Friday, March 15, 2013

Baby Palmer IS A...

 **Disclaimer:  I don't take sexy, well dressed, hair did maternity pictures.  I am keeping it real.  They are bathroom shots.

This is March 3rd
This is March 5th

This is March 10th

If you didn't notice, our baby has grown in the last week.  I am still baffled at how literally over night I have a real pregnant belly.  I think it has grown even more.  It doesn't slim down over night anymore.   I love it.  I feel great for all of those who ask me.  After morning sickness subsides, it is almost like you forget it ever happened.  I am thankful for having pretty easy and predictable pregnancies.  

We got our ultrasound last week to find out if Alaire gets a brother or a sister.

 Alaire loves playing in the offices.  How fun are spinning chairs?

It's okay you can say the baby looks scary in the ultrasounds, I sometimes tend to agree.  (That is an arm/hand curled up by the ear)

Creepy? Funny?  I can't decide.  The baby is opening its' mouth and sticking its' tongue out.

So, do you want to know what were having?

I bought this little romper a few weeks ago, just incase because it was so soft and sweet.


We are super excited.  Alaire is excited, but she kept it cool when we found out.  She has been saying it is a sister the whole time, so she just said, "I knew I would win.  I already knew it was a sister!"

I may have gotten excited and made them matching outfits.  

Thanks for reading!  Have a good weekend.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

How We Lunch- Snack Trays

Pirates' Booty, black berries, turkey, grapes, carrots, donut hole

I'm going to come out and say it.  I hate making lunch.  We eat hot breakfast everyday (thanks to my husband!) so I am not super hungry by 11:30/ 12:00.  I usually just make something for Alaire and I eat after she has nap/quiet time.

I like lunches to be fast, easy, simple and mostly healthy.  We do make Mac and Cheese sometimes or go out for lunch, but for the most part I make "Snack Trays" for her.

Basically I bought a couple of 6 cup muffin tins that i only use for "Snack Trays".  That way they don't get burnt food on them and they are easy to clean.  I got these at the Dollar Store.

I fill each muffin well with a different food.  You don't need to overflow the wells, especially the less healthy choices.  I've thrown enough food away to know kids don't really need much for lunch.

I typically try to include the following options:
3- fruit or veggies
2- carb/dessert/dairy (you can always swap one of these out for a protein, fruits or veggies)

It completely depends on what I have on hand.  Alaire is much more likely to eat a little of everything in this layout rather than on a plate.  It's all about the presentation I guess.

(Please don't email me and tell me that I don't fulfill my own requirements on all of these.  I'm aware: )

Here are a few we have done recently:

cantaloupe, goldfish, blueberries, carrots, noodles, and zebra caramel corn

They are so easy, don't require much food, give your kids variety, and encourage picky eaters to try new foods.  I love them because there isn't a lot of wasted food and most of it can be put in the fridge and given back to them later for a snack.  If Alaire doesn't eat all of hers, I will snack on it too.  

string cheese, raspberries, broccoli, goldfish, carrots, and cookie
Side note: I bring these muffin tins on road trips too. It not only allows her to eat well on the road, but also keeps food contained on her lap if we don't stop the car for lunch.

She absolutely LOVES these and asks for them regularly.  You could put hot food in them but most of the time I just put raw food in it.  She can eat it with her hands and the clean up is dump, rinse and repeat.
strawberries, broccoli, "natural" Cheetos, carrots, Raspberry spread sandwich cut like a hand, and pineapple

One thing I never do is refill anything, unless it is one of the healthy options.  When I put this in front of her I simply say, "I would like you to try a little of everything."  Then I leave it alone. 
Raspberries, string cheese, broccoli, turkey, zebra caramel corn and honey mustard pretzels

Food is one of those things that kids have control over.  I try to not say eat your ____ eat your _____ eat your _____.  I keep offering things she "doesn't like" over and over and eventually she will try it.  You can't force food down your kids throats, but you can reduce the amount of bad options and increase the amount of healthy options they are exposed to.  My child will still eat broccoli even if the carmel corn is on the tray, if yours won't, then don't offer it.

With this method, no matter what you put on there for dessert, it probably isn't enough to make them not want anything else, so I wouldn't worry too much about that.

So, what do you think?  Is this something that you would use or would work well for your kids?

I would love to hear if any of you have great lunch ideas for kids or picky eaters.  I am always trying to mix things up so  no one gets bored or sick of what were eating.

