Monday, October 31, 2011
Here are a couple of photos from yesterday:
The first is the set up for distributing the chicken and dumplings to the freezer bowls. If you look closely, you can see that the freezer bowls have ice cubes in them. It is important to cool the food down as quickly as possible to prevent bacterial growth. So I put ice cubes in the containers of anything like soup, broth, etc. Then I pour the soup in, cover tightly, and shake (or you can stir) the contents so the ice gets through the whole thing.
This is both pots of chicken and dumplings ready to be put in the freezer. Again, we need these things to cool as quickly as possible, so when I put things in the freezer, I turn up the freezer (if I can), and spread the containers out (instead of stacking them) and put previously frozen food around the containers (frozen hard pans of lasagne do very well for helping the process along :) ).
I also put the chicken and dumplings into various sizes of containers. That way I have sizes for a snack, a lunch, a supper, or a supper for Wonderbee :)
I should have gotten photos of my chicken wings! I made up two large batches, one spicy, one not. I emptied two bags of frozen wings into two pots and boiled them til they were cooked through. Then I used two boxes of ready made batter mix as a breading and fried them in my little electric pan thing (which I LOVE).
Remember the arm roast I was afraid was going to end up tough? I had started it frozen in the oven and cooked it at between 350 and 375 all day. It came out wonderfully! I had checked the meat about 3 hours in and it was done but VERY tough. I was a bit disappointed, but figured I would just let it keep cooking--I had nothing to lose.
WHAT A CHANGE by the time Wonderbee came home! Thank the Lord! The beef was fall apart tender! I found some of the refrigerator biscuits that I was going to use for muffin tin meals (those would not have worked by the way, they are entirely too rubbery to spread up the sides of a muffin tin). So he made himself a few steak and biscuits, and the rest of the meat I placed in gallon baggies, and squished flat. That way I can just break off what I might need for a soup, stew, breakfast, or more biscuits :)
I also saved the drippings from the pan and some of the fat and bone....I cannot WAIT to make some Tex Mex soup with that!
Keep sending recipes and ideas and stories in! I love posting them :).
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Today Wonderbee had to work. Usually I use Sunday for laundry and football, after Wonderbee does our Bible study with us.
However, today I was too restless to sit in front of the tv. So I went to two of my freezers to see what mischief I could get into.
First place I hit was my chest freezer. We buy most of our meat (pork and beef and roasting chickens) from a meat company down in Delta. They grow their own beef, source well their chickens and pork, as well as a ton of other stuff (yak, buffalo, etc). I usually place an order per year with them and get a quarter of beef and a side of pork. Their beef has no antibiotics, no hormones, and is grass finished. Their bacon is REALLY the best ever (I know I have mentioned this before!).
Well we are getting down to the bottom of the chest freezer where I keep my uncooked meat (I keep cooked stuff and frozen veg, etc in a different freezer). So I grabbed two chuck steaks and an arm roast (which I had NO idea what to use for) and figured I would cook those off. I placed them, still frozen, in my largest pyrex, poured in much quantity of water, wine, herbs, water, onion flakes, pepper, etc and sealed the top with tinfoil and placed it in a 350 degree oven to cook ALL. DAY. LONG. The liquid and the sealed top should allow the meat to have a steam bath to make it more tender. Later on in the day I added some brewed black tea to act as a tenderizer as well (I am REALLY fretting about that arm roast and wondering if it is going to be tough :) ).
What I love most is that I can take all that wonderful liquid that the meat has been stewing in all day and save that for a starter for a soup (probably with the meat )!
I am kinda bonkers for saving the broth, drippings, water from stuff that has cooked. I cannot tell you how many times I save the water from homemade noodles (spaetzle). I just look at it and think that it looks PERFECT for if someone needs a carb rich, mild broth to eat, or to use as a base for a stew or something.
Next, I knew I was out of my previous batches of freezer chicken and dumplings, plus I had the bones, skin, and some meat of a chicken I had roasted a few days ago in the freezer. So I got that out, and put it in one of my bigger pots.
When I had roasted the chicken last week, there were all those wonderful drippings at the bottom of the pyrex. I had poured those into a container and froze those as well. That was PERFECT because I went to the chest freezer and found some boneless skinless chicken breast tenderloins that were past their prime (a little icy and a little freezer burned). Now, because they had been frozen, they were not BAD, they just were not as great of a quality as non-freezer burned stuff. So they went into my other big pot with water and the left over chicken drippings. The flavor from meat to make soup, etc, comes from the bones, skin, fat. But boneless, skinless chicken has none of that (and frankly, unless you deep fry them or smother them with butter or teryaki sauce or something, they do not taste like much either). So with the drippings, I had a ready made start to the broth for the chicken and dumpings.
