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Freezer Meals

19 Mar

This post is very late in coming. And out of season now. But oh well. I’m posting it anyway.

Eating well is important to me. I am by no means the healthiest person on earth but I’ve worked really hard over the past few years to develop more healthful ways of eating. Most of my philosophy is centered on eating as much unprocessed food as possible. Though I certainly enjoy dining out, I like to do it as a treat and not just because I didn’t plan and cook a meal. In fact, how we’re eating has pretty much become a sign of how in of control I am of my life in general. When things get out of hand, I often try to re-focus by menu planning and grocery shopping.

When I was still pregnant, I worried about how we’d handle meals once the baby arrived. Knowing that I feel better when I eat better, I wanted to make sure we were prepared. A quick search on Pinterest offered many make-ahead and freeze meal options. But a lot of the recipes were just for chicken with some kind of sauce (which means it’s just as easy to sprinkle on some spices and throw it on the George Foreman grill…) or otherwise used ingredients I usually wouldn’t.

So, unhappy with those options, I embarked on the fun task (I’m being serious in case that isn’t coming across well in writing – ha!) of planning how to prep and freeze a few of our favorite fall/winter recipes plus a few new recipes that I thought would work well with this plan.

Here are the recipes I decided to try:

  • Lentil soup split into two gallon bags (which were 2 or more servings each)
  • Minestrone soup split into two gallon bags (which were 2 or more servings each)
  • Chicken tortilla soup split into two gallon bags (which were 2 or more servings each)
  • Chicken pot pie (ok, so maybe chicken pot pie is never *that* healthy…)
  • Veggie and rice skillet
  • Inside out stuffed peppers (from an old-fashioned cookbook! but one of my faves so maybe I’ll blog it eventually)
  • Beef stew (see my important note below about potatoes before you try this one!)

First, I made an Excel sheet (Yes! Excel! I told you this was fun! And again, I’m being serious…) of all the ingredients I’d need, the prep-in-advance steps for each recipe, and then the instructions for what to do once we wanted to unfreeze and eat the meal.

Menu planning in Excel

A few weeks before Claire was born, we went to Costco, stocked up on all of the ingredients, chopped up all the veggies (I kept everything sorted in individual bowls by recipe and had the freezer bags ready and labeled), sautéed, poured in stock, canned tomatoes, etc, added in spices, divided into the gallon size freezer bags, and froze. Whew!

Prep-ahead

Freezer meals

It was several hours worth of work and I nearly chopped off a finger at least twice while dicing onions. Yikes! I’m not sure it necessarily saved time overall (it did save time when it came to actually getting dinner ready though) except that we only had to wash the cutting boards, knives, and pans once. But, by the end of the day, our freezer was stuffed (maybe a little too stuffed!)

Freezer Meals 2

Given all of that, I wouldn’t necessarily plan on being this ambitious very often. However, having 11 plus meals ready to go was amazing. Between what we made and our kind and generous family and friends, Claire was over a month old before I even had to worry about what to eat.

But you might be wondering how things turned out. I was definitely a little worried since I hadn’t tried anything like this before. Here’s my quick recap:

Soups

All great. When possible, I’ll probably start doubling or tripling those recipes when I’m already making them as I think that will save time and cut down on wasted ingredients. I think this would be a more reasonable way of prepping in advance going forward.

Chicken pot pie & Veggie skillet

Both OK. A little runnier than usual. I probably needed to adjust something along the way to account for the freezing and did not.

Inside out stuffed peppers

A little mushy. Since this is one of my favorite meals, I’ll stick to making it fresh when I want to eat it.

Beef stew

So, apparently, you can’t freeze cut potatoes without doing something to them first or they turn black. Oops. Learn from my mistake. If you’re going to try to freeze potatoes, google it first and figure out the right way. I may be too scarred to ever try again or I’d figure it out for you.

It is important to us that we continue to eat well and prioritize family meals even now that Claire is here. I know that how that all comes together is going to need to change and we’re still trying to figure out our nightly schedule. I’d like to come up with some set weekly meal plans so I’m not starting from scratch each week but I just haven’t gotten there yet. And I definitely need to figure out how and what to prep in advance (frozen or not) so I can get dinner on the table quickly after work. We’ll see how it continues to evolve!

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xoxo Claire

14 Feb

“Cute’s good. But cute only lasts for so long, and then it’s, ‘Who are you as a person?’ Don’t look at the bankbook or the title. Look at the heart. Look at the soul.” – Michelle Obama

Those words were spoken about finding a partner and yet, as I’m constantly thinking about how to raise my daughter into the strong, smart, independent woman I know she can be, I hope that message is something she’ll one day believe about herself. No matter what she has or what she chooses to do, I hope she’ll love herself for what is already in her heart. I know I sure do.

At the same time, she is pretty darn cute and that never hurts either. ;)

My little valentine Pretty skirt baby feet

Happy Valentine’s Day!