I hope you all are having a great week.  I feel like I've turned into a food blog, which is definitely not the case, but these are the things that I am doing right now in my house and maybe they can help you in yours.   I don't know about you, but I LOVE hearing others' methods to mix up the mandatory chores in our lives, such as feeding our families.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Kitchen Clean Out-Part 3- Making the Meals

Here is the third and final part of my Kitchen Clean Out. If you missed it, HERE is Part One and HERE is Part Two I didn't take photos when I made the meals the first time, but I had a few extras to make so I tried to show you how I set up my kitchen.


  1. Before you go to the store have a plan of coming back and getting started.  If your kids are home and you are alone, well that's life.  Get a movie for them or a few snacks prepared, so you aren't constantly stopping.  The best case scenario is to not have them under your feet for the most of this, but mine was and it was just fine.  
  2. DO ALL OF YOUR DISHES. Wash all of them and put them away.  You want a clean sink and you will need bowls, knives and Tupperware to hold all of the ingredients.  If you are just doing the chopping and bagging recipes, you will not have a lot of "dirty dishes." Most of them you can rinse off, because they will be holding celery and carrots and other clean veggies and spices.
  3. Clean off your counter tops, because you are going to need a clean workspace.  You are also going to want to have a place to put all of the groceries when you get home.
  4. Of course, hopefully you listened and cleaned out your fridge too, so you can put meat and other refrigerator items in there.  I actually used a portable Trader Joe's cooler bag with ice packs to keep all of the meat in until I was ready.  I just set it in my garage because it was a cold day.

Finally after all of the preparation, it is time to assemble the meals.  Here is how I did mine.  It seemed to work well.  I made a few mistakes, and I will correct them here and tell you what I will be doing next time.

  • Go to the store/stores, stop at the gas station and get one of those ridiculous fountain drinks and then  come home and unload those groceries.  If your kids are old enough make them help, then they will probably leave you alone for the actual meal preparation.
  • Most of the items I bought, except for some household items, were for the meals, so I didn't put everything away.  I put all of the groceries on my counter.  I used my kitchen island to do all of the cutting and assembling on and I slid my kitchen table over for all of the dry goods, paper work and bags to be on.  You can use whatever you have, maybe a card table or just another counter top, but I highly recommend having a wet and dry space to work in.  
  • If you didn't print all of the labels on sticker sheets, you are going to have to label the bags before beginning.  The labels seriously make life so easy, so I would go that route.  You can hand write on the bags all of the instructions, but you would have wanted that done before the store. 
  • I sound like a grandma, but I would wear tennis shoes to start because barefoot on your feet all day is going to hurt.  You are also going to get food on the ground and you don't want to have to clean it up until the end.


On the dry station I split my bags into 4 sections: 

  1. Chop and Bag Beef and Pork
  2. Chop and Bag Chicken
  3. Cook and Freeze with Meat
  4. Cook and Freeze Vegetarian

  • Next, I put the recipes with each bag, but if you are using my print off, then you won't need to do this.  You can just look on the list, as it is organized by chop and bag meals and pre-cooked meals.
  • The purpose of splitting them into these categories is so that you can quick see how many recipes need chopped chicken breasts, how many can just be put in whole.  

All of the canned goods, spices, papers, and bags are in this area.

 Starting on the left I have a dry towel, a wet towel my phone my drink and the current recipe I am working on.  (I also had my iPad set up to watch some TV while I worked, which made it go fast.)  This was while I was chopping carrots, but otherwise I would have all of the veggies and spices, lined up at the top of the island.  The three bar cups in the middle, I will get to those later.  Then I have a garbage bowl and a utensil bowl, which I will also show you later.


  • Drew chopped all of the meat for me (THANK YOU!)  So I grabbed the each pile of bags and said I need twelve chicken breasts chopped up.  I need 3 lbs of pork cut into cubes and I need the 10 lbs of ground beef separated into 1.5 lb servings. 
  • Next I sanitized the whole island from the meat.  This is much better than trying to do meat for each bag and then veggies.  TOO MUCH CLEANING!
  • I then cut up all of the veggies.  I put them into whatever container I had.  This is why you do the dishes first.  You are going to love looking at all of those vegetables after they are cut!

This is one of my favorite kitchen tools ever.  I am pretty much geeking out about it.  Its from pampered chef and it cuts onions in like a minute.  Before I had this I bought chopped frozen onions.  They are awesome too and save your eyes big time!

