Every now and again, I get the urge to stock my freezer with meals. When the urge comes, I am afraid to ignore it lest it never revisit.
After having it since its release (SHAMED!), I finally opened Survive Before 5, my cousin Tricia‘s ebook for cooking toddler meals. As I should have expected, it’s absolutely amazing. There are recipes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks; and Tricia thought of absolutely everything to help moms plan meals, cook them, and even let your toddlers help in the kitchen!
The recipes all show measurements for 1, 2, 4, or 6 kids; there are “toddler tasks” on each recipe card; and a grocery list, instructions, and labels all accompany the recipes. Not to mention sweet pictures of Isaac and Tessa, my cousins-once-removed. (Right? Never can remember the technical term there.)
I am really not an ebook person, honestly, and I don’t promote them much. But if you have toddlers and would like to have simple meals on hand that they will probably eat, you NEED Survive Before 5!
I am making a majority of the recipes from the cookbook along with a few other things to stock our freezer and deliver to friends. I thought I’d share our plan in case you’re searching for a good freezer meal to make.
(And yes, keeping the oven on all day when it’s 100 degrees is ridiculous … but I am hopeful this will save me from turning it on for the rest of August!)
I have not felt super inspired lately when it comes to cooking. I’ve been using oldstandbys a lot more than I usually do; which is fine, and probably makes my husband happy. But nearly every morning I sit and look at the entire bed of sage at my neighbor’s house that we planted together. I love sage.
So this week I decided to try a simple recipe creation and go for it! These burgers turned out delicious. To me, they taste just like turkey and stuffing (and by stuffing, I mean my Grandma’s, not that nasty wet cornbread stuff they eat in Tennessee).
Optional: Cranberry sauce, heated slightly to thin it out
Dice celery, onion, and sage. Yes, having a copy of Hook in the background will help you concentrate. (P.S. I LOVE my Henckels Signature knives. Please send more, Santa.)
Warm 1T olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute celery, onions, and sage. Season generously with salt and pepper. Let cook until onions are translucent and just starting to turn brown.
Beat one egg in a medium mixing bowl. Combine with turkey. Add in vegetables, poultry seasoning, and bread crumbs until just incorporated. Make into four even patties.
Heat 1T olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan; cook until done through, about 5-6 minutes per side. Turn down heat if they start to get too brown or burn.
If you are using cranberry sauce, brush it on the patties when they are close to being finished.
Serve on buns with desired condiments. I just used mayonnaise, but I think mayo/cranberry sauce, cranberry sauce/ketchup, or grainy mustard would all be delicious. Or hey, just slap some mashed potatoes on there too.
There is nothing more fun for a blogger than hanging out with other bloggers in real life. That’s why we go to conferences. That’s why I’ve driven to Atlanta severaltimes just to see some good friends!
You can see the fine details on Tricia’s post, there, but the lowdown is:
When: October 23, 6-9 p.m. but tickets are released THIS Thursday, October 7, at 7 p.m. EST
Where: Bread Beckers in Woodstock, GA, outside Atlanta
Why: So we can get together, have fun, eat, and test products
How much: It’s FREE! But only open to the first 75 people who register.
So if you live anywhere near Atlanta, you should come out and meet me and the other darling #sisterchicks! (And we will miss you, Jen and Mary!!)
Jill of The Diaper Diaries (Grand Rapids, Michigan) – YES! She is flying in for this! Woot!
And of course, Tricia, the famous Once a Month Mom I have the privilege of being related to (Dayton, Ohio)
We’re very thankful to the sponsors of this great event:
The Bread Beckers is more than a Kitchen Store. It is everything you need to make fresh bread at home grinding your own fresh wheat flour and more! They sell grain mills, mixers, grains, beans, baking supplies and ingredients, bake ware, bulk food co-ops/buying clubs, and cooking classes. What is more perfect for an OAMM function than a store that sells in BULK!!! They also have a BEAUTIFUL kitchen/classroom that we will be using for the event. You are going to be so excited when you see this venue! They are located in Woodstock, Georgia.
