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When a giant spring snowstorm derailed our day’s plans, I decided C and I needed a fun, easy to pull together activity.
Since we had just been to an Easter egg hung, we had plenty of eggs, and I remembered the Easter egg lunch I’ve seen everywhere on Pinterest.
I put my own spin on it, serving it in a muffin tin (I didn’t have an egg carton) with the eggs closed. Closing the eggs meant he had to guess what was in each one and since I told him the rule of his Easter Bunny lunch was that he had to eat what was in whatever egg he opened before he got a new one, it meant he ate everything in each egg.
Our eggs were filled with cheese, carrots, crackers, strawberries, letter cookies, ham, tortilla and one egg had a piece of candy. He ate everything in the dozen eggs I prepared for him, and then fixed six more at his request.
I plan to do this again on a regular basis, not just at Easter time. It was a fun way to connect at lunch time (he needed help opening each egg and I prompted him to guess what was in each one), and I felt like he ate much better than he normally does for me. I think, if I planned this better, he would eat with a much better variety than he normally does.
We’re 10-weeks until Noodle Baby arrives. When I realized his projected arrival was only 11 weeks away, I may have freaked a little. The desk isn’t done! His room is full of junk! It isn’t painted! Will it get painted? Since I can’t build a desk, and I’m off painting duty, there’s not much I can do about these problems.
But I can cook, so I settled on coming up with a plan to get some meals in the freezer pre-baby. I picked meals that are fairly easy to make and/or don’t take a lot of time to make. I don’t want to make this more complicated than it needs to be, and honestly, if we eat a bunch of crockpot meals for a month or two so I can *maybe* sleep more, that’s fine with me.
Meals I have selected (with my husband’s input on what he’d like) are:
- Marinated Chicken x 2
- Ham Mac ‘n Cheese Casserole (1 recipe makes 2)
- Healthy Mama BBQ Chicken (1 recipe makes 2)
- Baked Ravioli (possibly two full-sized or two slightly smaller than normal)
- Toddler Muffins
- Taco Roll-Ups (make with homemade crescent rolls, if I feel up to it)
- Greek Inspired Chicken
- BBQ Pork (should make enough for at least 2)
- Waffles (as needed)
- Freezer-Friendly Baked Oatmeal (2 or 3)
My priorities are meatballs, Taco Roll-Ups and waffles. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been making and freezing waffles for Colton to eat for breakfast each morning, so keeping up with this is a must (I’m hoping to get my husband to mix up some extra waffle batter on the weekends to make this easier to keep up with). C also loves Taco Roll-Ups, which will be a good, quick lunch or dinner option for him as things get crazy. My husband specifically requested meatballs, Colton will eat them, and they don’t require any defrosting to be used in our two favorite meals (spaghetti and meatballs and Greek Meatball Pitas).
If I cook one meal a week from this list, I should have everything made. I have a written plan of what to fix together, so I have a few extra weeks in case this baby comes early or I just find myself too tired in the last couple of weeks to do extra work.
I’m tired y’all. Today more than usual, but in general, I’m tired. The tiredness really kicks in around 5 pm when its time to cook dinner and Colton is feeling like he needs extra attention. I still want to provide some good, nutritious dinners but I need them to be easy.
Some of my favorite weeknight meals include:
I use my food processor to chop the veggies on both of these, which cuts down on the prep time. Honestly, I think the tomato soup is easier to make, though it requires a blender and uses more kitchen equipment in the process. The base cooks in the crockpot, which is a serious plus for me these days. Plus, it is seriously the very best tomato soup I’ve ever had.
Speaking of favorites, this Black Bean salad is one of my favorite meals these days. I think my husband tolerates it, rather than loves it.
I serve it on tortillas with chips on the side, and two are plenty to fill me up, but this isn’t a heavy meal at all. Its pretty inexpensive to make, and is currently the only thing I eat avocado in (it makes it feel extra healthy to me, since it contains two foods I don’t normally eat in other recipes – black beans and avocado).
