Sunday, January 17, 2016

Freezer Meals For Teens - Chicken Week

Chicken in enchilada sauce, 2 bags of Hawaiin Chicken, an extra bag of cornflake/ranch breading (went in my pantry) 3 bags of chicken cordon bleu, 2 bags of parmesan ranch chicken.

Last week I made up a bunch of meals with alog of hamburg, this week I brought home two packs of chicken breasts to make freezer meals.

I'm so disgusted by the chicken from Sam's club, I don't think I'll ever buy it there again. It wasn't spoiled or anything, it was just insane. I've seen turkey breasts smaller than those chicken breasts.  And living on a farm, I have a fairly good idea of the conditions it took to get chickens that large.  I can't stomach it.  I bought this because I forgot how ridiculous these were - and when I bought in bulk from Burkholder's last year, the chicken was rubbery, no matter how I cooked it.  

Anyway, since the breasts were HUGE, I started by cutting them in half - through the middle, so they were half as thick.  Each pack had 5 breasts in it, I bought two packs, so I had roughly 20 breasts to work with.

But even then they were so large that I ended up cutting them in 4ths - so I actually ended up with a lot more.  

making the chicken cordon bleu

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Chicken cordon bleu is one of my favorite meals, and it freezes well.  

Pound the chicken thin
spread with mayo & mustard
top with ham and cheese
fold in half
Dip in egg
Dip in italian bread crumbs

Flash freeze

Except, these were really really large. So after they were in the freezer for about 30 minutes, I pulled them out, cut them in half, sprayed the exposed edge with cooking spray, and dipped in more bread crumbs.  If the kids are still hungry, they can always have seconds, and they will cook better at the smaller size.

Crockpot Hawaiian Chicken
When I cut the chicken in half, not all of the pieces were "neat". The ones that were that were misshapen (about 3 or 4?) I cut into chunks for Hawaiian Chicken. I'll serve this over rice.  

1 can of pineapple chunks
      (pour half the juice into each bag, then half the pineapple into each bag)
1T soy sauce in each bag
3T brown sugar in each bag
2T corn starch
cut up peppers and onions (I used one bag, half in each bag)
baby carrots

I'll cook this in the crock pot, and make rice to go with it.

Parmesan Ranch Chicken

Parmesan Ranch Chicken
For this recipe, I cut the remaining chicken breasts in half again, which is actually 4ths.  I think it will cook better at the smaller size.

1 packet ranch dressing
1 cup crushed corn flakes
1 cup parmesan cheese
      Mix in a ziplock bag  (I doubled this recipe)

1/2 cup butter
       Melt in a small bowl

Dip the chicken in the butter, then drop 1 piece at a time into the ziplock bag, shake to coat.

I placed the chicken in a pan lined with foil and flash froze them before putting them in zip lock bags for the freezer.

Enchilada Chicken
This was 3 of the smaller pieces of chicken in a ziplock bag, with a can of enchilada sauce.  That's it. 

 I'll pop this in the crock pot one morning, then in the afternoon I'll pull the chicken out, shred it, and add cheese, black beans, diced onion...  Fill the tortilla shells, roll, top with the enchilada sauce and more cheese, and bake.  It's a little more work than most of my crockpot meals, but having the chicken ready to go makes this pretty simple and quick any night of the week.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

5 Essential Things - Day 3

Looking back at the farm as I left this frosty morning

So, I'm trying to get in the habit of doing these 5 Essential Things every day.  Except I figured out on day 2 that I have 10 Essential Things, and they are slightly different than the original five.  Still, the concept is the same - "Just being a little more intentional with your morning and evening routines to make sure you accomplish these important daily tasks can not only help you feel more organized, it will keep your house cleaner, and probably help you feel a lot less stressed."

On Wednesday's I go to BSF - Bible Study Fellowship. It's an amazing, in depth, non denominational bible study. This year we're studying Revelation.  There's 2 pages of notes, 5 days of homework, then we meet once a week - both in a small group, then all together for a lecture.

This is 20 minutes from  the farm, and starts at 9:10am.  To recap,on day 1 it was 7:30pm when I completed the 5 essentials. On day 2 it was 10:45.Progress - but this morning I would need to leave at 8:35. Am.

