The Day I Got Carried Away With the Beans

It’s not what you think.  {and all the readers breathed a collective sigh of relief}

It’s just that last night I put beans in a bowl to soak, and then I woke up to beans that were threatening to overtake my kitchen.  {Wow, Laura.  Fascinating.}

beans 1

See, when you add water to beans – they grow.  They grow and they grow and they grow.  So if you aren’t thinking about what you’re doing, and you scoop 13 cups of beans into a bowl, then cover the beans with water before you go to bed – beware of the growing bean monster which will greet you when you walk into your kitchen to make breakfast.

I strained the beans and added fresh water, but of course, none other than my largest stock pot would hold the monster.

beans 2

Why, you ask?  Why so many beans?

I told you already.  I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing.  I needed a large amount of beans for a big batch of chili, so I just kept scooping.  I also forgot that beans in a bowl will soak up the water until they become bloated and ready to burst.  Whoa, good morning, beans.  That.  That is what I said when I walked into my kitchen this morning to find the bloated beans trying to crawl over the top of the bowl onto my counter top and floor.

I didn’t really tell the beans good morning.  I don’t talk to my chili beans.  Coffee beans, though – for sure.  Don’t even doubt that one.

After cooking the chili beans (which of course bubbled up and overflowed onto my stove-top because I forgot that they were cooking and because there were so many of them), I realized that I had way, way too many cooked beans for the big batch of chili I was planning to make.  All I’m doing is trying to do is to be prepared to feed our high school youth group on Sunday night, see?  But we’re going out of town Thursday afternoon and won’t get home until late Saturday night.  And I don’t know if you knew this or not, but we have to change our clocks this Saturday night, so we lose an hour of sleep.  No one asked my permission to do that this weekend.  This is not okay with me.

So in my effort to get ahead, I got very, very ahead.  I have beans for chili on Sunday night to feed an army.  Plus I now have three other big containers of beans in my freezer to be used another time.  Yay me.  I am so efficient.

chili beans 3

It seems that I just spent 404 words telling you about my beans – as if I have nothing better to talk about.  Blah, blah, blah, beans.  Wow everyone.  Look at my beans.

So now I shall leave you with this important reminder and advice:

Do not become distracted when you are scooping beans.  Stop scooping beans if you know what’s good for you.  But if you forget and over-scoop, simply go ahead and freeze your cooked beans for future use.

526 words to tell you that you can freeze beans.  Sometimes I amaze myself.

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How To Make Your Own Frozen Pizza

Remember how busy last Saturday was for me?  It was a crazy morning filled with broccoli blanching and valentine pancake making, then basketball gaming the rest of the day.  This is why cooking dinner when I got home at 6:45 didn’t sound fun.  Plus, you should (not) have seen how messy my kitchen was after the morning insanity when I was running late to serve concessions at the games, so I had to decide between washing dishes and getting dressed in actual clothes that weren’t pajama pants.  I chose the latter.  Everyone was grateful.  But this choice meant that I came home to an exploded kitchen.

If ever there was an excuse to want frozen pizza, this one was it.  We all have those times, right?  We talked about this just last week.  Some of you mentioned wishing you knew how to make your own frozen pizza, then others chimed in about how to do it, and since this has been on my list to tell you about anyway – I decided there was no better time.

So frozen pizza everyone: You can make them yourself.  With real ingredients and whole foods, keeping your very own people and their preferences in mind.  With little effort.

And all the mothers everywhere shed a tear.

How to Make Your Own Frozen Pizza

1.  Mix up your favorite pizza dough.  I suggest this very easy Whole Wheat Pizza Crust recipe.  I also suggest doubling or tripling or octupling (I was going for 8x there, how’d I do?) the recipe.  It just makes sense to create only one mess in order to make several meals worth of pizza for your freezer.

