More Freezer Meal Experiments

I’ve been trying to be really good about cooking these past few weeks.  By good, I mean trying to cook new, “real food” meals at least twice a week (usually Wednesdays and Sundays) and trying to make extras to freeze.  So far, I have been having pretty good success at making meals my family likes/will eat, and – maybe more importantly to me – does not involve me spending a whole day, or even a whole afternoon in the kitchen.  The past few meals I have tried have been chicken pot pie, stromboli, and tacos!  In all of these cases I have yet to try the frozen-then-thawed version yet, but i will update once I do in case any don’t thaw well.

Stromboli (sorry I don’t have pictures for this one)

Recipe here from Fabulessly Frugal

Ease to make: Very Easy (I was able to assemble two strombolis (is that the plural of stromboli? haha) in about 25 minutes)

For my pizza crust, I used the pillsbury pre-made pizza dough in the canister, which I loved because I really HATE spreading out pizza dough.  I love all things pizza and would probably make all sorts of pizzas except for the step of spreading the crust.  I had never tried the pillsbiry pre-made dough, and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to use and the final taste.

I made one stromboli for dinner that night and wrapped one in plastic wrap and tin foil to freeze.  The one I made for dinner tasted great, even V (the toddler) ate a little bit of it, and it tasted good left over and cold for lunch!

Verdict: Success!!

Chicken Pot Pie

Recipe here from Fabulessly Frugal (totally didn’t realize that these were both from the same blog until now, one was from Pinterest and one from Google Search)

Ease to make: This recipe took about 1.5 hours to make from start to finish, so pretty time consuming, but it doesn’t take much longer to make several than to make one.

I made a few modifications to this one.  The recipe is for chicken pot pie but the only crust is on the top, none on the bottom.  I think this is so you can make more pies with fewer pie crusts, maybe?  I was describing this to Mark (husband), who is the expert in southern cuisine in our house, and he was not a fan of the “crust on top only” idea.  Since he loves chicken pot pie way more than I do, I figured I should cook it to suit his tastes so I added crust on the top and bottom.  For the container I also used the regular pie containers that came with the pre-made crusts rather than the meatloaf container (I used deep dish pie crust).  I also didn’t measure my vegetable amounts at all, which resulted in the pot pies being very vegetable heavy, in particular very pea heavy.  I like peas, and I like veggies, so I thought it was good, but Mark would prefer more chicken.  I made 3 pot pies total, and wrapped the other 2 in plastic wrap and tin foil for the freezer.

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Verdict: Will probably make again because Mark likes pot pies, but a lot of work…

Taco Meat

 Ok, confession – this recipe is so simple you probably don’t need a recipe, but I have such cute pictures to go along that I had to share it.  I did, however, discover that it is possible to make taco meat in a crock pot, so it was a learning experience!

Recipe here at Passionate Penny Pincher

Ease to make: very easy – throw the meat and ingredients into crockpot, stir occasionally, done!

I didn’t read the recipe right and added the taco seasoning at the beginning of cooking rather than at the end.  This resulted in my meat being under-seasoned once it was done, but I just added more seasoning and it worked out ok.  It also turned out a little more soupy than my typical taco meat, but there were no complaints about it.  I served the meat on tortillas with typical taco dressings, and it was definitely a hit.  V thought it was amazing and ate soft tacos/burritos for dinner 2 nights in a row!  I put half of the taco meat in the freezer for later.

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Her first experience holding the burrito herself – she DID NOT want mom to help her 🙂

Verdict: Success!!

Hope my experience helps anyone trying to come up with meal ideas for their family.  I really prefer meals that take minimal prep work and that I can make extras of so Mark can heat them up for dinner when I work late.  Any good recipes you know of?  Feel free to let me know!

Graze Box Review…and Running Update!

I almost didn’t write tonight. It’s been a busy/somewhat stressful day, and I’m exhausted.  But I then I remembered how much I actually enjoy this, so here I am.  I have been getting back to my training schedule after being out for 3 weeks, and finally feel like my legs are remembering that they were used to these miles.  However, I had my longest “long run” this week since starting training (12 miles), and it kind of kicked my butt!  It might have been the heat – it was a dry 82 degrees, which is pretty good for Fl – or just that it was my longest run, but I was expecting to recover better.  I did push myself through it though, and am feeling nearly recovered, about 3.5 hours later…Hopefully this means I’m prepared for my half marathon next weekend – stay tuned for that update!

