Saturday, March 18, 2017

Crock Pot Freezer Meals

So I've got about 5 minutes to post these recipes and I hope that you can read them! And I hope it all makes sense!
  This past week I decided to cook beans and thaw an entire box of chicken and about 8 lbs of beef.   What I'd forgotten is that I had plans to be in the city by 5 pm, Malia had piano at 1pm, and Morgun had Driver's Ed at 3:15! And I had a full day of school with the kids!   I about freaked out!
I could have cancelled school for the day, but we'd already missed school on Monday, and Friday was going to be another non school day.  So I decided to tackle it all!  I've no idea what I was thinking!  Perhaps I wasn't!  :) Anyhow, I had a good start and was watching the time so I wouldn't forget to take Malia to piano...and then my knight in shining armor arrived home!  He was a life saver!! 
Marty's back pain has been flaring up again.  That's not a good thing when you're self employed and rely on your ability to get the work done.  But it did work out to my advantage, as he ended up taking Malia and Morgun to their events!  Could you please pray that his back heals?  It's hard to not be able to work, or only be able to put in short days. 
I managed to make 4 different recipes and ended up with 16 meals in the freezer in about 5 hours.  That includes helping kids with school, correcting school work, doing laundry and folding it, preparing and cleaning up lunch, and cleaning up the mess from all the freezer meals.  All in all, I'd say that's making pretty good progress! 
I started the process the night before by cooking the beans for a few minutes.  The next morning I drained, rinsed, and cooked the beans as per instructions.  By the time I was ready to assemble the meals the beans were cooled.  That is a must in making freezer meals.  I don't cook anything other than the beans.  Everything gets chopped up and mixed, and then put into labelled freezer bags.

I LOVE this massive baking bowl!  It's like the one my mom used to punch down her bun dough, and it's perfect for mixing these meals!

I thaw and then cook each of these meals for 3-4 hours.  I find it really depends on your crock pot.  I got a fantastic 8.5 litre crock pot about a year ago and it cooks hotter than my old one.  So when it comes to the cooking time, adjust according to your crock pot.  Also, I generally add a bit of cornstarch mixture at the very end as most recipes end up being very runny.

Keep in mind that I rarely follow a recipe to the letter.  I tend to modify and/or add ingredients.  I added shredded zucchini to the following 2 recipes.  I also added some pumpkin to the Cilantro Lime Chicken just because I'd thawed too much for the Black Bean Chili recipe.
We love this Cilantro Lime Chicken recipe in wraps.  You can also eat it with tortilla chips or rice.

 This is another favourite!  And best of all it's super cheap!  And nutritious!  We love having this served over rice! I don't add the stock as I find the recipe gets runny enough in the crock pot. 

I also made Sweet and Sour Chicken and Beef Stroganoff.  I use my regular recipe for both of these recipes.  Again, I don't cook or sauté any ingredients.  The Stroganoff is mostly a recipe of a little of this and a little of that.  I don't use canned soup, but rather a mixture of cream, milk, dill, beef bouillon, garlic, salt, and pepper. 
The entire cost for all 16 meals was approximately $125!  That works out to about $8 a meal. The Stroganoff significantly increases the cost of these meals. Without the cost of  ingredients for the Stroganoff, each meal worked out to about $5.50!  Keep in mind that feeds all 8 of us, and there are always left overs!  Also, I didn't buy the corn, pumpkin, onion, or tomatoes.  I was pleased with these numbers.  Now to find more recipes that are inexpensive, nutritious, and easy to make!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Randomness and Encouragment

