Simple Smothered Steak

  If you are just tuning in, this is post 2 for the day.  Post 1 was about a little mini makeover we did in the girls room with things we had lying around the house and shed.  FUN!

  This supper is SO simple and comes together really really quickly.  We got a side of beef 2 years ago, and I am just finishing up the last of our minute steaks.  Grass fed beef tastes SOO much better than the stuff in the stores.  Hopefully we can purchase another side soon, I am running out!!!!

SIMPLE SMOTHERED STEAKS

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Ingredients

  • 4 whole Minute Steaks
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 1 can (10 3/4 Oz) Can Cream Of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 can Water (use Soup Can)
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 packages Fresh Mushroom Slices, Sauteed In Butter
  • OR In A Bind, 2 6.5 Oz Cans Of Mushrooms Slices, Drained
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter For Sauteeing Fresh Mushrooms

Salt and pepper minute steaks, sear on each side in a hot skillet. Arrange in the bottom of a Pyrex dish. In a seperate bowl, combine soup, water, mushrooms and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over steaks and bake at 325ºF for 1 1/2 hours. Serve with homemade mashed potatoes, steamed green beans and whole wheat rolls. Serve with the mushroom “gravy” over minute steak and potatoes.

Simple and delicious!

This is some serious comfort food folks, hope you enjoy it.  Our family LOVES this supper!

~T

This post shared with:

On the Menu Monday

Melt in Your Mouth Monday

Tasty Tuesday

This Chick Cooks

Wonka Wednesday

Full Plate Thursday

Foodie Friday

The Start of a New Look!

A couple of summers ago, we got Destiny new “big girl” bedding from PB Teen for her birthday present.

She was using my day bed and dressers from when I was a kid, but once Avery was old enough to need her own bed, we decided to get the girls bunk beds.

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  We sold the day bed, and found the black bunks I wanted.  Praise the Lord we were able to find them for the exact price we sold the day bed for!! 

  The top bunk still needs a comforter, but I am holding out for another sale someday down the road when cash is more readily available! There is a super cute paisley one Destiny picked out that is the exact swatch from this other comforter that now resides on Avery’s bed.

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I thought it’d be fun to spray paint my old dresser and chest of drawers black to match the bunks. Well, what I WANT to do, and what I can actually accomplish these days, are two VERY different things.  I was a bit scared of the paint not adhering properly to the fake finish on my 1980’s dresser, so I chickened out.  (its particle board under fake cherry finish)  Someday we will purchase black furniture for the girls, but for now, this will totally work!

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  I wanted to change the look of the dresser a bit, so tonight, we took a mirror we’ve had just lying around forever and put it above the dresser.  (GRrrrr! The Before pics are NOT supposed to turn out nice than the After.  Just trust me? It’s BETTER than the old way in real life!)016
(See my sweet little Avery all ready for naps?)

  You can’t tell it from the picture, but it totally opened the space up and actually makes that room feel bigger!  Craziest thing!

  Dale, being the crafty man he is, also built the girls cubbies for their Bible’s, journals, treasures and Destiny’s alarm clock.  He cut old white shoe shelves and spray painted them black and attached them to the wall at the foot of each bed.  So crafty I tell you!

They turned out GREAT!!!!

Destiny’s  cubbie                            Avery’s cubbie (which is now full of stuffed animals)

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To go with the new black theme, we also changed some of the white décor with the help of a can of black spray paint we found lying around the shed.

Before:

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After:

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I am very pleased that this room is starting to become what I’ve wanted it to be all along……..and with no money out of pocket! SCORE! 🙂

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Except one thing.  A BIG thing……

IT IS IN DESPERATE NEED OF PAINT!

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 This wallpaper has been in this room for 9 1/2 years now. It is well past time to get it out of there!  Again, who has time for this nonsense though?!  Not me! Not right now anyways.  We do have colors picked out for our “someday” project: tangerine and hot pink.

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The colors are so off in these shots, here are the paint samples in natural window light, they match her bedding perfectly.

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LOVE IT!

I dream of Tangerine walls and hot pink walls with big circle decals.  SOMEDAY.

Someday.

SOMEDAY!  🙂

~T

PS  This is post 1 of 2 today, make sure you click over to read about some Simple Smothered Steaks! YUM!!!!

Florida Family & Tangy Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes

I want to start of today’s post with a BIG thank you to Cousin Christy for all her hard work these past 3 days to prepare those freezer cooking posts for us. I LOVED seeing you all get excited about freezer cooking and interact with her.  You are so nice to my family and friends, I just love it! 🙂

  We were blessed to have my Dad and Drea come visit us for a week.  We love it when they come see us!  We KNOW they love us when they leave 81* weather to drive to Kansas JUST in time for our first snow of the season!  (Poor poor freezing Floridians!)

  We had such a great week with them!  We were so busy having fun I got very few photos taken, but here are a few from our week together:

Drea & Avery making Autumn Hugs. Paxton testing out the pretzels.

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Pax hard at work unloading the dishwasher.  (Guess its true what they say about little ones learning all they know from watching big sisters and brothers!)

