Thank Heavens for Freezer Meals


Between the changes at work and our new family of three, last week was one of those that I could have easily bailed on cooking any given night and not felt very guilty at all. The fact that I only skipped one planned meal in favor of take-out is a small victory.

Home-cooked meals from May 2-8, 2016

Home-cooked meals from May 2-8, 2016

Check out the video right here:

Monday: Sweet Potato Cake Turkey Burgers + Side Salad + Grapes
Super simple freezer meal number one–this one didn’t even need defrosting! I believe the patty recipe came from Multiply Delicious and I just subbed turkey for chicken as the former is way easier to find and frequently on sale. I also doubled the recipe to make 12 patties or 3 meals at a time. We’ll definitely be making another batch because they are just so simple to have on hand and very tasty.

Tuesday: Chicken Curry with Cabbage and Peppers + Basmati Rice
Never a bad time for a good curry, this was our first try of the recipe from Loving My Nest and I think it’s a keeper. A freezer meal, yes, but I didn’t bother with the crock pot and it was the right call–the chicken may have become mealy if it cooked all day. Now, I believe I added a can of coconut milk to the mix before I froze it and, yes, it “broke” a bit (separated) when I cooked it. Would I do it again? Maybe, maybe not. I was just trying to avoid planning this meal and forgetting to have a can of coconut milk on hand and while it affected the appearance slightly, the taste didn’t suffer one bit. And, yes, I’d definitely use coconut milk over cows milk for this curry and pretty much any curry.

Wednesday: Cod Creole + Parmesan Orzo + Green Beans
What is it with me and forgetting to actually buy the fish I put on the menu?! I stuck it out this time, though, and it was definitely worth it. Cod is not only a very milk white fish it also doesn’t tend to fish-up the house when cooked. And this preparation from Hello Spoonful is just so simple it’s hard to beat! The one brand of gluten-free orzo we can find is a love-hate thing for us. We love orzo and have many dishes that call for it, but the gluten-free version puts out so much starch while boiling that it really does resemble risotto by the end more so than plain pasta. Straining it is a joke, so I usually don’t even bother, just mixing it into whatever else I had in mind and going with the flow.

Thursday: Broiled Steak + Mexican Street Corn Salad
Mmmm, Cinco de Mayo–as if we needed an excuse to have Mexican food for dinner, but I’m happy to take it anyway. The meal was mostly about the salad, which I found over on Live Eat Learn. I could have eaten a large bowl of this salad and skipped the steak and not been deprived whatsoever–I can totally see us making it again. We did a few substitutions, though. Normally I’d swap hominy for beans in most recipes, but since we were already focusing on the corn, I opted for some zucchini and yellow squash that needed to be used from the crisper. Also, while I adore feta and cotija cheese, we had a sizeable block of white cheddar leftover from my party and I shredded that up into the salad instead. I also cooked most of the ingredients for a bit to soften the squash and peppers up. I’m sure there are endless variations one could make on this salad and not go wrong–some halved cherry tomatoes come to mind, and maybe some avocado chunks, too?

Friday: Take out!
I debated making breakfast for dinner, but my heart wasn’t in it. Instead I picked up fried chicken and fixings and enjoyed the hell out of it!

Saturday: Sweet Potato Carbonara with Spinach and Eggplant
Since Todd isn’t a mushroom fan and they’re pretty High-FODMAP to boot, I substituted eggplant for the mushrooms in this recipe from Eating Well. Even though my sweet potato “noodles” didn’t hold their shape, this was a very filling, very tasty dish overall and I would encourage you to try it, even if yours ends up a bit more like a sweet potato vegetable hash like ours did.

Sunday: Shepherd’s Pie-Stuffed Potatoes + Jicama Citrus Salad
I’m sure you’ve seen those quick-cut videos of inventive food on Facebook, right? Have you actually tried any of them out? Well, I can now say that I have and it wasn’t that bad! While I did neglect to add additional liquid to make up for the thirstyness of the coconut flour I used, everything went more or less according to plan in this recipe/video from Tip Hero. I even dug out my large star pastry tip to pipe the potatoes onto the top! The salad though, that was a disappointment since my jicama ended up well past it’s use-by date (something a little hard to tell with the leathery outside to judge by). I will attempt the salad again, though, as I really do love jicama in cold salads.

Booze tip: I totally took a short cut on the citrus salad and bought the large container of pre-sliced fruit in extra-light syrup. If you are a fan of  greyhounds (the drink, not the dog, though they are lovely dogs), save said syrup and mix with your favorite gin for an slightly sweeter version of this simple libation. Fabulous, refreshing, and super-quick.

And that’s another week’s menu! I hope you got some good ideas from what was on our plates this week and have an excellent week in your own kitchen! Remember, it doesn’t have to be “gourmet” to be good, or even great. Make what you like, mix things up a bit, get some variety in there, and enjoy your meals!

Of Menus and Radishes


This was a big week, food-wise! Lunar New Year, Mardi Gras, and Valentine’s Day all within 7 days… Let’s dig in!

