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?

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!

The Plan ~ Getting Ready for Freezer Cooking, Week Four – Meatless Meals

I love meat.  My body doesn’t function well when I go too long (you know, like an entire day and a half) without eating animal protein.  Beyond that, sometimes, fish or chicken just isn’t enough.  There are days my body needs beef and ain’t nothin’ else gonna cut it.  I think this has something to do with my tendency to become anemic and the iron red meat provides.  I truly do not feel well when I’m not eating enough beef, and on the contrary, I feel very, very well and much more energetic when I am eating plenty of cow.

Therefore, when some of you suggested that we do a freezer challenge that consisted entirely of meatless meals, I was like, “What? Why would we do that? Don’t you know that meatless meals don’t have any meat in them?”

Then, I (had a hamburger) and realized that these lovely ladies who made the meatless suggestion were actually brilliant.  Meatless meals are a huge money saver, and good gravy – it’s not like I need meat at every meal.  I just need it at least once every day.  Meatless meals rock.  Let’s make some for the freezer, shall we?

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We’ve taken a couple weeks off from freezer cooking challenges, and I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to hit it again.  We’ve slowly been working our way through the {beef, chicken, and breakfast} meals I put into the freezer during the March/April challenges.  The meatless freezer meal ideas I came up with are going to go together quickly and make for some super easy lunches on busy days during the next few weeks.

Here’s what is so great about the freezer cooking I plan to do:  I’ll be making a double batch of each recipe.  That way, I can serve one portion of it to my family the very day I make it.  Then, I’ll freeze the other portion to pull out another day.  Work once, eat twice – it’s my favorite way to get ahead!

Join me!!!  I want you to see how easy it is to get ahead in your real food kitchen.  You’ll save money, effort, energy, time, and brain power.

Here’s what I’m planning to make, one at a time, during the next few days:

Join Our Meatless Meal Freezer Challenge!

The Grocery List

  • 32 ounces whole grain spaghetti noodles
  • 5 cups whole grain pasta – any shape
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups (32 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup (16 ounces) parmesan cheese
  • 8 cups (64 ounces) spaghetti sauce
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 6 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • 6 cups cooked black or pinto beans (or a combination of both)
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) salsa
  • 16-20 whole wheat tortillas (we like homemade tortillas)
  • 10 cups whole wheat flour
  • 9 teaspoons yeast
  • 3-4 cups pizza sauce (depending on how saucy you want your calzones)
  • veggies, olives, and other fillings for calzones
  • sea salt and pepper

I’ve created a downloadable and printable grocery list for you here:  Freezer Cooking Grocery List Four

 Who’s going to join me?

To help you out if you’re interested in some of the above recipes, the Let’s Do This! eCourse and {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook are discounted to just $5 for the whole package.  The recipes included in that package are some that we use all the time at our house to get ahead!

Sweet Pecan French Toast Casserole, Basic Cream Muffins, and Poptarts ~ Freezer Cooking Challenge

I was planning to share part of this yesterday, but my website server was down most of Wednesday (ack!).  Therefore, I’m sharing the rest of my freezer cooking challenge results all in one post.  Actually, since I couldn’t work on my website Wednesday, that ended up being great kitchen time in which I experimented with new recipes and knocked out the rest of the baking I needed to do for this challenge.  Sometimes, not being able to work on the computer is a good thing.  :)

Tuesday, I made two dishes of Sweet Pecan French Toast Casserole (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook).  We ate one that morning, and I froze the other one.  My freezer is beginning to be super full.  Love this!

french toast 2

french toast 1

Yesterday, I rolled out a double batch of dough and made tons of Poptarts.  It’s been a while since I’ve made these, so everyone was very excited to have these for breakfast.  It’s a good thing I froze half before serving them, otherwise I think the boys would have just eaten them all!

poptarts freezer

Once the Poptarts were in the oven, I mixed up a double batch of Basic Cream Muffins (recipe in Let’s Do This! eCourse, Lesson 4).  I had plans to divide the dough in half, and add in different fruits.  But then I got lazy and just dumped blueberries into the bowl.  Eh, we like blueberry muffins.

cream muffins freezer

I froze the batter, unbaked, and will simply pull them out some night before bed to bake the next morning.  If you haven’t tried freezing muffin batter, you must!  I love how easy this is!  Here are all the details.

And that completes this week’s freezer cooking challenge!  How did you do?

We’ll be taking a break next week and pick back up on our freezer cooking challenges later.  I’ve got a party planned for us next week (can’t wait to share!), plus my freezer is really full.  ;)

Poppyseed Bread With Orange Glaze ~ This Week’s Freezer Cooking Challege

This quick bread recipe is our family’s favorite, hands down.  It is super moist, very flavorful, and well, it kind of tastes like cake.  It definitely tastes like a treat, even if you cut down the sugar in the recipe.

