I Can Now Accomodate Picky Muffin Eaters

Some like their eggs fried. Some prefer them scrambled. I am not a short-order chef. So if anyone in my family wants his eggs fixed differently than the way I have prepared them for today’s breakfast, he is welcome to go get eggs from the fridge and prepare them himself.

But what about meal options that are not so quick to make – like muffins? Well, now that we have all discovered this awesome “freeze your muffin batter” trick, it is easy to make muffins to please the masses. Or at least try to please the masses. Why is it that food they love one day they do not want to touch the next day? Oh, let’s not even go there.

Anyway, last night in preparation for this morning’s breakfast, I got out my muffin pan and filled it with ten Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffin batter balls, and two Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffin batter balls from the freezer. One of my kids really does not like peanut butter. In the past when I’ve made the peanut butter muffins, I would search the fridge for a leftover something-or-other for my non-peanut butter kid. But now? Everyone can have their muffins and eat them too.

muffins

I love this.

Menu Plan for the Week and My Full Freezers

Well, you asked to see my freezers. I decided to go ahead and show you, even though they aren’t as organized as I’d like them to be, therefore likely not as impressive as you might have hoped. As you will see, they are very full after our work to prepare lots of extra food last week. This is a huge blessing, and with all the busyness of the upcoming weeks, I will be continually thankful we spent time when we could to make healthy food ahead of time!

Here is freezer number one. This is the freezer that holds many of the prepared foods we made last week. Sloppy Joes, casseroles, muffins, frozen fruits and veggies…

freezer_1

Our bigger freezer (below) holds much of our frozen meat, along with all kinds of random items. I have some white plastic baskets that help keep some of the food organized and categorized, butter and cheese go in the door, and any overflow of prepared food goes wherever I can fit it.

freezer_2

I am thankful to have these two big freezers, which helps so much in my efforts to get ahead and save money. If you don’t have an extra freezer, I highly recommend looking into getting one (or two?!). We bought ours used (and ugly), so they were very inexpensive. I’m sure the investment has saved us thousands through the years!

Here’s our menu for this week:

Sunday, August 4
Chocolate chocolate chip muffins, raspberries
Cheesy chicken and rice, peas, grapes
Nachos, watermelon

Monday, August 5
Quick mix pancakes, blueberries, whipped cream
Meat and cheese burritos, baby carrots, cantaloupe
BLTs, sweet potato fries, watermelon

Tuesday, August 6
Peanut butter chocolate chip muffins, scrambled eggs, clementines
Sloppy joes, baby carrots, grapes
Salmon patties, potato wedges, peas

Wednesday, August 7
Cranberry white chocolate chip breakfast cookies, creamy orange coolers
Hamburger patties, steamed broccoli, grapes
Chicken stir fry with asparagus, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots

Thursday, August 8
Homemade grape nuts cereal, blueberries, strawberries
Homemade pizzas, pineapple-mango smoothies
Crock pot baked potatoes for taco potatoes, nectarines

Friday, August 9
Easy breakfast casserole, peaches
Corn dog muffins, green beans, watermelon
Alfredo sauce with pasta, steamed broccoli and carrots, tossed salad

Saturday, August 10
Whole wheat donuts, raspberries
Leftovers
Lamb chops, asparagus, tossed salad, corn on the cob

Do you have an extra freezer so that you can stock up?

Whole Wheat Quick Mix Honey Cinnamon Muffins

Simple. Tasty. Fast. Isn’t that what we want in all of our recipes? This muffin recipe is all of that and healthy too!

See? I told you this Whole Wheat Quick Mix has been a life saver!

Quick Mix Honey Cinnamon MuffinsYum

2 cups Quick Mix
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup honey
½ cup milk
1 egg

Mix all ingredients until just combined. (Do not over-stir.)  Scoop batter into 9 paper lined muffin cups. Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until muffins are golden brown.

Honey_Cinnamon_Muffins_2

The Chocolate Fix

Matt and I were right in the middle of writing love letters to each other. We were at The Art of Marriage conference last weekend, sitting quietly in a room by ourselves, doing our assigned project. I was writing my heart-felt thoughts to him, reliving on paper about the time we met and about the qualities he had that attracted me to him. It was beautiful. I was teary eyed and feeling nostalgic.

