Monday, August 14, 2017

Vacation prep during blueberry season

Every year in August we attend Homecoming at my Nana and Papa's house. With the hubby working 90+ hours each week prep for this vacation is never ending. 
Two years ago this week due to the intense stress of blueberry season, not drinking enough, and terrible diet Hubby got a kidney stone. It was terrible! Scary enough for him to stop drinking pop and constantly have a water bottle in his hand for the last two years! I never want him to go through that again so I take my job as Blueberry wifey seriously. I try to make him three meals a day so he doesn't survive on peanut M&M's! So in order for me and the kiddos to leave on vacation I have to make sure he is set for meals while we are gone.
Side note: Hubby doesn't eat fruits or vegetables. ( I am diligently working on this.) Currently he eats potatoes and pineapple. He will finally try things at every dinner but it's taken me 10+ years and lots of stress on my part! I do try to make smoothies often so he's still getting the nutrients from fruits and vegetables. However this is why you don't see any raw veggie's in these meals.

Two breakfasts: Sausages with pineapple, and
pancakes with syrup
Two lunches: Turkey and cheese on Hawaiian 
rolls (I put the condiments in-between the meat 
and cheese so it doesn't make the bread soggy)
 cheez-its and plain yogurt flavored with honey 
and white chocolate chips.
Two dinners:  Mini Shepards Pies with Hawaiian rolls.
Two lunches/dinners: Aloha sausages we found 
these at  Costco the other day! So Yummy! 
They come  in perforated packs so they keep longer 
than a package of sausages!  We've been eating as 
brats but I'm sure you can find many uses for all 
the yummy flavors they have! 

Stocked up the chickens with food and water
 for a few days, but our silly goldfish has grown 
used to being fed twice daily.  Hubby takes his Ningxia 
Red every morning so I moved Mr fish right
 next to his Ningxia glass with a friendly note.
Had to tend the garden before we left so we don't 
end up with overgrown beans and cucumbers.
 Look at our cute little watermelon! So far we 
have two growing. Never had them before any tips? 
A walk to the barn to drop off Daddy's 
breakfasts and lunches before we leave!

Finally packed and ready to head to the 
camper! My packing skills aren't typically this 
bad, but because  hubby brought the camper up 
last Sunday I didn't get the chance to pack much into it. 
I also didn't want all of our bikes gone for the week so
 I'm bringing up two of the kids bikes here... 
very awkward to pack around. :) 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Instant Pot Review
I'm sure you have heard something about this  Instant Pot IP-DUO 7-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker craze.  I wasn't sure I wanted to waste my money on something that was sure to do one or two things amazingly well but come out once or twice a week like the rice cooker.  Space is a valuable asset in my kitchen, also who hasn't heard a story of grandma's stovetop pressure cooker "blowing up"!  After spending sometime on the Instant Pot community Facebook page and watching a lot of youtube videos I was convinced this was worth a shot.

First impressions: It looks a lot like my digital rice cooker and vegetable steamer. Its big but doesn't take up more counter space than my crockpot it is taller though. I did the recommended water test you will find in your manual to get a feel for how the vent works and how long it takes to come pressure.  The stainless steel cooking pot was a big sell for me as I've been slowly getting rid of all teflon in our home.

My first meal in the Instant Pot (newly named McSteamy because everyone on this crazy page names their pots and who doesn't love McSteamy on Grey's Anatomy!) was a Sweet and Sour Country Style Ribs recipe found here. I adapted to fit what we had in the house. They were scrumptious and they turned out perfect not over cooked like my family is used to when I make pork!

I made brown rice to be sure it cooked as good as if not better than my rice cooker so I could sell it! The rice came out just right a feat which even my electric rice cooker has managed to fail at. (see above photo)A note on cooking rice you will only the "Rice" button if cooking white rice, see your manual for directions on brown rice as well as many other grains! Quinoa was also so easy and fast!

This Chicken recipe was absolutely amazing and will be cooked again soon! I don't remember where I found the original I tweaked it to what I had on hand and it turned out great!