I let those two pots with miscellaneous chicken just boil and boil to get every bit of numminess out of the carcass. Then I got the bones and skin out, had Superbee help me make dumplings, then put the pots back on to make wonderful chicken and dumplings.
THEN I wanted to try a mock sourdough bread. I get into sourdough cravings from time to time, but cannot seem to a)keep a starter going and b)make the sourdough SOUR. It is not as easy as one might think, but rather depends on length of resting, temperature the starter is kept at, temperature the dough is kept out, overhydrating, underhydrating, blah blah blah. Truth is I have tried all the different variations that the internet promises me will make a sour bread and never really get it.
Besides maintaining a starter is a committment that I am just not into right now :). So I wanted to find something easy.
It is still a work in progress. The first loaf I used malt vinegar, but it was entirely too astringent. The second loaf I used balsamic vinegar, milk, and sugar and that was somewhat better, but still needs work. I read that some people use yogurt, so I will try that as well.
My last project for the day, I think, is going to be frying up a bunch of chicken wingies to go in the freezer. I LOVE fried chicken and the little chicken wingies are just the perfect way to get the fried food flavor without committing to a LOT of chicken or runs to Popeyes.
So that is what I have been doing (what I won't do to get out of folding laundry :D )...let me know what you have been doing!
Monday, October 24, 2011
I just thought I would share a link to the storage containers I use. This set is very inexpensive and extremely convenient as the lids lock together (and to the bottom of the stack of dishes) to keep the cupboard neat. They are square and therefore fit better in the freezer. All rubbermaid food storage products are BPA free :)
As I mentioned before, I also use 8x8 disposable aluminum pans to freeze casseroles because they fit perfectly in gallon baggies. I just pop the casserole out of the pan while it is frozen and put it in my one pyrex 8x8 pan for the microwave, which I have sprayed with cooking spray (for easier clean up). If I am baking the casserole, then I leave it in the aluminum and set the aluminum pan in the pyrex in the oven.
What are you going to try this week? :) Have you looked in your cupboards and fridge/freezer and seen any meat, veg, etc that could be made into something for the freezer? The year is going to get REALLY busy with the holidays, so now is a GREAT time to stock that freezer!
Have a great day!!
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Now, my dear queen bees, let me tell you what might happen. You will get to the end of the day weary, full from sampling and adjusting spices and someone will meander into the kitchen and say "So, what's for supper?" (OR "Can we order pizza?").
PLEASE my darlings, try to restrain yourself from heaving the pan of 28 burritos at them! Just smile lovingly, take them by the arm and lead them gently to the freezer. Open the door grandly and say "Darling, the world is your burrito. Take your pick. I am going to take a bath." and leave them there figuring out how to nuke lumpia.
Or order pizza. Either way :D
Everything ready for the great assembly :) Our pan of bean stuff, a stack of tortillas, and a bowl of cheese :) I had lined a cookie sheet with tinfoil and sprayed it with nonstick spray. The burritos will need to freeze solid before putting them in baggies, or they will just fall apart.
Everything mixed together :)
These are some of the ingredients for Spanish Rice. I tripled the recipe. I am not sure how many 8x8 pans it will make, but we will soon find out! :)
My onions from the freezer :) An ounce of preparedness is worth a pound of "Hon, I need you to run to the store QUICK!!" :)
I seasoned ground pork (or you can use bacon or sausage) and cooked it. Then I added back the onions and rice, added all the rest of the ingredients except the cheese. I then moved that pot to the back burner to simmer while I started browning the next batch of ground pork for the lumpia :)
HOWEVER, I did have some frozen onions that I had sliced and placed into baggies! So now I have onions and my potential catastrophe is now just a blip on my screen :).
This brings to mind a couple of tips: things mess up :). The more you can prepare the less problems can affect you.
Also, we must try to keep a positive attitude, even when things are a mess :) It makes the day better and is a blessing to everyone around us :).
P.S. I also wanted to mention that it is vital to have a nice, protein breakfast before starting. We need lots of long-lasting energy today!