Speaking of cutting down the sugar – I’ve been really focusing on chopping sugar quantities in most of my recipes.  I’ve found that the recipes still tastes great, and my family is definitely benefiting from not eating so much of the sweet stuff.  All that to say, a few week’s ago I edited the {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook (where you’ll find the recipe for this bread) to cut the sugar down significantly.  If you purchased this book before April, your version likely calls for 1 1/2 cups of sucanat.  Yikes.  Do that if you must, but I think you’ll find that cutting it in half (or more) still turns out a great product.

poppyseed bread for freezer

For the Freezer Cooking Challenge today, find some time to make a double recipe of Poppy Seed Bread with Orange Glaze (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook).  Doubling the recipe will turn out four loaves.  Once they have completely cooled, you can set aside a loaf (or two, if you are my family) for tomorrow’s breakfast, then wrap and freeze the others for another day.  I typically just place them in freezer bags, push all the air out, and seal.  Be sure to label your bags.

When you’re ready to serve your frozen loaves, simply get it out of the freezer the night before you plan to serve it and let it thaw on the countertop.  In the morning, you can slice and eat!

This bread is wonderful with scrambled or fried eggs and a fruit such as apples, bananas, applesauce, or berries.

I can’t wait for you to try this bread! 

Easy Breakfast Casseroles ~ This Week’s Freezer Cooking Challege Begins

Today for the Freezer Cooking Challenge, we’ll be making Easy Breakfast Casserole (x2).  This is, for sure, one of the easiest make-ahead-meals to put together.

I save dirty dishes by cracking eggs directly into my casserole dishes.  Then I add remaining ingredients, whisk it up, and it’s done.  Super simple!  If you have kids old enough to crack eggs, delegate that job to them while making these casseroles.

I made two of these casseroles last week with the help of my 12 year old.  Once my casseroles were put together (it took 15 minutes, tops) – I put the lids on, and put one in the fridge to bake the following morning.  The other, I labeled and put into the freezer, unbaked.

egg casseroles for freezer

To bake my frozen Breakfast Casserole, I’ll simply put it into the fridge overnight, then bake as directed the next morning.  I may need to add a little extra baking time if it hasn’t thawed entirely.

You will love how easy it is to make this casserole ahead of time!  This kind of freezer cooking is my favorite.  It’s practically effortless, and makes putting healthy food on the table for breakfast a piece of cake. (casserole. whatever.)

Go thou into the kitchen and begin cracking eggs.  Breakfast has never been easier.

The Plan ~ Getting Ready For Freezer Cooking, Week Three – Breakfast Foods

350x350_Challenge

I’ve shared with you before that while I am a morning person, I’m not a fan of standing at the griddle flipping pancakes for an hour.  After all, there are all kinds of other important things that need to be done to get the day going.  Making breakfast the night before or pulling breakfast out of the freezer rocks my world and makes me a much more lovely person in the morning.  (Lovely at heart, that is.  I’m not saying a word about my frizzed, right-off-the-pillow hair.)

Let’s keep our mornings simple, while feeding our families healthy food too!  That’s why we’ll be focusing our Freezer Cooking Challenge around breakfast foods this week.

Here’s what I hope you’ll love about this week:  Each day we’ll be making something new from the list below.  We’ll put part of it into the freezer for another day.  But we’ll be saving one meal’s worth to serve for breakfast the following day.  That means each day this week we’ll all wake up to a breakfast that is already prepared!  Once you get into this habit, I think you’ll love it as much as I do!  Then we can all be lovely at heart in the morning.  And for those of you who naturally roll out of bed with pretty hair, you can be lovely in appearance too.  Some of us just have to live with the frizz.

french_toast_casserole_3

Here’s what I have planned to make this week:

I always serve fruit with breakfast, and I often serve eggs.  Keep that in mind as you plan your menus!

Want to join in?  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 42 eggs (3 1/2 dozen)
  • 5 cups heavy cream (1 quart plus 1/2 pint)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • Add-ins for the Easy Breakfast Casserole (x2) – I’ll be adding ham I already have in the freezer
  • 7 cups whole wheat flour
  • 10 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 cups butter (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 cups plain yogurt (16 ounces)
  • 2 cups sour cream (16 ounces)
  • 10 ounces 100% fruit jelly or jam for Poptarts
  • 3 3/4 cups sucanat
  • 6 cups milk (1 1/2 quarts)
  • Add-ins for muffins
  • 2 loaves whole wheat bread (homemade if you like)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup orange juice

Be sure you have:

  • Sea salt
  • Baking powder
  • Vanilla extract
  • Almond extract
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Honey
  • Poppyseeds

Looks like a lot, but these groceries will provide you with 10+ meals!