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Papa and Avery

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Pax was totally obsessed with Papa & Drea’s dog, Harley. He loved to lay on his tummy next to her and watch/copy her every move.

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Another gorgeous sunset, painted by the Creator Himself!

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Fun with Daddy in the leaf mountain.

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The whole gang

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Papa’s buddy

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Thank you Dad & Drea, for a fun-filled week! 093

  Drea, you are always such a wonderful help to me in the kitchen and with the children. I love how you jump right in to lend a hand!  Dad, thanks for all you do to help Dale around our property and for helping me get my computer & coupons organized!  The kids ADORE when you guys are here and we can’t wait until we get to see you again.

  Next week, more Florida guests!  How blessed are we?!?!?!

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Uncle Chad & Auntie Lauren, coming to KS for the first time as a married couple!  Remember their gorgeous wedding this summer?

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  They will bunk up with us this time, since my mom is between homes.  When I say “Bunk up” I do mean Bunk up!!!!  We occupy every square inch of our home, so no cushy guest room here, just the boy’s bunk beds.   Good thing they love us enough to come anyways!  🙂

  I have to come back and add a VERY importnant announcement….

 Chad & Lauren just called us with reallyreally BIG news that couldn’t wait until they came:

They are PREGNANT!!!!!

With IDENTICAL TWINS!!!!!!

{Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!}

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  I pretty much screamed and then bawled my eyes out when they told me on the phone.  Being a parent is the most amazing job in the whole world!!!!  Their lives are about to change in the most indescribable, incredible ways and they have no idea just how much they will fall in love with those precious babies over & over again. 

  Or, how about just how much their love for each other will grow and change as they love each other as both husband and wife AND mommy and daddy.  This is SO SO SO exciting!

  On to today’s recipe:

  Dale HATES Sloppy Joes, HATES them.  He says they are too sweet and tomato-y.  But alas, I have found THE Sloppy Joe recipe to please both my kids AND my sweet tomato sauce hating hubby.

Tangy Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes

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Ingredients
  • 2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 1 whole Onion, Chopped
  • ¼ cups Water
  • 3 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Red Pepper Sauce
  • 12 ounces, fluid Chili Sauce
  • 8 whole Wheat Sandwich Buns

Cook beef and onion over medium heat until cooked. Drain.

In a 3 to 4 quart slow cooker, mix beef and remaining ingredients except buns. (I cannot believe sentences like this make cookbooks, but whatever!  Maybe someone, somewhere mixed their buns into this sandwich mix and complained at the lack of instruction?!)

Cover and cook on low heat setting 4 to 6 hours.

  Easy schmeasy and oh-so good! 

  We served this with french onion dip & chips and raw carrots and broccoli.

Happy Slow Cooking & Congrats to my baby bro and his lovely bride on their BIG news! 

 Twice the babies to love = double blessing from above.  We serve a God of DOUBLE portions and extravagant love!!!

Praise His name!

~T

This post shared with:

Melt In Your Mouth Monday

On the Menu Monday

Tastetastic Thursday

This Chick Cooks

Wonka Wednesday

Full Plate Thursday

Foodie Friday

Tasty Tuesday

No Panic Here: I’ve got meals in my freezer!

Welcome back… it’s the final day of freezer cooking 101 with recipes included!  Hope you’re still along for the fun freezer ride and thinking about some friends you can round-up and start a Cooking Clan with VERY SOON!  The sooner you start, the sooner your panicky afternoons will be over  You know those days…

It’s 4:00 and you have nothing arranged to do with that frozen pound of ground beef???)  Oh no!  I shutter thinking back to those days.. glad they are over for ME!  

Get ready, this ones super-duper easy… but don’t let the ease keep you from making this one.  I introduced this to my mother-in-law and now she makes it all the time!  And she knows she can make it when the Grandkids are over and it’s a huge hit! 

Cheeseburger and Fries Casserole

Cheeseburger stak frie casserole[1] (2)

2 pounds lean ground beef, browned and drained

1 can cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup   (whichever suits your family best)

1 can cheddar cheese soup

1 can veggies of your choice  (corn, beans, peas)

1 20 oz. Package frozen Oven French Fries or Steak Fries or Tater Tots 

Assembly day:

Add beef and soups together.  Spread in 9×13 sprayed pan.  Top with can of veggies  (drained)  Arrange fries on top.   Cover with foil.  FREEZE

Cooking day:

Completely thaw casserole.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes or until bubbly and fries are golden.     this is another great one to do on time bake.  Just put the pan directly from the freezer on a cookie sheet.  Set your oven and come home from work or a busy day and supper is DONE!

ENJOY!   Add a salad and your family will love you!

cheeseburgerfries[1] (2)

    We kind of like comfort food and I would say this next recipe fits in that category as well.  This recipe came from my Don’t Panic cookbook as “California Quiche” and we have adapted it to fit our families and it is now “Ham and Cheese Quiche”.  One of these quiches is NEVER enough for a family of 5 or 6 with hungry teenagers, so some of us make it in a long 9×13 tin pan and some of us  (Like me, now that I have one away at college) make 2 pie pans so we can EAT one the day of cooking… it’s just too GOOD to put in the freezer right away when you smell it baking… and 1 goes in the freezer for later!!!   Either way, this quiche will make a lover out of you.. And yes, real men DO eat Quiche….  I’ve got several of them in the family to prove it!! 

