Monday, December 17, 2012

Once A Month Mom - Cook Once, Meals For A Month Or More

$250 in meals
Ham and cheddar stuffed pretzels, red lentil soup w/ lemon, taco soup, cheese-broccoli-quinoa casserole, potato and ham chowder, sriracha pulled pork, garlic mushroom omelets, cauliflower pizza bites, creamy taquitos, sweet potato foil packet tacos, pork and sweet potato empenadas, sausage and egg breakfast sandwiches, tomato-basil-parmesan soup, italian sausage stew, broccoli cheese soup, slow cooker coconut tofu curry w/rice, curried coconut lemon soup, avocado-rice barbacoa burritos, and balsamic herb lamb chops.

I just finished my 2nd cook one day and make meals for a month marathon.  Last month I signed up for Once A Month Mom - it's $8 a month or $72 a year.  I planned on only trying it out for one month, but I found that I liked it so much that I did it again this month.  

Here are my thoughts on Once A Month Mom or monthly freezer meal type cooking.  

#1 Don't do what I did this last time ie. try to cook too many meals!  I am totally burned out.  I think my 'eyes were bigger than my stomach' or at least more than my feet, legs and back could handle.  The OAMM program gives you different menus to cook every month - traditional, whole foods, gluten free, baby, vegetarian, ect.  Those menus each have 15 recipes with 8 dinners and 4 breakfasts and 4 lunches.  I don't always like ALL the recipes in a menu, so I pick and choose from all the menus and sometimes different past months.  Ok that's great EXCEPT  I ended up making 19 different recipes.  When the OAMM people make up the recipes they try to use ingredients that go together and make it easier to cook.  Not me!  I made it waaaaay harder on myself.  Lot's of fiddly things like empanadas, taquitos, burritos, pretzels,  ect.  Not casseroles that would go together a be easy.  Yes, I made a lot of soups, but they all had to be cooked in different ways, so I couldn't saute a huge batch of ingredients and then add the different flavors.  I made cream soups and not cream and lemony and not lemony.  

#2 Make sure you have plenty of clean dish towels.  I ran out of towels about 4 hours into my cooking.  Not nice.

#3 Make sure you have an empty garbage can.  I filled 2 big bags with garbage.

#4 Make sure your meat is thawed out before you start cooking.  I had to stop and split my cooking into 2 days, because I didn't have my meat thawed.  Although, I couldn't have done it all in one day anyway.  This was 2 days of cooking from 11am to midnight 2 days in a row - 25 hours.

#5 Empty your dishwasher and clean off all your counters.  Maybe get an extra table.  I ended up cooling things in the garage on top of my car.  I tried cooling things outside in a nice snowbank - forgot they were out there and lost 3 empanadas to the puppy.  

#6 Get some squishy slippers to wear and some comfy clothing.  My legs and back were KILLING me by the end of yesterday.  

#7  Be prepared to make one use-it-up soup or casserole at the end of your cooking day.  I cut up too many onions and other veggies and I changed my mind about making mini pot-pies, so I had extra ingredients.  Ham-potato Chowder to the rescue!

#8 Take a break!  Every once in a while take a break - sit down or do some stretches.  Have something to eat and make sure you are drinking water or something.  This is a marathon after all!

#9 A nice glass of wine, beer, hard cider (whatever) will make it possible to push through that 'I can't do it point'.  I very rarely drink anything, but I have to say a wine cooler at 8pm both days helped me cheer up and crank out a few more meals!

#10 Get something to listen to!  It's a lonely day in the kitchen if you don't have something to listen to and it takes your mind off your aching legs.

Now all that complaining aside......I LOVE doing this!!!!!!!!

It's fun and it's challenging.  I also like not having to cook when I'm tired and knowing that there is a healthy meal that I just need to warm up.

True I am not a Mom - I only have furry children, but I still like to eat.  Also, I was a vegetarian for 13 years (my entire adult life plus) and just recently I decided to start adding some meat to my diet.  I don't know how to cook meat, so it's nice to have direction and someone else choosing the recipes for me. 

Preparing to start.

Chopping the ingredients.

Red lentil soup with lemon.

Quinoa, broccoli, cheese casserole. 

Sweet potato foil packet tacos

Are you almost done?

Sweet potato empanadas.

Cauliflower bites 

Can I help you cook?  I'll be the tast tester!

Taco soup

Italian sausage soup

Broccoli Cheese soup

Breakfast sandwiches

Ham,broccoli,cheese pretzel calzones

Curried coconut lemon soup

Barbacoa burritos

Siracha pulled pork

And then another picture (or 2) of all my hard work!

Monday, October 22, 2012

I Opened An Etsy Shop!

I finally opened an Etsy shop!  Check it out - KhyiKiyi

I hope you like it :)  Here are a few pictures of the projects I'm working on.

My two (yup, I added another puppy to the family this summer) little helpers say crafting is a lot of work.  Actually they are the reason I decided to open the shop - they're expensive! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

DIY Fancy Crayons

I saw a cute idea on Pinterest and I had to try it out for myself.

