Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Freeze Ahead Recipe: Salsa & Lime Chicken

So the first meal out of the freezer was a success.  What was a failure was my remembering to take photos.  But really none of the freezer bags look terribly appetizing, and once food hits the plate my family is eating it.  Don't expect too many food photos, and REALLY don't expect any that look good; there are no garnishes at Chateau Our House.

Anyway, I pulled the bag out the the freezer yesterday morning, left it to thaw in the fridge for about 24 hours.  Then this morning I dumped it all in the slow cooker on low, set it for 6.5 hours, and left the house for a busy day (Noodle was getting vaccinated today and didn't like it...but does anyone?).

When I returned home the house smelled deliciously sweet and spicy.  Our slow cooker has a timer and then moves from low (or high) to warm. I worry that without that feature in the 10 hours from the time we left the house to dinner, it would have gotten a bit dry.  So if you have an old school slow cooker (and I did until last year), consider yourself warned.

Recipe time!

Salsa & Lime Chicken 

3 chicken breast  (Considering the gigantic size of chicken breasts these days 3 is all I ever cook and it feed the 4 of us plus leftovers almost every time)
1 jar of mango salsa
1 Tbs of lime juice (feel free to add more or juice a real lime if you are so inclined...I was lazy and used the little lime shaped squeeze bottle I keep in the fridge)
1 package chicken taco seasoning (You could also make some from scratch.  I keep meaning to do that, but haven't gotten around to it yet.  I have bought the jars to keep it in so that is a step in the right direction, right?!)
1 handful of diced red pepper (Yup, handful.  I chopped up 6 pepper, put them all on a plate and just grabbed a handful for this, and several other, recipes.  If you want specifics I'm not the girl for you.  FYI - this is why I'm a terrible baker.)
1 handful of diced onion

The recipe I loosely went off of (found here) called for cilantro and jalapenos.  I don't like jalapenos and The Husband doesn't like cilantro (I know! Crazy!) so I left them both out.

Anyway, just mix the salsa and taco seasoning together in the bag so you don't get clumps of seasoning, then toss in everything else.  Lay it flat and freeze.  Then thaw, cook, and serve with rice, lettuce, chips and guacamole.

Easy.  Yummy.  And both Noodle and Huck ate it without complaint.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Stocking the Deep Freeze - 30 meals, plus extras

Yesterday I sent the kids off to preschool/parents day out, ran to the grocery store for a few last minute items, and got to work. The day before I made a major $480 trip to Costco and my normal grocery store, scrubbed the kitchen, found my recipes, labeled ziptop bags, and popped a Whole Chicken in the slow cooker to roast overnight.

It was a major cooking extravaganza. Well not so much cooking but chopping - lots of chopping.
CHOPPING!  Chicken from Crock Pot roast, 6 Bell Peppers, 5lbs of Carrots, Celery, 6 Onions
At the end of the day I had the following stashed on my freezer:
Chicken for Slow Cooker:
   Applesauce Barbeque
   Cranberry Barbeque
   Chicken Fajitas
   Honey Rosemary
   Coconut Curry
   Lime Salsa

Chicken for the Grill
   Orange Soy
   Cumin Lime

Ground Turkey for Slow Cooker
   Meat Sauce
   Sloppy Joes

Beef Stew Meat for Slow Cooker
   Chunky Chili with Veggies
   Mongolian Beef
   Chunky Beef Stew

Ready For The Oven
   Sausage & Peppers
   Chicken Enchiladas

Misc Other
   2 packs of Bratwurst 
   4 packs Cheese & Spinach Ravioli
   6 Frozen Pizzas
   2 Whole Chickens
   1 Salmon
   2 Chicken Breasts
   2 packs of Bacon
   1 pack of Ground Beef
   1 Huge Pork Roast that I forgot to cut up before freezing and now I'm not sure what to do with. 
   1 Chocolate Cake (I made two for The Husband's birthday last week and stashed one for later)
   1 Egg and Hashbrown Casserole
   1 Bag of Sheedded Chicken for Quesidillas or Chicken Salad
   LOTS of individual packets of guacamole.
Still to Make
   Teriyaki Meatballs
   Potato Soup
   Chicken Basil Twice Baked Potatoes
   Cheesy Turkey Meatloaf
   Pumpkin French Toast Bake
   Chicken Broth (currently in the Crock Pot)

That's about 30 dinners that are ready to go. On each bag I've written how to prepare it and what to serve it with. I've also made sure I have all the required side dishes in the house. This includes Jiffy Cornbread mix, jarred Mandarin Oranges, Rice, etc.  So on any given night I can make anything in the freezer. 

I'll post the recipes AFTER I've cooked the meal. 95% of the recipes were new to me and I don't want to post them and then have them turn out badly. 

If this works it will really save me time during the day and it should cut the budget too. That being said this is still about $500 worth of food. I buy quality meat and veggies (organic, free range, grass fed, etc.) whenever possible and that is more expensive, but for now it is worth the price.

