Thursday, September 22, 2011

Katelyn's story

Many people have asked about various issues that came up with Katelyn's pregnancy and birth, so I thought I would just share the whole story. It's long, so bear with me (and requires some background story too), but I hope that in reading it, you will see just what a miracle our children are. :)

When I found out in December, near New Year's, that I was pregnant, I was terrified. Point blank. We had decided that after two difficult pregnancies (I have chronic high blood pressure that is nearly impossible to keep at safe levels when I'm pregnant), two difficult deliveries (Nick had breathing trouble at birth and landed in the NICU for 24 hours and Olivia had the cord double wrapped around her neck and nearly strangled on being born), and a miscarriage, that we were done having children. We were happy with our two beautiful kids and didn't plan on having any more. However, being as young as we are (25 at the time Olivia was born), we weren't ready to make any permanent decisions. And as had been proven before to us, we weren't in control of that there we were, now unexpectedly expecting baby #3.

At 6 weeks, we went to the doctor to confirm my pregnancy and hopefully take a peek at the bean. All we saw was a sac, and "possibly something else." They blamed it on a new ultrasound machine, but I was nervous. I had been this route before too. So we waited two long weeks to find out if we did in fact have a viable pregnancy. Walt couldn't miss work that day, so I nervously went myself. I breathed the biggest sigh of relief hearing that little heartbeat fluttering away at 146 beats per minute. So we quickly settled into being excited and preparing for another child. Over the next few weeks, I battled intense morning sickness and we debated whether or not to find out the sex of the baby. I wanted to be surprised, Walt wanted to find out, but ultimately, Nick made that decision for us. He did NOT want another sister, and we were afraid what delivery day might be like if he was caught off guard. So, we decided we would find out and we counted down the days until the 20 week ultrasound.

We went that day, excited to find out if we were having a boy or girl. Walt's mom met us there for the ultrasound and we anxiously waited for the tech to tell us pink or blue. She scrolled around a moment, asked for our guesses, then froze the frame. "It's a girl!." We were thrilled (and VERY surprised!). Walt's mom left and we went in to see the doctor. She casually mentioned that they had spotted an abnormality on the ultrasound. One of the baby's kidneys was bigger than the other. She didn't give us much information other than she wasn't overly concerned and we would come back in a month for another ultrasound to check things out. I was worried, naturally, but I avoided Dr. Google and all the fear that goes with it. I knew better. So, we waited for our next peek at the baby. Again, I had to go to this one alone and was nervous. I think I prayed the entire way to the doctor's office just hoping things were normal this time. The tech scrolled around and measured the kidneys. One measure 2mm and the other 5mm. The cut-off for "normal" is 4mm. I was crushed and scared. I went in to see the doctor, and again, she didn't give me much information other than she was going to refer me to the high risk OB (perinatologist) in Louisville for an in-depth scan and consult. That didn't sound frightening at all...ha!

In the four weeks until our appointment, I did some research on what the dilated kidney could mean. I wanted to be prepared before the appointment. I quickly learned what they were so concerned about...the dilated kidney was a marker for Down Syndrome. My heart fell. A million questions raced through my mind. Walt and I prayed, and we knew that we loved this child regardless, but we just needed to know. At the appointment, the tech did not tell us anything, so we waited for the doctor to come in. My heart was racing for sure! He looked over everything, and then questioned me about my blood pressure medication dosage. Huh?? He then informed me that two possible side effects of that medication are low birthweight and dilated kidneys. He didn't see any indicators that anything else was wrong and he released me from his care. What a relief! The worst case scenarios that if it was still dilated at 35 weeks, they would need to give the baby antibiotics when born. So we left, thankful for good news.

At 35 weeks, they scheduled my follow up ultrasound. The kidney was normal, but baby was measuring very small (tenth percentile), also courtesy of my medication. So we talked about possible induction scenarios just in case. My other two were induced because of my blood pressure, so I knew the drill. Things continued to go okay, and I was now doing twice weekly non stress tests (at the hospital, they hook you up to monitors and watch baby's heart rate to determine if he/she is doing okay). On Aug. 30 (38 weeks), I went in for my test and my blood pressure was pretty high. It had stayed normal until this point, so the doc sent me home with orders to rest and keep an eye on it.

