L1: Freezer Cooking

I knew I wanted to stock our freezer with some easy pop-in-the-oven meals before L1 arrives, so our super awesome friend Sharon came over and we spent the day assembling casseroles and making sauces. Did I mention she’s SUPER AWESOME?  Seriously.

I’m fast and loose with recipes, so I’ve made some notes below on changes I generally make, but I’m confident that the recipes I linked to would be quite delicious in their own right.   I froze meals in 8×8 foil pans that were double-layer foil wrapped, then labeled, or in gallon or quart freezer bags, also appropriately labeled.   I have a full grocery list for this set of meals if anyone is interested.

Let me also note that I am Hashtag Blessed with a husband who is not a picky eater, who loves vegetables and doesn’t mind leftovers.  It’s the best.

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Texas Lasagna:  One of my mom’s go-to Taste of Home recipes that Chad happens to love.  I added a can of black beans and some frozen TJ’s peppers.

Lucille’s Chicken Casserole:  This was a staple growing up, and is by far my favorite comfort food.  Chad doesn’t like it and I don’t even care – I’ll eat the whole thing.  I can’t find the exact recipe on line, but it’s pretty close to this link, plus some diced onion, hard boiled egg, and a few good dashes of soy sauce.

Classic Ragu Bolognese:  Gotta love veggies hidden in a classic meat sauce.  Ain’t nobody got time for veal around here, so I use a combination of ground pork and ground beef, and a little bacon instead of pancetta.

Food 2

Beef Enchilada Filling:  No official recipe on this one – I use a 1:1:1:1 ratio (you could keep going with the 1s forever on this one) of 1 lb ground beef, 1 can black beans, 1 can enchilada sauce, 1 can diced green chilis, 1 handful frozen spinach, etc… can’t go wrong.  I freeze it in quart ziplock bags, and we eat the filling spread on tortillas and broiled with cheese, or poured over cornbread muffins with sour cream, or piled on top of nachos.  You could also roll them up and pour more sauce on top if you have a lot of time.

Pork & Mushroom Meatballs:  I was inspired one day at the grocery store by a sample giveaway of some Johnsonville pork burgers, and recreated these mushroom meatballs with ground pork.  They’re simple, savory and comforting, and are great with rice or on slider buns.  Chad will also eat leftovers cold straight out of the refrigerator.  Pro tip: chop your mushrooms really really small before sautéing. If the mushroom pieces are too big, the meatballs won’t hold together well.

Funeral Potatoes:  No one said we were keeping track of calories here, people.  Classic church potluck style and tasty as heck.  I’m not even sorry.

Food 3

Italian Meatballs:  I love having a variety of meatballs on hand to throw in a jar of Prego (it’s my favorite) or toss with cheese ravioli or turn into gooey meatball subs.  The Pioneer Woman’s recipe here is a great standby if you need a place to start.  I also add frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed) to these.

Chicken Spaghetti:  My love affair with chicken spaghetti began well after we got married, and I must have tried 4 or 5 recipes before I found one that I really like as a foundation.  I actually follow this recipe pretty closely, although I use probably twice as many veggies as the recipe calls for, and use whatever I have on hand, although a wide variety (carrots AND celery AND zucchini AND peppers AND mushrooms AND spinach AND onion) tastes best, I think.  No shame in adding/subbing cream of chicken soup for some of the broth base, either.

Chicken Enchiladas: I do like to get extra veggies in where I can, so I add a layer of sautéed mushrooms/spinach/onion/zucchini/peppers/whatever into this classic Gimme Some Oven recipe.  I used a combo of cream of chicken soup, sour cream and yogurt for the sauce, since that’s what I had on hand.

Food 4

Florentine Lasagna:  I also add a layer or two of any/all sautéed veggies to this.  And I JUST realized I forgot to add bacon to the batch I made for the freezer.  Sigh. I may have to fry up a 1/4 lb and eat it standing at my stove just to make up for it.   For the freezer version, I just mix sour cream and cottage cheese and milk plus all the seasonings, in lieu of actually cooking the sauce, simply because I am a lazy cook.  Also a messy cook, but that’s a different story.

Tater Tot Casserole:  I mix the beef, beans and sauce, then freeze in ziplocks.  I’ll transfer to a casserole dish and top with tots before baking.  We’re a no-cheese family for Tater Tot Casserole (and for heaven’s sake, don’t add corn), but I know many who like it with the cheddar.  Weirdos.

Classic Lasagna:  I will not lie and say I make this homemade sauce for lasagna.  I don’t.  I was raised on Prego and I think it works just fine in lasagna.  But do as you must.   And, because I was feeling fancy and had it in the freezer, I added some bulk Italian sausage to the mix.

Enjoy!

My Pinterest board for the whole set of meals is here, if that’s your thing.

