Category Archives: cooking

Mass Cooking

One thing I love about blogs is all the great ideas and information you can learn from them! Not from mine obviously, but all the cooking, organizing, homemaking-type blogs I read give me more ideas than I know what to do with sometimes.

Working night shifts has made it difficult for John and I to get any sort of routine going because well, we just don’t have a routine! My weekly schedule is always changing and with my sleep schedule being even more hay-wire, you just never know when dinner will be on the table. Thanks to my hungry husband (and very merciful to his sometimes lazy wife!), we just about always have something on the table, and lately it’s been 75% prepared by the hubs. I know, he’s great, isn’t he? :) He’s the king of eggs-in-a-hole (Thanks to Pioneer Woman’s cookbook!) and of gourmet salads (all courtesy of the amazing prices at Costco!).

But really, I do like to cook and want to do that for me and my husband, so the other day I tried out something new. I cooked four of our favorite freezable dinners in one night! Seemed strange to both me and John since I haven’t cooked a meal in probably at least a couple weeks. Although it took me a little longer than I planned (and we did end up going to church on empty stomachs because I also threw in a jog with the dog in the midst of it all, oops!), but I think it’s something I will do again but hopefully not for a couple weeks! (Yes I am the queen of run-on sentences!)

The four meals I cooked:
1. Chili con turkey (a very healthy chili that we’ve enjoyed for a couple years from a diet book of John’s)
2. White mexican hotdish, but it was brown in our case since we used brown rice instead of white (from the lovely and talented Heidi)
3. Fiesta chicken enchiladas (from kraft magazine)
4. Italian hotdish (from one of my women’s church group leaders).

I finally put all my Pyrex baking dishes and Corningware to good use! But I keep forgetting about the super cute new red Fiestaware baking dish I got for my birthday… that’ll be used next time. :)

One of the best parts of this mass cooking idea (actually it was called Once-a-Month cooking, but I haven’t gotten that good at planning quite yet), is that you only have to dirty your kitchen (and I mean really dirty) once every couple weeks or once every month, you only really need to clean a big sink full of dishes every so often, you only use your oven for a couple hours, you don’t get tempted to buy fast food or take out so much because you know that there’s always something already prepared, and of course, dinner is ready in 10 minutes without any prep every night for at least a couple weeks!

Here’s a link to Frugal Mom dot net’s once-a-month cooking information, and even a way to buy her comprehensive guide (something I MIGHT invest in).

And another blog I just found, actually, about this topic which looks to be a good read!

I still have so much to learn, but at least now I’ll have food in my tummy to get me through reading up over the next couple weeks!

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Visit to Iowa

John, Max, and I made a trip down to Iowa this weekend to visit sister Jen and her husband Jerod and their new (old) house! It was a quick but very relaxing and enjoyable time. They sure spoiled us rotten with all homemade meals and a beautiful home. I love the old charm of their house and neighborhood. Although our house is new and will probably not have as many problems spring up over the years, there’s just something so unique and cozy about old houses that I’ll always love. Max spent most of the weekend in their basement or outside so that he wouldn’t tumble about and ruin their beautiful original hardwood floors and many breakable pieces throughout the house, but he actually probably got more walks and exercise than he usually does at home! We probably won’t bring him there again though until he’s a little older and calmer and has learned not to jump and sprint when he’s excited. Someday, I hope!

So now we’re back home, which actually really feels like “home” for the first time, I’d say. I have the next three nights off (including tonight), so I hope to use it wisely to get some things done around the house. Like paint the second and final coat in our big living room and then maybe, just maybe, paint our kitchen GREEN! I’m excited to have some color in our kitchen, but I am a little nervous with the color we got, that it might be a bit too bold. It’s called ‘green energy’… so we’ll just wait and see. I’ll try and post pictures this week after I get the rooms all done. We’ll probably be painting our cabinets white/cream eventually (I know many of you don’t want me to but we just really like it a lot better than brown!), so the picture won’t be of the finished look. We are also hoping to update the hardware on the cabinets eventually. So many little projects which can easily feel overwhelming, but we’re trying to just take it slow and enjoy it!