Meals and Radishes

Monday: Lunar New Year Feast!
In honor of the Year of the Monkey I decided it was a good time to look into Lunar New Year dinner customs and found a good resource at Along with another site I failed to bookmark (oops!) I devised a 6-dish menu that, I think, hit the high points of the celebratory dinner. Everything about the Lunar New Year is about prosperity, so the food tends to either resemble symbols of wealth (like spring rolls resembling ingots) or have homophonic names (a lot easier in a culture whose language depends tremendously on inflection for meaning).

I steamed almost-whole catfish (head-on would be traditional, but I didn’t miss it–have you looked at a catfish face lately?) with a broth of chicken stock, soy sauce, fish sauce, and ginger. Then I used the same broth to cook and flavor our “Longevity noodles” with cabbage. The noodles were the small rice noodles sometimes known as cellophane noodles, the important thing is that they are long (see the play on words) and these definitely qualified. It was nice to see that leafy greens are synonymous with money and good fortune across cultures, too.

I purchased dumplings and spring rolls to reheat, as well as tangerines to serve as is. Then I made the sticky rice cakes from a Chow Hound recipe. They’re less like a cake, more like a cooked pudding, and reminded me of cream of wheat meets rice pudding. All these dishes, plus the baking for the next day, made for a late supper and a messy kitchen, but it turned out to be totally worth it. And we learned about cultural traditions in the process!

King Cake 2016!

King Cake 2016!

Tuesday: Sushi & King Cake with Friends
A friend of ours organized a dinner meetup at our favorite sushi place and of course we said yes, even if it was Fat Tuesday. Since we were meeting friends after work, I made an extra King Cake to bring with us. This year’s experiment used the brioche recipe from Gluten Free Baking Classics (by Annalise Roberts of My Gluten-Free Table) with the Bananas Foster filling recipe from Tasting Table. Not only was the brioche amazing on its own, the banana filling was a nice change from the cinnamon sugar we usually default to. Granted, I opted out of the cream cheese and just subbed a 4th banana for it, and I used frozen bananas from our banana bread-to-be stash instead of fresh. They cook down faster.

Wednesday: Maple-Mustard Pork Chops with Roasted Green Beans and Red Potatoes
I was so glad I had this one in the freezer to pull out for a relatively quick meal. When I got home I chopped up the potatoes and tossed them with olive oil and seasonings along with a bag of frozen green beans. In the oven they went, occupying half a cookie sheet lined with foil and pinched in the center to create a barrier. After half an hour the pork chops went onto the open half and back into the oven. Made for some easy clean-up to sort of make up for the mess from Monday.

Thursday: Coconut Curry Chicken with Basmati Rice and Not-Exactly-Naan
Another freezer meal, this one for the slow cooker. The house smelled divine when we got home, but I found the sauce to be a bit thin, so added more salt, garam masala, and an arrowroot slurry to pull it all together. Much better. I’ve been working on my gluten-free “naan” for a while and this one, while still not quite perfect, was a big hit with Todd. It was 3:2 GF Bisquik and Self-Rising cornmeal, an egg, a can of coconut milk, and seasonings (salt, cilantro, chives, and garlic oil), mixed and griddled.

Friday: Bacon Pancakes and Eggs
We’ve all seen these online, right? I hadn’t tried it and figured it would be a fun Friday-night supper. I tried laying the cooked bacon on the griddle and pouring the batter over it and the other way around. Pouring the pancakes first yielded prettier pancakes by far. Once again, Pamela’s pancake mix rocks!

Saturday: Spaghetti and Meat Sauce with a Green Salad
I knew we’d be working on the bathroom so I wanted something relatively simple and high on the comfort food meter for Saturday’s supper. Now, I’ve written about how a spaghetti dinner isn’t exactly cheap when you’re on a restricted diet, this time I avoided one of the major expenses (specialty marinara sauce) and threw together my own. Not something I always feel like fussing with on a weeknight, but on a weekend I will.

Sunday: Lemon Dump Chicken, Brown Rice, and Caramel Apple Tarts
Such an ignoble name for a tasty slow-cooker supper, we really enjoyed this freezer meal and I have no idea where I copied the recipe down from. Basically it’s chicken breasts, a couple of lemons (halved, but otherwise intact), carrots, Brussels sprouts, and seasonings. I hadn’t planned on a starch, but there was so much juice in the slow cooker that I decided some brown rice would not go amiss. The Caramel Apple Tarts were part of the Omaha Steaks gift package Todd’s mom sent us for Christmas. Very High-FODMAP between the wheat and apples (and we added vanilla ice cream), but just the right size for a splurge. I regret nothing. And in honor of Valentine’s Day I broke out grandma’s china and poured us a little wine, too.

When I was putting together our salads Saturday night, I remembered that I recorded a video back at the beginning of January about the neat little trick I use to get perfect radish slices. So I dug out the footage for you and here it is!

Direct link for the feed readers: Perfect Radish Slices!

Here’s to a tasty week, my friends!

Our First Foray Into Freezer Meals


Almost a year ago I finally started putting my Sam’s Club membership to good use by stocking our chest freezer with meat every two months. At the time I said something along the lines of ‘I haven’t graduated to full-on freezer meal prep yet’ and here we are now at the yet.