Quick Lit / February 2015

A quick look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

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Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival / Jennifer Chiaverini
At the suggestion of both my mother and grandfather, oddly enough, I tried to find Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, but my library app didn’t have it available, so I settled for this sister story about Washington’s elite.  It was enjoyable enough for historical fiction, although I have no idea how historically accurate it was.

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I Did (But I Wouldn’t Now) / Cara Lockwood
A lighthearted book club pick for February.  Quick, easy reading that may have jumped the shark a time or two, but decent guilty pleasure chick lit none the less.

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The Expectant Father / Brott & Ash
I have no good explanation for why the ONE Prepare for Pregnancy & Parenting book I chose read during this pregnancy was written for fathers, but here we are.  It was relatively helpful and generally approachable. I found it more humorous than I expected, which may been a result of the dad perspective.  #36weeks

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I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Quick Lit series (formerly Twitterature). Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

L1: Nesting

Chad has lived in our house since he bought it in 2008.  I’ve been there since our wedding in 2011.  We’ve accumulated some stuff along the way, and when I hit 30 weeks in my pregnancy, my nesting instinct (which does somehow feel different than my normal organizational streak) kicked into full gear, and I made a list of 18 places in our house that need (yes, NEED) to be cleaned and purged.

I listed individual cabinets and closets, since I wanted each task on the list to feel approachable.  I can clean out one particular dresser drawer in 20 minutes, but saying “clean our room” feels totally overwhelming.  I took advantage of a recent snowstorm stay-in-the-house day and started to tackle my list.

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First up was the pantry.  Which, it’s not even a pantry so much as a corner cabinet with spinning Lazy Susan shelves.  It’s not big, but it’s our only spot for food storage, so we make the most of it.  Canned goods, crackers, cereal, you name it – it lives here.  Including, apparently, lentils that were purchased before our wedding.  My friend Christy swears that lentils don’t expire, but plastic bags do, and my patience for food I’m not likely to use does, so into the trash they went.

I pulled everything out of the cabinet, wiped down the shelves, threw away the expired stuff and made sense of the rest, organizing as I put it all back.

It turns out that an opened box of Triscuits that expired 7 months ago is actually stale, should not be tried as a snack, and is totally worth the $2.50 to just throw it away and buy a new box. I learned that one the hard way.

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Spices were up next.  Same process – empty, wipe, organize and put back.  When I moved apartments in 2010, my mom helped me pack up my kitchen, and she labeled all my spices on the top so I would know what I had without unpacking the box.  Genius, that woman.  But, any spices with my mom’s friendly, familiar handwriting on them had to go.  I made a list along the way of herbs I was nearly out of or spices that I thought of that I don’t somehow own that I should (cardamom, obviously), and reorganized my two little spice shelves.  Oils, vinegars, and soy sauce and friends live on the shelf right below, and all those bottles also received a wipedown with a hot soapy rag.

I also took my baking drawer to task, which mostly consisted of me wishing I had enough brown sugar to make a batch of cookies.

The rest of the list includes things like the bottom drawer of Chad’s dresser, which mysteriously became the go-to “get all the crap off our dressers” dumping place when we clean our room for Airbnb guests; the cabinet under the kitchen sink; our basket of medical supplies; the filing drawer of user manuals for appliances and such; and the linen closet in the basement, which I KNOW holds some old camping equipment, even though we haven’t been camping, like, ever.  Should be fun.  No, really.  I’m weird, I know.

I’m 34 weeks plus 5 days today.  Time’s running out!

What I’m Into / January 2015

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We kicked off the new year with good friends, great wine (one of us) and an epic game of Settlers of Catan.  We even managed to make it up past midnight.  Felt pretty good for being then-29-weeks pregnant and in my 30s.

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In January, I’m into asking for help.  I’m decidedly NOT into my long-lasting pregnancy-induced back pain that makes me walk like an 80-year old, but I AM very much into my top-notch husband, who is gracious and patient with my big and small requests for help and makes me laugh and feel beautiful. Yes, please.

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I’m [still, always] working on embracing the mess and chaos of life, and choosing to find grace in the messy moments and messy closets.  However, I’m also nesting big time and working on those messy closets when I can find the time and energy.

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These girls, some of the very best, threw a shower for me/L1.  It was an overwhelmingly beautiful day, filled with family and dear friends.  I felt so loved.

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Also could not believe these girls made the drive to Omaha for the shower. They (plus Courtney) are by far the best thing to come out of my evangelical childhood church & youth group experience.  The miles between us are many and the moments spent together are few, but WOW, I love these girls.

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L1 will be into bacon (and learning), natch.

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I, meanwhile, am into macarons.  And all the other snacks, really.  I may or may not have gained kind of a lot of pregnancy weight lately, but let’s not talk about it.

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Tradeshow season at work took us to Minneapolis for a couple of days, where I squeezed in lunch with this girl.  Her laugh.  I can’t even.  I seriously have some of the best women in my life.

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AND, I got to see these little post-bath wet-head chickens in January.  It was kind of a great month, honestly, if a little nuts with the traveling. There was a quick photoless trip to Winnipeg somewhere in there, too.

