Into the New Year: What on earth to do with all that ham…

We had Christmas at our house this year, which meant left overs attacked my refrigerator! The roast beef was mostly gone, but the spiral ham was never going to be eaten in sandwiches alone.

What is a girl to do? Oh yes, Split Pea Soup and Ham Scalloped Potatoes freezer meal. You could also use the diced ham in an omelet, a breakfast casserole, a version of corned beef hash, or a risotto. The possibilities are really quite endless, and so it seems is my left over ham!

Split Pea Soup
This hearty, veggie packed soup is great for cold days/nights and since it cooks all day in the slow cooker it is perfect for the end of a busy day or to serve to guests (the recipe serves 8).

Adapted from: Whole Foods Market

Ingredients:
Serves 8

1 (16 ounce) package dried green split peas, rinsed
1 meaty ham bone, 2 ham hocks or 2 cups diced ham
2-3 diced carrots
1 med yellow onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cups chicken broth

Rinse the peas and the place them on the bottom of your slow cooker. Then layer the remaining ingredients over the peas. Because I was using the ham bones from my spiral ham, layering was not really possible. I placed the onion, celery, and carrots around the ham bone(s) and then added some diced ham on top along with the parsley. I decided not to season with salt and pepper until the end, so I could taste it first. Then just pour the broth on top and cover up. Just leave it, I know it’s tempting to stir, but don’t. Plus the bones make it hard to stir.

At the end of cooking, remove the bones, and now you can stir. I prefer a pureed split pea soup, so I used my immersion blender to get the consistency I wanted. I cracked the top a bit to allow the soup to thicken a bit more. All personal choices 🙂 I did add salt and pepper at this point and it turned out amazing. My family came over for dinner and we are this with a nice side of fresh bread. Simple, delish meal.

Ham and Scalloped Potatoes

Adapted from: Six-Cents

Ingredients
Serves approx 4

Cream of Soup Substitute
1 1/4 cup of water
2 cups of diced ham
2 cups chopped broccoli
Salt and pepper to taste
4oz shredded cheese
Approx 6 med potatoes*

*used the day of and not frozen

This recipe originally called for a can of whatever-you-wanted cream soup. I decided to go with a homemade version for two reasons: I’m due with number two in about a month and with Monkey she was dairy sensitive, so I’m just getting dairy out of my life for a bit incase this one is too. The other reason is have you ever looked at what is in those? The sodium alone should give someone pause.

So I made a simple chicken cream of soup using the following version:

3tbsp coconut oil
3tbsp flour
1 1/4 cup of chicken stock
Pepper to taste (I left out the salt because the meal will get salted anyway)

Melt the coconut oil over med heat, once melted combine with the flour. Stir until combined. Then add in the stock, whisking to avoid clumps. Bring to a boil to thicken and season with pepper. Done! I let it cool before combining with the rest of the ingredients.

Combine everything (I left out the cheese because dairy and Hubby is still anti-cheese) in a ziptop bag, label with the month and year along with the following:

Cook low 6-8hrs
The night before, slice your potatoes into 1/4 slices and soak in water. (This prevents the “my potatoes turned black” issue. Toss the water and layer then at the bottom of the slow cooker.)

This is one of Hubby’s fav slow cooker meals. So whenever we have left over ham, this is a go to. I also usually double this so that I have two meals in the freezer. Which will likely be a good thing in the coming months!

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Operation No Biting Our Friends…

Monkey went to preschool today and decided that a friend of her’s was not going to play with the bike she wanted to play with, so she snacked on his arm.
Monkey is not a zombie.

We had already told her that if she bit her friends (or enemies… parents… grandparents…) She would lose a Thomas toy. Some people will likely say,  “She’s only two, she can’t comprehend that sort of future consequence.” To them I say, “and…?” When I picked her up and her teacher told me what she did, I looked at her and said, “You know what that means, you lose a Thomas toy when you get home.” She looked at me and said, “uhuh.”