Ham & Cheese Quiche

ham cheese quiche[1] (2)

Makes  enough for 1 family   (either 2- 9 inch pies or 1 9×13 pie)

2 (9 inch) pie crusts

7  eggs

2 cups milk

2 1/2 cups ham, diced

1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese

3 1/2 cups of a combo of cheddar cheese, co-jack or mozzarella, shredded   (divided use)

salt and pepper to taste

Additional options:  Broccoli  (I do half broccoli, half not for my family) or Spinach.   You can also sprinkle over the top:  Bacon bits, Parmesan Cheese, Parsley, or any other spices your family loves.  We like all 3!

Assembly day:

IF using 1 long pan:  Roll out 2 pie crusts in the bottom of the pan, brining the crust up the sides like you would a pie. 

If using 2 crusts, roll out each in a 9 inch pie plate.  You will just split all the ingredients between the 2 pans when you assemble.

Beat eggs with milk and salt and pepper.  Spread the  co-jack or mozzarella cheese over the bottom of the pie crust.  Top with ham.  Pour the egg mix over top.  Top with cheddar cheese.    Bake at 400 degrees for 40 min. or until knife inserted is clean.  Cool completely.  Freeze in a Ziploc freezer bag if it fits or cover with tinfoil.

Cooking day:  Thaw completely in the frig.  Warm in the oven at 325 for 15 – 20 minutes or until heated through. Serve immediately.

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Now, just to confuse you a little, I have a new and improved way to do all this…. yes, even an old dog like me likes a new trick once in awhile.  I always used to bake this first (which is why we had to eat it that night due to great smells)  The last time I cooked with my new group, we decided to try this one without baking and just put them in the freezer raw!  (I checked and you can do that safely with eggs).  GUESS WHAT?!?!??!?!  My family loved the frozen one even better this way because we didn’t think the crust was as soggy.  Not that the other one was completely soggy, but this one just seemed to come out better all the way around….   so there you go…  a new trick and the treat is ALL yours for trying! 

  The “new & improved” way to cook this is:

From frozen (raw):  Thaw several hours and cook at 400 degrees for 1 hour uncovered.

YUM!

quiche[1] (2)

Smile  I’m smiling!  How about you????

  Weeelllll….. it’s time to bring you to the 6th and final Freezer Cooking meal  (sniff, sniff)  and this one might be last but it is certainly NOT least!  By now you’re getting a feel for what kind of recipes do well in the freezer and this one is NO exception. I encourage you to find more meals that your family enjoys and try putting them in the freezer!  It’s another highly requested meal, not because it’s the prettiest, but because it is simply yummy, creamy and Ok I have to say it ONE MORE TIME… COMFORT FOOD!  I mean really, what is not to love about meat, pasta and cheese.  In fact, my BFF, Kristi and I have a motto when we try new recipes to determine if they are keepers or not for our freezer cooking…. the more meat and cheese the better, so most of our recipes have been “pimped” accordingly!    Gotta love that!    And since we are quickly approaching Thanksgiving   (please enjoy that wonderful holiday with family and friends and don’t by pass it like our society wants to!) and you are probably going to have lots of leftover turkey just waiting for another creative use…. now you have one!  This recipe is equally as good with turkey……  so let’s get making some chicken or turkey tetrazzini already!

Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazinni[1] (2)

2-1/2 or 3 cups broken spaghetti

3 -1/2 cups cooked chicken (cut up) (or Turkey)

1 cup sour cream

1 cup chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste

1 can cream of  mushroom or Chicken soup

2 cups grated cheddar or co-jack cheese

1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce (optional) 

Assembly Day:

This recipe can either be done in a freezer bag or a Glad ware pan, which ever you have more room for in your freezer!

Cook and drain spaghetti. Mix all Ingredients together. Put In 9×13 baking dish. Cover and Freeze until ready to use. Can be frozen in a Ziploc bag too.  Rather than mix in a bowl, use the “Smoosh method”  SEE BELOW!

Cooking day:

Thaw completely  and pour bag contents into casserole dish to bake or bake in glad ware pan from freezer  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, uncovered.  You can also crock pot from the freezer bag.  Leave contents frozen (they are in a nice shape of your crock pot if you have been listening to bag instructions along the way )   From frozen, crock pot on low for 4-5 hours.  You are just re-warming and melting cheese, everything is already cooked.

Chk Tetrazinni[1] (2)

OFFICIAL SMOOSH METHOD: I can’t believe I waited until the LAST recipe to teach you the SMOOSH method!  Seriously, it’s the best. Rather than dirty another pan or dish, simply put all the ingredients in the bag and gently “smoosh” them around until the ingredients are well mixed.  Very simple.

