Friday, February 28, 2014

Sweet Maple Green Beans - Yum!

We are HOPING to be gathering sap SOON.... albeit the weather isn't cooperating too well.  More cold AND snow in the forecast...What?  Really?  The good news is that hubby is still working on a "releaser" to help with the process and isn't quite done.  :)

That being said, I've been looking for some new recipes to utilize that natural, sweet goodness and ran across this SUPER easy one just the other day.  It involves some lovely green beans and a bit of maple syrup - sounds good, doesn't it?





Sweet Maple Green Beans

Ingredients:

2 cups green beans

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons maple syrup

Salt and pepper



How to Make It:



Steam green beans until softened. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the maple syrup and green beans saute for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

How much easier can you get than that?  Bit o' butter, some syrup and viola!  What else do you put syrup on?

Have fun in the kitchen,
Carrie


Thursday, February 27, 2014

OH ... man... Chocolate Nutella Tart...yes, that's what I said!

While thinking about what might absolutely fill my sweet tooth, I ran across this video for a Chocolate Nutella Tart from Cooking with Karma.  Unbelievably easy and sounds amazingly yummy!  What do you think?






I think it might have been perfect for Valentine's Day, but since I didn't see it till now, how about just as a "I need something sweet" dessert?  Let's give it a go!

Have fun in the kitchen,
Carrie

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Purple Finch Restaurant: Bedford, NH ---> WELL Worth the Trip!



The Purple Finch Cafe, in Bedford, NH




One of the wonderful things about my daughter going to college in Manchester is exploring some new restaurants.  This gem is tucked into a small mall right at an intersection we go by time and again.  It was her gluten free BFF who first shared this with her and then she and I just HAD to make a stop.

They have a great story about how things started:

It all started when a pizza boy met a bartender. Jeff and Julie were both attending UNH Durham where their adjoining restaurants of employment would cause them to meet, and instantly hit it off. Jeff, in cooking classes at the time, would bring his daily creations for Julie to try. Julie immediately decided Jeff should cook for her for the rest of her life, and now she thinks he should cook for you too.

Doesn't that just make you smile?  How about the color scheme: you can't go wrong with purple in my book!  The lovely artwork and flowers all around just make you feel all sweet inside. 


 And the menu?  Decisions, decisions... I decided on my first trip (there have been a couple...) to give a Garden Great a try: their Strawberry Fields Salad.  The description caught my eye:

Our signature chicken salad, fresh strawberries, candied pecans, feta crumbles, cucumbers, grape tomatoes and red onion on a bed of field greens. Served with raspberry vinaigrette dressing and fresh baked bread. 

Anytime you put strawberries and feta on a salad, I'm all over it!  It was delicious and HUGE.  The chicken salad had just enough dressing and went incredibly well with the veggie part of the meal.   Let's just say I was rolling out of there when I was done.  I actually had to take a bit home to share eat later.


My DD is a true carnivore and loves a good burger.  Hers was aptly named Cheeseburger Perfection.  In her mind, it was all that!  It was certified Angus Beef and melted in your mouth... I would know as she gave me a little bite!


They have an outstanding breakfast menu and are totally worth the trip!  Just set this address in your GPS: 124 South River Road, Bedford, NH 03110

Here's the kicker, you've got to get there before 2 pm when they close!  Soooo... head over early!
Maybe I'll see you there - great place to meet, that's for sure.



Have fun in the kitchen!
Carrie


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

After roasting my first spaghetti squash, I had to decide how exactly we were going to eat it.  I could have just tossed it on a plate as a side dish with a bit of butter, salt and pepper, but I was looking to try something a bit more daring AND, as I've been mentioning, we're fighting off the hopeful end of 'ol Man Winter, so baking things in the oven helps keep the house warmer!

I perused the Internet for recipes using this fun new veggie (to us) and ran across several that would help warm the house.  I took ideas from all I read and came up with my own take on  this one.  Here's the recipe - hope you like it!


Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

  • 1 spaghetti squash, cut in half and roasted (see previous recipe)
  • 5 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 onion
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup of plain yogurt
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • salt/pepper to taste
Start by preparing your squash.  I roasted mine in the oven with some olive oil and set it aside.  After it cools, use a fork or scoop out the shredded flesh inside and put in a bowl.


