Monday, October 31, 2011

Dealing with a side-by-side fridge...

Yes, we have a side-by-side fridge/freezer and yes, it makes things quite complicated when you're shopping 1x a month! I mean how on earth can you fit two gallons of milk, a gallon of water, creamer bottles, 1 gallon of orange juice and other drinks all onto ONE shelf?!
NOTE: It is possible!

I know everyone has different types of refrigerators and each of them come with pros and cons.

French Door Style:

Top Freezer Style:

Side By Side:

Uh, no. My fridge does not look anything like the inside of that one! Mine is jammed packed with food. Yesterday, for Sunday dinner we had ham, peas, hashbrowns (an easy version of mashed potatoes when you are gone all day Saturday and therefore had no time to boil the potatoes and mash them) and chocolate chip cake with applesauce.

A peak into my fridge:

Top shelf: Jars - salsa, extra sauce, apple sauce, mayo, maple syrup, spreadable butter, sour cream, shredded cheese and anything else that doesn't fit in the door.

Middle shelf: All leftovers! A bowl of beets, a bowl of peas, a bowl of hashbrowns and a dish of ham.

Lower shelf: 2 gallons of milk, 1 gallon of filtered water (we're on well water and need to filter our drinking water), a water filter pitcher, 1 gallon of orange juice (actually, I buy the 1/2 gallon jugs of OJ so that I can fit it in the fridge along with all the other drinks - it costs a few pennies more, but to me it's worth it!). I also have a jar of kefir grains in there as well and a plastic container of tomato juice!

Lowest shelf: Eggs, yogurts and whatever else I still needed a place for that would of gone on the top or middle shelves.

Then we have the crispers and they contain cabbage, carrots, bags of salad, apples, fruit, tortilla wraps and other odds and ends.

My side door hosts bottles of ketchup, mustard, bbq sauce, salad dressings, syrup, jams and whatever other little bottles of sauces a person normal cooks with or puts on a sandwich. The "Dairy" section shelf holds all my cream cheese and sliced cheeses.

I must admit that it does take a lot of time to organize everything in order for it all to fit just right in the fridge and sometimes I'll empty the fridge, clean it and reshelf everything to better organize it.

I grew up with a top freezer fridge, but now that I'm so used to using a side-by-side, I think I prefer the "let's see how I can fit this in my fridge" challenge.

What type of fridge do you have and what organizational skill have you put into making everything fit when you get home from a grocery shopping trip?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Freezer Meal Recipes and Planning


The month of November is going to be my "test & see" how well freezer meals work for us month! Since I already had quite a few things in my pantry from my previous shopping trips in earlier months, I decided to go through and empty my shelves before going on my 1x a month shopping trip. :)

**Unless otherwise noted everything was put into 9x13 foil pans**

I made Chili Cornbread Casserole:
FREEZING TIP: Label, date and put instructions with your meals (as shown above).

Chili Cornbread Bake - freezer meal
2.25 cups cooked ground beef
1.25 cups chopped onion
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
14.5 ounces Hunt’s diced tomatoes (I also added a small can of corn to the bean mixture)
30 ounces chili beans, undrained
2 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
16 ounces cornbread mix

Brown onion and garlic; add in cooked ground beef. Add tomatoes, beans, and spices. Bring to boil and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Divide among two deep dish 8×8 baking dishes. Prepare cornbread batter according to package directions. Spread batter evenly over chili mixture. Cover with foil and bake covered at 400F for 30 minutes. *DO NOT cook if you intend to freeze it! See below.* Uncover, and bake an additional 10-20 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown. Serve with sour cream and shredded cheese, if desired.

Freezing Directions:
Prepare as above. After topping chili with cornbread batter, flash freeze until cornbread mixture is set, then cover with foil, label, and freeze. To serve: DO NOT thaw. Bake covered at 400F for 1 hour. Uncover, and bake an additional 25-30 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown. Serve with sour cream and shredded cheese, if desired.

The chili recipe was really easy because the previous weekend we had a bonfire at our house and I made potato soup, chili and venison roast and therefore just added a few more beans and some more beef to the chili so that I could wisely put the leftovers to good use and make a freezer meal.

Pictured above: Cornbread Chili Casserole, Pizza Casserole and Beef Stroganoff (which I made for dinner that evening with the extra noodles and ground beef left over from the casseroles).

Pizza Casserole

I also used the extra ground beef to make a large pizza casserole. I boiled 3/4 box of elbow noodles, added 1 jar of sauce, some ground beef (fully cooked), chopped pepperoni, 1 small bag of mozzarella cheese and freshly snipped chives into a 9x13 pan and placed it in the freezer for another ready-made easy dinner!