It's Saturday morning (...well, afternoon really...but for a Saturday it's still morning! ;) and the kids are outside and Marty's working in the shop.  I should be purging, but I simply have to take the time to share a few things with you guys.  It's a post filled with all kinds of random stuff.  But it's the stuff I want to remember!  It's the stuff that makes this life of mine meaningful and wonderful!  So prepare to be taken down many little rabbit trails! 
First, I HAVE to share what happened to us this past week.  We got a letter and a huge gift in the mail.  I know this couple isn't too keen on having their names published, but suffice it to say that they are an amazing young couple who are working hard to follow God's leading.  And through their prayers they were led to encourage us in a way that words can't describe!  To be encouraged after a few months of doing the really hard stuff was just what we needed!  Marty and I were blubbering like babies!  I couldn't even read the letter aloud!!  You know who you are, and again I say thank you!!  You may never know how much wind you put in our sails!
Once again it made me realize how very, very important it is to pray for one another, to step out on a limb and say those words of love and encouragement that are in our head and heart!  I dare you to take the time right now to do just or message that person you've been praying for.  They may just need to know that today!
I also realized once again that this idea that God will meet all our needs right at the moment when we need it is a bunch of hogwash and whole lot of misinterpretation of scripture.  Let me explain what I mean before you jump down my throat. 
As I mentioned in my last post, January and the beginning of February were hard!  Take your average day of whiny, disobedient children and multiply it by 5 and add a butt load of outside stress.  That was what those weeks looked like for us!  We were drained.  We were discouraged.  We felt alone.  We begged God for relief, for energy, for strength.  We so wanted to be back on the mountain top.  And if not on the mountain top, at least not down in the dirty valley!  We wanted to have at least an hour or two of really enjoying the day.  We slowly moved past the really hard, to days that were more doable. 
So here we had weeks of little to no relief.  Was God there during that really hard time?  Of coarse He was!  Did we get the relief we needed and wanted?  Not at that moment.  What we did get in that moment was perseverance.  We got just enough strength to carry us through the day, moment by moment. And at the end of this trying time, we managed to take one tiny little step towards the goal of being content in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.  So does God give us what we need at the moment?  No.  At least not in the way we generally think of Him providing for all our needs.  Most often we may not get what we think we our case a reprieve from all the stress...but God will always honor His promises of being with us and giving us what HE knows we need.  For us it was one step closer to being able to say, as Paul, did in Philippians 4:11, "for I have learned to be content in whatever situation I am in."
It dawned on me that Paul did not get to that point by living the comfortable Christian life of regularly attending church and Wednesday night Bible Study/Community Group.  He didn't get to that point by giving 10% or more of his income to charity. He didn't get to that point by surrounding Himself with fellow believers.  He got to that point by going out into the world and encountering the most difficult of times of persecution and hatred. 
So in those weeks it could be said that God did not meet our least not in the way we would have wanted and the way we thought we needed.  However, it came a little later!  It came in the form of the above mentioned gift.  It came in the form of a wonderful visit with my brother and sister-in-law.  It came in being able to see my sweet niece and nephew.  It came in taking a week off of school for midterm break.  And it came in the form of my kids enjoying each other. It came in being able to spend a day skiing with the kids.
I want to remember all of this wonderfulness, so here's  peek into what the past few weeks have looked like. 
Our midterm break was wonderful and not nearly long enough!   We all got to relax and do the things we enjoy!  For me that was creating!  It was such a salve to my weary soul!  I've been experimenting with "staining" wood with a stain made of steel wool and vinegar.  It's easy and inexpensive.  I simply put one piece of steel wool into a jar, and covered it with vinegar.  How long one leaves the steel wool in the vinegar depends on the colour you are hoping to achieve.  This particular mixture was from a few months ago.  I'd taken the steel wool out, hoping it wouldn't get the orangey rust colour I'd previously gotten. It worked!
This is the wood before I applied stain.  The wood was pine boards left over from a previous project.
This is after I stained it a few times.  The beauty of this stain is that if the first coat isn't dark enough you simply add another coat.  Keep in mind that the stain must be dry before you will see the true colour.

Then I whitewashed the board with a mixture of 1 part paint and 2 parts water.  Once again, I added coats as needed to get the look I was going for.

Then I traced the letters onto the board and used a craftsmart paint pen to fill in the letters.  Using this pen made the task super easy!

Then I applied a thin coat of a water based finish.

This is the end result!  And I love it!!  I also sewed the green pillow case in this pic.  I am loving the end result of our master bedroom!!  Can you believe this is the very first time, in 25 years, that we actually have a headboard!  And the very first time the curtains aren't a blanket or sheet!  :)

I managed to take photos of a few of those special moments I mentioned earlier. 
I LOVE this picture!  My brother and his family came for a short visit and it was so precious to see our kids play together!  H loves trains and he was in his glory!

Uncle Marty was smitten with this little doll!  M has the sweetest of personalities!  Her little shoulder shrugs and big grins are all kinds of "melt my heart"!

This little "brat", as Morgun would say, twisted his arm so he'd read a princess book to her!  I still get all kinds of warm fuzzy feelings looking at this pic!  This!  This is the good life!!

And then this! (apparently Raina thinks we say "u" instead of "a"!  Haha!  I think the magnet is most appropriate, don't you?!

And skiing!  We had a blast!!  These kids have all mastered the bunny hill and are great at stopping, turning, and making "pizzas"!  Jackson's a natural at skiing and I'm pretty sure he will make me freak out at some point!  He has no fear!  Eek!
On a side note, we still don't know if Morgun's wrist is in fact broken.  He's had 3 xrays so far, but nothing definitive is showing up.  He does have a cast due to all the pain he was having.  In a few weeks he will see an Orthopedic specialist and hopefully we'll have some answers then!

And last, but not least...this!! 
In early fall we got a traditional wheelchair for Wren.  It was super comfortable for Wren and great for her posture.  However, it was tippy on gravel and in the grass.  It had about a million steps to fold it up.  It was nasty to put into our vehicle.  Think along the lines of perfectly maneuvering this big contraption to make it fit.  Then making sure it is the very first thing to be packed into the vehicle.  So running errands would have looked something like this...put Wren in the vehicle.  Fold chair and place in vehicle.  Place groceries in vehicle.  Go to next errand.  Take all groceries out of vehicle.  Take chair out of vehicle.  Put all groceries back in vehicle.  Upon returning to the vehicle, this would have been repeated each time.  UGH!!  It about made me scream!!
So since September we have been asking for this chair.   It's very similar to the one we have, but it's much better for Wren's posture!  BUT, it's not funded!  The process to get this chair is long.  First we will see if the government will make an exception and fund this chair for Wren. This application has FINALLY been submitted after me asking for that to happen for the past 6 months!  If it's not funded then we will apply through the Kinsmen Foundation to have it funded.  We've been nipping at the bit to submit the Kinsmen application, however, first we need to know if the chair is funded.  If it is funded, then we can as for a trike, and/or a walking frame for Wren instead of the chair.  If you happen to think of us, please pray that all of this will fall into place.  Thanks!

This is the walking frame we are hoping to get for Wren!  I can't wait to see what she can learn by using it!  

I hope you all have a great day, and can see the good in your life!