6 boneless chicken breasts
1/2 C. Italian dressing
1/2 C. BBQ sauce
2 t. Chili Powder
1/4 C. Water
Mix together place half under and half on top of chicken. "Poultry" setting.
I timed this recipe:
Turned on at 6:25
Came to pressure at 6:39
and finished at 6:56
 I let it naturally release for 10-15 mins I have read if you QR=Quick Release meat it will dry it right out. I served this meal over rice, but it could also be yummy in tortillas or all by it self!

Speaking of Chicken I put raw chicken (many use frozen as well!) into the pot with a cup of water and around 30 mins I had perfectly shreddable (if that is a word?) chicken. If you aren't using your hand mixer to shred chicken you are wasting your time, try it I promise you won't go back to your fork and knife ever again!

Macaroni and Cheese took me no more than 20 minutes start to finish and was so creamy! This is the recipe I used from Dad Cooks Dinner. My oldest will only eat Annies boxed mac n cheese but we are working on him the other two gobbled this up.

Let's talk about vegetables, baked potatoes and a full acorn squash done in under 30 mins??? Yes please and they turned out amazing! You pour your 1 cup of water into the pot add the rack and place your vegetables on top of it. A tip I learned to help the pot heat up and therefore reach pressure quicker is to turn on the "Saute" function while you are filling the pot so the water will heat up. I washed the potatoes and sprinkled with sea salt. For the squash my first attempt at cutting it in half first turned out better than the second try when i dropped the thing in there whole this resulted in a bit mushier squash than I prefer.

Bone Broth, have you heard of it? It's a fairly new idea to me I've read about it but the thought of watching a crock pot or stove top for 12-24 hours is crazy!! First I cooked my whole chicken in the pot under an hour of course!  I saved the yummy broth and vegi's from cooking, boned the chicken and added all skin and bones back into the pot. Added 1/4c of apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg's but any organic ACV with the "mother" will do the job) and some garlic. Here is the recipe I used for all the details. After sealing the pot it took 120 minutes for this glorious broth to be finished.

Proofing bread in this baby takes a fraction of the time especially if your house is cold like ours!
Never again will it take half a day to make fresh bread!

Made a delicious beef roast tonight took a total of 60 minutes for something that would have taken hours in the crock pot it was so tender and juicy! A note on meat in the IP if you QR (quick release) it will dry out your meat. It's best to let NR (natural release) for a good 15 minutes before releasing the rest of the pressure if there is any to keep the juices inside the meat. Not in the IP but I tried out roasted cabbage tonight in the oven. I think it needed to roast longer for my liking but my 6 year old gobbled it up before even asking me what it was!!

Up next to try is  yogurt which everyone on the Facebook page RAVES about I've seen many posts of folks taking milk and making creamy greek yogurt at a fraction of the price of the grocery store. Overnight oats are a big hit as well as hard boiled eggs which up until finding this gem I was unable to make. Proofing bread in this baby takes a fraction of the time especially if your house is cold like ours! Oh and let's not forget the cheesecakes, one would think this is all people use their IP's for, personally i'm not a big fan of them so I haven't tried it myself yet but its worth a shout out if  you like them!

Do you have any questions? Please ask I would love to help you out. Promise me this kitchen gadget is worth every.single.penny!!  Instant Pot IP-DUO 7-1 Programmable Pressure 

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you by purchasing through the links provided I am compensated a small amount in return for sharing the products I love with you! I was in no way paid to write this post. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Part Two: Tried and True Freezer Cooking Books

This post contains affiliate links. I was not paid to write about these products. 

Part two of a three part series on my favorite freezer cooking books.

Don't Panic Dinner's in the Freezer
This was my very first freezer cooking book years ago. I highly suggest this one if you are deciding between the three to be your first as well. It has a lot of the basic recipies that I have made time and time again.  Just like the other two books it contains information on grocery shopping, organizing and cooking for your freezer. You will also find tips on how to freeze your meals and how long they will keep in your freezer.

