Thursday, February 20, 2014

Food Prep Day

One of the things I get asked a lot deals with the amount of time that I spend cooking and how I find the time to make so much food from scratch. I also get asked how much time I spend cooking each day. I'm not going to lie, switching over to eating real foods did take some getting used to and at first I was overwhelmed by how long it took me to do everything. But the longer you do something, the faster it becomes and you learn time saving tips as you go. 

I will share some of my other tips:

MENU PLANNING I wrote more about meal planning in the post below, but I do consider this my number one time saver. Knowing what I am having through the week allows me to do prep work one time for multiple meals. If I know that I need chopped onions for three different meals, I can go ahead and chop three onions while I am preparing for that first meal, it only takes a couple of extra minutes and I only have to wash my cutting board and knife once, not three different times. Not only does that save time it also gives me less dishes to wash! 

BULK COOKING If I am at all able I will make extras of something so that I can freeze part of them. If I make waffles, I make extra and some go in the freezer. I let them cool, then wrap them in wax paper and place into a freezer bag. Lots of prepared foods can be frozen and if I am not sure, I search on Google "do waffles freeze well?" and can find the answer pretty quickly. I then have the convenience of  the processed foods that I gave up, and I have the peace of mind of knowing that the food is prepared with ingredients that I want in my body.

FOOD PREP DAY I have one day a week that I put some effort into preparing food to be eaten on those crazy days that I don't have a lot of time to cook, don't feel like cooking, or if I am just having a bad pain day and am unable to cook. I usually plan at least one meal a week that can be easily doubled or tripled. We will eat one of those meals on the night they are planned, and the other one or two meals go in the freezer to be eaten at a later time.

Another food prep day may include a canning project. I can throughout the year and the majority of my canning is done seasonally. Since nothing is coming in during the winter months, I focus on canning things like soups, chili, meat that I find on sale and different types of  beans. This week I will be making a batch of pork and beans to go in the pantry. 

Sometimes my food prep might be making a dessert item. If I make a full batch of a dessert we either eat too much of it or part of it gets thrown away. On a food prep day I might make a couple of batches of  different cookies. I will use my scoop to measure out the cookie dough and then freeze them on a cookie sheet in a single layer. When they are frozen I will put them in a freezer bag and I can pull out enough to make for dessert that night without having too much of it sitting around. 

These tips help me save time and still allows us to have food prepared with real ingredients and allows me to have my own stash of "fast food". If you know me personally, you know that I deal with a chronic pain condition and sometimes I have flare ups that leave me unable to stand for very long. In the past, when this would happen I would call my husband and he would pick up dinner at a drive through which kind of defeats our goal of giving up processed foods. Since I have meals in jars or in the freezer, I can now get a home coked meal on the table quicker than he can go to the drive through and with almost no effort on my part. (In his defense, he could cook dinner, but we would be eating dinner pretty late by the time he got home and got dinner going).

My next post will be how I keep up with all the food in the freezer!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Meal Planning

This is the memo board that is on my fridge that I use for menu planning. There is space for each day for me to list what is for dinner. I like this board too, because it has that extra space on the left side. To keep me for forgetting about leftovers, I write what is in there to choose from so that I am not throwing away food. We both eat leftovers and leftovers typically make up our lunches. I only plan for five meals generally and that leaves two nights open for leftovers, a meal out or a fend for yourself night.

I try and plan out meals a week in advance. I do this for several reasons:

***I am not one that can shop on the fly. If I go to the grocery store without a plan and a list, I will spend twice as much and be missing at least one major ingredient for each meal I would try and make. 

*** I spend way less money at the store if I have a list in hand. I still pick up any bargains I find and I usually have an impulse purchase or two, but shopping with a list helps me stay within my budget.

***It saves me time. It doesn't take me that long to plan for the week, I do it all at once so there is no "what's for dinner tonight?", because I have already decided. It also allows me to combine prep work. If I know I am going to use brown rice twice that week, I can make it once and then I am one step ahead of dinner later in the week. In the menu above, I have pulled pork sandwiches and BBQ Chicken Pizza scheduled. I will be making BBQ sauce for both, but I will just make extra sauce the first time so assembling the pizza later in the week will be pretty quick.

We use Cozi for our shared calendar, meal planning, recipe storage and shopping lists. The one thing that really sold me on this system is the meal planning. I can enter my recipes, drag them to the calendar to plan meals, then with one click I can add the ingredients to my shopping list. And because we both have the app on our phones, if Kip goes to the store, he can see the list and doesn't have to call and I don't have to text him a huge list.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Food Basket

This is my Bountiful Basket from the weekend. I love that I get these baskets on Saturdays. Since I plan our meals for the week on Sundays, it is easier to make sure nothing gets forgotten. I also picked up a basket for my in-laws and when I dropped it off they were excited about everything except the asparagus. Score for me, I got an extra bunch! I can't say enough good things about my in-laws, but it dawned on me as I was putting my produce away here at the house, I know I have brought asparagus to their house before for some family dinner, I will have to remember that one. 

So on my menu this week from the basket will be: 
broccoli, chopped for salads
steamed broccoli for a side dish, 
zucchini stir fried with some onions and some was frozen for later, 
blackberries for blackberry pie filling ( I bought a case of them )
cucumbers for salads and snacking,
lettuce for salads, on burgers and sandwiches,
steamed asparagus (TWICE!)
leeks for soup and to dehydrate for later,
lots of fruit for snacking!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pizza Seasoning

I normally make and can my own pizza sauce, but since I go through it pretty quick, I like to keep this back up seasoning handy. If you have read the posts below, you have seen some of the other spice mixes that I have made for my Dad to try. Today, I will share my pizza seasoning mix that I like to keep on hand.

