Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Freezer is your Friend

Do you know how many different items you can freeze to keep from going bad, or just to save you some much needed time when it comes to food prep?

I didn't either until I got sick of throwing onions and celery away because they were going bad!

No more!

Just in case you weren't aware, I wanted to compile a list of ingredients that I've found to freeze well.

NOTE:  I don't use the thawed items to eat raw as usually the texture does change a little bit.  But if you're needing these ingredients for a stir fry, soup, casserole, or other cooked/baked dish, then freeze away, my cooking friends. and save in the process!

  • Mushrooms. Slice, bag and label.
  • Onions.  Slice or mince a bunch at once and put into one cup baggies.
  • Bell peppers.  Wash, slice, and let freeze on a baking sheet.  Once frozen, bag and label.
  • Celery.  Wash, slice and let freeze on a baking sheet.  Once frozen, divide into 1 cup portions in labeled bags.
  • Pureed squash, zucchini, pumpkin, sweet potato.  Divide into 1 1/2 cup portions, bag and label.
  • Spinach.  If you think your spinach is on its last leg, toss it (bag an all) in the freezer.  Just take a handful out to put into smoothies when you need!
  • Homemade beans.  Divide into 1 1/2 cup portions (a cans worth), bag and label.
  • Cut, cooked corn.  Let cool, divide into bags.  You can eat these as a side just fine.
  • Tomato paste.  Divide left over paste into 1 TBLS clumps on a baking sheet and then pop off and put the in a labeled bag.
  • Tomato or vegetable juice.  I have a recipe that calls for 2/3 cup vegetable juice and it's my only recipe that requires it, so I put mine in 2/3 cup portions in a bag and let it freeze in a little pyrex dish.  Once frozen, I take them out and stack them in a larger bag.
  • Spaghetti sauce.  Freeze in an old jar (just don't fill to the top) and label.  Or freeze in a bag laid flat on a baking sheet.
  • Hummus.  You can freeze dollops or whole cup worths in bags for later use.  Maybe not as great for dipping, but just fine for pitas or sandwiches.
  • Oatmeal.  Freeze in microwave safe container, or in a bag that's frozen in an old little yogurt container.  Pop them all into a gallon sized freezer bag and take out 2 for a breakfast.
  • Grapes.  Wash, let dry, and bag.  A wonderful little sweet treat!
  • Most berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, etc) and pineapple.  Wash, cut, and bag.
  • Bananas.  Freeze them in the skin or peel and leave plain.  You can also mash or just slice and bag like that.  Freeze them "just ripe" or "over ripe" depending on what you're planning to make. 

Other things to freeze:  apple sauce, orange juice, salsa, carrots, (any type of vegetable you'd find in the frozen section of the market can be frozen!), leftover lasagna, soups, rice, pizza crust, breads

Just remember to label everything you freeze!  There are guides on line for how long things should last in your freezer.  I don't have a huge freezer, so mine gets "gone through" pretty quickly, but a deep freezer would be harder for me to go through everything.

