Easy Allergy-Friendly Lunches~ Works For Me

Last month I shared my trick for fast-fix salads at home. Today I thought I’d share about how I prep quick-grab lunches for my husband. This time of year he’s working harvest, which means 13 hour days. And since he’s gluten-free, he can’t just grab a sandwich and go. Therefore, I’ve been spending Sunday afternoons prepping a week’s worth of lunches that he can grab. That way I don’t have to worry about it again and he has a healthy lunch ready to go.

Last week was just a partial week of harvest and I fixed him some salads with two kinds of beans, marinated grilled chicken and cheese. I actually had two boxes of Ziploc bowls that I’d gotten free on a promo and never used. The salads worked perfectly in them. I prepped the salads, boiled up a bunch of hard boiled eggs and filled sandwich bags with some mini carrots, string cheese and almonds. I also made up some brown rice with lentils and peas and put them in bowls as well (not pictured.) I put some dressing in tiny cups and put some yogurt nearby. Now hubby has all his lunch items on one shelf and can easily grab what he wants.

This week I made a TON of potato salad. I filled six bowls with it for hubs and kept a tub for us to eat as well. I made my version of Southwest chicken salad. I used a package of the cubed chicken I’d prepped from my Zaycon foods purchase, mixed it with black beans and corn and dumped in some taco seasoning. Then I topped them with cheese.

I then cooked up a bunch of rice and added the rest of the chicken/corn/bean mixture to that to make a “rice bowl” type dish. I had some extra taco sauce packets from Taco Bell in my odds & ends drawer so I stuck a couple right on top of each bowl.

Another week down! Here’s a pic of things “in process”.

Here’s a shot of the rice bowl. You can put pretty much any kind of meat & veggies in these and have them come out well.

I took another shot of the fridge this week to show how I label dishes with my pink hair tape labels. I like these because they’re cheap, easy to write on, and peel right off. I decided I’d better label them after hubs took two of the same dish for lunch last week. I thought they were see-through enough (or that one could lift the lid and look?!), but I guess not. ;-)

Oh! And if you look at the cost of a pre-made salad bowl you’ll find that they’re right at $3!! And rice bowls are about the same, I believe. CRAZY! it’s definitely worth the time to make your own. Same with potato salad. It’s very inexpensive to make, but costs a fortune to buy pre-made.

What about you? Do you have any easy lunch tricks or tricks for dealing with allergies or intolerances?

Linking up to Tackle it Tuesday and Works for Me Wednesday.

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The Freezer Files~ Works for Me

When preparing food for the freezer, whether freezer meals, meats or veggies, place the food in a freezer bag and press the bag as flat as you can, removing as much air as possible. Freeze in this position. Taking the extra time to flatten out your bags will be well worth it down the road.  I often stack my freezer “files” on a cookie sheet until they’re entirely frozen. From there, I can stand on end in the freezer as shown in the bottom picture.

This systems helps with both organization and space efficiency. Just compare the below.

These bags of hamburger, though not terribly “lumpy”, were not smashed totally flat and can’t be stacked very well. They slide off one another quite easily.

These items (apple pie filling, frozen peaches, and marinated chicken strips) were frozen using the “file’ method. It’s super easy to quickly flip through the files to see what I have. If I need more room, it’s also easy to stack them on top of one another and have them stay relatively stable.  Many freezer meals can be frozen taking advantage of this method.

Tip: Whenever possible freeze food “flat”. If you must use containers, opt for square vs. round to conserve more space. (If you’re not concerned about space savings and have round containers on had, use away!)

If you need some help with freezer organization check out these great printable labels from Amy Bayliss. I don’t have a chest freezer, but can see hanging the labels from a hook magnet on the freezer door to show what is inside.

Freezer files work for me. To see more Works for Me Wednesday tips visit We Are That Family.