Cook up the bacon and dice the onion.  Drain off some of the bacon fat and then toss the chopped onion in to cook. Cut up the cooked bacon.

While the onions cook, whisk the eggs, add the yogurt, shredded cheese and salt/pepper.  Once that's good to go, pour into the bowl with the squash.  Add the chopped bacon and the cooked diced onion.

Spray a pie plate with oil and pour the mixture in.

Cook in 350 oven for 40-45 minutes and serve as a side dish.



Have you cooked with spaghetti squash?  What did you make?  Can't wait to try some other ideas!

Have fun in the kitchen,
Carrie

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Veggie with a SurpiseI Inside: Spaghetti Squash

One of the beauties of having a food blog is that one is forced outside the proverbial "box" - a LOT!  I mean would you all want to see burgers and chicken 7 days a week here?

So, I grabbed a veggie I've never tried that seemed to keep popping up as I was on the hunt for gluten free and low carb recipes: spaghetti squash.

This wonderful "winter" squash can be baked, boiled, steamed and microwaved.  Before you cook it, the flesh is solid, similar to other squash.  You need to dig out the seeds to get at the "meat," which, when cooked, falls apart into strands, like spaghetti.

Another bit of info I ran across: it's easy to grow!  Okay, boys and girls - looks like I might have to find me some spaghetti squash seeds!  I wonder if they have them at High Mowing Seeds?  I'll have to go take a peek...

So, I looked up some ways to cook this wonderous vegetable and ran across "How to Properly Roast a Spaghetti Squash" - how perfect!


  • Cut the squash in half;
  • Scoop out the seeds;
  • Rub with olive oil (which makes ALL things better...)
  • Brush the cooking sheet with olive oil;
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and
  • Cook in a 375 oven for 35-45 min.

Viola!  You have a "base" for some great meals!

Have fun in the kitchen,
Carrie

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mashed Potato Soup - Perfect for These Cold Winter Days!

Did I mention it's been snowing almost every day?  We're kind of forgetting what that bright yellow orb in the sky is around here...

So, let's make some yummy soup!  Warm the soul and all that sort of thing.  Minimally, warm up the tummy.

I ran across a delicious recipe for Crock Pot Cheesy Potato Soup over at Tammilee's Tips and thought I could tweak it to match what I have on hand.

Here's my recipe:

Mashed Potato Soup

Put these ingredients in your Crock Pot:
  • 6 chopped potatoes (more/less, depending on their size and how much you want to make)
  • 1/2 an onion
  • 2 cups chicken stock/broth
  • Salt, pepper and minced dried garlic, to taste

Cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 7-9 hours.

Next ingredients:
  • 1-2 cups of milk
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese
Once they are cooked, mash them and add milk.  Here is a decision point for you: how much milk? Want them like regular mashed potatoes?  Add about 1 cup.  More "soupy"?  Add 2 cups.  


Now, time for the cheesy goodness.  Mix in 1 cup of your favorite (or on hand) shredded cheese.  I tend to have a BIG bag of cheddar/jack mix, so that's what I use.

Final ingredients:

  • Bacon
  • Additional Cheese
  • Green onions
Want to make this a "loaded baked potato soup"?   If so, you just HAVE to have the above ingredients.  Cook up some bacon and crumble it; set aside more cheese (no such thing as too much, just saying) and chop up some green onions.  

After spooning out some soup in bowls, put out a platter with the additional ingredients for people to use.  Personally, TAKE YOUR BACON FIRST!  :)

This was a GREAT part of dinner and then lunch the next day - mmmmm... good!

Have fun in the kitchen,
Carrie

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

They are HERE! AKA: "This too shall pass..."

We live in New Hampshire.  You might have heard of us - the snowy state BEHIND the weather person's head on the Weather Channel?

This is what we keep seeing.... and seeing... and seeing... but as I said in the post title: "This too shall pass."


While it was lovely in December and even once or twice in January, it's beginning to wear a bit thin.  Even to a lifelong New Englander.

So.... I prefer to think warmer thoughts and THANK GOODNESS for High Mowing Seeds!  I mentioned last week I won a contest (OMG... I know!!!!) for $50 worth of seeds.  I went crazy on their site - spending the $50 and a bit more on all sorts of seeds, many that I would not have tried, working with my regular seed budget.

