Monday, April 30, 2012

Menu Plan Monday-April 30 & Freezer Cooking Plans

Happy Monday. I'm a little late getting this menu up but I have good reason. I'm taking on my first ever freezer cooking challenge! I'm not cooking 30 meals or anything, just doing what I can for the time I have. Top priority during the day is making sure the girls are cared for and the house stays in decent shape. And I certainly can't cook all day and do that. So, that means I'm cooking over about a 3 day period and it may be more depending on the needs of the girls and the house.

Yesterday I went shopping for all my groceries as well as quart size freezer bags and aluminum pans with lids. I have gallon size freezer bags and plenty of foil already so those weren't needed.

Because of my freezer cooking adventures I won't be posting my usual meal plan for the week. Instead, I'm posting what I'll be making this week as well as my schedule for when I'll be cooking these items. Plus we have leftovers we'll be eating this week. So here goes!

Cinnamon Rolls x4
Apple Muffins x3
Wheat-Blueberry Pancakes x2
Banana Bread x4

French Bread Pizzas
Grilled Chicken Roller
Parmesan Chicken Fingers
Poppyseed Chicken
Layered Enchilada Bake

Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe makes 7 dozen)

You'll notice I don't have any lunches to freeze. I haven't found any reason to at the moment as we always have leftovers since there's only 2 of us eating the dinners (picky toddler and all). And I'm usually eating lunch on the run anyways. No need for the freezer lunches for now, though I know I will eventually.
I also chose these particular breakfasts and dinners because I know they freeze great. I've made all of these meals before and frozen them. I wanted to choose something I knew would turn out great so I wouldn't get discouraged over my first ever freezer cooking experience.

Here's my schedule:

All grocery shopping at Aldi and Kroger
Sam's Club for plastic bags and aluminum pans

Make sure dishwasher is empty, all dishes I need are clean and counters are clear
Cook 2 whole chickens in my 2 crock pots, cool and shred
Make 2 loaves of french bread
Make pizza sauce
Cook ground turkey

Make sure dishwasher is empty, all dishes I need are clean and counters are clear
Put together french bread pizzas, flash freeze and wrap individually to bake later, label with cooking directions, put back in freezer
Put together grilled chicken rollers, quart size bag with marinade, label with cooking instructions, freeze
Cut up 4 pounds chicken and make parmesan chicken fingers, freeze in quart size bags in 1 pound portions, label with cooking instructions, freeze
Make layered enchilada bake, put in 2 aluminum pans, label with cooking instructions, freeze
Make poppyseed chicken, put in 2 aluminum pans, label with cooking instructions, freeze

Make sure dishwasher is empty, all dishes I need are clean and counters are clear
Make all breakfast items, cool completely, freeze with labeled bags
Cut banana breads in half to pull out half at a time.

I wrap each breakfast item in the portion we eat them. This is 3 pancakes, 2 apple muffins and 1 cinnamon roll. I wrap these in plastic wrap and put them in a label gallon bag so they're easy to find in our refrigerator freezer. I may keep 1 banana bread whole and keep 1 cinnamon roll pan together so I can take them to church for breakfast or for a new mom.

Make Snickerdoodle Cake for small group tonight
Make Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (make dough, scoop and freeze each dough ball; when frozen place in quart size bags, 6-12 in a bag to bake for get-togethers and for us)

Whew, after writing this is looks like A LOT. And it is. But these are meals I've made many times, frozen and they work. I chose easy recipes for me to begin my freezer cooking experiment. I keep calling it an experiment because I have no idea if this will really work for us or not.