She told me who she bit and told me she said sorry. She said sorry to me for doing it and I told her to go pick out a Thomas for her to lose. She picked her Thomas training pants. I attached them to the fridge and reminded her again why they were there. I asked her if she wanted to earn them back and she said yes. So we waited for Hubby to come home to discuss what she would do.

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Hubby felt the undies weren’t enough of a punishment and, although, I agree, this was the first time so I decided to let her pick.

At dinner I asked her if she thought cleaning her room up was a good chore to earn her underwear back. She agreed.

We talked about why we were doing what we were doing and she again told me who she bit and that she lost Thomas because of it. We cleaned her room and she earned them back.

Let’s see how this goes! If anything we are setting the ground work for future discipline. I felt that she needed to earn them back same day because she might not have the same association with what happened tomorrow. With an older kid I would probably stretch it out a few days.

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Kitchen Sink Cooking: Snow Pea and Sesame Rice Pilaf

I am now starting to be able to walk down to my veggie patch and harvest some fresh veggies for dinner. The other night it was kale and tonight it was snow peas.

2014-07-06 17.42.07Summer has finally decided to to show up in Chicagoland (which would be lovely, accept our A/C has decided it does not want to work) which means my snows peas are about to die. They are a cool season plant and since the “cool season” this year was rather… missing… they were not very productive. That’s okay, I got one meal! (we had plenty of COLD, but the cool part was the issue). It also did not help that I think I had like six plants come up, but again, I blame the weather.

Snow Pea and Sesame Rice Pilaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Oriental sesame oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled ginger root
  • 1/3 cup long-grain rice
  • 1 cup homemade veggie broth
  • 1/4 pound snow peas, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2/3 cup)

2014-07-06 17.39.53I adapted this recipe’s ingredients strictly based on what I had in the house. The original called for scallions and toasted sesame seeds – I just did not have them in the house and was not going to the store to get them. Otherwise, I would have used them and think they would be amazing in the dish. Also the original wanted you to make this all in the microwave, which was just strange to me, so I did it stove top which was fine.

2014-07-06 17.40.32In a non-stick pot combine the oil and the butter, cook on medium heat until the butter melts and the oil is hot.  Then add the onion and the ginger root and cook until the onion is softened. Add the rice and the broth, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.

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Stir in the snow peas. Let the pilaf stand, covered for a few minutes to allow the snow peas to come to temperature of the rice, but long enough for them to become mushy.

Serve as a side to protein of your choice. We had grilled steak.

2014-07-06 17.41.36Although Monkey was not a fan (the onion was trying to kill her, or so you would think by the way she reacted… oh to be two…) hubby and I loved this dish and I actually think I liked it more than the steak; although, that’s not saying much as I am not huge red meat fan.

 

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Summer Freezer Meals – BBQ Time!

With BBQ Season upon us and the slow cooker getting less and less use, what is a freeze meal planner to do? What about freezing meat in marinades ready for the BBQ?

Exactly!

I planned the freezer meal for my Mom’s Group for the Month of June with this idea in mind (thanks to Granna for the idea BTW). I wanted to have a mix of meat types and seasonings while keeping the shopping list short. I did this by picking five recipes that used a couple of similar ingredients. As always, these recipes were found online and I had not tried them when we made them. Also, the amount of meat is designed for two adults and a toddler – however, there is plenty of marinade so increase the amount of meat based on your needs.

2014-06-06 18.04.50Pineapple-Ginger Flank Steak
Ingredients:
• 3/4 cups pineapple juice
• 1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
• 1/4 cups soy sauce
• 1/4 cups canola oil
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 1.5 pounds flank steak

Whisk together all ingredients except flank steak for the marinade, until combined. Divide flank steak in half (2 portions) and place in individual zip-top bags. Pour the marinade over it. Seal and freeze.

To serve, defrost during the day while at work and grill until cooked through. This meat will cook quickly depending on the thickness (5-10 minutes per side). Serve over rice. The original recipe called to set aside some marinade and freeze separately to baste the meat. Personally, we did not do this nor did we feel like it needed it. The flavor was amazing and the meat was tender. I think the only thing I might try next time is keeping some marinade separate to make a sauce for the rice as it was a bit dry for my liking. We will certainly make this again.

