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.

Menu Plan For the Week ~ Waking Up To a Ready-Made Breakfast

Every day this week, our family will be waking up to a healthy breakfast that has already been prepared.  You wanna do the same?  Here are all the plans to make this happen.  You are going to love this!

Speaking of breakfast, you should know that I made the worst breakfast ever yesterday.  I think my hair is still holding on to the smell from the nastiness I put in front of my family to eat.  I had grand plans to fill us all full of good protein by making a hearty (but quick) meal of Bacon Cheesy Eggs before soccer games.  Therefore, I already had the bacon chopped up and cooked ahead of time.  While getting eggs cracked open and whipped, I started rewarming the bacon in the skillet – on high heat.  Within just a few seconds, it started smoking and smelling up the kitchen.  Oh well, I thought.  I’ll just quickly add the eggs, scrambled them up together, and all will be well.

If only.

That bacon was apparently beyond repair, making the bacon/egg/cheese mixture taste like ashes.  Not that I’ve ever eaten ashes.

We sort of choked it down, because it is very hard to throw away farm-fresh eggs, even if they do taste like burnt fire wood.  And that is how I sent my children off to the soccer fields so that they could run several miles and attempt to do fancy footwork.  It was not one of my finer moments.  But as Asa (our 16 year old) said with a grin, “Well, the cantaloupe sure is good.  At least you didn’t burn that.”  Yes, at least.  :)

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars 12

These Raspberry Oatmeal Bars aren’t in our freezer cooking plan for this week,
but they are another example of a great recipe you can make the night before
to serve first thing in the morning.  We love these bars!

Here’s what I’ll be trying not to burn this week:

Sunday, April 13
Raspberry oatmeal bars, applesauce
Cheesy beef and pasta casserole (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook), tossed salad, green beans
Small Group potluck

Monday, April 14
Easy breakfast casserole, cantaloupe
Chicken patty sandwiches, lettuce and tomatoes, pickles, carrots, fruit smoothies
Cheeseburger macaroni, tossed salad, roasted asparagus

Tuesday, April 15
Poppy seed bread with orange glaze (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook), eggs, strawberries
Rice and veggie stir fry with zucchini, carrots, and broccoli
Chicken tacos, fresh pineapple

Wednesday, April 16
Sweet pecan French toast casserole (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook), kiwi
Sloppy joes, creamy coleslaw, cucumbers and carrots with ranch, blackberries
Lamb chops, baked potatoes in the crock pot, tossed salad, peas

Thursday, April 17
Poptarts, bananas
Popcorn chicken, potato wedges, steamed carrots and broccoli
Tuna casserole, peas, roasted asparagus

Friday and Saturday – travel days (packing some food for the road, especially fruits and veggies)

Please make plans to join us this week for the Freezer Cooking Breakfast Challenge.  You’ll love getting ahead for the morning!

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!

Budgeting. What’s the Point?

budget focus

We can be super smart with money, always buy items on sale, shop around for the best deals, and stay perfectly within our budget each month.  We can live very frugally, make food and household items from scratch, recycle, reuse, patch, repair, and gratefully accept hand-me-downs.  We can work hard, pay off all our debt, build up our savings account, and put ourselves in a wonderful position financially.

Awesome.  Go you!  Rock that budget.  Being wise with our money is just what we’re called to do.  Becoming financially free is a tremendous blessing.  I will forever and always work toward this and encourage others to do the same.

But if we aren’t working to be financially savvy for the right reasons, all of our money-saving, frugal, happy budgeting ways are really for nothing.

We can, of course, decide that focusing on money is a bad thing, and therefore scrap the budget altogether.  We can buy the newest and best of everything.  We can rack up credit card debt so that we never have to deprive ourselves of anything we want.  We can throw money at all forms of entertainment and not really be sure where our money went at the end of the day.  We can fly by the seat of our pants, not really paying attention to our wallet or the bank account or the pay check.  It’s just money, right?

Hey you.  I think you’re awesome too, but wisdom suggests that you set up a budget and learn to stick with it.  ;)

Why?  What’s the point?

Whether we’re talking about spending or saving, I believe we’re called to be wise with our money so that we can be a blessing in God’s kingdom.  If we’re so hung up on padding the savings account that we can’t see the needs around us – we’ve missed the point.  If we’re so into stuff and splurges that we lose sight of those whose basic needs aren’t met – we’ve missed the point.

And that point is?

I believe that if we truly want to be financially free, we have to learn to let God be in control of our money.  Every decision, every investment, every expense, every gift, every penny stashed away into the savings account – every line item in our budget.  We are all blessed so that we can be a blessing.  Your budget can help you be the blessing to others that you are called to be.

Are all of our budgets going to look the same?  Will all of our spending priorities jive with everyone else who is working to be wise financially?  Will we all need to start darning socks and making homemade laundry soap in order to be considered a wise steward?  No, no, and I hope not.  After all, you could fit the entire state of Nebraska through the holes in the socks we finally threw away last week.