Yesterday I went to the store and bought some of the items I needed. I am slowly starting to work toward "themes" of my freezer cooking in order to streamline the process. For example, I do not try to bake bread, make pies, do pasta sauce and lasagne, and do spanish rice. Each of those dishes uses different ingredients, different processes, different dishes. That makes for a LOT of work :)
So instead I might make rice dishes OR pasta dishes OR breads, etc. Today I plan to make "roll up" dishes such as burritos and lumpia. I also will make spanish rice, as it takes the same sort of meat as the lumpia.
Another tip is that I make a list of dishes I want to make, but am perfectly willing to NOT finish the list. I am very ambitious and have a poor sense of time, so I always think I can do more than I can do. No worries though :). If I get even one large batch of something in the freezer, that is probably 4-6 meals I have taken care of for the next week. Don't over extend yourself, it will make you miserable and take all the fun out of it! :) Only start the dishes you know you can finish, and be willing to be flexible :)
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Here is a sweet treat for your sweet tooth! The warmest, moistest, most chocolatey bit of heaven that was ever found in a disposable loaf pan :). Eat one and freeze the rest or give them away. They are a huge hit!
Mini Chicken Pot Pies
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
21 oz chicken (3 tyson packets of the "ready to use" chicken)
16 oz frozen peas with carrots, defrosted
2 cans potatoes, (drain one can but reserve half of the water of the other can in case the mix is too dry but it probably will not be)
1T onion powder
1/2 T garlic powder
1/2 T black pepper
5-8 boxes of refrigerated pie crusts (I know that is a big spread, but it really depends on the way you cut the crusts)
Heat oven to 350. In a large pot on the stove, dump all ingredients in a large pot and heat through. Remove from heat.
Spray muffin tins with cooking spray. Unroll each pie crust and cut two sizes of circles--one large enough to cover bottom and sides of the muffin cups and come up a little past the top edge of the muffin cup, and a smaller one to serve as the cover crust. I found a wide mouthed sports cup for the large one, and a regular drinking glass for the small one. I took the scraps and re-rolled them to make more top and bottom crusts.
Cut large circles and fit into muffin cups. Spoon enough pot pie filling to come just below the top of the cup, so that it still gives you enough room to press the top crust to the bottom crust along the edges. Cover with the smaller crust circle and press (as well as you can) the rims together. Sometimes this worked better than others, but as long as most of the rims were pressed, the pot pies held together.
Prick top crust to create vents. Cook at 350 for approximately 25 minutes or until the crusts were a nice golden brown.
Let cool in pan for a couple of minutes, then carefully remove and place on cooling rack. The easiest way I found to remove them without messing up the crust was to go between the edge of the tin and the pot pie with a very thin knife to make sure nothing was sticking, then use a fork placed near the top of the pot pie on the side and GENTLY sort of encourage the pot pie out. If I tried to scoop from the bottom, sometimes I punctured the crust. However, if you do puncture the crust, just flip the pot pie upside down on the cooling rack to keep everything from leaking.
Place on a cookie sheet in freezer. As soon as they freeze solid, place in baggies. To reheat, microwave for about 3 minutes.
Today let's talk Chicken Pot Pies! A little backstory....
After years of those off-the-shelf lunch meals, I have been trying to send lunch to work with Wonderbee. The freezer meals that we have been working on have been wonderful for that purpose!
Well he mentioned last week that, if I wanted to, I could pick him up some of the microwaveable chicken pot pies in the single serve sizes. I really prefer him to have homecooked lunches, but I went to the aisle and read the ingredients. There was no HFCS (one of my hot buttons), but there was a lot of....stuff. And more sodium than I thought needed to be there. It truly was not the WORST meal I could pick up for him, but I wanted to see if I could do it at home (I always get ambitious at the grocery store!).
Now, let me preface this by saying this recipe is not 100%, homemade, I-grew-the-mushrooms-corn-peas-chicken-ground the wheat-myself type of thing. For us, I am happy with incremental measures of better eating. I have NO problem trying out a new recipe with a few ready made shelf items to see if it will even work before spending hours hand rolling pie crust before realizing that we do not really like the recipe at all. :) I think that sometimes we get so eager to do well that we feel that we need to suddenly go 100% into uber healthy, organic, homemade, carob-not-chocolate eating and just get discouraged (and our families start to revolt sometimes lolol). Small steps make for big gains :)
I wanted to make these in the giant muffin tins, but could not find them at the store, so I used regular muffin tins. Let me tell you how CUTE they were! And REALLY easy. The longest part was cutting out the circles of dough :).