Speaking of enjoying things that usually stress me out, after spending time with Jen and Jerod and seeing how much they enjoy and try to cook fresh meals at home, I am truly inspired and encouraged to do more of the same. I’ve already got a couple of my very underused cookbooks sitting on the kitchen table for me to look through tonight and plan a couple meals for these next few days. I’ll admit, with all the convenient meals (which aren’t fresh but are usually still much healthier than fast-food) that I find at places like Trader Joes, it’s sometimes hard to get my lazy self to cook up homemade meals. Also, with only two people to cook for it sometimes seems pointless. And let’s face it, I struggle with laziness (don’t we all? please say you do too!). But I’m challenging myself to cook meals from scratch more frequently so that I can eventually cook without feeling clueless and stressed when I do cook. I want it to become second nature to make things like omelets and stir-fries. Plus, I hear it’s also better for you to cook at home with fresh ingredients?? :)

Well, I better get to work with all these goals I have for myself! Hope you all had a good weekend!

(As a side note, I should be getting a new computer soon! Then I can blog more often AND post pictures! My laptop won’t even upload pictures anymore, it just freezes up. Looking forward to being able to again!)


Lonely Ingredients

So I have cupboards full of random and seemingly necessary ingredients that, of course, I haven’t used much of, if at all. I really hate to waste, and I love the feeling you get when you know you’ve used what you’ve bought wisely, but for some reason, I’ve struggled to find use for so much of what I’ve invested in over the last year and a half (since getting married and having a kitchen!).

So, please, help me out. Take a look at my list below and then take a second or two to tell me any ideas you may have for me. Any recipes you know of or just simple ideas for integrating them in simple meals or snacks, or. . .whatever!

PLEASE. I BEG OF YOU. HELP!

And thanks. :)

Now to the list:

Dijon mustard
Hoisin sauce
red wine vinegar
white wine vigegar (I blame my sister for these two items! Hehe, love you Jen!)
cooking wines- white, sherry, and (I think) red
Hot sauce, both Chalula and Tabasco
Chicken stock/broth
Beef broth
Cous cous
Corn meal
Dry ranch dressing mix
Old Bay seasoning
Wild rice
Brown rice
Various pastas (like ziti)
TONS of frozen veggies-  broccoli, corn, mixed veggies, peppers
Canned items like:
diced tomatoes
black beans
red kidney beans
whole kernal corn
tomato sauce
tomato paste
tomato soup

And a few more perishable items that need to be used ASAP:
Russet potatoes
Carrots
Onions
Celery (this will get used up anyhow, it’s so good with peanut butter!)

Sigh.

I think that’s it. This feels a little embarrassing to post, and kinda makes me feel like the spoiled foolish newlywed, but whatever, I’m calling out for help! A lot of the sauces/broths/wines were needed for a single recipe, but now I’m left clueless on what to do with them, not wanting to make that one recipe a gazillion times.

So go ahead. Brainstorm and give me some feedback.
THANKS!


Crockpot Salsa Chicken

Here is a super easy and tasty recipe I got from a friend at work. She also blogs and has a cute cooking blog here. I cooked this up while I was out of the “house” for our usual Sunday business (church, small group) and it was ready when we got home! Super easy and pretty darn tasty too! Maybe not the most healthy, but not bad either! You’ll have to try it.

Here goes:

4 Frozen Chicken Breasts (I actually had mine already thawed and it worked just fine)
1/2 a packet of Taco Seasoning
1 can of Cream of Chicken soup
1/2 a jar of salsa

Spray crock pot with some non-stick spray and then put all ingredients in the crock pot. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

Top with grated cheddar cheese and/or sour cream. Eat with flour tortilla or tortilla chips (we ate it with some blue corn tortilla chips).  I served it with plain old cooked brown rice with the sauce and grated cheese on top.

Love these one-pot recipes! Enjoy!


Gruyere and Gouda

My lovely mother recently gifted me with some 10 yr old cooking magazines that were collecting dust in her basement. This post describes my first journey through one of the Cuisine recipes:

Tonight I made a super yummy (and not so healthy) gourmet version of the staple mac ‘n cheese. Didn’t realize that I’d be contrasting it so nicely with our Kraft 87 cent mac ‘n cheese that we enjoyed last night! This one had, as the subject says, some real good cheeses. I should have thought more about the price of this meal, but now that I know, I won’t be cooking it again for just any old meal.

Husband helped grate the cheese while I sauteed the shallots in butter and then added some flour, chicken stock and heavy whipping cream… yum. Then of course, the macaroni and the cheeeese.  I did totally forget to buy the fresh chives… I always seem to forget one main ingredient. I’m still new at this though!

Topped it off with some home-made sourdough bread crumbs (with butter and salt of course!).  It’s quite fun to actually make bread crumbs from scratch, as lame as it really is when you think about it. Not like I’m making the bread, but I did shove it into my food processor! Now that’s hard work! 