Now for the good part! Here are some of my tried and true recipies I have made over and over again.

North Woods Wild Rice Soup: I can't tell you how many times I've made this one its always a winner with my family including the littles! It has a nice creamy consistency and the flavor the wild rice contributes is perfect for those winter nights!

Hawaiian Chicken: Crock Pot ready recipe throw it in at lunch time and make up some rice in your rice cooker or Instant Pot (post to come on that soon!). And you are good to go. The fruity flavor in this one is amazing! We pour the meat and extra sauces over a bed of rice YUM!

Lemon Glaze Chicken: These chicken breasts come out so tender every single time i've made them. A little secret is that they taste even better out of the freezer than if you cook them up fresh I can't explain it but trust me.

Orange Teriyaki Chicken: I LOVE chinese food and this one will fool anyone into thinking you got take-out! Personally I chop the chicken into bite size pieces before freezing than cook with a little oil in a pan on the stove to get that take-out look. The book recommends grilling which i'm sure is equally as good! For a full dinner I cook up some fried rice and sometimes egg rolls.

Beef Chimichangas: Oh So Good! On serving day you add the mixture to tortillas, roll up and brush with melted butter. The butter crisps these babies up and you would think they were fried!

Rio Rancho Taco Meat: If you are new to freezer cooking this is a perfect recipe to break the ice.

Sassy Sloppy Joes: Another great recipe for newbies I've made this every fall with our venison for the past 4 years now. We enjoy it on buns or on pizza crust with mozzarella and cheddar shredded cheese.

Barbecue Chicken Pizza: So fun to make your own frozen pizzas! Make sure to use a sauce you love. I made the mistake of buying a cheap bbq sauce in bulk and we didn't really care for it. You can buy Cake Circles at your local craft store as well as amazon.

Peanut Butter Bars: The book says "Tastes just like a peanut butter cup" and they don't lie. I like to eat straight out of the freezer oh so good!

Baked Blueberry French Toast:  You can substitue any pie filling you like for this recipe. I've done blueberry and cherry. My kids didn't enjoy this one as much as I did they prefer regular pancakes or french toast over this casserole version.

Breakfast Burritos: Such a great hot breakfast that won't take much time in the morning I've sent my hubby to work with these in the summer time for lunch when he's busy as well. I make up an assembly line when filling these.

California Quiche: Prep time is short for these and they will taste great for brunches or showers!

Hashbrown Casserole: I make up 8lbs or more every November for upcoming Christmas parties. I always sign up for the potato dish and then i'm not left spending a ton of time in the kitchen those busy weeks in December.

There you have it! Grab your own copy of Don't Panic Dinner's in the Freezer and have fun creating quick meals and goodies so you can spend more time on the important stuff!

Be sure to check out Part One on Fix, Freeze, Feast. And next up Don't panic Dinner's in the Freezer a Second Helping.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

This is post one in a three part series. I have three freezer cookbooks that I couldn't live without, I am going to share each one with you along with my reviews on the recipes I have tried in each one.

First up is Fix, Freeze, Feast!

Chicken Main Dishes

Cherry Skillet Chicken p.20: Very easy to make and very yummy!

Mango Cranberry Chicken p.36: Another simple and fast recipe that turns out delicious.

Pecan Crusted Chicken Strips p.38: YUMMY!! Probably the #1 for our whole family! So much healthier than chicken nuggets and tastes so much better.

Tequila-Lime Chicken p.50: I had to buy tequila and margarita mix for this recipe and neither ever got finished off. For this fact I wouldn't make it again. The taste was okay but not worth the cost of the ingredients that would go to waste.

Beef Main Dishes

Beef and Bean Burritos p. 76: I made up a stack of alternating tin foil and tortillas so that I could add the filling, fold up the tortilla and wrap in tinfoil. Helped the  process go smoother.  Easy to make and a great lunch on the go!

Cheesy Chilada Bake p. 78: So yummy! The texture of the corn tortillas after baking is to die for! Great for a game day meal or snack! 