Dijon Chicken Marinade:
Ingredients:
• 2/3 cup Dijon mustard
• 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 1/2 cup oil
• 4 chicken breasts

Divide the ingredients (except the chicken) between zip top bags and mush to combine. Then add the chicken and freeze. I chose to just leave the breasts whole in this recipe; however, I love how the kebabs turned out in the other recipes that I wish I had made this as a kebab as well. Oh well, next time! To see how I made the kebabs check below.

To cook, defrost while you are a work and throw on the grill when you get home. Cook until internal temp is 165F and the juices run clear.

Pineapple Chicken/Pork Marinade:
Ingredients:
• 2 cup pineapple juice
• 1 cup brown sugar, packed
• 2/3 cup light soy sauce
• 4 chicken breasts (or 4 pork chops)
• bamboo skewers

Divide the ingredients (except the chicken) between zip top bags and mush to combine. Chop the chicken breasts into similar sized chunks and thread approx 5 chunks onto the skewer. Cut the tip off the skewer and place into the bag. I did 4 skewers (two for hubby, one for me, maybe Monkey will try it, but likely left overs for a salad!). Freeze.

Defrost while you are at work and cook on the grill until chicken reaches temperature. Turn after a few minutes on each side to allow the chicken to brown nicely. Serve with corn, and grilled new potatoes. These turned out really well. I was impressed at how tasty they are and how well then grill up. Also could be served over a salad.

Mediterranean Pork Chops
Ingredients:
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 2 cups chick broth
• 4 cloves of garlic
• 2 tbsp paprika
• 2 tbsp poultry seasoning
• 2 tsp dried oregano
• 2 tsp dried basil
• 4 thick cut pork chops

Combine all ingredients in a zip top bag and add pork chops. Freeze and then place the frozen lump into the slow cooker. Cook for 6-8 hours.

Okay, so there is one slow cooker meal. Honestly, I have no tried this one yet and I bet you could cook this on the grill. I will try and report back!

Chicken Kebabs
Ingredients:
• 4 chicken breasts
• 1 cup soy sauce
• garlic
• 1 tsp sweet paprika
• 2 tsp Italian Seasoning
• bamboo skewers

Divide the ingredients (aside from the chicken and skewers) into two zip top bags and mush to combine. Follow the above steps for assembling the kebabs.

These have a really nice flavor. Also serve with summer veg (corn, zucchini, etc) and grilled new potatoes. Or serve over a salad.

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The Next Chapter of Cloth Diapers: Cloth Pull-ups

2014-05-30 13.01.31Monkey is two years old now. She certainly has learned the word “no,” her favorite color is purple, and she LOVES Thomas the Tank Engine…. and I do mean LOVES, it’s an obsession really. So now what?

Ah yes, potty training. Time to break away from the diaper-pail chains and move toward wet shoes and damp car seats. I really think parents leave their children in diapers until the last possible minute because, lets be honest, once they get use to them they are damn convenient.

With that said, she is ready… but are we?

Now what’s going to be on her bum? When at home and at Granna’s house she is just in regular old undies (Hello Kitty and Peppa Pig respectively) since if she pee’s, she pee’s. We just clean the floor and move on. But in the car, at pre-school, and just out and about… what on earth to do?

So far we have test driven: Blueberry Trainers, Super Undies Pull-ups and Snap-on, and Flip Potty Training Pant.

Blueberry Trainers – These have super cute prints. We have the monkey print (shocking I know), the giraffe print, and the cow print. They feel more like real underwear, just thicker. There is a hidden layer of PUL to prevent couches from getting wet; however, the elastic around the legs and waist do wick the moisture away from the soaker over a short period of time. So if you don’t know they have peed or they are sitting in their car seat wearing these training pants, this could be an issue. They also do not line dry very quickly. They can be dried in the dryer, but I am cheap and like my washing line.

