enough into the freezer for a second lunch for us in a few weeks.chicken rice

Here is the original recipe, with the changes I made in blue:

Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole Cups
Author/Source: Kim @ onceamonthmeals.com
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup brown rice (uncooked) (I had cooked brown rice already in the freezer, so used that and about 1/4 C homemade chicken broth)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut into florets  (yeah, I forgot about the broccoli – blame it on the time change! LOL)
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley flakes
  • 0.5 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 0.5 teaspoons onion powder
  • 0.25 teaspoons pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (reserve 1/4 cup for topping)
  • 0.25 cups plain yogurt  (didn’t have any yogurt, so used light sour cream instead)
  • 2 Tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 1 Cup cooked, chopped chicken
Directions:

Cook rice according to package directions, but substitute chicken broth for water. Meanwhile, steam broccoli until crisp tender in the microwave or over stovetop. (If you are using a rice cooker, you may be able to steam the broccoli with the rice.) Place rice and broccoli in a large mixing bowl and cool slightly. Stir in remaining ingredients reserving 1/4 of cheddar cheese for topping. Scoop into a greased or paper lined muffin tin. Sprinkle reserved cheese on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until lightly browned and crisp. (I used a large-muffin tin, and there was a bit of mix leftover, so that went into a ramekin. It popped right out after cooling.)

Freezing Directions:

Cook as directed above. Cool casserole cups completely. Divide among freezer bags, label, and store. To serve: Thaw and reheat in microwave or toaster oven.

Servings: 4 (about 15 cups)

 

These were served with hot green beans and fresh Halo oranges. Yum. I like that the recipe did not include any “cream of…” soup at all. The yogurt (or sour cream in my case) and egg hold it all together, helped out by the melted cheese. Since my rice was pre-cooked and frozen, I added only a touch of chicken stock, which seemed to work just fine.

 

Supper tonight and part of lunch tomorrow will also be from the freezer. Even though I’m home all day, the boys keep me pretty busy, and freezer food makes sure we get a good homemade meal on the table.

 

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Playing with Paper

Number 4 on my 14 in ‘14 list was to scrapbook/craft each week. There are piles of papers and tools and supplies on top of the dining room buffet so when the urge hits, paper crafting can ensue without too much prep. I’ve made birthday cards for the twin niece/nephew, and gift tags for next Christmas, so something has been happening, just not each week.

On Friday night I dug out several envelopes full of photos and sorted them into piles. On Saturday I spent some time assembling four pages. Yep, just four. Scrapbooking takes me awhile. On Sunday I finished one of those four pages. The other three will be done before the end of the week. Pinky swear.

Here is “the one”:

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It’s a little busier than what I usually do, but I got a new Cricut cartridge (Boys Will Be Boys) and I needed to cut out all those bugs!

 

bug collage

 

This entire page is made from papers and supplies I already had. The bugs each have little eyes glued on, and pop dot scraps under, so they “pop” off the page.

No worries that this will be a scrapping blog. I pretty much relate to that little blue and yellow snail up there when it comes to scrapping speed. LOL.

 

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Pinterest projects: FAIL

One of the goals on my 14 in ‘14 list was to work on Pinterest projects more regularly. The boys and I did one today that will not ever be repeated ever again. Ever. This was a lesson in making sure to fully read the article linked to the pin…

Here’s the pin (click on photo to go to article):

fluffy doughThe two ingredients are cornstarch and shaving cream. Mixed together they are supposed to make a soft and fluffy dough. And they do. Silas helped me mix it up and loved touching it. He also kept sniffing loudly since it smelled so nice. I do have a better photo with his eyes open, but I love the look on his face in this one. This is how nice the dough felt. At first.

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Both boys scrambled to the table to play with this. Brad asked for the playdough tools. I didn’t think the rolling pins would work, but let him try them out. They didn’t. It worked better to pat it with your hands. Brad tried some cookie cutters as well. Are you starting to see the problem?

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Silas just had a grand time making piles. Big, soft, dusty piles. He really did love it and played contentedly for a good 20 minutes. For a two year-old who is constantly in motion, that’s saying something.