Classic Lasagne p.80: Just as the name implies it's your perfect lasagne easy to make and freeze! The recipe also calls for the "basic red sauce" which is a recipe you will find on p.178 which you can also freeze leftovers in portion perfect bags for later use.

Mozzarella Meatballs p.88: These have a surprising little bit of a kick to them. We loved them, one word of caution I don't know if it's the garlic in them or what but they have the ability to smell up your freezer and make other things taste like mozzarella meatballs ;) I'd recommend double bagging these guys.

Pork Main Dishes

Pepper Jelly Pork Chops p.113: So quick and easy to make. You can grill these but for the winter we cook indoors using the broil pan takes only 15-18 minutes! Taste is amazing!

Basil-Balsamic Chops p.114: another quick marinade and great for indoor broiler cooking. I love balsamic vinegar so these are another fave of mine!

Apple and Cranberry Pork Loin p.129: I have made this more times than I can remember the flavors of the marinated and cooked apples, onions and cranberries are like none other!

Meatless Mains, Sides, and Sauces

Rice Pilaf p.151: I ALWAYS have a stock of these sides in our freezer! Make up a huge batch and you are good to go for months worth of sides with you meat. I was skeptical the taste would compare to the store bought bags of rice but it's even better!

Feta and Spinach Lasagna Rolls p.152: Take a little bit of time to put together, but worth it especially if you vegi hating husband will eat them!

Manicotti p.159: Another yummy recipe using the "Basic Red Sauce".

Apples and Cheddar p.164: Very easy and delicious. My recommendation is that this recipe is better when eaten the same day you make it.  After freezing the half-and-half, cheddar mixture loses it's consistency and becomes kind of grainy.

Sauces, Marinades, and Butters

Basic Red Sauce p.178: Used in a few of the recipes in the book, you can also freeze for later use.

Breakfast , Snacks, and Sweets

Breakfast Burritos p.190: I used the same method as with the Beef and Bean burritos to make assembly a breeze.  Great for breakfast on the go!

Granola p.194: Makes a lot, Fun for the kids to help with.

Zoo Day snack mix p.197: Another fun one to make with your kids.

Pumpkin Muffins p.198: Perfect for fall.  I didn't have cake spice on hand so I used the homemade version you can find the recipe on p.136.

Tropical Fruit Smoothies p.201: Easy to make. Nice to have on hand when you don't have the time to get out all the separate ingredients.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tried and True Registry Guide

Here is a list of my "necessities" for a new baby. Building your baby registry can be overwhelming just try walking into any big box baby supply store and you will know what I mean. You will feel like you need every single gadget and gizmo offered and while some are worth their weight in gold others you can easily do without!
Without further ado in no particular order:

Whether or not you plan to breastfeed the Boppy is a great tool to have. It helps prop baby up for easier breastfeeding. Also holds baby up off of c-section incisions whether breast or bottle feeding. Boppy is excellent for tummy time and supporting baby when he begins to sit up on his own. I recommend purchasing the waterproof slipcover as well. 

I've been through my share of strollers before finding the perfect fit.  With our first I believed we needed the regular stroller/carseat combo as well as an "umbrella" style stroller.  The City Mini by Baby Jogger stroller allowed me to get  rid of both of those in favor of one stroller that will work for every situation. Yes the price is fairly high but I promise it's worth it! The awesome features include: front swivel wheel, one hand fold, extra large canopy, reclining seat, 5 point harness and much more. It folds so compactly it takes up not much more space than the umbrella stroller. 

Again do not be afraid of the price of this carseat it is worth every penny! It is convertible and can accommodate your baby/child from 5-120lbs! In other words the only carseat you will ever have to buy! It is in my opinion one of the safest out there with excellent ratings as well as a steel frame! I'll be honest not the lightest at 31.6 lbs. but it does fold up for use as a backpack for those trips through airport security. 

Shameless plug as I make these but I have used the same ones I made 4 years ago and they have held up excellent. Great for use with cloth diapering, tubby time, kitchen clean up as well as tissues. FYI boogey wipes are far from a necessity! Neither of my boys enjoyed me wiping their noses with those wet cold wipes which are sceneted and I personally disliked the scent. 