Now you know the rest of the story and ALL the secrets there are to know about Freezer cooking…

OK maybe not every single one,  but pretty close!

THERE!  Don’t you feel REFRESHED???  Less panicky for sure about meal time???  GOOD, me too!   You now have all the tools to GET FREEZER COOKING!  I promise you’ll love it and miss it dearly if you ever have to stop for any reason.

And now it’s time to say goodbye and say a super huge THANK YOU TONYA for asking me to share your blog for 3 whole days!  It is quite an honor, because honestly, this blog is the only blog I personally follow daily and it’s AWESOME in every way!   

So until another time and place….

DON’T PANIC… IT’S IN THE FREEZER!!!!   (You can do it.. I believe in you!!)     

Your freezer fan,

Christy

Special thanks also to my BFF Kristi, for creating a Facebook group that we had already downloaded these recipes to, so I didn’t have to retype them. 🙂

  A BIG thank you to you, Christy, for working so hard to put together all these recipes and blog posts for our enjoyment!  I hope you will come back and guest blog for us again sometime!  This was SO FUN! 🙂  Love, T

Freezer Cooking Day 2: I’m Baaa-ack & Armed with Recipes!

DON’T PANIC.. It’s In The Freezer…. 

I’m Baaaaack…. and armed with recipes!

  I know you didn’t sleep a wink last night just waiting on these super yummy freezer recipes I am about to share!  What, you slept like a baby?  Well, OK, I’ll just share them anyway.. but warning, your mouth might start watering and I am not responsible for drool clean up on your keyboard.   Seriously, over the years we have perfected some mighty fine recipes and I just know your family is going to enjoy them as much as we all do.  Most are super easy to make, economical for the food budget and just plain yummy to serve your family.   So without further ado:  Let’s get cooking!  (freezer style that is)cooking chicken bruscetta[1] (2)

First off is Chicken Bruschetta!  Have to say this one is great for company or just feeding a hungry bunch of teenagers.  Lots of Italian flavor to tingle your taste buds too!

Chicken Bruschetta

chk bruscetta[1] (2)

Ingredients:

1 can Italian style diced tomatoes, un-drained

1 1/4 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded,  divided

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil  and 3 tsp. minced garlic  

OR  3 Tbsp. Homemade Gourmet Garlic Basil seasoning

1 pkg. Stove Top Stuffing Mix for Chicken

8 small boneless Chicken breast halves 

1 small bottle Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian with Parmesan Dressing  (Or Zesty Italian)  Split 1 bottle between 2 pans

Mix tomatoes, 1/2 cup cheese and basil in a bowl.  Add stuffing mix, stir until moistened.

NOTE:  You will have enough stuffing mixture  and Dressing to do 2 recipes of this… so plan accordingly!!!

So if making 2 pans.. all you need for the 2nd pan is the chicken and cheese to top!  Very economical, sorry this one is hard to divide and make 1 pan .

Company’s coming directions:

Place 2 chicken breasts at a time in a freezer weight plastic bag.  Pound with a meat mallet until chicken is flattened to about 1/4 inch think.  Repeat with rest of chicken.   Spread each chicken breast with several Tbsp. of stuffing mix.  Roll up and put seam side down in a greased 9×13 pan.  Repeat with all chicken.   Drizzle 1/2 bottle of dressing over top of chicken.  top with remaining cheese.    At this point Cover with Foil and Freeze.

Cooking Clan’s PREFERRED directions:  

We are not LAZY, we’re just good time managers!  LOL 🙂   FORGET pounding the chicken… just lay the chicken in the sprayed pan, cover with Italian dressing, the stuffing, then cheese.  Freeze and bake as before… we found the stuffing doesn’t get as mushy this way and gets a bit crunchy which adds to the YUM factor 🙂

On cooking day:

  Thaw completely before baking.  Bake at 350 degrees uncovered for 40 minutes or until chicken juices run clear and cheese is golden brown.Chicken bruscetta[1] (2)

A helpful hint for all of you that have timed bake on your oven… Pull freezer pan out of the freezer in the AM and place on a cookie sheet  (Glad ware pans we use can’t be baked above 400 degrees and also must cook on a cooking sheet…. just trust me, otherwise they start to sage and bend and it’s just not pretty!)

Onward to our next recipe:  Taco Soup! 

  tacosoupbeforefreezer[1] (2)

  This is hands down our favorite freezer soup because it is easy to assemble on cooking day and even easier when you put it in the crockpot on serving day.  It’s hearty, healthy  (lots of beans for protein) and even the picky kids in your family will love it!  

  As I write I am wrapped up in a blanket typing because it is a cold rainy day in Iowa and I would really LOVE a bowl of this RIGHT NOW…. Good thing I have another one of our favorites in the crockpot to enjoy when the family gets home… Chicken Tetrazzini… you get to peak at that one tomorrow!  