CUTCO Cutlery is the largest manufacturer and marketer of high-quality kitchen cutlery and accessories in the United States and Canada. Vector Marketing is the exclusive marketer of CUTCO products, which are sold throughout the U.S. and Canada by authorized sales representatives. Both CUTCO Cutlery and Vector Marketing are subsidiaries of CUTCO Corporation.
My house is no longer simply a nest; it’s a bona fide three-story bird condo.
So, it’s 900 degrees outside. I’m pretty sure it’s only 850 degrees inside our lovely 1950 home. (If someone would like to come install ceiling fans, I’d be much obliged.)
And yet my nesting is on, full-force.
Last week my husband and a combination of houseguests moved every stick of furniture in our house into another room (with the exception of Libbie’s room–wouldn’t want her to have to endure TOO much change). Today I decided I desperately needed to do some once-a-month cooking. I’m not quite insane enough to attempt a whole menu by myself, but I am going to try to do quite a few dishes. So I printed recipes. Made a list. Shopped. And were I not pouring buckets of sweat, I would be totally ready to attack in the kitchen.
Have I mentioned I have 300 loads of laundry to do? We still need to rearrange closets? Oh, and I have a toddler I’m supposed to, you know, check on occasionally?
I’m ready to check into a mental institution. As long as they need their floors mopped and dust bunnies cleaned up.
Here are the recipes I’m attempting over the next two days. I am preparing to revel in the bliss of a stocked freezer!
Last Saturday, I cooked my entire Whole Foods in a Hurry menu. Without a partner, except for my husband who pitched in when Libbie was asleep. (He watched her the rest of the day–that is definitely helping as well!)
We’ve already started eating through many of the meals. Some have been great; some I’m disappointed with. I think that’s the case in any big cooking project–not everything is going to be an A+. I thought I’d do a recap of each recipe with notes on taste if we’ve had it already. Hope this helps!
But first, here’s me about an hour in. Scary, aren’t I?
Apricot Breakfast Bars: I think I actually only used half the butter I was supposed to. Oops. But they are still amazingly delicious. I will be repeating this recipe for a long time!
Blueberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake: I haven’t defrosted one of these yet, but I’ve had them from frozen before and they were great. Can’t wait to dig into one soon! As I mentioned in the video, the batter is super-duper thick. That is normal and what makes it so tasty! I mixed in the berries with my hands to make sure it was really incorporated, and then pressed it into the pans with my hands as well. I made one blueberry and one mixed berry (both with frozen berries). (Picture is on the way into the oven.)
Christmas Eggs: My husband made these. Please scrub your egg pan out immediately if you don’t want to do battle with it later. Libbie and I had them for breakfast, and sadly being frozen made the eggs a funny texture and very watery. While I would make the recipe again, I don’t know if I would freeze it. Oh well!
Make-Ahead Wraps: I was frightened by how watery the rice still was when it was done, but when I let it sit and cool it thickened considerably, and–like the author said–once I mixed it all together it was a perfect consistency. Sadly these are REALLY spicy for me. My husband loves them, of course. I am super sensitive to spicy foods and if I made them again I would make them without the cayenne pepper. But live and learn! [Also note that the author said to use a package of Southwest seasoning. I used a recipe for Emeril’s Southwest Seasoning to try to keep it more ‘Whole Foods.’ So her seasoning may not have been as spicy.]
Pizza Pockets: The longer the dough sat, the easier it was to work with. I LOVE the flavor of the flaky dough and the pockets are delicious! Love that they can go straight from frozen into the oven for a quick lunch. They probably did take the most time, though, with the assembly factor. Also a learning curve! It took me a while to get them so the filling didn’t all spill out.
Baked Chicken Burgers: The easiest of easy! I forgot to add the onion when freezing, so I just sprinkled in some dried minced onion before I mixed in the mayo to cook them. They were absolutely divine on these homemade buns.
Before we get into dinners, want to see how I looked 4.5 hours into the cooking?
