Archive for February, 2010

Freezer Stockpile: Chicken Galore!

I made three different things (just so far!) from two whole chickens this week.  Hold onto your hats, ’cause this is going to be a long post.  First, I roasted the two chickens (which incidentally, I got for the awesome price of two for $0.79 a pound at Winco, which is less than $7 for five meals worth of meat and a ton of broth!).  Then we ate roasted chicken and salad for dinner.  After I put Clara to bed, I spent about half an hour shredding the rest of the chicken.  I packed that up into four portions: one for chicken and rice soup and three for the freezer for chicken salad sandwiches and teriyaki chicken after Nancy is born.  But, that’s not all!  Finally, I used the chicken carcass (that is a crazily gross sounding word!) and made 16 cups of chicken broth (the equivalent of eight cans) for the freezer and for the above mentioned chicken and rice soup.  Whew!  I’m tired just reliving it.  Things that I learned… 1)  I need a new battery for my instant read thermometer and I hate the huge one that you can leave in the oven.  I don’t think it works.  2)  Your hands really can smell like chicken for hours.  3) I can’t sleep with the smell of chicken broth wafting up the stairs (not that I can sleep much with a baby squashing my bladder anyway), so next time I will start the broth in the morning. Recipes follow!!

Roasted Chicken (From The New Best Recipe)
Two whole chickens, with the innards taken out (don’t forget!)
1 C. salt (divided)
4 quarts cold water (divided)
4 T. melted butter
salt and pepper

1) Dissolve half a cup of salt in 2 quarts water in two different large pots. Submerge one chicken in each pot and allow to bathe for at least one hour, up to four.
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2) Preheat oven with the roasting pan in it to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, brush chickens with melted butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. When the oven is preheated, put your chickens carefully in your roasting pan, wing side up. Prop them up with tin foil balls if neccessary.
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3) Bake for 15 minutes, then flip to have the other wing up. Bake for 15 more minutes, then rotate chickens breast up, lose the tin foil balls, and raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake until a thermometer reads 170 in the thigh. This took about another hour for me, but the cookbook says only half an hour. You can never believe them.
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4) Carve one chicken and eat dinner. After dinner, when everything has cooled, use your fingers to shred all the chicken meat. Make a huge pile ’cause it looks like you’ve accomplished something.
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5) Freeze in two cup portions in Ziplock bags. Just take one out and thaw on the counter for about two hours, then add into any dish that calls for cooked chicken. I plan to make chicken salad with mayonnaise, banana peppers, celery, and green onions, and also teriyaki chicken with teriyaki sauce, frozen stir fry veggies, and brown rice.

Homemade Chicken Broth

One or two chicken carcasses
onion, chopped largely
carrots, chopped largely
celery, chopped largely
three cloves garlic
1 T. basil
1 T. oregano
Two bay leaves

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1) Dump everything into your crockpot. Fill with as much water as you can get in there. The more water, the more broth you’ll end up with. Cook on low for at least five hours, or until you wake up at 4:00 am and have to turn it off before you can go back to sleep.

2) Allow to cool. Drain broth off into a very large bowl and throw away (or feed to the chickens… I only gave them the veggies, not the bones ’cause that seemed like cannibalism) the solids. Refrigerate.

3) Skim the fat off of the top of the broth. Ladle two cup portions into Ziplock bags (I like to put the bag into a large coffee mug with the top of the bag spread over the rim so that I don’t have to hold the bag open while trying not to slosh broth all over the counter). Freeze flat until solid, then move where ever they fit best.

Chicken and Rice Soup (adapted from A Year of Slowcooking)
8 cup of homemade chicken broth (see above)
1 cup of uncooked brown rice
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (see above)
1/2 a small sweet potato, chopped finely
1 onion, chopped finely
1 bell pepper, chopped finely,
handful of baby carrots, chopped
one cup frozen peas
1 T. basil
salt and pepper to taste after cooking

1) Dump everything into the crockpot. Cook on high for about five hours.

2) Taste to see if it needs salt. It will. Trust me. Anything you make with your homemade stock will need it. No doubt. Add some. It will still have a lot less sodium than the canned version.

3) Serve with Angel Biscuits (sooo yummy!).

4) Freeze half the pot and a dozen biscuits for another meal!!
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Cherry Blossoms

It’s cherry blossom time in PDX!!  Yeah!  And its only February.  I’m taking that as a good sign.  I am ready for spring, so expect a bunch of spring crafts and garden blogs on here as March wears on.  It can’t hurt to pretend that it really is right around the corner.