And that’s when it hit me.

I’d forgotten to put the sucanat in the Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins I had baked for the kids to wake up to that morning. 

Why? Why does my brain work this way? We will probably never know. But somewhere in between writing “I love what a great daddy you are to our boys” and “Thank you for showing your love to me in so many ways” my brain shifted all the way back home and I began thinking about what the boys might be doing and if they were okay and if they’d found the muffins I’d made for them for breakfast. 

And somewhere within those few seconds of thinking about muffins, I thought through the steps I’d taken and recognized that I had not gotten out the jar of sucanat (sugar), opened it or measured it out. The muffins were made of flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, milk, eggs and coconut oil…no sucanat. I’d thrown in a few chocolate chips, which may have added a little bit of sweetness, but probably not enough.

I didn’t mean to gasp, right there while we were writing our love letters. I didn’t mean to take Matt away from his “You’re so beautiful, I’m so glad God put you in my life” phrases. But I couldn’t help it. 

Our sweet silence was shattered as I blurted, “I forgot to put sucanat in the muffins for the boys!”

There was obviously nothing we could do about the muffins during that moment, so we had a little chuckle together about how quickly the boys might have realized that the muffins weren’t at all sweet and what else they’d found to eat. Then we carried on with our letter writing.

At home later we found exactly what we had expected:  Four muffins with one bite taken out of each of them and all of the rest of the muffins still on the tray.

So the next question of course was, “What should we do with all of these muffins?”  We just didn’t have the heart to throw them away. Surely they could be salvaged somehow.

Matt was the one who had the brilliant idea. He’s always the brilliant one (and I may or may not have told him that in his love letter). He suggested that we make my yummy hot fudge sauce recipe to drizzle over the top of the muffins to add some sweetness.

Perfect.  I made some hot fudge, whipped some cream, and we had one of the most delicious breakfast treats ever.

It was a perfect chocolate fix, making us all hope that I will forget the sucanat in these muffins again sometime. :)

Oh, and by the way…all that love letter stuff I put in this post for you to read? All those phrases were cheesy ones that I just made up off the top of my head. What? You really think I’d tell you what we wrote in our love letters to each other? Yeah, I don’t think so. :)

Vanilla Muffins with Cinnamon Crumb Topping

I wanted something cinnamony for our Christmas Brunch (the invented word is pronounced:  sin-uh-money;  not to worry, cinnamony has nothing to do with sin or money, it’s all about the smell and taste of Christmas). I also wanted to use my homemade vanilla. So I played just a little bit and came up with Vanilla Muffins with Cinnamon Crumb Topping. I made mine with a mini muffin tin, but you can use a regular sized muffin tin instead if you prefer.

These muffins are very simple to throw together and will make your house smell just like Christmas while they’re baking.  That’s because they’re cinnamony. :)

Vanilla Muffins Yum

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sucanat (you can use brown sugar if you want)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup melted butter or coconut oil
3/4 cup milk

Cinnamon Crumb Topping

6 T. sucanat/rapadura (dehydrated cane sugar juice) or brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 T. butter, softened

Stir together flour, sucanat, baking powder and sea salt. Add egg, vanilla, butter and milk. Mix until ingredients are combined. Scoop into paper lined muffin tins. (24 mini muffins or 12 regular sized muffins)  Mix together Cinnamon Crumb Topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of each muffin. Bake in a 400° oven for 15 minutes (mini muffins) or 20 minutes (regular sized muffins).

Vanilla Muffins with Cinnamon Crumb Topping

These Vanilla Muffins with Cinnamon Crumb Topping go perfectly with Easy Breakfast Casserole. I also think the cinnamony-ness would taste great with Warm Vanilla Soother.

Up next during our Christmas Brunch:  a great giveaway from Tropical Traditions. Then, to add to our cinnamony pleasure…Gingerbread Cookies. Not only are they cinnamony…they’re gingerlicious. And full of molassessness.

