Archives- Grated fingernail, anyone?

Original post- June 18, 2013

If you read the title then you can probably guess I am back to my old ways of putting myself in danger in the kitchen. I finally got around to making the homemade pizza this weekend. My husband had the kids occupied so I grabbed the pre-made store dough, the pizza sauce and the pepperoni out of the pantry. It was all pre-made so the most “homemade” thing about it was that I slapped it all together and stuck it in the oven. I know we can all agree that sometimes even something that simple can be a challenge for me! I spread the sauce on and reached for the cheese. It was then that I realized I forgot to get it out and went searching in the fridge. I found it in block form. One part of me is thinking,” Yes! I get to use my cheese grater and sound awesome on my blog!” The other part is thinking, “You idiot. You should have gotten the bag when you were at Publix and Russ kept telling you that you would regret it when you realized you bought a block.” I really dislike when he is right.

I grabbed my poor, neglected grater and got to work. It took about 30 seconds before I realized I could grate my fingernail. *Note: Before you start gagging, none of the fingernail grating intermixed with the cheese. I’m positive! I would never feed that to my family or myself if I thought it had!* I am keenly aware that I have grated about a quarter of this block and I’ve already messed up one of my nails. For some reason this thoroughly aggravates me and I immediately progress to grating faster. What in the world was I thinking? I guess by grating faster I figured I could get done faster. Nope, not even close. I had to stop every few seconds to make sure I still had a nail. I did however manage to destroy two other nails. I finally finished the pizza and threw it into the oven. I wanted to breathe a sigh of relief, but I still had to deal with chopping and dicing vegetables.

I started rummaging in the fridge for a salad to go with this medium sized pizza. I found lettuce, onion, tomato, bell pepper tops (freezer cooking scraps), half of a yellow bell pepper, broccoli, carrots and cheese. I opted out of the cheese and onion and started washing everything else. Russ waltzes into the kitchen and asks if I need help. I am wielding a very sharp knife at this point and wrestling a carrot. I start cutting it and the knife slips. He gasps really loudly. I stopped and looked at him and he says, “Um, I’m not in the mood to go to the E.R. so could you be a little more careful?” He ended up gasping two or three more times before he was shooed from the kitchen. Yes, I tend to be close to cutting off a finger, but I don’t need an audience for it. I managed to finally get the salad and pizza ready and everyone settled down for supper. Five minutes into a nice dinner someone asks for ranch dressing and the room fell apart. Evidently we are out of that type of dressing. My kids protested and acted like salad was something I pulled from the garbage can. I guess I should have put ketchup on top of it. Anything covered in ketchup or ranch gets eaten!

Sunday was Father’s Day and we celebrated by grilling out. My husband loves to grill sirloin so I splurged and bought some on freezer shopping day. I made a potato and onion bake and some BBQ toast to go along with our sirloins. It was a pleasant dinner (mostly because Russ handled all the grilling- if you want more on this story, go to the post Day 6- Queen of the Grill in 2011).

I will include the recipe for potato and onion bake below. We had our first freezer meal tonight and I’ll update more about it tomorrow!

Happy Belated Father’s Day and Happy Cooking!

Potato and Onion Bake
(There is an oven OR grill option)

1 bag of red potatoes (you will not use the entire bag)- I’ve used regular potatoes also. Very good either way.
2-3 onions
olive oil
Lawry’s seasoning salt
pepper
shredded Parmesan cheese

Cut the potatoes in quarters. Cut the onions into small strips. Toss the potatoes and onions in oil, seasoning, and pepper. Proceed to oven or grill instructions.

Oven- Preheat to 350-375 degrees. Pour potatoes and onions into small casserole dish. Cover with foil. Cook until the potato and onions are tender (about 20 minutes). Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top when done. Let cheese melt and serve.

Grill- Wrap potatoes and onions in foil pouches (Tip-divide the potatoes and onions up into serving sizes and make one foil pouch per guest.) Cook on the grill until the potatoes and onions are tender. (15-20 minutes) Sprinkle cheese on top and allow to melt before serving.

**The cook time depends on the size of the potato slices!

Archives- Waste Not

Original post- June 13, 2013

One of the biggest factors I had for doing this freezer meal project was that I did not want anything to go to waste. I used the tops I cut-off of the stuffed bell peppers for other recipes and other little things such as that. I split meals that should have made one bag into two just to assure that we didn’t have any leftovers  in the future that may go to waste. Last night, I used some of the roast from Tuesday night to make stuffed baked potatoes.