My 10 essentials look like this:
1. Bible in a year reading
2. Dogs out to pee/fed
3. Laundry (3 loads a day, with a different day designated for each person/area of the house.  )
4. Bathrooms wiped down
5. Supper started (our evenings are so chaotic, I almost always start supper in the morning. Or at least have a plan for it.
6. Dishwasher unloaded, kitchen floor swept, counters wiped down
7. To Do List Made (for me, and for the kids)
8. Feed the poultry, collect the eggs, feed two pens of goats, feed the llama, carry water to the baby goats, walk around the block
9. straighten the house
10. vacuum 

So Tuesday night I stayed up late and got things done. I don't often do a lot at bed time, because quite frankly, by then I am exhausted.  My routine is pretty simply wash my face, brush my teeth, do 10 push ups, 25 sit ups, BSF homework, then read a bit before falling a sleep.  

Last night I swept floors, vacuumed, wiped down bathrooms, made a plan for dinner, put away 2 loads of laundry, and picked out my outfit for the next day.

I went to bed about an hour later than normal.  And then I overslept this morning.    

When I did get up this morning, I put a rosemary pork loin in one crock pot, and a box of augratin potatoes in another (I bought a case CHEAP at Wengers - a surplus grocery store near us).  I tended the animals, skipping the walk around the "block"

I carried one 5 gallon bucket of water to the baby goats, and another one that I split between the ducks, peacocks & chickens.  That's as close as I have gotten to strength training so far this year.  :-)

It was 9am when I left the house this morning.  And I couldn't find my name tag.  I've got to do better next week.

Wednesdays are errand day for me. It's now 7:30 at night, and I'm at 5.200 steps on my fitbit - about 4,000 less than I've had the rest of the week by now.  I would have thought I'd have MORE steps walking around stores and across parking lots, than by doing housework, but I guess not. I lost about 1500 steps by not walking around the block this morning too.

No laundry for me today - it's my daughter's laundry day, she does her own.  :-)

Overall, I'm making major progress. The house is cleaner, much cleaner, in just three days time.  It was SO nice to come home with groceries today and be able to put them neatly into my clean pantry!  And I took an hour to cook up 10lbs of ground beef into freezer meals too.  I'm disappointed in myself for being late to BSF - but I'm working on getting up earlier,and plan to do better next week.

Tomorrow is a new day with a different schedule...  but I'm approaching it intentionally and it should be a good day!

Feeding Teens - Eight meals from a 10lb log of Hamburg

8 hamburgers, 2 containers of cheeseburger soup, 1 meatloaf, 2 bags of taco meat & 2 bags of seasoned hamburger for goulash & chili

I love the idea of freezer cooking, but dislike all the chaos it creates.  So I scale it down.  Rather than spend hundreds of dollars and hours in the kitchen, I come home with one meat in bulk, and spend about an hour  (or less) prepping it into meals.  

This week I came home with a 10lb log of hamburg from Sams Club, and I turned it into:

1 large meatloaf
2 crockpots of cheeseburger soup (will need milk and beef broth)
8 Hamburgers
2 qt bags of precooked seasoned beef, destined for chili & goulash
2 qt bags of taco meat for taco nights

How many meals you get out of this will vary greatly by family.  I can't even know how many meals I got out of this, since with a house full of older teens, you can never be sure too far in advance how many will be home for dinner.  8 hamburgers might be one meal, or I might get two meals out of them - depends on the night.  When I say "Eight Meals" - it's really just a guess. 

A list of all the "extra" ingredients I used is at the bottom of this post.  Here is what I did step by step:

Cut the log of beef roughly in half.  Start browning about half  of  the hamburg in one pan (dutch oven sized works well)
 Season with:
worcestershire sauce

I put half a stick of butter in a frying pan, and then put an entire large, sweet, onion in my ninja to dice very very fine - almost pureed.  Saute the onion in the butter while browning the hamburg.  

Remove the onion into a bowl to cool, add another half stick of butter to the pan. Put a bag of pepper and onion strips (Wengers in Mifflinburg often has the bags for 99 cents, they are great to keep on hand) and dice. Saute the peppers and onions.  Set aside to cool.

The first batch of beef should be browned and ready to set aside to cool now - I just moved the pan to a cold burner.


Add about 3lbs of raw hamburg to a mixing bowl.
  Egg, Salt, pepper, garlic, worcestershire sauce, shredded cheese, the sauted onion, and shredded cheese.  Mix.  Use and ice cream scoop, heaped, to measure out into 8 hamburgers.


There's a lot of hamburg left in the bowl.  
Add: Oatmeal (or bread crumbs) parmesan cheese,  another egg, 3/4 a can of tomato paste and a lot of italian seasoning. Mix thoroughly. Shape into a meatloaf, top with the rest of the tomato paste, italian seasonings, and coarse sea salt.