I love French Dip sandwiches when we eat out, and making them at home is super easy. Turns out, my husband is a fan as well. The recipe calls for two cans of beef broth, but I think one is more than enough. I do think they’re extra tasty with two packets of Onion Soup seasoning though! (I just noticed The Girl Who Ate Everything also has a crockpot recipe for these that calls for more seasonings and whatnot, and I bet those would be even better. I still love this “recipe” for a super quick, you probably already have it on hand meal.)
This is a super easy side dish to make and clean-up. I’m planning on trying it this week with some squash in the mix as well.
I made these while Colton was at school one day and stocked my freezer with them to have on hand for easy sides with meals or to pair with bread. They are so good, and not hard at all. It did take all of school time and nap time with the rise and cooking times, but they were so worth it. I also made mine with King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour and they are still super tasty.
Obviously, these are not the only meals I’m cooking these days, just my favorites in terms of ease of cooking and taste. Of course, I’m always looking for more tasty, easy to prepare meals! What are your favorites?
If you’ve been on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen several different recipes for homemade cheese crackers. I had seen several, and pinned two, but waited a long time until I decided to actually make them myself.
They were super easy and super tasty. If you’re on the fence of making these, go make them now! Chances are you already have everything you need to make them in your fridge and pantry.
I’ve decided to post yet another cheese cracker recipe because I ended up using a combination of the two recipes I pinned, and some info that I was curious about was missing from the recipes I read.
So, here’s what you need to make easy, delicious cheese crackers that will be gone in about 3 days:
- 3/4 flour (I used a mixture of white whole wheat and all purpose, anything would work)
- 1 1/2 cups cheddar (6 ounces), can be pre-shredded or cubed
- 4 Tablespoons butter (these turned out pretty buttery, so I would recommend using 3 Tablespoons. I think they would still be pretty tasty.)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon water
- Sea salt to sprinkle
Combine flour, cheese, butter and salt in food processor. The amounts listed above will meet a three cup food processor capacity. Blend until you have what looks like course sand.
Add 1 T water and blend until dough forms. This will take about 2 minutes and you may have to stop and push the dough down into the processor to make sure everything incorporates.
Wrap your dough in plastic wrap and chill 20 min. This may not be necessary, but I think chilled dough is much easier to work with in general.
Divide dough into two or three portions to make it easier to work with. Roll dough between two sheets of wax paper until about 1/4 or 1/8 inch thick.
Cut into squares with pizza cutter or into shapes with small cookie cutter. If you made squares, you can put a hole in them with a toothpick to prevent them from getting too puffy and look more like cheeze-its. If you do shapes, don’t bother.
Sprinkle with sea salt and bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes. I cooked mine about 12, but could have cooked them longer for more crispy crackers since mine weren’t rolled very thin. Just check them periodically after 8 minutes and check for crispiness. I thought they might get more crispy as the cooled, but they stay pretty much the same in terms of crispness as they cool.
Cool and eat. Store in airtight container.
I will be making these again, and when I do, I’ll make at least a double batch.
Last Saturday, Colton turned two. The week before that, we celebrated with his friends at home. And I’m just now posting about it.
Colton has adored Curious George for quite some time, and I decided long ago we’d have a Curious George “themed” birthday party. Going into it, there were two things I knew: I wanted to use the more vintage, hand-drawn George (rather than the much more cartoony movie version), and I didn’t want everything to scream George. To that end, I settled on using red, blue and yellow as my main colors, and also decided on using polka dots. Polka dots are happy and fun, plus I found a great vinyl table cloth on clearance.
After doing some Etsy browsing, I found a seller with some two-inch punches from an old Curious George book, which I happily snapped up. Could I cut up a book? No. But I sure could buy a cut-up book! These were absolutely perfect – there were tons of pictures of George, and the Man with the Yellow Hat, and I think they were a great touch on my photo banner.