Super Undies: Pull-ups – These are a bit more on the boring side when it comes to design, but functionally they are quite nice. They do not seem to wick moisture in the same way that the Blueberry Trainers did; however, like the Blueberry Trainers, they do not dry very quickly due to the thickness. The version I tried does not have a pocket and is more like a AIO. There is a pocket version which might be better on the dry time. Also approx $20 retail (or slightly cheaper on outlet).

Super Undies: Snap-on – Again, boring fabric, but functionally right now these are my favorite. Because they unsnap they dry quicker. I can use a thick soaker for nap time (which has been working wonderfully) or nothing at all as there is a built in small soaker. I only have two of these and I am already thinking of picking up a few more. Right now I am trying to decide on the size as the small on the largest setting right now. Approx $20 retail (or slightly cheaper on outlet).

Flip Training Pant System – I received these as a hand-me-down (so excited!) and they are getting a test drive at pre-school today. I decided this was the easiest way to go for school as the PUL cover will keep clothing dry and the inserts can be changed easily and frequently. I only have one cover and 5 or 6 inserts so I do need to get some more (if things went well today). For a cover and three inserts you are going to spend $30. I am thinking I need aprox 3 covers and 10 inserts – maybe 15. This would get us through three days of pre-school (at least the 15 inserts would). Monkey usually attends pre-school two days a week. These would also likely work for day trips etc since that was another concern of mine.

There are many other brands out there – GroVia has a training pant and there is Antsy Pants. I was not a fan of GroVia when she was little so maybe that is why I have not gotten one to try and Antsy pants look very similar to GroVia and are expensive! I can get a Flip cover and inserts for basically the same price. They might be amazing, but I can not say.

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Kitchen Sink Cooking: Breaded Chicken Tenders

We are finally into our own place. We moved in April and there are still more boxes floating around than I can count; however, life is starting to fall back into a normal rhythm. Yup – cooking, cleaning, sleeping, the occasional bout of marital discord, and more cleaning (two dogs + toddler + back yard that resembles a jungle = mess). Shortly after we moved in I went through and made some freezer meals. Mostly ones we had already had and knew we liked. With summer quickly approaching (and spring forgetting to show up in Chicagoland) I wanted to come up with freezer meal options that are salad friendly. Not just the side salad type of friendly, that I can do with frozen pizza. I want other options. Enter chicken tenders. I have been making these for years. The recipe has been tweeked slightly over the years, mostly as I became more confident in the kitchen, but the basics have remained the same. 2014-05-21 17.02.50 - CopyIngredients: 2 Packages of Chicken Tenders (approx 14 chicken tenders; I do not mess with cutting up the breasts myself, lazy I know). 3 Eggs 1 tbsp Mayonnaise 1 tbsp Yellow Mustard 2-3 cups Plain Breadcrumbs 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning Salt and Pepper to Taste Oil (preferably spray version) Before cracking that first egg, set up your station. I am rather grossed out by uncooked chicken. It is not because I am scared of getting sick, but because it is slimy and just not my favorite thing. So having stations when cooking is partly because I am crazy and party because it does help keep things clean and orderly (plus, yes less likely for the getting sick thing). I use four stations: Station one – the chicken. I usually use the tray it comes on, but you can also use a plate. Next station is a bowl for the egg mixture. Station three a dish for the breadcrumbs (I used a square baking dish) and, lastly, station four, a clean plate to put your assembled tenders. 2014-05-21 17.07.42For the egg mixture, beat the eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper until evenly combined. Note: you may need more or less of this mixture depending on the size of your tenders. In the next dish, combine the breadcrumbs and the Italian seasoning. 2014-05-21 17.10.39 Dredge the chicken tenders in the egg mixture and then allow the access to drip off, they just need to be coated. Then place the tender in the breadcrumbs and ensure it is completed covered in a thin layer of breadcrumbs. Lay on the plate as you assemble the remaining, allowing the egg mixture to soak into the breadcrumbs before cooking. This helps the breadcrumbs stay on the chicken tender during cooking. 2014-05-21 17.32.36Spritz a griddle or fry pan with oil and place the chicken tenders in a single layer, cooking on medium. Cooking the tenders slowly ensures the breadcrumbs will brown and not burn. Spritz the pan when you flip the chicken tenders to ensure the other side browns as well. Cook until juices run clear. Enjoy with a side salad and/or fries. I bought my tenders when they were buy one get one free at my local store. I made all of them (approximately 30 tenders) at once. The leftovers from dinner cooled on a baking rack while we ate. I then layered a cookie sheet with wax paper, put the tenders on the cookie sheet in a single layer, and froze them. Once frozen, I stored them in a ziptop bag labeled with when they were made. To reheat, bake from frozen at 350 degrees F until heated through. Also try a spin of Chicken Parmesan – bake covered with pasta sauce and cheese! 2014-05-21 22.11.16 - Copy