Tips I've learned so far:
1. Keep the dishwasher empty and the counters clear. You see I've written that on each day because it's so important. I need all the space in my small kitchen.
2. Drink plenty of water and don't forget to eat! I've already been chugging the water today.
3. Wash dishes as you go. With a small kitchen and the need to use my utensils over again this is key. When I've got a couple free minutes between cooking and putting foods together I'll keep washing dishes as I'll need them over and over again through my cooking days.
4. Don't forget the end goal! This is a lot of food to make but I keep thinking of how much I won't have to cook down the road. A few days of being in the kitchen will make it worth it on crazy/busy nights where something will already be made for me to pull out of the freezer!
5. Have fun! I enjoy cooking but I need to remember to have fun with all this. It's daunting but I can do it!

Have you ever done any freezer cooking? What are your tips?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Love Jar

A few weeks ago I read about how my friend Rachel and her husband implemented "The Love Jar" in their house. I loved the idea but wasn't sure I could get Daniel on board so I pushed it to the side for awhile and thought on how I could present it. A couple weeks went by and Daniel was preparing a lesson series for our young marrieds class on The Five Love Languages. And it's funny, while he was preparing for this lesson, I was feeling like things were "off" with us. He didn't think so but I could feel it. You know how us girls are with all that stuff. I was tired from caring for babies and the housework that never seemed to end, plus cooking every night. I was exhausted and I felt like I was taking my frustrations out on him, which I was. After we got things worked out I mentioned the love jars to him. And he went for the idea. I was so excited.

I got to work on the jars and it didn't cost me a thing. I had 2 mason jars sitting in the cabinet so I tied some raffia around them, punched a hole in some colored paper and put our names on them. And that's how we got our love jars. We each took a few minutes and wrote 3 items on 3 pieces of paper and put them in our jars (since there were 3 Sundays left in April). We then drew from each other's jars to see what we needed to do for one another. We decided we'd draw on Sunday evenings so we'd have all week to take on the challenge, plus we needed those few days to get it worked out on our schedule. It's really interesting to see what the other person wrote; not only because we want to fulfill that person's wishes but to see where we've been lacking in the relationship department. A couple of my slips of paper said, "Cook dinner and clean up the kitchen one night this week" and "Dinner and a movie out with you." I'm a "quality time" person and an "acts of service" person (lingo from the Five Languages book) and my two items hit both those needs for me. One of his was, "Leave a note in my lunch bag this week." (That's "words of affirmation"). And you know what? That one opened my eyes and made me sad. I used to be good about that. Two to three times a week I'd write a love note and put it in his lunch bag for him to find the next day. I hadn't done it in months. And he brought that to my attention. It made me sad that it was something I let slip away. But because he wrote that I've made it a priority to get that done more than once a week. He needs that affirmation and I want to give it to him.

It's tough speaking each other's language, especially if that's not your language. And that's the point. Find out what your spouse needs from you and make it happen. Maybe the love jar isn't for you. Find something else that will work for you and make it happen. I don't want one day to pass where Daniel doesn't hear "I love you" and "Thanks for all you do for us." I really feel those things for him, but he needs to hear them from me. I let my everyday household chores, caring for the kids and cooking dinner take top priority some days. It happens when you have young kids but it doesn't need to happen everyday. Our girls need to know our marriage is strong and they need to feel confident that we will always be married. It's important. That's why the love jars are important to us.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins

I saw these on Pinterest last night and knew I wanted to make them first thing this morning. I'm so glad I did because they were wonderful! And they really do taste like a strawberry shortcake. :)

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins- modified from Dashing Dish
Yield: 12 muffins

 2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup sliced strawberries, divided (I used frozen that thawed overnight in the fridge)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 12 cup muffin pan with spray. Spray it well, these are sticky!
2. Place all ingredients, except strawberries, in mixer, blend until oats are smooth. Fold in 1 cup strawberries.
3. Divide batter among the 12-count muffin pan (it truly made 12). Place sliced strawberries on top of each muffin (if desired). Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in muffin pan and serve warm. (I removed each with a spoon.)

Verdict: Nyla liked them so they must be good, as she's a picky eater. :) I thought they tasted like a strawberry shortcake dessert, so who can resist? I put a little butter on them and drank a cold glass of milk. It was a good breakfast!