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Oh Deer

Midge copyGuest blog by: Midge

Three more meats to go until my Year of the Carnivore blog series is complete!!  So far, I have accomplished 8 random meats plus today’s selection!  I never would have tried any of these meats if it had not been for writing guest posts for Molly Green on Econobusters.  Thanks Molly! :)

CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE OF MIDGE’S YEAR OF THE CARNIVORE BLOG SERIES

Deer

We are in the thick of hunting season in our area so I thought it would be appropriate to select deer for our meat series today!  Confession ~ I have never been hunting.  But, I am surrounded by a community and several family members who enjoy hunting both as a past time and as a way to provide for their families throughout the year.  In order to procure some deer meat, I just asked my next door neighbors if they had a little extra that I could use for the blog.  And… ta da… dinner is served!

Molly wrote about using deer meat or venison in a blog she posted last year about alternative Thanksgiving meals (CLICK HERE TO READ MORE!).  Some of the ideas were out of this world creative… like the turducken… WHA??!!??  But, the deer chili was what caught my eye.

For this blog, I decided to forgo a chance at making deer chili and instead stick close to my friend’s recipe advice.  The last time I tried this recipe was for some elk meat she had given me to try.  I was a bit nervous and am sure I messed up the recipe a bit because this time around I enjoyed the dish more.

IMG_7089Here is the basic recipe:

½ cup of butter (plus a bit more butter for the pan)

½ cup flour

Seasonings or salt/pepper to mix in with the flour (I use this spice: DEEP PIT SEASONING)

Small package of filleted deer meat (½ lb or so)

Rinse off the small portions of deer meat with water.  Then, dip them in a bowl with the ½ cup of butter which has been melted.  Put them immediately into the flour and spice mixture and cover them fully.  After that, place them into a frying pan which has about a tablespoon or more of butter already melted in it. Make sure to add a bit more butter if needed to protect the bottom of your pan.  You can grill them at medium or medium low on the stove top.   The meat will need to cook until it is no longer pink (similar to cooking ground beef) and the flour mixture will have turned a deep brown color.  We served our deer pieces with a side of corn and some garlic herb flatbread.

IMG_7110

I have a two more meats already selected for my upcoming blog series… but I still need ONE MORE!!!  Do you have any suggestions?

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How to Make Your Own Butter~ Works For Me

Guest post by Lisa Barthuly of Homestead Originals.

My husband was offered 10 quarts of whipping cream recently and he called and said ” Do you want these?!” To which I replied,  “BUTTER!”

So, he brought it home and the girls and I proceeded to whip it up into over 12 pounds of BUTTER!

The BOSCH made it simple, and we did 2 quarts at a time. Just dump the cream in, turn it on and let the BOSCH do the work. :)

I didn’t time it, but I am guessing around 20 minutes per batch.

As you can see it goes from pure liquid cream, to a rising foam to this point where the buttermilk starts to separate from the butter….

Alllllmost….

Here is what you get when it turns to solid…keep squeezing and squishing to work buttermilk out of it and…

Now I take the ‘butter ball’ and keep squeezing out as much buttermilk as I can, toss it in a bowl or container of some sort–sprinkle with kosher salt, need it/mix it back into the ball and reshape…

Place it in nice COLD salt water, while I make more….

I kept it all in super cold salt water til we had made it all up and then divided it up in portions, put in wax paper, and in gallon freezer bags and put it in the freezer to store!

Butter logs!

LOTS of butter logs!

This was so easy! We also make fresh goat milk butter (although the cream is harder to come by in goats milk!) and eat that fresh, since it comes in such small quantities at a time (the children just shake it up into butter in a mason jar)–but what a blessing to make it up ourselves and you know–with the price of commercially made BUTTER these days— I think that whipping cream IS CHEAPER to buy and just make it up ourselves! Next time I go to town I am going to price that out! :)

Now if I can find organic or raw pure cream………..oooooooooooh — that would be wonderful! ;)

~Lisa

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Cheapie Chip Clipup~ Works for Me

I saw this tip on Pinterest and thought I’d actually give it a try. I used one of those odd hangers that come with a two-piece outfit. You know, the part that you never really use. The clips snapped right off and worked perfectly. I’m afraid we seldom have any chips left to use them on, but they worked nicely on my lettuce and broccoli.