P.S. Remember my Valentine’s post last year? Unbeknownst to all of you, we had just found out I was expecting! I was pretty much bursting with love…and still am. :)

Meet Claire!

7 Nov

I’m so excited to finally introduce you to our sweet baby Claire! It’s hard to pick a favorite picture but this one, from her second day here, is definitely still one of them. 

Claire was born almost three weeks ago, on October 18th, which just so happens to be my birthday too. Talk about the best birthday present ever! For several years, Pete would ask what I wanted for my birthday or Christmas and I would answer “a baby.” I never expected it to happen quite so literally though. According to the doctor, she was due on the 20th but, based on my fertility charting, I actually calculated her due date as the 18th. I’ve never really been into celebrating my birthday but now we can celebrate her. Hopefully she won’t mind sharing her day with me when she gets older.

You might remember that last year around my birthday I declared The Year of the Sparkling Buddha. We got off to a shaky start but I would have to say that my year was about as sparkly as you can get and I sure did a good impression of a buddha belly by the end!

Our little family feels so loved and so grateful for all the friends and family who have stopped by, brought food, and sent their well wishes. As we continue to get the hang of being new parents, I’ll try to post more as I can. :)

Summer 2012

23 Sep

With fall officially here, I figured I better do a quick recap on where our summer went! I knew once we got back from Savannah the weeks would just fly by and indeed they did. As you might have guessed, a lot of our summer activities were influenced by the fact that our first baby is on its way – either because they were things that needed to be done to get ready for baby or things that we wanted to do while we still easily could. Sadly, a lot of things went without being photographed as I just didn’t have the time and energy to carry around my camera and worry about editing. But here’s a rundown –

  • Took a trip out to Colorado to visit friends and family. We have literally one picture from this trip that Pete took.

  • Took a trip to St. Louis for the very fun wedding of a college friend.
  • Bought a new car. Because I just didn’t think getting a car seat in and out of my 2-door 2003 Honda Civic sounded like a good time.
  • Had new carpet installed in the bedrooms (finally! Another one to cross off the 30 Before 30 list…even if very late.)
  • Turned our guest bedroom/office/craft storage room into a nursery. Which meant moving our guest bedroom furniture out of the condo and the office/craft storage into the living room. This has been a long, slow process but if we ever finish I’ll post some photos of both.
  • Bought life insurance. If that doesn’t make you feel like an adult I don’t know what will.
  • Celebrated our 5th anniversary! Our tradition is to go to our favorite Greek restaurant to reminisce about our honeymoon.
  • Went to the usual assortment of birthday parties, graduation parties, concerts, and dinners with friends.
  • Took a weekend trip to Michigan with three of my college girlfriends.

  • Showered three babies, including our own, with lots of love.
  • Learned that a Ukranian-Catholic wedding ceremony is not the same as a traditional Catholic ceremony. And that Ukranians are amazing dancers.
  • Splurged on dinner at Next.
  • Continued working with new and returning photography clients – including another wedding and a product photography project (which was new to me.)
  • Took some DIY maternity photos. I would have liked to have hired someone, I even reached out to a few people, but it just didn’t come together. Pete actually did a really good job with the ones I asked him to take. But it’s difficult to be relaxed when you’re either directing the shot or taking it (with a timer.)
  • Sat and watched in amazement as my baby did acrobatics in my belly. (Pete and I might just be easily amused, but she provides daily entertainment.)

And, often, I just rested. I didn’t clean enough. Or cook enough. Or organize enough. I didn’t even make as many to-do lists as I normally do. Everything took me longer to get done than I’d like. But it was a good summer. A very good summer. And now it’s time for fall. Which means it’s almost time for a baby!

How Sweet It Is

4 Aug

Happy 5th anniversary, Pete! My life is sweeter every day because you’re in it. I can’t wait to see what the next 5 years bring us. We always talk about adventure and I’m not sure there’s anything more adventurous than parenthood!

{Photo Credit: Husar Photography}

No time or energy for any other wedding posts this year but you can see the “Our Wedding” tag for previous years’ posts. Prepping for a baby (which in our house includes lots of projects and buying a car!), summer vacations, weddings, and just the usual summer activities are taking all the time and energy I have. No complaints though. Time is flying but in the best of ways.

It’s a GIRL!

6 Jun

We’re so excited. I’ve been telling Pete all day how crazy it is. I would have felt and said the exact same things if it was a boy. We are already so in love with this little person. My heart is full and my mind is amazed at everything that science can do – from the division of cells that created this whole new life to the ultrasound technology that allowed us to see her today. So incredible. And I am so grateful.

Big News!

14 May

We have big news! Exactly the kind you’re probably guessing – and we could not possibly be any happier.

More to come soon, I’m sure, but I’ve been accidentally keeping that secret for several weeks now so figured it was about time it was out in the open. :)