Friday, November 8, 2013

Freezer Meals

Jake and I started talking baby this summer. We were trying to decide between one baby now before the gap gets too big, or two later, after law school. I got pretty dang sick with Cooper. Took a medical withdrawal from BYUI, made frequent doctor visits for IV fluids, was drugged up on all sorts of good stuff, went and stayed with my parents for a month because I couldn't function kind of sick. My pregnancy with Jack wasn't nearly as bad. I was constantly nauseous but only threw up one time. Adele's was just as bad as Cooper's but I was working full time, as was Jake, and we owned our own company. I was too busy for that and it was miserable for all of us. 

When we decided on one baby we started planning dates. If I was going to be sick again it needed to be around December when Jake was on his break for a few weeks. That meant giving it a go in October. We were very lucky and blessed to have it all work out according to "our plans"....even though I know this is all a part of our Heavenly Father's plan anyway. We just happened to line up this time :)  Part of my plans was once I found out I was pregnant that would give me the go ahead so I can prep meals and other things in anticipation of rough times ahead. 

Fast forward to yesterday when my friend Ashlee and I made all this dang food. On Wednesday morning I sat down to find all the recipes I wanted to use. I've seen various blogs that lay it all out there. All the meals, complete with the shopping list. I didn't find one where all the recipes looked good so I grabbed one here and there and made my own grouping of meals. I wanted variety, and healthy, like no creamed soups. The more recipes I looked at the nastier they all looked....I already wasn't feeling so hot and I knew my time was coming and this had to yesterday! We got it all done in a day. Did one meal recipe at a time to start out with and got smoother and quicker as we went. It was SO helpful doing it with a friend and I look forward to returning the favor for her one of these days :)

I had most of the staples in my kitchen already. Purchased all the meat and produce and a couple random items. All recipes are for two meals packed in to freezer gallon size bags (split all the ingredients between the two) and are cooked in a crock pot on low for 8 hours or high for 4 unless otherwise noted.

Each bag has written on it: The meal, cook time, what to add at cook time and what to serve it with. 

These meals will feed our family of five. Two adults and three kids ages 6, 4 and 2.

Here are the recipes:

Orange Apricot Pork Chops
12 pork chops
2 c apricot jam
3T brown sugar
1t salt
1/2t pepper and cinammon
1/4t ginger and cloves
Add-ins: 11 oz can mandarin oranges plus juice
Serve with rice and a veggie

Black Bean & Corn Salsa Chicken
  2 cans black beans drained and rinsed
2 cans corn drained (I used frozen corn)
1 package taco seasoning
4 chicken breasts (all my chicken breasts were really big so we can get away with two for our family...for now. That won't last much longer)
1 cup salsa
Add-ins: 3/4 c water
Serve with chips or on tortillas, on top of a salad or as a soup. (depends on the consistency you'll end up with or desire) Other topping ideas: sour cream, avocado, cilantro, cheese, etc.

Savory Vegetable Beef Soup
1.5 lbs ground beef
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
(^cook those three before bagging)
5 chopped carrots and celery sticks
6-8 red potatoes
1 15oz can tomato sauce or V8 juice
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2c green beans
2c mushrooms
1T worcestershire sauce
1c beef broth
2T parsley
2t basil
1t thyme, salt and pepper
2T sugar
Add-ins: 1.5c water and 15oz beef broth
Serve with bread/rolls and salad

BBQ Chicken
2 green peppers
1 red pepper (I had a small green and red and a large orange, just improvise when you need!)
1 zuchinni
3 onions
6-8 red potatoes
4 cloves garlic
4 chicken breasts
1T quick tapioca
1 15oz can tomato sauce
2T brown sugar, worcestershire sauce and mustard
1/2 t salt
Add-ins: However much or little BBQ sauce to flavor it up.
Serve with rice 

Lentil Soup 
8 carrots
4 celery
2 onions
3 cloves garlic
1 large shallot
(^I processed all these in my food processor so they were chopped fine)
2 bay leaves
2t thyme
2c vegetable stock 
Add-ins: 2c lentils, 4c vegetable stock. Last 15 minutes add 1 head kale or swiss chard, 1.5t red wine vinegar, 2t salt, 1t pepper and cumin.
Serve with crusty bread and salad.