Item to Freeze:
Use after thawing:
In peel, cut in chunks, or unpeeled whole or mashed
In baked goods, smoothies, oatmeal
Bell Peppers
Washed, sliced or diced. Initially freeze on cookie sheet, then transfer to bag.
In soups, stiryfrys, casseroles
Washed and dried
In smoothies, on cereal/oatmeal
In a double bag (muffins and pancakes)
As you would normally
Steam for a side.  In a baked dish or stirfry.
Sliced and initially frozen on a cookie sheet, then transfer to bag/box.
In soups, stiryfrys, casseroles
Corn, cooked and cut
(Almost any veggie)
In a bag
Steam as a side.  In a baked dish or stirfry.
Washed and dried.  In a gab.
Eat frozen as a sweet treat.
Chopped. Place 1 tsp or 1 TBLS amounts in ice cube trays with a little water.
Throw into soups/stews/stirfrys
Homemade Beans
In 1 ½ cup measurements (1 can equiv)
Use as you would normally
In dollops on cookies sheet and then transfer or in container
On tortillas, as a dip
Wrap in plastic and then tinfoil.
Unwrap, thaw, reheat and enjoy!
Mango and Peaches
Chop or puree
In baked desserts or in salsa
Chopped and bagged
In soups, stiryfrys, casseroles
Let cool and freeze in single portions
Reheat and enjoy
Sliced, chopped, diced
Sauté as you would, or put in soup or casserole
Orange Juice
Freeze in ½ cup or 1 cup portions or in ice cube trays
As you would normally for soups or main dishes
Orange Juice Concentrate
Buy it, open it, put plastic wrap with the top back on.  Scoop when needed.
1 TBLS combined with ¼ water to make Orange Juice
Pasta or Rice
Freeze after cooked and cooled in single portions
As you would normally
Pizza Dough or Crust
Freeze in plastic wrap and then in a freezer bag
Thaw in fridge overnight and then on the counter a few hours
Pureed Veggies
In 1 ½ cup measurements in bags
In baked goods, sauces, casseroles
In a container
As you would normally
Make multiple sandwiches, wrap in plastic and take out when needed**
As you would normally
Slice thin and put in a plastic container or bottle
Shake out and use as you would normally would: top salads/stirfry
Freeze in 2 or 4 servings
As you would normally
Spaghetti Sauce
Freeze in 2 or 4 servings
As you would normally
When it’s at the end, throw the whole bag in the freezer
In smoothies
Slice and bag
In soups, stiryfrys, casseroles
Tomato or Vegetable Juice
Freeze in ½ cup or 1 cup portions or in ice cube trays
As you would normally
Tomato Paste
Freeze in 1 TBLS dollops on cookie sheet and transfer to a bag
As you would normally

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sweet Potatoes, Oranges and Chickpeas

First of all, it was unseasonably warm last week, and I did all I could to not turn my oven on.  This is most definitely a perfect main dish for spring or summer.  It will be gracing our table a lot this summer, I can guarantee you that!  The oven is not required for this meal, which is great since we don't have central AC and I literally don't turn my oven on at all once the temperatures start to rise.

Second of all, this dish was amazingly quick to throw together.  Granted, I had left over rice and that helped things out, but even if I had to make the rice that day, I think I would have made it ahead of time to help out in the evening.

Also, I slightly tweaked the recipe from my Health Magazine.  Original recipe can be found here.

I served this with a simple green salad and we were all quite full with happy taste buds!  I love the lighter spring/summer eating!

Sweet Potatoes, Oranges, and Chickpeas
Serves 4
  • 3 cups cooked whole grain - brown rice, millet, or even quinoa
  • 1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes - washed, unpeeled, and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds, cut again into half-moons  (peels stay on becasue that's where the most nutrition is!)
  • 4 Navel Oranges
  • 1 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 2 t reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 can Chickpeas - rinse and drain
-- Start off by making your grain.
-- Meanwhile, microwave the potatoes for about 8 minutes in a covered dish.  You want them soft, but not mushy.
--  While the potatoes are cooking, peel the oranges with a knife, getting all the white off.  Slice much like you did the sweet potatoes into half-moons.  Reserve 1/2 of one of the oranges for juicing.
-- Use the juice from the reserved orange half (it should produce about 3 T of juice), and combine it with the vinegar, oil, soy sauce and scallions. Set aside.
-- Once potatoes are done, transfer to a large serving bowl.  All the oranges and chickpeas.  Stir to combine, but make sure you don't mash the potatoes!
-- Add the dressing and stir.
-- To serve, top rice with Sweet Potato/Orange/Chickpea mix and enjoy.

NOTE:  Also great served chilled.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Green Studded Sweet Potatoes

I saw this recipe today and I just had to try them!

Sweet potatoes (one of my favorite foods ever) + the addition of kale to get more greens in our diet and I was completely sold.

I didn't have kale in the fridge, but I did have turnip greens, so I used those instead.  I also totally added and tweaked the original recipe and it came out great.   They were super simple to throw together and incredibly flavorful.

This was a great little side dish to accompany our very simple dinner of tortellini (or turtle-ini as Evan calls them), salad, and hearty bread.  They looked like little boats, and instead of being lady like and using my fork and knife, I just let those little boats sail right into my waiting mouth.  YUM!  I will say that the little man (not quite 2) was not a huge fan -- everyone else, though, loved them.