Ok, but on to the real reason we’re here – more fun boxes!  Now, before anyone gets worried about me, I set myself a strict box budget, and have a fun time seeing how many boxes I can fit into this budget!  Also I look for deals so I can get a few months of one box at a time for that month’s budget and then can spend my next months budget on something else!  So far, so good, although this only works if you stay on top of cancelling the ones you don’t want to be charged for again.  Not that anyone has asked or expressed concern, but my friends and family know how I tend to jump on board to these trendy (aka crazy) ideas, and sometimes they don’t work out…

Graze Box

Graze is a snack subscription box that you can choose to have sent to you up to once weekly.  They also offer every 2 weeks and monthly subscriptions.  Boxes cost $6.49 each, and they are currently offering a deal where you can get your first and fifth box free, with no commitment to subscription (you have to cancel after you receive your first box if you don’t want them to start charging you).  They say on your site that you have to use a referral code to get this deal, but I am pretty sure I got the same deal without one.  Either way, if you would like to use my codes, here is the link including the code, and here is the input style of the code: X9GJ2HJ3P (either one works fine).  If you are trying it as a sample and have no intention of renewing your subscription, I would first set your subscription to every other week or longer, to give yourself time to cancel.  Graze is also in the process of offering a “big box” with multiple portion bags in the near future.

The boxes are delivered by USPS and are small enough to fit in your mailbox.  The site says they commonly ship to both home and work.  I usually receive mine on Monday or Tuesday, which I like because I feel like I then have new snacks for the week.

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First look on opening the box:

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Each box comes with 4 healthy snacks – dried fruit, nuts, nut/seed bars, trail mix – individually wrapped for convenience.  The box also comes with an insert containing nutritional information and also helpful healthy eating tips.  All of their snacks have symbols on the wrapper, which are supposed to quickly indicate which ones are the low calorie ones, the ones with extra vitamins, and other potential health benefits (I will admit, I have not figured out all of the symbols yet).  Most snacks are between 90-250 calories.  At this time, Graze is unable to do allergy requests.

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Close up of the food.  Especially for your first couple of boxes, there is no way to pick which snacks you get, however, as you eat your snacks, you can go online and let them know if you “loved it” would love to “try it” or want to “trash it”.  In theory you should receive more of the ones you love, and never receive anything you hate again – their selection is so big that, in about 4 boxes so far, I have yet to even get close to trying everything!  I have only had one snack total that I disliked enough that I didn’t want to eat it, most of them I have loved.

Review: When trying this box, I had absolutely no intention of renewing my subscription.  I didn’t think I would be excited about snack boxes in general.  However, after receiving the first box, I liked how easy it was to just grab a snack to put in my purse and eat it at work – rather than scrounging the break room for whatever is fair game – and I like that I have healthy alternatives on hand all the time.  I also like that it is only $6.49.  Unlike more expensive boxes (not necessarily food boxes), I feel like I expect very little to feel like I received “my money’s worth”, and I feel like Graze exceeded my expectations in both excitement of opening the box and in quality of product.  I also feel like I spend $6.00 a week or every other week on random stuff anyways, so why not spend it on something fun and healthy?  I have been getting a box every week so far and for the most part liking them a lot!

Freezer Meals, Running, and a Little More Stitch Fix!

Forgive me, anyone who likes posts to be about one topic.  This will not be that kind of post.  Mostly because I have been pretty busy lately, but also because a lot of the topics I have to write about seem to involve subscription boxes of some type, and I am trying to not turn this into a subscription box blog….but there will be a little Stitch Fix at the end, because my mom and sister got their boxes, and I want to share their clothes with you too!