We only allowed ourselves one small bowl each (out of a 6 serving dish), and our stomachs now feel like we have a growing child in them, but we’re much more motivated to hit the gym in the morning, so maybe this meal was a good thing?

I’d like to think so… in moderation.


Firsts

Some firsts that I’ve experienced in the last couple days:

-bought my first pair of dark denim jeans! I love them!

-had my first eye exam since I was a kid (I believe), and what do you know, I found out I don’t, in fact, have the perfect vision I always thought I had. Lately I’ve noticed I’ve been squinting more, so when I went with my husband today for his eye exam, I asked if they had room in the doc’s schedule if he could take a look at my eyes and they had room for me. During the exam I was amazed that when the optometrist changed his little machine around, I could see better suddenly! I’ve never ever experienced that, so it was pretty cool. So, I got a prescription (apparently a pretty simple one… I’m a little far-sided and have a slight astigmatism). John and I both picked out out a pair (with a little tension when I really did not like the ones John wanted for himself)… and we should have them within a week! It’s very weird to think that I’ll be wearing glasses… I’ve been the only one in my family (besides my dad) who hasn’t had glasses for a long time. I’m kinda excited though! I really liked the ones I picked out. Pictures to come sometime soon!

-had my first experience shopping at Trader Joe’s today. In case you haven’t heard  of it, it’s basically a privately owned grocery store, yet there are lots of locations around the country, and they don’t have big name brand stuff but have mostly their own packaged foods which (I think) are all-natural. They also seemed to have a lot of organic foods. I’ve heard so many positive things about it from friends so we tried it out. Doesn’t have the variety or selection I’d like, but it’s nice that they have your basic essentials (plus some) and at reasonable prices, most often cheaper than Target or Cub! 

-and the last one, I’ll be making fish tacos for the first time tonight, and, Lord willing, eating fish tacos for the first time tonight as well! Apparently they’re really yummy? My mom obviously never thought so when I was growing up… never even heard of them until I left college. 

My life’s been pretty exciting, huh? ;) 

Another first that’s coming up… we’re having my sister and my new brother-in-law stay at our place on Saturday night after our cousin’s wedding. First time we’ve ever had a couple stay over with us, and first time we’ll really get to hang out with Jen and Jerod since they’ve been married! Last time we hung out they were busy moving stuff, so it should be fun this weekend. :)


It’s a Miracle!

I passed my NCLEX-RN!!!! :D  This is the nursing boards exam that allows me to actually practice as a registered nurse! I took it yesterday morning and was 100% sure that I had failed. Yesterday was rough because I had to wait until this morning to find out if I passed or not. I’m sooooo excited!!! It’s a miracle from the LORD that I passed, because I felt like I guessed on half the questions. It was very difficult!! But apparently they think I’m competent enough to be a nurse now, and I’m happy with that! :)  God sure did answer a lot of prayers by having me pass!

Sorry I haven’t posted in a month. I’ve been studying and doing random other things since then, like going to the MN Zoo with my mom and my brother’s kids, going to my sister’s bridal shower, going to my cousin’s wedding reception… well, not that much really, but the past two weeks have pretty much been strictly studying. Now that I’m “free” from the burden of studying, I can do things like write in my blog again! Yippee! Oh and laundry, I get to do that again! ;) My husband will like that. He goes through clothes faster than I can clean them. Since we moved here, what, three months ago? I haven’t been able to catch up with laundry.

So, next week is my older sister’s (my only sister) wedding!!! It’s out in Massachusetts where her and her fiance met and live. They’ll be moving to Iowa after they get married because her husband will start working at Grinnell College, cool huh? Which means, they’ll be MUCH closer to us and the rest of the family! I’m psyched about that! :)  I’m glad that I passed my boards too so that next week I don’t feel down about it, but can just let go and enjoy the week. We’ll be staying in Boston for a day just to tour around, since we have never been there, and then on Wednesday we’ll head over to mid-MA where the festivities will take place and have a couple days before the wedding on Friday. One minor detail… I haven’t been fitting into my bridesmaid dress all that well lately, so I’ve put myself on a bit of a temporary restriction from all things sweet/carb-y…. cakes, cookies, crackers, pretzels, etc. And, I’m going to work out like nutso these next few days before we leave. Hopefully it will be enough to squeeze me into the dress!! It’s very pretty!

Off to eat the turkey chili that I just cooked up…. at 8:30am. :) We had no milk and I hardly ate anything yesterday, so I figured a nice healthy hearty meal/breakfast was in order. I like cooking a lot too, so it’s  kinda a way to celebrate.  :)

My nursing job starts on the 21st! Can’t wait!!