The next day, I just didn't feel good. I checked my blood pressure and it was very high. I called the doctor's office and they gave me instructions to drink water, rest, and recheck. If it was still high, go to the hospital. After rest and water, my number had continued to climb (reading 185/115 at this point). Walt and I called a friend to watch the kids, and headed to the hospital. They admitted me right away and wanted to run some bloodwork and watch me overnight while they attempted to lower my BP. Things were looking pretty good until around 4am when it started to climb again. So, the doctor came in and talked about options and we decided an induction was the safest route for both me and baby.

Just a short bit later they were in to hook me up to pitocin (I was already dilated 3cm on arriving at the hospital). I was on the pit for just about an hour and contracting regularly (and painfully!) when suddenly I had a flashback to Olivia's birth. The nurse came in and frantically asked if the baby had moved. I responded that she had been moving around a lot so, I guess. She looked worried and called the desk for "help in room 441." I got really scared and noticed that the baby's heart rate had plummeted. They had me rolling side to side, oxygen mask on, the doctor came in and broke my water to put a heart monitor on the baby's head (since it is more accurate) and they told me not to move. This same thing happened with Olivia, and I had thought it was a fluke. So, there we were. They turned off the pit, we talked about the possibility of a c-section, but I have an extremely difficult time with epidurals (took 2 epidurals and a spinal with Nick, took 21 sticks to get it in with Olivia), and if we went that route, I would have to be under general anesthesia (meaning neither Walt or I would be present for the baby's birth). I was devastated and scared. Again, we prayed. We just wanted her to be okay. They continued to watch me for an hour or so and she seemed to be doing okay, so they allowed me to have the epidural (thank goodness-I had still been contracting without the pit and it was ROUGH since I had to lay flat on my back and couldn't move!).

The anesthesiologist was a God-send. I explained to him my previous difficulties and with just two sticks, and a very gentle hand, I was pain free. I wanted to jump up and kiss him! But I couldn't since my legs were numb. ;) After they got me comfortable, they agreed to try the piton again, on a low dose and monitor how baby was handling it (this was at around 3:55pm). She seemed fine, so we waited. About 25 minutes later, I was feeling the contractions a lot (even with the epidural) and could tell we were getting close. They checked me...7cm. The nurse told me to let her know when I started feeling pressure. That happened at 4:30 (haha, she thought it would be a lot longer!). 9.5 cm at that point. She was going to leave me and I suddenly felt the urge to there it was. She called for the doctor, who came in and started setting up. She asked the doctor if she wanted me to "practice" pushing. The doctor said, after having read my chart from Olivia's birth, "NO! I don't want to have to run over there and catch. This is going to be fast." She was right. 2 pushes and baby Katelyn was born at 4:45 pm, after just under an hour of laboring. She weighed in at just 5 lbs 15 oz and scored 9s on her Apgar. She was absolutely beautiful, and we were SO thankful that she was okay.

Walt looked at me and quietly said, "I can't do that again. My heart just can't take another scare." I agree with him, it clearly wasn't a fluke for us as we had it happen THREE times! But she is here, and healthy, and we just love her to pieces!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Resolution-worthy recipes!

As I've panned facebook over the past week, I've seen an overwhelming number of people asking for "healthy," "meatless," and "low-fat" recipes. I've got a pretty good arsenal of recipes and I pull out things in these categories from time to time. The hard part is, for my family, it has to be something fulfilling enough where you don't actually miss the indulgent (fried, red-meat, cheesy, etc) part of the meal. It also has to be kid-friendly because I am not a fan of cooking a meal for the adults and a separate one for the kids. We're trying out some new ones too and I'll try to post some updates on here as we try those out.

Here are my "tried-and-true" favorite recipes. I'll link recipes where I can or list them simply. If you are reading this and want more details, I'm happy to give them!

Meat-Free favorites
*Lentil Tacos
*Stuffed shells (scroll about half way down the page for this one)
*Bean Burritos (I also like to mix a little taco sauce with the beans)
*Vegetable Pot Pie
*Black Bean and Corn Quesadillas
*Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (from the Deceptively Delicious cookbook)
*Vegetable Fried Rice (from the Hungry Girl cookbook)

Healthier Options
*White Chicken Chili (chicken breast chunks, chicken stock, green chiles, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, white beans cooked in the crock pot, served with tortilla chips or Mexican cornbread)
*Stir Fry
*Crock-pot pork loin with veggies (just as good as a beef pot roast, but far less fat and calories!)
*BBQ chicken pizza (with homemade whole wheat crust, 1/2 cup BBQ sauce, chopped red peppers, chopped pineapple, cooked, chopped chicken, and part-skim mozzerella cheese)...note, I make a batch of these pizza crusts ahead and freeze them for easy and quick meals!
*Turkey chili (1 lb ground turkey, browned; can chili beans in mild sauce, can tomato sauce, can diced tomatoes, package chili seasoning, 1 cup water)

I will try to add some more as I think of them. Feel free to post your favorites with links too!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Freezer Food Review-Part 2!