Cheapie Chip Clips work for me. To see more Works for Me Wednesday tips visit We Are That Family and Thrifty Thursday andFrugal Friday.

Impulse Buy = Headache of Regret

Guest post by Midge:

Last week Tuesday in my first post, I shared about attempting to make my husband the perfect Crème Brulee for Valentine’s Day.  After the dessert came out of the oven and my daughter Sarah woke up from her nap, we jumped in the car.  My quest of that Valentine’s afternoon was purchasing a hand held blow torch.  Ever since watching the online video chef sizzle the sugar on top of the dessert, I kept thinking about how much fun it would be to use this kitchen tool.

In order to keep my post short, I will spare you the lengthy details about how many stores we went to in order to find it!  Finally, on our way home, we spotted a specialty kitchen store.  But, as the cashier rang up the blow torch and the refillable butane, my heart stopped and my palms got sweaty.  All of a sudden my cute Valentine’s dessert with the inexpensive ingredients had become quite costly!  The grand total was:  $56.39

And, I got flustered because I kept thinking that my first real attempt at making a fancy dessert was going to be ruined.

So, I paid the price.

Ever have one of those moments… when an “impulse buy” leaves you with a headache of regret?

Frugal living doesn’t come easy to me.  Before Sarah was born, I had an expendable cash budget each month.  And after I made this purchase, I sat in the car for awhile letting the heater warm us up and the regret wash over me.  I just spent money that was budgeted for something else, something more important.  And now, what should I do?

With a great deal of embarrassment, Sarah and I marched back in the store fifteen minutes later with the receipt in my hand and returned it.   When relaying the story to my proud husband that night over Valentine’s Dinner, I realized something.  If I had kept my purchase and used the tool, our conversation that night would have been filled with tension and remorse.  Returning the item felt much more victorious than justifying the non-existent wisdom of the purchase.

And are you wondering about the Crème Brulee??  It tasted wonderful even without the toasty sugar on top.

 Midge’s New Financial Phrase for 2012:

Save for what I want, find the best deal I can and choose to not use credit.

This site was recently recommended by a friend as a good place to get cash back on a variety of purchases.  Anyone ever try it? www.ebates.com

More info on kitchen blow torches:http://www.kitchen-blowtorch.com/

Guest Post~ Promoting Healthier Meals for the Family

 Guest post by Liz Nelson

 Have you ever wondered why organic foods at the grocery store are so much more expensive although less money was spent in the insecticides and growth additives? You’d think that organic means of eating would be cheaper. Well, they can be. Growing your own edibles can go a long way to eating healthier while spending less money. However, what are some ways that you can entice children to eat these healthier vegetables and fruits if they aren’t accustomed to the idea?

1. Spinach - Many children are less likely to eat boiled or canned spinach based purely on the texture of this plant. Although experts say that boiled spinach may be better for you than it is raw, it’s far easier to coax a child into eating a salad prepared partially with spinach leaves and lettuce. In fact, don’t even mention what is in the salad for the thought of eating spinach may be more than the child can bear.

2. Desserts - A great deal of families will often have a desert after dinner. Instead of preparing a sugar-loaded treat, why not prepare something along the lines of pineapple or strawberries? Many fruits can easily be substituted for deserts simply because they are naturally sweetened. Not only can fruits be used to sooth the sweet-tooth in your family, but they are very healthy most of which containing anti-oxidants, vitamin C, and a great deal of other physical benefits.

3. Soda Pop - Soft drinks should be viewed more as an uncommon treat for the family instead of a staple. If your family simply has a hard time of letting go of flavored drinks with meal time, why not try offering flavored waters? Brands like Mio can add a variety of flavors to water without adding saturated fats or calories to the drink. In fact, a slice of orange or lemon in the water can make the drink look fancy while flavoring the beverage.