Freezer Friendly: These have been just fine out of the freezer. If I remember, I pull them out the night before and put them in the refrigerator to thaw. If I don't remember (which happens more often), I defrost them in the microwave and reheat there too. They're delicious!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Menu Plan Monday-April 23

I hope y'all had a great week! We enjoyed some cooler weather. Unfortunately, that brought some cold and allergy junk back to us. All us girls have been battling junk for most of the week. Thankfully, Daniel has been healthy and has let me sleep in the past two mornings so I can get some much needed rest to recover quicker. It's definitely not easy being sick with little ones around!

Even though I have been feeling under the weather I stuck to our menu plan all week. I had to move some things around but we ate what I planned. Go us!

We'll be eating from the freezer for almost all our meals, as I'm close to running out of grocery money and will still need milk and produce for the week. I think I have $11 left and I need that to stretch, stretch, stretch for us! Here's what's happening in our kitchen this week!

Monday-Bbq pork stew and grilled cheese sandwiches

Tuesday-Chicken marinated with Wickers (I find mine at Kroger), potatoes and veggies

Wednesday- Smothered Aussie Chicken, rice and veggies

Thursday- Spaghetti and breadsticks (I put all the veggies in my food processor so we have smaller pieces; I think this is our new sauce recipe!)

Friday- Bbq chicken pizza

Saturday- leftovers from the week

Sunday- Brunch at the Club with my family (late birthday gathering)

What's cooking in your kitchen?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Menu Plan Monday-April 16

Happy Sunday Y'all! I hope you have a blessed day worshipping our Savior, we are!
I hope you find something inspiring from our kitchen to yours this week.

Monday- Spaghetti and homemade breadsticks {new sauce recipe}

Tuesday- Smothered Aussie Chicken, rice and vegetables (Daniel's favorite)

Wednesday- Potluck at church; I'm bringing Three Cheese Baked Ziti (meatless)

Thursday- Ham, rice and vegetables

Friday- Date night with my man!

Saturday- leftovers from the week

Sunday- leftovers from the week

I may try and do one or more meatless dishes a week from now on. It'll save us some money and I'll be doing something different. I'm looking for a change in the kitchen from time-to-time. Have a great week!

What's new in your kitchen?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Bunnies

Our happy girls on Easter! I'm thankful I get a shot of them smiling at the same time. It's not an easy task! As you can see, they're smiling away from the camera which means they're smiling at their sweet Dada.

I pray everyone had a blessed Easter and took time to reflect on what Christ did for us all those years ago!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Menu Plan Monday-April 9

Happy Monday! Sorry this is late but we've had a busy Easter weekend. He is Risen!
We had a great and busy weekend. We had an egg hunt at our church and a late lunch with some family on Saturday. On Sunday, we had church and my parents came over for dinner. And today we went to the Memphis Zoo and had the best time! I love that Nyla is really getting into seeing the "aminals" and walking around looking at everything. She's obsessed with "zeebies" right now. That's zebra's for all those who don't speak toddler, so for her Easter gift we bought her a stuffed "zeebie" in the gift shop. She held it the entire time we were there. She is so sweet!

Anywho, back to the menu for the week. We're eating a lot of leftovers this month as our freezer is (thankfully) stuffed to the max! Once I go through all the food, which may take more than one month I may try my hand at some freezer cooking. I've been doing some research on it and figuring all my stuff out, but it may work for me to do a little bit here and there. It would be so nice to be able to just heat something up a few nights a week when I'm exhausted. What are your thoughts on freezer cooking?

Week of April 9-15

Monday- Leftovers from the weekend

Tuesday- Peanut butter and jelly french toast (made by my man)

Wednesday-  Poppyseed chicken, rice and vegetables (leftovers)

Thursday-  Taco Salad over organic tortilla chips (leftovers)

Friday- Dinner here for my birthday... Burgers, chips, spaghetti salad and chocolate chip cheesecake. Wow!

