Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Why I Love Frozen Produce

Here we are right in the middle of January. I don't know about you, but I feel like everything in my life has been frozen for a while.

I have a huge pile of frozen mittens and socks sitting by garage door, cold and soggy and waiting to be thrown into the dryer. I have milk in my garage, because I can buy 4 gallons when I am at the store and put two of them in the garage since the temperature outside hasn't been above freezing for almost 3 weeks!

I have actually been sleeping with a pair of thick fuzzy socks on because my feet are freaking frozen!

So it seems like a strange time to be talking about frozen fruits and vegetables, but it is actually the Most Perfect time.  Fresh spring and summer produce from the farmer's market has never seemed farther away. Don't you miss it? I know that I sure do in the middle of January when the sad little flavorless strawberries sit in the grocery store and cost a fortune.

Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and packaged at the peak of their freshness and season. That means that the flavor is not only better, but the nutrition and vitamin content are higher. That means that you are getting a better - and better for you product than something that has been traveling halfway around the world.

You buy a lot of wonderful items frozen. Everything from pomegranate seeds to onions and peppers diced and put together in a package.  You can have juicy peaches and sweet young peas.

Spend some time browsing the frozen produce section of your local markets.  Although onions aren't hard to come by, I love buying them frozen mixed with peppers to add flavor and health benefits to any dish that I start with ground beef.  I love the mixed veggie mix that has carrots, peas, green beans and corn in it. My Alice and Charlie eat it almost everyday with whatever I make for lunch. They just love to eat it with their fingers. You can add a bag of frozen broccoli to any pasta dish and I have recently started buying the pre-shelled edamame and adding to Asian dishes for extra protein.

If you love smoothies, you can't beat frozen fruit and if you are a real ice cream lover, You are going to go crazy making your own "ice cream" with just frozen bananas and milk. I buy bananas when they are on super sale and if I don't have time to make banana bread (of if I peel one for Charlie and he doesn't finish it all... )  I freeze them in a ziploc and then take them out and pop them into the blender to make ice cream - you can add a dash of cocoa and make chocolate ice cream.

While it might seem like the whole world is frozen right now and that it might be a miserable thing in some ways. Frozen fruits and vegetables are amazing. And you don't even need mittens to explore your frozen food aisle -  Just stay away from the cardboard pizzas.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Egg and Ham Breakfast Burritos

When I make take the time to make these, I wonder why I don't do it more often. It makes life so much easier for all my hungry men in the morning. Days start pretty early around here and these are there most favorite breakfast in the world.  - It doesn't get much cheaper than eggs, potatoes and a tortilla either. 

While I'm not going to give you a specific recipe. - Because I don't use one. I just sorta make them with what I have or what I found on sale and then I make them until I run out of filling.  I am going to give you the instructions to how I do it, and what I think makes them successful. 

 I cook all my ingredients separately and then add them all together. I don't worry about warming up the ham, but if you were going to add bacon or sausage, you would want to cook that before.  If I make them with onions or peppers, I also cook those before.  I always cook the potatoes / hash browns separately so I can get them nice and crispy. And then I cook the eggs very last.  I just cook them and then add them to a giant bowl as I am done cooking them. I don't mind that they are all together, I just think they cook so differently that it is hard to get it "right" when doing it all at once.

  I also let the filling cool off significantly before I fill the burritos. I added a lot of cheese to these, so once towards the end of filling them, they weren't so easy to scoop up. but if your filling is too hot, your burritos will get soggy. 

I like to buy the really really big tortillas, so I can make really big burritos.  I wrap them tightly in plastic wrap and then put them in a freezer bag. 

When you are ready to eat them, put it in the microwave on high for a minute - since these are so big, they take almost a minute and 45 seconds and then I always always let them sit for a minute or so. I think these helps the heat distribute, but I could be wrong. 

When I made these this last weekend, I cooked 2 cartons with 18 eggs in each of them. It took me less than a hour from start to finish to make 20 burritos for the boys during the week.  I don't know if they'll last that long - they have been disappearing quite fast as midnight snacks and such.  But they are totally worth the time to make a batch for your family.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Its All About Love

my Dear friends, here is your Friday pick-me-up / pep-talk.  You are so amazing. You are doing fantastic things and making great choices and changes in your life.  How do I know that? Because you are here.  Good for you!

I was thinking this morning about how much we love the people that we have in our lives. Our spouses, our friends, our children, our parents. The people that we care about and the people that we take care. The people that we want to feel our love and to know that they matter to us.

I have taken a step back from the dinner stress this week and we have had some pretty laid back things on the menu. Ezra's All-Time-Favorite meal - tomato soup and grilled cheese,  we had a roast in the crock pot and mashed potatoes, we had build your own quesadillas and buffalo chicken salads.
Instead of being stressed out that kids were having meltdowns at dinner time, I put them in charge of making the salad and then I let them have at it. I didn't criticize, I didn't fuss over it, and guess what it turned out just fine and the pride on their little face was worth all the efforts that it took for me to take those extra few breaths and calm myself down.

