Thursday, February 21, 2013

Make Ahead and Freeze

In case you don't know, I have a bad ankle.  I hurt it when I was a little girl and have had trouble with it ever since.  I am about to have my 5th surgery on it next week.  So, I won't be blogging for a while because I won't be cooking for a while.  But, I thought I would share some ideas about making food ahead of time and freezing it.  I like to cook a bunch of things that freeze well so all my husband has to do is thaw something out.  I don't want my poor kids to eat pizza or cereal every night (even though they'd probably love it).  My husband can't all.  He just recently started to grill hamburgers.  Very recently.  And we've been together over 18 years!  I don't blame him, really.  I love to cook and have always done it.  So, he's never had to.  But, last year I had a donor tendon transplanted into my ankle and was laid up for quite a while.  My Mom stayed with us and helped out, but my husband had to step up when she went home.  I had thought ahead and made several things before my surgery and put them in the freezer.  It made his life a lot easier and my kids diet a lot better.  Here are some things that you can make ahead and freeze, whether you'll be laid up after surgery or just want to get a head start on dinner.


1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork (or use all beef)
1 egg
2 slices white bread soaked in 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt/pepper to taste
1/2 tsp each dried basil and oregano (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix everything together gently (don't over mix).  Form into balls (I use a 1/8 cup measuring cup to get equal amounts).  Place on cookie sheet with lip (or baking dish - needs sides or grease will go all over your oven) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.

Any meatball recipe will do.  I like to make a big batch (double or triple my recipe) and bake them in the oven, rather than frying (just easier).  After they cool to room temperature, I place them on cookie sheets and put them in the freezer for about 1 hour or until they are hard.  This helps them to freeze individually and not clump together.  Then, I put them in freezer bags (about a dozen per bag).   Then, you can just pull a bag out and thaw them in the microwave or in a pot of bubbling sauce (jar sauce or make your own ahead and freeze it too).


1 lb ziti pasta (or penne or rotini)
1 8oz container ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 jar marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook pasta (in a big pot) to just under al dente (it will finish cooking in the oven).  Drain the pasta and put back in the pot.  Add all of the ricotta, half the mozarella, and half the parmesan.  Stir to combine.  Add a little sauce (just enough to make it pink-about 1/2 - 3/4 cup sauce).  Stir well.  Place in a baking dish (if freezing, make sure dish is freezer safe - I like to use those disposable aluminum pans).  Sprinkle other half of mozarella and parmesan on top.
If freezing, let mixture come to room temperature, then cover tightly with foil and put in freezer.  If eating right away, do not cover, put in oven and bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly.  Serve with extra sauce.

This dish gives you some of the flavors of lasagna, but is much easier to make.  Because it is meatless, it's perfect for Lent.  If you want, you can add cooked sliced Italian Sausage to it.


Beans freeze very well.  I like to make red beans in my crockpot, let them cool, then put in a large freezer bag to freeze.  All my husband has to do is take it out and put it in the fridge the night before or the morning of.  He can even run the bag under warm water to loosen it, then squeeze it out into a pot and thaw on the stove top.  Make some rice and a quick corn muffin mix and you're good to go.

Find my recipe for red beans and rice here:


Pulled pork is so delicious!  And when you cook a pork shoulder, it makes a ton.  So, take your leftovers and freeze them.  Then, all you have to do is get some buns and thaw it out.  Easy!

Here is a link to my pulled pork recipe.  In fact, any of the recipes in this post will freeze beautifully.  Chicken Creole, Roast Beef, or Pulled Pork.

My last tip is to freeze any leftovers you have, no matter how little.  You may think if there isn't enough to feed the family why bother?  But you can make your own frozen meals.  Why buy them when you can easily make them for free!  For instance, say you made meatloaf and there is only one slice left.  Put it in a small quart size freezer bag with a little leftover gravy.  Get all of the air of the bag that you can.  Lay it flat in the freezer so it will freeze flat and even.  When you want to eat it, run under warm water to loosen the food from the bag.  Put food on a microwave-safe plate and cook it until done.  Easy and better tasting than anything you'll get in the freezer section of the grocery store.  Pasta dishes, rice dishes, beans, veggies, stir-fry, chicken, beef, pork, turkey - all freeze really well.  If you have gravy or sauce to add, it works even better.

So, I hope you found something interesting you can make ahead and freeze.  And I hope you'll forgive my absence while I rest up and heal.  Here's to a speedy recovery and some good food to eat while I'm at it!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Eating our way around the "world"

I've been on vacation this last week.  I took my kids to Disney World in Florida.  We love Disney World.  Although we never took the kids when they were really young, they still fell in love with it about 5 years ago. We have gone every year since.  It's so wonderful to see my 16 year old daughter (almost 17) act like a little girl again.  My 13 year old son actually wanting to spend time with us is pretty rare, too.  Disney brings out the kid in all of us.

