Sunday, February 28, 2010

We Will Now Pause for a Break

Wow. It's been quite the weekend. After a good 4 days last week of a very sleepless Miles, on Thursday I noticed he had a runny nose. That quickly progressed in to an all out drool and slobber fest followed by an all nighter on Thursday night. I am not one to sprint to the doctor at the first sign of sickness, but I could tell this was not just a cold. Sure enough, the little dude managed to contract an ear infection and croup. The doctor's words were "Wow, he is REALLY phlegmy!" Gee, thanks. Add to that some very red swollen gums from teething(I noticed while he was screaming his head off at the doctor) and we have one miserable little guy.

Three year old Ella has decided to take this opportunity of her parents being distracted holding her brother all day to create as much chaos and sass as she can muster.

It's been fun.

I am working on the March menu and attempting to get some freezer cooking done, but I'm not holding my breath!

Hopefully we'll be back to half-way healthy in a day or two!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Make It Homemade: Pre-Cooked Chicken (How to Poach Chicken)

One of the recipes in my March once a month cooking plan calls for cooked, shredded chicken. I like to have a bag of cooked chicken in my freezer, but I don't have any on hand. I also don't have any whole chickens around, which would be the cheaper alternative. What I do have are boneless, skinless chicken breasts and these are easily cooked by poaching them.

I ran across directions for poaching chicken a few years ago. I had never heard of poaching anything but eggs before that! For the past few years I've been poaching my chicken using those directions, but it is rather bland and tasteless. Last month I ran across another recipe for poached chicken in the January/February issue of Everyday Cooking.that is just delicious. I can't believe I didn't think to cook it like this before!

Poached Chicken
1/2 medium onion, halved
1 medium carrot, cut into thirds
1 celery stalk, cut into thirds
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lemon sliced, optional
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
Thyme or parsley
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 8 ounces each)

In a large, straight sided skillet or pot, combine all ingredients except chicken. Cover with water by 1/2 inch and bring to a boil over high. Add chicken. Bring back to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Cover pot and remove from heat. Let stand until chicken is cooked through, 15-18 minutes, turning chicken once. Remove chicken from liquid immediately.

If you then strain the liquid, you will have some delicious broth to throw into the freezer!

You can then shred, dice or leave the chicken whole and freeze to use later.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Works For Me Wednesday: Shower Curtains

When we got married we received a beautiful cloth shower curtain, which meant we needed to use a shower liner. For five years, every time the liner got all moldy and gross, I'd just throw it away and get a new one.

A few months ago, a friend of mine told me that she uses a clear shower liner under her daughter's high chair to catch the food. When it gets dirty she just washes it. WHAT?!?! I had no idea!  I gave it whirl a few weeks ago. I had nothing to lose as a new liner is only $1. I washed our dirty shower liner with detergent and bleach and sure enough, it came out of the washing machine in one piece and clean!

This is one of those times when I wonder what other great tricks I've been missing all these years!

I'm sure you can find lots of them at Works For Me Wednesday.

Monday, February 22, 2010

March Freezer Cooking Day

 It has almost been a month since my very first freezer cooking day. While I did not really enjoy the process of so much cooking in such a small amount of time, I LOVE having all that food in my freezer (and we actually ate all those waffles)! So I'm doing it again.

This time around I'm going to focus on breakfast and lunch items. I don't mind cooking dinner and usually have lots of time to do it (all day!), but I'd like breakfast and lunch to be a bit quicker.

The Plan
Waffled French Toast
Gingerbread Pancakes
Strawberry Muffins
Mini Crustless Quiche (I had a good recipe, but didn't save it -- anyone have one?)
Pizza Rolls (these were a HUGE hit! My husband LOVED them!)
Creamy Chicken Taquitos (have I mentioned I have about 100 tortillas in my freezer?)
Meatballs/Salisbury Steak
Frozen Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches (like Uncrustables, but homemade so better!)

I'll be cooking all week long as I find it too exhausting doing it all in one day, but I do plan to be done by next Monday, March 1st. I'll post my conclusion next week!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

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Homemade Fortune Cookies

This past weekend was a major convergence of holidays and celebrations: Valentine's Day; Chinese New Year; President's Day. Today is my husband's birthday. How do you roll all those celebrations in to one? Homemade fortune cookies!

I followed the directions posted by Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker. My messages included love notes, birthday greetings, New Year wishes, and quotes from past Presidents. Brandy's directions are great. Make sure to spread the batter out thin and don't let the edges get too brown or they won't stick together. I definitely recommend working only 2 at a time! Do not cut down on the sugar -- that is what makes them stick!