Taco Soup

Tacosoup-after[1] (2)

1 pound ground beef 1 small onion, chopped

1 can pinto beans (drain)

1 can black beans (drain)

1 can chili beans (do not drain)

1 can corn (drained) or 1 1/2 cup frozen kernels

1 small can green chili’s (optional)

1 pkg ranch dressing mix

1 pkg taco seasoning

1 can Tomato juice   (Just give a can of this to each of the cooking clan — they will add it later when they actually cook the soup)

Assembly day:

Brown hamburger and onion, drain.

Put all ingredients in a zip lock and freeze.

A little tip for using freezer bags:  If you have room in your freezer, I like to freeze my bags sitting in a small bowl that will fit in my crock pot… why?  Then your bag of frozen food goes directly into your crock pot on cooking

Taco soup-before[1] (2)

Cooking day:

Place frozen soup in the crockpot.  Pour in can of Tomato juice.  Cook all day in the Crockpot on low.

Serve with shredded cheese and tortilla chips, sour cream if desired

Ole’!

 

COMFORT FOOD:  Everyone loves it.  This next recipe is just oozing with comfort!     We have been making this one for all 11 years I’ve done cooking and every single group requests it and it gets made almost every month.   Yes, it’s that good!   Creamy pasta, cream cheese and more,  C O M F O R T  F O O D at it’s finest.  

Did I mention this one is serious comfort food?  What’s NOT to love???

Cream Cheese Chicken

Creamcheese chicken[1] (2)

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons melted butter

salt & pepper to taste (If I use salted butter I omit the salt here)

1 package dry Ranch Dressing mix/seasoning (or 3 Tbsp.. of the large pantry size container of the Ranch mix)

1 can cream of chicken soup

8 oz. cream cheese cut into 1 inch cubes (softened)

1 Tbsp. minced onion (optional)

Assembly:

Place chicken in a crock pot on low. Pour melted butter over, add salt/pepper as you layer it in. Sprinkle dry Ranch mix over all.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours (or overnight works great). 

About 45 minutes before you want to serve this if not freezing:

Mix soup, cream cheese, and onion in a small saucepan or microwave. Cook and stir until smooth. Pour over the chicken and stir. Cover and cook another 45 minutes if serving immediately, otherwise, for freezing, turn off the crock pot and allow to cool completely.  Put into a gallon sized freezer bag. Label with name and cooking instructions.   Freeze.

If freezer space is hard to find, lay flat to freeze.  If not and you want to re-heat in the crock pot, place in a bowl that will fit in your crock pot to allow for easy freezer to crock pot transition. 

Cooking day:

Thaw completely and reheat on the stove top or in the microwave in a glass bowl. 

OR  Put in crock pot on low for 4-5 hours.

To Serve: Great over pasta  (our personal favorite) rice,  or potatoes…. or use for sandwiches filling.

We like to add the pasta to the chicken just before serving.  Get creative, you really can’t serve it wrong or mess this up no matter how hard you try!   ENJOY!!!

Whew…. that’s a wrap for today….. hope you’ll tune in tomorrow for more (3 more to be exact) yummy recipes  and great freezer ideas!    

That was easy wasn’t it?!?!

See you tomorrow for more great recipes!

~Christy

Sorry!

Sorry everyone for the “Temporary Posts” you keep getting, all part of starting over with first a borrowed computer, then another computer after the crash. I know they are annoying and I apologize, but they should stop now I think I am all set up on this computer FINALLY! 🙂
Blessings to you and yours, T

DON’T PANIC…It’s In The Freezer!

    Little did I know over 11 years ago, when our Pastor’s daughter shared her new Freezer Meal cookbook that my meal planning was about to change forever. A cookbook changed your life you might be thinking??? dont panic cookbook[1] (2)

  Let me set the stage for you. You’re a stay at home Mom of 3: 1 toddler, 1 pre-schooler and 1 Elementary student. You’ve had a full day: cleaning up messes, doing laundry, trying to fix the appliance that is on the fritz, the phone won’t stop ringing with marketing calls. 2 kids are fighting, one is a bit too quiet and suddenly the clock strikes 4:00 PM. You know the drill, you realize you haven’t even showered yet today and in an hour and a half your husband will be walking in the door and you have to find something creative to do with a frozen pound of ground beef! Sound familiar??? Well for me it was too often my reality.  I mean, let’s be honest, life doesn’t really work as depicted in this 1950’s photo, now does it?!

Nope.  So, when “Don’t Panic.. It’s in the Freezer” was presented, it made perfect sense to me!!!!

    OK, perhaps I have gotten ahead of myself … Just who is this person invading Tonya’s otherwise normal blog???

   Let me introduce myself… Christy Eichelberger here…. Tonya’s 2nd cousin on the Schrock side. Tonya was the cutest little non-smiling flower girl there ever was… but that’s a whole nother story.

grumpy flower girlHere’s my family and as you can tell those small tykes at my house have turned into a college student and 2 High Schoolers. And that good looking guy is my hubby of 25 years (yes we were married at 14, LOL)

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The cool thing is, after all these years and all the stages of life we’ve been through, this freezer cooking gig has served us well. So hopefully I can share it with you and no matter what stage of raising a family you are at, you can find some hope for those panicky moments that surround putting a meal on the table.