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Happy Bday Dr. Seuss – Read Across America Day in Lake County

2014-03-03 16.38.34

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish!

Apparently Dr. Seuss was born March 2, 1904, so on Monday March 3, 2014, I started to see posts on Facebook and other sites about activities to do to celebrate (all be it a day late). Little Lake County (a local blog site filled with all sorts of local activities) gave some ideas of what to do to celebrate the day. Since Hubby is not arts and crafts inclined and I was home early, I had Monkey do a Dr. Seuss themed art project that I found here.

Supplies
White cardstock (or cardboard with white paper glued to it – it’s what I had on hand.)
Blue food coloring
Corn syrup
Brush
Colored construction paper fish

Mix the blue food coloring and corn syrup (a little goes a long way with both) and put it in a bowl or a recycled meat tray. Give to your toddler to paint.

We use an old sweater done up at the back for a painting shirt.

We use an old sweater done up at the back for a painting shirt.

Then hand over the fish and let them stick. The corn syrup acts as a glue and drys shiny so it looks like water!

2014-03-03 16.31.06-1

“Stick!”

 

No day would be completed without a story – Monkey and Hubby reading The Lorax.

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She loves to listen to Hubby read her stories.

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Dear Spring – My Toddler Requests Your Presence

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It’s the second Saturday in March and outside we have a number of feet of snow. What a great year to move to Chicagoland… Monkey’s cabin fever is multiplying by the day and last night she started to cry when we pulled into the driveway after we popped out to pick up dinner!

During a trip to Target (she was SO happy to be out of the house) we found some Buzzy Seed Kits, Monkey really wanted a large strawberry one, but I thought that a bit too ambitious. I picked a basil greenhouse kit, poppy and daisy kits, and a strawberry kit. Figured it would keep the toddler busy for five minutes and it did!

Monkey has become very interested in doing things that we do. She has seen us in the garden (maybe she remembers, maybe she doesn’t) and has “helped” (ie picked tomatoes and eaten them off the vine).

We used plastic bowls for water and to re-hydrate the potting soil.

2014-03-08 16.17.46

 

Then Monkey scraped the dirt into little pots.

She helped to sprinkle the seeds into the pots (there is likely more than the recommended number… oh well) and made a good mess in the process.

Now we just have to wish away the snow so the little seeds can be planted outside (if) when they get big and tall.

 

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How to Spoil Your Children on a Budget

Everyone wants to give their children everything they had or didn’t have and more… but in a world where jobs are hard to come by, student loans are the norm, and the word budget is a four letter word… trying to afford to give your children everything you want to is just as stressful as deciding which daycare/pre-school/etc that will start your child’s educational experience (I have learned this is very hot topic around the play date circle, it’s almost like religion or politics… or potty training…).

So how on earth do you do it? Well for starters you do need to set boundaries and decide what is important. Buying a pony is not likely going to happen for the majority of us – riding lessons from Groupon maybe, but an actual pony is unlikely for most folks. Swim lessons for me is important as I want Monkey to be safe around water. So we shop the various programs and find the best deals. This will likely change as the years go by – maybe it will be soccer or softball or maybe even hockey (Hubby would be over the moon!). If you expect this expense, plan for it. We use You Need a Budget (YNAB)  for all our budgeting needs which helps us to set aside a little bit each month so we have the money to pay for the activity.