For starters, let's just REALLY think sunny thoughts with a package of Mammoth Sunflower seeds!!  You read that right: MAMMOTH!  These are giants sometimes reaching 12 feet tall!  The boys are going to LOVE them!  Back in my childhood, my grandfather (Pepere) grew some of these next to the garage - can't wait to see how they grow!

I also ordered thyme and Greek Oregano (perennials I can't wait to get rolling with), Genovese and Sweet Basil (pesto here we come - and BTW, had to choose between 10 different varieties) and Bouquet dill, to round things out.  I saw a great idea from a friend, growing some of these in mason jars inside... so watch for that!!

I grabbed some Yellowstone Carrots (yes, they are yellow!!) and Detroit Dark Red Beets and Rudolf  Radishes. I am going for color this summer!

 

Speaking of color, I couldn't resist the Rainbow Mix Chard with "brilliant shade of red, orange, pink, yellow and white stalks..."  Seriously... who wouldn't be drawn to all this with the snow coming down outside, I mean REALLY!

One can't leave out the Alliums, so I snagged a package of chives (Allium schoenoprasum) and one of Bunching Onion (Allium cepa), both perennials we'll have some fun with!

We aren't done yet!  Let's chat about some greens - Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach, Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce and Lacinato "Dinosaur" Kale.  How can I NOT try something called "Dinosaur" Kale?  Seriously?

The nice part about all three?  They will be growing quickly: 28 days on the lettuce, 35 days (for baby) on the kale (but wait, if I want it to be GIANT it's 65 days till maturity...) and then 45 days on the spinach.  Granted, at our current depth of snow and continued winter weather, could still be AUGUST!!  Just kidding.... I hope.

I rounded out my order with Provider Bush Beans, Midnight Lightning Zucchini and Nutterbutter Winter Squash.

We tried growing a few things last year.  We were only marginally successful.  I use the word "successful" very loosely.  There were several reasons. 
  1. In my excitement, I started things too early.  The green was lovely as winter was ending, but they all got too leggy before I could put them in the ground.
  2. Weeding?  What's that?
  3. We didn't see ONE SINGLE BEE all summer!  NOTHING seemed to get pollinated.  
So... here's the plan:
  1. Don't start things too early, no matter HOW excited you are!  Without a hoop house, we have to wait.  
  2. You'll notice there are no tomatoes - I will go for buying the plants already ready to plant.
  3. We will DEDICATE a portion of each week to weeding... REALLY... I promise... maybe...
  4. Hubby is going to be a beekeeper!  He's ordered two nucs (from VT) which we will be picking up in May - one for here and one for up in the field at my mom's.  We're going to try doing our part to help Mother Nature on this one!
With all of the above PLUS so many wonderful seeds, at least a few veggies should make it to the table this year!

How about you?  Planning your garden yet?  What do you have in mind?
Have a great day!
Carrie  
PS.  I didn't receive any compensation for this post - I am just REALLY excited about my seeds!  :)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Video: Freezer Meals

I was checking out lots of different freezer cooking videos to find one to share with you and decided this one, by Natalie Dixon was the one I liked the most.  She has some good hints, yummy recipes and seems pretty "down to earth."




Her video is just over 16 minutes long, so grab a cup of coffee, perhaps a notepad and prepare to be impressed... I can't wait to try her chicken recipes!

In addition, after watching her video, I would definitely stop by her website (A Turtle's Life for Me)  for more info - I know I AM!!

Have fun in the kitchen,
Carrie

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Freezer Cooking Part 3: Tools to Make Things Easier

Tools To Make Freezer Cooking Easy



To be super successful with freezer cooking it's important to make sure that you have the necessary tools. Some of these things you may already have, some you might be able to adapt other things to fit, while other items you might want to purchase in order to make freezer cooking work out for you. 


The Right Freezer -- A chest freezer is really the best type of freezer in terms of keeping the food the right temperature. The freezer over your fridge probably isn't enough for once a month cooking, although you could likely use that freezer for freezing lunch meals. Invest in a good chest freezer and you'll be able to freeze enough food for an entire month of meals. Most freezers can easily be stored in the garage or laundry room.  


