Tag Archives: freezer

Freezing!

It’s October 1st and we are freezing!

Wait. What? It’s a beautiful, sunshiny, warm-ish (for October in the Pacific Northwest) day! But alas, my household is freezing. Our spending, that is.

Ruth over at Living Well Spending Less聽has put out the challenge, and I am up for it! The challenge: 31 Days of Living Well and Spending ZERO! Yes, ZERO! I’m a little nervous, but my nearly non-existent budget for the last…well, as long as I can remember…has prepared me for this day and this challenge.

My long-time blog readers and followers may recall me going on assorted different spending freezes, clean out the fridge/freezer/pantry challenges, and just plain being broke over the years, but this will be the first time I take on the challenge of actually committing to spending NO MONEY (aside from necessities and bills, of course.)

$10 Menu and Shopping List (Yes, I used coupons. No, I don't always spend so little at the store.)

$10 Menu and Shopping List (Yes, I used coupons. No, I don’t always spend so little at the store.)

All of this聽means that I am going to be brewing my stock-piled coffee stash (my beloved Starbucks Tribute will find its way into my coffee cup this month), will not be drinking wine (this isn’t a necessity, and I did NOT stock up before taking this challenge, because, well, that kind of defeats the purpose, right?) but may pull some long-forgotten vodka from the back of my freezer as I dig around in hopes of locating an also long-forgotten yummy treat to enjoy, and our menus will be fun and maybe a bit quirky as we use what is floating around our pantry, fridge, and freezers. This also means that my lunch-time visits to Starbucks are on hold for the month, as well as my more-frequent-than-I-care-to-admit trips through the McDonald’s drive thru for lunch (good-bye cheeseburger and small fries. I don’t think I’ll actually miss you, and I will be happy to keep my $2.62 per visit all to myself!)

What would you have the most difficulty giving up for a month, or even indefinitely? For me, it’s coffee (I know, shocking, right!? :)). And chocolate. My chocolate stash will surely run out this month…good thing I have plenty of chocolate chips. Yes, I know they are meant for baking into yummy treats, but I see no harm in popping a handful of that semi-sweet chocolatey goodness in my mouth while I give myself a pep talk convincing myself I do NOT need to go buy more Godiva chocolate (at the mall, where of course I will want to stop in at all my other favorite stores as well…). Don’t worry, Godiva, I WILL be back again. I won’t leave you forever, I love you too much and you make my stress melt away. xo

Now that you know what I *won’t* be buying, let’s talk about what I *will* spend money on. Bills. Gas (so I can get to and from work so I can get paid so I can pay those bills). Required school fees for my teens.

Perishable foods including produce (if needed. But we have an awesome neighbor who likes to share his garden goodies with us, so those may not be needed. Plus, I already spent the money on a Bountiful Baskets contribution that I get to pick up on Saturday, which should hold us over for a couple of weeks at least.), dairy, perhaps bread (I may decide we should just get back to making our own like we used to…) Our grocery budget is generally low anyway, in about the $200/month range, but we are cutting way back to just the basics and I anticipate spending around $40 this month.

Stick with me this month and see how much fun we can have without spending any money! It CAN be done, even with two teenagers roaming the house with me. They’re on board for the challenge too. I think. I hope. Well, if they’re not, I guess it’s time for them to get jobs. 馃檪

I may not post all my random ramblings about this challenge here on my blog, so pop on over to my Instagram account and join the fun there. ThatCookGirl on Instagram

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Market Colors

Market colors make a grey day bright again!

In spite of聽the cloudy, drizzly day today, the local farmers were out as usual on the street, sharing their food and their knowledge. I always learn something when I go to the market, and what’s better than that is that I often get to teach something as well. This grey day turned colorful as I walked around, talking to the farmers and other vendors, picking up my colorful bounty.

Today I was given a great way to cook up some kale leaves. I picked up the Russian Kale from Parke Creek Farm聽where she told me the differences between the varieties and some ways to cook them. I chose this variety because she described making kale chips with them by spritzing them with some olive oil and sprinkly with some sea salt, then baking in a low heat oven until crisp. Sounds like a great snack. I also picked up a colorful bunch of radishes in several different colors, along with some onions and arugula. This is my main stop for produce each time I visit the market. This week, though, I did pop over to get some fresh tomatoes as well. I grabbed the remaining handful of “seconds” (these are tomatoes that may be slightly bruised or are badly mishapen, but they still taste great and it gives me a chance to try a variety of tomatoes!) from their bin and went happily on my way to the cheese stand to pick up some fresh goat cheese.