Now for a little FREEZER TOUR!
Croissants, tortillas and cake, plus 6 crock pot meals.
8 crock pot meals, 2 huge bags of frozen veggies (to be sides)
2 whole chickens, french fries, enchiladas in the dish ready to bake, salmon, pork roast
2 packs of bacon, pepper and Sausage, my chocolate stash, butter, brats
Individual packs of guacamole, extra pack of ground beef, ravioli, breakfast bake, chicken for the grill, extra chicken

   That's it.  A month of meals already to go.  Now just pray the power doesn't go out!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Little Cleaning of My Own

After the toy cleaning it seemed only fair to do a little cleaning/purging of my own things.  Namely fabric.  I like fabric, I always have.  I've made exactly one quilt but yet I've amassed a ridiculous amount of fabric to make other quilts.  But at the same time not really.  A fat quarter here, a yard of something there - it doesn't actually add up to a quilt...or anything else for that matter.

When I started the fabric destash I had two 22 gallon bins of fabric, two additional bins of clothes that didn't work for us any longer but I was holding on to so I could use the fabric for something else later, a cardboard box of odds and ends, and 7 FULL BOLTS of fabric that I was given by my neighbor about 5 years ago.

Even if I sewed something everyday for a year I would never get through all of this!

In the mess I discovered a sentimental shirt (the one that let The Husband know that he stood a pretty good shot with me), an entire quilt cut out and ready to start piecing, 2 dozen cloth wipes all cut out and ready to be sewn up,  and a dress that I'd cut out (I'm feeling a theme here) and stashed in a bag labeled 2007!  Clearly I'm on top of things - and that I enjoy cutting but never seam (see what I did there...Ha!) to get to the sewing.

Anyway now that the purge is over I have one bookshelf of fabric and such.  All neat and tidy and easy to access.  Hopefully this will encourage me to start actually sewing and not just cut things out.

But I'm not counting on it.

From the top: Embroidery Thread, Buttons, More Buttons, Notions Tackle Box, Box O Ribbons
Larger Cuts of Fabric, Smaller Cuts of Fabric, More Fabric, Box O Scrap
3 Felted Sweaters, Box O Started Projects, 5 Bolts of Fabric

Headed out the door:  
  • 2 trash bags and 2 bolts to Project Linus so someone that is not me can make blankets 
  • 2 trash bags to Goodwill
  • 1 trash bag to the trash 

It feels good!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Too much

The kids have too much stuff.  Way, WAY too much.

I didn't realize it had gotten this bad until I was doing the Love & Logic "if mommy cleans it up, it goes away" thing.  For three days in a row I cleaned up all the toys spread out in the play area and stashed them in the closet.  They never even missed them. 

They have so many toys that the loss of a few - or many - made zero difference to them. So last night after they went to bed I cleaned.

There are now 4 FULL bins of toys tucked away in the utility room - the fate of these toys to be decided later.   Add to that the full bin to take to Goodwill and one full trash bag of junk that we just tossed.  Even after all that they STILL have more than enough to play with.
Four very full bins of toys packed away in the utility room.

I'm hoping to pare down even more over the next few months, but for now this is a BIG improvement.  All the toys are now easily contained in bins on the toy shelf.  There is also a separate cabinet full of art supplies.  So don't worry - they aren't being neglected - they just had too much!

Toy shelf with bins, table & chairs, and play kitchen.  Manageable fun.
I'm hoping that this major toy reduction actually sparks more PLAY.  The other issue we've been having is that I let them watch way too much TV.  So this week I'm going to try a 2 hour limit per day.  Yes, that's right 2 hours is a DRASTIC reduction for us.  I think it goes hand in hand with too many toys.  When everything is out and it is a mess they can't really play.  But now, with a clean space and the hope of only getting out one or two things at a time there will be room to play. 

Something that I think will help spark their imaginations and get them playing is our latest edition (yes, I see the irony in acquiring MORE when I'm trying to make do with LESS) - a PLAYHOUSE!   It is outside, in the shade of the deck, and my hope is that they spend lots of time outside and playing with it.  We brought it home yesterday afternoon and they have already had such a wonderful time with it.
Huck and Noodle showing off the new (used) playhouse.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Year Has Begun!

I probably should have written this last week, but I'm officially a "Mainly Stay At Home Mom"!  The Day Job is over and while I do have a new job, it takes up significantly less time and I'm not on-call all the time.  Which means I work during work time and that is it!  No more overwhelming balancing act.  I'm sure I'll still have days when I feel like I'm spinning plates, but in just this last week I've felt so much better. 

This really is a wonderful change for our family.

I'm not saying things are perfect - they aren't.  But they are better.

The year has begun!

(I can't believe that I only have one year left before Huck is in kindergarten!  Clearly, it is time to slow down and savor the moments.)