Big Giant Bowls -- When you are preparing food in bulk, you'll need to have some large bowls. You can use glass, stainless, or even plastic. Tupperware has some really great large mixing bowls with lids that are perfect for mixing ingredients in and making dough for bread and rolls in too. But any large mixing bowls will do.  


Big Giant Pots -- It helps to have several big pots to cook large amounts of food in. If you have more than one large pot life will be that much easier for you. If not, just be ready to do some planning and a bit of washing.   

Wooden Utensils -- You want to invest in a few sets of wooden utensils for stirring, like a long wooden spoon to reach inside your giant stock pot. Even though you may not be using non-stick cookware when you cook in bulk, using wooden utensils is great for any type of pan.

 

2 or 3 sets of Measuring Cups & Spoons -- You don't want to have to wash things while you're cooking to start over. Instead, just invest in a few different sets of measuring cups and spoons so that you'll always have them on hand.



Freezer Bags -- Many people use Ziploc® bags for freezer cooking and some people prefer to use the Seal-A-Meal Vacuum sealing system. (That's on my wish list... just saying... anyone have one they aren't using???) I currently use Ziploc® bags myself.  You will also be freezing some items in freezer/microwave safe cookware.


Large Pitcher and clothespins -- I know this one sounds a bit crazy, but it is SOOOOO helpful when you are trying to fill the freezer bags.  Trust me on this.  Just open a gallon bag, clip the sides to the top of the pitcher and fill it up.  Unclip when you are done, press out the air and label it.  It saves making a BIG MESS (and I would know this because....) when the bag you are filling falls over....



Glass Baking Pans -- Believe it or not you can freeze and bake in glass baking pans. Purchase the kind that comes with the plastic lid for freezing. Be sure to read all directions because you can't just pop it right from the oven to the freezer or vice versa without a problem.  (Problem being: shattered glass in the oven... we are back thinking about junior high science again here, folks!)



Ceramic Bakeware -- The great thing about ceramic is that it's not bad for you. You probably hear a lot about how bad plastic is for you, well, there is nothing bad about ceramic bakeware, which can go from freezer to oven and vice versa relatively easily.



Silicon Muffin Cups -- These are flexible and stick-free. They're great for freezing broth or soup in handy serving sizes. You just pop the broth out and into freezer bags for later use.



Sharpie -- You need to label everything and a sharpie really does work the best for writing directly on the bags. If you don't want to write directly on the container then buy some masking tape, write on that, and stick it to the dish.



Disposable Baking Pans -- There will be times that you want to take a dish out of your freezer and donate it to a friend, or take it to a potluck. It's so much easier if you're not worried about getting the dish back.



Stainless Jelly Roll Pan or Two (or three) -- This is going to come in very handy for many things. Don't buy the kind with nonstick on it. You want the kind without because you're going to sometimes put it in the freezer and freezing anything with a non-stick coating will ruin it.



Great Chopping Knife -- Don't skimp on the quality of your knives. You want to be able to cut veggies and everything for your dishes easily and quickly without having bad knives. You might try out some knives at a kitchen store because it also matters how it feels to you in your hand.



Note: Keeping your knives in good working order also depends on the type of cutting boards you use. Avoid glass and ceramic.



2 Large Slow Cookers -- This is very handy. Use one for a dish and a second one for dinner the night you're cooking all that food for the freezer. It'll make your life a lot easier and whatever is cooking in there will smell great.



Ice Cube Trays -- Great for freezing left over broth and stock to use in recipes later.



Aluminum Foil -- Some people aren't a fan of foil, and you certain don't have to use it but it can help keep your pans clean, and make storing things easier in some cases.

Sticky Plastic Wrap -- If you are freezing in an aluminum container or other one without a top, I prefer to using Glad® Press'n Seal® plastic wrap.  Once the meal has cooled, I put a layer of this (sticks well to the container) then aluminum over it. ** It's also handy for going over your newly planted seeds when you start them.



Parchment Paper -- When freezing items with meat it's good to have some parchment paper between the plastic and the foil to soak up moisture and keep things from sticking.



Dry-Erase Board & Marker -- **Here's a hint from an organized friend: When you put something in your freezer, you should write on the dry erase board what you put in there, and mark it off as you remove it. This way you will always know what's inside.