Beef Burgundy
1/2c flour
3t salt
1t pepper
4lbs beef chuck
1/4c olive oil
2 onions
2c mushrooms
1c parsley
6t garlic
4 bay leaves
2c burgundy wine (I just used some red that I had, not a burgundy but whatev)
1c beef broth
Serve with egg noodles

Maple Dijon Glazed Chicken
6 chicken breasts
2c dijon mustard (I bought one bottle and split it)
1/2c maple syrup
2T red wine vinegar
2t salt, pepper
 Serve with rice and roasted veggies

2lbs ground beef
1c bread crumbs
2 onion soup mix
4 eggs
1/2c ketchup
6T worcestershire sauce
4T steak sauce
1/2c onion
(Mix, split in two loaves, seal and freeze)
I've never cooked a meatloaf in a crock pot and like it from the oven so we'll probably just do that when the time comes
Serve with mashed potatoes and veggies

Pork Tenderloin with Apple Cranberry sauce
2 2lb pork tenderloins
2t salt, pepper, ginger and cinnamon
1c brown sugar
4T cider vinegar
1/2t red pepper flakes
1c dried cranberries
4 peeled and chopped granny smith apples
Serve with roasted veggies

Chicken Tortilla Soup
4 chicken breasts
2 cans cannelloni beans (white kidney beans)
4c chicken broth
3t cumin
24oz salsa verde
Add-ins: 1c chicken broth (each)
Serve with chips, green onions, sour cream, avocado, etc

Chicken Enchiladas (you'll need two 9x13 disposable pans)
4 chicken breasts cooked and shredded 
***(Did you know if you boil up some chicken and throw it in your kitchen aid with the paddle attachment you'll have perfectly shredded chicken in a matter of seconds?! I didn't and it changed my life.)***
8oz cream cheese
8oz cheddar jack (or however much you want really)
8oz can green chiles
45oz (ish) green enchilada sauce
flour or corn tortillas

Put a little green sauce on bottom of pan as layer then mix the rest of the green sauce with the cream cheese and chiles. Add chicken to sauce. Jake is gluten-free so we just use corn tortillas and they're a pain to wrap stuff in so I layer chicken mix, a layer of tortillas, some cheese, and so on until it's gone. Make your last layer nice and cheesy. Double foil over the top and write the cook instructions.

Bake at 355 for 45 minutes thawed or 70-90 if frozen. Serve with rice and beans.

There you have it! Hopefully there's no typos! Let me know if you have any questions. I'll try to follow up on how the recipes turn out.

P.S. As part of my prep I've baked and made several things over the last couple of weeks....loaves of bread, batches of rolls, pancakes, waffles and muffins.

Here are a couple pics from our day of cooking:

Recipes and labeled bags

My onion chopping queen, Ashlee!

A small fraction of the mess.

Finished, finally!

22 healthy meals ready to go in the freezer.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween 2013 & Announcement

The weekend before Halloween our neighbors and us threw a party at their place. They decorated it all, made a great haunted house in their garage and organized a scavenger hunt. We were in charge of food. It was fun playing "caterer" for the week leading up to it and scouring pinterest for ideas and turning it in to the real thing! Here's a few pictures of the party and some of the food. Lots of people, lots of fun!

Part of their backyard

Cooper and Derek

Our announcement that we're expecting!

The night before Halloween we carved our pumpkins together. You can't really do it any earlier because the warm weather rots the pumpkins really quickly. It was super funny watching Adele and Jack dive right in and Cooper being really grossed out by the pumpkin guts. Both boys wanted scary pumpkins and Adele wanted a kitty.

Halloween night we set out to trick-or-treat at 5 and went for about an hour and a half. Afterwards we had the Carlsons and their family over for chile, cornbread and salad dinner with pumpkin pie dessert. The missionaries joined us and we had a yummy halloween feast and the kids ate a lot of candy!

Mike, Sully and Boo!

That time we went camping over Labor Day weekend

All day Friday it poured down rain. We had plans and reservations to camp with our friends and neighbors, the Carlsons and the Reillys. However, we are camp tenters and the way it was pouring and the continuous flash flood alerts on my phone just weren't looking too good. The weather was supposed to get better over the duration of the weekend so we packed extra shoes and clothes for every one and made it out of the house by about 7:30 Friday night. The further up the mountain we got (about 45 minutes from the house) the less it was raining. The kids were sleeping when we got there and one by one woke up as Jake and I set up camp. We had our head lamps on and had bought an extra tarp just before leaving to shield ourselves from rain. We made it through the night, had the boys and dog sleep in the car right next to our tent and woke up dry! The rest of the weekend was a blast. We had great camping food, the boys rode bikes and scooter. All the kids played together really well. They learned to chop wood and start fires. We went on a beautiful hike all together and spent quality time around the campfire. We are blessed with some really great friends and had a wonderful time together as a family. 