Sorry this is so late! I had planned on writing this blog post over a week ago, but Thanksgiving came SO quickly this year!! At least for me...

So, here it is! The rest of the reviewed recipes. Now, there are still a few that are in the freezer as we had nights that we just ate PB&J or had dinner with friends, but so far, so good!

Mexican Chicken Casserole: This one is delicious as a freezer meal! As per previous statements, this is another one where it is crucial that you undercook your rice slightly so that it isn't super mushy once you re-heat it. Other than that, the flavor is great!

Cheeseburger Meatloaf: This is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE of the freezer meals! It was completely delicious. And the kids loved it too! It's going on the "every freezer cooking day" menu for sure! Now, in my case, I cooked the mealoaf fully before freezing. You can freeze it raw, but only if the meat you are using has never been frozen (thawing meat, then re-freezing it encourages bacteria growth and can make you sick!). I put it in the fridge the evening before to thaw, and then cooked normally (40-45 minutes in the oven, then slathered on BBQ sauce and cooked for 10 more minutes). It was fabulous! We paired it with Idahoan homestyle mashed potatoes and frozen steamed broccoli!

Sloppy Joes: This was also very good re-heated! Somehow I think it multiplied in the freezer, as we had a lot leftover... I just dumped the frozen mixture into a skillet and heated it through. Took about 15 minutes! Super easy and yummy.

Pumpkin pancakes: In all honesty, these were a flop in my opinion. The idea was great, but the execution was a fail on my part! They were dry, and not very sweet at all. I think they would be really good, but I need to tweak the recipe first! Look for that in upcoming freezer days.

Stuffed shells: Another super easy meal. When I first made the shells, I only cooked the pasta about half way, stuffed them, froze on a sheet pan, and put into a zip bag once frozen. To re-cook, I put some pasta sauce in a pan, layed the shells in it, covered them with sauce, covered the pan with foil, and baked for 30 minutes (I baked it another 10 minutes uncovered after). Super easy!

Teriyaki chicken: This oen is really good, but I learned you have to be careful with the marinade. It's a pretty strong flavor anyway, and it gets stronger as it stays in contact with the chicken. If you put too much marinade on, it'll be over-marinated! We served this with hot rice, pineapple rings, and steamed veggies.

I'm not doing a freezer cooking for December, as we are going to be home for dinner very little in the next couple of weeks. I will do a post soon about inexpensive holiday cooking (appetizer/snacks, desserts, breakfasts, and the BIG holiday meals!). Also, planning ahead for January's freezer cooking. Please share your favorite make-ahead meals and crock-pot recipes with me!

Monday, November 15, 2010

How on EARTH am I supposed to feed my kids??

For anyone who has ever been a parent, you've asked yourself this question...a few...hundred...times. What is a parent supposed to do when their children's diet consists entirely of ketchup and green fruit snacks? I'm going to address some of the most common kid-eating issues that I've personally dealt with (and my solutions or advice given to me by other moms). I hope that if you have ideas too, you will comment and add them in! :)

*Your child wants the SAME food...every exceptions...and it isn't a particularly healthy one.
Give in. At least, some of the time. In my experience, it's better to let them "win" the argument. I find that in this case, it's more about asking for, and getting what they want as opposed to the flavors they are actually eating. But spark a compromise if possible with them. A popular rut in our house-bologna sandwich, goldfish crackers, and applesauce. In this case, I would either let them have that exact meal once a day (they can choose when-even as weird as it is, if it is breakfast time), OR, let them have an element of it at each meal (applesauce at each meal). It also helps in this case instead of asking "what would you like for lunch?" to ask "would you rather have a bologna sandwich or a peanut butter sandwich?" They are making the choice, and often will turn away from their usual staples if THEY make the decision.

