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When most people think of freezing meals, they think casseroles. And what’s in most casseroles? Cream of “something” soup.

But, after quite a few sessions of freezer cooking, my friend and I have learned casseroles and cream of “something”-laden foods are not all you can make and freeze.

And, due to some dietary changes, we used ingredients this time that do not have any artificial coloring, preservatives, or flavorings (one exception is pepperoni – there isn’t a store in our area that carries a pepperoni that meets these criteria. I believe Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s carries one).

Note: I’m calling this Real Food, because to me that’s what it is. We didn’t use anything pre-packaged (other than teryiaki sauce), but we did use dairy and wheat products (all flour was white whole wheat, and noodles where whole wheat as well). So maybe the better term here is minimally processed freezer cooking?

Either way, here’s what we made:

K&W Mac N Cheese – We added ham to make this a more hearty meal. Serve with a side salad and a veggie for a yummy dinner!

Pizza Roll-Ups – This is almost always a hit. We made our own dough this time (pre-made crescent dough that met our criteria was cost-prohibitive) using this recipe. They turned out okay, but we think we’ll try making them with a different, “approved,” pre-made dough next time, as this dough stays pretty thick and makes it hard to get the cheese melted when you reheat them.

Teriyaki Chicken – We both really like this! Cutting the chicken up made each bite saucy and delicious. I served this with rice and stir-fry veggies.

Sour Cream and Noodle Bake – This is one of my favorite Pioneer Woman recipes. It is quick to put together for a weeknight meal, and it was easy to double and separate into two different pans. This would be a great one to double, eat one that night and freeze the other!

Greek Inspired Chicken – A great crock-pot recipe, this is easy to put together and is approved by both husbands. I like to serve mine with summer squash and zuchinni.

Waffles – We were going to make eight batches of waffles, but ended up only being able to make four, even with two waffle irons. This was still a good number of waffles for both of us, and we probably wouldn’t be able to make more than that during a cooking day. (This is one thing we both make that’s strictly for the kids!)

Beef and Bean Burritos – This is another great Pioneer Woman recipe! We freeze ours with just beans, beef and a little cheese, and they are so, so good. I served mine with an extra sprinkling of cheese on top, cilantro-lime rice, and a salad.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins – We ended up with a TON of these, regular and mini sized. We like this recipe, but this is the first time we’ve frozen them unbaked. This extends the freezer life of the muffin, and it means they can go into a chest freezer and not get dried out. However, they don’t freeze into solid balls, which made them a little harder to work with when we didn’t freeze them in muffin liners (Did you know colored muffin liners have artificial colorings in them that can leech into your foods? I did not. Just goes to show how prevalent this stuff is and how crazy-hard it is to avoid. Have you looked for plain muffin liners? They are rare!) Still, they cook awesome from frozen!

BBQ Pork – My mom went through a two-year phase where she was determined to perfect a BBQ rub, and we love it. A five to seven pound bone in, picnic or shoulder roast makes enough for two quart sized bags, which is about two dinners for all three of us, and at least one lunch for one of us, in my family.

Cilantro Lime Chicken – A good, solid recipe. We ate ours in whole-wheat tortillas with some guacamole, and it was yummy. I think the next time I make this I would use it as a filling for burritos, and serve it with rice. It made a TON too!

Perfect Chicken – This was the first time we’ve frozen this, though we both make this at home regularly. It should be great for salads, wraps, or reheating and serving with some yummy sides.

Taco Meat – We just browned our beef with McCormick’s taco seasoning (no additives, preservatives, or other yucky stuff!). Simple, easy, tasty. I served mine recently with pico de gallo and avocado.

 

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My family likes to eat. My husband always tells me that the chief activity when we visit my family is eating.

Since we’re a southern family, we like to eat barbeque (pulled pork, of course!). I don’t think I can count how many family get-togethers involve this tasty meal. Family reunion? BBQ. Thanksgiving? BBQ. Funeral? BBQ from our favorite out-of-town, hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint is just what we need.

When I was in high school, my mom decided she wanted to make her own BBQ. My dad bought her a “Barbeque Bible,” and she began experimenting with rubs, cook temperatures and the like. I’d say it took her about a year to perfect a style our whole family loved.

A few years ago, I asked for the rub recipe so I could start making my own, since barbeque that meets my standards is hard to find in Virginia.

Yup, my most favorite recipe is on a post-it note.

Yup, my most favorite recipe is on a post-it note.

We both started using our crock-pots to cook the pulled pork (I’ve found that a 6 to 7 pound bone-in shoulder or picnic roast is the perfect size for my 4 quart crock pot, and feeds my family for several meals), and it is delicious and so, so easy. It freezes well (just be sure to ladle generous amounts of sauce into your freezer container), and the liquid created when it cooks makes a great sauce.

I usually mix my rub in a bow, then store it in an old, glass mustard jar. So, so yummy!

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)
  • Meatballs
  • 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:

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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.

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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).

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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.)

Source: momstestkitchen.blogspot.com via Mary-Carolyn on Pinterest.

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.

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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.

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This is how thin I rolled my crackers; they could have been thinner.

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.

