Freezer Cooking: The Results and Recipes

I sure had a busy day around here. I got everything on my list done except the tortillas. Well, let me rephrase, the pork and chicken legs are still cooking, but will be done shortly. My back decided it was done for the day and rolling tortillas will have to wait for another day…maybe tomorrow. To view my menu for the month click HERE.

1. I got one package of chicken thighs cooked, chopped and in the freezer, ready to pull out for chicken enchiladas or chicken bacon alfredo bake. I like to use a big cup or a pitcher to hold my ziplocks for easy filling.

2.  I have enough shredded chicken taco meat for 6 dinners of tacos or burritos. I am not sure where I originally got this recipe, so I cannot give credit where it is do, but this is a staple in our house. I do several pounds at once and freeze in dinner sized portions.

Chicken Taco Meat

1 lb chicken (can be whatever cut you like, works well with breasts or thighs)

1 can rotel (tomatoes and green chili, I have also used a can of tomatoes and a can of green chili when I didn’t have rotel. I blend mine since hubby doesn’t like chunky tomatoes)

1 package of taco seasoning (I buy a big jug of taco seasoning at Sam’s club instead of the individual packets)

Dump it all in a crockpot and cook on high for 3-4 hours, shred and cook about 30 minutes longer. You can do it on low for about 6 hours or longer if you add some more water for liquid. Use in tacos or burritos.

3.  I made a double batch of  Lowfat Sourdough Blueberry Muffins. I did substitute unsweetened applesauce for the oil and added a few more blueberries. These are for Lance and I as Dallas doesn’t really care for my healthified muffins! I have exploding blueberries!

 

4. I also made some of these high protein blueberry muffins for Dallas. This is a new venture for me, I don’t think Dallas will like them but you never know. They are a bit strange tasting with so many eggs and the protein powder.

 

5.  Pizza dough was next. Lance and I stirred up 5 batches quick. I love this pizza dough. Last year I went on a little quest to find a pizza dough recipe that we liked. It took me about 6 months and a lot of trial and error to find one that we love and this is it. Better yet, it’s a no knead recipe. Just stir it up and let it sit. LOVE IT. I make it let it sit in the fridge for a day then freeze. To thaw, put it in the fridge the night before you want pizza or on the counter for the afternoon works too. It can sit in the fridge for up to 3 days and still be fine. I don’t bake mine quite as hot as the recipe calls for. I like it at 450° instead of 500°. I also form my dough on parchment paper then just plop the whole thing on the hot pizza stone in the oven for about 10 minutes.

                         Pizza Dough:  3 cups bread flour, 1 1/2 cups warm water, 1/4 tsp yeast, 1/2 tablespoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar….stir it all up and put in a baggie or covered bowl and in the fridge.

6.  Using some pizza dough that I had made in the freezer. I decided to make ham and cheese muffin bites, a variation on this recipe, to use up some of the cheap ham I picked up yesterday. I was able to get 24 from one batch of dough. I used a spoonful of chopped ham and about 1/4 cup of shredded cheddar jack cheese per bite. Bake at 375° for 2o minutes. I figure we can use these for a quick lunch or breakfast. Just nuke for 30 seconds or so a piece. Yum.

7. Flour tortillas…these did not get done. Hopefully soon. This is the recipe I like to use. Do not try and cheat the rest times…you really do need them for the gluten to relax. Ask me how I know!!! I do have a secret ingredient that makes these super, extra yummy. Bacon grease. Yep, that’s right bacon grease instead of the oil/shortening.

8. After the crockpot chicken was done, I washed it and threw in the package of pork chops that I got on sale and made a quick BBQ sauce to simmer it in. Later I will shred it to use for sandwiches on this months menu.

9. After making the ham bites, I portioned out the rest of the ham. It made seven batches worth of ham and I also kept the bone to make some ham and bean soup in the future.