*Your child HATES vegetables (or fruits, or bread, or meat, etc...).
Usually the frustration as the parent in this case is that you want them to have some variety (for nutritional purposes). There are a lot of things that can cause a child to shy away from certain foods. You are best served to investigate what causes their refusal.
Texture: Some kids are very put-off by certain textures (think crunchy carrot, mushy baked potato, slimy squash, sticky sweet potato, or squishy peas). If they have a texture that turns them off, try preparing that food in a way that texture isn't an issue. Puree the squash and mix it with mac and cheese. Roast the potatoes so they are crispy. Cook the carrots so they are softer. If texture is the issue, try it a new way.
Taste: Another category of kids don't like the taste of the offending items (veggies, fruits, etc..). There are lots of reasons for this, but unfortunately, you can't change their tastebuds. So, you have to adapt. If you want them to eat that steamed broccoli, you might just have to put some cheese on it. You can also consider "hiding" foods (puree veggies into spaghetti sauce or soups, mix in breads, etc...) but I'm not a fan of that myself. I feel like it's being dishonest with my kids. So they know what I'm putting in, but if they like the taste, it doesn't matter. More ideas on that later.
Appearance: Many kids are weirded out by the way foods look. You hear all the trendy chefs say "you eat first with your eyes." I'm certainly not suggesting that you spend countless minutes plating and garnishing your child's dinner, but think aobut it's appearance. Is it a strange or vibrant color? Shiny? Melted? Goopy? Those are also common reasons kids say "no."
Boredom: Do you find that your kid that once LOVED mac and cheese is suddenly refusing it all together? They may just be sick of it. Try something else for a while or shake it up with some new flavors.
Control: Just like adults, kids like to have some control over their environment. From the moment your child learns that he/she doesn't HAVE to open their mouth for that spoonful of strained squash or they can take their hands and knock the spoon away, they are taking control. From that point forward, they will want a say in what they are eating. They may not have the vocabulary yet to say "no, I don't want that." Instead, they will throw it, play with it, cry at it, and just plain refuse to eat it. If you offer them something different, they are learning that you have a favorable reaction to their behavior. If you refuse them something different, they are hungry and frustrated. It's really hard to find some middle ground. In these instances, I highly recommend offering something they almost always like WITH a new food (say, chicken nuggets with spinach on the side). Also in this realm, you will often get kids who don't like to be fed or want to be fed. If they won't eat it on their own, try feeding them, and vice versa. Don't worry about the mess. Sometimes it's worth it to get them to eat a decent meal!

Mix up the Routine!
Here are some things I find helpful for mixing things up a bit.
*Novelty goes a long way with kids. Use cookie cutters for their food, fun plates and utensils, and as treats, kid-friendly prepackaged items (tube yogurt, fruit snacks, etc...)
*Just because it isn't a traditional "kid-friendly" food, doesn't mean YOUR kid won't eat it! Your child may LOVE baked salmon when they're 2. They also may only eat broccoli in soup form. You never know until you try.
*Don't be afraid of toppings and dips. Many kids will eat a lot more if they have a condiment with their food. Ketchup, ranch dressing, BBQ sauce...they love to have something interactive. If you're worried about calories, buy no sugar added, fat free, and low sodium varieties. Kid palettes aren't usually as advanced as adult ones, so they may not notice the "odd" taste of light ranch dressing.
*Be careful with snacks. If your child thinks they are not going to like dinner, they will fill up on snacks beforehand. Offer them fruits and veggies during snack time and snacks with dinner to change things up a bit. Sometimes the change of pace will be refreshing for them.
*Don't assume you have to cook an entirely separate meal for your child if they are picky. Always offer them what you have (if, of course, it is safe for them to eat). They may refuse it, but there is no harm in trying! You may just be surprised.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Freezer Food Taste Review! Part 1

Many of you have asked the important question. So what does the food taste like once it's reheated? Well, we are half-way through the month so I thought I'd take a moment to share some photos and taste reviews/suggestions. I'll post the other half at the end of the month. Happ eating!

Sausage Rigatoni: This is a recipe that I've made many times before, but never frozen. I knew that there was potential for the pasta to get mushy if overcooked as it would absorb sauce even in the freezer. I compensated by slightly undercooking the pasta and adding a little extra sauce. I still had a *slightly* musy pasta, so I think in the future, I will cook the pasta even a little less. The extra sauce was definitely a good idea-it absorbs a lot in storage! The taste was wonderful, depsite my misfire on the texture.

Bean burritos: Once these were cooked, you would never know that they weren't made fresh and cooked immediately. Super fast to re-heat and delicious! Going in the book of favorites.

Fruit cups: I actually tried this recipe because it is similar to a fruit salad recipe that Walt's grandmother and mom use. Problem is, their recipe makes a TON of fruit salad, and I hadn't really figured a good way to store it. So I swapped out their recipe with this one (it's really only slightly different). The muffin cups are an awesome idea! They only take about 5-10 minutes to defrost enough to be slushy. I did remove the muffin papers before freezing as they were coming apart from being wet during the original freezing process. Another great quickie for the kids!