The concept of Freezer Cooking 101:

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Take the worry out of meal planning by having several meals per week already made ahead and in your freezer to pull out and use. Have fun with friends while preparing the meals. Save time (cook 1 day instead of 12) Save money (buy ingredients in bulk to assemble the meals) and have way more fun with friends than doing it by yourself! Save frustration (always have a meal in the freezer to pull out when you have run out of ideas or time or both!)

What’s not to love???

Here are the nuts and blots:

  You get your group and set your number of meals…. let’s say you have 3 people participating and you want to leave with 12 meals for the freezer. Each of the 3 of you are in charge of 4 different recipes for the group. You make 3 each of those 4 recipes. (so everyone leaves with 12 meals total) You shop for your recipes, do the precooking of any meat, etc. ahead, then you come together at 1 of the person’s homes on 1 day and make the meals together. We use Ziploc freezer bags and Glad ware reusable/freezable lidded pans. When you are done, you swap meals and you each go home with 12 meals …. ALL DIFFERENT! It’s awesome. You then have 12 meals to use from the freezer throughout the month!

Some things to keep in mind:

1. What time of day/week will your group cook? Look for people who desire the same- stay at home mom’s may like weekdays while kids are in school, some working moms may want to cook on a Saturday morning, etc..

2. How big is your family? If you have 2 kids, cooking with a family with 5 kids may not be a great fit. However, sometimes you can divide meals in half for smaller families cooking with larger groups or they may enjoy left-overs or entertaining guests with those larger meals.

3. What foods do the families like to eat? Some will enjoy casseroles, others meats and marinades for crock or grilling more. Some will want veggies in every thing, others with young or picky kids may not. Make sure you find tried and true recipes that are designed for the freezer. There are TONS of cookbooks and websites out there! all cookbooks

4. How many meals will you prep at a time? It’s nice to have 2-3 meals for each week for as long as you plan to go in between cooking. So we did 12 meals for 4-6 week increments. Remember, you have to be able to AFFORD to buy the groceries to prep your 12 meals for cooking day as well, so you want to cook with people on similar budgets for food, etc. and plan your quantity and timing accordingly.

  Personally, since I started over 11 years ago, I have cooked in groups of all sizes from 2 (just me and my BFF) to 7 (gals from my church). I have to say my favorite number to cook with is 4 total and do 12 meals. So each of you do 3 recipes times 4. It just works.

freezer cooking in actionHere are my current cooking clan members.

Cooking Clan  Oct 2011

Christy, Jolana, Karla and Karla, still looking good after 2 1/2 hours of prep and clean up!  We actually just formed and have only cooked 1 time together! They are experts now… really! It’s that easy!

  Overwhelmed a bit??? Don’t be! Here is what you need to do to get started:

  Find 3 friends much like yourself in stage of life and family members. Get together and have everyone find some of their favorite meals. (after trying them once, you will know if they are freezer cooking worthy!)

Find 12 (or whatever number of meals you decide to cook) great recipes and divide them amongst yourselves.

Pick a day to cook. I recommend a time when you will be least distracted. We try to cook once a month or within 5 weeks. DO what works for your group.. You can do this.

Pick a place with a large kitchen or one with plenty of room to spread out on card tables. (We rotate to a different house each month for variety!)

Shop the sales for meat that you will be using. If chicken breasts are on a great sale, then do plenty of chicken recipes.

The day before you cook, do your individual prep work. For example, we always come with all our hamburger browned and drained, chicken cooked if necessary and any veggies cut. This will make assembly time go really fast!

  On cooking day, you can do it 2 ways: Either each person prepares all their own recipes, or you can all do 1 recipe at a time assembly line style.

Cooking lasagna

  Each cook brings her own pans and freezer bags. The hostess for the month provides tinfoil, salt, pepper, misc. forgotten spices and a black marker and labels for clearly identifying meals. Clean up between meals is a snap with so many hands. We even recycle everything and rinse out cans and bottles and put them in a giant garbage bag for the hostess that month to recycle! Cooking day: Assemble your recipes into the pans or bags, label them and keep in a cooler until you are ready to leave. (Food safety first!) Thankfully in Iowa most of the cooler cooking months we just leave our coolers outside on the deck or in the garage and as we take out ingredients, we replace them with completed meals.

  The satisfaction of a full freezer after a few hours cooking with friends is PRICELESS!!! Trust me on this one!!

  Here is what the top shelf of my freezer looked like after cooking.. almost full and we only did 8 meals for the first time with the new group instead of 12 like usual. 

Meals in freezer[1] (2)

  WHEW, I’ve probably bored some of you to tears and for others maybe you are thinking… hey, this could really work for me!!! If so… stay tuned tomorrow and I’ll share some of my family’s personal favorite FREEZER MEALS……

WOO-HOO!!!  Smile

~Christy

Being Thankful FIRST……

   Every year we host a Fall Bonfire Party for our Sunday school class.  Our class is growing, and with that blessing, comes the trouble of finding a place to host 50 of us.  We are officially outnumbered, 2o adults and close to 30 kids when we are together!!!! 🙂  This year we invited the Young Married Class down the hall to join us, what a fun bunch!