You can put this in a pan in the freezer, on saran wrap, flash freeze it,then remove the saran wrap and wrap in foil.  

Cheeseburger Soup
I bought a case of cheap french fries at Wengers.  Using just part of one bag, I fill the ninja about 3/4 full, and pulse, just to roughly dice the french fries.  I put them in to saute in a frying pan, with just a bit of oil. Meanwhile I put carrots in the ninja and dice them very fine, then add them to the pan to cook with the french fries.

In a large mixing bowl I add about half of the cooked ground beef,  I add about a two cups of sour cream, the peppers and onions I sauteed earlier, then the french fries and carrot mixture,and a generous amount of shredded cheese.  I scoop the mixture into two larger rubbermaid containers, and set them aside to cool.  (When I make this, I'll add a little beef bouillon and water to the crockpot, enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  Some milk - maybe two cups?  And this frozen mixture.  I'll leave it in the crockpot on high for a few hours, or on low all day.

Seasoned Beef for Goulash And Chili
The seasoned, browned, beef left in the pan I split into two qt size freezer bags, to use in chili & goulash.  My pantry is well stocked with beans & pasta, and I canned a lot of tomatoes this summer. I keep Tones bouillon on hand all the time too, so these are meals I can now throw together in minutes.

Taco Meat
I put the last of the beef into the pan with taco seasoning, and brown that while cleaning up the kitchen.  I let it cool quite a bit (I typed this post while it cooled) and then put it in ziplock bags.


Extra Ingredients:
Garlic Powder
Italian Seasoning
taco seasoning
Worcestershire Sauce

Parmesan Cheese
Bag of shredded cheese (I used about 3/4 of one 16 ounce bag of mexican blend cheese, from Sam's club)
1 can tomato paste (or you can use ketchup)
1 onion
1 stick of butter
2 cups of sour cream
3 eggs
oatmeal, or bread crumbs, or whatever you use for meatloaf
Pepper & Onion strips
french fries, or diced potatoes


Other Ground Beef Recipes:
Shepherd's Pie
BBQ (sloppy joes)
White Castle Style Sliders

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Five Essential Things, Day Two

Money Saving Mom has a good article here on 5 Essential Things You Should Do Every Day.  At the end of her post, she gives a suggestion for how to incorporate those things. Yesterday that sample plan failed pretty miserably for me.. but today was a new day!  

The last sentence of her post says "Just being a little more intentional with your morning and evening routines to make sure you accomplish these important daily tasks can not only help you feel more organized, it will keep your house cleaner, and probably help you feel a lot less stressed."

MSM 5 Essentials:
1. To Do List
2. Make Your Bed
3. Get Dressed
4. Do one load of laundry from start to finish
5. Keep Your Kitchen Clean
(There's a sample routine at the end of her post, to get you started)

Yesterday my biggest obstacles, besides being so far behind & recovering from the holidays, were needing to get dressed twice (I don't think walking around the block in my nightgown is a good idea) and fitting in all of the animal chores & interruptions.  I ended up ready for a shower at 7:30 pm. Today I made progress - I was ready to hit the shower at 10:45 am.  Tomorrow will be the challenge, as I need to leave the house by 8:40am. 

This morning two of our kids were home for breakfast, so I cooked waffles and had breakfast with the kids.  Their schedules vary so drastically, that's hit or miss.  Then my son needed a ride to pick up a car he was working on today.  These interruptions make a routine difficult, and often drive me nuts, because I would LOVE a set routine... but I'm  a stay at home mom.  Those interruptions are my job.  :-)

Peabody II's new tail is coming in beautifully!

The morning walk "around the block" (out one of our lanes and back the other- I used the SHealth app, and with the animal chores, it comes to just over 1 mile) is probably the best addition to my daily routine. It's good for me to see the animals each day - not just pass the chore off to the kids.  I have a better sense of their health.  And when I'm out there, I notice all the things that need fixed, I pick up things, put stuff away...  it's little stuff, but it should add up in time.  Plus, when you are out in the cold, when you come inside the house feels warmer..  Good for the heating bill!  

Starting supper in the morning (and lunch, when there are kids here for lunch), is really essential.  I use my crock pots HARD this time of year. This morning I put frozen sausage in the crockpot to cook.  At lunch time I pulled it out, sliced it, and then tossed it back in with all the rest of the ingredients for Sausage & Tortellini Soup.  My daughter had the day off from work, she made copycat panera broccoli & cheddar soup for lunch. So we had soup twice today, but I was the only member of our family home for both meals, and that worked for me!  