This is my utensil bowl.  Fancy, I know.  Basically, anything that has only touched vegetables or herbs I throw in here after use and then just rinse them off when it fills up.  If you throw your tablespoon in the sink after every use, your session is not going to be fun.  

This is my garbage bowl.  Any cans, wrappers, scraps of food get thrown in here.  Then I don't have to run to the garbage can or have it under my feet while I am trying to work.


 Get your instructions and your bags laid out.

Here is where the bar cups come in handy.  (I also use a pitcher sometimes too.)  I got this trick from a food preparation facility that I have gone to in the past to make meals. It is awesome, especially for liquids and spices. You stick a Ziploc bag into the cup or pitcher.

 Then slip the zipper around the edges of the cup or pitcher.
 You ar all ready to put the ingredients in.

 For the Quiche, you mix up the ingredients.

Then pour them into the cup.  Let out the air, zip the bag.

 Then pull it out.  No spills, no mess, and most of all, no dirty dishes.

 Finish assembling the bags.

Let out the air and seal them up.  Lay the meals flat in the freezer until they are frozen through.
And Repeat a bunch of times.

Clean your kitchen up, which is really wiping down counters, putting spices away and sweeping the floor.  You will be surprised how much you don't have to do when it's all done!

I'll leave you with a few more things that helped me before I wrap this series up.

I made all of the chop and bag meals in one night.  Then I obviously didn't have to think about dinner for the next week. 
Because I was still on a crazy freezer meal lady high, I decided to make a few cook and freeze meals the following week.  Minestrone was one of them.  This is how I froze them:  I used the Ziploc tumblers for larger servings and then bags for a few smaller servings, which could be used for a side at dinner.  I poured them into the bar cups and let them cool.  Then double bag them to prevent any unexpected leaks.

It is so easy to cook an extra meal when your dinner is already cooking in the crock pot for that night.  Let me tell you, it is easier to tackle a lot of things when you don't feel like Eeyore with a rain cloud what's for dinner cloud hanging over you.

A lot of people have asked me what I buy at Costco, if I save money there and how I store it. 
 You probably got a good idea from my list on part two, here are a few of my favorites.  

I buy five pound bags of shredded cheese.  Our family doesn't eat a ton of cheese, we really don't, but I divide it up and freeze it and then I have it when I need it.  We use it on tacos, in soups, and if I have to make an appetizer for a party I have the it.  I also do this with cream cheese, especially during the holidays.  I swear I always need one when I don't have one!
It takes 5 minutes to split these.  I use a pitcher with a bag in it to pour the cheese into.

I told you that I buy frozen chopped onions to save time.  Another time saver is this big jar of garlic on the right.  You can get it at any grocery store, but I get it at Costco because we use A LOT of it.  

I buy as many spices as I can at Trader Joe's because they are cheap!

The Chinese Five Spice I use is in the middle.  I got it at the grocery store, but that's what it looks like because it isn't always easy to find. (If you can't find it, the Kung Pao is fine without)

The basil and ginger tubes on the left are great to keep herbs in the fridge that you don't always buy regularly.  No chopping required.

The Quinoa in the back is probably one of the best deals I get at Costco.  It is 4lbs of 100% organic Quinoa for under or right around $10.  If you don't usually eat it, then it is a great alternative to rice.  I had to eliminate grains for a year and this saved me!!  I'll have to share some of my favorite GRAIN FREE meals sometime.

That is all I have (I think) about the freezer meals.  When I do it again I might have something to add, but until then I'm done. 

 If you are hesitant about this working for your family, then just do it for a week of meals.  Anything is better than nothing.  You can use the same methods to do 5 or 10 meals.  I went BIG when I did it, but I understand that it is A LOT.  

Enjoy your weekend!  We got our taxes filed and now were working on an alligator clip"foreign object" in the garbage disposal.  (Good Times)

On Monday I will have a post on "How We Do Lunch" about what I feed Alaire for lunch, so get fired up!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Kitchen Clean Out- Part 2- Making a Plan

Whenever I have even considered doing a big batch of freezer meals, I lose interest when it comes to making  a shopping list.  It seemed like too much calculating.

I always feel like it will take eons to figure out how much of everything I need for the all of the meals combined verses what I have on hand.  I would be super ticked if I started making everything and I ran out of a common ingredient.  NO ONE likes to have to go back to the store.