2.  Roll out the dough to your desired sizes, thickness, and shapes.  Make personal sized crusts, make rectangle crusts to fit your pans, make circle crusts to fit your pans.  Make whatever works best for your freezer, your oven, and your family.

frozen pizza 1

Life is too short to roll dough perfectly.

3.  Bake each crust in a 375° oven for 5 minutes (assuming you are using this crust recipe), then remove them from the oven.  They will be only lightly baked at this point – just done enough to be perfect for preparing your pizza for the freezer.

4.  Top each pizza crust with toppings of your choice – any sauce, meats, cheeses, and veggies you like.  Make a variety to suit your family’s preferences.

frozen pizza 2

I topped this one with sauce, spinach, colby jack cheese, hamburger meat, and red peppers.  
We are still loving our silicone mats from Healthy Cooking Products!

5.   Wrap each unbaked pizza well with plastic wrap.  (I like Natural Value Brand.)  If it fits, you might also consider putting your wrapped pizzas into a 2-gallon size freezer bag for additional protection.  (Be sure to reuse your freezer bags to get more bang for your buck!)

6.  When you are ready to bake your frozen pizza, thaw it if you wish.  Otherwise, just take it directly from the freezer, unwrap it, and put it on your baking pan.  Bake in a 375° oven for 10-18 minutes or until the cheese is melty and perfect.

Aren’t you excited about how easy this is, about how much time this will save you, and how fun this will be to serve to your family?!  It will be effortless to pull out some mixed greens and fruit to go with your pizza – so your meal prep on a homemade frozen pizza night will be nil!

I highly recommend making several pizzas for your freezer in one setting.  If you’re going to mix up crust and make a little mess rolling it out, if you’re going to grate cheese, if you’re going to chop veggies, if you’re going to cook meat – you really might as well just hit it hard and get several pizzas stacked up in your freezer if you have the space.

In addition, consider prepping pizza ahead of time for a busy day and just keeping it in your fridge to bake at dinner time.

Now – go pin this time saving, money saving, health saving idea so that you won’t forget about it.  :)

Make Your Own Frozen Pizza

Ever tried making homemade frozen pizza?  How excited are you to try this idea?!

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Easy Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls – a Quick and Filling Breakfast To-Go!

Oh man (lady – whatever).  You are going to love this idea!  Unless you don’t like eggs.  But for those of you who love eggs, and for everyone who wants an easy, real food meal that will pack a punch with nutrition and keep you full until the next meal…

Please allow me to introduce you to these delightful little Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls:

ham and egg cups1

See that?  The ham is the bowl.  Isn’t that clever?  I didn’t think of this myself, but was enlightened by my friend who was excited to tell me about her fun breakfast of the day.  She knew I’d need to know about this idea.  She knows me (and my hungry crew) well, don’t you think?

Everyone get out your muffin tins and get ready to have some fun.

How to make Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls

You will need:

Muffin Tins
Thin Slices of Ham
Eggs
Shredded Cheese
Sea Salt
Garnish like Fresh Spinach, Green Chilies, Mushrooms, Peppers, Onion, Broccoli, or Salsa

Push a piece of thinly sliced ham down into each muffin cup.

ham and egg bowls 4

Crack an egg into each “ham bowl.”  Poke each egg yolk with a fork and carefully scrambled it around inside the bowl.  Sprinkle with salt, top with cheese, and garnish however you like.  Bake in a 350° oven  for 10-20 minutes or until the eggs are cooked through.

You can make these ahead of time, then rewarm them for a quick, ready-made breakfast or lunch!  (That’s my favorite part, of course.)

You can also scrambled up your eggs in a dish, and then scoop some out into each ham bowl if you prefer.  My kids like the texture of these better if I do it that way.

Easy Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls

Is this idea genius, or what?  You must try this! :)

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How I Prepared 2 Healthy Meals in 20 Minutes

eathealthy

I dropped Malachi off at piano lessons at 10:00 this morning, arriving home at 10:05.  I needed to leave again to pick him up at 10:25.  That leaves 20 minutes.  (That was your math lesson for the day. If only all story problems made that much sense.  Who invented those anyway?)