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There is not much better than spending time with my seester.

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I’m totally into long shirts these days.  I have no time for maternity clothes or formerly long shirts that don’t cover the belly.  Stripes aren’t my best look, but it’s long, and I’ll take it.

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Despite the lovely weather that we started off the month with, Old Man Winter is back for a visit on the last day of January.

What I’m reading & what I’m watching
I did manage a bit of reading this past month, and have more underway.  It feels good to get back into the pages.  See what I’ve read lately here.  All my shows are still on winter hiatus, so I’ve been watching cheesy movies and episodes of Chopped on Netflix. I’m super excited about Gilmore Girls and Friends, but I’m saving them for long labor or long nights up with the baby.  I figure I could use some good TV friends during those moments.  Just 7-ish weeks left!

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I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for her What I’m Into series. Hop on over to her blog for more.

L1: Week 31.5 update

One day you’re wearing Old Navy & Gap tall sizes just fine, feeling all cute and pregnant.

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And then one day you can’t button any of your winter coats, you’re buying Tums for the first time in your life ever, you’re waking up multiple times a week with muscle cramps in your legs and feet and seriously child, would you please MOVE off my bladder.

I have to pee ALL the time.

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Trimester the Third, we are not really friends.

I can still tie my own shoes, but just barely. Bending over and reaching the floor is an issue, but actually getting up is the bigger problem.

My belly button, once a loyal member of Team Innie, is barely hanging on to its insider status.  I’ll spare you a photo, but it looks totally different than it used to, and the skin is all soft and squishy and tender to the touch. It’s like all the little wrinkles are unfolding and that skin has never seen the light of day before.  So weird.

I have to pee ALL THE TIME.

Despite regular visits to the chiropractor and a OB-prescribed back brace, my SI joint pain has not improved, and it has been 20 weeks since I have been able to comfortably roll over in bed. The simple act of getting out of bed or up from a couch is often tear-inducing and requires help.  Honestly? It’s really tough emotionally.  I cry a lot.  My back issues have definitely been the worst part of being pregnant. I would NOT be a good candidate for long-term chronic pain.

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The baby is about 17 inches long and weighs 3.5 pounds.  I’ve gained 23.5 so far, so despite occasionally feeling like a whale, we’re both right on track.

Most people think of in-utero babies being in the fetal position. I’m convinced mine spends much of its day doing jumping jacks, making snow angels, kickboxing my internal organs, practicing tae bo and doing other calisthenics and cardio. At least that makes one of us.

My uterus is now larger than a soccer ball, in case you aren’t terrified of pregnancy yet.  Good lands.  Bodies are insane and amazing and whoa.  However, my blood pressure is AWESOME, and I have not developed gestational diabetes, for which I am very thankful.

I have to pee ALL the time.

The baby gets hiccups several times a day.  I can feel the rhythmic “hic, hic, hic” clear as day.

And I’m tired.  Not really sleepy, but I feel like I just worked out most of the day, except all I did was carry a laundry basket up the stairs.  The struggle is real, kids.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 9.30.08 PMAbove: Week 31

“What’s my birth plan?” you ask.  Make it out alive, all 3 of us.  Really.  That’s the whole thing.  We haven’t taken our birthing class yet, obviously.

Also, we don’t yet have a car seat that fits my car, any diapers, or a name.  But, we do have amazing friends throwing showers for us, an almost-mama who is in full-on nesting mode, an almost-daddy who likes to sing silly love songs about the baby and the belly, and we’ve still got 8-10 weeks before the baby’s due date.  We can do this.

You might need to remind me of that at least twice a day between now and then.

We’re going to be a three-family, and I have to pee ALL the time.

Quick Lit / January 2015

A quick look at books I’ve been reading recently.  (And here’s what I read last month.)  What’s on your bookshelf these days?

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever / Barbara Robinson
This is a Must Read for me every holiday season.  I just love the narrator, her perceptions of her mother, all the Christmas, and the whole Herdman gang.  “Hey!  Unto you a child is born!”  I also read a whole host of children’s books over Christmas – Mom dug out all our old favorites while I was at home for the holiday.  Such good memories.

chasing mona lisaChasing Mona Lisa / Tricia Goyer
A unique look at WWII and the art world.  Young love, famous art, and bad guys escaping in old cars…what more does a mystery need?  Definitely an entertaining story, but not amazing writing.

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I’m linking up with Anne Bogel for her Quick Lit series (formerly Twitterature). Hop on over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more.

One Word 365: Help

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Actually, I can’t host Christmas this year.

I can barely get up off the floor by myself.

And I don’t actually know what in the world to do with a newborn, really.

Yes, staying in therapy is the best thing for me.

2015 will be another year of change and uncertainty. We’ll need our community to show up in strong and tangible ways.

What do I have to give?

I believe, help my unbelief.

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Learn more at One Word 365.