Gnocchi with Sausage and Swiss Chard (Rachael Ray 365): While this is a recipe we love normally, it wasn’t great for the freezer. The red chard dyed the whole thing red, it leaked through my freezer bags upon defrosting, and the long sitting time made it more spicy (not a good thing for me!). AND I made 4 servings. Hm. Also, I paid $3.99/bunch for my red Swiss chard–yikes! If you used spinach or another green instead, I wouldn’t blame you!
Taco Bake: While we haven’t tried one from the freezer yet, I know this is a recipe I really like and I’ve been assured it freezes well.
Italian Cream Cheese Chicken Casserole: As I mentioned in my menu plan this week, I was a little disappointed on how this froze. I tasted the sauce before freezing and it was so delicious and creamy. Sadly, when it defrosted and cooked it lost a lot of the creaminess. Maybe adding some cream or milk and stirring before heating it in the oven would help. The flavor was still nice.
Sweet Aromatic Chicken: All kinds of yum. The easiest dump recipe ever, and super duper exquisitely tasty. I don’t know if the fact we used free-range chicken made a difference or not, but the chicken just fell right off the bone and we gobbled it right up.
Tuscan Lemon Chicken: Haven’t tried this one yet, but I love lemon and garlic and am looking forward to it!
Pulled Pork with Lexington Red Sauce: I made the mistake of using a picnic roast instead of a Boston Butt, and it didn’t fall off the bone like it usually does. Still got a good bit shredded and sauced and hoping it’s still delicious!
Unstuffed Cabbage: We had the most trouble with this recipe. I think I’ve amended the directions enough that you shouldn’t have the same problems. I hope! I did find it rather bland when I tasted it so add some extra salt or some other spice you like. Libbie and I are trying it tomorrow night and I’ll let you know how it goes.
Tilapia and Pepper Packets: Easy to assemble. Again, I wish I had left out the cayenne pepper because I didn’t like the spicy flavor mixed in with the other tastes. We used frozen flounder and it worked well.
So there you go. It’s definitely been a wild ride and I have much more appreciation for what Tricia does each month! It was a ton of work, but I am SO GLAD to have my freezer stocked with meals. It’s already made a huge difference in that busy time of evening. We’re able to really enjoy each other’s company once Mr. V gets home rather than me battling Libbie out of the kitchen and trying to get everyone fed before her bedtime.
Have you tried any of these recipes yet? Would love to hear your experience!
If you’ve missed any of the posts in this series, they’re all labeled as Whole Foods in a Hurry. <– click there!
Oy vey! I just added up all the groceries I bought for this challenge. I knew it would be higher than doing a “normal” OAMC and my goal was to keep it under $200. I did, at $184.14 (this does not include items I already had on hand).
So that’s good, right? Well, except that I didn’t buy all grass-fed or free-range meats, organic dairy or veggies, etc. My chicken thighs, as mentioned, were organic; my beef was the Publix GreenWise ground chuck, which is raised without hormones or antibiotics and is organic. I did buy organic ketchup since regular ketchup has HFCS and other icky stuff, and I bought cage-free eggs (but at Wal-Mart, and honestly I don’t really trust their brand).
The rest of the chicken, the pork, the vegetables–none of it was “up to par” in what many would call “whole foods.”
But you know what? It’s still a big leap for me, and I’m working my way across the ravine. Using all whole grains, very few canned items, no HFCS, no soy–it’s definitely a vast improvement! And I’ll keep working until I can get to a place of being able to store that half a cow in a freezer and have beef for $3/pound. As it warms up, I’m excited to scavenge the farmer’s market and seek out some local farms for real cage-free chickens and eggs.
I hope some of you are planning on cooking this great menu! I’ve already done some taste-testing and I’m excited about digging into the rest of the items in my freezer. It’s VERY stocked!
The time for submitting your freezer menus to Once a Month Mom is up, but you can still compete in the Cook-Off if you want to win some awesome prizes! Tricia revealed the three top menus we chose on Friday, and you can vote on which one you want to be the March menu every day at Once a Month Mom.