Green Studded Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4
  • 2 large sweet potatoes or 4 small ones (I really liked the smaller ones)
  • 2 packed cups kale, collard, or turnip green (when i say packed, i mean packed!) - chopped
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 2 t dried cilantro
  • 1 t (or more to taste) lemon juice
-- Preheat oven to 350

-- Wash and scrub sweet potatoes.  Prick with fork a few times
-- In a covered microwave safe dish, nuke for 5-6 minutes.  Turn them over and cook for another 3-4 minutes until tender but not mushy.
-- Once cool enough to handle, slice length-wise and scoop out inside and place in a bowl.
-- Add all the other ingredients and stir until the greens are wilted. (I used a microwave safe bowl, covered, and nuked for 3 minutes to speed this process up)  Taste and adjust flavors to suit your pallet.

-- Once all combined, carefully spoon back into the reserved potato skins and place filled skins on a baking sheet or in a baking dish.
-- Bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes

Monday, March 12, 2012

Vegetarian Enchiladas

I love enchiladas.  I love these enchiladas.

 These enchiladas + the amazingness of saffron rice cooked with diced tomatoes = to. die. for. dinner.

This is the best vegetarian (or vegan if you want) enchilada recipe I've ever eaten to date and it's still my sweet husband's favorite thing I make.  Why, I'm not sure, but I'm glad we all enjoy it so much since it's a cinch to pull together and de. li. cious.   I do sprinkle the smallest bit of cheese on top, and leave the cheese out of the inside, and it's still amazing.  It's the from scratch sauce (that's super easy) that sets this dish apart from its competitors.

And so now, more pictures, and the recipe.

My boys love this meal almost as much Scot does.

Vegetarian Enchiladas

Serves 6-8
Active time:  20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Serving Suggestions: With Spanish or tomato rice and a spinach salad.

What you'll need:

  • 2 TBLS olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin (divided in half)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained, slightly mashed
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed OR 1 can sweet corn, rinsed and drained
  • 2 packed cups grated zucchini
  • 1 TBLS onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 12 small/medium thin whole wheat flour tortillas
  • Shredded cheese (optional)

What you'll do:

  • Have your broth standing ready by the stove.
  • Heat olive oil in small sauce pan. Add 1 tsp cumin and tomato paste. Whisk 1 minute.
  • Add flour and stir for another minute.
  • Add in broth and water. Stir with a whisk.
  • Bring sauce to boil and let simmer 10 minutes until thick.  
  • Mix the beans, corn, zucchini, spices, and the other 1 tsp of the cumin in a large bowl.
  • Spoon 1/2 cup of the filling into each tortilla, roll, and place seam down in a greased 9x13 pan, seam down.
  • Pour the enchilada sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle cheese on top if desired.
  • Bake for 20 minutes at 400.

Time tip: Both the sauce and bean mixture can be made a day ahead of time.
Alternative: If you don’t have enough tortillas simply turn this into a “bake” and layer.  Place tortillas on the bottoms on the baking pan, ½ the bean mixture, another layer of tortillas, the rest of the bean mixture, and then a last layer of tortillas.  Pour sauce over everything and proceed with regular directions.

Nutrition Facts (per serving, 2 enchiladas):
Calories 478 (Calories from fat 133); Total Fat 15g (Saturated 5g); Cholesterol0mg; Sodium 973mg; Potassium 552mg; Total Carbohydrate 73g (Dietary Fiber 16g); Sugars 5g; Protein 19g; Vitamins/Minerals - Vitamin A 4793 IU; Vitamin C 6mg; Calcium 312mg; Iron 4mg; Folate 134mcg

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I caved.

I now have a facebook page

So like me there if you want.  Or don't.  Just as long as you're getting notified of the yummy goodness that goes on here, I'm fine. :)

Spinach Eggplant "Pie"

A few weeks ago, Scot and I were able to go out for a bite to eat.  By ourselves.  It was amazing and much needed and we ended up at this little cafe not far from the house that served Mediterranean-type fare.   Seeing as it's pretty easy to eat healthy at such places, we enjoyed perusing the menu, settling on a hearty lentil soup and a "spinach pie".  I ordered the spinach and mushroom variety, while Scot ordered the eggplant one.  I wish I had ordered his!  But then again, I pretty much always wish I ordered what he did.