I must admit that because I was feeling in such a highly "cooking/baking" mood that I went ahead and did a quick grocery store trip to buy some items that would help in making my freezer recipes. I spent $65.22 at Krogers on Friday buying some more foil dishes, bread, milk, eggs and chicken (along with a few other items of course). I have come to realize that when a pregnant woman is in the mood to cook and has the energy to do a big task - than it must be done! The chicken was on sale, so I bought three packs of chicken breasts. I used two and put the third one in the freezer for later. I have $85.78 dollars left to spend for my November monthly shopping, which I believe is going to work out quite well considering I'm not going to need very much.

I made two pans of chicken enchiladas to freeze and also made a chicken, broccoli and rice casserole to freeze.

I found a package of Habanero cheese at Kroger and thought it would be perfect for enchiladas!

Chicken Enchiladas Freezer Recipe

1 1/4 lb ground chicken

1 onion, chopped

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup sour cream

2 cups grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

2 cans/jars mild enchilada sauce (use medium or hot for spicier enchiladas)

6-8" tortillas (you will need approx 10-12 depending on size)

In skillet with small amount of cooking oil over medium heat, cook ground chicken and onion until chicken is cooked through. Drain grease (if any). Transfer to bowl and add sour cream, corn and 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce.
Using a 9x13 baking dish lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, coat bottom with 1/3 cup of mild enchilada sauce. In each tortilla, spoon 2 tbsp of chicken mixture and 1 tbsp of cheese and roll tortilla up, then placing in baking dish seam-side down so they don't unroll. Once done, pour leftover enchilada sauce over top, making sure it is spread well. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Allow to cool (if not already) then wrap and freeze.

On baking day: Remove chicken enchiladas and defrost. Cover with tin foil, then bake for 20-30 minutes (or until fully cooked) in a preheated 350F oven. Remove foil and return to oven until cheese on top is melted.

**I made my enchiladas by boiling and shredded 3 chicken breasts, adding several cups of cheese and 2 jars of enchilada sauce. I rolled the mixture into tortillas and placed them in the foil pans. ** As you all know by now, I'm not one to follow directions when it comes to cooking, because I love to mix a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

Pictured above: Two pans of chicken enchiladas, freezer bag of shredded chicken and chicken, broccoli & rice casserole ready for the freezer.

Chicken, Broccoli & Rice Casserole

16 ounces frozen broccoli florets (or about 3 cups fresh broccoli florets)

3 cups cooked cubed chicken


2 cans cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 cup chicken broth

paprika, optional

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

1 1/2 cups rice (uncooked measurement), cooked according to package instructions (should make 4 1/5 cups of cooked rice)

1. In covered saucepan, cook broccoli in water just until tender, about 5 minutes.
2. In greased 9 x 13 baking dish, spread broccoli across bottom and sprinkle chicken evenly on top. Generously sprinkle black pepper over chicken.
3. In mixing bowl, combine cream soups, mayonnaise, curry powder, and chicken broth, whisking until smooth. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle paprika on top if desired.
4. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Spread cheese on top and bake 5-10 minutes longer, until melted and slightly browned.
5. While casserole is baking, cook rice. Serve the chicken and broccoli mixture over hot rice.

**To create this into a freezer meal I tweaked the above recipe to fit my needs. I had a half bag of frozen broccoli in my freezer that I boiled (didn't bother measuring it because I knew I was going to add it all to my casserole and a few extra pieces of broccoli was not going to make a difference). I bought 1 large can of cream of chicken soup instead of the two small ones. I made 6 cups of cooked rice, I think. I boiled 6 chicken breasts and used about 2 breasts for this recipe. Most of it I used for the enchiladas, but I did manage to put several cups of cooked, shredded chicken breasts in a freezer bag to use for other recipes. I stirred the cooked rice, chicken, 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, cream of chicken soup, a bit of milk (used that instead of chicken broth), 1/2 c. of mayo and spices into a large 9x13 pan. I let everything finish cooling, wrapped it and placed the pan in the freezer, so all I need to do is warm it up. **

So what can a girl do in the kitchen while waiting for the chicken to boil? Well, how about trying a batch of freezer french toast? :)

This recipe is a KEEPER! I LOVE it!!! Yes, I love french toast in general, but this is a very good tasting and easy recipe. It's great for large families too!

Freezer French Toast Recipe
Make your own freezer french toast rather than buying similar commercial frozen ones from the grocery store!

Makes 16 slices for quick breakfasts.