10. Last, I used the package of 13 chicken legs that I got for $2.53 yesterday! Score! I rubbed them with a homemade spice rub…don’t remember where I got the recipe or what it in it, so even I won’t be able to recreate these! I baked them for a while then brushed on some BBQ sauce, we like sweet baby rays, and baked for a bit longer. They are cooling in the fridge. Then I will put them in the freezer too. Although, I think we might have these for dinner tonight!

 That’s it. That was my day. I hope I can inspire you to try a bit of freezer cooking yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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March Meal Plan and My Freezer Cooking Plan for Today

As promised here is a scan of my menu for the month of March. It is definitly subject to change, but it is a great guide for me. Also note that we do not eat gourmet around here. My boys like simple meals with basic ingredients. Most of this is in my freezer/pantry. I only have a jar of alfredo, sour cream, and a mango on my grocery list for the month. I will however, add in some produce for sides and such.

Today I am going to be doing my freezer cooking for this month, as well as some meat and such that can be used for lunches and next month. Here is my plan (crossed out items done last night and this morning):

  1. Cook chicken, cut up, freeze in portions for casseroles
  2. Crockpot chicken taco meat
  3. Lowfat Whole wWheat Sourdough Blueberry Muffins
  4. Protein Blueberry Muffins for Dallas
  5. Mix up and freeze pizza dough x4
  6. Ham and cheese muffin bites
  7. make and freeze homemade flour tortillas
  8. Crockpot BBQ shredded pork
  9. cut up and portion ham for freezer
  10. Make BBQ chicken legs

Recipes and pictures to follow later today.

How I Meal Plan

It’s the time of the month for meal planning. I like to plan a month of dinners in advance. For many new meal planners this can sound a bit overwhelming. I know it did to me at first, but I am totally converted now. I find it saves me time, money and from those “what do you want for dinner”, “I don’t know” conversations. All we have to do is look at the fridge and see what’s on there. I use this printable monthly menu planner. Each month I print it out, take stock of what we have on hand in the pantry and freezer, find recipes that use the ingredients we already have and organize any new recipes I want to try. I keep my past months and use those as a guide for meals that we like. I look at the previous month and find the meals that didn’t get made, because inevitably something came up and we didn’t eat our intended dinners for a few nights. I will still have those ingredients, so I incorporate those meals into the next month. This is just what works for out family. I encourage you to try and find the best meal planning strategey for your family and lifestyle.

Here is where I must tell you, I do not shop like most people. I am a stockpiler. When meat, canned goods, pasta, beans, rice, cheese etc. are on sale I buy a bunch and freeze or store them for later use. I buy ingredients that I know we will use or are common in our diets. This way, when I meal plan usually I just have to buy produce and a few dairy items at the beginning of the month. This keeps my grocery bills low. Granted, I do make most of our food from scratch and I purchase a very limited number of processed or boxed items. Rather, I spend my money on different types of flours and baking goods and spices to make things like tortillas, breads, buns, english muffins, regular muffins, cookies and just about anything else that can be baked.

These meals are not set in stone. If we don’t want a particular dinner that night, then we can rearrange and pick something else from the list since I know that we have the ingredients for that too. Our side dishes may change with the produce we have on hand, but that’s ok!

I also do quite a bit of freezer cooking to make my own “convenience” food. Jessica over at Life as Mom has a fabulous description on the basics of freezer cooking HERE. Crystal at Money Saving Mom has how she plans for freezer cooking and lots of free printable worksheets HERE.

This is a picture of a normal shopping trip for me. This is one that I did not even use any coupons! I went to food4less our kroger affiliate store since they were having a sale on chicken. Well, they had several of the on sale packages of chicken on managers special, meaning they need to be used or frozen by tomorrow and were marked down half price. That made it $0.50/lb!!! I also got some marked down pork chops, spiral sliced half ham for $0.99/lb and splurged on some shrimp for Dallas! This trip was definitely a stock up meat trip! There is about 25 pounds of meat here that will last us quite a while, longer than a month for sure.  I have not decided completely what I am going to do with it all yet, but I will make some shredded chicken taco/burrito meat in the crockpot and some bbq chicken legs that I can then freeze for later in the month. I think I will crockpot most of the pork into pulled bbq for sandwiches to freeze and I may freeze some whole. Not sure what all I will do with the ham yet. Probably cut it into smaller portions, make some soup and figure it out later! There is also, flour, tomoto soup (for chili and sloppy joes), cottage cheese, applesauce, apples, celery and dry beans. I spent just under $45.00.