Last week as Clara and I were walking home from her friend Oliver’s house, the trees were just absolutely beautiful.  I may have broke out my Leatherman from my purse and liberated a few little branches for my dining room centerpiece.  Just a few.  I wish that these gorgeous flowers would last longer, but they can only stick around a few days inside.  So, Clara and I made our own tree this morning.

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Materials: one piece of construction paper, tree shape cut out of a Cheerios box, pink tissue paper cut into squares, glue

Directions: This project is pretty much like a collage (and we all know what a big hit those are), with the added bonus that you get to crumple paper! Woo hoo! Glue the tree trunk onto the construction paper. Squirt glue all over (everyone’s favorite step!). Then crumple up the tissue paper and stick it to the glue!!
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That’s it! This project is terribly easy (can you tell I’m into easy crafts right now?) and was a huge hit. I think I’ll try it out with a group of kids next week, since it was so easy. Oh! And I got my inspiration for this from my favorite little kids craft blog, No Time For Flashcards, which you should totally check out if you’re interested in those sorts of things.
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Freezer Stockpile: Taco Mac!

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This was a really easy freezer stockpile meal. Probably the easiest I’m going to make. It made three meals worth.    And it was good!  Adam added more salsa to his, but he likes stuff to be really saucy.  Clara had four bites and then wanted to go play, but I think that had more to do with her mood than the food.  She loves noodles.  I modified from this Taco Mac recipe to make it fit my criteria for healthy meals.

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 red bell peppers
2 T. freshly ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. salt
1 lb. whole wheat elbow macaroni
3 c. homemade chicken stock (check for the recipe next week)
2 c. water
5 c. salsa
2 c. frozen corn
1 c. shredded cheese
1. Brown ground beef, bell pepper, and onion. Drain. Stir in seasonings.
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2. Add noodles, stock, salsa, and water to the skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until noodles are tender, about 15 – 20 minutes. I had a little trouble with sticking, so make sure to scrape the bottom.
3. Stir in corn until heated through. Serve topped with cheese.  I froze without the cheese so that if I have to go dairy free while breast-feeding, we can just add cheese to the bowls of those who still get to eat the good stuff.

Lacing Shoes!

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Our theme for the rest of the month in our little preschool is dressing.  There are not a huge amount of crafts to make with this theme, especially since I made paper dolls with them a couple of months ago.  So, I racked my brain.  I have been trying to work with Clara on her fine motor skills.  She has a really hard time with lacing and with putting little beads and things on pipe cleaners… totally things that her peers can do.  So, I thought that maybe a little peer pressure would help her to get going on it.  Modeling off of these lacing cards, I made my own.

Materials:
Colorful card stock
Ribbon
Tape
Glue
Hole punch

1) Trace around a toddler shoe on your card stock. Next to that, draw a circle with one flatish side to mimic a foot hole. Make more than one in different colors.
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2) Cut both out and glue a contrasting colored foot hole to each one.
3) Punch four to six holes along the sides of the shoe.
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4) Cut ribbon and tape the ends of each end to make threading easier.
5) Put out some markers and give each child a shoe and a lace. Let them go to town!

My favorite part was after the kids were done, they all tried to put the shoes on their feet and strap them on with the laces. It was too cute. All of the kids were able to lace them on their own… except for Clara. Daddy helped her some and then she was able to do a few holes herself, but the peer pressure to do it didn’t really work on her. Oh well, I’ll keep trying.

Freezer Stockpile: Black bean, rice and cheese enchiladas

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Here is my first freezer stockpile recipe! It’s a pretty easy, but I still feel like I was cooking all day due to the fact that I had to make beans and rice, too. But, once those two things were finished, putting together the enchiladas only took about half an hour. We ate one pan for dinner and I froze two other pans and a bag of beans and rice for future burritos! Woo hoo! Below are the recipes for enchiladas, black bean, and spanish rice.

Black Bean, Rice, and Cheese Enchiladas

1 recipe black beans

1 recipe spanish rice

1 large can green enchilada sauce (I’m going to follow a lead on jarred enchilada sauce soon… I will update if its true!)

20 large tortillas

2 lbs. cheddar cheese, grated (I grated in the food processor… to only took about three minutes!)
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1. Spray three 8×11 inch pans with pan spray. Spread about half a cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of each pan.

2.  Place a tortilla in the pan, then fill with about a half cup beans, half cup rice, and a quarter cup cheese.

3.  Roll up the tortillas and continue until there are about six in each pan.

4.  Divide remaining sauce among the three pans and spread it across each rolled tortilla.  Sprinkle with cheese.

5.  Freeze.  When ready to cook, defrost and bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and hot, about 30 minutes.