I guess, chronologically first up would be running.  Not too much to talk about that, since unfortunately Mark and I have been sick, and it had prevented me from running for the past 3-3 1/2 weeks (we had mono 😦 Crazy, right?  What are we, teenagers?)  Anyways, I am finally feeling up to running this week, and was reviewing my training schedule to assess the damage.  Let me tell you, it’s bad…I have been following the Hal Higdon Novice Supreme 30 week marathon training schedule, and had been actually very consistent.  But now I missed weeks 19-22!  I looked at the schedule and realized I had only 7 weeks of training until the Space Coast Marathon, and 3 of those are supposed to be taper weeks (where you run less miles and let your muscles recover and prepare for the race).  So it’s going to be a stretch to get myself in marathon shape by then, but I’m going to try.  I also had the Savage Race Scheduled, which is an obstacle course mud race, but my doctor said no to that one because of the mono.  On the plus side, that freed up my schedule to register for the half marathon the rest of my family was already running on the same day – a Halloween themed race called the Frankenfooter Half marathon, and I’m pretty excited about that.  Plus, it will motivate me to get back on the wagon for marathon training.

This week represented a change in work schedule for me.  I started working an extra day, which I think will work out very well in the long run.  However, I’m the type of person that any change in my schedule represents a significant amount of stress, and I usually deal with that stress by coming up with random projects to do.  So Sunday I decided to make several different meals and then freeze some of them, so I wouldn’t have to worry about making dinner when I got off of work!  Of course I went to Pinterest to find the recipes, that site is really the best for random projects like this.  I decided to start *small* and found 2 dinner recipes and 1 breakfast recipe.  Both of the dinner recipes are from The Humbled Homemaker Blog, and I picked them because they were easy to make and easy to cook out of the freezer.  The 2 recipes I used were her Chicken Divan recipe and her Baked Ziti Recipe.  I am actually eating the Chicken Divan leftover for dinner as I type this.  For the breakfast recipe I used the recipe from GetCreativeJuice Blog with some of my own modifications.  All told it took me about 2 1/2 hours to make all of these recipes, and ended up with 2 trays of Baked Ziti, 5 freezer bags of Chicken Divan and 24 mini breakfast muffins.  We had the Baked Ziti for dinner, and I thought it was yummy, although V vetoed it and I don’t think Mark was happy I put in zucchini.

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Ok, now on to Stitch Fix.  If you dont know about stitch fix, this blog post explains it all.  Since this is my sister Kelly’s fix, I don’t have all the same details like price on them, but I can still share the cute pictures.  My mom got her fix too, but I have yet to receive permission to post her pics, maybe next post I will.  On to the fix!

1. Hanlee airy knit raglan sweater

2. Jimmy ankle length skinny jeans

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Obviously the sweater does not fit right, but she says the jeans are a maybe (I know you cant see them that well, they are ankle length skinny jeans)

3. Kassidy open lattice detail tank

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Sadly another fit problem, which is too bad because we both LOVE the idea of this shirt and think it would have been a keeper if it had fit.

4. Roma floral print short-sleeve blouse

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She loves the fit and style of this cute floral shirt!

5. Ashland chevron print dress

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I think this dress is SUPER ADORABLE, but she is not sure about it.  I think she likes it too, just isn’t sure where she would wear it too and whether it would get the wear for the price (not sure of the price, sorry).  I hope she keeps it, but I get not wanting to buy a probably fairly pricey dress if you are not sure you will wear it.  By the way, once again, all stitch fix links are referral links.

That’s all for now guys, thanks for reading!  Let me know what you think!

Toddler “Bento Boxes”

Another toddler food post today.  Honestly, I never realized how much of my time would be consumed with trying to come up with creative ways to get V to eat healthy meals.  And I’m not even talking about “organic, whole grain, GMO-free, kale chip, etc” kind of healthy (although you parents out there who can do it, I am NOT making fun, I am impressed).  I’m talking about eating chicken, vegetables, or even a sandwich rather than macaroni and cheese and goldfish crackers for every meal.  Don’t get me wrong, on the other end of the spectrum I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little mac ‘n cheese every once in awhile, but if V had a choice, it would be all day, every day.  I really just try to aim for balance.  To that end, I have been reading a lot of other blogs that talk about toddler lunch ideas, especially for the days she goes to daycare, and I see a lot about bento boxes.  I think they’re pretty neat.  I think some of them can be intense – I do not have time to make food landscape artwork – but I like that they are supposed to teach food variety and portion control.  Also, especially for a one year old, the right bento box can provide a lot of different foods to choose from.  So with that in mind, I picked out this bento box from Pottery Barn Kids.  I like it because the plastic looks (and is) very durable, its dishwasher safe (YAY!), and it doesn’t have any of the “bad stuff that kids can get from plastics” (BPA).  So I thought I would share some of my meal ideas, in the hope that they will help out someone else in need, and also because the bento box has made it through at least 6 washes so far and has held up very well, which I find impressive.