So I was surprised when I decided at 9:00 on a Tuesday that I was going to make a months' worth of meals that day along with shopping for all of these meals.

***Again, the key is to have cleaned out your food that you have at home.  I wrote about that here in Part 1-Refrigerator/ Freezer. You will be familiar with what you have and don't have.  You won't make the mistake of thinking you have something and then go to use it and it is bad or an insufficient amount.

I have received A LOT of questions.  I am so glad there are so many people interested.  Here are the answers to a few of the most common ones:

Where did I get my recipes and what they are?
I have pinned recipes on Pinterest over the last few months. There are a handful of blogs that I follow who put up their freezer meals and I have used some of them.  I have made some of my family's favorite meals into freezer meals.  I have some recipes from Taste of Home little booklets.  They are the ones you can buy at the checkout of the grocery store.  I bought one once that was all freezable foods.

Have I tried all of the meals I am going to share?
No, I have not.  Most of them, but not all.  I will tell you which ones I have tried and which ones I haven't.

How do you have enough time to do this?
How do I not have enough time?  If  I take one day to make all of these meals and I barely have to think about or actually prepare a meal for 1-2 months then it is totally worth my time.  (My husband helped me some too!) I spend at least an hour or more a day thinking about and then actually making dinner. So roughly 30 plus hours a month. I have never made this many meals at once, but I just can't find the down side at this point.  I get one 4.5 hour preschool day a week to myself.  I typically spend the first few hours going to the grocery store and back and then unloading it all.  I am hoping to cut back on those trips and the time that I could be doing something else.  So call me crazy but I'm not wondering what were eating tonight or for the next 30-60 days!

Getting Started
When I did this, I made my plan and went to the grocery store and made the meals in the same day.  It worked out just fine, but it was probably a rookie mistake.  I also took Alaire with me to the store.  I could have cut out at least an hour or more of shopping time if I was by myself.

My suggestion would be to pick your meals and make your shopping list on Day 1.  On Day 2 do your shopping and prepare your meals.

DO NOT attempt this if you are not feeling it because you probably don't have enough room to store all of your food for more than 24 hours. Chances are if you don't make the meals right away, you won't end up doing all that you had planned.

Here is what I did.  You don't have to do it this way, it is just what I did and it worked for me.

Choose Your Meals
  1. I started by printing a blank calendar.  I Googled "meal planning calendar" and i got a blank monthly calendar template.  I printed two of them. One to use as a draft and one to write in after I was done making the meals
  2. Choose the meals that you want to make.  Print off all of the recipes that are online and copy the ones in cook books onto a piece of paper.  I think this is important to have a hard copy so you aren't getting food all over your phone, iPad or computer, while trying to look up recipes.  It will save a lot of time and help with organizing too.
  3. I then filled in the calendar with the meals.  Not to say what night I was having them, just to plan for enough.  Our family will not use 30 meals in a month, but those can spill over into the next month if they go unused.  Maybe you only want to have enough for week nights, it is totally up to you.  You know better than I do what will work best for your family.  If you are going out of town or eating out you can cross those days off.  
If I make 4-5 meals a week, then we will have leftovers, order pizza, go out, or make fresh salads the other nights.

Above is my calendar typed out and much more organized than my original.  I will be providing all of my freezer recipes listed on the calendar.

Making an Ingredient Inventory and Shopping List
  1. This is the most important part.  If you make a great shopping list that is easy to follow, then you will spend minimal time at the store and hopefully not have to go back.
  2. I go to Costco and I go a regular grocery store, so therefore my list is split between the two.  Its not complicated I promise.
  3. Take one recipe at a time and add any ingredients to the "Ingredient Inventory" list that you know you don't have or are unsure if you have the right amount.  Make sure to tally items that are really common in all of the recipes too, even if you have them, because you might not have enough of the item.  
  4. You will then take the "Ingredient Inventory" list to your pantry, fridge and freezer and cross out any items that you have or don't need as much of and update the amounts that you do need.

As you can see below this is how I did it.  I wrote out basic categories for foods.  These are also going to be in similar places in the grocery store and in my home.

To make this simple I wrote how many of an item I needed for things like vegetables and canned goods.  For meat i wrote out pounds (sometimes i just guessed how many pounds 3 chicken breasts would be). For spices and sauces I just wrote a tally of how many recipes called for it.