When Caroline visited, way back in February, I mentioned I thought I would take photos of him in a monkey costume I had snagged on clearance for this coming Halloween. She said, “we can run outside and take them now!” Since Caroline is by far a better photographer than I am, I jumped on that opportunity. I popped five in Dollar Store frames, spray painted red with paint I already had, and displayed the rest above the cake.
I briefly thought about making a cake, but my icing skills are completely lacking, so I paid a super talented friend to make one for us. All I did was give her my cake plate, Curious George ornament, and direct her to my Pinterest party board. She totally nailed it, and I spent zero time thinking about it, working on it, or stressing about it.
We served fun, easy, loosely themed George food, like Chef Pisghetti’s Pizza, George’s 100 Dozen Donuts, a jungle fruit tray and individual banana puddings.
Colton’s birthday shirt was another Etsy find, and all three of us love it. When I showed it to Hubs before ordering it he said, “you’ll get that off of him when it falls off.” The quality is awesome, and George is fuzzy, which is a fun little touch.
Colton had a wonderful time with all of his friends (he asked for them to all come back the next day too), and I had a great time planning and decorating. And the end of the day, a happy birthday boy is the best thing I could ask for.
Last night, we went on an unexpected trip to a local strawberry patch with some friends of ours. We were expecting to go a few weekends from now, but with our unseasonably warm weather, the strawberries were early. The husband had just finished work on a submittable, so he could come home from work a bit early. I figured, why not go!
I’m so glad we did.
We had a great time, and so did Colton. We hadn’t been out for more than five minutes when he realized he could chow down on the strawberries instead of just putting them in our bucket. By the time we left, his face, pants and shorts were covered with red juice.
Two of his friends were there, and he had a great time chasing them up and down rows of strawberries. While picking, I had overheard a family talking about getting some of their ice cream when they finished picking. I’m always up for ice cream, so we all had a cup of the most delicious strawberry ice cream for dinner.
I’ve already frozen some berries, and have plans to make and can freezer jam with about half of the berries. We’ve also got big plans to make strawberry ice cream; we might even share some of it with friends!
I’ve been thinking lately about freezer cooking when pregnant. Not because I am pregnant, but because a lot of my friends (mostly internet ones) are. So, I’ve been trying to think of how I would approach freezer cooking if I were trying to stock my freezer with things to eat after a baby came.
First, I would try to make meals that take as little effort to make as possible, as I would probably be freezing things at the tail end of my pregnancy, meaning I would be very tired. This means the bulk of my meals would be chicken or veggies I could freeze in a gallon-sized bag with some sort of marinade. These meals require very little meat prep, no cooking, and need at most a bowl to mix the marinade in. An added bonus is that most meals like this can cook in the CrockPot, which makes cooking a snap when baby comes.
Second, I would think about meals that include veggies or fruit my family will like. Partly this is because I have a toddler who I like to get at least some veggies in each day, and because I know eating balanced meals will help keep my energy up and aid recovery after a baby comes.
Next, I would pick one or two of my family’s favorite meals, and freeze it. There’s nothing better than your favorite meal when you’re feeling badly or are stressed out, even if the prep takes a little more work.
Finally, I would consider when I would be eating the meals. Do I need meals as soon as I come home from the hospital? Will I have help for a week or two? Are there any friends who will be providing meals? Our Sunday School class typically sets up meal deliveries three days a week for about five weeks. Since my parents came to help for six days after C was born, I didn’t worry about dinners for six weeks. If I knew that would be the case, I would probably make less meals, since at six weeks C started sleeping a bit more, I felt pretty well healed, and felt like a decent handle on life with a baby. If you will be eating your freezer meals right after you come home, you can start stocking your freezer a bit earlier. Most foods have a freezer life of three to six months, so the earlier you’ll eat them, the earlier you can prepare them; and the earlier you prepare them, the more energy you’ll have!