When I’ve made crock-pot roast in the past, I noticed that we always had a lot of veggies and roast left over. I started cutting off about a quarter of the roast before anyone served their plate, putting it into a Tupperware container, and sticking it into the fridge. After everyone eats, I store the extra vegetables in a Tupperware container in the fridge as well (these are added to another meal as a side or eaten as a lunch).

I noticed on a visit to Publix that they have some massive potatoes sold by the pound in the produce section. I buy three (I split one of the potatoes between my six year old and my two year old). I have found that these cook pretty well on 425 degrees for two hours. As the potatoes are cooking, I take the refrigerated roast and tear it into strips and heat barbecue sauce on the stove. I put all the roast strips into the pot with the sauce and adjust the barbecue sauce to our liking (you can start with a small amount and then increase if you like more).  Be careful not to burn the barbecue sauce. Once it gets warm enough, turn it to simmer!

Once the potatoes are done, I slice them open and use a spoon to kind of “gut” the insides. I don’t take out any of the potato, I just move the “inside” around a bit so the butter and other toppings spread better. We like simple potatoes so I just put on a little salt & pepper, butter and then a big spoonful of BBQ roast. Occasionally someone will add cheddar cheese to their potato as well so I leave it on the table as an option. One large potato with a piece of bread will feed my husband, whom has a large-appetite, no problem. Last night I made macaroni-and-cheese as a side to make sure my kids got enough food and I also made cornbread so we could have bread. I guess I could have made the meal a little less starchy. Oh well…

Sorry there wasn’t much funny stuff tonight. Last night was kind of slow. I spent more time watching and listening to my kids play than cooking.

As for tonight, I know we are having a salad and that’s as far as I’ve gotten. It’s currently 6:22 PM so I guess I need to start raiding my kitchen since dinner should be ready in about 8 minutes. I have a feeling tomorrow’s post will be an interesting one!

Happy cooking!

Oh yeah. I forgot to update everyone on how many freezer meals I made! I made 29! I also used the groceries purchased for an extra 4 meals that didn’t make it to the freezer so I had a total of 33 meals. I somehow lost my Sam’s Club receipt and will update this if I ever find it, but I spent roughly $320 on dinner items between Sam’s Club and Publix. We were out of everything except spices and a huge bag of Vidalia onions so this is the total of pretty much everything I needed! So, $320/33= $9.69 per meal. That equals about $2.42 a person. I am pretty happy with that figure. Our food bill was around $450 a month so I’m slowing bringing it down! As an added bonus, I found 9 bags of meat that were frozen and forgotten so I am all set for the next 38 days! Woo hoo!

*I’m pretty sure the cost at Sam’s was lower, but I can’t remember all the side things I bought. I hope to find the receipt soon!

Archives- Freezer Frenzy

Original post- June 11, 2013

I did it. I hopped on the freezer bandwagon. This isn’t my first attempt at buying meat in bulk and using my freezer. This is, however, my first time buying in bulk, turning the meat into a meal , and then freezing it.

My first attempt was in March 2011. I thought I was a genius. I bought about $200 worth of meat from Sam’s Club. I don’t recall getting a very good deal on the meat, but I did get a lot so I was really excited. I went home and spent a good 3 or 4 hours labeling, sorting, etc. It was going pretty well until April 27, 2011. I live in North Alabama and my little town got hit hard by the tornado outbreak. I lost power to my house for five days. Luckily, I live close to my parents so we had a place to stay so the kids would be comfortable, but my meat did not survive. I probably lost $100+ worth of meat. We got reimbursed a little with FEMA, but it felt wrong to take money when so many lost their so much and we were just slightly inconvenienced. We decided not to restock the freezer immediately.

I tried again in March 2013. (What is it with the March attempts?!) I didn’t do so great this time. I spent a lot AGAIN, and then froze the meat divided up into bags of two or three pieces. I lost so many bags in the bottom of the freezer! When I began my new freezer attempt Sunday, I noticed there were about six bags in the base of the freezer ranging from stew meat to three lbs of bone-in porkchops! I will be using the bags I found first since they have been there three months. I was just shocked that I had let that many slip away!

Sunday I went shopping at Sam’s again. I was ready this time. I researched recipes for weeks leading up to the shopping day. I went into Excel and made a preliminary list. I then went over the recipes and grouped items and figured out what I had and what I needed to purchase. I made a master list on Excel and called my sister-in-law to go shopping with me. (I may have a mission, but it’s always fun to have someone come along.)