Currently Monkey attends daycare once a week and is home with Hubby the rest of the week. Once Hubby is back into the workforce (fingers and toes crossed that it is sooner rather than later) Monkey will go a few days a week and spend time with Granna the rest of the week. Hubby takes her to a local toddler gym facilitated through the local Parks and Rec which costs $5 a time, takes her to Story Time at the local Library (and she also checks out books then), and goes to other local events.  We budget all these things so we know there is money to cover the activities. Once the weather warms, the indoor pay events may decrease, but I’m sure there will be outdoor events that cost money too.

What about the toys, clothing, etc?
Consignment/Resale/Yard Sale Shopping is your friend. Before I had a child I was against hand-me-downs and shopping the used items. I will admit, I felt I was above that. I have since realized there is nothing wrong with seccond hand toys and clothing. I’m not a bad parent for giving my child used items. In fact, I feel like I am a good parent for doing it. I am helping either a program, charity, or family support themselves and providing for my daughter in a way that helps my family. Not everything is a good deal and not everything is worth your time. You do need to know what you want before you go and shop ahead of your child’s age. For example, Monkey will be two in April; I will be hitting the sales starting in March – I am looking for summer toys, summer and fall clothing, and room decor (for our hopeful new home). In the past two years we have gotten deals on a outdoor slide, outdoor and indoor tables, various clothing and toys, an attachment for the back of my bike for her to sit in, and much more! In both States that I have lived and also in some States I have friends in there are consignment sales. Try an internet search for children’s consignment sales and I bet you will find something near you.

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I still want the expensive items!
I love my Petunia Pickle Bottom bags… but I could never afford to pay full price. Outlet shopping for products like this is the way to go. Certified Seconds usually means there is a pen mark somewhere or maybe a sticky zipper. This is also how we have afforded to get much of our cloth diaper stash – Cotton Babies often has a Certified Seconds sale.

Hand-me-downs
This is not only clothing, I accept toys, sandboxes, boxes of foods/kitchen items, and even a swing and slide set! Anyone who has had a child knows they only wear things for a few months at a time. If you are lucky enough to have multiple of the same sex child, you get your moneys worth (maybe) from the clothing you bought for child number one. If you have only one child or if you have girl/boy children, the clothing does not get reused! When I was preggo I had friends give me clothing and shoes for Monkey. Some was not in the best shape, but you need play clothing as they age. So what if the pants are faded or have a bit of paint on the sleave? Guess what, your kiddo will run and jump and paint just as well in the gently loved clothing as the $20 shorts from Baby Gap. I was a bit touchy about the shoes, but now that I realize how expensive kids shoes are I am very grateful for the shoes we received. She may not wear all of them (she has wide feet), but she has worn many of them and a pair of sandals we received were the only thing she wore when she was first walking because her feet were so tiny and they were all that fit her! (Plus they were Stride Rite!) Toys never go out of style. We have been lucky to have neighbors with children older than Monkey, so we have received a sandbox and kitchen/food items as their children have grown out of them. Monkey will be getting a play kitchen for her birthday (which we plan to make… stay tuned!) so the food and kitchen items are so so so welcomed!

Recycle
Arts and crafts are so fun for kiddos, but supplying an ongoing amount of paper and playdough can be expensive. I have started to save random bit of cardboard for projects (the frozen pizza rounds work really well) and use the mail circulars for collages. Kids do not care where the supplies come from, they just want them! We use cleaned meat pans to squirt paint into for finger/brush painting and use egg cartons for sensory projects. Toilet paper rolls can also be used for various projects. Get creative and recycle what you would normally just throw away.

Budget
I really can not stress this enough. Even setting aside $5 a month (basically one trip to Starbucks) can add up and allow you buy things you want for your child. I managed to get Christmas gifts for super cheap using coupons, Groupons, and price matching. If you want it, you can have it! You just want to work for it.

