Friday, February 27

Saving cookies...

for another day!

I don't know about you, but when I bake cookies, it's tempting for Korey and I to eat the whole batch in a couple days. To avoid over-eating and to save some cookies for another day, I freeze them!

You can freeze the dough or the baked cookies. I like to freeze the dough from drop cookies and bake up a hot batch for after supper or to share with friends. I also have leftover already baked cookies in my freezer from Christmas that are still quite tasty.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies ready to be frozen

Cookie dough can be frozen in one piece (and thawed before using) or for ease of use, pre-shape the cookies. Freeze shaped cookies on a cookie sheet until firm, then transfer to an air-tight container or freezer bag and return to freezer. You can bake the cookies straight from the freezer, just add a couple minutes to the baking time! It is helpful to put a note on the container with the baking temp and time so you don't have to pull out the cookbook again.

Cookies aren't the only dessert you can freeze. I also put unfrosted cupcakes in the freezer for a quick treat (and again, so we don't eat them all!) Just be sure they are completely cooled before freezing or the center will get soggy when thawed. You can also freeze sugar-based frosting.

What dessert items do you like to freeze? How do you avoid eating a whole batch of cookies or cupcakes?

Wednesday, February 25

Freezing Foods

Wednesdays are typically the day I try to make something that can be frozen for another meal. I made minestrone soup on Sunday and froze half, so I won't be making anything extra today, but I wanted to offer some of my tips for freezing foods.

Soups: Most soups freeze well and many recipes can easily be doubled. Cream-based soups should not be frozen as they tend to separate. To save freezer space when freezing soups, put a gallon size freezer bag in a 4-cup measuring cup or bowl and fill (about 4 cups). Seal the bag, extracting most of the air, lay flat on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. When frozen, the bags can easily be stacked and take up less space than plastic containers.

Casseroles: When feeding just the two of us, a full-sized casserole (or similar meal baked in a 9x13 pan) gets boring as leftovers and goes bad before we can eat it all. To solve this problem, I invested in some smaller size Pyrex pans (8x8, 6x9, 3x6). When putting together a meal, I divide the food between two baking dishes, then bake one and freeze the other. This works well for pasta dishes, such as mac & cheese or lasagna, and casseroles, including enchiladas.

To keep my pan available for use, I line the dish with plastic wrap or foil. When the food is frozen, simply lift it out, place in a freezer bag and store until ready to use. To heat frozen meals, remove plastic and return to pan to bake. Most foods can be baked from frozen, just add on to the baking time. You can also defrost it overnight in the refrigerator before baking.

Other foods/leftovers to freeze: I have successfully frozen taco meat, sloppy joe meat, pasta sauce, meatballs, cooked rice, burritos, bean dishes and stuffed pastas.

What foods do you like to freeze? Do you have any other tips for freezing meals or leftovers to share with me?

Monday, February 23

A New Week

Happy Monday! It's the start of a new week and this new blog so I thought I would write about a couple things I do at the beginning of each new week.

An important part of each week is the time I spend meal planning. This usually happens on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. Meal planning is valuable to me for two reasons. First, it helps me take a look at the week and plan what's going on as well as what we are going to eat each day; when I have a plan I don't have to worry about it every afternoon. Meal planning also helps me plan my grocery list for Monday (more on grocery shopping to come) so I don't shop haphazardly and waste money.

A typical week of meals looks like this:

Monday - Crock pot meal or something from the freezer. (I don't get home from step class on Mondays until about 6 p.m. and I usually don't feel like cooking.)

Tuesday - I like to try new recipes, so I usually schedule at least one into each week.

Wednesday - One day a week I like to be sure I have enough leftovers to freeze for another day like Mondays. This might be soup, or a casserole type dish that serves six (more on freezing to come.)

Thursdays - I need a break from cooking by this time of the week and the leftovers have starting piling up in the fridge. Sometimes I try to do something a little different with them so it doesn't feel like the same thing. Salad is also good about this time of week.

Friday - Comfort food day. After a long week it's nice to have something simple and easy like pizza or pasta.

Saturday - Leftovers, food that is quick & easy, or eat out to celebrate saving money on meals at home all week.

Sunday - Often leftovers so we can start the week fresh on Monday or I'll cook something if I feel up to working in the kitchen.

  • Towards the end of the week I take a look in the fridge and see what kinds of fresh food I still have left and try to figure out meals that will use them up.
  • A blog I enjoy reading for weekly dinner inspiration is This Week for Dinner. The author posts her menu for the week on Sunday and encourages others to do the same in the comments.
  • Figure out your typical weekly schedule and use that to form a general meal plan.
  • UPDATE: I forgot some of the most important tips for meal planning! "Shop" at home first. Look in your pantry, fridge & freezer to see what you already have on hand and base your meals off those ingredients first. Then, look at your grocery ad (most are now online if you don't get a paper) to see what's on sale to help round out your menus. This will save you money and space in your home!
What are your meal planning tips?

The other thing I do as part of my weekly chores (more on a weekly cleaning plan later) is change the sheets and clean up the bedroom. You can choose any day you like for this activity, but I find that Monday is easy to remember and it helps get the week off to a fresh start. This is also a great time to dust and vacuum in order to maintain healthy conditions for sleeping.

What chores do you do at the start of each week?

Sunday, February 22

A New Notebook

Since Korey and I moved to the Carolinas I've been a stay-at-home-wife. During this time I have learned a lot about cooking, cleaning and otherwise caring for our home and family. I've kept all of my notes, ideas and revelations in a notebook. Now I would like to share the contents of that notebook with you.

Watch for this blog to evolve over the next several weeks/months as I'm constantly evolving in my understanding of the subjects to be discussed. Here is a tentative list of topics that I plan to write about:
  • cooking
  • baking (bread, sweets, etc.)
  • budgeting & saving money
  • meal planning
  • caring for the home
  • sewing & needlework
  • fitness
The decision to stay at home has sometimes been difficult for monetary reasons as well as my own internal struggles. Through studying God's Word and praying over the situation, I'm slowly discovering His plan for my life as well as enjoying this season that He has given me to grow and share what I am learning.

To all who are reading this blog, I hope you enjoy it and that it will be a blessing in your life. Please feel free to contribute what you are learning or ask about topics you would like to know more about.