Another favorite stop along the way is always Whitaker Grass Fed Beef聽where the farmers are always glad to see me. Today we chatted about family and how we eat. She is much better than I am with keeping processed foods out of her home, but I think I’m getting better. And I got to teach her something today. Yup! We talked about my Eye Roll Worthy Ranch Dressing聽and she seemed excited to try it. I hope she likes it as much as we do in our home. I picked up a couple packs of ground beef from her that I have not decided yet what to do with them, but I have a couple recipes in mind (one of them is a soup recipe I found when going through some old papers this morning).

A successful, colorful day at the market will end with a family favorite dinner of聽 Old Faithful, using pork chops from another local farmer. I am running low on pork in my freezer, so am glad that I have paid my deposit for this year’s order and look forward to filling up again in a couple months! The tomatoes and onions in the dinner will be from my market finds today, and I am going to use Jasmine rice, just for something a bit different. And as an added bonus, I have FRESH herbs growing in my garden that I get to use.

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Rhubarb Dessert

I look forward to this every year. Rhubarb brings back memories of childhood. Of going out to the yard and picking a stalk off the plant and eating the tart treat right then and there. I can feel the tingle in the back of my mouth now, just thinking of it.

As quickly as this crop comes in and seems to be over-abundant, it is gone. Not to be seen again until next summer. So I savor it while it’s here, and sometimes, if I’m really lucky, someone will share the extra from their plants and I might even slice some up to freeze for use mid-winter when I’m craving this simple rhubarb dessert.

This recipe comes from my Mom. She and an old neighbor came up with it one summer when there was, apparently, a bumper crop of the tasty, tart treat, and it has been a staple in our kitchens ever since!

Rhubarb Dessert

  • 5 c chopped rhubarb*
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 (3oz) pkg jello (red, preferably raspberry)
  • 3 c miniature marshmallows
  • 1 pkg white or yellow cake mix (plus ingredients to make the cake)

Arrange rhubarb in a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle sugar and jello over rhubarb. Top with marshmallows.

Prepare cake mix as directed on package. Spread evenly over marshmallows. Bake at 350F for 50-55 minutes.

If desired, after cooling for 5 minutes, turn it out of pan. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

*You can make this a strawberry-rhubarb dessert by using 1/2 strawberries and 1/2 rhubarb at about 2.5 cups each.

**Yes, this is filled with lots of processed foods. Yes, I am well aware that I talk about eating whole foods, unprocessed foods… but I also know that it is ok to have a treat now and then. And… as a reminder, I am not perfect. Well, I am perfectly *imperfect*. 馃槈

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Bagel Day

Making bagels is one of those things people just don’t expect to be so easy. A bit time-consuming, but easy and worth the effort! I have made these bagels many times, and the last time I made them was Memorial Day weekend while my sister聽was in town. She went for a quick run one morning, (I say “quick”, but it wasn’t. It was 13 miles- a half marathon! She’s AWESOME!) and I thought she’d enjoy some fresh-out-of-the-oven bagels. (And she did.) My niece came by that afternoon also. Just to hang out with my kids and my sister’s foster daughter. They hung out, played some games and she marvelled at me actually making bagels from scratch. She called me an awesome cook. Yeah, my head got a little bigger that day.

On this particular day, I created blueberry bagels (using a bag of dried blueberries) and cheese bagels (using a mixture of asiago and parmesan cheeses). There are still a few sitting in the freezer. I think my kids have forgotten that they are there. But my niece remembered. She was over a few nights ago and asked if she could steal a couple bagels before she left for work. Of course I said yes. Because what good is making the food if I’m not gonna share it, right?

In the past I have made bagels to bring to work, and even sent a few along on a hunting trip for a friend. And do you know what’s funny? I don’t really love bagels all that much. But I really enjoy making them! And sharing them, of course! 馃檪

The bagel recipe follows… it uses a mix (that I also included the recipe for) and someday I’ll post other recipes that use this same mix. Enjoy!

Bagels
路 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast or 1 (1/4-oz.) package
路 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water 110F (45C)
路 5 cups HOT ROLL MIX **
路 Cornmeal
路 3 qt. water
路 1 Tablespoon sugar
路 1 egg yolk, beaten
路 1 Tablespoon water
路 Poppy seens, sesame seeds or coarse salt
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water. Beat in 4-1/2 cups HOT ROLL MIX. Let rest 2 minutes. Add enough mix to make a very stiff dough. On a lightly floured surface knead dough until smooth, 5-10 minutes. Add more mix to surface as needed. Dough will be quite firm. Lightly butter bowl. Put dough in bowl and turn to butter top. Cover dough with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 30-45 minutes.