Let your budget be a blessing – to your family and to those you minister to.  Because that, my friends, is the point.

Want some help getting your budget on the right track?  Already have a great budget, and want to dig deeper?  BudgetFocus is a great resource, and I highly recommend it.   Use the code HH33 to receive 33% off a 12-month plan.  Can’t go wrong with a great discount like that!

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?

Pyrex 8-Piece Mixing Bowl Set With Colored Lids – Only $14.99

pyrex bowls 2

Hallie just emailed to let me know that Pyrex #1086053 Smart Essentials 8-Piece Mixing Bowl Set W/Colored Lids is only $14.99 right now with free shipping if you have Amazon Prime!

This is such a great deal for a fantastic set of bowls with lids.  I love these bowls and use them all the time for fruit and vegetables storage, for salads, for mixing baked goods – for all sorts of things.  They are also great for storing leftovers.

Take advantage of this deal while it lasts.  Typically prices like this don’t stay this low for long!

Check out other great Amazon deals here.

What Kind of Flour is Best If You Don’t Grind Your Own

Did you know some people grind their own flour?  When I first heard that from a friend about 14 years ago, I thought the very idea was crazy.  Really?  People do that?  Why?  How?  Who has the time?  Only crazy healthy-nutty people would go to the trouble of grinding their own flour.  And their food probably always tastes nasty, because whole wheat flour is really heavy and strong flavored.  Bleh.

That was back in “my poptart and pepsi days” as I now lovingly call the time I didn’t understand much about nutrition.  Obviously, I also didn’t understand that real food tastes really delicious.  I was just doing the best I could with what I knew, and we can’t help what we don’t know, right?  My eyes were opened to a better way after our youngest son was born with chronic eczema.  I’m so thankful for the world of healthy eating God has opened up to us since then.  We all feel so much better now.  Food has never tasted better!  I mean, I didn’t even know how good butter was back then.  Sheesh.  I was missing out.

Who is now among the crazy health-nutty people who grind their own flour?  That would be me.  Yep, we’ve had a Nutrimill now for eight years, and it is still going strong.  Who knew grinding flour was as easy as pouring wheat into a machine, turning a knob, and walking away?  And the end result?  Oh my goodness.  I never knew whole wheat flour could taste so good.  Freshly ground flour is amazing.

I do recommend making the investment to grind your own grain, as the health benefits and deliciousness to baking with freshly ground flour can’t be beat.  But what if you aren’t ready, don’t want to, or aren’t interested?  No prob.  Let’s talk about other great options…

First, let’s discuss the different options you’ll likely come across at the store.  Most whole wheat flour that is pre-packaged at the store has been made from red wheat.  This is a darker and heavier flour – not my favorite, but still an okay option.  If this is the kind you use, you may need to use a bit less than is called for in some recipes as it tends to be dryer and produce a more dense baked good.

I love and always recommend flour made from white wheat as it is lighter in color, lighter in flavor, and typically more enjoyable to eat.  At the store, this is labeled White Whole Wheat Flour.

Is white wheat healthy?  Yes.  Don’t let the word “white” throw you off.  White wheat is simply a variety of wheat that, when ground, makes white whole wheat flour.  Both red and white wheat have the same nutritional value, but they taste just a bit different.  I prefer the flavor of flour made from white wheat – as do many people.

Below is a picture I took last year when we were in Kansas.  You’ll see two fields, side by side, one growing white wheat, the other growing red wheat.  See?  Both are grains of wheat, but when ground, they turn out a different color and texture of flour.

Next you see a picture of the two different kinds of grain, or wheat berries as we call them.  Red wheat berries are on the left, and white wheat berries are on the right:

I almost always grind hard white wheat at my house since we prefer it.  I also sometimes grind soft white wheat, which produces a whole wheat pastry flour.  Pastry flour can be used in any recipe that does NOT call for yeast.  For yeast bread recipes, you must use a hard wheat variety.  Read more about red wheat and white wheat here.

Now let’s talk about which wheat flour I recommend.

My favorite brand of wheat berries and wheat flour is Wheat Montana.  They use chemical free, non-GMO grains.  They are a very high quality grain, which makes wonderful tasting flour.  Look for 100% White Whole Wheat Flour, which they call Prairie Gold.

prairie gold

I was impressed to find a 40 pound package through Amazon for as low as $27.14 (with Amazon Prime/Mom and subscribe and save).  That makes it just 68¢ per pound for very high quality flour.  (Be sure to click over to the Prairie Gold option if you want the white whole wheat.)

I also like the Azure Standard White Wheat Flour, which is as low as 92¢ per pound.  If you are a part of an Azure Standard co-op, you may want to look into this.

Beyond those options, I have seen white wheat flour at Traders Joes, Whole Foods, and other health food stores.  I don’t know the prices because I don’t have easy access to any of those stores.

Share what you know about these options.  Do you grind flour, or purchase it already ground?  What is your favorite variety?

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.