Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Day of Freezer Meals

As all the freezer meals are eaten and gone, I am updating this post.  My comments in red beneath each recipe is how they turned out. One common theme I learned when doing this is do NOT freeze potatoes. They do, indeed, as I was warned, turn black. If you don't mind them black, then go for it, because the taste isn't affected or anything. They still taste good. It's just strange and somewhat unsettling eating black potatoes. 

Also, I do have to say that the frozen, cooked hamburger meat wasn't the greatest once reheated. It's more rubbery when it's cooked before being frozen, but it's not that big of a difference really. It still turns out good and the time saving factor makes it definitely worth it.

Frozen shredded cooked chicken, however, was still fantastic. Didn't notice a difference there. And I loved the convenience of it. I did find out by doing this project just how much I prefer boneless skinless chicken thighs over the breasts. I know the breasts are healthier, as well as cheaper, but I have a hard time cooking them properly. Almost always, it's too dry. With the thighs, however, they are always full of flavor and very juicy. I've started buying thighs now.

Will I do this again? Probably, though not so much in one afternoon. And probably not for a while.

I cannot believe my blog is still surviving (maybe on life support, but still surviving). And not to mention the out-of-date pictures of my boys above. Maybe someday I'll update those. Oh, and the tabs that don't even reflect my most recent writing projects and novels. Oi.

Anyway, I logged on this morning for the first time since September 2011, half expecting it to be gone or something. And I'll be honest, seeing the blog made me a little sentimental and nostalgic. Not that I'm going to start blogging again (who knows, maybe here and there). I'm doing a post today dedicated to yesterday--the day I dedicated my time to making freezer meals.

I am in NO way a cook. I don't enjoy it. So, no, this is not turning into a cooking blog. In fact, I'm so below par on my cooking abilities that I would never feel qualified enough to give people any kind of advice on the subject. But in my recent feelings of failure as a mother and homemaker, I've realized I need to do way better at making sure my family has a meal to eat every night. Usually, I cook about 2 to 3 meals a week, leaving my husband fending for himself and the boys resorting to hot-dogs or sandwiches the other days (like on days the boys play Tee-Ball, etc.). So, I decided to be like all the other Super Moms out there, though I'll never measure up.

But because I dread spending the late part of my afternoon preparing meals, I decided to look into freezer meals. After spending a day gathering information on tons of different blogs (found through Pinterest, of course) and making my menus (some ideas taken from other blogs, some recreated from my own stock of recipes), I went shopping.

And what a shopping trip that was. The kids and I didn't finish at the store until 10pm. And then we had to drive 1.5 hours home...on my son's school night.

Anyway, the following day, I dedicated my time to preparing these freezer meals. I spent from 9am to 8pm in my kitchen. On my feet. I wanted to finish so badly that I didn't even stop to eat or drink. Not even a minute break to check facebook, or even to turn on Pandora. The only breaks I took were the annoying necessary breaks to change or feed kids, pick up Sam from school, dress them for Tee-Ball, etc. (Dave took them to Tee-ball, thank goodness).

By the end of the day, I was so physically exhausted and achy and hungry, that I never wanted to set foot in my kitchen again (unless someone was going to spoon feed me). And the mess...holy crap, the mess. I don't think my kitchen has ever been as messy as it was after I finished.

I know, I sound like a baby. But this is coming from someone who only cooks when absolutely necessary. So I am a baby.

Anyway, I'd say the day was a success. Crazy, but a success. I originally planned 29 different meals. The reality was 21. Honestly, I don't know if I'll be doing it again ever any time soon, but I'm sure on those late afternoons I don't feel like cooking, I'll be grateful.

Back to the reason I'm doing this blog post (Does anyone even blog anymore?): I've had a few requests from friends and family on the menu and recipes I used. So rather than send them to a few individual people, here it is for the tiny blogging community that may still exist with Fond of Blond world to see.

I chopped all the veggies first, divided them up and set them aside. Then the potatoes. Since they brown in the open air, seal them in the ziplock bags for the meals that call for them.