Little girlfriends, Chelsey and Adele

Adele, Chelsey, Trevor, Jack, Derek and Cooper. All kids are same age, within months.

choppin' wood

hiking through the valley

It was a really scenic and beautiful area

caught a lizard

wore a lizard! (Stephen)

I'm glad it didn't rain while we were there but double glad we were able to set this up just in case.

Poor Griffin dog locked up cause he's cray-cray.

hauling wood

Who eats like this when camping?! The Carlsons do! Super yummy!

1st grade Cooper, Our anniversary and our picture-less trip to WA

After our exchange students left (literally, 4 hours after I dropped them off) Jake's mom flew in from Washington. We showed her around town, she took us to Claim Jumper for an early dinner and we packed all evening to leave the next morning to drive up to Washington. We drove up to Yreka, CA the first night and stayed in a ghetto little motel room. Left early the next morning and made it home by 2 or 3 in the afternoon. The kids and the dog (oh yeah, we brought the dog) did great the whole way. No throwing up! That's a big deal for us. It was cold and rainy when we pulled into town. We spent the week cramming in as much as we could and seeing as many people as we could see. Jake's parents flew him up for the end of the week to attend my 10 year HS reunion with me and drive back on Monday. We left early Monday morning. Jack puked about a mile away so we turned around, showered him off and grabbed a couple of towels and lots of bags for the long drive home. The plan was to go all the way and we did it. Pulled into the driveway at about 2 in the morning. Jack was sick a few times on the way down, mostly in Northern CA. Tuesday was a recoup day and Wednesday was Cooper's first day of school. We had an amazing summer to say the least.

First day of school

Mom Brag----> first in his class to receive a HUGS award second year in a row

Our friends Megan and Brandon offered to take the kids for a night on our anniversary weekend. Jake worked all summer in Newport Beach and stayed with a nice family from our church a few days out there. They had told Jake they'd be gone the weekend of our anniversary and we were welcome to stay at their house if we wanted to. We took advantage of these generous offers and drove into the sunset together Friday night, walked downtown Laguna and ate at a pizza place that night. Stopped at DQ for some ice cream and called it a night. The next morning we went back in to Laguna for an amazing breakfast at Nick's then wandered all around Laguna and Huntington Beach for the rest of the day. First time away as just a couple EVER! Really, since our honeymoon. About time!

The one and probably most important picture from our anniversary: Breakfast at Nick's in Laguna Beach. AMAZING!

That time we had Chinese exchange students

For two weeks in July we had the opportunity to host two girls from China in an exchange program. I was a little nervous knowing how different our cultures are and wondered if they'd think our family was absolutely nuts. When I picked them up from the coordinator's house on their first night here I tried to be myself, but not too loud and crazy :) They were very kind but very quiet. We got home and I showed them the sleeping children and our house, where everything was, and they went to bed. For the following two weeks each day got a little better. They were more honest about what they did and did not like. Their names are Shang Cheng Cen (She picked Claire as her American name) and Jin Xiao Zi Ruo (Michelle). 

They thought we were fun and they loved the kids. Just about every day they had an itinerary that had them gone most of the day and visiting lots of places including Hollywood, UCLA, Disneyland, Las Vegas, and more. When we had them it was usually for dinner and a little time at night but they were always tired from a long day out. We spent time just talking about each other's lives in China and the US. I asked most of the questions. We had random dance parties, we introduced them to a lot of foods, they met with the missionaries, we went to a movie in the park and we got each other signed up on facebook and weibao (like a Chinese fb). They also signed me up on WeChat so we can keep in touch easier. Claire had a birthday while she was here (she turned 19 and Michelle is 18). 

 They both attend the Beijing School of Film and both want to be actresses.  They're from different places in China but met at the school.  Claire is an only child. Her dad is a police officer and her mom is a secretary...I think.  Michelle has one brother. Her mom stays at home and it sounded like her dad was a the equivalent of a city manager. They're both really wealthy and spent a TON of money while here. Literally a ton, atleast, on just souvenirs and clothes. 

Their last night here the whole group prepared a presentation and performance for all the host families. They made food from China (it was mostly all good :) ) There was lots of singing and dancing.

The day they left we were all teary, it was very sweet. We really enjoyed having them and have told them they can come back whenever they want. We keep in touch on WeChat.

Claire's birthday

Jack, Michelle, Cooper, ? and Adele

Claire and Adele

So many good dishes, my two favorites had eggplant in them

Elder Schneider from Utah and Elder ? from Hong Kong. Nice boys!

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Most of the group