Four Meals in Less than 30 Min. – Chicken, Broccoli, Rice Casserole

I love using my freezer more and more.  It not only has saved the family money with being able to purchase sale items in bulk and freezing but also time.  I’ve read several blogs that write about making freezer meals in bulk so you don’t have to cook every night but never really thought about how doing something like that would benefit my family.

I got hooked on the freezer meals after freezing several gallon-sized bags full of leftover spaghetti from a church luncheon.  When my week had been overly stressful, it was incredibly helpful to have a homemade meal ready to re-heat in minutes.  From there I began trying to make a little extra whenever possible to put inside the freezer.

Today was the first attempt at cooking specifically for the freezer.  I timed myself cooking and even with stopping to take pictures and cleaning as I go, I was finished cooking in 25 minutes with a total of four casseroles (three to go into the freezer and one for dinner tonight).

Cook  10 C. white or brown rice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightly steam or boil 4 C. chopped broccoli.  In a separate pot cook enough chicken to make 4 cups when cubed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not in the original recipe but I added 4-5 carrots, finely shredded.

 

 

 

 

 

Mix shredded carrots in a large bowl with 2 cans cream of mushroom soup and 2 cans cream of chicken soup.

 

 

 

 

 

Stir in your 4 cups cooked broccoli and 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

Combine everything together with the rice making sure you stir well. 

 

 

 

 

 

Because the pot was full, I divided the mixture between the large bowl and pot.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the 4 cups cooked, cubed chicken.

 

 

 

 

 

Use either four gallon-sized freezer bags or three freezer bags and one 8×8 casserole dish, sprayed.

 

 

 

 

 

Fill each bag and/or dish with 7 cups of the mixture.  Press all extra air out of the bags before closing then lay flat.  Place on a baking tray inside the freezer while freezing so that they will remain flat and easier to store standing up like a file folder.

 

 

 

 

Write the date and instructions on the front for easy access.  This way you won’t have to dig around for the cooking instructions to write down if you decide to give the meal as a gift to someone in need.

To serve:  Thaw overnight (or for 8 hours) in the refrigerator.  Dump into a greased casserole dish (each bag will fill an 8×8-inch pan; two bags will fill a 9×13-inch pan).  Sprinkle with additional shredded cheese, if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.

Each frozen bag serves 4-5 people.  Recipe adpated from Money Saving Mom.

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“A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned”

I love this famous idiom by Benjamin Franklin because it sums up my new “job” in our household.  I am no longer helping to earn a living to add to the family budget but instead have been left the responsibility of “saving” a living.  Every penny not spent is another penny that is added to a savings account to be used for a greater purpose.

This week I was fortunate enough to snag a free Kindle book from Amazon titled “The American Frugal Housewife” by Lydia Maria Francis Child published in 1832.  Wow, how the world has changed when it comes to viewing a frugal home!  I haven’t had a lot of free time to read the entire book, but what I have devoured has really been eye-opening to say the least.  I love her opinion of what economy really is!

In early childhood, you lay the foundation of poverty or riches, in the habits you give your children.  Teach them to save everything, – not for their own use, for that would make them selfish – but for some use.

Economy is generally despised as a low virtue, tending to make people ungenerous and selfish.  This is true of avarice; but it is not so of economy.  The man who is economical, is laying up for himself the permanent power of being useful and generous.  He who thoughtlessly gives away ten dollars, when he owes a hundred more than he can pay, deserves no praise, – he obeys a sudden impulse, more like instinct than reason: it would be real charity to check this feeling; because the good he does maybe doubtful, while the injury he does his family and creditors is certain.  True economy is a careful treasurer in the service of benevolence; and where they are united respectability, prosperity and peace will follow. (pp. 136, 149)

Why are we in the process of trying to sell our nice, comfortable home and move out to 20-acres of nothingness?  Why are we cleaning out closets, cabinets, shelves etc. and selling as much as possible?  Why are we investing our time and energy in researching alternative water, electric, heating and cooling elements for the home we are in the process of building ourselves on that plot of nothingness?  The list goes on and on with questions the public might ask when they see the lifestyle the Tim Kinnard family has adopted.  The answer is this – we are doing all these things so we can live debt free therefore freeing our resources to then help those around us to the best of our ability and along the way teach our children the value of hard work and the joy of giving.

In the spirit of “saving a few pennies” here is what I’ve been up to recently….

A few days ago a family member gave me a huge bag full of yellow squash and a ginormous zucchini.  There was no way my family could eat all of the squash before it went bad, so I found a way to preserve the vegetables so that none would be wasted.  Considering the fact that yellow squash is on sale for $0.99/lb. right now this gift saved us around $10.  Yay! 

The one zucchini was enough to get 6 cups when shredded.  I froze two packages of 2 cups each then used the remaining 2 cups to make 2 loves of fresh zucchini bread that day.  The frozen shredded zucchini will make either 4 more loaves of bread or 2 large cakes.

 

 

 

 

I washed and cut up all the yellow squash leaving a medium container full inside the refrigerator to use as a side dish to go along with tonight’s dinner.

I am still loving my little FoodSaver gadget I purchased a few months ago using a printed $10 off coupon.  The best part is that it works GREAT with the Ziploc brand vacuum seal bags which are a fraction of the price compared to the FoodSaver bags.  At Amazon you can get a box of 34 FoodSaver quart bags for $14.99 ($0.44/each) with free shipping.  Using a coupon at Kroger along with the sale price, I picked up this box of 12 Ziploc bags for only $2.49 ($0.20/each).