You never knew our Christmas Brunch would be so full of new vocabulary words did you?

(Be sure to leave a comment again on this post for another chance to win one of our great Christmas Brunch Presents!)

Kitchen Therapy

Would you like to hear about how I was on the phone all morning, mostly on hold listening to horrible elevator music because I was trying to resolve an insurance issue? And how after all of that, I’m right back where I started because insurance keeps telling me to call the billing company and the billing company keeps telling me to call insurance? And how while all that was going on my breakfast dishes sat dirty and my laundry sat unfolded and my littlest kids scattered without doing their schoolwork? And how I almost cried while talking to Greg, the billing guy?

No, you really don’t want to hear about all that.

But what I will tell you about is how after such a frustrating morning of feeling incredibly unproductive…I was very much on edge. My kids were at each other, some of them had bad attitudes about their school work, and three out of four didn’t want what I was making for lunch. It is times like this that I struggle with showing my kids how to be godly in the face of frustration. I would never allow them to scream and throw things when they are angry, so in a effort to be a good example, I decided against using their lunch plates as frisbees, and resisted the urge to wad up school papers and shove them onto the floor. 

I pretty much told them, “Guys, I’ve had a really frustrating morning on the phone so please work very hard not to cause more frustration. That school work needs to be done whether it’s your favorite thing to do or not, so you’re gonna need to just deal. This is lunch, eat it. And no one…NO ONE will touch each other right now. Is that understood?”

It was understood. In fact, I think we went through an entire five minutes without anyone touching anyone.

After lunch, everyone left the kitchen to finish work or make messes elsewhere and I decided that I needed something to help me get out of my funk. Trust me, I’d been praying since the phone calls began…now I needed to exert some energy on something positive. I flipped on my very much needed Christian radio station and did what I always do for therapy:  I cooked.

I had been feeling like we didn’t have any snacks and I was out of some basic stand-bys (like peanut butter) so I got out bowls and started taking out some frustration on bread dough. 

Now, not only do I feel like a new woman…I have food prepared for my family. I can’t think of a better therapy session, can you?

I ground some fresh flour in my Nutrimill and got some Honey Whole Wheat Bread started.

In the meantime, I made Peanut ButterRice Crispy Treats (with chocolate chips!), 
Cream Cheese Salsa Dip and Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins.

I had found a good sale on cream cheese, plus I’m getting a lot of apples in my
Azure Standard order this week, so I made a big bowl of Caramel Apple Dip.

And then the Honey Whole Wheat Bread was done. And I felt better.

Now, when Matt gets home from work, not only am I going to be a lot less grumpy, the house is gonna smell like I’ve been baking.

The moral of the story is this:  When you are frustrated, work very hard not to take the frustration out on your family…do something productive with that energy instead. And then go eat some fresh bread with butter. Lots of butter.

Laura, Are You In the Kitchen ALL the Time?!

It’s a question I’m asked frequently. Especially from women who:   a) are new at working to feed their families a healthy diet…or b) don’t enjoy cooking at all.

Does eating a healthy diet mean that I am now going to be a slave to my kitchen?!!

It’s a fear that makes complete sense if you’re transitioning toward eating more whole foods. Do I have to make EVERYTHING from scratch? Isn’t there ANYTHING convenient about eating healthy? How am I supposed to find the extra time in my already full schedule to make healthy meals and snacks? And what if I hate cooking?

I addressed this topic quite a while ago in this post entitled Getting it All Done. In that post, I discuss the importance of menu planning, keeping food simple, cleaning the kitchen as you go, making breakfast while you’re making dinner and a few other helpful tips.

Today, I’d like to talk more about freezer cooking as a way to get ahead and save yourself some precious time in the kitchen.  And, to answer the original question, nope…I’m not in the kitchen all the time.   I do happen to be one of those people who loves to cook…so I may spend more time cooking and baking than the average person. But that’s just my choice. I love to feed my family, and I love to feed extras.   I could spend less time in the kitchen and still feed my family a healthy diet…I just choose to tinker with recipes and hang out with my bowls, spoons and grain mill a little more than others. It’s my hobby.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to fill my fridge and freezer with healthy convenience foods. I spent a few extra hours in the kitchen over the course of three days. The result of my efforts? All kinds of healthy, grab and go foods! Hours of time saved! Dirty dish messes out of the way!