Sausage & Tortellini Soup
4 links italian sausage (I like hot sausage- like you'd use for a sandwich) Sliced
1qt  jar spaghetti sauce (I used homemade)
Canned Whole tomatoes (I used 1 qt jar from this summers canning)
1 cup red wine, or apple cider
1.5-2 cups green beans - cut them up if they are long
half an onion, diced 
2T italian seasoning
2T garlic
a dash of worcestershire sauce

Leave in the crock pot on high on high for a few hours, or on low all day.

then about an hour or two before serving, drop in a bag of frozen or dried tortellini

I made home made bread to go with it, and monkey bread for dessert.

Today I started realizing that I have closer to 10 essentials than 5.  But I can skip making the bed - because my husband works 3rd shift. He usually makes the bed when he gets up in the afternoon.  

My 10 essentials look like this:
1. Bible in a year reading
2. Dogs out to pee/fed
3. Laundry (3 loads a day, with a different day designated for each person/area of the house.  )
4. Bathrooms wiped down
5. Supper started (our evenings are so chaotic, I almost always start supper in the morning. Or at least have a plan for it.
6. Dishwasher unloaded, kitchen floor swept, counters wiped down
7. To Do List Made (for me, and for the kids)
8. Feed the poultry, collect the eggs, feed two pens of goats, feed the llama, carry water to the baby goats, walk around the block
9. straighten the house
10. vacuum 

This is taking a LONG time right now, but I feel confident that the more I do it, the quicker it will get.  Right now I'm in recover mode, maintenance will be easier!

Then each day I focus on a different room of the house. Tuesdays are the kitchen & laundry room -but today I was completely focused on emptying my pantry, wiping it down, and getting everything back neatly. Sadly, it really did take me most of the day!  But it's SO nice to know what we have once again, and I made a list of things to restock.

I split laundry by day too - Tuesday is Nate's laundry day. He worked 6:30-3:30, so I used the day to catch up on misc laundry, and Nate did his laundry when he got home from work. 

There's a book called something like 52 weeks of small changes. I've tried reading it, but found that like most things, I need to adapt it a lot.  So this year I'm just doing my own version. And I started a bit early, so week one is done - that was taking a vitamin every day.  For week two, I'm adding logging my meals on my fitness pal every day.  

I haven't made any resolutions this year - I'm focussing on habits more than resolutions. I guess my resolution is to have better habits.  :-)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Day 1 Of 5 Things You Should Do Every Single Day

This morning when I first woke up and was reading facebook on my phone before crawling out of bed, I saw this article.
  5 Things You Should Do Every Single Day

Five Things You Should Do Every Single Day - Even When Life Is Stressful-

And it's a new year, and I am in "lets fix everything" mode, so I decided to try it.  Here's how it went for a stay at home farm wife with teenage/adult children, after 3 weeks of holiday parties and general slacking.

First I made my bed. A simple thing, except a 15 year old blind and deaf shih tzu mix sleeps at the end of my bed each night, and his routine is to be woken up and carried downstairs and put out on his tie chain to pee, immediately, each morning.  He didn't understand why I was moving him, but not taking him out to pee.

Then I remembered why this is odd- my husband works third shift. I rarely make a bed in the morning because he is climbing into it as I am climbing out.  Oh well - it did need made today.

Next I get my dog, and stop by my daughters room to get her dog, and take them outside.  Fill their feed dishes, and the cats dish too. While I'm in the laundry room, I start the laundry.  Yes, I know that's out of her suggested order, but I'm IN the laundry room.   

This was a mistake. I fold the laundry that is sitting in the dryer, then start to put the load from the washer into the dryer... but I can't. Because they aren't clean.  My son, who was pretty much a pro at ruining laundry to begin with, recently started working part time in a garage.  My home made laundry detergent is just not getting through all the grease on those jeans, which can practically stand up by themselves AFTER being washed.  Ugh. 

 Dogs are barking for in, so I go get them,  While I am unhooking my dog, I notice the row of muddy sneakers on the porch, from a skeet shoot (and from chasing the horses who were loose the other night) we had here last week. They are CAKED in mud.   Four pairs.  After letting the dogs in, I bang the shoes around to knock off as much of the dried mud as possible, then I bring them in to wash them.

  I quickly google options for getting those jeans (and sweatshirts) closer to clean. (Goop worked. But I'll need a better option, that will get expensive). I put the sneakers in, letting the jeans sit wet over the side of the hamper, for now.

