Hello Fellow Homesteaders!
That's right, feminists, don't have a stroke, I am barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen this week! (Though not actually barefoot as I need to wear corrective insoles, but certainly pregnant...) How I love freezer cooking in preparation for the baby. So does my hubby... In the past, I have not been able to do much with a small freezer, but this year, a friend sold one to us for super cheap that is double the size! I am a cooking fool now! Bet I won't fill it with food? Challenge accepted!
I have also been making a lot of snacks for the kids. I really dislike the store bought stuff with all the additives and such, but that's what they got since I was down and out for so long. We use lots of fruit too, but sometimes I need something that isn't sticky or messy and keeps well for outings. Plus they have to be softer since my little one can't chew things like apples or carrots yet and my older one doesn't like super crunchy things like that. Once you have a peach get smashed in your purse, you tend to get a bit gun-shy about that sort of thing!
With all the cooking going on, I have gotten inquiries on what I'm doing, so I thought I'd just post it here to share with you all! I have posted what recipes I have used and/or the references. Otherwise, most of the time I improvise based on what I have on hand and do not follow an exact recipe.
The snacks and treats I have made:
Homemade Whole Wheat Crackers -- I have come to realize that I don't like the taste of rosemary, so I left it out and added garlic salt in place of the salt. These were pretty good though bland. They are best paired with some sort of topping, like cheese or hummus. They were best right out of the oven, but they kept well in a container when kept dry.
Soft Pretzels -- no lie, I ate 5 of these right out of the oven. Good thing it made 16...made them yesterday and we have 2 left. She is right, they are much better eaten the same day, but day-old pretzels have not deterred us from eating the rest of them! Next time I will freeze what we don't eat the same day to see if that will improve the texture when re-heated. Sort of like the store-bought pretzels in the freezer isle.
Easy Peanut Butter Snack -- I actually use this more like candy...we call it Peanut Butter candy. This will help a sugar attack if you get one and, while still loaded with fat and sugar, at least it's healthier than store-bought candy.
Raisin Bran Treats -- I just took a run-of-the-mill crisp rice treat recipe and used raisin bran instead of crisp rice.
Cornflake Kisses from the cookbook, Young Children's Mix and Fix Cookbook. Not sure if this is still in print (the copyright is in 1975) but it has a lot of easy healthy snacks and meals for kids.
Gelatin blocks out of concentrated fruit juice and unflavored gelatin.
Super Hero Snacks from the cookbook, Healthy Snacks for Kids by Penny Warner. This is another great resource for healthy meals and snack for kids.
Gummy Sweet Potato snacks -- cooked sweet potatoes dehydrated until chewy. They turn out really sweet!
Tomato Candy -- sliced and dehydrated tomatoes. The kids literally cry for these! My home-grown tomatoes are already super sweet, so when they are condensed down like this, they are almost sugary!
Some Meals I have made:
Southwestern style casserole with squash and black beans -- one for dinner, one for freezer
Zucchini Casserole with shredded zucchini, red bell peppers, tomatoes, and cheese topped with fried onions -- one for dinner, one for freezer.
Individual burritos with taco meat, homemade refried beans, and cheese. I also made several to put in the freezer and added rice and corn to them.
Homemade Sloppy Joes with Honey Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns and Baked Zucchini Fries
Homemade Cream of Mushroom soup -- My husband loves eating this as is out of the can. I have to say this sort of grossed me out because I didn't know anyone did that before I met him. So, I will make it for him from time to time because, even though it still isn't healthy, it's still better than canned! Make a roux out of butter and flour, add milk until thickened (just like gravy, but thinner) then add spices and sauteed mushroom bits. Actually, you can make any kind of cream soup using this recipe.
Whole chicken cooked in crock pot with veggies.
Roast and veggies in the crock pot.
Plus many meals with different kinds of sandwiches and various produce from the garden and store. Also breakfasty-type food, like scrambled eggs, toast, pancakes, bacon, etc.
Just tonight I made White Sandwich Bread and actually used bread flour for the first time. Oh. My. Goodness. I think I finally made a homemade bread my husband will love! I love crusty, hearty homemade bread, but my hubby loves the cake-like, super-light, store-bought type of bread. I have tried hard to find a homemade bread he likes just as well, if not better. This bread is so light, my 4 year old and I ate half a loaf, plain, by ourselves. This bread is so light and fluffy, I'm pretty sure if you smooshed it down, you could eat the whole loaf in 2 bites! I have to add, these are the prettiest loaves I have ever made. My cooking might taste good, but it's usually not very pretty. (You know me, functional and plain!) Ok, I'll stop bragging now. It's just nice to be productive after being confined to the couch for so long.
I usually use whole wheat flour for the health aspects and if I use white, I use unbleached. Imagine my surprise when the grocery store had local bread flour just a few cents more than the cheapy, bleached flour, making it even cheaper than the stuff I usually buy! Usually bread flour is so expensive, I don't pay it any mind. I hope to see more of this kind of thing in stores. Don't get me wrong, I'd buy local for everything if I could, but a $50/week grocery budget (including paper and toiletries) doesn't leave a whole lot of wiggle room.
I hope you have enjoyed my cooking post. Next time I'll try to get some pictures of everything and perhaps make a tutorial. Especially for homemade bread. I don't know what it is, but when I was able to make bread from scratch and it came out good, I felt like an accomplished homesteader! One of my goals is to bake bread in my dutch oven over fire/coals. I've made simple desserts like this before, but I have not yet tried bread. There is something about baking bread that gives me more satisfaction than most other things I cook. Maybe it's because it took quite some time for me to be able to do it well and even then, it doesn't always turn out right. My husband came with a bread machine (nice perk, right?) and I'd still rather knead the bread and shape it myself. But, it's nice to have a backup when I don't have time and/or something (or someone) else needs my attention.
I will continue to make freezer meals until my freezer is full or baby shows up! I should add that I love the articles out there with instructions on how to do several different freezer meals at once. The method that works best for me is to just double whatever I am making for dinner and freeze half of it. It takes longer to build up a good stock, but it works better for me. Plus I can cook with what I have instead of needing to rely on a grocery list that may be more extensive that what I can handle at the moment. It's all about being prudent and doing what works for you! I've known of women who will cook for an entire 48 hour weekend and have food ready to go for the whole month.
Tell me about your cooking adventures! What do you love to make from scratch? Does the idea of cooking from scratch scare you? (You aren't alone!) Feel free to share your recipes and/or post a link. I like using tried and true recipes from friends and other bloggers!