Knowing my day was super full:  school and website work throughout the day; piano lessons for Malachi at 10; soccer for Matt, Asa, Justus, and Malachi at 2; grocery shopping for Elias and me at 2; someone coming by to pick up a co-op order at 3:30; friend coming over to study with Asa at 4; Bible study at 6:30 – and did I mention there’s a “ready to be assembled” shower in my living room  and plaster dust all over my house right now??  Well, I knew I needed to stay on top of meals if we were going to actually eat today.

I decided to see how much meal prep I could get done in my 20 minutes of time before picking Malachi up from lessons.  See, I can’t just say, “Here’s how to put a nutritious meal together when you’re low on time.”  No.  I have to go into all the details about my schedule and give my opinions on math problems and tell you about the new toilet that promises to flush efficiently that’s still in the box but will soon be in my new bathroom but not until we get all the tile issues figured out.  (That is a story problem in and of itself.)

So busy day, blah, blah, blah.  Here’s how to put a nutritious meal together when you’re low on time:

2 Healthy Meals in 20 Minutes

Today I decided to make Easy Noodle Stir Fry for lunch and Taco Salad for dinner.

At 10:06 I started browning meat for the Taco Salad.  While it was cooking I washed and cut carrots and broccoli, throwing it all into a pot with spinach for Stir Fry.  (The asparagus I had planned to use up was slimy so I had to throw it out.  I was very disappointed and apparently need to re-read this post somebody wrote recently about not wasting food.)

I gave the meat a stir from time to time.  I answered a question about an English assignment, drank a few swigs of water, and threw some blueberries into my mouth for a snack.  I put water in a pot to boil noodles at noon.  I got out the noodles.  I dumped mixed greens into a big bowl, poured in cheese I had shredded Monday, and tossed it all around with the freshly cooked taco meat.  I mixed up French Dressing for the Taco Salad.

At 10:26 I ran out the door to pick up Malachi.

With all the major prep work done for our day’s meals, at lunch time all I had to do was turn on the stove to cook the prepared veggies and boil noodles.  At dinner time all I had to do was get the prepared salad out of the fridge, dice some tomatoes (which I picked up at the store this afternoon on my grocery run), and get out the tortilla chip crumbs I’ve been saving for such a meal as this.  I also cut up a pineapple to complete our evening meal.  That took two minutes.

Now you tell me.  Is it really so terribly time consuming to prepare healthy food?  I think not.

What are some of your quick-to-prepare meals that pack a punch with nutrition?  Have any great “prep-ahead” methods to share with us?

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How to Make Frozen Hashbrown Patties

Homemade Hashbrown Patties

I always get my best ideas from you, my adorable readers.  A few weeks ago, Camilla left a comment on my Homemade Hashbrowns post asking, “How would I do this if I wanted to make frozen patties?”  I left a reply, telling her what I would suggest, then I promptly hollered at my boys to start scrubbing potatoes.  What a fantastic idea – to make hashbrowns ahead of time in the shape of patties so that all we have to do is pull them out and fry them up!

25 consumed Hashbrown Patties and 72 frozen Hashbrown Patties later, here I am to share all the fun details with you!  This idea is a great one – plus it’s easier than you would think.  Don’t you love it when delicious, healthy, and easy all make it into the same sentence?

How to Make Frozen Hashbrown Patties

1.  Scrub and bake as many potatoes as you like.  We fill a big roasting pot with scrubbed potatoes, cover, and bake for about an hour and a half.
2.  Allow the potatoes to cool.  You can even refrigerate overnight if you like.
3.  Shred the cooled baked potatoes as if grating cheese.
4.  Use a large cookie scoop or spoon to scoop out nice portions of shredded potatoes.  Put the scoops directly into hot oil to fry OR -
5.  Place the scoops of shredded potatoes onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
6.  Freeze the mounds of shredded potatoes on the cookie sheets.  Transfer them to a freezer bag once frozen solid.
7.  Store frozen hashbrown patties in the freezer in freezer bags until ready to cook and serve.
8.  To cook frozen hashbrown patties, heat palm shortening or coconut oil in a skillet or on a griddle.  Do not thaw hashbrown patties.  Put patties into the hot oil and fry for about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and as crispy as you like.  Salt and serve!