So here they are.  Since V only goes 2 days a week this represents 2 weeks worth of lunches.

photo (7)Meat and cheese tortilla roll-ups, yogurt pouch, cut up nectarines, veggie straws, shredded cheese, 2 mini blueberry muffins.  I also usually include a fruit and veggie “squeeze pouch” in her bag in case she is still hungry or particularly picky.  V will eat nearly any variety of squeeze pouch.

photo (9)Meat and cheese roll-ups (V prefers these to the tortilla roll-ups), yogurt pouch, gold fish crackers and broccoli chips, grapes (cut in half), carrot chips and ranch dressing.  I put cling wrap over the ranch dressing, and the compartment closes pretty securely.  Have not had reports of leakage yet!

photo (8)Pizza Roll-Up (recipe here), string cheese, yogurt pouch, apple and banana dipped in peanut butter and decorated (see here), veggie straws, raisins, and rolled up lunch meat.  Apparently I thought V was going to be starving on this day!  That’s a lot of food!  It was also after a particularly creative streak for cooking.

photo 4 (7)Meat and cheese roll-ups, goldfish and broccoli chips, shredded cheddar cheese, banana, yogurt pouch, in the closed container is carrot chips and ranch dressing.

So some repetition in the lunches, but still a variety every day, and only 1 compartment per day full of crackers, chips, etc so I think it’s an improvement.  It has made my lunch packing easier in the morning, I only have to come up with 5 different food groups and I know I probably have enough food for the day.

So that’s my daycare lunch packing routine!  Oh, and guess what?!?!  I got the e-mail today…my first Stitch Fix box should be coming on Saturday!  Be prepared for pictures.  I really hope it lives up to expectations!

Toddler-Friendly Crescent Pizza Roll-Ups

Hey Guys, so another recipe today, although technically I’m counting this as a toddler post because I mostly made it for V.  Ok, you got me, not gonna lie I did make this for dinner for just me and Mark too though.  But it is a toddler recipe.  The best part is that it is simple enough that the older toddlers (I’ll say 2+) may even be able to help cook it!  So here it is:  Crescent Pepperoni Roll Ups .  Looks like this is not the original recipe, but it has been re-pinned on Pinterest many times.

So, here are our ingredients.  My nieces A (2 years) and L (9 months) are helping along with V today.

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Ingredients:

Refidgerated Crescent Rolls

Pizza Sauce

Turkey pepperoni

String Cheese

So we spread the crescent rolls out in triangles on a pizza pan – I used non-stick grease when I used a cookie tray but we didn’t on this pizza pan.  Both times turned out fine.  Next, we added just a smear of pizza sauce to the top.

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Now add pepperoni – I could fit about 5-6 per “slice”

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Ok, now add 1/2 of a “stick” of string cheese at the wide end and roll them up around the string cheese, they don’t have to be pretty.  I had no problems with them coming apart in the oven and I wasn’t too meticulous about rolling them either.

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 Bake in the oven at 375 for 12 – 15 minutes, then let cool and you’re done!

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We sprinkled a little garlic salt on top (’cause we’re fancy like that), but I think it actually made it a little too salty.  Unfortunately, neither girl liked their pizza.  They aren’t usually big pizza fans to begin with, but this recipe looked too fun and easy to not give it a shot.  We were hopeful that helping with cooking would encourage them to try it, but no.  However, both moms thought the pizza roll ups were delicious.  I have also sent them cold in V’s lunch for daycare and for dinner one night and she seems to like them a little bit more when they are cold.  Plus then she dips it in ranch dressing (that girl will eat anything if ranch dressing is involved).

On a totally different note, Grandma got the girls dress-up dresses from costco and this was too cute not to share. My iPhone camera was being ridiculous THE WHOLE TIME! So I apologize for the blurriness.

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The cutest fairy ever!  On that note, good night all.  I have more adorable toddler ideas – with pics! Coming soon.  Also some notes on a fun new hobby.