This was super easy (just a tad repetitive, but I find repetition somewhat soothing) and I made them with two small kids underfoot.

Homemade fortune cookies definitely work for me!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Make It Homemade: Croutons

I have two gallon sized freezer bags full of bread bits and pieces in my freezer. I throw in bread that is going stale and make bread crumbs as needed. I do not, however, use a lot of bread crumbs and I was getting annoyed at these two huge bags taking up space in my freezer!

And then Daily Decadent wrote a post on making croutons. I happened to need some croutons for a Valentine's Day Cesar Salad and it seemed easy and quick (it was!).

I let my bread thaw out a bit, but in retrospect, it would have chopped up better frozen. I had A LOT of crumbs, which I dumped back in to a bag for use as bread crumbs. I used a mix of hamburger rolls, hot dog buns, and whole wheat dinner rolls (that never quite rose properly). I chopped them all up, threw them in a large bowl and drizzled with olive oil. I sprinkled on oregano, parsley, garlic powder and garlic salt and stirred. They baked for 20 minutes at 200 degrees then I stirred. They baked again for 15 minutes and I stirred. Then I had to leave the house so I just turned off the oven and left for a few hours. My husband declared them "delicious" so I guess they turned out just fine!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Off My Needles: Valentines

I knit up a ton of these little hearts with the plan to make them into little Valentine's Day necklaces for my friend's daughter to give out to her pre-school class.

I thought I'd just attach a little card to the necklace, but then I had this idea:

The longer yarn is taped to the back so they can be removed and worn!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Upcoming Changes

There are changes a foot here at Growing Up Gabel! When I started this blog, over 3 years ago, I just intended to share pictures and family updates with all of our far away family and friends. Then I decided maybe I'd focus a bit more on being a blended family, but that is just way too sensitive of a subject for a public blog! So I've basically been blogging about my tricks and tips for living a frugal lifestyle, which apparently mostly centers around cooking!

For the past year or so I've really been wanting more of a focus for my blog and I've just recently (finally) had that "ah ha" moment (thanks to my friend Sarah!). I'm still dealing with a few minor glitches (like a NAME), but soon (hopefully very soon)I will be branching off. This blog will remain active and go back to it's original intent as a family blog. All the other good stuff that the rest of you care about will make a switch to another blog. I'm hoping to be much more intentional and organized with the new blog (have you tried finding anything on here -- what a nightmare!) and realized that starting from scratch would just be easier.

I just wanted to give you a heads up because I don't want to lose anyone in the shift. Now back to plotting and brainstorming!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How to Bake Potatoes in the Crock Pot

I have a TON of potatoes in the house. They were on sale and then someone gifted us with even more. I decided to make some potato soup this week, but none of them were cooked. I had no reason to turn on the oven, so I threw them in the Crock Pot instead.

I put the washed potatoes standing up on end long ways in to the Crock. I drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled them with some salt. I read a few recipes on-line that called for foil, but I never bake my potatoes in foil as both Paula Deen and The Joy of Cooking say it is NOT necessary so I don't. I let them cook on high for about 3 hours checking at the 2 hour mark to see how done they were. If you are cooking larger potatoes you will need a few more hours. Just keep checking them with a fork. And voila cooked potatoes with very little work required of me!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Freezer Cooking Day Wrap Up

Well, I did it -- my very first "Freezer Cooking Day" and I pretty much hated every minute of it! I kind of had a sneaking suspicion that I would not enjoy all that cooking in such a short amount of time because in general, I don't work well near deadlines. I always had all my papers written at least 3 days before they were due so feeling the pressure to "finish" by Monday was stressful. Silly, but true!

I really enjoy cooking and being in the kitchen all day is generally a pleasure, but three full meals a day gets to be a lot. For me, knowing that I now have some breakfast and lunch prep already in the freezer and pantry is a huge relief -- even if I did dislike the process getting there!

I made most of what I had planned and improvised a little as I went. I decided to cut out the muffins I'd planned to make because -- HOLY WAFFLES BAT MAN! I quadrupled the waffle recipe and I now have enough waffles to last us about two months (and I am not kidding!). I also nixed the pizza doughs due to lack of desire to keep going!

I took about 4 days to get all this cooked up. I am planning to get to the baking mix on my original plan later this week.

Here is what I ended up cooking:

Freezer Crescent Rolls
Spaghetti Sauce
Chocolate Pancake Mix
Seasoned ground beef for pizzas (not on the original list)
Pizza Rolls
Shredded chicken (didn't quite make it to the quesedillas0
Homemade Pop Tarts

While I'm not a fan of the deadline of a one day cooking spree, I do think I'll do it on a continuing basis by doubling recipes and  cooking meats before I freeze them.

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