How to Make Frozen Hashbrown Patties

Do you love this idea?!  Let’s hear it for another great freezer cooking idea to help us get ahead!

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Lazy Dogs ~ The Make-Ahead Lunch Box

The Make-Ahead Lunch Box

Find all of our Make-Ahead Lunch Box recipes and ideas here.

You might laugh at this recipe for several reasons.  It is a little different from those I typically share.

First of all…hot dogs?

Yes, hot dogs.  Remember how I’ve told you that I really love me a good, all beef hot dog?  It’s true.  I love sweet peppers, apples, strawberries, and asparagus better.  But a good quality beef hot dog tastes really yummy to me.  What can I say?

Second reason to laugh at this recipe:  This is not exactly the most inexpensive recipe I’ll ever suggest that you make.  I didn’t find my hot dogs on sale, and I got the best quality dogs I could find at the store that don’t contain nitrites.  So…cha-ching.  I used real cheese, not American cheese slices, which is obviously, more expensive because it’s real.

I did save by making my own whole wheat tortillas.  But other than that?  I’m not telling you how much each of these Lazy Dogs cost me.  I’ll do it better next time by waiting for a sale on hot dogs.  (If you have my Oh, For Real cookbook, you’ll find the tortilla recipe there.  It’s also in my Totally Tortillas eBook.)

So if these Lazy Dogs are a little more on the pricey side, why am I sharing this recipe with you?  Because these Lazy Dogs taste good.  Because they are still less expensive than eating out.  Because they are a fun, kid friendly (and apparently Laura friendly) food.  And because you can make them ahead of time and put them in your lunch box.

I can’t take the credit for this great idea.  When I posted my Taco Quesadilla recipe, “Busy Mom in AL” shared this:

Another of our “wraps” are some that we call Lazy Dogs!  We boil some hot dogs to plump them up, roll them up with some cheese in a tortilla and heat them up in the oven until the cheese melts!  Very good, even cold!

I loved the idea and made them for our soccer games and travel that very weekend.  Once I had the tortillas made, the boys got in an assembly line to help put the Lazy Dogs together.  Just like that, our to-go meal was ready.

Lazy Dogs

Tortillas (I use homemade whole wheat tortillas)
Cheese Slices (I use Colby jack slices)
High Qualtity Beef or Turkey Hot Dogs (I found Oscar Meyer Angus Nitrite Free Dogs)

Boil the hot dogs just long enough for them to plump.  ( <— what a weird sentence.)  Lay one slice of cheese on each tortilla, top with a hot dog, and roll it up.  Bake in a 350° oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese has melted.

Make these ahead of time!  Warm them in the oven, then serve.

Lazy Dogs ~ Perfect For Your Lunch Box

We found that we preferred these warm instead of cold.  Still, if you want to pack them to-go, simply bake, wrap, and pack.  Easy and fun!

Are you a hot dog lover?  What is your favorite kind?

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Taco Quesadillas ~ The Make-Ahead Lunch Box

taco quesadillas 2

Have you ever made quesadillas, let them cool, then put them into the fridge or freezer for another day?  You should do this.  They are perfect for your Make-Ahead Lunch Box.

Now you’re thinking, why would I do that?  Quesadillas are already my easy go-to meal to make on the fly.  How would it help to make them ahead of time?

Come closer.  I have something to tell you.  If you make quesadillas ahead of time, then they will already be made when you want to serve or eat them.  <— It has taken years of research, trial, and error to arrive at wise and knowledgeable comments such as these.