I’ve created a downloadable and printable grocery list for you here:  Freezer Cooking Grocery List Three

Important Note:  If you purchased {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook before March, 2014 – I’ve since edited both the Sweet Pecan French Toast Casserole and Poppy Seed Bread with Orange Glaze recipes to cut the sugar (sucanat) in half.  Those recipes taste just as yummy without all that sugar!

Your first assignment in this week’s challenge is simply to purchase all groceries, and/or make sure you have all ingredients on hand.  On Monday, we’ll begin prepping these great breakfast foods to serve and freeze.  It’s gonna be a great week!

Let’s Do This! eCourse and {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook are discounted to just $5 for the whole package.  The recipes included in that package are some that we use all the time at our house to get ahead!

Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken – A Family Favorite Freezer Meal

I don’t think it would matter how much I of this Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken I made – my family would keep asking, “Can I have another piece of chicken?”  I definitely never can make enough.

Ah bacon and cream cheese…two of life’s happiest ingredients.  Today, I made a batch of this chicken – serving half for lunch and freezing half for another day.  It’s a super easy freezer meal to make, and great to pull out and cook quickly.  You can even cook it from its frozen state – so having it on hand can save your neck if you forgot to thaw anything for dinner.

Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken

What a great way to finish out this week’s freezer cooking challenge!  I served this at lunch today with peas and smoothies (full of spinach, strawberries, peaches, and mango).  It was a super easy lunch, packed with nourishment for my family.  I’m excited to have more of this chicken in my freezer for another meal soon.

Have you made this chicken dish yet?  You’ll find this recipe in our {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook (which is currently part of a package deal you can get for just $5).  The recipes included in that package are some that we use all the time at our house to get ahead!

As a reminder, here are the other posts from this week’s challenge:

If you’re just joining us for the Freezer Cooking Challenge, that’s great!  You can get started here.

Coming up next week, we’ll be filling the freezer with breakfast items.  I’m so excited about this, as having quick, easy, and healthy breakfast foods on hands is such a life-saver for me!

Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken ~ Freezer Cooking Week Two

Hopefully, you’ve knocked out cooking your whole chicken and making chicken broth, plus made a double batch of Black Bean Chicken Nachos for the freezer.  If you’re just joining us for the Freezer Cooking Challenge, that’s great!  You can get started here.

Today is going to be just as easy as yesterday when it comes to prepping a meal for tonight’s dinner along with putting a meal (or two) into the freezer for another time.  All you need to do is throw chicken into the crock pot, cover with bbq sauce, and let the crock pot do your work for you.  Once your chicken is done, use a portion as part of tonight’s dinner.  Allow the rest to cool, then put into a jar or freezer bag.  Place it in the freezer (clearly labeled) for a day you don’t have time to cook.

Here’s the recipe you’ll need for today:  Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken Breasts

bbq chicken dinner

As you can see, I chose to serve our Bbq Chicken on buns with cheese melted on top.  We had a busy evening with soccer practices, so setting these out on the table with fresh pineapple, carrots, and cucumbers made a quick meal for us to grab on the fly.  The rest of the chicken is now in the freezer, waiting for another day when I can pull it out to use.

I hope you’re beginning to see how easy freezer cooking can be!  Coming up next:  Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook)

How are you doing with the challenge so far this week?

Black Bean Chicken Nachos ~ Freezer Cooking Week Two

Ugly picture alert. 

Below is a picture of my container of cooked and frozen salsa chicken.  It looks kind of…eh.

black bean chicken nachos frozen 2

Makes you want to get right into the kitchen and make some yourself, doesn’t it?  It’s a shame, really, to put that picture at the top of a blog post.  Trust me though, when I say that as ugly as that chicken is in its frozen state, it really is a delicious dish.  The best part is how easy it is to make this.  Ready to get started?

You’ll find the recipe for Black Bean Chicken Nachos here.  Simply get your chicken and salsa cooking (double the recipe).  This chicken cooks on its own while you work on something else.  Then, you can add the beans and serve part of the chicken dish at lunch or dinnertime.  Allow the remaining chicken to cool, then, freeze it in a jar or Ziploc bag to pull out and serve another time.

If that wasn’t the easiest freezer cooking you’ve ever done, I don’t know what is.

Below you’ll find a much more attractive picture of this meal.  Serve it with fresh fruit, and you’ve got one very easy and family friendly meal – times two, because now you also have one for your freezer.  I’m loving this freezer cooking challenge!

Black Bean Chicken Nachos

How is the challenge going for you at this point?  If you haven’t started yet, you can join at any time!  Up next, Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken Breasts.