Saturday- Dinner at The Boys Ranch (mission project with our church, Barbecue and all the sides) Happy Birthday to me! :)

Sunday-  Leftovers from the week

What's cooking in your kitchen this week?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Our Sweet Girls

Our girls have a staring contest every morning during breakfast. I finally captured the picture.

Linked to: Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Gratituesday: Healthier Living

This week God has been teaching me about healthy eating and weight loss. He's been laying it on me for awhile now but I've been blind and stubborn and haven't wanted to see it.

I was an athlete growing up and always moving. I played Varsity basketball in high school and ran cross country. After my sports ended I continued the same, unhealthy eating habits without the exercise. Needless to say I gained 15 pounds pretty quickly. I lost that weight about 4 months later and kept it off for a good year. Since then I've gained and gained and gained, in my mind at least.

Over the past 3 years my husband and I have been on a weight loss/maintenance journey. To date, he's lost approximately 50 pounds and kept it off. I'm so proud of his accomplishment! He's such an encourager and inspiration for me to keep at it. To date I've been up and down but I have kept 20 pounds off that I lost in 2009. Since that 20 pound loss I've had 2 babies (July 2010 and November 2011), gained quite a bit with each one but have lost all the baby weight in a quick amount of time. Since Naomi (baby #2) I've struggled getting back in it. Daniel has continued to stay on track with his eating goals and see loss on the sale each week. He's continued to be an encouragement. I still struggle to find the time and motivation to go for a walk or do an exercise video. It's more to do with priorities though, as most of life is.

I started reading Candace Cameron Bure's book, Reshaping It All about 4 days ago and I'm loving it! Not only is she including her healthy tips but she's putting God into the weight loss equation. How many times have I started something and left God out of it? Too many! Reading her book has inspired me to seek Him in this journey, just as I would anything else I'm taking on. I highly suggest this book if you're looking for some inspiration on your weight loss or maintenance journey.

I'm also loving the blogs I'm reading about healthy eating, organic foods and making things from scratch. I've been making a lot of our foods from scratch for the past 3 years now but I've been doing it more out of the money-saving aspect. I'm now seeing how great it is in losing and maintaining weight. Making our foods from scratch is so much better than store bought. I can control what we put into our bodies, our temples for God. And I want my body to be God's temple.

So today is a new day! I'm taking my knowledge and love of food and I'm using it in a positive way and not the negative way that I've done for so many years. I'm learning to prioritize life at home raising two girls. I want to be here for my family. I want to be healthy for me and my family. And by doing that I have to concentrate on exercising more and eating a little less. It's possible for me to lose 1 pound a week, so I'm ready for my new, healthier journey to begin. And I'll keep God first while I'm at it!

What has God done in your life this week?

Check out Heavenly Homemakers Gratituesday for more inspiring stories.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Menu Plan Monday-April 2

Happy Monday Y'all! I hope you had a fun and relaxing weekend. We walked in a 5k, planted some flowers on our patio, bought some vegetables for our garden, had a sick toddler and cheered on the Kentucky Wildcats! We're looking forward to another busy week filled with fun and activity. I've done great on sticking to our menu which is one of my goals for this year. It's not always easy but it's worth it!

Here's what we're having this week:

Monday- Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti

Tuesday- America's Test Kitchen Cinnamon Rolls (it's a biscuit dough, so no rise)

Wednesday- Taco Salad (made with ground turkey) over organic blue corn tortilla chips (I'm venturing into some organic foods these days)

Thursday- Monkey Bread (a family favorite!)

Friday- Pepperoni Pizza

Saturday- Late lunch with Daniel's family for Easter

Sunday- Ham, rice and lima beans (He IS Risen-Happy Easter!)

How do you celebrate Easter?

Check out more menu plans on OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday.