Friday, January 25, 2013

Freeing Up Dinner Time with Freezer Meals

Picture take from
There's a slew of info on freezer meals floating on the web. Geez-o-pete--like A TON of info! Just type in Freezer meals as a Pinterest search and your computer may or may not break down from all of the recipes cluttering the screen. Just warning you.

Though I've never liked the thought of freezer meals...ugh, anything frozen and not fresh upsets my pallet, I have to admit freezer meals, WHEN MADE, are rather tasty, healthy (can be), and convenient. Life is busy. I don't have to tell you that. With Stephen being deployed, life seems to be a bit busier. It's difficult admitting I need help, and even more difficult to ask for help, but if I don't want to turn into a tyrannical-crazy-haired-lunatic mom, I need to just admit I cannot do it all, and do things that will lighten my load--even if that means embracing freezer meals. Hey, it works!

I've menu planned for years! It makes life easier, and you really do save money. CHA CHING!  I'm hoping to share some great info on menu planning soon. Stay tuned! Anyway, I just add freezer meals to our family menu on the days they would be most convenient ie. if Wednesdays are hectic, or I know we a school play Monday night, etc.   Most of these meals  can be split into two or even three meals (we eat less when Stephen is gone). I can use those meals for another night of the month, the next month, 3 months later,  or give those meals away to someone who just had a baby or another family going through a deployment. Freezer meals can bless your belly and bless others! Who knew a freezer meal could be so spiritual? lol.

Great blog on all things freezer meals, recipes included! Click here!

A great friend of mine, fellow Army Wife and Freezer Meal Guru (That's my title for her), Lindsey Carl  has some great tips on Freezer Cooking. Check out what she has to say below:

 Freezer Meal Cooking is not a one-size-fits all! There are many ways to freezer cook!

  • Double duty – easiest and most painless way to fill your freezer is to double tonight’s dinner and freeze the extra!
  • Short by Sweet – mini sessions are short cooking sessions focused on a certain protein or main ingredient. This is typically done once a week. 
  • “Once a Month” Cooking- with careful planning, 4-6 hours one day can result in a month’s work of meals, the key is to have a great cooking plan! The key is to at least tripling a recipe. It really doesn’t save you anytime if you make 1 of 12 different meals rather than 3 of 4 different meals!

Plan for success – Steps for a Successful Freezer Meal Session

  • Choose the Freezer Meal cooking method that works best for you and your family! If you are brand new, start small and grow to being a “once a month” mom. Start by doubling your recipes and gradually grow as you feel more confident.
  • Get organized! Every session begins with a plan, which includes a shopping list and a prep list.
    • Consolidate ingredients common to several recipes.  Be sure you know exactly what you need and where to find everything before you go shopping. 
    • For example, your grocery shopping list might look something like: 

                        Onions llll …meaning you need to buy 4 onions
                        Cheddar Cheese Illll ll …meaning you need enough for 7 cups of shredded cheese
                        Ground Beef lll …meaning you need 3 pounds of ground beef
                        Garlic l …meaning you need 1 head of garlic (I personally like minced garlic the best)

  • Go shopping! Take you list and buy your groceries!
  • Follow your prep list to chop dice, and otherwise organize your ingredients. 
    • Your master prep list might look like this:

                    — cook 4 cups beans
                    — cook & chop 6-8 cups chicken
                    — cook 1 cup rice
                    — shred blocks of cheddar cheese
                    — chop 3 onions
                    — chop 5 cloves of garlic
                    — make pizza dough
                    — thaw ground beef for meatloaf
                    — brown 4 lbs. ground beef
                    — boil noodles for lasagna

  • Label bags, assemble recipes, and freeze. 
    • Your master cook list might look something like this:

                      — Do all prep work
                     — Mix up pancake batter/butterhorns
                     — Make broccoli & double cheese calzones
                     — Make lasagnas
                     — Make chicken & red bean burritos & brown bag burritos
                     — Make white bean & chicken chili
                     — Make cheesburger meatloaf
                     —Make taco meat
                     — Make lemon chicken

***Helpful Tips for Packing and Freezing***

  • Freezer bags are key! Make sure you remove as much air as possible from the food in order to prevent ice crystals!
  • Glad Bakeware is awesome! It can be put in the freezer and oven!
  • Heat & Eat! Thaw entrees as you need weeknight meals. Once defrosted, you can quickly prepare home-cooked meals for your family – even on the busiest nights!

Common Questions

  • What if I have limited freezer space?
    • Choose recipes for dishes that are easily stored in plastic freezer bags tahter than making dishes. Freeze these entrees flat, and once they are frozen, line them up vertically like you would books on a bookshelf. 
    • Make only 1 or 2 recipes at a time
    • Pick recipes with lower yields. 
    • Consider trading with a friend to maximize variety while conserving freezer space
  • What can I freeze?
    • Short answer. A lot! There are countless recipes on Pinterest, cookbooks, and the web for freezer cooking, but most of your favorite meals can be frozen. Meatloaf, meatballs, hamburger patties, marinated meat & poultry, casseroles, lasagna, enchiladas, stews, soups, and chili to name a few!
  • What can’t you freeze?
    • Here are a few things better left unfrozen: uncooked potatoes, anything with mayonnaise (including dips, chicken salad, casseroles, etc.), lettuce greens, and other raw veggies, block & sliced cheese
  • Will my food taste funny? 
    • Often people worry that their frozen foods will have a funny taste or develop unsightly ice crystals. These problems are easily avoided if the food is cooled, packaged, and stored correctly. The cooler the food is before it goes in the freezer, the faster it will freeze and prevent the crystals, therefore putting your meal in the fridge before the freezer is always a good idea!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Branding Myself

At the suggestion of a sweet friend, I'm trying my hand at "author branding." 

Branding brings an image to mind of a red hot rod being jabbed onto the hind quarters of a cow. Nice. Now, I'm a cow. Great.  Author branding, so I'm learning, is basically all about turning myself into a logo. My readers should know what it is I write about. Ugh...that's hard for me, 'cause I write about all sorts of random things, lol. BUT after some soul searching, and many trips to my Keurig, I think I have found my author identity or my logo if you will. I'm a Christian...can't hide that. I'm also an Army Wife...can't get around that.  I'm an activist at heart. Injustice brings out the insane momma bear in me...can't tame that. All of these elements that make me who I am pop up in my Fiction writing and my blogging. So, without further adieu, I am Hannah Conway, Contemporary Fiction Author, Letting Freedom Ring~Galatians 5:13!!  Notice the dual meaning of letting freedom ring? The patriotic and spiritual connotations?

Ugh. I didn't hear any applause at my reveal, lol. No laughing, it's my first go at author branding. Now I just need to learn how to make my blog POP! I need more techy friends.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Deployment Ride

It's been right at three months since Stephen deployed--6 more to go! Six months sounds like a long time, but I won't complain, it could be worse. The last deployment ended up being 15 months--ugh--so 6 more months is so doable!

Since he has been gone, I've been working on my Deployment Bucket List that I created. :)  To read more on that, click here.  Meh, it's coming along. I have cleaned the garage, which ended up being a terrifying experience after I uncovered the world's last known prehistorically large centipede hanging out behind some boxes. Yeah, I totally screamed. Just like I wanted, I turned portions of the kitchen into chalkboards, YAY, and I have been slowly redecorating our bedroom. Still on the high priority end is to update the kiddo's rooms! 

On this deployment I have learned how to use a saw and drill without destroying my project. I have learned how to change air filters! I've learned the power of meal planning! I've also learned how to make a few mean freezer meals--I will totally share those recipes with you all soon! A lesson that I continue to learn is just how  "enough" God is for me when I'm laying in bed at night wishing Stephen was cuddled next to me, or when I'm drained from a day of chasing sticky, screaming kids...God is enough. He provides enough energy for me, enough rest, enough peace, enough protection. He provides me with enough of everything to get me through the next day, and the next, and the next.  There have been highs and lows on this deployment ride, and there will be more, but I know that God will always be enough and all that I need to get me through.  

I've also  learned that the greatest way to make the best of this crazy deployment ride is by sharing the journey. A portion of sharing that journey has opened up several windows of opportunity, to include the world of writing. Yep, I did it! I completed a novel and am working tirelessly to find a publisher to sweep me off my feet. My first interview went out recently, check it out by clicking here! :) 

Six more months to go...bring it! 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Guest & Author Pam Hillman, Claiming Mariah

Welcome Pam!! :) Thanks for joining us!

Shelf Life

By Pam Hillman

The men in my family are sticklers about the dates on canned goods. If the date is expired on a can of vegetables, they won’t eat them. Expired ketchup? Fuh-get-about-it! Mayonaise? You’ve GOT to be kidding?

But don’t expect them to actually open the oldest bottle first. Oh no! That would take way too much time and thought. No, they grab the newest one...unless I hide it. Just sayin’

Big ticket items like cars and homes kinda have a shelf life. I mean it’s not stamped on your house, “will expire in 40 years”, but eventually these material things will become run-down, decay, wear out. Even stone castles don’t last forever.

You would think that our very lives have a shelf life. I mean we’re born, we grow, learn, advance in age, then end up as senior citizens, and pass on from this life. But do we really have a shelf life? Can anybody put a stamp on us that says, “you’re done”?

No, not really. God is the only one who can put a time stamp on us, and even then, we’re not “done for”. As long as we put our trust in God, we’ll never, EVER be done for. We’ll spend the rest of eternity in Heaven with Him. Wow! Christians have a shelf life that extends into eternity and beyond. Now that a shelf life to get excited about, isn’t it?

While you savor that tidbit, let’s focus on books for a moment. Print books can have a long, healthy shelf life if properly taken care of, but they do age after time. The pages become brittle, the binding loose, spines stiff. So, yeah, sad to say, but books have a shelf life.

Ebooks have burst on the scene in the last few years, so it will be interesting to see what kind of shelf life they have. They won’t face the same decaying forces of humidity, or dry air, or neglect that cause print books to decay, but they might encounter changes in software and hardware that might make them obsolete over time. Looking at it from this side of the fence, it looks like ebooks will have a long and productive shelf life.

My current novel, Claiming Mariah, is an ebook from Tyndale House. I definitely want it to have a long shelf life, as an ebook and as a print book someday. My debut novel, Stealing Jake, released in July, 2011, and it’s still clocking along nicely eighteen months later. With a click of a button, fans can download either book instantly.

And that kind of shelf life makes me smile.


My Photo

Pam Hillman was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove the Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream of! Claiming Mariah is her second novel.

Pam is thrilled to announce the release of her second novel,

Claiming Mariah

To celebrate, Pam is giving away two eReaders
(choice of Kindle Wi-Fi, 6" Display, or Nook Simple Touch) to
Two Winners.

Two ways to win: Like Pam Hillman’s Author page on facebook and/or sign up for Pam’s newsletter.

Registering both places is not required but will double your chances of winning. Also keep in mind that you will receive updates more often being connected on facebook than through the newsletter. Just sayin’

Contest runs from January 1st until March 31st, 2013.

And....that’s not all! There will be prizes offered randomly during the tour. The best way to keep up with these is to check in regularly on the facebook page.

Like Pam’s facebook author page and click on Events to find out about current giveaways.