I ran out of crusts (these make a LOT) and tried some of the biscuit dough that I had in the fridge for another "muffin cup recipe". UGH what a nightmare. It was like trying to roll rubber bands out flat. I realized that those refrigerator biscuits will not work for muffin cup recipes. I ended up throwing that mess out.
It was a bit of an anxious time--I have NEVER EVER eaten a pot pie. I am not that much of a mixed food person (ate my first pizza at 12 and my first PBJ at 35). I am a raw veg person. So I did not even know how these were supposed to taste. I gingerly tried some of the chicken stuff (trying to avoid a cooked pea at ALLL costs lol). I also got Peekiebee to try some. We both decided that it would probably be ok. So I assembled them and they ended up being SO CUTE! I was eager for him to try them, but he decided to leave me in suspense til the following lunch. He LOVED them! They were easy to make, easy to carry, easy to warm up in the microwave at work.
Recipe to follow! :)
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Here is a recipe for lumpia (also known as eggroll or spring roll depending on the country). These are SOOO easy to make! Bagged coleslaw mix makes for an instant veggie base for this dish. I will often just boil a pot of rice to have with these, and that is supper :).
Please check my blog for more information regarding TASTE TESTING of baked vs fried and best reheat method :)
Brown pork on medium heat until cooked through, breaking the pork into small pieces as it cooks (about pea sized). Drain and set aside.
Final results: Bake the lumpia (it is easy and healthier). Heat by baking. OR fry the lumpia but reheat by baking. Avoid frying the lumpia then refrying to reheat. Microwave is ok only if you are one of those people who are laid back about texture, etc.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Here is a pasta sauce that I use based off of a recipe I found online called “'Baby’s Got Sauce' Italian Sauce". I tweaked it a bit. I hope you like it!
1 Batch--------------------------------------------2 batches-------------------------------4 Batches
1 large onion-----------------------------------2 onions------------------------------4 onions
7-8 cloves garlic, crushed---------------------14-16 cloves--------------------------28-32 cloves
Italian Sausage-6-8 links or 1 lb ground—12-16 links or 2 lbs-------------------24-32 links or 4 lbs
1 can Tomato paste----------------------------2 cans tomato paste-----------------4 cans tomato paste
2-28 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes--------4-28 oz cans--------------------------8-28 oz cans
1-28 oz can Crushed or diced Tomatoes----2 cans ---------------------------------4 cans
2-4 3.5 oz jars of baby food carrots-----------4-8 jars------------------------------8-16 jars
Fresh Basil diced fine--------------------------same---------------------------------same
Fresh Oregano diced fine----------------------same---------------------------------same
Fresh Thyme diced fine------------------------same---------------------------------same
5 Bay Leaves ------------------------------------10 bay leaves-----------------------20 bay leaves
Port or sweet red wine (optional but REALLY adds to the flavor)
Crushed Red Pepper (about a tablespoon)
A large, deep pot
Red Bell Pepper
Put 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in pot to brown sausage. Remove from pot and set aside. Add enough olive oil to cover bottom of pot 1/8-1/4 inch and bring back to hot temperature. Saute onions in pot until they become translucent. Lightly salt and pepper onions.
Add crushed garlic, can of tomato paste. Cook on medium high for a few minutes to mellow flavor of tomato paste. Watch carefully to prevent burning, especially of garlic.
Add whole peeled tomatoes.* Add diced/crushed tomatoes**.
Add sausage back in.
Add baby food carrots. Carrots give the sauce a wonderful light bit of sweetness. You can mince whole carrots, but I found that baby food carrots are exceptional in the recipe, and much easier to use.
Continue to taste every twenty minutes to gauge flavor of sauce to see if salt or pepper is necessary. If you like spicy sauce, add crushed red peppers.
Optional: Port or sweet red wine (merlot, etc). Port gives and incredible depth and compliment of flavor to the meat and tomatoes. In fact, we often put a splash of port in everything from soup to chili. It truly just ties all the flavors together in such a perfect way, giving a depth and richness. A few Tablespoons should do, but you can taste and see if more is needed.
*These need to be crushed either in the pot or in the can. I find it much easier to crush/chop them in the can. OR you can use already diced tomatoes in the larger cans.
**I like to use fire roasted tomatoes or other flavored tomatoes.
***I often use dried herbs. I would start with 1 Tbls and see how strong they taste. You can also get tubes of herbs in the fresh produce section, which are very convenient.
The longer this cooks, the better it tastes. I generally make this first for my freezer meal days and let it simmer all day long until I assemble lasagne at the end of the day :) It also freezes well by itself for spaghetti sauce.