Punch down dough; knead 4-5 times. Divide in half. Divide each half into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a smooth ball. Flatten each ball with palm of hand. Holding a ball with both hands, force one thumb through center. Place bagel on lightly floured surface. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover lightly; let rise in a warm place 2-30 minutes.

Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. Sprinkle with cornmeal; set aside. In a 5-qart pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil. Add sugar. Lower hear to keep water boling gently.

Use slotted spoon to carefully lower bagels, one at a time, into boiling water. Turning often, cook until slightly puffed, about 5 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Drain bagels briefly on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 400F (205C). Arrange bagels, not touching, on prepared baking sheets. Combine egg yolk and 1 Tablespoon water. Brush bagels with egg yolk mixture. Leave plain, or sprinkle with poppy seeds, sesame seeds or coarse salt. Bake 15-20 minutes in oven until browned. Cool on a rack. Makes 16 bagels.

鈥-Make-A-Mix cookbook

My notes: Add more flavor! You are limited only by your imagination!
路 Mix in chives and garlic to the dough. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.
路 Mix in cinnamon and craisins or raisins
路 Mix in dried minced onion and top with additional onion

** Hot Roll Mix
路 5 lb. (20 cups) all-purpose flour
路 1-1/4 cups sugar
路 4 teaspoons salt
路 1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Stir together to distribute evenly. Put in a large airtight container. Label with date and contents. Store in a cool, dry place. Use within 6-8 months. Makes about 22 cups Hot Roll Mix.

Variation
Use 9 cups whole-wheat flour and 8 cups all-purpose flour instead of 20 cups all-purpose flour. Decrease sugar to 1 cup.

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Filed under Breads & Rolls, Cooking With Love, Recipes

The Year of the Rabbit

Today is the Chinese New Year. And I forgot all about it! I arrived at work this morning to find baskets filled with goodies and New Year wishes “Kung Hee Fat Choy”. It is now the Year of the Rabbit. A lucky year that will be followed by my personal favorite, the Year of the Dragon, next year (I was born in the Year of the Dragon and find the creature to be fascinating, but I think that’s a blog post for another day. 馃槈 ). This year, though… THIS year is my son’s year. The Year of the Rabbit. A lucky animal, indeed.

Several years ago, I began celebrating this holiday with my children, simply because we like to celebrate things and it’s a good excuse to eat Chinese food. Tonight’s dinner plans are now changed. The Tamale Pie will be frozen and can make it’s way onto next week’s menu instead. (It’s a lucky year already! I’ve got a dinner ready for next week, and it’s not even the end of this week, yet. 馃檪 ) I will pick up some potstickers and some other of the kids’ faves on my way home. We would usually cook up a big Stir Fry, and had I remembered, I would have made some Chinese BBQ Pork as well. But tonight will be about sitting around and celebrating the New Year together with some fun Coloring Pages and crayons instead of making a mess of the kitchen.

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Imperfection at its Finest

I never said I’m perfect. I don’t even think I’ve ever hinted at thinking I’m perfect. I’m this imperfect little jumbled mess who wants to believe she can “do it all” and cook fabulous dinners every night, too. Yeah, well… I can’t. And I’m ok with that.

I made burnt grilled cheese sandwiches. The kids decided to take over the stove after I burned not only the first side of the sandwiches, but then the 2nd side, as well!!! I’m so glad I taught them how to cook. 馃槈

I will say that I think I made up for that mishap by making some really great bagels the following weekend.

This last weekend, I made spaghetti sauce. It took me 2 days to get the spices right!!! In the sauce, I used my freshly canned tomatoes from a few weeks ago. I think they lend a different flavor to the sauce, and I’ll have to remember to make adjustments to my cooking when using those in the future.

But… after spending 2 days getting the spices just right, I made a nice, big lasagne using the sauce, that is now lunches for the week with all the leftovers, and I froze 3 bags of sauce for later use.

And then there’s yesterday. The one day I wish nobody would have asked me the question… the ONE day I didn’t want to admit what I made my children for dinner… and the question was asked. And answered. My answer: corn dogs and tater tots… and the reply that came after that was: SHE’S HUMAN!!!! (And no… the corn dogs were not homemade, nor were they organic, blah, blah, blah… they were pure junk food and we loved them!!! But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on eating well and cooking fabulous meals. I still love to cook! I just needed a night off!)