Chicken Pot Pie: This is DELICIOUS! We love this recipe made fresh, but it's just as good frozen. It takes a little longer to cook, but it is so good! Absolutely perfect for the freezer.

Butterhorn dinner rolls: These rolls were pretty cumbersome to make (they take a long time, they make A LOT of rolls, etc...) but they really are wonderful. Not something I'd make all the time (I have a homemade dinner roll recipe that's easier and also good-so I'd probably use it instead-will likely do that for the next freezer adventure!), but definitely tasty.

Chocolate chip whole wheat pancakes and pupmkin pancakes: These pancakes have a great flavor, but I'm honestly not a fan of the texture. They are a little tough. I'm not sure if it has to do with the whole wheat flour, or my batter-making skills, but they were a little tough. I don't think it's freezer related, as they have a fresh taste. I'll attempt to tweak this recipe before repeating it. They are really convenient and the kids enjoy them!

Chicken stir fry: This is another one that we typically eat, but haven't ever frozen. The key is absolutely to just barely cook the veggies before freezing! If you cook them all the way through, they will be super mushy when you re-heat. The flavor was great on this. I did cook the rice to go with it fresh (haven't had much luck with frozen rice).

Italian marinated chicken: This is one we've done before, and a favorite. We chose to grill it since the weather has been very warm, but it's also good cooked in the crockpot. The key is to pull it out several hours ahead and let it thaw in the refrigerator. It will continue to marinade as it thaws.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Freezer Cooking Day-Final Tally!

All in all, I think the freezer cooking day was a success!!

I learned a few things. I had to alter a few things. But looking at my fully stocked freezer and knowing that I only have to dump ingredients in the crockpot or stick a meal in the oven from now until Thanksgiving is very satisfying.

It took about 6 hours of total cooking time to complete everything. I did take breaks on occasion to wait for items in the oven, eat lunch, and to re-load/empty the dishwasher (it took 3 dishwasher loads by the day's end). I ended up with a couple of extra items (yay!) and I altered a couple. For example, I had originally planned on pumpkin muffins, but opted for pancakes since the griddle was already dirty from the chocolate chip pancakes. Both will be great for breakfast!
Here's the final tally:
Sausage Rigatoni (x2)
Mexican Chicken casserole (not originally listed but had the ingredients on hand)
Bean burritos (one dinner-8 burritos PLUS 2 extras for a microwave lunch!)
Fruit cups (24 individual cups)
Cheeseburger meatloaf
Chicken Pot Pie
Sloppy Joes
Butterhorn dinner rolls (40 rolls)
Stuffed shells
Chocolate chip whole wheat pancakes (40 pancakes)
Pumpkin pancakes (40 pancakes)
Chicken stir fry
Butternut squash macaroni and cheese (x2)
Teriyaki marinated chicken
Lemon pepper marinated chicken
Italian marinated chicken
Garlic and Herb marinated chicken

I hope that if you tried or try your own freezer cooking day, you have as much success as I did! I will continue posting as we eat the meals on the results of the flavor. :) I'll also start planning for December's cooking day!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Frozen Assets-Freezer Cooking Master List!

For this post, I'm going to list the food items I selected for the freezer cooking day. I consulted several books, blogs, etc...

So, this will be a LONG post. I'm including all the list, and recipes (some will be linked in the list). Now, bear in mind that I decided to alter our usual shopping trip this time. I've got enough meals planned to get us until Thanksgiving break and not all of them are freezer. I'll make sure to mark which ones are which. :)

I'll also make as short list of supplies that you'll need to have for freezer cooking days and items that are not freezer friendly. Okay-here we go!!

Master Freezer Cooking List:

*Pumpkin muffins
*Whole wheat chocolate chip pancakes

*Cheeseburger meatloaf
*Pizza dough (x2 batches) (I like to make four pizzas from each batch so everyone can make their own...bake them just until they are barely cooked, cool, and wrap them individually in foil or press n seal wrap, then bag them in batches)
*Chicken pot pie
*Sloppy joes
*Sausage rigatoni (x2)
*Chicken stir fry
*Bean burritos
*Stuffed shells

*Marinated chicken (x3)


Non-Freezer List (if you want any of these recipes, just send me a message and I'll get them to you!)

