Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Split Pea Soup

Winter has been slowly approaching for a few weeks around here, but I think it is officially here and here to stay!  I was cold when I got home from work last night and I felt cold all night.  I knew that I would want something warm to eat when we got home tonight, but had little around the house to make a batch of soup.  I did dig up a bag of dried split peas, so I looked around for a recipe for split pea soup.  What I found was a super easy crockpot recipe.  I was able to put it together in just a few minutes this morning before I left for work and it was ready for us when we got home.  My husband said he could smell the soup before he even opened the front door - what a wonderful way to be greeted home!  We both enjoyed the soup and there is plenty of left overs for lunches this week.  The only modification that I made to the recipe was the diced ham, which I didn't have on hand.  I used a frozen pork bone that was in my freezer from when my husband made homemade sausage, which cooked down and added nice flavor.  We figured out that the whole batch of soup cost less than $3 to make!

Find the recipe here, and enjoy on a cold winters day!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

My brother-in-law and his wife have a beautiful (almost) three year old daughter.  She comes to play with us on Saturdays which is always a lot of fun.  However, it does cut into breakfast preparation time.  That is where the lemon poppyseed muffins from Novembers exchange have come in handy.  I am able to take as many as we want/need out of the freezer, put them straight (still frozen) into the muffin tin, and pop them into the oven.  Twenty minutes later we have warm, homemade breakfast.  The muffins themselves were easy to make on my "cooking day."  I mixed up the batter, added the lemon zest and poppyseeds (the original recipe has several variations), put them into muffin tins that had been lined with cupcake liners, and then popped them into the freezer.  When they were frozen, I transferred them to a large freezer bag and put them back into the freezer.  Nothing simpler than that.  I do think that the next time I make these, I will try them without the cupcake liners.  Once they were baked, the muffin tended to stick to the liner.  Otherwise, these were a hit (even with our niece!)  And they pair well with a nice Saturday morning cup of coffee.  I will be making these again soon to trial the different variations!

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins - rating
Ease of preparation: 5
Freezer Friendliness: 4
Overall Taste: 4
Happy Hubbies: 4

Total rating: 17/20 - We will be making this one again!

Find the recipe here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mexican Lasagna

It is not unusual for Colleen's family and my family to share a meal on Sundays.  It usually happens right after church (lunch).  However this past Sunday we had dinner together.  Colleen had already thawed her Mexican lasagna and was planning on serving it for dinner.  Since it was big enough to serve us all - we joined them.  We love to try new recipes out on each other, so it was nothing new to sit down to the table and not be sure if the meal would be a hit or not.  The Mexican lasagna was a hit - with everyone but Colleen's son (who wanted to pick out the "red things").  Both of our husbands really enjoyed it and agreed that it could be made again.  It did take quite a bit longer to cook in the oven than the recipe said.  Colleen baked it for 45 minutes and it probably could have gone for a full hour because the center was still slightly cold.  I was also disappointed with the rice layer.  I think that next time I will make my own brown rice, add salsa and spices, and use that for the rice layer.  Overall, I would say that this recipe will be reappearing on the menu from time to time!

Mexican Lasagna - rating
Ease of preparation: 3
It did take a bit of work to brown the meat and cook the rice.  But for the night of the meal, all that had to be done was to put it into the oven!
Freezer Friendliness: 4
Held up well in the freezer, but did need extra cooking time to get warm.
Overall Taste: 4
The rice layer needs some modifications.  (I used ground turkey instead of beef)
Happy Hubbies: 4 (from both hubbies!)

Total rating: 15/20 - We will be making this one again!

Find the recipe here and enjoy!   

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

When I saw both chocolate and peanut butter together in a cookie, I knew this recipe was going to be made sooner rather than later. And in the end, I made two batches- my husband insisted after the first bite that we couldn't split the first batch with Marlena. This recipe was super easy and fast. My 3-year-old helped with the mixing of both the cookie and the filling, as well as assembling them into sandwiches. And they are SOOOOOO good! We ate ours from the fridge, and Marlena's family ate them straight from the freezer. Make these today!