 

 

This afternoon I will be working on my menu for next month. I will scan it and post it later or tomorrow so you can see exactly what I do. Stay tuned for that.

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Baking Day: Golden Potato Rolls

This past weekend my family and I went camping with our off roading jeep club. We decided to have a potluck on Saturday night. Of course, I volunteered to bring bread and dessert! So, I made these wonderful potato rolls out of  Cleo’s Creations or “the book”. What is “the book” you’re wondering? Well, many years ago my cousins and I all asked our grandma to put together all of our favorite recipes of hers into a cookbook. She spent an entire year sorting recipes, handwriting them all out and then my cousin put them all into books for us for the best Christmas gift I have ever gotten. We have over 250 pages of handwritten recipes from her. I have used mine so much over the years that I have had to replace my binder 3 times!

This recipe is one of my favorite bread recipes from the book. It takes some time, but these rolls have excellent flavor and are well worth the wait! I have made them into dinner rolls as well as hamburger and hotdog buns. The recipe calls for them to be rolled triangles similar to a crescent, but I always make dinner rolls. We like to use them for sandwiches, slider hamburgers or just to eat with dinner. They are the perfect size for my 3 year old when made as sandwiches and work wonderfully in lunches for the kids!

Golden Potato Rolls

1 pkg dry yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons

1/2 cup warm water

Stir those together and set aside for a few minutes to bloom.

1 cup milk

3/4 cup butter

1 1/4 cups leftover mashed potatoes

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs beaten

about 8 cups flour (I only use about 6 1/2, just depends on the day)

In a saucepan, combine milk, butter and potatoes, stir over low heat just until butter is melted. Remove from heat, place in large bowl and add sugar, salt and 2 cups of flour and the yeast mixture. Add eggs and mix well. Allow to sit covered with plastic for 2 hours. It will look bubbly like this.

Stir in enough of remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out on floured board and knead until smooth and elastic…about 6 minutes. Place in a greased bowl turning once to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 1 hour. This is the freshly kneaded ball:

Punch down dough and divide into thirds. On a floured surface, roll each portion into a 12 inch circle. Cut each circle into 12 pie shaped pieces (pizza cutter works well for this). Beginning at the wide end roll up each wedge. Place rolls point side down 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until almost double in size. Bake at 375° for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Brush tops with butter while warm if you like. These freeze well and are totally worth the effort!

I did not make the rolled up style rolls. At the shaping stage above, I made dinner rolls instead. I take 1 1/2 ounces of dough (about a golf ball size) and shape into balls. In a 9×13 pan this is 3 rows of 5, you will get about 42 rolls this way. Then let rise and bake as usual. These are mine just as I put them on the oven (I used a large sheet pan that I have that holds 28 rolls):

Another tip: You can freeze the dough just after you shape it before the last rise on the pan or cookie sheet or whatever you use. After they are solid, put them in a baggie to save space. Then pull them out at about noon on the day to bake, let them thaw and rise. Then bake as above. You can also let them thaw in the fridge and just take them out to rise and bake. This is good for holidays. You can have fresh bread without all the work on the big day! According to my blogging friend Chef Tess Bakeresse, you should be able to let these rise all the way and then freeze and then bake directly from frozen. You can read about that HERE. I have not tried that with these rolls yet, but I have tried her freezer cinnamon rolls made from a dinner roll recipe and they are amazing! I only changed the frosting a bit and made it with less cream cheese, since Dallas is not a big fan of cream cheese icing.