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Sprinkled with salt, ready for the oven.

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.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

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 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.

For $18, we got all the strawberries we could fit into two buckets, plus everything we ate. Another five got us each delicious ice cream. What does eighteen dollars of strawberries look like?

I let them all soak for a while in the sink with a cup of vinegar, which is supposed to prolong their lives. An added bonus? I had a really clean sink, once I rinsed out all the strawberry dirt.

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!

Source: blogs.babble.com via Mary-Carolyn on Pinterest

Of course, I plan to eat a fair amount too. I’m thinking I may still have some left over, even after all of that. Do you have a recipe I must use with my amazingly delicious berries?

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.

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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.

Someone loves muffins!

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.

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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.

Muffins served with ham, fruit and other veggies.

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!

Ingredients:

  • 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.

At the end of January, I completed my third round of freezer cooking. We’ve now tried all of our meals (though I still have several in the freezer), and thought I would give a round-up of how we liked everything this time around.

Freezer Friendly Baked Oatmeal – We’ve made this every time we’ve cooked, and we’ve liked it every time.

Sausage Balls – This was our second time making this, and they’re still a hit.

Pizza Bites – Good, but we all liked the roll-ups better. If I made these again, I would go lighter on the Italian Seasoning.

Taco Roll Ups – Everyone loved these. One family added sour cream to their taco meat and liked them even better than our last batch. Colton adores these and calls them “Taco Bread.”

Lazy Enchiladas – I really liked eating these (and LOVED the cottage cheese in them), but the girl that made them said she thought making regular enchiladas on cooking day (since our chicken would be pre-cooked) was actually easier, since we wouldn’t have to cook and shred chicken, then put everything together. I’m thinking I’ll make these on a night I want enchiladas but don’t have any in the freezer.

Chicken Tacos Yum! Colton loves tacos and chicken, so this was a hit. Alas, there are never enough leftovers.

Mexican Chicken and Black Bean Filing – All three families LOVE this. It is super easy to make, especially if you use leftover chicken. I think it was even tastier than last time, which I attribute to using my friend’s homemade salsa recipe (I will post it soon!).

Chicken Potato Casserole – This was okay. It had good flavor, but was a little dry. I’m not sure if in tripling the sauce recipe it actually made less, or if it just isn’t meant to be a super saucy recipe.

Tomato Pasta Bake – This was, I’m told, a more difficult and time consuming recipe to put together (I didn’t make it!). I thought it was super yummy though; it had a nice, sweeter flavor to it, and was great served with a simple grilled chicken and some broccoli.

Pizza Dough – I give up on freezing pizza dough. I am not very good at working with yeast, and I think my inability really shows when I try to freeze dough. I had high hopes this time, since the dough rose nicely prior to freezing, but it was not so hot after freezing. I would LOVE to make this crust and use it right away, especially since it looked so yummy when I first made it.

Brown Sugar Chicken and Honey Garlic Chicken – These were both okay, but not super exciting. They’re good mix and dump recipes, so I would make them again if I wanted to make freezer meals quickly, but might not come back to them during a “regular” freezer cooking session.

Ham Mac N Cheese – Everyone loves this one. I made it for Thanksgiving, and my cousins loved it. My brother asked for the recipe and made it for his work potluck (he works in a restaurant), where everyone loved it. One recipe makes two casseroles and they’re super easy to put together, so you could easily make one to eat right away, and one for the freezer.

Greek Inspired Chicken – I liked this and Hubby LOVED it. Colton could take it or leave it, as could the other families who made it. We generally like Greek-style food, so maybe that had something to do with it, but since this is a mix and dump recipe, I will definitely make it again. Oh, we used boneless, skinless chicken breasts as well as some bone-in thighs, rather than the whole chicken the original recipe called for.

We had some recipes that were just alright, but none were total duds, which makes me very happy. What have you been freezing lately? We’re getting ready to plan our next session, and I’m always looking for tried and tested recipes!

Just a 20-something girl living on the East Coast, trying to figure out life. I'm a wife and mom to two. I'm trying to rediscover my love for long walks, yoga and pilates. But not hiking. I still don't like hills. I was raised at the beach, but I don't like the beach. I like to look at it, but I don't like to swim in it, I'd prefer a pool, thanks. I'm just trying to become the best person I can be -- the woman God wants me to be. That's easier said than done!

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Contact me at longbrakeliving@gmail.com - I'd love to hear from you!

Hubby is my all-time favorite guy. A perfect mix of serious, sarcastic, laid-back, handy and nerdy, he is the perfect complement to me. I love his strong work-ethic and the way he always loves and supports me through everything. Some of Hubby's favorite things include: hiking, Virginia Tech football, woodworking, and his family. When I married him in July 2007, I had no idea what an amazing journey we were headed on, and how I could come to love him so much more each day.

Our oldest, Colton, is three years old. He is equal parts sassy and hysterical. He loves all things train, car, bus, truck, and machine related. He has a penchant for made-up words and loves to be the clown of his pre-school class. Our younger son, Nathan, was born this May. He is pure joy and full of smiles! He is such a blessing and a perfect fit for our family.