If I end up having an abundance of veggies to freeze this summer, I will go ahead and process them by steaming for 3-5 minutes then blanching in order for them to keep up to 12 months inside the deep freeze.  Simply washing and cutting up before freezing will only give them about a 3-month freezer shelf life.

[Grilled] Skirt Steak Gyros

I didn’t have the grill going but even without that one element, this recipe tasted good.  We used homemade tortillas shells instead of pitas and replaced the watercress with cuccumbers.  My favorite part about this recipe was the fact that I could make the tortillas at the same time I was cooking the steak and vegetables.  It was fairly simple to multi-task.

In a medium size bowl whisk 1/3 C. olive oil, 3 cloves garlic (minced), 1 tsp. oregano, 1/2 tsp. paprika, 1 tsp. salt and pepper to taste.

 

 

 

 

 

Transfer 1 T. of the marinade to a small bowl; mix in 1/2 C. plain Greek (or homemade) yogurt and 2 T. water.

FYI – mine would have been thicker but I didn’t strain my homemade yogurt first so it was still pretty runny making my sauce runny too.  However, it still tasted great. 🙂

 

 

 

Add 1 sliced bell pepper and 1 sliced onion to the marinade and toss; remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.  Add the steak to the bowl and toss with remainig marinade.

 

 

 

 

At this point you can begin mixing together the flour tortillas dough.

 

 

 

 

 

Brown skirt steak and veggies until meat is no longer pink and veggies are tender.

 

 

 

 

 

Serve mixture over tortillas shells topping with lettuce, tomato and cuccumbers.  Drizzle with yogurt sauce.

Makes enough for 8 gyros.

Here is the original recipe from food.com – “Grilled Skirt Steak Gyros”

 

 

Memorial Weekend Pt. 2

We waited for Tim to get back from working at the property then had some fun with the boys including picking up a slip-n-slide for them at the store and then going out for ice cream later that evening so Elijah could have his very first ice cream cone experience.  We told him that since he was a big boy now, he didn’t have to eat his ice cream in a bowl but could have his very own cone. 🙂  Whoo hoo!!!

 

 

 

 

Kicking Off Memorial Weekend

The news said last night that the heat index was going to be in the triple digits, so I wasn’t planning on spending a lot of time outside with all three of the boys.  Adam can’t really stand the heat and ends up breaking out with eczema on his neck, legs and arms from sweating.  Poor baby! 😦

However, to all of our delight, there was a nice cool breeze this morning making a trip to the park a MUST. 

The Memorial Day Tribute to fallen soldiers.

 

Oh, look at those tired eyes about to close….wait for it, wait for it.

And he’s OUT!  Watching Isaac swing was just too much excitement for him. 🙂

Bahahaha!  He is such a goofball. 🙂

“You want me to do WHAT?!”

Water break!

Elijah making new friends and playing tag together.  I love when he is able to play with other boys his age.  Other than my sister’s kids, he is either surrounded by kids more than twice his age or babies.  That smile on his face just says it all…

Watch Him Go!!!!

So proud of Isaac and all his hard work with learning to walk!  This past month has been hard for him because he hit a growth spurt and outgrew his braces.  It was heartbreaking listening to his cries when he would have to put his braces on to walk because they were becoming so uncomfortable.  Thankfully we received new braces and shoes this past Tuesday making it so much easier for Isaac to practice his steps.  As of yesterday’s therapy session, Isaac is now up to 33 solo steps.  Yay!!!!! 🙂

Homemade Hot Pockets

I finally found a way to save time and money making one of the boys’ favorite lunchtime meals – hot pockets.  Of course I haven’t actually spent money on the frozen sandwiches simply because they are WAY out of my budget and full of not-so-appetizing preservatives.  No, my boys love anything that is encased in homemade bread.  It’s my number one trick to getting them to eat veggies – I hide them inside the bread mixed with whatever kind of meat.  My oldest thinks he’s eating a regular sandwich every time and inhales his “pocket.”  Hehehe!

So the idea is to make a batch of the crescent roll dough instead of pizza dough because it has a lighter, fluffier texture and taste.  You could go ahead and make all the pockets and bake them in advance before freezing, but I like the fresh-baked taste best.  I don’t mind taking a little extra time to prepare a hot lunch instead of reheating something from the freezer.

To make the crescent dough go here for the recipe and instructions.  After your dough has risen and you punch it down, come back to this post and follow the rest of the directions for the hot pockets.

Cut your dough into 16 chunks and shape into balls.  Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet, cover and freeze for 2-3 hours (or until solid).

 

 

 

 

 

After frozen, remove from the cookie sheet and place inside a freezer zipper bag and put back inside the freezer until you are ready to make your hot pockets. 

Each dough ball will make two (2) hot pockets [or 1 savory chicken square].  Pull out however much you need for your meal and let thaw for about 20-30 minutes on top of a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap.

 

 

 

Divide each dough ball into two triangles (or whatever shape you want) and place cheese and turkey on the longest end.  You can also make a pizza pocket by filling with mozzarella and pepperoni.  Roll toward the point.

 

 

 

 

 

Place on a greased cookie sheet inside a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brush with melted butter as soon as you pull them out of the oven and serve.

It really doesn’t take that much time to put these together for a hot lunch.  Again, the few extra minutes it takes to whip these up is TOTALLY worth the end results!