2 or 3 Large Wire Mesh Colanders -- You'll need to use these to drain things and the mesh kind are easier since very little other than water can go through, plus, if there happens to be grease it won't melt like a plastic colander.



Mandolin – Great to use if you want pretty slices that are uniform such as with an apple pie or potato au gratin casserole.



Food Processor -- Great for cutting up and mixing batches of food fast.



Blender -- Awesome for making breakfast dishes from frozen fruit. No need to spend too much money.  



2 Cutting Boards -- Get one for meat, and one for everything else. You still want to keep them washed off during the process, but this will keep you from accidentally mixing during the cooking process. Wood and bamboo cutting boards are easier on your knives but they do get germy faster so be sure to bleach them after use. Plastic cutting boards are the next best thing. Avoid glass and ceramic. They are super hard on knives and can actually shatter after a lot of use.



Apron -- You want to have something clean to wipe your hands on instead of your clothes. Plus, it's fun to put on an apron and get into the mood.



Dish Towels & Cloths -- Again, you want to be able to wipe down things and it's easier as you go.  Have extras so you aren't running for one in the midst of your creating.



Comfortable Shoes -- You will be standing for a long time so you want to be sure that you have comfortable shoes. Me?  I'm in my sneakers!



Comfort Mat -- Even if you are in comfortable shoes, a mat is a GREAT idea.  Put it beside the counter or island or sink and you won't mind doing all those dishes. (Okay... so it's the thought that counts...) Your feet will feel good and because of that so will your back. 



Some of these items, as you can tell, are extras to make your life easier and more comfortable, but some are real necessities for freezer cooking. 

Do you have any other tools/ideas/etc to make things go well?  Do share!
Have fun in the kitchen,
Carrie

Friday, February 14, 2014

Freezer Cooking Part 2: What does/doesn't freeze well & tips to get started

The teacher in me makes today's post about what you might want to consider freezing and a few tips to  get you rolling.  Let's start with what does & doesn't freeze.  
 

 
What Freezes Well and What Doesn't?



It's important to understand what freezes well and what doesn't when heading into a freezer cooking plan. Keep in mind when you choose meals to freeze, that freezing changes the texture of some foods. For instance high moisture fresh foods don't really freeze well if you plan to eat them in raw form later. An example of that would be that you can't freeze a raw chef salad and expect it to taste like a fresh chef salad after freezing. As a matter of fact, freezing lettuce?  NOT a good idea! But you can freeze chopped tomatoes to use in a sauce later.  It's all about how you want them to come out on the other end.



Do Not Freeze These Items (or freeze with caution)


Apples
Celery
Cheese
Cottage Cheese
Cream Cheese
Cucumbers
Custard
Eggs in the Shells (Do you remember the science lessons about what moisture does when it freezes?  You know... expands?)
Fried Food (There are ways to accomplish this one, **see note below, but it WON'T be the same!  If you are going to EAT fried foods, might as well have them the best way, right?)
Grapefruit
Lemons
Lettuce
Limes
Mayonnaise
Oranges (the zest/rind pieces are okay to do)
Pasta (UNLESS it's part of a meal, IE: lasagna, etc)
Potatoes (Whole? Not so good, BUT potato skins?  I am ALL over them!)
Radishes
Rice
Salad Dressing
Salad Greens
Sauces
Sour Cream
Sprouts
Watermelon
Yogurt



Some of the above items can be frozen if you know what you're doing and understand what changes freezing will make to it.



Cheese -- You can actually freeze cheese as long as you understand the texture will change. It will be crumbly, (shred it first) and you can't eat it as is, but you can use it in a casserole as a topping. So, if you put cheese on top of a casserole that you're going to pop into the oven to reheat anyway it's fine. But if you plan to slice it for a sandwich, you probably don’t want to freeze your cheese. (Especially if you have picky eaters like SOME at this house...)



Fried Food -- You can freeze fried food as long as you wrap it right, and then reheat it correctly. For something like fried chicken be sure to cool it down while draining off the extra fat, then wrap with freezer paper and then put it inside an air tight container. To reheat, put in the oven frozen after unwrapping on a greased pan.