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Ease of Preparation- 4 there is a bit of wait time after the cookies bake before they can be assembled. That was annoying only because I had to schedule around it.
Freezer Friendliness- 5Overall Taste- 5 if I could give this a 10 I wouldHappy Hubby- 5 he would give it a 10, too, if he could.
Total rating- 19/20. We just might have to make these every month...

Find the recipe here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cranberry Chicken and Rice

When I saw this recipe, I thought, "This will be perfect for November!" With the cranberries, rice, and chicken it would be a great comfort food. And it was, almost... It was very easy to assemble. I bought some chicken breast in bulk, and threw two of these together while making something else for dinner one night. The only prep that needed to be done is cooking the rice. Other than that, everything just gets layered on: raw chicken, spices, apple juice, and cranberries.

I froze it in Glad ready-for-oven pans, so after thawing in the fridge for a day, into the oven it went. Not sure what I think of those pans; I'm going to have to use them a few more times before I make up my mind. It took 45 minutes for my chicken to be cooked through, 15 minutes longer than the recipe stated.

In the end, my 3-year-old LOVED it. He couldn't get enough of it. It was a bit too tart for my husband and I. It will definitely be in rotation again, but probably with a few modifications; probably a combination of adding more sugar, apples, or sweet potatoes. After Marlena and Noah ate it, they mentioned adding pineapple or oranges to it as well.

Cranberry Chicken and Rice Rating:
Ease of preparation: 4 only because it took longer to cook than anticipated.
Freezer Friendliness: 5
Overall Taste: 4 with a few modifications I think it will be fabulous
Happy Hubby: 3 it was just too tart for his liking. He ended up giving our son all the cranberries.

Total rating: 16/20 We'll be making this one again, altered just a bit.

Find the recipe here.

This was posted by Colleen. Marlena created the post and I have no idea how to change the info below...

Where it all began...

My life changed (for the better) in July of this year with the birth of my first child.  It has been the most amazing experience of my life.  Having the new additon to our family has made me more aware of time - I want to spend all of it that I can with my husband and son (not always in the kitchen cooking!).  It is important to me that we all sit down at the dinner table as a family, especially now that my son is approaching the age that he will be starting solid foods.  I started seeking a way to make dinner time easier.

I looked around the internet for ideas and suggestions.  Then I remembered one of the most wonderful baby gifts that I received.  Not long after we arrived home from the hospital, my best friend (Colleen) gifted me with several freezer meals.  It was so great to have those meals ready to go during those first weeks home.  I discussed with Colleen the idea of starting a meal exchange and she jumped on board.  The idea is that each month we will each prepare a pre-determined number of meals, making double of each one.  She will keep one of each of her meals for her family and give the other one to me.  I will do the same for her.

I was a little nervous about the exchange.  I wasn't sure what the time commitment would be.  Was this something we would be able to manage?  How many meals should we exchange each month?  Would I be able to cook meals that her family would like as well as my family?  I have to say that after just the first month, all of my fears have been put aside.  The first month's exchange (November) was decided to be for one breakfast, two dinners, and one dessert.  I did a bit of prep in recipe searching, grocery list development and shopping.  It took me one Friday evening and a few hours the next Saturday to prep and package all the food.  When it was done, I was on a natural high.  It felt amazing to dedicate a small amount of time to yield a huge reward - healthy, homemade meals for my family that would be quick to prepare and would increase quality family meal time!

We have started to serve these first meals and are seeing good results.  The coming posts will be discussions and reviews of these recipes.  Each meal will be rated on a 20 point scale.
Ease of preparation 1 to 5 points
Freezer friendliness (how well did it hold up in the freezer) 1 to 5 points
Overall taste (as rated by us) 1 to 5 points
Happy Hubby (ratings by our loving husbands) 1 to 5 points.

For the month of November, the following meals were exchanged:
Breakfasts -
Lemon Poppyseed Muffins
Pumpkin Maple Cinnamon Rolls

Dinners -
Mexican Lasagna
Pizza Casserole
Pizza Kits (ground turkey, hawaiian)
Cranberry Chicken Bake

Desserts -
Peanutbutter chocolate cookies
Fruit Crisp

The links to the recipes can be found under the recipes tab at the top of this page.

Please join us as we make the journey to fill our freezers!