There were a few things I learned while making these: Using an ice cube mold doesn't work as well as a candy/muffin mold. The ice cube mold melts a little bit and the crayons don't release cleanly from the mold. See pictures below.

 I tried using some WD-40 in the ice cube mold, but the results were the same.

Also, it takes quite a while to melt crayons - much longer than the 30-40 seconds that the tutorial on Pinterest said. More like 5-6 MINS.  Check on them often to make sure they are melting.

 Thirdly: It pays to put the mold into the freezer before you try to remove the crayons. Just let them warm up a tiny bit before you try to remove them or (if you have little details like arms, legs) they will break.

How to:
Remove the wrapping from some crayons. 
Break crayons into pieces and place in mold.
Melt crayons in molds - Microwave 5-6 mins on High.  Check often.
Place molds with melted crayons into freezer for 5-10 mins.
After removing molds from freezer allow crayons to warm up and then remove from molds.
Ta da!  Fancy crayons!

This was an ice cube mold.  The crayons stuck to it.  Still cute, just not shiny and smooth.

Candy mold men.  Lots of colors!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lazy Day Soup

I can't be the only person who reads a recipe that starts with, "Saute one onion and blah, blah, blah..." and I decide that I'm too lazy to cook today.   Seriously, sometimes you can be lazy and still want to eat something that doesn't come out of a box or bag.
You can use whatever you want to make this soup, but here is a recipe to get you started.

Lazy Day Soup
One bouillon cube
2 cups water
4 small or 1 large or 2 med (whatever size you want) leftover baked/grilled potato OR microwaved potato* cut into pieces
1/2 cup cauliflower - broken into pieces
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 cayenne pepper
good squirt of spicy mustard - about 1 tsp.
4-5 slices of sharp cheddar cheese (I used white, but you can use whatever cheese you have on hand)

Put bouillon cube in pot.  Add water.  Turn heat to high.  Wait until water starts to simmer.  Add potato, cauliflower, thyme, cayenne pepper and mustard.  Put cover on pot.  Shake pot around on burner to mix ingredients.  Yes, I am too lazy to stir soup.  After about 3 mins the cauliflower should be tender.  Remove from heat.  Add cheese to pot and replace cover.  Wait 3 mins and then stir soup.  Cheese should be melted into soup.  Eat it.

*Microwaved potato - Wash potato.  Put in microwave.  Microwave on high for 3-5 mins or until it screams (seriously, steam = screaming microwaved potato)

So there you go!  Yes, finally a recipe that doesn't require grating cheese.  I hate grating cheese.

With toppings - cheese bread and bacon bits

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blue Moon Wisteria

I forgot to post about my Blue Moon wisteria!  This is the first year I have ever had a flower on my wisteria vine (bush? tree?).
It's been growing for 4 years.  It is VERY hardy.  I don't protect it at all in the winter and it's in a fairly exposed area.  So Blue Moon wisteria really is hardy in Minnesota zone 4!

This is what it looked like to start out.

I wasn't sure what it was going to look like when it bloomed, because I've never seen a wisteria bloom.

It was more purple than blue, but it shows up very blue in pictures.  I bought this vine at Menard's, of all places, for about $25.  I go back every year and ask them if they have any more.  Every year they look at me like I'm crazy - "Wisteria?  What's that?"

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Homemade vs. Qudoba vs. Chipotle

For my parent's anniversary I tried to make a Chipotle-esque meal.  Our family is a big fan of Chipotle's veggie bowls.  And their chips.
However, a Qudoba opened in town a few weeks before my parent's anniversary and I was curious to see what they had to offer.  Turns out they didn't have much.  I really, really wanted to like Qudoba, because the 'local' Chipotle is an 2 hour drive round trip.  The Qudoba is only 10 mins. away.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed by Qudoba.  Not only are the portion sizes half the size of Chipotle's - Qudoba is more expensive and the food is very flavorless.
I tried Qudoba twice, because I wanted to believe that the first time was just a bad mistake.  The 2nd time I took some 'authentic Mexicans', as in friends visiting from Mexico.  They also thought the food was flavorless and we all walked away disappointed and still hungry.

I wish I had weighed the 2 meals!  The Chipotle one was MUCH heavier.  The round bowls are deceiving.
Qudoba: Veggie/Naked bowls $6.29 each + .69 for veggies (stupid) = $6.98
Chips - $1.99

Chipotle: Veggie bowl $6.25
Chips $1.25

After eating the Qudoba meal I was still hungry.  I could only eat 1/2 of the Chipotle meal.  
I did the testing on 2 different days - to be fair ;)

So could I make Chipotle at home???

Well, I tried.  I made a Cuban black bean recipe that had green olives and chocolate in it.

I had corn, olives and queso fresco - which is tasty with lime squeezed over it.

And I made fruit salad.  Bonus fruit salad ingredient picture!

I sauteed onions in achiote oil - achiote paste and olive oil.  It makes a tasty red oil.

I pan seared peppers and onions.  Plus added a little bottled smoke flavor to give them that grilled smokiness.

And we had a delicious meal.  BUT I would still drive 2 hours to eat Chipotle.  It just can't be replicated!  Or replaced!