Last night, I decided to recreate our meal, complete with my favorite lentil soup.  My version of the eggplant pie, though, had more in it.  They were easy to put together and I think the only issue I had was rolling my dough out a little too thin on one.  But I recovered and we enjoyed a delicious meal!

I'm also envisioning this stuff on pasta, or with some lentils thrown in to make it a complete one-dish meal.  It was so yummy and even if you don't like eggplant normally, you should give this a try.

It should be noted that my boys ate this and the soup without a word of complaint and a smile on their lips.  I was a happy momma with happy taste buds!

Spinach Eggplant "Pie" ...or calzone.
Serves 4
  • 1 T EVOO
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb).  Skins on, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (5 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes - undrained
  • 1 box frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • 1 T lemon juice (Scot thought this addition made it taste too acidic, but I liked it, so use your own judgement.  You can always sprinkle some on after if you decide you want it.)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • A ball of pizza dough - store bought or homemade
-- In a large/deep skillet or medium saucepan, heat  your oil.  Once hot, add eggplant, garlic and onion and saute for about 5 minutes until onions are soft.
-- Add in tomatoes, spinach, and parsley and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the eggplant starts to get really soft and break apart.  Stir occasionally.
-- Mixture should be thick but not quite sticking to the pan when you're done.  If it's loosing liquid too fast, simmer covered.  Remove from heat when done.
-- Preheat oven to 400
--  Take ball of dough and divide into 4 equal balls.  Roll them out into circles making sure to not roll them too thin.
-- Take 1 1/4 cups of the mixture and plop it onto one half of each circle.  Take the dough, cover the mixture, and fold/crimp the edges to seal.  Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
(If you'd made a calzone before, this is the same idea, just with different inner ingredients)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cheater Oatmeal

Some mornings I need the boys to not only eat a good breakfast, but I also need them to eat it fast.  With my guys, this can usually be an issue.  And when there's not time to make pancakes (something they scarf down almost faster than I can make them), I have found that a little healthy cheating on my oatmeal does the trick.

Enter Carnation Instant Breakfast.

I used to buy boxes of these things back when we drank milk.  I personally had one about every week or so when I needed a little boost or a quick breakfast myself.  But for the last 10 months, I've had 2 boxes in my pantry untouched.  That is, until a couple weeks ago when I had this hair-brained idea.  And I'm sure it's been done before, but since I had never ever heard of doing it, I figured I'd share it here in case you, too, were unaware of the magic of cheater oatmeal.

Cheater Oatmeal
1 adult serving (2 kid servings)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned or quick oats
  • 1 1/2 cups water or corresponding amount of water to your liking. 
  • 1/2 packet of your favorite Carnation Instant Breakfast (about 2 T worth)
  • Milk (if you want it) for the top
-- Make your oats.
-- Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons (or about half) of the packet into the oats and stir until all chocolate/strawberry/vanilla is incorporated.
-- Add a splash of milk, if desired, to gain the right consistency

Now sit back and watch your kids scarf that bowl of oatmeal down with a smile on their face!  They'll think they were just given the best treat ever, and you can rest assured that they're getting extra vitamins and minerals, too!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Hot Cocoa - Easy and Vegan

Happy March 1st, everyone!  Where did the first 2 months of this year go?  And here we are, looking daylight savings in the face!  Eek!

I don't about you, but around here, we've been experiencing a very mild winter.  It's felt more like Spring the majority of the time, but over the last few weeks, Winter has taken it's place and we've had our fair share of snow and cold winds and rain.  And that type of weather calls for two things.  Sweaters.  And hot cocoa.

Scot and the boys love hot cocoa.  It's a special treat for them and I found myself a week or so ago trying to figure out a vegan version for it.  This is what I came up with.  It's rich and sweet and totally delicious!

Hot Cocoa - Easy and Vegan
Makes 2.5 cups (2 servings)
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened Almond Milk
  •  1/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1/8 t salt (pinch)
  • 1 t vanilla
-- Combine everything in a small sauce pan (you'll have to whisk it a lot) and heat over medium until desired temperature.  DO NOT BOIL.