Considering all those factors, here’s what I would be stocking my freezer with:
- Marinated Chicken – this recipe provides maximum results with minimum effort. Mix chicken and a bottle of Italian dressing in a gallon freezer bag, and freeze. Thaw overnight or for 30 minutes on the counter, and pop into the CrockPot. It’s flavorful and easy, so I would probably end up making two of these.
- Greek Inspired Chicken – Husband really liked this with chicken thighs, so I would use a mix of those and breasts. This doesn’t take a whole lot of effort, has a nice flavor, can be cooked in the Crock-Pot, and can be eaten with spaghetti or with veggies.
- Healthy Mama BBQ Chicken – While this isn’t my all-time favorite meal, it’s still tasty and has a TON of veggies in it, which makes it worth it for me to stick in my freezer for a healthy, post-baby meal. This is great served over brown rice.
- Baked Ravioli – This is the ultimate easy to make, yummy to eat recipe. Simply layer a foil baking pan with store-bought frozen ravioli, pasta sauce, ravioli, pasta sauce and cheese. Cover it with foil and pop it all back into the freezer. This can be cooked directly from frozen, but it does take 2.5+ hours at 350.
- Mini Meatloaves – A lot of what I fix for the freezer has chicken in it, so these provide a nice variety, and aren’t crazy difficult to make. I also despise leftover meatloaf and this solves that problem. These are the perfect solution for the days you forget to plan dinner – they cook in 15 minutes from frozen! Cook some frozen veggies, cook a box of macaroni, and you have dinner!
- Ham Mac and Cheese – My family loves this, it’s not chicken, comes together quickly and one recipe makes a double batch.
- Toddler Muffins – Loaded with fruits and veggies, I would make large muffins for me, and mini muffins for quick meals and snacks for Colton.
- Taco Roll-Ups – These are Colton’s absolute favorite, for lunch or dinner. I imagine having a meal I know will go over well would simplify my life with a needy newborn and crazy toddler.
That’s six dinners, seven if you count the Ham Mac and Cheese’s double batch, and two snacks/lunch items. My guess is you could do an evening of prep work (shred carrots for the toddler muffins, cut ham if you need to and brown beef for the taco roll ups) and cook from early afternoon and be finished in time for lunch. Or, you could take a week and focus on one item a day and have your freezer stocked.
I thought it would be fun to share with y’all a photo from my most recent shopping trip. This was by no means a typical week, as we’re receiving dinners this week after a set of difficult circumstances. And, due to said circumstances (which I will maybe, probably blog about later), I’m not feeling up to cooking, so this trip was more about making sure we had some easy, emergency dinners on hand and stocking up on a few things for meals next week.
That lovely stack of food includes: hot dog buns, baby carrots, 2 Kashi frozen meals, YoBaby and YoToddler yogurts, strawberries, Coke Zero, V8 Splash, three fruit cups, a bag of sugar, Dole Salad Mix, three grapefruit, Greek yogurt, onion, BirdsEye steam-able veggies, 2 bags of cheese, Fiber One, juice boxes, two apples, vanilla extract, two ears of corn, two bags of frozen green beans, canned pumpkin, tortilla chips, butter, two cans of refrigerated biscuits, WhoNu Oreo-style cookies, two packages Ball Park franks, Kroger’s Private Selection Ice Cream, and bananas.
Most of the produce I purchased this week, including the frozen green beans, is what I would purchase in a typical week. I’m a big grapefruit and carrot eater, and Hubs is a big banana fan, so those are always on the list. The rest of the items are things we tend to only purchase occasionally, like the chips, cereal and hot dogs. The last time I purchased juice boxes was for Colton’s first birthday; the boxes I purchased this week are for his second birthday party (there was a sale, and I had a coupon, making this the perfect time to buy).
I always shop with at least some coupons, and try to make sure the bulk of my items are on store special as well. I did really well this week, thanks in large part to a $5 off a $50 purchase store coupon. My store also doubles coupons up to fifty cents, and I saved $1.50 extra that way this week. Some weeks I only have one coupon, and some weeks I have ten, but I think it all balances out.