Then I did the chicken (I should have taken a picture of my fridge the night after shopping; the entire thing was stuffed with poultry and meat). I cooked the chicken that needed to be shredded, and amidst that, I chopped the chicken for the recipes calling for cubed chicken. I added the chicken to the bags as I finished it (which I already had labeled with the meal, the date, any further directions I will need after removing it from freezer, and how many bags; some recipes required 2 bags, some only 1). The only chicken I cooked was the bunch that needed to be shredded* (which I shredded in my Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle attachment after it was cooked).
*I cut it into cubes, then fry it in olive oil, minced onion, and shredded carrots. Then when cooked, shred.

Then I divided up the hamburger (90/10 huge logs from Sam's Club) and began cooking it in 1-2 lb. batches. I mix in onions, shredded carrots, and seasoning in with all of them, usually.

I then cut the steaks, etc.

It was a long process and probably could have gone smoother than it had. Again, I'll emphasize I'm not an expert. So if you think of ways to make this much easier, etc., you're probably right.

Anyway, here are the recipes I used (and these are for our family of 5): There are 5 oven or stove-top meals, and 9 crockpot meals (my favorite). In addiction to those 14, I also prepared 7 meal-size servings of meat that I can pull out of the freezer for any last minute meals (spaghetti, fettuccine alfredo, etc.); (2) 2 lb. bags of browned, seasoned ground beef (with shredded carrots and onions), 3 bags of shredded chicken (about 4 to 5 large chicken breasts shredded), seasoned and cooked, and 2 bags of cubed chicken (not cooked). So 21 in all. And no pictures of the finished products. Sorry. In my rush to get it done and over with, pictures were the last thing on my mind. This was the only shot, before I actually got started:

I don't know if all of these will turn out fabulous or not, so I will update this post (or do a new one) as we eat them, to let you know of the outcome. I will probably plan my menu a week at a time, and the night before, I'll take whichever meal we will eat the next day out of the freezer to thaw, so that by the time I cook it the following day, it won't be frozen.

14 meals:

Friday, September 30, 2011

Hooked on Hooks

Believe it or not, I am still alive. I got really busy there for a while, and then by the time I had time to post again, I was so far behind in Bloggy Land that it was overwhelming to even think about getting back into it. So instead, lately I've been using my free time to get through my huge and hopefully final (and pretty treacherous) revisions, for both my books.

I'm finally done with one (hallelujah!), and now I'm into my second. And it's been really grueling actually (rewriting them in third person, among many other things). But it's been worth it. I'm so glad I've stuck with it, because it's made my Work In Progress(s) so much stronger.

So speaking of WIPs, I'm participating in Kimberly Zook's prompt, Hooked on Hooks, where we are to post the hook of our WIP (the first 3-4 sentences of the work itself) in order to get feedback. So here's the hook of my most recent WIP (The Exception). Please comment and leave your thoughts/criticism!

My Hook:
Samuel Tercy froze at the shrill scream, the aged walls of the house doing nothing to mute it.  It didn’t matter how many times he’d heard it; nothing could ever prepare him for the way it ripped him apart inside.  From his place in the oak tree’s underbrush, his muscles tensed and the never-ending battle waged inside him: run inside and save the girl, or listen from the shadows undetected?  Technically, he didn’t exist, so up until now, listening from the shadows had always triumphed over being her hero. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Everything's In Working Order

Thanks, everyone, for the warm wishes and thoughts on Luke's surgery. I was away from the blogging world yesterday, as nearly every second was spent with Luke in my arms, so I'll have to spill my "confession" next Friday. :)

The surgery went great (as well as getting your genitals sliced can get, I suppose) and he is home healing. He's tender and has some major redness (more like purpleness), puffiness, and bruising in the area of the two stitched up incisions (I'm not posting pictures, don't worry), but he seems to be himself again, for the most part, as of this morning.

