Tag Archives: baking

The Joys of Freezer Cooking

Before Rachael (#3) was born, I filled my freezer with casseroles and other one-pan meals I had found online. I never tried any of the recipes ahead of time to make sure we actually liked them (can you see where I’m going with this?).  We were lucky with most of the meals I made, but there were definitely a few that I’ve never made again. My freezer full of meals was also expensive. I used a lot of convenient ingredients, like boneless chicken breast tenders and frozen cooked potatoes. I decided that freezer cooking simply wasn’t for me!

Towards the end of my most recent pregnancy, I started thinking about freezer cooking again. I wanted convenience and ease after the baby was born, but I didn’t want to waste time and money on casserole-type meals that we wouldn’t enjoy. My prior experience taught me that we simply aren’t casserole people. I decided that instead of making full meals, I could make and freeze the most time-consuming portions of each meal — things like yeast breads and doughs and other quick breads. These were easy to make and I was able to use tried-and-true recipes that I already knew we liked.

By the time Michael (#4) was born, my freezer was packed with all kinds of goodies. My mother-in-law was able to stay with us for about 2 weeks, so I wanted to make sure that she had easy meal options to feed the other 3 kids while The Mister and I were at the hospital. A few of the things I made ahead of time included biscuits, cinnamon rolls, freezer-friendly baked oatmeal, sandwich bread, and pizza dough and sauce.

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Being the wonderful and kind woman that she is, my mother-in-law didn’t use ANY of my pre-made foods! She said they would be more useful after she went home and we were on our own again. And she was right. Going from three kids to four kids wasn’t as hard from the transition from two to three, but it was still certainly a challenge, especially since I now had two children in cloth diapers!

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The frozen foods lasted about a month, and I can’t even begin to say how much I enjoyed the convenience. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time or energy to replace the frozen foods as I used them, and even as the baby grew I didn’t have the drive to spend that much time in the kitchen.

Today, a moment of inspiration hit me and I spent most of the day in the kitchen. I made 4 batches’ worth of homemade muffin mix, 2 breakfasts’ worth of freezer-friendly baked oatmeal, 2 batches of biscuits, 2 batches of pizza dough, and 4 batches of cinnamon rolls.

The biscuits were made in the food processor and cut using my shortcut, which saved a TON of time! I promise, square biscuits are just as tasty.

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These two are (unbaked) oven oatmeal. One will be used tomorrow, the other will be stashed in the freezer.

When I finished my work and pulled everything back out to take pictures, I realized that my pizza dough was put into containers that were much too small! Oops.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the fruits of today’s labor!

Kitchen hacks: pizza sauce and beautiful muffins

I’m not putting pizza sauce on my beautiful muffins. Just thought I’d make that clear. 😉

Homemade pizza is a staple around here. Thin crust, thick crust, round, square, and covered in different kinds of toppings. Making pizza is definitely a frugal activity – it costs WAY less, especially with bulk ingredients purchased at places like Costco! I’m pretty sure my homemade pizzas even cost less than cheap frozen pizzas.

Making pizza can be frustratingly time-consuming, though. The rising of the dough doesn’t really bother me, because that’s inactive time and I can do something else. Assembling the pizza, though, can definitely be sped up! The best way to do this is to have ingredients ready in manageable quantities.

The answer is pizza sauce cubes!

Start with your favorite sauce. I like to use cheap spaghetti sauce.

If you’re making a pizza right now, use what you need from the can. Then take the rest of the sauce and grab an empty ice-cube tray.

Carefully spoon your sauce into the cells. Overflowing cells are harder to empty once they’re frozen, so don’t overfill them!

Freeze, then dump the cubes into a freezer zip bag. Now, any time you need a small amount of sauce, you’re good to go! I use about 4 cubes per pizza, but we go pretty light on the sauce.  Whenever you need sauce, stick a few into a microwavable  cup or bowl, cover, and heat for about 3 minutes, stirring once  every minute to break up ice clumps.

Here’s a pin for Pinterest, if you feel so inclined.

Now, on to beautiful muffins!

Most of the time, muffin recipes say to fill the cups only 2/3 full. This results in a rather wimpy looking muffin. Recently, I’ve started filling my muffin cups all the way to the brim!

I have also started using more baking powder to get a higher rise and more fluffiness. I use about a heaping teaspoon per cup of flour in the recipe.

The end result?

Gloriously tall muffins. Adding a pinch of sparkling sugar on top before baking makes them even more impressive, but I didn’t do that this time.

Want a great muffin recipe? Try Sparkling Jumbo Blueberry Muffins over at Sally’s Baking Addiction! They are wonderful.

And last, but not least… I’m trying to think of something more wonderful than having a sleeping baby on my lap. And I am failing.

Kitchen Hacks and Camping

First off… the camping didn’t really happen. We made it to Horse Thief Springs, played for about 3 hours, then my poor two year old started throwing up and running a fever. For the few hours we were there, the kids had fun.

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ImageWe came home and made s’mores on the grill in the backyard instead.

Secondly, Kitchen Hacks! I’m always looking for shortcuts in the kitchen, especially during the hot summers. My kitchen is usually the warmest room in the house. As much as I enjoy cooking, it’s not fun in a 95-degree kitchen.

Today’s shortcut: biscuits!

Start with your favorite biscuit recipe. Mine is from Comfortably Domestic.

I throw everything but the liquid in the food processor and mix it up, then slowly add the liquid (milk in this case). Instant biscuit dough!

Instead of rolling and cutting, I pat my dough into a nice big square. Then I slice it up with a pizza cutter. I’m done cutting in 10 seconds instead of five minutes or more.

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And they turn out just as lovely.

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Hint: they’re even prettier when they’re spread with homemade strawberry jam!

Here’s an image for Pinterest, if you feel so inclined.

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