When I got to Sam’s I started grabbing things not on the list first…BAD! I hate that store. Okay, not really, but it always gets me into trouble with the husband. Chelsey (my sister-in-law) and I headed to the produce and meat section. My cart filled up really fast and I found some great deals. Most notably, they had boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $1.88 a lb! Yay! I felt like I had won the lottery…or at least got a good deal!  I headed home optimistic that I may actually be able to pull this off.

I quickly realized I did not have everything I needed and I had not even began purchasing the things I needed for the baking portion. I guess I should mention I had intentions of making dinner AND breakfast for the freezer. I’m still not positive this was a great idea. That is DEFINITELY a future blog topic though. Anyhow, I somehow convinced my husband to let me spend more money at Publix to finish up buying the products that I did not need in bulk and a few other odds and ends. I spent almost $200 more. EEK! I did get extremely lucky that I went so close to closing time. The butcher was pulling meat and putting sale stickers on the things expiring the next day. I didn’t need anything except ground beef (Sam’s was out!), but he asked me if I would like a few whole chickens. The chickens were about 3 lbs. a piece and I was about to decline until he told me that he would be marking them down to .34 cents a lb. I think I actually physically held my mouth open. I took home two of the chickens and stuck them in my fridge. I will just have to add roasted chicken to my menu this month!

It took me two days, but I finally finished all the dinners. I made casseroles, crock-pot meals, and things that were ready to be thrown into the oven straight from the freezer. I’m pretty excited about the prospects. I believe I have somewhere between 30-40 meals prepped. Of course, there will be some humor along the way as I still have no idea what I’m doing.

Now, who wants to help me tackle making breakfast meals?!

Archives- Day 4- Cream of Chicken, How I Loathe Thee…

Original Post- March 1, 2011

Last night I planned to make Swedish Meatballs, but when I got home from choir practice I realized my hamburger meat was still frozen solid. However, I had chicken thawed out because I bought it in bulk and was in the process of dividing it up to put into my freezer. I pulled out a recipe for a chicken bake that called for mushrooms, chicken, egg noodles, broccoli and bread crumbs. I believe I read that recipe eight times or so to make sure I had all of the ingredients. (Which by the way, I think I must still have baby brain because I have successfully misread three recipes and lost three or four things in my house that I have yet to find…but that’s another story.)

I did not have mushrooms so I just skipped that step.  I cooked the noodles, steamed the broccoli, chopped up the chicken and boiled it and was ready for the next step. The only thing I had left to do was cook cream of chicken soup with milk, pour it on top of all the ingredients, sprinkle on some bread crumbs and throw it in the oven and I would be done. This would be my quickest recipe yet!

I ALWAYS have cream of chicken in my pantry. It’s always sitting there and annoying me because I only use it for one recipe, but have 10 cans. I open the pantry to retrieve a can and THERE IS NO CREAM OF CHICKEN! What the? I guess I should’ve checked, but I mean…come on! I immediately storm out of the kitchen and stomp up the stairs. I successfully wake up Jake and scare Andrea in the process.  I walk into the office/guest room and start ranting to Russ, who at this point probably thinks I’m psychotic because I’m whining about the fact that there is soup missing from the pantry. He laughs (then immediately stops when he realizes I’m serious) and says, I’ll be down in a minute and we will figure something out.

I am beyond ready to eat out at this point. I walk past the pantry and reached to shut (okay, slam) the door that I left open in my “soup rage”. I spot the alfredo sauce and immediately decide that that will have to do. I mixed the broccoli, chicken, and noodles together and poured the alfredo sauce on top and let it warm for a few minutes.

Russ isn’t a fan of alfredo, but even he agreed the meal was good. Andrea wanted seconds and I was happy that I didn’t waste all of that food for nothing. Even though I didn’t follow the recipe completely,  I guess that counts as a night. While I have eaten chicken and broccoli alfredo before, I’ve never made it at home. As of last night, it is now one of the “Family Approved Meals”.

Now, tonight is Day 5- Swedish Meatballs…I hope…

Archives- My Story

Original post- February 25, 2011

My story began 27 years ago in a little town in northern Alabama. Being a Southern girl, a lot of expectations are put upon us to learn to cook that good ole “Southern food”. My little sister did a great job of learning these skills and even went to culinary school. While she was in the kitchen with my mom I was, during my elementary years, tucked away in my bedroom reading the latest “Sweet Valley High” or “Goosebumps” books. In my teenage years, I was usually on the phone with my friends or my boyfriend of the moment. When I look back at my teenage attitude, I’m not so sure my mom would have wanted me in the kitchen anyway… This was the beginning of my downfall.