I have to be careful what positions I put him into, and I have to double-diaper him for a week. Also, no straddling anything for a while (whether it's the walker, saucer, or my hip), and hopefully, after a week or two's time, he'll be better than new.

Getting up at 2:45 a.m. and driving to Phoenix was difficult, but I really couldn't have asked for it to go smoother than it did. The surgeon also found a hernia while in the process, and fixed it up. Apparently, that's pretty common for an undescended testicle.

I'm just so grateful for the convenience and blessing of modern medicine. And I owe the smoothness of the whole process to the many prayers that were offered. I am one blessed mama.

This is the most precious picture to me. This was before they took him back, oblivious to it all.
Back view. So cute in that tiny hospital gown.
Me and the babe, right after meeting with the anesthesiologist, and right before they took him from me. 
Recovering, and slowly coming out of the anesthesia.
Later that night, laying in bed with me. I was surprised to get such a big, beautiful smile.
In closing, and in honor of Sam--who is sick in bed with the flu right now--here are his most recent Samisms:

  • Watching me dump three scoops of formula in Luke's bottle last week, he asked, "Mom, is that baby seasoning?"
  • While at a stop light in Prescott, my eyes were wistfully glued to a vintage Karmann Ghia across the way (which I love, by the way, for reasons I might delve into another time), and Sam says, "Mom, why is that car so cheap?"
  • He calls space ships "space shits." And I don't correct him. I even bring his toy one to church with us because there's something hilarious about him yelling, "Josh, give me my space shit!" in the middle of sacrament meeting.
  • While wearing an old, favorite t-shirt of mine I hadn't worn in years the other day (actually, the same one I'm wearing in the above pictures), Sam said, "Whoa, Mom! Your shirt is stylish!" Yeah...Savers-chic.
  • I couldn't find Zeus a couple days ago and Sam matter-of-factly said, "He's probably out taking a dump." Thanks, Dave.
  • When asking him what snack he wanted, he replied, "I want crackers, the moldy ones."
  • This morning I caught him and Josh hugging (they do this frequently and it makes my heart skip a beat EVERY time), and when Josh reached up to give Sam a kiss, Sam scolded, "Josh! We don't kiss on the lips! We are boys, and boys can only kiss on the cheeks."
  • Yesterday morning, while wearing just a t-shirt and his underwear, he got off the couch--where he'd been playing with his doggy (his favorite stuffed animal who frequently gets the blame for naughty things and loud, annoying noises)--and told me, "I need to get some pants on so Doggy doesn't see me in my underwear."
  • This isn't really a Samism as much as it's just an example of his personality. I was changing Josh the other night (no, he is not potty-trained yet) at the end of a very long, stressful day, and I wasn't just on the edge; I was hanging off, by my pinkie. And because kids feed off the stress of their parents, Josh was tormenting me, making it as difficult as he could. And Sam stood by watching. Josh threw his disgusting, bursting-at-the-seams-with-urine diaper on my head and I thought Sam was going to bust a gut from laughing so hard. I barked, "It's not funny, Sam!" The tone in my voice would have scared me as a kid, but instead Sam sobered and said, "Actually, Mom. It is funny. Really funny." And he was right. It was kinda funny. I ended up laughing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Way Too Tiny For Surgery

I will be leaving for Phoenix at 3 a.m. Friday morning, just me and my little Luke. Off to the surgical center. So my tiny guy can get both his testicles where they need to be.

It's not supposed to be invasive, they say. They just make an incision, go in, find the testicle that's hiding in the abdomen, bring it down into the scrotum, close up the scrotum from the inside so it doesn't leave the sack, and sew him up in the outside. Piece of cake, right?

The surgeon/urologist says he does more than many of these, and that it's pretty standard. In and out.

But that doesn't mean I'm not stressing over having my smaller-than-average, almost-eight-month-old knocked out with anesthesia and cut open on an operating table.

In fact, I'm pretty sick about it. I can't even let myself think about it for too long or I feel my eyes start to burn. To say the least.

