Our First Thanksgiving

This year is the very first year that we stayed at home as a family and made our very own Thanksgiving dinner.  It was a blast!  We looked up yummy recipes from Food Network’s website and we decided brine our turkey, as per Alton Brown’s suggestion.  We had a feast and it was delicious!  It was really nice having the intimate family time, talking to the kids about our Thanksgiving traditions when we were little, having them help prepare the meal, and then sharing what everyone is thankful for.  It was awesome, and something I look forward to doing as our Thanksgiving tradition.

Getting ready to finally dig into our lovely meal!  We had turkey, wild mushroom dressing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, rolls, sugared cranberries and a super yummy easy freezy pumpkin pie!

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Sara was having too much fun!  Silly girl!

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Doesn’t the pie just look delicious?  It was a great twist on the classic pumpkin pie!

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Diet Cheese?

 

So, I’m making lunch for me and the babies, and when I reach into the Sara Lee Baby Swiss package to pull out a few slices for sandwiches, I can’t help but notice that the slices are…..quite holey.  Like, seriously, missing half a slice from whatever makes Swiss cheese holey.   We eat a lot of Swiss  cheese in this family, and I have never seen holes that big.

So, does that make these slices half the calories?  Because they are certainly half the cheese.  Or do they calculate the calories with the ginormous holes of nothing included?  This packaged should have been marked half price, I feel kind of cheated.

Craziness.

Are you now left wondering why Swiss cheese has those holes in it?  Me too, so I Googled it.  Turns out, those holes are the byproduct of the microbes added to milk to make Swiss cheese.  There is also, apparently, government regulations regarding the size of the holes deemed acceptable in Swiss cheese in the United States.  To be classified as “Grade A” Swiss cheese, it must have holes that are no larger than 3/4 of an inch.  Ummm….Did you hear that Sara Lee?

Just sayin’.

Baby Cubes Review & Giveaway!

As I have mentioned several times before, I like to make my own baby food.  It’s cheap, it’s easy, and I control exactly what goes into it.  My previous method was to make my batches and then use ice cube trays to freeze serving sized portions.  I then dumped the frozen cubes of baby food into a gallon size freezer bag to keep them fresh.

One problem with the freezer bag method, was a lot of ice crystals inevitably formed inside the bag, which could affect the taste and quality of the baby food.  And using the ice cube trays, while convenient, was a pain in the behind trying to pry the frozen food out to store.

I assumed the little annoyances were just a part of the game, until I was recently introduced to Baby Cubes.

First things first, let me assure you that Baby Cubes are BPA and Phthalates free.  Also, let me just say, they are AWESOME.

Baby Cubes come in three different sizes for perfect portion control and less waste.  There are 1oz, 2oz, and 4oz cubes, and each little cube has the lid attached directly onto it, so you never have to worry about losing lids!  Also, they snap into place on the trays, so you don’t have to worry about them tipping over while you are filling them or even while they are in storage.  The cubes are also microwave safe, and being separated into single portion sizes, you will never have ice build up or freezer burn affecting your homemade baby food!

I think if people realized just how incredibly easy it is to make fresh baby food, the baby food companies would go out of business.  Don’t believe me?

This is a halved butternut squash.  Place it in a baking dish, cut side down with about 1/2 inch of water in the dish.  Cook at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife.  Here’s where it gets tricky.  Scoop out the flesh and you are done.  Seriously.

Leave it lumpier for older babies and make it smoother for younger babies.  That is it!  No seasonings, no preservatives, no chemicals.  Just simple, healthy, fresh baby food!

How about peas?

I like to use a blender for my peas to get a smoother consistency.  Just take fresh cooked peas with some reserved cooking water and toss it all in a blender.  Then blend it all up until you get the texture you want.

See how easy that was?  And cheap and awesome?  So why not make your own fresh baby food?  And Baby Cubes is the absolute perfect way to store them!

Two more awesome features of Baby Cubes, they stack perfectly on top of each other, no matter what size cubes you are using and they have removable plaques that you can use a dry or wet erase marker on to write exactly what kind of baby food that tray is holding!

Look how nicely and easily they fit into the freezer!  They have a tiny footprint, and it is super easy to grab a serving as you need it.  Don’t have any ninos in the baby food stage?  Not a problem!  Continue making the fruit and veggie purees and sneak them into your regular cooking.  Throw a serving of sweet potatoes into the macaroni and cheese or a few servings of cauliflower in the mashed potatoes.  Everyone will get extra servings of veggies without even knowing it.

Baby cubes are also awesome for storing serving sizes of sauces,stews,rice or soups, you name it.  There is no reason to stop using these once the baby is out of the pureed food stage.  Hey, anything that makes cooking and storing healthy food easier and more convenient is always welcome in my cocina!

Give Baby Cubes a try, I’m sure you will find endless possibilities in your kitchen as well.

The awesome, and I mean awesome, folks at Baby Cubes have very generously given me a huge stash of Baby Cubes to share with my readers for a massive giveaway.

We’re talking 10 winners here amigas!

Ten of my readers will win a three pack of Baby Cubes.  That is one in each size, a 1 oz, a 2 oz and a 4 oz tray!

Are you excited?  Me too!

