Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and Recipes

Howdy friends! It's been Mr. Toad's Wild Ride over here in my head. What Disney world ride have you been living in lately? Usually I'm stuck on the loop of It's a Small World given that I'm with a one-year-old 24-7, but recently, I've been debating whether or not to go back to work part-time. So I've been on the daycare search. Let me tell you how fun that is. I actually wanted to run screaming from one woman's house after she explained loudly (because the television was blaring) that she feeds the children "government food" and that her chiuaua can get mouthy. I'm definitely going to write a post soon about the whole process because I think it's not only a huge decision for a lot of mothers, but one that challenges mothers in a lot of ways.

Speaking of challenging mothers, this is what E has been up to lately:

Climbing on stools and stairs and obsessed with computers. Obsessed.

Getting into precarious positions

We've also been having lots of fun at our movement play class at the YMCA.

And this moment, when getting her up from her naps, is my favorite part of the day.

Update on freezer meals: they're delicious and easy. As long as you make sure you defrost them overnight in time to cook them the next day. I always forget. Still, we have not ordered from the Dominos around the corner. Curses on them and their bready-cheesy aroma that encapsulates my house at 4 p.m. every day. You will NOT get me this month! I will just drink extra wine in order to distract myself.

Many of you requested some of the recipes I used for my freezer meals, so here are the top three I'd like to share:

Tomato Bisque (Aka: I can't believe it's not milk and cream!) Soup:
Seriously, I'm a snob about tomato soup and totally made a face when my MIL gave me this recipe. I was so wrong. This is now the only tomato soup I will ever eat. It is that good. Serves 6

3 Cups carrot juice
1 28oz can of San Marzano whole tomatoes (or whatever brand you like best)
1/4 C sun dried tomatoes, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small bay leaf
pinch of saffron (optional)
1 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp Mrs. Dash
1/2 c raw cashews (or 1/4 c cashew butter)
1/4 c chopped fresh basil
5 oz baby spinach

In large saucepan, combine all ingredients except the cashews, basil, and spinach. Simmer for 30 min. Discard bay leaf. Remove 2 cups of the veggies with slotted spoon and set aside. Puree the remaining soup and cashews in food processor or blender until smooth. Return reserved veggies to the pot and stir in basil, spinach and let the spinach wilt.

Kale with Cashew Cream Sauce (with no actual cream in it - booyah!):
Serves 4

2 larges bunches of kale, stems and center ribs removed
1 cup of raw cashews, or 1/2 cup of cashew butter
1 cup of almond milk, soy, or hemp milk (uh, does anyone actually drink hemp?)
1/4 cup of onion flakes
1 Tbsp Mrs. Dash
Steam kale for 15 min. While kale is steaming, blend cashews, milk, onion flakes, and Mrs. Dash in blender or food processor 'til smooth and creamy. When kale is done, press it with paper towels or clean cloth to remove excess water, chop and mix with sauce. Easy peasy.

Hoisin Pork Tenderloin:
This freezes really well. I thought it was more delicious after being frozen for awhile. Serves 4

1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp sliced green onions
2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves
1 (1 lb) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large Ziploc bag; add pork to bag. Seal and marinate in fridge for 2 hours (or freeze for later cooking). Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pork on roasting pan coated with cooking spray and bake at 425 for 15 min. Sprinkle pork with sesame seeds; bake an additional 5 minutes or until thermometer registers 160 (slightly pink). Place pork on cutting board; let stand for 10 min. Meanwhile, pour reserved marinade into a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to 1/3 cup (about 2 minutes). Serve with pork. Note: I found there wasn't any reserved marinade left after defrosting the pork from the freezer. So next time I'm gonna make more marinade.

Hope some of you readers out there try them out and report back on your amazement. :)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Freezer Meals, My Way

A major resolution I made for 2012 is to get meal planning and cooking into a zen-like place for my family. Hand-in-hand goes making food that's healthier and easy to throw together. I'm sure I'm the first mom ever to tackle this never-ending saga of "what's for dinner," so I thought I'd put together a little blog post sharing my process of making meals to freeze.

First, I checked out a few websites for resource information. Here was very helpful for thinking about what I want to store my food in (i.e., foil baking pans, freezer bags, crockpot liners, ovenware, etc.), and, more importantly, how to approach your own recipes for the freezer.

I've done those meal assembly deals where you pay for a package of meals and then go into the store and prep them yourself for the freezer. They can be a great first step toward having lots of meals in the freezer for your family, and it even saves you from having to plan the grocery list and prep and cook the food. However, you can certainly do it cheaper if you can set aside a few more hours. After doing it a few times, I'm sure it'll go a lot faster, too.

After sifting through a few other websites here and here, I sat down with my cookbooks and recipe cards to pull out meals that A) I knew we'd eat, and B) were conducive to freezing. We're big salad eaters, but darn if they don't get soggy after defrosting. Har, har, har.

I should also add that we try to follow the Paleo diet for optimal health, but we are still easing into it and therefore cheese and grains do get thrown in there once in awhile. But a lot of these meals are Paleo-friendly. Here's the list of meals I came up with and ended up preparing:

  1. Tomato Bisque Soup (8 meals) - base is carrot juice and cashews, but it is to.die.for!
  2. Sirloin Stir-Fry (4 meals)
  3. Mustard Dill Salmon (3 meals)
  4. Hoisin Pork Tenderloin (1 meal) - Hoisin sauce has sugar, need to find one w/o
  5. Sante Fe Chicken (2 meals) - does have a wee bit of honey in the marinade
  6. Turkey Meatloaf (1 meal) - breadcrumbs are whole wheat and there's no sugar, aka, Ketsup
  7. Healthy Lasagna (2 pans) - made w/ ff cottage cheese, whole wheat noodles, and part-skim mozzerella
  8. Steamed Kale with Cashew Sauce (8 meals as side dish) - also TDF
  9. Green-Chile Chicken Enchiladas (1 pan) - this will be for hard days or a weekend night
  10. 2 Organic Chickens to cook and shred (saved and froze stock) - perfect to throw into a salad or add to the bisque for more protein
That's 26 meals, not including the shredded chicken and kale. Now, we won't be eating these straight in a row for 26 days, but it sure fills up a big chunk of the monthly calendar. I'd say that's a good start for my first attempt and keeping things healthy. None of these meals were found in a "freezer meal" section of a cook book. I simply looked at the recipe and figured out how far I could prep the meal before needing to freeze it while also considering what I needed to do once I thawed it. For example, the salmon was the easier, by far. I bought a large piece of salmon, cut it into approximately 6 oz side portions, made the mustard dill marinade, brushed it on top of the salmon, then wrapped it up in foil, stuck two in a freezer bag and labeled the outside. For the Sirloin Stir-Fry, I cut the meat into small chunks, seasoned it with chinese 5 spice, and threw it into a small freezer bag. Then after rinsing and cutting the veggies (red bell pepper, broccoli, snap peas, carrots, mushrooms) I loaded them into a gallon freezer bag. Finally, I made the sauce and put it in a quart size freezer bag, and along with the meat bag, put it into the gallon bag with the veggies. All in one freezer bag, but sectioned off into separate baggies for thawing and cooking separately.

Something I need to get better at is finding recipes that share more ingredients so that the prep gets easier. My recipes were pretty different from one another, so I made these over the course of two days (thanks to my MIL who watched E the whole time).

Okay, now the fun part where I show my loot!

Ah, a freezer full of healthy food! What a great way to start off the New Year, huh?

If anyone wants the recipes to some or all of these, just let me know and I'll get them to you somehow. I hope I've inspired someone out there to freeze up some meals in order to free up some time. It's worth it!