I wish my husband could go with me for support. Or that I had some form of support there at all.

But the kids need him here, and I don't want them there.

So it's just me and Luke.

I've done it before. After all, when Sam had his 2nd surgery at 13 months, it was the same thing. Drive down to Phoenix, just me and him. Be there when he comes to, thrashing and disoriented. Comfort him, hold him. Drive three hours home with him, praying he would sleep on the way, since I could do nothing to comfort him in the car.

They say it's pretty standard.

But I'm freaking out inside. Worried sick. Praying it's as standard as they say, that it goes smoothly, and that God will bless him with quick healing and good health, as well as steady hands on the surgeon.

I pray I'll be able to keep it together and that my baby won't be scared.

I pray it will go well and be over before we both know it.

That's all.


Wordful Wednesday: Some Days

Some days are like a much-labored-over, fresh pan of lasagna falling face-first on the bottom of the oven...

Or like pencil, crayon, paint, and stickers on a freshly-cleaned counter top...

Or like bites taken out of school work...
Anyone know how to get an almost-three-year-old to stop eating paper? I'm desperate.
But then other days are like Nutella mustaches...

And cute, new baby teeth finally coming through...

And sunny, blue-eyed smiles.

parenting BY dummies

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I *Don't* Wanna Marry You

*Post inspired by the Lightning and the Lightning-bug Flicker of Inspiration prompt, "I Wanna Marry You."
For our next prompt, I'd like you to write about a wedding. The wedding can be fictional or real; the only requirement? That a wedding appears at some point during your piece.  

This is another segment from my novel, November Rain. For more, and to see where this fits in with the other segments I've posted, visit the page above.

The strangest scene played before Justice, and a faint, deadly tune was its soundtrack.  A funeral? 

No, there was no casket.  But is sounded like a funeral.  It felt like one.  There was a congregation, but she wasn’t a part of it, and every person sobbed.  She stood before them, at the front of a chapel, and a priest was there, too.  And so was Lily, Russell’s sister that Justice had only met a few times.  She and Justice were matching in dark purple gowns, the material stiff and constricting. 

A wedding?  The preacher started to speak, the deadly, funeral-like song still lingering in the background, and she looked around in order to find where it was coming from.

That was when she saw Raegan.  Justice couldn’t see her face, since Raegan was shrouded in a black veil, but there was no question in her mind that it was her best friend.  Justice sensed her, sensed her familiar dismal energy that had a long time ago killed her sunny soul.  Her dress was heavy and black, unfitting for the matrimony she was clearly a part of, but fitting for the person who wore it. 

Even stranger was the man, Lucas, standing with her, his large dog loyally at his side.  Lucas’s hands grasped Raegan’s tightly, and he looked desperate.  Happy, but desperate. 

Just as the preacher was about to ask Lucas if he took Raegan as his wife, Raegan shuddered with a sob and ran from him, down the aisle and through the large church doors.  Justice wanted to go after her, but she couldn’t move.  And that music…

That damn tune still played in the background, and none of it made sense.  Then her surroundings appeared hazy, the picture slipping away and leaving blackness in its place. 

Still, the tune played. 

She lay in her bed now, slowly coming to, and forced herself awake.  Her phone was on her nightstand, coming to life with Raegan’s personalized ringtone.  A few months ago, Raegan had stolen Justice’s phone and set it in an attempt to be morbidly funny: Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor—or better known as the Funeral March.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dare to Share: Loss

*Post inspired by the Lightning and the Lightning-bug Dare to Share prompt, "Loss." One of the themes throughout one of my novels, November Rain, is Loss, so I thought it appropriate to share some of that. In fact, I'm posting the prologue to it--the introduction to the main character and her story, that sets the tone for the rest of the novel (though it's not all dark). It was a bit longer than this, so for the sake of too many words, I cut some out. As always, critique is welcome!

For more of November Rain, visit the page above.