Okay fine.  I just figured it out last week.  It should have been obvious to me long ago, but I thought melty cheese should always be warm.  Yes, somehow I forgot cold pizza was a food group for some people.  Who knew cold quesadillas were also good?  And if you don’t want to eat them cold, but instead want them warm again, simply warm them up at serving time.  <—- Again, the brilliance of advice read here must continue to amaze you.

Now, the best part about a quesadilla is that you can fill them with whatever you like.  Cheese, obviously.  But what about varieties of meat and/or veggies?  Taco Quesadillas are my current favorite, dipped in a small bowl of fresh salsa.  I will tell you from experience that these taste great warm or cold.  Warm would be my top choice, but we threw a bunch of cold ones into a bag to take to a soccer game recently and they were delicious.  This means you can make these ahead of time and throw them in your lunch box for work or school.  Perfect!

Taco Quesadillas

Your favorite tortillas (we like my homemade whole wheat tortillas)
Shredded cheese (my fav is Colby jack or white cheddar)
Leftover cooked taco meat
Salsa

Place a tortilla in a skillet and top with shredded cheese and cooked meat.  Top with an additional tortilla.  (I do feel a little bit silly telling you how to make a quesadilla, as if you don’t know how to make a quesadilla.  But hey, if you didn’t know before, now you do.)  Cook on medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side until cheese has melted.

Watch to be sure tortillas don’t burn.  <—- Breaking out one more time with more never-heard-before, ground breaking advice.  You’re welcome.

Taco Quesadillas

I would love to hear how you like to fill your quesadillas and if you have ever tried eating them cold.  What are your favorite meats and veggies used to fill tortillas? 

Have any earth-shattering advice for us?  Here’s one more nugget of wisdom from me, completely unrelated to quesadillas:  When it is cold outside, you should wear a coat.  Now, your turn.

The Make-Ahead Lunch Box

Find all of our Make-Ahead Lunch Box recipes and ideas here.

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Barbecue Beef and Cheese Hot Pockets ~ The Make-Ahead Lunch Box

The Make-Ahead Lunch Box

When I asked you what you needed in a packed lunch, this is what you told me:

  • Quick and easy
  • Can be eaten cold
  • Hearty and filling

These Barbecue Beef and Cheese Hot Pockets are all that plus they are delicious.  You can make them big or small, accommodating big or small appetites.  They taste great hot or cold.  You can make them ahead of time and pull them out as needed.  They freeze well. What more do you need?  Just the recipe I guess…

Barbecue Beef and Cheese Hot Pockets

2 pounds beef stew meat
1 batch homemade barbecue sauce (more if you like)
2 cups shredded cheese
1 batch whole wheat pizza dough

Place stew meat and barbecue sauce in a skillet.  Cook on low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked and tender.  In the meantime, mix the whole wheat pizza dough and set it aside to rise.  Once both meat and dough are ready, remove meat from the heat.  Stir in cheese until it is melted.

Divide dough into about 16 pieces.  Roll each piece of dough into a thin circle.  Spoon meat mixture into the center of the circle, then gather up the edges of the dough and pinch to seal.  Place pinched side down on a baking sheet.  Once all dough is filled with meat, allow the pockets to rise about 15 minutes more.  Bake in a 375° oven for 15-25 minutes or until pockets are golden brown.  Makes about 16 pockets.

Barbecue Beef and Cheese Hot Pockets

This would be a great way to use up leftover roast beef.  In addition, you can fill hot pockets with any variety of meats and cheeses.  They are a great, versatile meal idea!

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http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-retro-seamless-pattern-set-image20825059

If you’re hitting the restart button with us this fall, I challenge you to find one recipe (maybe this Barbecue Beef and Cheese Hot Pocket recipe?) that you can make ahead of time and freeze.  Having food prepared like this in the freezer is a life saver on busy days when you need a healthy meal quickly.  You’ll find all of our Make-Ahead Meal recipes here.