Pizza Seasoning

1/2 cup oregano
1/2 cup basil
1/2 cup garlic powder
1/2 cup dried onion flakes
1/4 cup thyme
2 tablespoons fine sea salt
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 tablespoons crushed fennel seed

Combine all ingredients and store in an air-tight jar.

To make the pizza sauce, add 1-2 tablespoons of the mix, 2 teaspoons olive oil and 2 cups of tomato sauce. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.

Like most of my mixes, you can use this for far more than just pizza sauce. It is my go to seasoning mix for most of my tomato sauce based recipes. A small amount mixed with butter and then spread on bread makes a great accompaniment for lasagna or spaghetti.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Cupcake Fun

We are huge fans of The Walking Dead here at my house and last night was the midseason premier so I decided to have a little fun with some cupcakes. My goal originally was to color some of the icing red, but I had not one drop of any kind of red coloring. Instead of frosting is some mashed raspberries, which tasted so good!

I love to bake, but with just the two of us, I ended up throwing out the last of something or we ate too much of it. I have been making smaller portions, like individual pies from this post or using my freezer. After baking cupcakes, and letting them cool completely, I will put them on a plate and stick them in the freezer until they are firm, then place them in freezer bags, then I can pull out just enough for dessert for the two and maybe an extra to pack in lunch the next day. This way, we can still enjoy dessert a couple of times a week.

I bought the knives at Halloween. I'll let you know a little secret.....I have a HUGE collection of sprinkles, candy decorations, and other things to decorate cakes of cookies. I have them for every single  holiday and in just about every shape and color that you can imagine. I just can't pass them up when I see them. When the stores first put out their holiday decorations, the first thing I look at is the baking section to see if they have sprinkles that I don't have yet. I store all of my spices in tins on the side of the fridge and a lot of my decorations end up on there too. Here is a peek, I love seeing all the different colors! I love to play around when I am decorating cookies or cupcakes.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Poblano Peppers

When I picked up my Bountiful Basket last week, I had five of these peppers. Someone called them Poblamos, and then several people  mentioned roasting and stuffing them for a pretty tasty meal. One thing I didn't really expect with the Bountiful Basket pick-ups has been the fact that I have made some new friends out there! Everyone has been very friendly and I have noticed many, many times when someone pulls something out of their basket and they ask what it is, the usually get several responses that include naming whatever it is and offering cooking suggestions. I love that! And that is how I found out what to do with my poblanos.

When I got home, I found several recipes and narrowed it down to this one from the Fine Cooking site, Poblanos Stuffed with Cheddar and Chicken.

I started by cutting and seeding my peppers and putting them on a foil lined pan and roasted them under the broiler.

After roasting the skins turn black and peel off. I admit, I didn't think that would go as smoothly as it did. I have seen chefs do this on TV and they slip right off. I have also seen chefs on TV do lots of things so effortlessly that I can not replicate in my own kitchen. This was an exception though, after roasting, the skin came off the peppers very easily.

While my peppers were cooling enough for me to handle, the chicken and rice were cooking and I started on the sauce. I coarsely chopped the onion and tomato, then added those, the spices and the garlic to the food processor and chopped them until I had a smooth consistency. Once that was done, the mixture went into a pan to reduce a little.

I have to admit at this point I got a little nervous, Kip isn't crazy about dishes that have too much tomato. After the sauce reduced a little, I added the chicken, the rice, some cheddar and some cilantro. Once all that was mixed in, I stuffed the peppers with the chicken mixture and then baked for just a few minutes.

I do have to say that they were fabulous, Kip and I both really enjoyed this recipe and after everything was mixed together, it wasn't too "tomatoey" at all for him. This is a recipe that I will make again. I have never really cared for stuffed bell peppers that much, but these were another story and I don't know that I would have tried them if the poblanos hadn't shown up in my basket last week!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bountiful Basket Share

While I was posting my CSA boxes this summer, someone asked me if a CSA was similar to Bountiful Baskets. Before I could answer that, I had to find out more about Bountiful Baskets. It is a different service, but was not available in Tennessee at the time. A couple of months later someone posted on one of the Facebook groups that I am in, that Bountiful Baskets had opened four sites in Tennessee and one happened to be pretty close to me. So I registered and signed up for my first basket. I have been going back for the past couple of months and the picture above is my basket from the last pick up.

Bountiful Baskets is a non profit food co-op that combines the monies contributed to bring the best prices to the contributors. It is run by volunteers, and it does take several volunteers to get everything unloaded and set up each week. You don't have to volunteer every week, but everyone is expected to volunteer every few weeks or so. In addition the the regular basket that every contributor gets, you are also able to order a variety of  different items as well. The selection of extras and what is in your basket varies from week to week. So far I have been doing this for the past couple of months and have been very happy with the food I have received and the savings to my food budget.

I usually try and volunteer with the set up of the baskets. This past week, we had a lot of baskets! Everyone gets two laundry baskets, one is for fruits and the other is for veggies. There has been a good selection so far and it is usually pretty well divided about half fruit and half vegetables.

I have received a few food items that I don't have a lot of experience with cooking and/or eating. Most everything in the basket is familiar foods, there have been a couple of things here and there that are new. The other people there have been great to offer suggestions and recipes though. For instance one week we had Japanese persimmons, another week we had a different variety of grapefruit. This week we had artichokes and poblano peppers. I love artichokes but their price usually keeps me from buying them very often. The peppers were new to me, but I found a great recipe for them that I will share with you next week!