5 eggs

1 1/4 cups milk

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 tsp salt

16 slices white bread (I used wheat)

*I also added a few shakes of cinnamon to the eggs*

Heat oven to 500F. Combine eggs, milk, sugar, and salt, mixing well. Dip slices, then place on baking sheets sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake about 5 minutes, until bottom is golden brown. Flip and cook for 2 more minutes. Cool then freeze in single layer. Once frozen (about two hours) they can be packaged individually or placed in a single freezer bag.

To cook: Remove from freezer, and heat in toaster or toaster oven, then serve.

*We tried these for breakfast yesterday, because I was dying to find out how they tasted and they were yummy and soft! Great breakfast recipe! On a side note: As I was making the french toasts, I was thinking of how much of a time saver this would be for moms of large families - you can get however many pans of french toast cooked at the same time - meaning that everything would be hot and ready to serve at the same time! Instead of freezing the batch, use the recipe to make a fast breakfast in the oven instead of standing at the stove flipping toast after toast after toast. *

My notes on preparing freezer meals:
It took me about 6 hours to prepare the meals, package them and place them in freezer and wash all the dishes! I don't think that is too terrible, especially if you look at it from this point of view: 30 days per month x 30 minutes = 900 divided by 60 minutes = 15 hours (usually more) a wife on average will spend per month cooking meals. If I didn't do the math right someone please correct me - it is 8:30am and I'm still working on my morning cup of coffee, so my brain isn't at full function yet! :) Subtract 6 hours from 15 hours and you're left with 9 extra hours in your month to do whatever other little things you need to attend to or little projects you would like to get done that month - sewing, scrapbooking, yard work,house cleaning and organization, more exercise, etc. - pop the meal in the oven to heat and you can go enjoy 30 minutes - 1 hour doing something productive outside of the kitchen! :)

Preparing for Thanksgiving!

Photo from:

In exactly one week we'll be celebrating the month of November! It's crazy how fast the year can fly! With the month of November coming that means there is more meal planning to do and holiday shopping to prepare for and if you're part of a large family that might mean there is a lot more cooking to do!

How do we save money during the holidays and how do we plan menus?

1st off - what are your plans for the holidays? Are you staying at home and having guests arrive from out-of-town? Will they help with bringing food for the meal or will you supply everything? Are you going away to visit friends or family for Thanksgiving? Are you going to be baking any pies to take along? Knowing what your plans are ahead of time will help you to budget and know what to buy.


2nd- once you have figured out the answers to the first questions, you then will proceed to figure out what you need to plan and prepare for food-wise. You can cook for a crowd and not go broke! What are some Thanksgiving or Christmas meal traditions that are a "must have" (don't forget to ask your husband for his favorite "must haves" too, because sometimes they are different than yours)? Write a list of what your typical Thanksgiving meal looks like: turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pie, apple pie, rolls and down here in the south mac 'n cheese is quite a popular dish served at the Thanksgiving meal. If you're able to ask for help and if you have willing family members let them bring something to help with the food! For example, an out-of-town guest who travels 8+ hours to get to your house will probably not want to bring an apple pie, so instead ask them to bring something that travels well like a can of green beans or a box of stuffing that you can prepare Thanksgiving morning. The same goes for if you are the one traveling - help with the meal by bringing something that will travel well.


3rd- How many people will you have? Where will they sit? Do I have enough dishes, silverware, glasses, chairs, etc. for that many people? Will I need to see if I can borrow a table from someone or church in order to have enough room? Do have have enough tablecloths?

TIP: START WORKING ON STUFF NOW! Do you want to have tablecloths that match? Do you want to buy them or sew your own? Do you want to have cloth napkins? What about name holders? If you have kids or are feeling in a crafty mood yourself, you may want to try making some cute placeholders like this cute little turkey made out of a pinecone. If you're looking for matching tablecloths or even just planning to sew yourself some, buying craft supplies or other fall decorations, make sure you print out coupons for Micheal's, JoAnn's, AC Moore and other craft stores so that you can save $$! You can probably get some good deals on tablecloths with a 40-50% off coupon and then go back again later using another coupon to buy another matching one, so that you get two for the price of one.

These are just a few things to start thinking about now. My husband and I still need to figure out what we're going to be doing for the holidays. Needless to say, I need to get my act together before I start my monthly grocery shopping and figure out what we'll be doing! :)

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving and holiday tricks and tips with decorations, meal planning and traditions?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quick & Easy Fall Snacks

Here are some quick and easy fall snacks:

My husband's favorite is: peanuts mixed with candy corn! It's really easy - a jar of peanuts mixed with a bag of candy corn. You can always add whatever little things you'd like in with it: for example you could add raisins and/or another type of nut. Separate into little snack ziplock bags and you have an easy to grab snack!