Leave a comment in this post as your entry.  Tell me what you’ll use your Baby Cubes for if you win.  That’s it.  Easy peasy!  I’ll be announcing the winners, all 10 of them, on Friday, September 14, 2012.

In the meantime, if you can’t wait to learn more or get your hands on some Baby Cubes of your own, check out Baby Cubes website by clicking HERE.  You will find more information on this awesome product as well as where to buy them in your local area.

The awesome folks at Baby Cubes provided me with free products for review purposes.  I was not compensated in any other way, and I really do think that Baby Cubes are an amazing, useful product that no home made baby food making mama should be without!

Crock Pot Chicken

This is a super quick, super cheap way of cooking chicken to have on hand for all kinds of awesome recipes.  Buying a whole chicken, rather than the boneless skinless packages, is amazingly cheaper.  I can get a package of two whole chickens from Sam’s Club for about $7, and each chicken individually will give me enough meat for  at least four meals, plus you can make your own chicken stock out of the leftover skin and bones.

I usually cook these up and shred the meat, putting them in freezer bags for future use.  Same for the stock, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Fancy looking, eh?  Yes, that chicken is frozen.  I throw it in the crock pot, add seasonings, turn it on low for about 8 hours, and you have awesome, super juicy chicken.  No added water, and your house will smell super yummy.

To make the broth, just leave the bones and skin in the crock pot after you (or your awesome hubby) tears apart the chicken for you, add 4-5 cups of water and cook on low for another 8 hours or so, or just overnight.  Then you will want to strain the broth from the bones and goobers left behind.  I use a mesh strainer and pour it all into an ice cream bucket.  (Those suckers get used for all sorts of things in this house!  And in case you are wondering, if the buckets ever get used for a barfy kid, they get pitched.  I’m all for recycling and all, but, blech.)

If you then refrigerate the broth, you can later easily scoop up the hardened fat.  Yum.

I put the broth in freezer bags in measured amounts for cooking and then throw them in the freezer.  If you season your chicken without salt, then you now have a salt free stock.  See how easy that was?

There are bajillions of uses for shredded chicken.  In this house we are partial to quesadillas, fajitas, and chicken salad.  Those are the three most popular uses in mi casa, but there are tons of casseroles and other yummy things to be made as well.  I just love the feeling of having yummy, ready to use, cooked chicken that I can pull out and use for a quick meal.  It’s a good thing.

Raw Meat is Icky

Seriously.  Blech!  I hate touching raw meat.  Not only does it feel absolutely disgusting, but I think of all the germs and scariness all up in it.  Yeah, I’m kind of a germaphobe.  But don’t get me wrong.  I love meat.  It is delicious.  If God didn’t want us to eat animals, he would not have made them so darn delectable.  True story.

We had some ground beef sitting in the fridge that needed to be used, so Mama busted out the rubber gloves this morning and did some super quick freezer cooking.  Don’t judge.  You probably want to use rubber gloves when you touch raw meat now too, don’t you?  Don’t you?  Its okay, its an awesome idea, do it.  DO IT.

Have you heard about freezer cooking?  Its all the rage these days.  Its actually kind of brilliant, especially if you have a crazy schedule with work and kiddos.  Basically, you get meals ready to go and stuff them in freezer bags, store them in the freezer, and just pull them out for quick easy meals whenever you need them.  With Abe working fulltime and Matt and Bella in school and scouts and dance, yada yada, it has been a huge time saver.

My first stab at freezer cooking was……meh.  Heres a tip.  Taste test your recipes before making ginormous batches for several meals.  Don’t blindly trust yummy sounding recipes you find online.  You will regret it and your family will start to groan when you go to the freezer for an awesome freezer meal.  Trust me, I know this from experience.  I have a few meals in the freezer still that I am avoiding like the plague.  And a few had to have such massive rescue work just to make them “eatable” that really, it took as much time as cooking from scratch start to finish.

Today’s super quick freezer meals are a family favorite that lends itself to freezing well.  Meatloaf.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy as my Bella would say.  Each meatloaf will easily be two meals plus extra for spaghetti, and I made two loaves.  Probably took me about 15 minutes total to pull everything out, whip it together and then throw it in the freezer.

Yeah, I wear gloves to touch raw meat, so what?

Mama’s Meatloaf

Ingredients:

Ground Beef

Egg

Onion Soup Mix

Worchestshire Sauce

Ketchup

Oats

Rubber Gloves (MUST HAVE!!)

Basically everything just gets mushed together and put in lined loaf pans.  I lined my pans with foil and filled them, then threw them in the freezer to, you know, freeze.  Once they are good and frozen, I will take them out of the loaf pans and throw the wrapped up ready to heat meatloaves into a Ziplock freezer bag with the cooking instructions written on the bag, you know, in case Abe decides to cook, and boom!  Easy freezer meal.

 

Its not a glamorous recipe, I realize, but it is my mama’s recipe, so it is in my opinion, the best meat loaf ever.  My mom usually cooks hers in the microwave though.  *gag*  Mine gets thrown in a 350 degree oven for an hour or so to get that yummy thoroughly cooked flavor.  Delicious, and so much less vomiting.  Its a good thing.