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Kitchen Sink Cooking: Freezer Meal Lasagna

IMG_5654Lasagna is a very versatile dish and also very simple to make and cook. You can make mini ones in a loaf pan as pictured above or use a large pan to serve a dinner party. No matter what your plan, the prep and assembly are all the same.

I recently asked my Facebook friends for some suggestions to create some new freezer meal recipes. A friend of mine from work in California is vegetarian and requested some new veggie meals to make. I too love my veggies and took on the challenge. Since Hubby and Grumpy are not huge veggie-meal fans, I decided to make two smaller lasagnas – one meat and one veggie. Each list of ingrients will make two loaf pans – note if making all 4 pans don’t double the pasta sauce, just add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes – unless you want leftover sauce for another meal (see below).

The Tools
Foil
2 to 4 Disposable or not loaf pans (if using not, keep in mind the meal needs to freeze in the pan so you will lose your loaf pan for a bit until it’s frozen).
Marker pen (to write cook instructions and to label the meal)
Knives/Cutting Board/etc

IMG_5641The Ingredients – Veggie Version
Uncooked lasagna noodles
3 cups frozen spinach (not thawed)
1 24oz can of pasta sauce (or a homemade version)
1 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 leak (sliced into rounds)
1 Zucchini (sliced into rounds)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 8oz container of Cottage Cheese (do not drain)
Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste

The Ingredients – Meat Version
Uncooked lasagna noodles
3 cups frozen spinach (not thawed)
1 24oz can of pasta sauce (or a homemade version)
1 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1lb of ground beef
1 leak (sliced into rounds)
1 8oz container of Cottage Cheese (optional)
Mozzarella and Parmesan cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Italian Seasoning to taste

IMG_5643Combine the spinach, pasta sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and leak in a large pot and heat through. Once heated add salt and pepper to taste. If your pasta sauce or diced tomatoes are not already seasoned, add Italian Seasoning to taste as well. You can either blend the sauce or leave it chunky. Completely a personal preference! You may have extra sauce, save and serve over pasta and Turkey Pork Meatballs.

Lay everything out to make things easier when assembling.

Lay everything out to make things easier when assembling.

For the Veggie Version:
Place the uncooked lasagna noodles on the bottom of the loaf pan (you will need to break off the top inch or two to make it fit, but keep the broken parts for another layer!), then a layer of zucchini, a layer of mushrooms, a layer of sauce, a layer of cottage cheese, and a sprinkle of Mozzarella and Parmesan – then repeat! Use the broken parts to make a full layer, you will not notice the difference once cooked. After two layers the loaf pan will likely be full. One last layer of noodles, sauce, and Mozzarella and Parmesan to finish it off. Do not drain the cottage cheese as the noodles want the liquid to cook during baking.

For the Meat Version:
Brown the ground beef in a fry pan, drain off the fat, then pour in one can of tomato sauce, and season with Italian Seasoning. The assembly is basically the same as above – just substitute meat for veggies. Layer noddle, meat, sauce, cheese and then again. Since there are less ingredients you will likely be able to do another full layer or just increase how much meat you use in the two layers. You can add veggies to this as well. As I said very customizable.

Cover with foil and label! Make sure to write the cooking information on the foil to help remind you what to do. If making a veggie and a meat version, make sure to label this as well. Take out the night before and either leave out on your counter over night to defrost or leave in the fridge to defrost. Preheat your oven to 350F and bake for about 50mins and then uncover for 15mins and brown until the cheese is browned. No need to have a side dish as everything is in one dish, but if you want something else try adding a quick salad or some garlic toast (toast in a fry pan on the stove stop while the cheese is browning from frozen!).

All ready to wrap and freeze!

All ready to wrap and freeze!

I really loved the flavor the leak brings to this meal. I tried both the meat version and the veggie version (twice) and really enjoyed it. Hubby complained there was too much cheese and Grumpy complained that the leak was whole – there is no pleasing some! Oh well, next time I will likely puree the sauce to get rid of the leak texture (although I really liked it), but I don’t plan on decreasing the cheese amount 😉

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