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Bagels, Bagels, Bagels

I was talking to a friend about food yesterday. (Is that surprising? Yeah, I didn’t think so…) In this conversation, I commented that I love to make bagels in many different flavors and continued on about something else, while he was interrupting聽me with聽“Wait! What? You make bagels? Like you toast them聽and put cream cheese on them, not like actually make bagels, boiling and all that”…. I laughed, and replied that of course I mean I mix the dough, shape it, boil it, bake it… how silly to assume I meant anything else, right? 馃槈

So, making bagels has been on my mind for quite awhile now, but always gets set aside. It is time to stop putting that task aside. I have asked my friends what their favorite bagel flavors are and I received several responses. “Blueberry” “Cheese” “Onion” “Garlic” “Dried Cherries with Honey” (let me add my YUM! to that request!!! Sounds great!) “Pumpkin Spice” “Sun Dried Tomato with Italian Spices”

Well, that’s a lot of flavors! And I am not ambitious enough to try to do them all in one bagel making session, but I will make bagels this weekend! (Please, would someone remind me to pick up some more flour, cheese, onion, garlic and I guess some blueberries…) I will mix, shape, boil and bake… and then I will wrap and freeze for easy breakfasts and snacks. And yes, I will share! Of course I will share. It’s what I do. 馃檪

You can find my recipe HERE! Happy boiling. 馃檪

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Breakfast Burritos

  • Large Flour Tortillas (I bought 2 packs of 16 each, but did not use them all)
  • Breakfast Sausage
  • 2 dozen eggs
  • 2 cans black beans (you can use dried beans if you prefer, you just need to cook them up, of course)
  • Salsa
  • Colby-Jack cheese
  • Plastic Wrap

Gather all ingredients in one place

Brown sausage in a large skillet (mine is 12″)

While the sausage is cooking, grate cheese (or set the kids to work on grating the cheese, which is what I always do…) and drain & rinse the black beans

Set browned sausage aside. Scramble eggs in a large bowl. Heat the same skillet used for the sausage and pour the eggs in. Cook and stir until cooked/scrambled.

Pour the beans and sausage on top of the eggs in the skillet and mix well.聽(Why bother dirtying another bowl for mixing, right?)

Warm tortillas so they fold easily (You’ll want to warm just a few at a time so they don’t cool before you’re ready for them). Lay 1 tortilla out on your counter, and scoop about 1/2 cup of the egg mixture onto one side (don’t use anymore than that, or they won’t roll very well,聽but you could do a little less and get more burritos out of the mix, if you wanted to)
Top with a little salsa and shredded cheese. Then fold, starting at the end with the “stuff” on it, then folding in the sides and roll until it looks like a burrito. Once it’s all rolled/folded up, wrap in plastic wrap.
Continue until all the mixture is gone, or until you run out of tortillas, whichever comes first. You can, of course, personalize these to suit your family’s tastes. Leave out the salsa, leave out the sausage, add veggies, add shredded potatoes… you are limited only by your imagination!
Once you’ve finished all the rolling, place the wrapped burritos into a large freezer-safe container or freezer bag. When ready to eat, just unwrap, and wrap in a microwave-safe paper towel. Microwave on high 1-3 minutes (You’ll have to test it, and it will depend on how much or how little stuffing you put in, and on your microwave, too….)
Enjoy for breakfast, after-school snacks, or late-night snacks!
This is a perfect recipe to have on your “Power Cooking” rotation, and is very budget friendly!!!

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Hearty Breakfast Cookies

It’s time for Back-to-School! With Back-to-School comes the recreational soccer league for my kiddos. To me, this means getting the freezer stocked up with easy to grab-no-go snacks, breakfasts and lunch items. I planned on doing some of that this past weekend, however, when I went to make my baked goods, I discovered I was out of flour (by out, I mean I only had a few cups left… plus lots of whole wheat flour…), so my baking endeavor has been postponed until Labor Day Weekend (a fitting weekend for laboring in the kitchen, wouldn’t you agree?).

I have been asked many times for the breakfast cookie that I use. Since I have not posted it on this blog yet, I will do that today so that you can all join me in making these cookies for yourself and your families next weekend. I generally double the recipe and then I wrap each cookie in wrap and bag them all up for the freezer. Wrapping them individually allows you to grab 1 and not have to thaw the whole bunch of them. They thaw quickly, but you can also pop them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (1 or 2 cookies at a time, just what you need for the day). These are a favorite for the kiddos for breakfast, lunch and after school snacks. I like to grab one for a late-afternoon pick-me-up at the office.

Enjoy! (This recipe was originally posted at AllRecipes.com and when I printed it for my recipe box, it called for buttermilk instead of water. I suggest using buttermilk!)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 1/3 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup raisins

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Beat in eggs and water.
  2. Mix together flours, oats, wheat germ, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda. Mix into peanut butter mixture. Stir in raisins. Drop by ice cream scoopfuls 2 1/2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 18 – 20 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks. Store in an airtight container.

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Filed under Breakfast, Cooking With Love, Recipes