Once you’ve completed the challenge, come back to this post and leave a comment letting us know what you made.  Can’t wait to hear!

 

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Dark Chocolate Almond Granola – Quick! Make this before it gets too hot outside!

First, many of you are thinking, “What do you mean before it gets too hot outside? It’s already too hot outside!”  And second, do you want to see my awesome new jar??

Dark Chocolate Almond Granola - A Great Make-Ahead Meal

I actually got the jar as a Christmas gift and am just now getting around to showing you.  Therefore, it’s really not new as I’ve had it for five months.  It’s also an antique, which also means it’s not new, but whatever.  My dad’s wife found it at an auction and was sweet enough to think of me, snatch it up, wrap it, and put it under the tree.  I opened it and gasped with complete delight, while everyone else in the room was like, “oh look it’s an old, used jar…she really gets excited about weird things.”

I washed it up, and have used it to store many treats.  The latest?  Dark Chocolate Almond Granola.  Which leads me back to my original statement:  You really should make this before it gets too hot outside.

See, at my house, it’s finallllllly warming up and staying warm (I hope).  This is making me so happy!!!  It’s also making me think about foods that require an oven and how I will not want to be using the oven much in the near future.  These thoughts are what led me to ask my 14 year old to make a double batch of Dark Chocolate Almond Granola earlier this week.  How nice to get this made ahead of time!  We baked it on a day it wasn’t too hot, and we can eat it on a day that is too hot.

And it looks so pretty in my new, old jar.  Don’t you think?

One thing to consider:  The pieces of chocolate in the granola will get pretty soft if (when) my kitchen gets too hot.  I may need to store it in the fridge.  On the other hand, melted chocolate all over granola is not a bad thing.

So, Dark Chocolate Almond Granola.  Make some before it gets too hot.  Enjoy it on a morning you don’t have time to cook breakfast, it’s too hot to cook breakfast, or you just have a hankering for chocolatey almond goodness.

Find the recipe here.  This recipe is also included in our free Healthy Breakfast Made Simple eBook.  Head on over and download it for several more easy, healthy breakfast ideas.

Have you made this recipe before? Is it hot at your house yet? Do you love my new, old jar?

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Meatless Freezer Cooking: Bean and Cheese Burritos and Meatless Spaghetti Pie

One big mess, four awesome meals.  It was a great morning!

Since we’re finished with our official school year, I got a couple boys involved in today’s freezer cooking.  Elias (12) learned to make Meatless Spaghetti Pie (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook).  He chose to use shell-shaped pasta, because when you’re the cook, you earn the privilege of picking from penne, spiral, shell, elbow….

Am I the only one who thinks picking the pasta shape is a fun activity?  Maybe I just don’t get out enough.  Well, anyway, Elias picked shell noodles and did a great job putting together the Meatless Spaghetti Pies.

In the meantime, I made a triple batch of Whole Wheat Tortillas for Bean and Cheese Burritos.  I then put together 23 burritos.  Because we eat so much at our house, these burritos will only last us two meals.  But, I now have 11 burritos in the freezer to pull out sometime in the next few weeks for an easy meal!

meatless freezer 1

I can roll tortillas faster than my skillet can cook tortillas,
so I just start laying them out all over the counter while they wait for their turn to be cooked.

Hey, would you like to hear an obvious discovery I made this morning?  When you’re making meatless meals, you don’t have to worry about thawing out meat before you cook.  Sometimes my brilliance shocks you, doesn’t it?  Not only is this meatless thing a money saver, it’s also a time saver.  But I still love my beef.

After the mess was cleaned up, we ended up with 23 burritos and 2 spaghetti pies.  If I add plenty of sides to those pies, I can make it work to serve one tonight and freeze one for another day.

meatless freezer 2

Are you joining our latest Freezer Cooking Challenge?  You’ll find the plans and grocery list here.  You’ll love how easy it is to get ahead!

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