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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Freezable Meals for Life with a Newborn

by Tonya

I'm expecting my second baby in the next couple weeks, and I am in full-on nesting mode. I want to clean and organize the entire house and prepare in every way I can before the little guy is born. I always read about pregnant women scrubbing their baseboards, which is something that does not occur to me, but there are plenty of things I do want to accomplish. 

Things that are on my list, and some that we've recently crossed off include:

  • Finish making curtains for the Baby Boy's room
  • Finish making a quilt for each kid
  • Make some snuggly fleece blankets for the kids
  • Convince the Little Girl to move out of the nursery and into her toddler room
  • Move all her toys, clothes and books into her new room
  • Install the baby carseat in my car
  • Wash the dust out of the baby bathtub
  • Finish packing my hospital bag and put it in the car, along with a trash bag and towel to sit on 
  • Wash baby clothes, burp cloths, bedding


  • Stock the freezer with homemade food so we don't have to eat cereal or takeout every night 

I've already made some chicken enchiladas, but even though I love them, I won't want to eat them every day. So I forced myself to choose some other recipes to make in bulk and freeze in reasonably sized portions. I'm sure we will still eat our share of pizza, takeout and cereal, but at least we'll have some homemade options, too. I intend to add salads or other veggies on the side.

Here's what I've made over the past couple weekends. 

Beef Empanadas from Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn
Chicken hand pies from Mad Hungry
Spinach-feta pockets from Mad Hungry

Chicken soft tacos 
~ I just wrapped up cooked, shredded chicken with salsa and cheese in tortillas

Beef soft tacos
~ I made a double batch of the empanada filling from above and rolled it up with cheese in tortillas

Chocolate chip cookies (some with pecans)
Peanut butter cookies
~ To freeze cookie dough, make it as you normally do. Then roll the dough into balls, place them on a cookie sheet and freeze them for an hour. This way, they won't stick together in the freezer bag. Transfer the dough balls to a freezer bag or container (write or tape the baking instructions on the bag so you don't have to find the recipe later). When baking, you should only have to add a minute or two to the baking time. 

And I might still make meatballs, though my energy is seriously flagging these days. 

I'm no expert on freezer meals, but I have a couple tips to share:
1. Freezer bags really do work better than regular zipper bags to prevent freezer burn.

2. Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing the bag. You can even zip it most of the way, insert a straw and suck out the extra air. 

3. Mashed potatoes have not frozen well for me.

4. Meat will be best if you only freeze it once (so use fresh meat to make freezer meals for best results).

Do you have any favorite freezer recipes? 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Valentine's Day Cookies

by Tonya

This year I made a couple kinds of treats with a Valentine's Day spin. These are Peanut Butter Blossoms with Dove hearts instead of Hershey's kisses. I could eat about 100 of these, and they were pretty popular with my husband and daughter, too. 

I have a few memories of my grandma making these (with Hershey's kisses) when I was very little. I loved them then, but had forgotten all about them until a few years ago. I don't make them too often since I find them to be very addictive.

Here is the original Peanut Butter Blossom recipe:


48 Hershey's kisses
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
Additional granulated sugar


    1. Heat oven to 375 F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in a large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture. 

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into the center of each cookie. The cookie will crack around the edges. Move the cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

Makes about 48 cookies. 

You can replace the vegetable shortening with room temperature butter if you prefer. If you do, chill the dough for 30 minutes before baking (otherwise they might melt too much in the oven).

I think these are best when they're still a little warm and the chocolate is melty, so I usually don't bake them all at the same time. I freeze some of the dough to bake later. I roll it into balls, coat them with sugar, and place them on a baking sheet. Then I put the baking sheet in the freezer for about an hour.  I write the baking instructions on a freezer zipper bag, transfer the dough balls to the bag, and keep it in the freezer for when I need a treat. You only have to bake them for a minute or two longer than the original instructions.

The other treat I made was at my husband's request: Yabba Dabba Doo bars. He had to explain that they are like Rice Krispie treats but made with Fruity Pebbles instead of Rice Krispies. Just as cute, and even more Valentine's Day colored.

Just follow this extremely easy recipe to make the treats, let them cool, and cut with cookie cutters. 


3 Tbsp butter or margarine
10 oz. regular marshmallows
 6 cups Fruity Pebbles (or Rice Krispies)


1. In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add cereal and stir until well coated.

3. Using a buttered spatula or parchment paper, evenly press mixture into a 13 x 9 inch pan coated with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Cool. Cut into heart shapes with a cookie cutter. 

They were not my favorites since they don't contain any chocolate, but my husband seemed to enjoy them a lot. My daughter thought they were very fun to look at, but after tasting one, she just fed them to her dad rather than eating them.  In the future I would like to try regular RKT dipped in melted chocolate and also this Peanut Butter RKT recipe.  

Are you baking anything special this week? What are your favorite Valentine's Day treats?