Grapes -- Everyone knows you can freeze grapes if you plan to eat them frozen. A nice treat and tastes like dessert.  These are particularly good if you are heading out to a softball game or other summer activity - they work like an ice pack! 



Onions & Peppers -- You can chop these and freeze them to use in recipes. Chop and let them dry on a paper towel first to drain off extra moisture. Spread them on a cookie sheet and freeze for about an hour before putting them into airtight freezer bags.



Tomatoes -- You can chop them and freeze into serving sizes or recipe sizes in airtight containers. You can only use them for sauces after freezing or in a soup or stew where texture isn't as important.



Oranges & Citrus -- You cannot freeze the fruit but you can freeze the zest. Zest onto a paper towel, and let dry out a bit, then freeze in one layer on a pan for about an hour. Pour into a airtight container to use in recipes.



Rice &Potatoes -- They freeze fine in casseroles and dishes, but it does change their texture a bit. You cannot freeze them raw; you must precook and then freeze.



Pasta – While many places have pasta on the ‘no freeze’ list, you can freeze cooked or frozen pasta. It is recommended that you freeze pasta for some dishes uncooked because it will cook during the reheating and you don't want to overcook it. But, you need to use prepared dried pasta and not freshly made pasta that isn't dried. I freeze lasagna, chicken tetrazzini and mac & cheese all the time.



The important thing is to remember to prepare the dishes correctly for storage and to reheat them properly. You have to be sure that your freezer is the right temperature, (under 0°F) and in good repair and that you consider the moisture content of anything that you plan to freeze. Moisture expands when it freezes.



Tips for Freezer Cooking Success



When you decide to try freezer cooking for the first time it's important to learn from people who have experienced failure before you. There are some tried and true tips to make sure you have a successful freezer cooking experience that you should follow.



Be Prepared



It's important to get prepared for your cooking session if you're going to cook several freezer meals at once. Even if you are just doubling your nightly meal to "feed the freezer" you want to get everything prepared, make sure you have all the ingredients, the storage containers, and everything set up in an assembly line to make it easier.



Get Comfortable



This isn't the time to wear your good clothing or pearls and certainly not uncomfortable shoes. In fact, you probably should wear a good pair of shoes that are meant for standing for long periods of time to make it easier on your feet and back. If you can invest in a comfortable standing mat for your kitchen floor all the better. **Have a snack before you start to avoid snacking as you cook.



Shop with a List



You definitely do not want to shop for a freezer cooking session without a list. It's a good idea to plan out everything that you do, and a shopping list is a must for successful freezer cooking.  There is nothing worse than working on the next recipe only to find you've used all of one ingredient (like shredded cheese or a diced veggie) on the last recipe and can't make what you want.



Cook What You Like



Many families actually rotate the same 8 to 10 dishes throughout the month (or whatever time period you are working with). It's important to understand what you and your family like and work within that to truly be successful with freezer cooking. We try a couple new things in any given month and I don't go too crazy with things I am not sure of.  From those few each month, we create an expanded list of what we like, or even how it's prepared: in the oven vs crockpot.



Get Organized



Before you start, make sure you begin with a clean kitchen (its a great reason to tidy up!!) and an organized workspace. Get out the pans and supplies that you need in advance and set them out like you work in a factory so that they're at the ready. The same goes for measuring cups. It helps if you have several sets of measuring cups so that you don't have to wash anything while you're cooking. Stick dirty things in the dishwasher (or dishpan, in my case) as you go to keep your area neat.



Packaging & Labeling



The best packaging material are either freezer bags that you use a press to seal, or Ziploc® bags. You can freeze these flat for stacking so more will fit into your freezer. Of course, you must label everything because you really won't know what it is after it freezes - honestly, a lot of it will look alike! Plus it's good to know the date you put it in as some things don't last forever. In fact, most things last about 4 months with a few lasting up to a year, so be careful about things getting buried.




Handling Food Safely



When you are preparing everything it's imperative that you are very careful about cleanliness and handling all the food safely. Cool down items before you put them in the freezer, first on the counter, and then in the fridge and finally move it to the freezer. To thaw items, start in the fridge the day before. Remember to not mix utensils when handling raw meat, especially poultry. Wash your hands a lot in hot soapy water. Use a thermometer to ensure proper internal cooking temperatures. You can read more about the Core Four Practices of safe food handling at fightback.org.