I thought it would be fun to blog about all of the fantastic food we ate while there.  Specifically, in EPCOT's World Showcase.  If you've never been, World Showcase is a collections of pavilions in EPCOT that showcase 11 different countries of the world.  You can walk from one country to the next, exploring their unique cultures and sampling their foods along the way.  They are all situated on a lagoon, so it's a nice stroll around the "world".  Or in my case a roll.  I am having more ankle trouble and have to have yet another reconstructive surgery at the end of the month.  But, I didn't want to cancel our family vacation, so I toughed it out.  My poor husband and kids took turns pushing my wheelchair.  But, we made the best of it and enjoyed our time together (especially the food!).

Here is a look at how we ate our way around the "world" (it took us two visits - we were so full the first day, we had to come back another day to finish!):

The first stop was in ENGLAND or the UK.

My son loves the FISH AND CHIPS at the Yorkshire County Fish Shop.  He eats this every year.  It has to be our first stop.  We sat in a little area near the lagoon while he ate his fish and chips and then ran off to see the birds that are always hanging around, hoping for a bit of dropped fish.

 Our next stop was in MOROCCO.

My daughter and I love the platters you can get at the Tangerine Cafe.  We chose the CHICKEN SHAWARMA platter.  It included grilled chicken, pita, hummus, chick pea salad, couscous and tzatziki sauce.  It was enough food for us to share.  Plus, we had BAKLAVA for dessert!  It was delicious!  My old-school Italian husband wouldn't even look at it.  He didn't even get the platter in the picture!

 My son couldn't wait to get to the JAPAN pavilion.  Why?  Does he love the Sushi?  Ha-ha, of course not! He loves this Japanese candy called HI-CHEW.  It's pretty much fruit flavored taffy.  I think he ate three packs while I wasn't looking.  If you look closely at the pic of my daughter eating Baklava, you'll see him eating the candy in the background.  He ran ahead while we were still in Morocco to buy the candy.  Here's a pic of him in JAPAN with the candy:

 GERMANY was our next stop.  My husband loves the big soft PRETZELS they sell at Sommerfest.  My son had one, too.

 My daughter and I went for the APPLE STRUDEL.  It had golden raisins inside and was topped with a warm vanilla bean sauce.  Wow!  And it was gigantic, plenty enough for two.

By the time we got to AMERICA, I was so full I couldn't bring myself to eat anything else!  So, here is a pic of me drinking GATORADE.  Hey, it's American.

The next day, my son got a gigantic SMOKED TURKEY LEG in AMERICA.  It was really tasty.  Here he is with it.  He finished that whole thing by the way.  I was shocked!

It was cold and rainy on this day, so Coffee was a must.  We stopped at a cart in ITALY to get some CAPPUCCINO and were ecstatic to find that they had CANNOLI!  It had a chocolate shell with a hint of orange in the mascarpone cream filling.  Yum!  Needless to say my old-school Italian husband was thrilled.

Next stop was CHINA.  There was a small cart called Joy of Tea.  It sold tea, but also Egg Rolls.  My daughter and I shared PORK AND VEGETABLE EGG ROLLS.  Bonus, we could use the Snack Credit on our Disney Dining Plan to get them.

After the egg rolls, we wanted something sweet.  NORWAY has a bakery called:

We got a PEAR AND ALMOND TART.  It wasn't too sweet and had a buttery crust.  Delicious!

While in MEXICO, we saw Mariachi Cobre, a mariachi band, playing music.  We also rode a boat ride featuring Donald and the Three Caballeros.  We had a lot of fun.  There are several restaurants to choose from as well as Margarita stands.  We've eaten there in the past and gotten nachos, tacos, etc.  My son, however, chose to get a bag of DORITOS.  I thought that was too funny.  So, here is a pic of him enjoying his Doritos in front of the temple:

We worked our way back to FRANCE.  I love this pavilion.  It has a replica of the Eiffel Tower and is filled with art.  It also has Boulangerie Patisserie.  It is a bakery filled with pastries and sandwiches.  I chose the HAM AND CHEESE CROISSANT.  It was warm and gooey and so good!  Here are a few pics of the FRANCE pavilion and one of me with my croissant:

The last pavilion was CANADA.  It has an amazing steak house called Le Cellier.  But, we didn't have reservations(which are a must).  So we just strolled around and looked at the pretty scenery.  I thought we wouldn't have anything to eat there until I went into the gift shop.  I pondered drinking a bottle of Maple Syrup (just kidding), but I found these CHIPS instead.

