Freezer Friday - Bread Machine Mixes

Sundays are a bit crazy at my house. We have 8:30 church, but I have to be there early. I often have meetings right after church as well. Something about sitting at church for 3 hours makes my family ravenous. They are starving when they get home. One thing that has helped is having bread machine mix kits ready to go so we can easily put it in before we leave. When everyone gets home, hot fresh homemade bread hits the spot.

Super easy, not a new idea, but it has helped me tremendously. I just pick my favorite bread machine recipe and combine all the dry ingredients (except the yeast) into a quart size bag. Label it with what needs to be added and pop them in the freezer. It really isn't hard to make up 20 or more of these.

When it is time to bake add wet ingredients first, then dump contents of bag on top. Lastly, add yeast ensuring that it doesn't mix with the wet ingredients. Turn on machine and you are ready to go. This is an easy thing to train your kids to do. Grant is the official bread machine baker at our house. It's so nice to just ask him to put in a loaf of bread before church.


Freezer Friday - Stuffed shells

Here is an easy freezer recipe: Stuffed shells. 

A little bit like lasagna but you don't have to make a huge pan. The filling for these is pretty simple, but really good. Once you have the filling made, you stuff the cooked shells and freeze them on cookie sheets. Once they are frozen put the desired amount into freezer bags and label. This recipe easily can be tripled or quadrupled. 
This is a great quick meal. Serve it with some salad and crusty bread. 
When it's time to eat, just pop the frozen shells into an oven safe pan, and instead of the tomato mixture called for in the recipe just top with your favorite marinara sauce and sprinkle a little cheese on top. Bake thawed shells covered at 350 degrees F  for about 30 minutes. Frozen shells need to be baked a little longer, 45 minutes or so. 
(link for stuffed shells recipe online http://www.bhg.com/recipe/beef/stuffed-shells/)

Stuffed Shells 
  • 12
    ounces dried jumbo pasta shells (about 35 shells)
  • 3
    tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2
    pounds lean ground beef
  • 2
    cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2
    28 ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 1
    15 ounce carton whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/3
    cups grated or finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 15x10x1-inch baking sheet and a 3-quart oval or rectangular baking dish.
2.Bring a large pot of water, with 1 tablespoon salt added, to boiling. Add pasta shells and cook just until slightly tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta and spread in a single layer on baking sheet to prevent them from sticking together.
3.In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add beef and 1 clove of garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook and stir for 6 to 8 minutes, until no pink remains in beef. Transfer to a bowl; set aside.
4.For tomato sauce, in a second skillet over low heat combine remaining olive oil, remaining garlic, and undrained tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bring sauce to a simmer over low heat; cook for 15 to 20 minutes until thickened somewhat, breaking up tomatoes with the back of spoon.
5.Stir 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce into cooled ground beef, then add ricotta and 2/3 cup of the Parmigiano; stir until combined.
6.Spoon 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce into prepared baking dish. Fill each pasta shell with about 1 tablespoon meat and cheese mixture. Arrange shells in prepared baking dish. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over shells, then sprinkle remaining 2/3 cup cheese.
7.Bake about 30 minutes, until filling is heated through and top is golden brown.


Freezer Friday - Red Chili Sauce Enchiladas

A great way to use your freezer, but still enjoy "fresh made from scratch" taste is to make the sauces ahead of time and then assemble your ingredients when you are ready to cook it.

One of our favorite recipes is Mel's Kitchen Cafe's Red Chili Sauce Chicken Enchiladas.

The sauce isn't difficult, but if you are going to the trouble to make it you might as well make a triple or even quadruple batch. (It is that good!) Same amount of pans and utensils dirtied, but what a bang for your buck!

Rather than assemble and then freeze your enchiladas, just freeze the sauce. Freeze the extra in freezer bags or Ziploc containers. Just label and defrost when you are ready to use.

This is a great recipe to use your home canned beef or chicken in. That makes preparing the enchiladas super fast.

Printable version of recipe.


Let there be storage

We loved the look of the arches,  but our house was seriously lacking in storage. The arches also made our house feel like one big room. We needed separation and storage in a bad way. 
So we went from this:
(a few steps in between) and then to this...

 And finally... to this. 
I am amazed at how much storage there is. It has been fun putting everything away now that there is a place for things to go! We also really like having the division between the living room area and the kitchen/family room area.
I love having everything I need for canning all in one place. It's nice to see what we have left and even have a place to put the empty bottles. I have a lot of work to do, but the inner organizer in me is having a blast. 


Teach a family to read...

...and they will collect way too many books. We love to read and we have a lot of books. I love them, but they were all over the house and it was hard to know where a particular book was. For the new wall in the family room we really wanted a huge wall of bookcases. Unfortunately the budget was more IKEA than Pottery Barn. 
So here is what we did: 
4 IKEA Billy bookcases 
+ 8 IKEA height extenders
 + crown molding and trim 
+ black paint
 = Huge bookcase wall that was in our budget.

One of my favorite parts of the process was the styling. It was so fun to finally have a place to put some of the fun and sentimental things I have wanted to display.