Visit Ultimate Recipe Swap over at Life as Mom for more great recipes.
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Crafting: Handmade Wrap Cardigan

I am not an excellent seamstress, but sewing is one of the things I like to dabble in. My mom  taught me how to use the sewing machine at a young age, but I have never have any formal classes and I am mostly self-taught. I tend to look at something and then figure out how to make it.

This post will not be a tutorial. It is too complicated for me to explain how to do it without the wrap that I copied the pattern from. It’s more of a “look what I did” post! I have a wrap cardigan thingy that I wear to my yoga class a lot. My yoga instructor, Julie, is always admiring it. Last week, she told me that she was going on a date with her husband and that she was having a hard time getting dressed…she really wanted a wrap like the one I had. Well, her birthday is this week, so I decided to copy my wrap and make one for her out of some lightweight jersey fabric I had  the house.

I took my wrap and traced out all the separate pieces on paper grocery bags to make a pattern. After a little trial and error piecing it together I got it right. I am so amazed at how well it turned out. It fits Julie perfectly and she LOVED it. It has a wide collar that can be used as a hood if necessary and it’s much longer in the front so it can be crossed, wrapped and tied in the back. Here is the final product.

 

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Frugal Tip of the Week: Homemade All Purpose Cleaner

Continuing with my theme of late….more homemade cleaners! I got an email recently from my dad with this recipe for a general all purpose cleaner and have found I really like it so far. (Thanks Dad!) According to my email, this recipe was featured on the Dr. Oz show. It is very simple, requiring few ingredients that are easy and cheap to find. Plus, no harsh chemicals!

All Purpose Cleaner
2 cups water
1 tablespoon of borax (in the laundry isle)
3 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon dish soap
1 drop of essential oil for fragrance (optional)
Mix it all in a spray bottle and clean away!

Head over to Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom for more tips.

UPDATE: I LOVE LOVE LOVE this stuff. It cleans everything from counters to toilets to floors. I used it side by side with 409 at my mother-in-laws cleaning a stove that had been sitting on the porch for 6 months during a house remodel and this stuff was so much butter than the 409. I also add a few drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract when cleaning toilets and such for an antibacterial kick. Try it…really try it!

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Baking Day: Death by Breadsticks

If you haven’t it out yet, we are all about carbs here in this house! As teenagers my husband and I would buy bags of crazy bread at Little Caesar’s Pizza. This was not while we were together, mind you, just something each of us did. Yes, we really are made for each other!

About a year ago, I was really craving some of these wonderful breadsticks, but my frugal side said it was a waste of money to go out and buy these when I was sure I could make them myself if I could only find the recipe! Off to google I went. I found this wonderfully delicious recipe that has now become a definite staple in our house. Dallas requests these about once a week. When he sees them listed on my menu on the fridge he gets giddy! Who new bread could bring that out in a person….oh wait, I did know that. It does the same to me! This recipe makes about 8-12 large breadsticks. You can cut them in half to get more. Just so you know, our family of 3 usually eats the whole batch! Death by breadsticks…if you could OD on bread we would do it in this house!!!

Crazy Bread

2 1/2 cups flour

1 package or 2 1/4 teaspoon yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup warm water

2 teaspoons sugar

Cooking Spray

Topping:

1/4 stick butter melted

1 teaspoon garlic salt (this can be adjusted to taste and the saltiness of the brand of garlic salt you have)

grated parmesan the dry kind in a canister

Mix yeast, sugar and water set aside for about 5 minute to bloom (that means it will get all foamy). Mix the rest of the dry ingredients. Stir in the wet mixture. Knead dough for 5 minutes or so. Cover and let dough rest 20 minutes in a warm place. Preheat oven to 450°. Flatten dough onto a cookie sheet or pizza stone so it’s about 1/2 and inch thick. I have done mine in a rectangle and in a round, whatever works. I like to cut my strips before I put it in the oven, but you don’t have to. Bake for about 10 minutes. Brush hot breadsticks with butter/garlic mixture and sprinkle with your desired amount of parmesan. ENJOY!

For more great recipes visit Life as Mom’s Ultimate Recipe Swap.

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