I went through all of the recipes and tallied up all of the amounts.  Next follow step 4 and figure out how much you have already and how much you still need.

CONGRATULATIONS!!! If you got this far, you are past the worst of it, in my opinion!!  There isn't too much thinking left to do anyway!

Finalizing Your Shopping List 
  1. Now that your Ingredient Inventory list only has needed items on it, you can type or rewrite that baby out and go to the store.  Below is a copy of mine.
  2. As I said before I shop Costco first and then to  the regular store.  There is a reason I go in that order too.  Costco doesn't always have items, so I will know what they didn't have before I go to the grocery store.  You don't have to shop at Sams or Costco, but they work for us.
  3. So, here is how I separate the list.  I try to buy meat at Costco so that goes on the Costco list, along with any item that I need a lot of, such as tomato sauce, common spices, quinoa, tortillas, bell peppers, celery, carrots, milk, eggs, shredded cheese, etc.
  4. Everything else goes on my other grocery list.  If I get to Costco and they don't have something or I think it isn't cheaper than the store I write it in on my grocery list.  
  5. I always type my list so that it is spaced out and easy to see what is and isn't crossed out.  Again I hate going back to the store, but I also hate walking back to the other side of the store for one thing.
  6. One more thing.  This is the hardest part for me.  STICK TO THE LIST.  If you are making as many meals as I did, you don't need to rack up your grocery bill any higher.
Here was my list.  The categories match the areas that are grouped together in the store.  Then I know before I leave the produce section I should have all of the items listed.

Here is the list of recipes.  I wanted to tell you what I have eaten and what I haven't, just in case you are hesitant of one of them.  Remember you can substitute or take out any ingredients your family doesn't eat.  My husband loves vegetables and tries anything, so he is easy to cook for.  I know that some of you or your families are picky or have food allergies.  We have dealt with that too, so just modify.

  1. Kung Pao Chicken- We eat this very often.  It is a staple around here.
  2. Hamburger Soup- We love this especially when it is cold out.
  3. Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas- HAVE NOT TRIED 
  4. Cashew Chicken- Love it!
  5. Crock Pot Lasagna Soup-We have eaten this twice.  LOVE IT. It isn't really soupy.  It's thicker.
  6. Cilantro Lime Chicken- So good.  We have made salads, wraps, nachos with it
  7. Crock Pot Beef and Broccoli- HAVE NOT TRIED
  8. Slow Cooker Steak Quesadillas- HAVE NOT TRIED
  9. Quiche- have made something VERY similar, so I am fairly confident in this one.
  10. Tastees- HAVE NOT TRIED BTW Tastees are sloppy Joe's from a drive through in Sioux City,IA
  11. Corned Beef and Cabbage- HAVE NOT TRIED This is for St Patty's day
  12. Minestrone-I cooked this and tried it.  Really really good.  You can leave out the pasta too.
  13. Broccoli Beer Cheese Soup- I cooked this and tried it.  It is really good, but not super thick.
  14. Jalapeno Chicken Enchiladas-HAVE NOT TRIED
  15. Pizza Burgers-HAVE NOT TRIED   I will just freeze the meat and buns separately not together.
  16. Bolognese Sauce-HAVE NOT TRIED

So here is what you have all been waiting for, the recipes.  I really hope this is helpful.  I typed them up specifically for freezer meals. The preparing for freezing instructions and cooking instructions are all included.  

Click on the links below to view and print. 

Printable Recipes with Bagging and Cooking Instructions

Print this one on sticker paper sheets and cut apart to label your bags and containers.

Printable Cooking Instruction Labels for Freezer Bags

I hope you made it through all of that.  I KNOW it was a lot, but I wanted you to have as much information as possible.  As overwhelming as all of that looked, it really isn't.  I hope at least one person makes something from that list, because it took a while to type up! (That wasn't passive aggressive at all.)

Email me with any questions or if I left something out somehow! Lairij at gmail dot com

 I will be back, hopefully tomorrow, with some tips about how to prepare your kitchen for the chopping and bagging session.  There will be lots of photos and A LOT less words.  I will also tell you some items I buy to shortcut some of the common ingredients, such as garlic and onions. (They are the worst things to cut or mince in my opinion!)

Have a great weekend!  I hope you do something fun.  We are going to attack a major project that we started last week and fizzled out on finishing!  I'll have a progress picture on Monday if I follow through. (fingers crossed!)