Simple Dinner – Rachel Ray 5 ingredient Stuffed Chicken Plus My Own Additions :)

Monday and Wednesdays are usually my main dinner nights.  Since I have those days off from work, I have a little more time for dinner planning/cooking.  For some reason I can’t really remember now, I was thinking about stuffed chicken.  I have never, ever “stuffed” anything before so I was a little intimidated about how exactly to go about doing that, but Mark really likes Chicken Cordon Bleu, so I was pretty sure he would like other stuffed chicken.  I Google searched “stuffed chicken” and found a recipe with bleu cheese in it, but it was just stuffed under the skin of a chicken breast, and I wanted the real thing.  However, I LOVE bleu cheese, so I decided whatever kind of stuffed chicken I made, it was going to have bleu cheese in it.  So then I stumbled across this Rachel Ray 5 Ingredient Recipe here, and it looked seriously easy!  It didn’t have bleu cheese in it, but I decided it would taste better with it added anyways…and it’s BACON WRAPPED!

Let’s get started.  Here are my ingredients for the chicken:

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My 4 ingredients: Chicken breasts (Tyson’s Frozen Boneless/Skinless), Bleu Cheese, Philadelphia Cream Cheese Onion and Chive Flavored, Bacon

This was also my first experience with a meat tenderizer (pretty sad, I know), and I was a little intimidated, but really, it’s not that hard – really.  It was kind of fun actually, and V thought the sound it made was very entertaining, she was running around the house knocking on things with her little fist – so cute.  And – we’re getting off topic here – she picked out her clothes on Wednesday too, and I just had to show you.

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yes, those are shorts on her head…

See?  Ridiculously cute, right?  Anyways, back to the meat tenderizer – I used it to pound out the (now thawed), frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts to about 4-5mm (maybe? I didn’t measure) thickness.  Next, I spread the cream cheese on the now flat chicken breast.  I have to mention, the recipe called for “Garlic and Herb” flavored cream cheese, but I couldn’t find it at Publix, so I opted for the Onion and Chive flavored.  Little secret:  Mark HATES chives (I never knew chives had enough of a flavor to hate), but i didn’t tell him what kind of cream cheese I used, and he liked the chicken.  Don’t tell…I’m sure he knows by now though since the leftover cream cheese is in the refrigerator and he’s pretty observant.  There were also a lot of other interesting flavors options that I found, chipotle flavor seeming the most interesting to me, but I played it safe for the first go.

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Next, I sprinkled a little bit of bleu cheese on top of the cream cheese and rolled up the chicken.  I wrapped each piece of chicken in 2 pieces of bacon and pinned it with toothpicks.

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Now the recipe recommends grilling the chicken for 25min.  We have a fairly nice grill, but I am not that comfortable with it, although it’s probably easy.  I am making this again on Sunday and will probably try grilling them.  This time I cooked them in a pan on the stove, medium heat for 25 min. which ended up charring the bacon a little bit.  I cooked V’s chicken first (she wasn’t that impressed).  With the second batch, I added a little olive oil to the pan.  This may have helped a little bit, but not much.  The grill might be better with that.  They still tasted good but the look could have been better.

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A little charred, not that pretty, but this is real life and it tasted good.  We ate it with sliced tomatoes and wild rice.  The taste was great, as mentioned, however I think the strong taste of the bleu cheese might actually have not gone that well with the onion taste of the cream cheese.  When I make it on Sunday I am going to try it without the bleu cheese 😦 and see how it tastes.  I really want to try it with chipotle cream cheese and bleu cheese sometime.  Definitely not low calorie, I’m sure, but it is nice for a fancy kind of dinner. Oh, by the way, this was also a pretty inexpensive dinner as well, and I have enough leftovers from what I made Wednesday to make another batch. If you want to try it yourself, you can find the original recipe here by Rachel Ray.  Thanks again guys!  Let me know what you think.  Any suggestions?

**UPDATE**

So I made this chicken again on Sunday, and it came out perfectly!  I still didn’t grill it, we didn’t have enough propane, but leaving out the bleu cheese made all the difference.  I guess the first time the cheese was melting and burning in the pan, without it the bacon didn’t burn at all.  I still put a little olive oil in the pan though.