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LOOK AT THE MESS! I don’t mind letting the boys get messy, but usually am prepared for it. Look closely at the photo of the pin. Their fluffy dough is in a box. In a box! I felt like, “Duh”. LOL. It started out as nice, soft balls, but didn’t take long to dry up and become powdery. We vacuumed the top of the dining room table to clean up, and the chairs and the floor, of course. I tried to vacuum Silas, but he wouldn’t let me. This fluffy dough does wash off easily – off of hands, the table, the tools they used – it just instantly dissolved. Also, the house smelled like fresh shaving cream for awhile.

This FAIL is totally due to my own error in not investigating fully how it works. We’d not have done it in the house, on the table, if I had. There are a few other dough recipes on my Pinterest boards, so we’ll gladly leave this in the “been there, done that” file and move on.

 

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Years thoughts and 14 in '14


No big party here on New Year's Eve. Greg is sick with a cold, so we stayed home and watched Eric Clapton's Crossroads concerts on TV. He has the TV connected to the stereo, so it sounded great and we enjoyed music we love. Once again I was snuggled into bed and asleep before the magic hour and awoke to a new year and some spitting snow outside.

I'm not making any resolutions. Last year on January 1, I posted a list of "13 in '13" things I wanted to work on over the year. Yeah. I did part of one of those things, and that was finishing an afghan and learning to crochet hats. Hmmm... do you think my goals were a bit lofty? I still want to work on many of the challenges I listed, but for this year will pare it down and make a concerted effort to work on it. So here goes:

1. Playroom -  the quilt binding is pinned on, so I just need to sew it. When I do that, I'll sew the bedskirt and reattach that. I do still want to frame the chalkboard. The boys have really loved having that in the playroom.

2. Paint - the entire house really needs a fresh coat of paint, but I'll start with the partially painted kitchen and go from there.

3. Finish the blue afghan. Holy cow - I'm about at the end of the 10-year plan with that one.

4. Scrapbook/craft at least once a week, and use my stash and Cricut. No purchasing anything besides adhesives.

5. Make homemade marshmallows. Okay, not just marshmallows. I'm going to make lots more things from scratch and try to get rid of the processed stuff in my kitchen.

6. Pinterest provides hours of entertainment as I browse and pin. I have over 2,800 pins myself, and I do make recipes and use ideas from what I pin, but there are many great ideas still waiting for me. Once a week I will choose something from Pinterest to make/do.

7. Use up as much fabric from my small stash as possible. I love fabric almost as much as I love paper, but I am not a stellar sewer like my sister. I can do an okay job on easy projects, so will get a sewing area set up that I can leave up, and work my way through those totes of fabric. I'd like to make things for the grandboys and nieces/nephews, but also for donation to some charitable groups.

8. Read more. I already have some titles on reserve at the library.

9. Blog more. I don't keep a handwritten journal or daily log of what we do, so my blog is a good way to keep track of happenings around here.

10. I am going to participate in this (click on box to see what it's about):
The Household Organization Diet - 30 Day Detox.  This is part one of a year long plan to get your home organized once and for all!

11. Move more. I have a new Yoga dvd that I look forward to trying.

12. During January at least, but possibly another month or two during the year, we're participating in this:

12. Jess and I have talked about opening an Etsy store. I'm not going to say it will be done, just that I'll do some more research then we can decide.

13. I want to do this:
It's all over the internet, so I don't even know who to credit for it. One tip I read was to mix and match amounts put away, so if you need to do a small amount, do that, if you can do a larger amount, do that. Even if you only do half amounts, you'll have a tidy sum for Christmas shopping.

14. Christmas project - I won't say just yet what it is, but will be working on something my siblings will enjoy. 

Well, if you're still here, thank you! This turned into quite a novel, but I feel like my thoughts are a bit more organized and I can focus on being productive and creative. Many blessings to you all for a magnificent new year!

Tammy

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tubin'

What do you do with your empty paper rolls? Trash? Recycling? Re-using in some way? 
My grandsons love the paper tubes, so I save them and we've done all the usual things - binoculars, telescopes, horns, even a chute for dry beans in our sensory play. They're a great play tool since they're kind of free, there are no parts that will hurt a child, and once they're used up they can go in the recycling. The problem is that they are not terribly sturdy and get "used up" fairly quickly. 
I'm trying to wade through the stacks and piles in the room where I store our art and play supplies, and came across a box of tubes. Shortly after, I saw a pin on Pinterest where the tubes were covered in colorful duct tape for play, which would be not only attractive, but give the tubes a longer life span. On my next trip to the marts of Wal, I grabbed some duct tape and spent some time yesterday afternoon wrapping paper tubes. My honey, who should know better than to ask, wondered "what are you doing now?", and I just chuckled. 
I wrapped two long ones and two short ones in each color, then a wide, heavy one got stripes. The boys call that the "rainbow tube". 
Bradley was excited by them as soon as he saw them. He and I sat on the playroom floor and had a little geometry lesson, making several shapes and using all sorts of words like "equal" and "pentagon" and counting corners and sides.