  I was sad to realize, that I didn’t get very many photos, too dark and too busy playing hostess I guess, but here are a few… (Drea, I used a few of yours too)

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Notice that there very aren’t many of Ty above?  That is because he was out in the side yard PACING, waiting for his preschool teacher to show up.  (She is a great family friend and part of our class.)  The rest of his evening was spent GLUED to her side! He asked permission to go play a bit at one point, but came right back.  He seemed to feel very responsible for her well-being, even asking her how her husband was doing at home these days. LOL 🙂  My little stud muffin!

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The shed

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To the friend who left a bag FULL of goodies left on our kitchen counter!  What a blessing to have those needs met!  THANK YOU!!!!!

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    Soooo, on to the next subject at hand:

Does it drive anyone else crazy that there are Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas signs going up everywhere already? 

Can’t we just be THANKFUL first???????

  Waiting for christmas

  Can’t we just enjoy our pumpkin recipes, fall décor and Thanksgiving feasts?  I mean don’t get me wrong, day after Thanksgiving, I’m putting the Christmas tree up with the best of them, but it just seems that since Thanksgiving isn’t the major money-maker that Christmas is, it gets skipped in the stores between the hype of Halloween with it’s expensive candy, and next…..Christmas sales, long lines and mad dashes to get “the best deal”. 

  Kinda disappointing, but a true sign of the times to be sure: 

More Greedy Gimmies & sales quotas, less quiet thanksgiving as we count the blessing we already have, rather than making the list of things we want.

  If this year of financial discipline has taught me anything, it’s to be content with the things I have, and be oh-so grateful for the things we are blessed to receive. 

  Ok, stepping off my soap box now to share a delicious cookie recipe from a 4 little Ferguson’s reader.  This is quite the hodge podge post today, isn’t it?!

  Diane says, “These are a new Fall favorite cookie at my house!  Let me warn you, they are addictive……you can’t stop at just one!Bursting with flavor and your house smells AMAZING from start to finish, these cookies are a must try, and a keeper in my kitchen.”

  Thanks for the recipe, Diane!  I agree with her above statements, I made these for a school function, and they are seriously delicious!!   I LOVED how soft and chewy they were!!!!

  Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies

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Ingredients

  • ½ cups Butter, Room Temperature
  • 1 cup Sugar, Plus More For Rolling Cookies
  • ½ cups Pumpkin
  • ¼ cups Molasses
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2-⅓ cups Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
  • 1-½ teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Cloves
  • ½ teaspoons Salt

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth. Add the pumpkin, molasses, egg, and vanilla extract, mix until well combined.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1 hour. The dough can be chilled for 2-3 days.

3. When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° F. Place sugar in a small bowl. Roll tablespoon-sized balls of dough in sugar until well coated and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until cookies look cracked and set at the edges. The cookies will still be soft. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a 2-3 minutes after removing them from the oven, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  YUM!

Enjoy these cookies, and please, take time to enjoy this time of year and BE THANKFUL!!!!!!!!!!  Not looking forward, not looking back, just here today.

  I am thankful for this time of year, a warm home, for yummy fall goodies, thankful for my family and faith in a God who loves me and calls me by name, and thankful for you coming to see me each day!  🙂

“If you only had today, the things you said “Thank you” for yesterday, what would you have left?”

~T

P.S.  I have a VERY special treat for you tomorrow!  A guest is coming to see us for the next 3 days, and she is showing us the Art of Freezer Cooking!  Remember my Cousin, Cassie from Laugher and Lattes?  She was my very first guest post, so this will be the 2nd “Cousin Feature Post” here at 4 little Ferguson’s with another Cousin of mine, Christy! 

What can I say, I have COOL cousins!!!  🙂 

Julie, are you up next?!?!?!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake

  Today is Avery’s Born Again Birthday!

She asked Jesus into her heart a year ago tonight when Nana was babysitting.  My mom chose not to tell us that night when we got home from our date, just to see if it was “real” to Avery.  Would you believe that early early the next morning she came racing into our room and from the doorway announced:

“I asked Jesus in my heart and I get to go to Heaven!” in her little teeny sweet 2-year-old voice, then did the sweetest little celebratory jump in the air.  “Yipee!”  🙂 

  Precious, precious moments in the lives of our children.  We will wish her a Happy Born Again Birthday when she wakes up today and remind her why we celebrate this special day:

  Jesus washed away her sins, she can go to Heaven for eternity and that on this very day a year ago, the angels had a Born Again Birthday party for her as God wrote her name in the Book of Life!  Now THAT is reason to celebrate! 🙂

  On to the dessert:

  The title says Caramel Apple Cheesecake, what more could you want to know?!  🙂

  Ok, it was delicious……caramel is my WEAKNESS!  It was the perfect fall dessert and I am SO excited to own a Springform pan so I can make this sorta thing.  (finally after 10 years of wishing I had registered for one, I now own THREE springform pans, all in different sizes thanks to a Bed, Bath and Bey0nd gift card.  I LOVE that place!)  Thank you, Lisa for sharing this great recipe!