Apple BBQ crockpot chicken, spinach/ham/cheese pasta, crunchy ranch chicken, Brunswick stew, Balsamic dijon crockpot pork, roast beef/veggies

Supplies: I shop at the Dollar tree for the best value on freezer containers (I like the aluminum take-out style containers), but here are some tips:

*Choose glass or aluminum storage containers (hard plastic ones may crack or break and may not be microwave safe)

*If using plastic storage BAGS (these are safe!), be sure they are listed FREEZER not just storage or you may suffer freezer-burned or spoiled food.

*You will also need a cookie sheet for freezing individual or bagged items

* a tip: acidic items (lemon and tomato based items) can eat through aluminum. If using aluminum storage for those items, spray them first with non-stick cooking spray to avoid this problem!

*You can line baking dishes with foil, put your foods in them, and freeze. When frozen solid, remove the food, double wrap, and stack as "bricks."


Chicken pot pie:

1 cup cooked, cubed chicken

1 8oz block cream cheese, softened

1 can cream of chicken soup (undiluted)

1 can mixed vegetables

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 unbaked refrigerated pie crust

Mix cream cheese and soup. Add in chicken, veggies, and seasonings. Stir to combine. Pour into greased 8x8 pan. Top with pie crust (either trim edges or fold them over) and make slits to vent. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown or freeze unbaked. To cook from frozen: thaw in refrigerator 4-5 hours before baking and cook as directed or put directly into oven for 1 hour 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Sausage Rigatoni

1 lb sausage, cooked and drained

1 lb penne pasta (cooked to package directions)

1 jar favorite pasta sauce

1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese

Combine sausage, pasta, and sauce (if freezing, you may want to use extra sauce as the pasta will absorb some...also, you may want to keep the pasta on the "firmer" side of cooking if you plan to freeze, since it will cook more when reheated). Top with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or freeze. To cook from frozen: thaw in refrigerator for 4-5 hours before baking and cook as directed, or put directly in the oven and cook for 1 hour or until hot all the way through.

*Note: this makes one heaping 9x13 or two 8x8 pans. I am choosing for this to make 2 8x8 pans

Chicken stir-fry

1 cup chicken, cut into bite sized pieces

1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 tbsp oil (canola or vegetable)

1 bag frozen stir fry veggies (we like the sugar snap pea blend)

1/2 cup teriyaki glaze

Put oil into skillet and turn onto medium high. When oil is hot, sprinkle chicken with garlic powder and add to pan. Cook chicken until no longer pink. Add in veggies and glaze. Stir to combine and cover. Cook 10-15 minutes until the veggies are crisp-tender (keep them on the crisper side if freezing). Serve with hot, cooked rice and sliced pineapple. If freezing, pour into freezer safe container. To reheat-thaw in the refrigerator and add to skillet to warm through or heat in a mircrowave safe container. (You can cook the rice ahead and freeze too-put in a separate freezer bag and attach to the stir fry in the microwave)

Stuffed Shells

1 box pasta shells, cooked according to package directions (keep on the firmer side if freezing)

1 15oz container part-skim ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded mozzerella cheese

1 tbsp italian seasoning blend

Jar of favorite pasta sauce

Combine ricotta, cheeses, and seasoning. Put a heaping spoonful in each shell. (to freeze, place stuffed shells on cookie sheet in freezer. Freeze until firm-a couple hours tops, then place into freezer bags appropriate for each meal). Put a thin layer of pasta sauce on the bottom of 8x8 pan. Place shells in the pan. Top with sauce and bake 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Marinated Chicken
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (this will vary depending on the size/appetite of your family: 3 full-size breast pieces or 5 tenderloins is sufficient for our family per meal)

Marinade of choice (Italian dressing, hawaiian, and lemon pepper are favorites)

*hawaiian marinade: 1 small can pineapple juice, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp brown sugar

*lemon pepper marinade: 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/4 cup lemon juice, coarse

ground black pepper to taste

Put chicken in freezer safe bag with marinade of choice. Freeze flat on cookie sheet. Stack in freezer. To use: thaw in refrigerator overnight. Grill or bake until chicken is cooked through.

What NOT to freeze!

When making your list, some items just don't freeze well, and that should be considered.

*Lettuce/cabbage/etc...will be soggy and mushy when re-heated

*Pasta and rice should be slightly undercooked before freezing (they will cook some when reheated and if overcooked, will become mushy)

*Eggs will become rubbery in texture

*Milk and cream sauces (with the exception of cream cheese which has a different texture), will likely separate when re-heated

*Fried foods will become soggy

Next post will be after freezer cooking day (should be tomorrow as it's a day off school so hubby can watch the kids!).