Ok, I'm back on track. Head to the kitchen, start the coffee, put away the dishes.

Well, put away most of the dishes. Open the travel coffee cup/"sippy cup" (cups with straws) cabinet and things fall out.  Apparently we got a lot of extra cups over the holiday.  I emptied the cabinet, sorted some of the older ones out, put all the lids on everything the way they should have been put away to begin with, then finish putting away the dishes.

And the tea jug is empty.  On a farm, in central PA, this may be an actual felony.  So I start some ice tea.  When I fill the pitcher with ice, the ice maker makes a weird noise. I open it up and find that it's WAY overfull, and ice is melted and caked in the bottom.  So I empty it as much as possible, pull it out, then run hot water over it until all the ice is cleared out, then set it aside to air dry.

As I'm there at the fridge, I realize I have no plan for lunch.   Or supper for that matter. I rummage through the fridge to see what needs used up.  (Leftover ham & cheese - I ended up making another batch of  these hot ham & cheese party rolls for lunch.)

Hot Ham & Cheese Roll-Ups with a Brown Sugar Poppy Seed Glaze. Perfect for taking to friends, new moms, and family because you can assemble it the night before and bake it the next day.
(Every recipe I have made from this site has been a big hit here)

Next I wipe down the counters.  This should be a quick chore,but when it hasn't been done properly in weeks, it's not. I wipe out the microwave while I'm at it, and consider scrubbing the sinks as well - but I'm not wearing shoes so I decide against it.  (LOL! my biggest issue with the flylady has always been her insistence on shoes in the house) then I plan to sweep the floor... but my broom is missing. I vaguely remember my youngest needing a broom for something (most likely completely unrelated to any sort of housekeeping) but I have no idea what he was using it for, or where the broom is now. I wish this was uncommon.  I use the vacuum.

Finally, I sit down with my coffee to read my devotions. Well, I sit down and notice a red stain on my favorite ivory lace table cloth. So I remove the table cloth, treat the stain, wipe down the table, get a new table cloth..

Then I sit down again.  But my head is now full of things I need to write down before I forget - so I pull out a notebook and do a brain dump, and separately start a grocery list.  
just a quick list of a "few" of the things that need done around here

It's January 1st, and I have yet to even choose a bible reading plan for the year.  It took me awhile to choose one. I've done chronological, I've done start to finish, I've done 90 days, I've done  mix of old testament and new.. I wanted something different. I found this one - which says podcast, but is actually all text -


By now my family is coming into the kitchen looking for breakfast.  Which I have not made. Thankfully my daughter is wonderful, she made breakfast. We discussed everyone's schedules and plans for the day, and a quick overview of the week. (Definitely modifying this so I do my devotions before I come downstairs  - I need the coffe time to plan my to do list and day)

By now the washer has quit. And I realize what a bad idea it was to put the sneakers in there... I had to completely clean out the washer (using a vacuum cleaner) and then it was unbalanced and not spinning correctly... and the shoes still needed wiped down by hand, and placed on a towel in front of the heater...   

In MSM's sample plan, she suggests a quick walk or run around the block.  Since our "block" is about 5 miles, I decide to use this time to tend the chickens, collect the eggs,feed the llama & goats, take treats to the horses, and walk out one lane and back up the other (which is just under a mile - probably an average town block?)

But I'm still in my nightgown and robe. It's almost 10am, and I'm still in my nightgown and robe.  (Granted, I didn't get up until 7:30) The sample plan actually means getting dressed BEFORE you get showered and dressed for the day. Ok. Jeans  on, out I go.  

Here in central PA, we've had insanely warm temps in December. Record breaking.  That ended rather abruptly in January, and we had not prepared at all. I went out to find that whoever watered the chickens last left the hose in the water dish. So not only is the hose frozen, but it's frozen INTO the frozen water in the dish.  Lovely. I tend everything, making a list of the bigger problems (no heaters in  any of the livestock tanks, light out in the chicken coop, etc - for my husband.  )

I get back from my walk, and flip the laundry, again. Now I SHOULD head to the shower and dress "for the day I want to have" (Pajamas. I want a day in pajamas. I don't think that's what that statement is supposed to inspire.)  But my daughter has to work later,so If I want her help with taking down the Christmas decorations, that has to be done now.  I definitely want her help, so we get to work.

I never did make that to do list.

It was 7:30pm before I got my shower. Just 12 hours later than my goal time. Tomorrow will be better, right?  :-)