5) Waterproof mattress pads. I recommend getting two so you have a clean one to put on in the middle of the night when baby spits up or wets through.

We love the Aden and Anais swaddling blankets. You won't need any other recieving blankets. I love the large size of them at 44''x44''. They are wonderful for swaddling as they are stretchy. My favorite though is how breathable they are.  For someone who borders on insanity with safe sleeping I have peace of mind when using these blankets. My second son attached to them and I found they make "lovey" size blankets as well!

Over the past four years we have tried out over 6 types of cloth diapers before finally settling on these. Elementals by Bum Genius. I love the soft organic cotton inside. The all-in-one feature makes them very "daddy friendly" and you won't spend time stuffing or matching up pieces after washing. Theses are also a One-size adjustable diaper. The link will take you to our local Cloth Diaper store. They will be able to answer any questions you may have and help you find what will work for you!

8) Reusable Nursing pads. 
The are easy to clean and you won't be purchasing box after box of disposable pads. 

Grandma El's diaper rash cream is the bomb ;) And smells amazing to boot! Safe for use with cloth diapers as well. 

With our first son we started out with Johnson and Johnson baby products for bathtime but he had a reaction to them and they didn't help at all with his eczema. Our pediatrician recommended Aveeno products and we have used them ever since. With all things going on baby's skin you want to stay away from scents and fragrances. The Aveeno wash and shampoo is lightly scented and the lotion is unscented. 

The Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper offers a safe way to keep baby close to you. It comes with straps to hook up right to your bed and one side can lower so baby is level with your mattress. Makes those nighttime feedings so much easier. The mattress does drop to the bottom for later use as a pack n play. 

You can't go wrong with any Medela Breastpump but this one is by far my favorite especially for moms having to go back to work. When looking for a pump I'd suggest electric as it's more efficient than a manual pump. The double pump allows you to cut your pumping time in half.  What I love in particular with the Freestyle is how it comes with a hands free pumping option.  The pump itself is small and lightweight and gives you the option to hook to your belt loop!

13) Bottles
If you plan to use them I don't recommend registering for 20 of the same type of bottle. You never know which bottle your baby will take and it's almost nicer to have 2-3 different types of bottles on hand so you can find what works best for you. Our favorites have been Playtex Ventaire and Dr.Browns bottles. Although no matter how many we tried with our second he NEVER took a bottle.

14) Pacifiers
The same deal with bottles it's nice to have a few different ones on hand. Personally the soothie brand ones make me nervous as they are so pliable I have seen older babies get the entire thing in their mouths and recently have heard of babies choking on them! They are still given out at hospitals though so they can't be that bad I suppose. Be sure if you are breastfeeding to wait until you supply is well established (around 2-3 weeks) before introducing a pacifier as they can interfere with the breastfeeding process.

Baby carrier was a life saver especially with our second baby. Ergo is excellent for it's ease of use, padded shoulder straps and how it holds baby ergonomically correct (as opposed to other infant carriers that hold baby facing out from you). Ergo also makes an infant insert which is helpful in bringing baby up closer to you. Always be sure no matter what carrier you use that baby is close enough for you to kiss the top of his head and his chin is not resting on his chest. Many places offer "baby wearing" courses where you can learn the correct way to baby wear and try out different options as well. I particularly love to have my baby close to me in public spaces as strangers are less likely to touch them. You can nurse discreetly with your baby in a carrier as well! 

16) Baby Gym

Both our boys loved this gym from just a few weeks old up until they started crawling around.

17) Highchair.
We actually sold our Graco brand highchair in favor of an antique wooden highchair that I refinished. The main reason for the switch (other than how cute it turned out) was the fact that I got tired of throwing the fabric cover in the washing machine every couple of days. So if you find an all wooden or plastic high chair it will make cleanup a ton easier. I have seen some very simple functional highchairs at IKEA too!