Did it take a few extra hours of time during those three days? Sure. I was in the kitchen a lot during those days. But now all I have to do is go snag something out of the freezer and re-warm it for a quick meal. I LOVE it!

Here are the results from my last “cooking ahead” days and the time it took me to prepare each item…

freezer_cooking_june_1

I baked up several pounds of potatoes one night (10 minutes of scrubbing), then chopped them and froze them overnight for future fried potatoes (following this Frozen Hashbrown method). The next day, I mixed up a double batch of cornbread and made Corn Dog Muffins and Sloppy Corn Muffins (20 mintues). Both went into ziplock freezer bags. Somewhere in there, I also mixed up and baked some Chocolate Chip Cookies (15 minutes, not including bake time). It seems like we always have events that I need to take cookies along. Having some already made in my freezer is so helpful!

freezer_cooing_june_3

The next day, I made a big double batch of  Whole Wheat Tortillas so that I could grab them out for an easy lunch of quesadillas or tostadas. I also baked a double batch of Orange Muffins and a bunch of Porcupine Meatballs (the recipe for which I will share as soon as I perfect it). It just took me a little over an hour to do all of this (not including baking time)…and look at all the time it saved me for later!

freezer_cooking_june_2

The next day I made about four pounds of Venison Sausage – using this Turkey Sausage recipe (15 minutes, not including cook time). Because it takes so many different spices to make the Turkey Sausage, I love making it ahead like this. I froze it in about six small baggies to pull out for a fast breakfast casserole, or for biscuits and gravy. This pre-cooked Sausage is a great combo with the pre-made Frozen Hashbrowns, by the way!

freezer_cooking_june_5

I also mixed up a quick batch of Mudballs. Although, since one of my boys can’t have peanut butter…I used sunbutter to make these this time. (about 15 minutes)

freezer_cooking_june_6

Later that afternoon, I decided to make some Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns to freeze and have on hand. (about 30 minutes of work time)  Those will last us for about two meals worth of Hamburgers or Sloppy Joes.

freezer_cooking_june_4 
Last but not least, I made some homemade peanut butter (3 minutes)…

freezer_cooking_june_7

And used it to make a pan of Chewy Granola Bars to have in the fridge. (10 minutes)

It was fun. It was productive. I was exhausted.  :)  But the few extra hours I put in preparing the extra food has saved me more than a few hours of work during the past few weeks. 

What are some of your favorite foods to prepare ahead of time? 

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’m not sure if you are a chocolate lover like I am, but any recipe that has the words chocolate and chocolate written side by side makes me very happy and excited.

Chocolate_Chocolate_Chip_Muffins

My biggest hint on this recipe is to use sour cream instead of milk. (The recipe lists either one.) Sour cream makes these super moist.

This recipe is a definite family favorite. They taste amazing with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip MuffinsYum

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sucanat
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or butter
2/3 cup milk or sour cream
1 egg
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I recommend these organic chips without soy lecithin)

Stir together dry ingredients. Mix in coconut oil, milk and egg. Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop into 9-12 paper lined muffin tins. Bake at 400° for 20  minutes. Makes about 9 muffins. (I double the recipe for my family of six.)

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 9 muffins
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour
  • ⅓ cup sucanat
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ cup melted coconut oil or butter
  • ⅔ cup milk or sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Stir together dry ingredients.
  2. Mix in coconut oil, milk and egg.
  3. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Scoop into 9-12 paper lined muffin tins.
  5. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes.

If you have some good quality coconut oil, I highly recommend using it in this recipe. The coconut flavor with the chocolate is SO GOOD.

How about Chocolate Chip Bread?

Don’t mind if I do. Indeed, you can also make this recipe into a quick bread instead of muffins. Just spread the batter into a buttered loaf pan and bake at 350° for 50 minutes! Get all the details here.

chocolate_pumpkin_bread_2