Chocolate Covered Pretzels is another great snack you can make with a bag of pretzels and chocolate melts. Of course, I'm all for chocolate! :)

Here is a really fast to whip up, good tasting and healthy snack recipe:

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Dip and Apples

Freshly sliced apples ready to dip into the mixture after it's done!
1 cup smooth peanut butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup brown sugar - you can use less than that - less sugar = more healthy!
1 cup milk - I don't use quite that much milk, so you may want to "eye" it - you don't want the dip too runny, yet you don't want it too dry.

In a medium bowl, cream together peanut butter and cream cheese.
Stir in brown sugar and mix well.
Slowly stir in milk. Mix until well combined.
Chill for 1/2 hour in refrigerator.
Serve with apple slices.
Yield: About 3 cups

Of course, you don't have to refridgerate the dip before using it - it tastes good both ways. You'll want to make sure that you do refridgerate leftover dip. This dip also tastes great on graham crackers and it might also taste good on celery sticks. :)

Freezer Meals!

I'm now in the process of working on freezer meals. I'm emptying out my pantry for the my monthly menu next month and putting everything in the freezer. I love the ease of pulling something already made out of the freezer and warming it up! It's so nice! I'm thinking that with a baby due in a few months and the holiday season coming up, that it would be nice to have a month supply of freezer meals in the freezer.

Thoughts on freezer meals:

-you only need 1-3 days to cook enough of food for a whole month;
-you need just a few minutes to take the food out of the freezer and put into the oven;
-you will benefit to your health by eating home-made, fresh meals every day, plus you know what is in each recipe and dish that you made;
-you will have a bunch of different meals to choose from;
you will never be caught off guard by unexpected guests - you just run to the freezer, grab what you want and warm up your dinner - perfect!;
-you will save on your groceries, electricity bills and last minute trips to the store or to McDonald's to pick up something "quick for supper";
-and personally my favorite reason for making freezer meals: you will have every evening free, to enjoy your favorite activities, spend with your family or just relax after a busy day.

These meals come in so handy when I'm tired after a long day of teaching, especially when the thought of spending time standing at the stove cooking dinner and washing a bunch of dishes after the meal from all the cooking doesn't appeal to me.

You can freeze meals for breakfast, lunch and supper. I love pulling out a pan of homemade cinnamon rolls and warming them up for a fresh warm breakfast treat! I also enjoy making homemade breakfast quiches, which is so nice for a quick morning breakfast when you want something different than the quick boxed breakfast cereal or granola. You can even freeze granola if you want to, although homemade granola if stored currently in a glass jar with a lid or airtight container will keep it good and fresh for at least 2 weeks. I must admit, that I have never tried freezing granola, but I have read that it does work and I'm thinking that I'll be giving it a try this upcoming month. Waffles are another great freezer food for quick breakfasts!

I'll be back later to post pictures and recipes for the meals I just finished making!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Here are some recipes that we have had over the past month that are on my "make again" list!

Baked Potato Casserole
8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
6 slices turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled, divided
Sliced green onions (optional)
Place potatoes in pot, cover with water, bring to a boil. Cook over medium-high heat for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Preheat oven to 350... grease casserole dish (2 1/2 to 3 quart dish). Add evaporated milk to the potatoes along with the sour cream, salt and pepper. Beat with hand mixer until smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cup cheese and half of the bacon. Spoon mixture into prepared casserole dish. Bake 20 - 25 minutes until heated through. Top with remaining cheese, remaining bacon and green onions. Bake for about 3 more minutes until cheese is melted.
Makes 16 servings.

Cottage Cheese Yeast Rolls


  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) 4% cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In a small saucepan, heat cottage cheese to 110°-115°. Add the cottage cheese, eggs, sugar, salt, baking soda and 2 cups flour to yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough (dough will be sticky).

  • Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  • Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 30 pieces. Shape each piece into a roll. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
  • Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks.
    2-1/2 dozen.
I think my rolls had a slight "salty" flavor, so next time I make them I might cut out the salt and just add the baking soda. These are very soft yummy rolls that taste great warm out of the oven!

Parmesan Chicken


  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  • Flatten chicken to 1/4-in. thickness. In a shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and basil. In another shallow bowl, beat the egg. Dip chicken into egg, then coat with crumb mixture.
  • In a large skillet, brown chicken over medium heat in butter and oil for 3-5 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Yield: 4 servings.
This is a yummy chicken recipe! I normally do NOT use an egg when I make this chicken recipe. I just coat the chicken breast in melted butter and then dip into the crumb mixture and sprinkle in some dry ranch seasoning.

For dessert I cheated and just through a can of pumpkin pie mix into a frozen ready-made crust and topped it with a scoop of whipped cream - yummy!

What are some of your favorite fall dishes?