I don't know when I started to think that I was a better mom if I could take my kids to buy a happy meal. Or that if I took them to get slurpees that I was "treating" them. (It hurt me to type that, because I LOVE slurpees). But if I picked them up from school and said, "surprise, we are going to spend an hour at any park you choose!" they would probably love that a million times more than getting slurpees - and believe me, my kids LOVE slurpees.

I wish that when I put dinner on the table, and made my teens turn off their phones - I wish they thought... Boy! My mom sure does Love ME! But I would be willing to bet that is not what crosses their minds. But it is out of love that I do it.  It is out of love that I make dinner every night, and ask them to help with the dishes and say a million times, be sure you have salad!

One night this week, Joseph and I were the last ones sitting at the table. Two kids had run to grab their jackets, Joseph was about to leave to take them to meetings. He was getting last minute instructions about what to pick up at the grocery store. I had two little ones that needed to be put in the tub and he says to me.   "Well 3 people at your dinner tonight". It was so tragic and comical all at the same time. And honestly, God blessed me in that moment to think, That's okay, we were all here together. For a few minutes, we were all safe around the table and I got to send my love to each one of them. I put some dinner in front of them and reminded them that they needed to eat the salad and for 30 minutes in this crazy, insane, too busy, too scary world all my people knew that I was going to take care of them.

So good for each of YOU!  Good for the choices that you made this week that were successes. I had a few colossal failures - one that involved broccoli and rice and my two year crying under the table. But You're here - and that means that you have people that you love that you are taking care of as well.  We are doing great. We are making better choices, one choice at a time, one day at a time, sometimes one moment or one bite at a time, but we are doing it. And we are doing it out of love.

I love you all!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ham and Cheese Hot Pockets

I highly recommend having these on hand. You can put just about anything that you can think of inside of them. (veggies, pulled pork, leftover ground beef). The dough whips up fast, is fool-proof and your teens with think you are some kind of kitchen wizard and perhaps even pick up their pile of shoes by the back door without being asked.  (I lied, that last part will not happen, ever!)

I use my basic pizza dough.  You can find the link and the whole explanation Here. 

Ingredients:  For the Dough - 

2 c. very warm water (110 degrees)
3 tsp. salt.
4 TBS. honey
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
4 1/2 C. flour
3 tsp. instant yeast
1/4 c. olive oil, divided in the bowls to grease as they rise.

2 cups of shredded cheese - I used pepper jack here
2 cups of cubed ham

Place all ingredients in a mixer except oil.
Mix on high for 8 minutes.
Place each dough in a greased each with 1/4 c. oil.
Let rise about 20-30 minutes.

after it has risen, dump it out and cut it into small sections.  I cut it just like a pie and I try and get 10-12 sections. You may want to only get 8 if you plan on making them a little bigger in size.

take each section and shape it into a rectangle short of shape.  As you can see above, some of mine were very oval and some got a little thin in spots. I have learned to let go of how "pretty" they are going to look. and not over handle the dough. shaping and re-shaping to get them to look right, does not make them taste any better.

once you have your dough shaped, go ahead and add your fillings and then fold the top over and press the edges to seal.

Bake the pockets for 20 in a 400 degree oven, or until the tops are golden brown.

To make them extra perfect you can rotate the baking sheet once or twice during bake time.

Remove pockets from the oven and allow to cool on the pan until ready to handle and serve.

Make ahead tip: After the pockets cool, wrap them individually in aluminum foil and freeze. Or you can wrap them in a small sheet of freezer paper and then a tight layer of plastic wrap.

To ReHeat them  --  microwave for 2-3 minutes on high or bake at 350°F (177°C) for 20 minutes.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Pizza Bagels perfect for freezing

I don't know if you could be a kid growing up in the 90's and not think that Bagel Bites were the ultimate in freezer food. I can still sing the commercial by heart, and it has been in my head all weekend. It's painful, thankfully, making these, is absolutely not, in any way.  I had almost 30 of them made in under 30 minutes. And that includes cooking time and making the sauce. 


2 packages of bagels (6 count each)
1 lb brick mozzarella cheese - shredded

Homemade Pizza Sauce -  Here is the link to the recipe. 
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce 
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or  oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt 
1/8 teaspoon black pepper 
 pinch of sugar (optional) 

Mix the tomato sauce, basil, garlic salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Pizza Toppings of your choice - We went with just pepperoni here. 


Spread a tablespoon of pizza sauce on each bagel half.

Arrange pepperoni then sprinkle with cheese.

Place bagel pizzas on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted.

To Freeze:

Wrap each bagel in a small sheet of freezer paper, and then wrap again tightly in a layer of plastic wrap. 

I store all my individually wrapped bagels together in a large freezer bag that I labeled. I don't label each one. 

To ReHeat:

Bake pizza bagels at 375 for 10-12 minutes until the cheese melts in a preheated oven or toaster oven.

Frozen pizza bagels aren't going to take much longer to heat than fresh made, unfrozen bagels. There is no need to thaw unless you want to.

The microwave leaves the bagels more flexible and much softer, but we are all going to do it. So... 
45 seconds to a minute in the microwave and then let sit for another minute. If you had a lot of sauce of them, it can be hot.