Then he wanted to create, so I left him to it.
(Yes, that's a Swiffer mop on the floor behind Brad. Silas was using it as a witch broom.
We'll talk about that another day. Sigh.) 
I loved when he tried to build vertically with the tubes.

Once Silas saw the fun, he decided to join in.
 He made them into telescope binoculars,


 and made a robot arm from the rainbow tube. 
We also practiced his color recognition and matching colors, but he was more interested in what he could do with them physically. His favorite thing to do was pretend to be a frog and jump around, scattering the tubes as he went. 


After seeing Silas wearing the robot arm, Brad thought it was fun to hang the short tubes on his ears. No, it didn't help with his listening skills. LOL.

Of course, all of this play could happen with plain paper tubes, but they really loved the bright colors. I have a ton of leftover duct tape to use on future projects as well. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fun Christmas Pillows

Many times in the afternoon while 2 year-old Silas is napping, 4 year-old Bradley and I take on a "project". These projects often allow him to practice life skills or reinforce what he's learning in preschool, but mostly they're just fun.
Today's project was to make Christmas pillows using a Santa hat, a couple of empty Christmas stockings, and some fluffly stuffing. I showed Brad how to stuff it clear to the tippy-toes of the stockings, and fill it to the seam of the cuff of the stocking. Same with the hat - stuffed clear from the pointy tip to the cuff seam. Then we pinned the seam closed and sewed it up. He wanted to "needle" the pillows, meaning he wanted to put the pins in, so I let him try. I only got poked a little. LOL.


Once the seam is sewn closed, you just fold the cuff back over and ta da!, you have a fun holiday pillow.
We had enough stuffing for two stockings and one Santa hat. Brad has distributed them throughout the house - one in the bed where Silas naps, one in the playroom, and one on the living room couch.
The few days following Christmas, when all of the holiday decorations and supplies are at deep discount, is a good time to grab a few Santa hats and some stockings for next year. That is where these came from - all at 80% or 90% off. I plan to pick up a few more so we can have a pillow collection for the playroom next year. They're fast, easy, and lots of fun!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fall-ifying!

I love to decorate my house for all of the seasons, but with the grandboys being so young and here all the time, the past few years have been on the lean side for decor. They’re getting old enough now to not mess with my “pretties” so much if they have their own decorations to put out. Things that they can change around as they wish or use in their play, and it’s okay.

Last Spring I had Brad put together a bunny garden in a large flower pot on the front porch. He loves gardening anyway, and this little pretend garden was a very fun project for us both.

bunny garden - Copy

That bunny garden weathered snow and ice, tons of rain, blistering heat, and days of drought. He did plant some alyssum and pansies in the pot, and by this Fall, there were just a couple small alyssum plants left – but they were flowering now that the weather has cooled some.

It took a bit of convincing, but Brad finally consented to putting away the bunny garden, and in it’s place, making a scarecrow pumpkin patch. He went to a pretty big pumpkin patch over the weekend, so with that experience fresh in his memory, it was the perfect project for this busy boy.

When my Fall decorations were unpacked, I found a container of small pumpkins and gourds, and an inexpensive scarecrow, as well as a small hay bale. All were perfect for a flower pot pumpkin patch! He took it all outside and started “planting” pumpkins. The wind was blowing pretty hard, and those tiny pumpkins are just styrofoam, so we had to put toothpick skewers in each one to keep them in place. Now they’re not going anywhere, except when one of the boys decides to rearrange. Yes, that has already happened several times just in the first afternoon.

 

Silas helped a little bit…

 

He decided it would be more fun to play down on the sidewalk and left the rest to his brother.

Here is Bradley with the finished (at that moment) project. We’d like to add a small pumpkin patch sign, so as I dig through my decorations, I’m looking for something we can repurpose for that.

 

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He’s very anxious to add some Halloween things to make it a scary pumpkin patch. I think I’ve talked him into waiting until it’s at least October. LOL.

 

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