Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Preparing for Baby: Freezer Meals

During the first few months of pregnancy, I started trying out some freezer meals. I thought that it would be great to have some meals ready to go in the freezer for when the baby is born. So, I started doubling recipes that we already enjoyed and freezing half of it. However, I really didn't have the knowledge of how to freeze things correctly, so I wasn't really happy with the results when we defrosted the meals to test them out. Next, I found some simple recipes that could be frozen, but most were 3 ingredients or less (which isn't always bad), but a lot of the recipes ended up very bland.

My freezer stocked and full with freezer meals made from Once a Month Mom recipes!
So, I took a break from the whole freezer meal thing - until I found this website a couple of weeks ago. One a Month Mom is a website devoted to freezer meals. There are six menus to choose from, and each menu is designed to give you about a month's worth of meals. The idea is that you go shopping, spend one loooong day cooking (10-12 hours), freeze all your meals, and then pull them out daily as needed.

I did a lot of exploring on the website, and I was hooked and knew this is what I wanted to try. One a Month Mom had great information about how to freeze things properly and how to prepare for a day of cooking.

I chose to try the traditional menu for February. Not only do they give you all of the recipes, but they give you instructions on an order for cooking all of the meals that makes sense, a grocery list, printable labels for all of your freezer items, and the ability to choose how many people in your family are going to be eating the meals (which automatically adjusts the amount of items on your grocery list and the recipes). I am in love!

Taco Pasta, cooked, frozen, and labeled.
Here is a rundown of what I made (most items were split into 2 meals):
Chile Verde
Mini Ham and Egg Cups
Coffee Cake Muffins
Mini Shepherd's Pies
Bagel Pizzas
Stirfry Veggie and Rice Packets
Mexican Chicken
Chicken and Broccoli Bake
Easy Ranch Chicken
Chicken Parmesan Bake
Taco Pasta
Beef Enchiladas
Beef Vegetable Soup

All the veggies prepped and ready to go.
Instead of doing one day of cooking, I spread out the recipes over a week. I did all of the shopping on Monday. On Tuesday, I prepped the vegetables and meat. Wednesday-Friday were devoted to about 3-5 hours of cooking each day.

Coffee Cake Muffins
I now have a freezer stocked with 23 large meals (each will have at least a lunch or two worth of leftovers). I chose not to make one of the breakfast meals (instant oatmeal packages) because we make instant oatmeal all of the time, and I didn't think the packets would really save us that much time.

Easy Ranch Chicken - labeled with directions and the date (printable from the website).
Although at this time I can't give you a rundown on the taste of each of the meals (eating them all before the baby is born does kind of defeat the purpose), I plan on posting a follow-up with some of our favorite meals and what did/didn't work for me.
Have you tried freezing meals before?
Were you successful?

*I am in no way compensated by this post (Once a Month Mom doesn't know I exist :) ), just thought I would share a good find!

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Night Dinner: Mom's Mac & Cheese

Comfort food...that's what this recipe is. After making it for dinner and eating all of the leftovers at lunch the next day, I made it a second time (only 2 days later...). I didn't grow up eating mac and cheese from a box; my mom made homemade white sauce on the stove, boiled pasta, crumbled crackers over top and baked it on the oven. It comes out cheesy, gooey and delicious. This is a perfect recipe for a cool spring evening or for a day when you want to enjoy the pleasures of when you were a kid.

Mom's Mac & Cheese
from the kitchen mom!

2 cups of macaroni noodles, uncooked
8 T margarine/butter (1 stick)
6 T flour
3 cups cold milk
2 cups shredded cheese (I usually use cheddar.)
1/2 a sleeve of saltine crackers

1. Cook macaroni until done.

2. For the sauce: Melt 6 T margarine/butter in skillet. Add 6 T flour and 3/4 t salt and stir in.

3. When it's all bubbly, add 3 C cold milk. I usually put a little in and stir it smooth and then add the rest to keep it from being lumpy. Cook, stirring constantly until it's thicker. Remove from heat. Then add 2 C shredded cheese to the sauce. Mix this in.

4. Add your drained macaroni to the sauce mixture and stir together. Pour into casserole dish (2 or 2-1/2 qt.).

5. Topping: Use the other 2 T margarine/butter and melt it. Crumble up about 1/2 a sleeve of saltines and stir it into the margarine. Sprinkle on top of the macaroni mixture.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes to heat through and blend flavors.

Mmm...enjoy! The perfect combination of cheesy noodles with salty, crunchy saltines.
Do you have a favorite recipe that just reminds you of home?

Other dinner ideas:

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tutorial: Quick & Easy Burp Cloths

In case you didn't know, my husband and I are expecting our first little one sometime in the next month. I have been doing lots of baby sewing projects, but it feels like they have mostly been for other people's babies (we have moved past the season of wedding gifts, and now it is the season of baby gifts - do you know what I'm saying?). We don't know if we are having a girl or a boy yet, so with the sea of neutral, I am waiting to make some gender specific items until after the baby is born.

But, there are some things that I know we need before I can make correct color choices - and one of those things is burp cloths. Now, I haven't had a lot of babies spit up on me before, but I've heard it can be messy :). So, I decided to make a few burp cloths to get us started. And, I thought since I was already making them I might as well show you how I did it :).

Warning: I don't actually have a baby yet, so I am guessing at the level of absorbency needed (which I hear varies baby-to-baby). I also averaged out the many sizes of burp cloths that people seem to enjoy to make a size that made sense for me and the fabric I had on hand. The general idea of the burp cloth can be modified to fit your fabric needs.

So, I started with some very cute fabrics (Oh Boy! by David Walker) and a white towel. Everyone has an extra towel lying around, so I used one that we rarely pull out of the closet. This project would also be great for a well-loved towel that has some salvageable parts - or you maybe could use a hand towel!

#1 - Cut two 18"x7" rectangles (one from the outer fabric, one from the towel).

#2 - Using a bowl, round all four corners of each rectangle.

#3 - Pin the rectangles right-sides together, and sew around the burp cloth (I used a 1/4" seam allowance). Leave a 2"-3" opening along one of the straight edges.

#4 - Clip little triangles out of the rounded corners.

#5 - Turn right-side-out and press. Pin the opening closed.

#6 - Sew a small seam allowance around the entire burp cloth (I sewed this at 1/8").

#7 - And, you are done! See, it was a quick & easy burp cloth!

The fun part is all of the cute colors you can make them in!

Now - I have a question for all of the people out there who regularly grab a burp cloth.
How many do you need to start with?
I know it probably depends on how many times a week you do laundry - but,
How many do you go through in a day?

Thanks for reading!

Other fun baby projects:
Baby Kimono Shoes

Baby Log Cabin Tag Quilt
Bopple Ball

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