I still feed my almost two-year-old baby food. Not every meal, not every day, but from time to time, I pull out “special saucy” for him, and he LOVES it.
I did this for the first time since graduating to all-table foods a few months ago. Colton had just started to run a fever, and he had been exposed to Hand, Foot and Mouth a day or two earlier. Husband was out of town, so I was a tad bit paranoid. I had to run out for a few essentials, and while I was out, decided to pick up a few containers of stage two baby food, pear mixed with squash, in case mouth sores popped up and liquid foods were all my son wanted to eat.
He never got any mouth sores, but I had stumbled on a great way to get some extra veggies into my son. I’ve tried the squeeze pouches marketed for toddlers, but C just isn’t into them. I’ve tried smoothies, but he’ll only take a few sips (although when he saw Joseph drinking one recently, he was much more into his). So, I’ve stuck to pear with squash and apple with carrot baby food for lunches away from home and trips.
Until I found my new best friend: the mini muffin.
I found this recipe for fruit and veggie packed Toddler Muffins via Pinterest. Colton had decided to swear off all fruits and veggies for a week, so they went on my “must make immediately” list. I was a little intimidated by grating carrots, but it turns out that’s easy, and C even helped me. When these were ready, I let C have one; he inhaled it, and immediately requested “more muffin!” I think that’s a resounding review.
A few notes on the recipe: I used half whole wheat and half all-purpose flour, and thought the muffins were a great texture. I also only used 1/4 cup brown sugar and subbed apple sauce for the other 1/4 cup the recipe called for. This made the muffins barely sweet (and most of the sweetness I can taste seems to be from the bananas), which is what I wanted. The next time I make these, I will probably try cutting down the butter by 2 TBS, since I think they came out a bit buttery. The recipe said this made about 24 mini muffins, but I ended up with 32. Perfect for freezing!
I also made Zucchini Tots, another recipe I found via Pinterest.
Colton liked these, but they don’t have the same appeal as the muffins. Still, he’s hit or miss when it comes to eating squash still, and if these help him eat it, I’m all for it. Plus, I can store some in the freezer for a quick lunch option. My “tots” ended up being softer, more like a crab cake in texture, and I made 15 with a double recipe. I did PACK my muffin tins, so that’s probably why they weren’t as crisp and didn’t make nearly as many as I should.
Now, I don’t think either of these muffins are a substitute for serving and encouraging my toddler to eat whole veggies. Rather, I think they’re a fail-safe for days when C refuses to eat anything that’s not a carb, indulgent baby-sitters are around, lunches out, to take on car trips when you need an easily transported veggie, or just a way to occasionally sneak more veggies into C’s diet.
On the day I took the above photos, C ate all his muffin (one and a half minis), oranges, ham and broccoli and some of his peas and carrots. I’m guessing that’s about half of the veggies he’s supposed to be getting in a day. Not to shabby!
During our last freezer cooking session, my friend Meg made salsa to use in our Mexican Chicken and Black Bean Filling. We’d made this before and really enjoyed it, so I was shocked to find it even tastier the second go-round. Since the only thing we changed was the salsa we used, I figured that had to be what made the meal so tasty. Of course, I quickly asked for her recipe! She says its very easy to make, cheap, and great tasting. Her husband, who she calls a “salsa snob” loves it, which is a good recommendation for me!
- 1 can Mexican stewed tomatoes (Del Monte)
- 3 cans Rotel tomatoes (I use 2 original, 1 hot)
- 1 T. Cilantro
- 3 tsp. Cumin
- A few squirts of lime juice
Place Mexican stewed tomatoes in blender; blend until they reach the consistency you like (doesn’t take long!). Pour into large container or bowl, then blend all the other ingredients in blender (this really doesn’t take long because Rotels are already in little cubes). Combine with Mexican tomatoes and stir to blend. You can make this salsa any consistency you like.