4. Barbeque - One of the best ways to prepare meats is by throwing it on the barbeque. When you’re cooking on the grill, you don’t use methods in which to prevent the meat from sticking to the pan such as butter or sprays. Fats and greases drip off of the meats decreasing the amount of these that your family will consume. This is aside from the fact that barbequed meats have a flavor to them that simply can’t be duplicated.

5. Cereals - One of the reasons why most households has a box or bag of cereal in the cupboard is because of convenience. It is quicker to allow your family to quickly fill up a bowl than it is to prepare a nutritious breakfast. Try to make time to prepare eggs, wheat toast, and orange juice for breakfast. The proteins themselves will help the family feel better throughout the day.

Having healthier habits doesn’t have to mean that more money is spent on items you need in order to promote this lifestyle. In fact, a great amount of eating healthier shouldn’t cost you much, if anything at all. Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be accomplished year round if you set up your own indoor kitchen garden. By reusing the seeds from most of them, you can create a continuous flow of edibles within the home that are as natural as you can possibly get them. Enjoy the “fruits” of your labor.

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.

Apples, Apples and more Apples!

Midge copyGuest blog by: Midge

“Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.” — Jane Austen

This excerpt was taken from the SEPTEMBER 2012 ISSUE OF MOLLY MAGAZINE which helps you to organize your pantry, save money and more!  ALSO, be sure not to miss out on all of the fun links to recipes and learning activities I have shared at the end of the blog! 

Lately, I have been eating, sleeping, and dreaming about . . . APPLES!

apples graphicFall is my favorite time of year. The weather cools down and chilly breezes can be felt as I walk to the mailbox each morning. In the afternoon, our local park is abuzz with soccer coaches’ whistles and the quiet hum of laughter filled children playing and running. An occasional fall rain shower brings the smell of the wet street and dying grass to your senses. It is also the season of Thanksgiving and apples!

My mother and father-in-law came for a visit recently. They brought three buckets full of small apples from their apple trees at the ranch. I have never had that many apples in my home before and had no idea what to do with them!

One look at those apples and I knew that I was not going to let any of them go to waste. I opened a cookbook and picked out a recipe that called for the largest amount of apples with the least amount of other ingredients and got set to go to work. I used an apple peeler/corer we received as one of our wedding gifts (and yes, this was the first time I used it!). I peeled, cut, sliced, and then repeated the process until I was tired of turning the crank on my new kitchen gadget. Finally, I piled all of them in the slow cooker with a few other sparse ingredients; and then let it cook for about 8-10 hours.

The reason you don’t see the recipe included in this letter is because it did not quite turn out the way I intended! It was supposed to make apple butter but instead it was more like apple sauce. The good news was our little one year old Sarah ate it like a champ (unlike the CARROT BABY FOOD DISASTER)! And my husband, a big fan of apple butter, had four helpings at one setting. Compared to my one small spoonful, I started to feel like I was wimping out on enjoying those apples!

After all was said and done I still had 2 ½ buckets full of apples left over and had met at least three little worms in the buckets in addition to the worm which managed to get stuck in my dishwasher (don’t even ask). I remember drawing book worms as a kid on my reading reports. I guess I never thought that this idea had to originate from somewhere!!! It came from my apple buckets!

 

Molly,

Help! I want to make or create something special with all of these apples. Fall is the time for apples and apple pies but if I have to eat them all in the next month or two, I fear I will never want to look at another apple again!  How do you store your apples? What are a few of your favorite apple recipes? My husband keeps saying that he has a hankering for an apple crisp dessert. Do you have a great recipe to make this?