I am a chip-a-holic.  I love to try weird flavors.  So, MONTREAL STEAK SPICE was a must-try for me.  They were very savory and different.  I enjoyed them.  I also enjoyed the french writing on the back of the package.

Here are some pics of my kids in CANADA:

So, that's how we ate our way around the "world".  I hope you enjoyed it.  We had a lot of fun and I can't wait to do it again!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Appetizers for Dinner

I love me some appetizers!  They are my favorite part of going out to eat.  Sometimes, my friend, Nat, and I will go out to a restaurant and just order a bunch of appetizers to share.  They just seem to be the tastiest part of the meal!  I may be able to fill up on little bites, but not my husband or growing teenage son.  So, I thought I would morph a few appetizers into a full meal.  Here's what I did:

My family loves chicken wings, but there is not a lot of meat on a little wing.  So, I used chicken drumsticks instead.  I gave them the same flavors as our favorite wings, but you get more bang for your buck.


1 large package chicken drumsticks ( a few pounds)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Season chicken well with salt and pepper.  Place on a cookie sheet with sides or in a baking dish and bake for 40-45 minutes, until done.  Remove from oven.  Turn oven heat up to 425-450 degrees.  Brush half the chicken with BBQ sauce (recipes for sauces to follow) and half with Buffalo sauce (you can just pour the sauces over the chicken).  Return to oven for 5-10 minutes until sauces have thickened and glazed the chicken.


1/2 stick butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup hot sauce, depends on how hot you want it
2 TBS honey

Place all ingredients into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until thickened.

You can just use store bought BBQ sauce or make this version:


1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup bbq sauce
2 TBS brown sugar
a few dashes worcestershire sauce
a few dashes of hot sauce

Place all ingredients into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Here's the BBQ:

Here's the Buffalo:

I also made Bacon Wrapped Artichoke Hearts.  They are super easy to make and taste great.  Perfect for a party or just a treat with dinner.


1 jar marinated artichoke hearts (make sure you get the marinated ones) drain them & reserve the marinade.
bacon (cut strips in half)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with foil.  Wrap each artichoke heart with a piece of bacon.  If you're watching your waistline, use turkey bacon.

Secure with a toothpick.

Place on foil-lined cookie sheet and brush with the reserved marinade.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

Really easy and so good!  Throw in a green salad and you've got dinner!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

National Pancake Day!

Today is National Pancake Day!  So, I thought I would give you my recipe for Baking Mix.  You can use it just like you would Bisquick.  You can make pancakes, waffles, biscuits, dumplings, cakes, etc.  Use it in any recipe that calls for baking mix.  Plus, it costs a lot less to make it yourself!  Here's how you do it:


6 cups all-purpose flour
3 TBS baking powder
2 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening

In a big bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in shortening with a pastry blender (or a fork) until well blended.  Store in an airtight container.

Here are a few recipes that I make with this Baking Mix:


2 cups baking mix
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Mix everything just until blended.  Do not over mix or pancakes will be tough!  Heat a cast iron skillet (or non-stick) over medium heat.  Add a bit of butter.  Ladle out batter (as much as you want - I like to make small silver dollar pancakes).  When the edges start to bubble, they are ready to be turned over.  Cook on other side until done (peek under with a spatula to see when they are ready).

*Variation:  I make chocolate chip or blueberry pancakes by adding a few chips or berries to the pancake right before I flip it.

Fun for the kids:  Add a little food coloring to the batter and make color pancakes!  Red for Valentine's Day, Green for St. Patrick's Day, etc.

Also fun, save an empty syrup bottle, clean it out and pour batter into it using a funnel.  Then, you can "write" with it in the skillet and make your kids initials.


2 cups baking mix
1 1/3 cups milk
1 egg
2 TBS oil

Mix everything together until blended.  Ladle onto hot, greased waffle iron.  Close lid and cook till the steam stops coming out of the waffle maker.  Easy Peasy!

It's not National Biscuit Day, but I thought I'd throw in my recipe since it uses the baking mix, too.


2 cups baking mix
2/3 cup milk

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Mix baking mix and milk just until blended.  Don't over mix!  Put on a floured surface and knead a few times (fold it over onto itself, give a quarter turn, repeat).  Roll or press out into a circle.  Cut out with a round cookie cutter.  Place on an ungreased  cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.

*For easy Drop Biscuits:  Don't worry about kneading or cutting out.  Just drop by rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake.

Happy National Pancake Day!