6.  Any left over rice and beans can make great burritos, too!!

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Black Beans

1 pound black beans, washed and picked over for stones

2 quarts water

1 medium onion, chopped

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus additional for garnish if desired

Salt, preferably kosher salt, to taste

1. Soak the beans in the water for at least six hours. If they will be soaking for a long time in warm weather, put them in the refrigerator.

2. In a dutch oven*, add the onion, half the garlic, drained beans, and enough water to cover by about one inch. Add more water later if necessary (different brands of beans soak up more or less water).  Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for one hour.

3. Add the salt, remaining garlic and cilantro. Continue to simmer another hour, until the beans are quite soft.  Take the lid off to thicken up the broth for the last half hour to hour if you would like.  Taste. Is there enough salt? Does it need more garlic? Add if necessary. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator for the best flavor or freeze immediately.  Freeze in 2 cup portions for up to three months with a bit of the broth.

*Can also be made in the crockpot.  Simmer on low for 5-8 hours, or until beans are soft.

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Spanish Rice

2 1/2 cups salsa (from a jar!)

3 1/2 cups water

3 cups brown rice

1.  Bring salsa and water to a boil.

2.  Add rice and stir.  Simmer on low for 40 minutes.

Freezer Stockpile Calendar!

Thank you to everyone who posted their ideas!  I forgot to mention two little constraints that I had in making this list.  The first is that I have a husband (who I adore, mind you) who is very opinionated about the dinner menu in this house.  So, if it didn’t make the cut, it’s because one or the other of us has vetoed it.  For instance, I would fill the freezer all with beef stew, but neither Adam nor Clara would go for it.  So, it’s automatically vetoed.

The other restraint that I have imposed upon myself is that I really do not want to use canned goods in my meals.  Cans (meaning the aluminum things you have to open with a can opener) in the U.S. contain BPA.  I won’t bore you too much with my soapbox about why we shouldn’t eat things that are stored in BPA, but I will give you one little paragraph from the December 2009 article “Concern over canned foods” from Consumer Reports:

“A 165-pound adult eating one serving of canned green beans from our sample, which averaged 123.5 ppb, could ingest about 0.2 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight per day, about 80 times higher than our experts’ recommended daily upper limit.  And children eating multiple servings of canned foods with BPA levels comparable the ones we found in some tested products could get a dose of BPA approaching levels that have caused adverse effects in several animal studies (p. 55).”

So, for that reason, recipes with canned goods are out, but if I can find an easy enough suitable substitute I will do that.  For instance, I don’t mind too much cooking my own dried beans and freezing them to get away from using canned beans.  Nor do I mind making my own broth, both of which are on my freezer plan below.  The only things that I have a hard time giving up are enchilada sauce (which for some reason you cannot buy in a jar!) and coconut milk.  If anyone has sources for these things that are not canned, please share the secret!  It would make me ecstatic!

Without further ado, here is the freezer stockpile calendar!  I will try to post the recipe and how it went on the day listed.  Which means I have until that day to make it, freeze it, and blog it.  You guys are going to help keep me on track and motivated, right?  So check back in for any recipe that looks interesting to you and I will give you the full report.  Enchiladas coming right up!

Freezer Stockpile Calendar~

2/13~ Crockpot beans to stock the freezer and Bean, rice, and cheese enchiladas, plus extra bean and rice mix to make burritos with for lunches and/or a dinner

2/20~ Taco Mac

2/27~  Roasted chicken and crockpot chicken broth to stock the freezer and Chicken and Brown Rice Soup

3/6~  Beef Stroganoff

3/13~  Zesty slow cooker chicken (http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Zesty-Slow-Cooker-Chicken-Barbecue/Detail.aspx)

3/20~ V-8 Chili

Freezer Stockpile

Eight weeks until d-day.  My due date, that is.  The first time around, I was surprised by how little cooking I was able to do.  Babies somehow have an innate ability to know a) when you’re especially tired, b) when you are hungry, and c) when it is dinner time.  It never fails that “the witching hour” is exactly when you need to be cooking.

Thank God my mother stayed with us for a couple of weeks when Clara was born.  While I am hopeful that Nancy will be a calm little girl who only wants to sit on the counter and watch me cook, I am not going to hold my breath.  I will not be caught unaware this time.  Each week for the next eight weeks I am going to double a dinner and freeze it for after the baby is born.  I am looking for suggestions from all of you who read my blog (I know that someone besides my mother, mother-in-law, and sister read this)… yes, that means you.

What are your favorite make and freeze meals?  Please comment and post recipes if possible!

In the next few days I will make a freezer food plan and each week I will update with a photo of the pre-frozen dish all made.  Therefore, you too will have recipes and ideas for your freezer.  Please play this game with me!! 🙂