Love ya,

Midge, the real live book worm

You can find Molly’s response here: SEPTEMBER 2012 ISSUE OF MOLLY MAGAZINE

MORE APPLE RECIPES AND FUN FROM AROUND THE WEB…

Recipes:

Caramel Apple Salad from Life with Moore Babies

Tree to Table Applesauce with no added sugar! From Training Happy Hearts

3 apple recipes plus tips for kids in the kitchen from Kids with Food Allergies

Crafts and Fun:

Torn Paper Apple Tree from 3 Dinosaurs

Apple Pie Scented Play Dough from To the Moon and Back

Melted Crayon Leaves and Apples by Life with Moore Babies

Learning:

Nature Study ~ Apple Trees from Mom’s Heart

FREE apple calendar cards from 3 Dinosaurs

A Week with Apples from Mercy is New

 

 

Works for Me~ Ladder Potrack

When looking for a hanging potrack for my kitchen, I was repeatedly disheartened at the high prices. Fortunately, a trip to my backyard resulted in a flash of inspiration. I asked my husband to cut down the old ladder resting against the back fence. We added hooks and chains and hung above the kitchen island. You can see the results below. It was practically free and adds a fun touch to our rustic-feel kitchen.

Using what I have works for me. To see more Works for Me Wednesday tips (and offer your own advice on this Backwards Edition) visit We Are That Family.

As for my question, I’d love to know how/where you store your pots and pans if you DON’T have a potrack. I’ve had my hanging rack for many years now, but I’ve found two pendant lights I’d really like to hang over the island. Plus, I’ve been enjoying a more clean, less cluttered look, lately. I’d love to remove the potrack and put up the pendant lights, but I fear I’ll really regret it as it’s SOOO handy to have the pots and pans so easy to grab. So, what do you do with yours?

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Carrots in my Hair

Babies can be a test of frugality as Midge well knows!  Here is her latest adventure…

Guest Blog Featuring: Midge

I know; I am a bit behind the times.  While others were cooking side by side with their moms, I was learning the fine art of microwave-ing a Hot Pocket.  No real fault lies with my parents or for that matter, with me.   My parents were busy running their own 24 hour business and I was busy with school and after school activities.  So, I just sort of skipped the part in life where “learning kitchen skills” was a necessity.

Off I went to college, where my pizza ordering skills were honed to perfection.  My few forays into the cooking realm usually involved a roommate or two with a late night quesadilla.  Making things from scratch?  No problem, right?  I just scratched the box open and VOILA, a ready made meal!

Now, I find myself in a bit of a pickle.  My daughter Sarah is now eating solid foods.  I really desire for her to eat healthy, organic baby food.  I’ll bet a few of the readers of the econobusters’s blog have mastered the art of making baby food!  But, me, well, I still struggle with cracking eggs to remove the yolk.

Glass container for baby food

My baby food jar… still empty. Image via Wikipedia

I saw the Magic Baby Bullet (Say that five times fast!) at the store and thought I could do this project for cheaper!  In the sale section that day was a baby generic Cuisinart food processor.  Bingo!  I walked out of the store $10 lighter and was on my way to a “make your own” baby food adventure.

Anytime I have ever tried to go cheaper without fully visualizing the whole plan, I have fallen on my rump!  In this case, the mini food processor would not chop my veggies down to small enough pieces.  I had started with organic baby carrots and cooked them in a microwave-able bowl.

Up until this point I had never cooked “non-frozen” carrots in the microwave.  I assumed there must have been something wrong with my microwave because half of the carrots ended up undercooked and the other half overcooked.  Maybe I just cooked them the wrong way?  I cut up the carrots with a knife after a bit of adjusting and cutting off the bad pieces.  Then, I placed them into the food processor.

The end result was not pretty.  It was shredded carrots with lumps and chunks of larger carrots mixed in.  I tasted the carrots and they were awful.   I even tried adding a bit of formula to soften it up, make it juicier and more baby food like… but, to no avail.  I imagined my little girl spitting them back up on my shirt, my face and all over my hair.  Ugh, where did I go wrong?

Going cheaper is not always better… should I have invested in the Magic Baby Bullet, get a really good baby food cookbook, or just stockpile organic baby food coupons?

Oh and one more thing…the mini food processor now resides in a special spot deep within the dark recesses of the back of the cupboard.

 

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