Preparation, organization, and safe handling of food will ensure that your freezer cooking session is a success. Don't try to skip any of the steps because you will invariably end up forgetting something important and you won't even know it until you thaw it out to eat later. Keeping a checklist nearby to mark off each step will be very helpful.  I also have my Ipad handy for recipes I have on there - leaving "windows" open to refer to each one.

 
Ready for some recipes?  Can't wait to share!!
Have a wonderful day,
Carrie

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Freezer Cooking Part 1: I'm ALL OVER this!!!





If you know me in "real life," you know hubby and I lead a pretty crazy life.  I coach field hockey in the fall (outdoors at the high school) and in the winter/spring (indoors for a club team), as well as basketball in the winter (at the high school) and chasing our daughter around at softball in the spring and summer while he coaches wrestling all winter and then softball in the spring.  Oh... right, and he and my son do maple sugaring as well.

It makes for a pretty insane cooking/eating schedule for most of the year.  That being said, I've discovered and LOVE freezer cooking!   I am working hard (amongst all this) to improve the healthiness of what I am putting on the table, so doing as much "real" food as possible is the plan.  If I can have something to pull from the freezer before I head to work (oh... right, did I mention there's that, too???) and pop it in the crockpot or pull it out to start thawing for the oven, it's WAY better than a trip to the pizza place (not that I MIND that once and a while...) for us.

I thought I'd share some freezer cooking this week in a multi-part series.  Don't want to overload you all at once!  So today is some info - how, why, all that sort of thing!  


Freezer Cooking

Did you know that you can cook once and eat all week, or even all month? That's right, a lot people do it to help them eat healthier at home, save time, and even save money. Freezer cooking consists of making several meals at once, freezing them to reheat and eat at a later time. Traditional cooking means coming home after a long day at work and maybe even your child’s baseball game and still cook dinner and clean up prior to taking time to relax.

Imagine instead that all you have to do is pop in one of your pre-made frozen dinners. A dinner that you made yourself that you know the exact ingredients, unlike commercial frozen dinners these dinners are prepared by you and do not have all the preservatives that "TV Dinners" have. Even better, anyone can quickly put the dinners in the oven prior to you getting home, make a quick side salad and some rolls and you have a dinner fit for a family.

The Benefits of Freezer Cooking

It may seem a little overwhelming to think about preparing so much to put in the freezer, but the truth is, there are a lot of benefits to doing so. You'll save time, money, and eat better than you normally do.  


Saves Time

This is true in manufacturing and it's true in cooking dinner too. It takes just as much time to make one enchilada casserole as it does to make two or four. It just takes bigger pans and containers. The time you save by spending one day cooking will be paid back to you each day that you don't have to cook a full meal.

Saves Money

Due to the fact that #1 you'll eat out less, #2 you'll be purchasing in bulk so you'll save money. Not going to the grocery store as often will keep you from picking up those impulse buys. (Who me, impulse buy??? Oh... look at that.... lol!) When you do freezer cooking, you limit your grocery store trips to the day before you prepare the food and you shop with a list. This automatically means money savings.

Better Nutrition for Your Family

We know that when we get too busy we tend to go through the drive-thru, order pizza or Chinese or any other equivalent. We know it's not healthy, but we're hungry, the kids are hungry, and we're exhausted. But, imagine you have food at home that you can easily reheat and serve that is healthy. No preservatives, actual food unlike that fast food burger.  One of the things I love about this is that (much to hubby's chagrin) we are going to be slowly cutting out processed food - this ties right in!

Food Ready for Company

Anyone else have teenage or college-age folks pop into your house at the last minute?  "Oh mom, is it okay if the guys stay for dinner?"  With things ready to pop into the oven out of the freezer, in 45 minutes you can serve up GOOD food without panicking.  I am ALL for that! 

Sound like a good idea to you?  I know it does to me!  Come back by tomorrow for Part 2 for what does and doesn't freeze well plus some tips to get started!  As for me, I'm heading to grab something for the crockpot for tonight!  Perhaps some apple chicken?  I'll let you know tomorrow.

Have fun in the kitchen,
Carrie