Monday, January 07, 2013

Freezer to Crockpot Recipe Reviews

A friend recently posted a link to the Six Sisters' Stuff Slow Cooker Freezer Meals and I decided to give most of them a try. After school time has become bit of a chaotic cluster, with homework, a pre-schooler who wants her sisters to play! now! you're home! and a baby who needs more sleep. His bedroom is right off the kitchen and dining area, so the prepping/cooking dinner during naps is a gamble. Even if he has napped it's hard to keep everybody in a decent mood and making progress on their homework and chores while trying to cook at the same time. Consequently we are waiting for Tom to come home and cook, and eating an hour later than usual. Time for a change.
These recipes appealed to me because they use mostly fresh ingredients rather than the dreaded "Cream of Crud" soup poured over meat. Since we have a dairy allergy and I'm picky about whole foods I've made a few adjustments, and I'll note those along the way.  I've prepared several and they're waiting in the freezer, but I wanted to review them as we make them for anyone who might be interested.
First up is the Black Bean Taco Soup. I just made this on the stovetop for dinner, since
I needed something for tonight. Ingredients and my substitutions:
1 lb ground beef (we have a hog in the freezer, so I used ground pork)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package mild taco seasoning mix 

      I don't usually use seasoning mixes, but I gave it a go. I added an additional 1 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. chili powder, 1/2 tsp. oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Next time I'd skip the packet and season myself. I usually keep pureed chipotle in adobo in the freezer, but I'm out. I'll use it next time, along with fresh garlic.
1 16 oz can corn (undrained) 16 oz. frozen corn plus 1 C. water.
1 16 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (you could use kidney beans or pinto beans)
1 14 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

     Since I was doing a bunch of meals that needed crushed/diced etc. tomatoes I bought a 6lb can of whole tomatoes and prepped them in the food processor. I used 2 cups chunky puree and a cup of water for this recipe.
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 4 oz can diced green chilis
(1/2 of a fresh jalapeno, sauteed with the onion and meat)

Verdict: Very Good - I misread the corn as frozen at first, so I had extra in there, but it was fine. I'm not a fan of canned veggies anyway!  We like strong spicy flavors, so I kicked up the seasonings. The amount was decent, and we'd probably have leftovers if we hadn't eaten it for both after school snack and dinner. It could be served over rice to stretch it even further. Total cost was around $7-8, assuming that you were buying ground meat at the store. My San Marzano tomatoes and frozen organic corn were both bought in bulk at Costco, so are comparable in price to conventional items at the supermarket. I'll be putting this into the rotation.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Die gelbe Durchfall*

Nail polish serves a very specific function for me - it keeps me from biting my nails to shreds (and then destroying my cuticles when the nails are gone). Once my nails have recovered I can usually go without polish, until I happen to get engrossed in a book and notice when I finish the story that my nails have mysteriously disappeared.
My preferred polish colors are things non-sparkly and neutral, that don't show too much when they chip. I picked up this bottle last fall; it met the color requirements, it is one of the main colors of the local university (which pleased my daughters, they are devoted fans despite their parents having attended the rival state university), and it was on sale.
This fall has not been kind our health - strep throat and a couple of random bugs toured the household in November. December saw rotavirus meander through before Christmas and then Norwalk (norovirus) brought in a swift and complete attack on New Year's eve.
Consequently, I'm not sure that I'll every be able to use this nail polish again; it is the exact color found in sick baby diapers, SO MANY sick baby diapers.
*the yellow diarrhea

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Art Lessons

Tom is instructing Ella on the finer points of portraiture. She often feels compelled to correct him with things she has learned in elementary art class, despite his university degree in biological and medical illustration. This is not the best quality picture of them, but it becomes blog-worthy by virtue of the cat.
Being starved for attention, Sphinx has been shoving herself awkwardly into the mix. I managed to catch her mid-glare with the flash, looking as if she were shooting lasers via the tapetum lucidum.