I moved into my own apartment when I was 18. I’m not so sure that I ever used the kitchen. I did however eat a lot of take-out. I’m pretty sure the guy that made that movie about McDonald’s was speaking directly to me. I would hate to see my arteries! If it wasn’t for my mother and grandmother inviting me over to their houses to eat, I never would have had a home cooked meal. I owned a few pots and pans, but the only thing I knew how to cook on a stove was ramen and something that resembled overcooked scrambled eggs. I was (and still am) awesome at working a microwave and a toaster though!

My then boyfriend (he’s been upgraded to husband) and I moved in together in April 2003, and we worked together at O’Charley’s in Huntsville. We used the kitchen one time and only one time. The only reason I remember it is because we had the bright idea to put 10, yes 10, lbs of hamburger meat onto a cookie sheet and pop it into the oven to thaw it so that we could form it into hamburger patties. Are you beginning to see how bad I am/was at this? As expected, we overcooked it and were too scared to eat it and gave it to our tiny dog. Her belly expanded to a very alarming size and she was waddling like a baby learning to walk. Needless to say, she was pretty sick later and we ended up eating take-out. I would like to thank O’Charley’s for our meals for the 6 months that we lived at that apartment though…

Fast forward a bit to Spring 2005. My hubby (well, fiance at that point) was overseas and I lived in a duplex with my best friend, Christina. She moved in with me for a little while before I got married. At some point I had learned to cook spaghetti. We ate spaghetti or ramen every single night. (It took me a long time to return to eating noodles.) There were many times I pulled the spoon out of the pot and a huge chunk of noodles would come with it. I can still see Christina’s face as I would tell her supper was ready. It was definitely not a look of excitement.

Russ and I got married in Summer of 2005 and moved back to Alabama from Georgia in October of 2005. I learned to cook a few things here and there because, well let’s face it, I had to learn something because I was a wife and I wanted to be “domesticated”. I had about 4 or 5 meals that I would rotate out and when we got tired of those we supplied the fast food chains with our money because we knew they were seriously hurting for the cash since I was cooking occasionally. I found out in September 2006, that I was pregnant with our first child. I immediately tried learning new recipes, but cooking when you are pregnant can be really great or really awful. There were days that just thinking of food made me nauseous and then there were days that I couldn’t eat enough. Thank the good Lord that I discovered my child wouldn’t eat table food until she was at least a year old. After her first birthday, she had a steady diet of Gerber’s graduates. I had at this point added a few more recipes to my list.

Now it’s 2011. I have been married almost 6 years, I have 2 kids, same dog with the expandable tummy, a gorgeous kitchen in our new house and I’m 27… you would think I would have a decent list of recipes under my belt, right? WRONG! I have enough to sustain us for about 2 1/2 weeks. They get so old too! My sweet 3 year old daughter could survive off macaroni-and-cheese and spaghetti (which is much better now than it was in ’05 by the way), but I think she’s needs more nutritious foods! Plus, I’m not so proud to say that lately, we’ve been eating out a lot. I went on bed rest with my last pregnancy in June 2010 and my husband would pick up food for my daughter and I rather than cooking. I ended up having my son nine weeks early in July 2010, and for 33 days we traveled back and forth to the NICU center that was 45 minutes away so my car became a moving dinner table. It’s bad when your 3 year old knows the menu for just about every national food chain. I was hit hard by having 2 children at home too. My daughter quit going to daycare in order to prevent my preemie son from catching any unnecessary viruses and my son had colic when he came home. I was exhausted and cooking wasn’t on my list of things that sounded appealing. I looked at our bank statement one month and the money going to food was almost as much as my house payment. I had to stop allowing my family to eat this way. Not only were we spending an atrocious amount of money, but my family never felt good. We never had energy to do anything and my husband and I were gaining weight because our metabolism isn’t what it used to be. It was time for a change. (On a side note: I was a Pampered Chef consultant for 2 years. I was a FRAUD!)

We’ve began eating in more, but about a week ago I realized that the same old meals are getting old. I refuse to go back to eating out to fill in the “blah” days when nothing sounds good. I pulled out all the cookbooks I’ve acquired over the years and the two boxes of recipe cards my husband’s grandmother gave me around the time we got married. I picked out probably 60 or so recipes and gave myself a challenge- 30 days, 30 new meals. Now, when I think about it, we have family suppers for birthdays and we usually just eat sandwiches on Wednesdays because with church it is hard to fit in supper. So, I’m still cooking 30 meals, but it may take me more than 30 days. I invite you to join me, and laugh at me if you want, as I learn to cook new things for my family. I’ll give the recipe and what we thought of it too. Hopefully, I’ll learn more about myself as I learn new recipes!

Happy Cooking!