I was going to wait until our February trip to Sam’s to try out Freezer Meals (mostly because we still had quite the stash from our December trip and it’s generally not good to defrost and refreeze meat without cooking it in between), but two things changed my mind:

  1. The impending bathroom renovation (which will require weeknight attention as well as weekends, and weeknight hours are scarce what with the cooking and all).
  2. My innate impatience.

Once I get something into my head it’s tough for me to let go of it. (q.v. my current puppy obsession) So the challenge, at least for this round, was to pick meals that would work as “kits” (separate components grouped together for ease of planning and preparation) as well as others that wouldn’t require me to defrost everything this weekend. But first I had to know what I was working with.

Into the freezer for you!

Into the freezer for you!

So Saturday afternoon I grabbed my clipboard, pen, and kitchen scale, propped open the chest freezer lid, and got to work listing everything. As I suspected, we still had the lion’s share of December’s stock-up trip plus a little left from the October run in some cases. Since I figured we’d be using 3-4 freezer meals a week, I didn’t want to put all our stock into meals, so I did more or less 50% into freezer meals and left the other 50% for general use (the other 3-4 meals a week).

Then it was time to figure out what to make and make my grocery list. But just to add another facet to the challenge, let’s add a super-strict grocery budget to the mix?

I may have let my budget slide a bit last year. And I may have a bad habit of spending whatever I feel like at the grocery store and, hey, if it’s “over budget” letting it come out of the savings buffer I keep in my checking account. And I may have done that so often that said savings buffer has all the integrity of a cheap air mattress–it ain’t gonna cushion much!

Saturday was also the day I sat down with my January budget worksheet and determined exactly how much said grocery budget would be for the month and it was a number I was not happy with. (In my defense, having a restricted diet means cheap food–even some staples like dried beans–and a lot of the coupon-able items out there just don’t work for me, and we all know about the cost of eating healthy vs not; but still, I need to be better about the grocery budget.) So not only was I planning my own menu for the week, I was also prepping 20+ freezer meals, and needed to do it at a price that was 2/3 of what I spent on my average grocery runs.

But I did it! I picked simpler menu items and focused on freezer meals that would require a minimum of expensive ingredients to put together while still offering us a pretty good variety to choose from. It helped that we usually have a certain amount of things already in the pantry that we just don’t run out of, or had stocked up on before the holidays, and that I didn’t have to buy freezer bags, etc. as part of this (since we’d picked up cases of them this summer; we’re still good and set). The other thing that helped was I kept the calculator app on my phone open and I added each item there as I put it into the cart, subtotaling periodically to see where I was.

This did two things: it made me very aware of what each item cost and it kept me sticking to my list, not just tossing things in if it sounded good or was on sale. Yes, it took some of the enjoyment out of the shopping trip (I really do enjoy grocery shopping), but it’s a necessary thing.

When people ask what feels like success (money-wise, at least),
I always say not having to worry about what I’m spending
at the grocery store or on dinners out. 

Anyway! Back to the freezer meals.

Once I got home and unloaded the groceries, I sat down with my freezer bags and a sharpie to do all the labeling ahead of time. Nothing too mysterious,here, just the name of the meal and the date I bagged it and then basic cooking instructions. I made sure to list if it needed anything added (most often water for the slow cooker meals where I added bullion or soup base in lieu of prepared stock–less bulk for the bags) and if there were serving suggestions. I also have these things noted on the very bare-bones spreadsheet I compiled with the freezer meal recipes. The spreadsheet allows me to sort by ingredient (in case something goes on sale and I want to take advantage of it), but it also allows me to share it with Todd through Google Drive. I added a second sheet to the document that is the inventory of the freezer meals as well as the other frozen meats and vegetables in there. If we each update it after we make our weekly menus, this’ll help us keep on top of things!


I spent about four hours putting together our freezer meal stash. Starting with the simplest bits to put together and leaving sauces that needed blending or the making of meatloaves until last. At the end I had made:

  • 3 Sweet-Potato Kale Turkey Patties (4 patties per bag)
  • 2 Lime and Coconut Chicken
  • 2 Coconut Curry Chicken
  • 2 Pineapple Salsa Chicken
  • 2 Lemon Dump Chicken
  • 2 Garlic-Parmesan Pork Chops
  • 1 Maple Mustard Pork Chops
  • 1 Bacon Potato Soup
  • 1 Chipotle Shrimp
  • 2 Cheese-Stuffed BBQ Meatloaves
  • 2 Taco Soups
  • 1 Pan of Fabulous Meatballs
  • 2 Beef Stews

(I was a bad blogger an copied the recipes down from various sources–in a notebook, by hand!–making adjustments as I added them to the spreadsheet, so I don’t have the links handy. I’ll try to track them all down and come back and edit this list )

I know Todd is looking forward to the convenience of having meals prepped ahead of time and I’m looking forward to getting our bathroom remodeled. Win-win! Depending on how these go over will tell us whether we’ll shop with freezer meals in mind on our next Sam’s trip or if we go back to our old ways.