Alone for the first time in days, Raegan Fairbanks dug her nails into the palm of her hand, staring into the blackened storm.  Through a thunderous crack of white, she hardly flinched.  She placed her hands on the frigid windowpane, absorbing the house’s vibration.  The lightning was close, just overhead, but her vision stayed loyal to the white bench, its luster holding her eyes.  It had been his, and hers, and now it was the storm’s.

Her mother was asleep upstairs, and Justice was on the couch.  It was the first time Raegan hadn’t been watched like a fragile infant since Russell died.  They hadn’t left her side the past three days, even laid next to her when she sobbed herself into a nightly coma.  But tonight was different.  Tonight they sensed her desire for solitude, and though their leash still choked her, she reveled in the temporary abandonment.  In that moment with the bench.

The thought of her mother in her own bed—their bed—brought some of her fury to life, and a piece of numbness flaked to the ground.  But she’d do anything to keep her mother at a distance, even if it meant tarnishing the place where her late husband once warmed her.  Besides, now it was empty, cold.  More fitting for the bitter woman atop it. 

Her late husband.  A woman in her twenties shouldn’t have to think that profane term.  It aged her, pulled her to the ground.  It gave gravity a win as it had its way with her.  Three days and she went from twenty-eight to eighty-two.

Rain pelted the glass pane in a sideways fury as it had the last three days.  It was unusual, but fitting.  The universe seemed to mourn with her, letting her know Russell’s undue absence was known to the heavens.  It seemed to threaten her fondest memory, consume the bench as though it was its own.

Three days.  It didn’t matter how short the time was; there was no way she could go back and change it.  He’d been there, in that very kitchen, and now he was…where?  

His things haunted her, the memories tearing through her.  She looked back to the sinister yard, puddles swallowing the browning lawn.  The white bench at the base of the cottonwood tree replaced the sting of trivial reminders with the throb of a precious memory.  It’d been her birthday surprise last year, handmade.  He’d apologized for its crooked panels when lifting the sheet, revealing the thoughtful token of his love.

She wanted to keep it forever, wanted to take it back from the storm. 

Riveted by the bright, crooked panels, she unlatched the back door and walked outside, shivering as the almost frozen November rain beat against her.  Russell had always said rain smelled of a cleansing shower, of a new start.  But tonight it reeked of loss.

Surrounded by darkness, she warily made her way to the bench, her bare feet sloshing through the muddy puddles.  Water cascaded relentlessly down her face and blurred her vision, the bench appearing as a smear of white.

She mindlessly sat, saturating her clothes—his clothes.  She ran her hands over the sopping panels, feeling the rough, splintery spots as affectionately as the pieces still glazed in glossy finish.  Her fingers took in every touch, extra sensitive to embrace the feel she once took for granted.

Her tears poured to match the vibrancy of the rain as she imagined his solid, sturdy figure, hunched to carve her gift.  She imagined white paint stains in his hair, speckling his arms and callused hands.  As if able to connect her to him, she laid against the uneven panels, planting her cheek against the sodden wood.  Creaking, it spoke of the many memories.  Sunny afternoons, late nights, and even an early morning.

In the fetal position she sobbed, trying to press every inch of her aching body against it in the hope its touch could heal her, in the hope that the material reminder would feed his void.  Like a roaring freight train, the rainfall intensified and buckets poured over her, attempting to take it back.  Attempting to revive a lost cause. 

Lightning flashed and thunder cracked—temporarily lighting her surroundings.  Strings of hair hindered her view, but she was sure a figure was beside her.  Unable to force movement of her limbs, unable to turn to see more clearly, she let herself believe it was him. 

“I’m sorry,” she hoarsely cried at the apparition, her teeth chattering.  She hardly noticed her fingers and toes numbing in the icy rainfall, hardly noticed as her swollen eyes closed and her body deadened in drowsiness.

She heard a murmur above her, maybe even her name.  And before blacking out, she dreamed the added pressure of a warm hand on her shuddering back was Russell—there to wake from her nightmare.