Caramel Apple Cheesecake

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Ingredients

  • 1-½ cup Cinnamon Graham Cracker Crumbs
  • ¾ cups Sugar, Divided
  • ¼ cups Butter, Melted
  • 14 ounces, weight Package Of Caramels
  • ⅔ cups Evaporated Milk
  • ½ cups Chopped Pecans, Divided
  • 2 packages (8 Oz. Each) Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour, divided
  • 2 whole Eggs, Lightly Beaten
  • 1-½ cup Chopped & Peeled Granny Smith Apples
  • ½ teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

1.  Place a greased 9 inch spring form pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil. (about 18 square inches) Securely wrap foil around pan.

2. In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of prepared pan. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 350* for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

3. In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, melt unwrapped caramel squares and milk until smooth and melted. Pour 1 cup over crust; sprinkle with 1/4 cup pecans. Set remaining caramel mixture aside.

4. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, 1 T. flour and remaining sugar until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low-speed just until combined. Combine apples, cinnamon and remaining flavor. Fold into cream cheese mixture then pour into crust.

5. Place springform pan in a large baking sheet; add 1 inch of hot water to larger pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Reheat reserved caramel mixture if necessary, gently spoon over cheesecake and top with remaining pecans.

6. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until center is just set. Remove pan from water bath. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer.

Refrigerate overnight before serving.

Enjoy your GORGEOUS creation!  Its super delicious!!!!

And Happy Born Again Birthday to my precious little Peanut, Avery!

~T

The Many Places & Faces of Pax

   There is never a dull moment around here, NEVER.  Paxton is our most active, into everything, see it-conquer-it child, YET.  And he makes the funniest faces to boot! 

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 butterflyPaxton

5 weeks old040005_thumb3029_thumb1047_thumbare you watching how sad you made mecry baby (2)pax2

So in honor of this mischievous little boy we are so blessed to have in our home, I have composed a post about the Many Faces and Places of Pax.

Ice Cream Snatcher: Here Pax is helping himself to the Homemade Ice Cream at Great Grandpa’s Birthday party while no one was watching him.

Pax and the ice cream

Escape Artist:  Dale came home from work to Pax standing out in our lane in his socks recently. The sneaky little stinker had figured out how to open the back door and let himself out…QUIETLY!  Thank the LORD he was fine! But he sure gave me a HEART ATTACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  None of the other kids EVER did this!

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Fitness Guru: He loves to climb & play on the work out equipment at Great Grandpa and Grandma’s house.

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Snack Sneaker:  If you don’t watch it, he’ll steal your snack and shove it all in one bite before you can say, “HEY! That was MIIIIIIIINE!”  Better not set your bowl down, right, Avery?

See that mouthful?  That’s the prune Grandma gave Avery for snack.

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Scooter Stealer:  Pax likes to get on Grandpas scooter and push all the buttons.

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Bunk Bed Bounder: he can scale bunk bed ladders in a single bound! And, after he is done messing with all of Destiny’s stuff, he can carefully back down too!

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Step Stool Climber: He moves the step stool all over so he can get into things on the counter.

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Table Topper:  He likes to climb on the table, grab apples and say: “BALL” as he chucks them across the room.

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Chair Crusader:  Pax likes to get up on this chair and tell everyone how big he is!

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While he is up there anyways, he decides to reek havoc on my décor….

“Uh-oh! Dropped it…”

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“Now what can I do?”

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“I know, I know, I’ll head over and have a snack……”

 

Fridge Defroster:

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“Got it!  Now, how do I get this thing open?   MO-OM! A little help please….”

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“WHAT?!?!?!?!?!? All that work and you aren’t going to let me eat this?”

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Counter Crawler: Paxton likes to wait until you are not looking to crawl on the counter and play in the sink.002

(Yes, he is wearing a lavender bib, he has 2 big sisters, what do you expect!?  Besides, it goes so well with his purple and pink Sippy cups!)

Oatmeal Dumper:  This is Paxton, escaped from the highchair, sitting on my kitchen counter wearing his Oatmeal on his head. 

This is his face after he heard my gasp and exclaim:

“What in the world are you DOING, child!?”

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Thankfully my camera was handy! 🙂

  I am telling you, if it’s quiet, don’t finish your laundry folding, don’t take a phone call, don’t even stop to get a drink, don’t walk….RUN to see what Paxton is getting into, cause it’s bound to be MESSY! 

(Soon after this photo was taken, Paxton put a good portion of the toilet paper into the toilet while Avery watched.  Nice.)

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I love you my sweet, sweet, but oh-s0 naughty, Baby Tankers! 

(“Tank” is Paxton’s nickname because of how huge he was at birth, it stuck because of the Plow-through-life-nothing-stands-in-his-way-approach he takes. Funny how he grew RIGHT into this nickname!!!!!)

Happy Thursday!

~T