Saturday, March 30, 2013

Slowcooker Freezer cooking

I have done this a few times before and it always blows my mind how easy preparing meals can be. There are recipes you can follow, and places you can go, to cook meals to then freeze for later use. This is way better :)  Combine your ingredients into freezer bags, raw, and then freeze. Once you are ready to eat, thaw and put in the crock pot. The preparations involve no cooking (mostly) and the hardest part is cutting up all of the veggies! I knew I wanted to plan on making a few meals before Lincoln arrived just because they are so simple and helpful when you just don't feel like cooking but want a homemade meal.

I found out about this easy method over a year ago, from the blog, Mama and Baby Love (I even bought her e-cookbook with freezer-slow cooker recipes) and have found other blogs and websites to pull recipes from, since then. This time around, I chose our favorite few and some that I haven't tried before. Check out the recipes and also check out the source websites, there may be other recipes that you will enjoy just as much I enjoy some of these!

I pre-cooked the ground beef a day or two prior, just to get it out of the way. I had a 4 lb pack of ground beef but only needed 1 lb for my freezer cooking, so I separated the other 3 lbs into 3 smaller Ziplocs and froze them too, for use in BBQ, tacos, etc. I have been collecting some of the canned goods over the past few weeks, but did most of my shopping all in one trip. I usually use raw, fresh meat, but this time I used frozen chicken breasts because I needed about 10-12 lbs and it was a bit less expensive for me to do it that way. It is up to you, but either way works great. Aside from cooking the ground beef previously, the whole process took me about 2 hours and yielded me 9 meals, plus I am sure most meals will have left-overs! Clean up is a cinch, since you aren't really cooking much and you do all of your mixing directly in the freezer Ziploc, which I appreciate greatly (we don't have a dishwasher). Here are the recipes and some pictures I took along the way.

Healthy Mama BBQ Chicken
Split all ingredients between 2 gallon bags

2 Lbs Chicken thighs (I use breasts)
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 large green peppers, cut into strips
1 large red pepper, cut into strips
2 zucchini, chopped
2 cups chopped onion, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
2 15-oz cans of tomato sauce
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ground yellow mustard
6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients into two separate one-gallon freezer bags, lay flat, label and freeze.
Day of cooking: dump into slowcooker and cook on high for 4 hrs or low for 8 hrs.

My alterations: Im not crazy about the zucchini and we like the sweet potatoes and onions best, so I omit the zucchini and use large potatoes instead of medium, and 3 onions, split between the two bags.
This is definately one of my favorites!

Chicken n' Cherries
Split all ingredients between 2 gallon bags

4-5 lbs chicket breats or strips
2 cans of pittted cherries (or 2 bags of fresh cherries, pitted)
chili sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar

Add as much chili sauce as you want to each bag, I usually add about 3-4 tablespoons.
Combine all ingredients into two separate one-gsallon freezer bags, lay flat, label, freeze.
Day of cooking: dump into slowcooker and cook on high for 4 hrs or low for 8 hrs. Shred chicken or leave in larger portions. This is Scott's favorite.

Source: The Test Kitchen of Melissa Fallis (I've also made the vegetable beef soup from this website which was pretty good!)

Stephanie's Goulash/Beef Stew (this was adapted from a Mama and Baby Love recipe which uses beets)
Split all ingredients between 2 bags

1 green pepper
2 chooped onions
4 carrots chopped
4 minced cloves of garlic
3 lbs beef stew meat
12 oz Tomato paste4 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper

Dump into crockpot and cook on high for 4 hrs or low for 8 hrs. Add 1/2 cup of sour cream about 10 minutes priot to serving.

Black Bean Taco Soup
Makes 1 bag

1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package taco seasoning mix
16 oz bag frozen corn
16 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
(2) 14 oz cans stewed tomatoes
8 oz can tomato sauce
4 oz can diced green chillis

Brown meat and onion, drain and let cool, then add to freezer bag. Add all remaining ingredients, mix, lay flat, label and freeze.
Day of cooking: thaw for 24 hours in fridge, cook on high for 1-2 hours of low for 2-3.5 hrs. Serve with tortilla chiops, cheese, cour cream and guacamole.

Chicken Cacciatore
Makes 1 bag

1 lb chicken breasts
26 oz jar of chunky vegetable-style spagetti sauce
1 zucchini, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 sweet onion, chopped

Add all ingredients to freezer bag, mix, lay flat, label and freeze.
Day of cooking: thaw in fridge for 24 hours, cook on low for 6-8 hours.

French Dip Sandwiches
Makes 1 bag

2-3 lb beef chuck roast
30 oz beef consume

Place roast in freezer bag and add consume.
Day of cooking: thaw in fridge for 24 hours, cook on low for 8-11 hours or high for 5-7. Remove roast from slowcooker and shred. Save juice for dipping. Serve on sandwich buns.

*In typing these recipes, I realized there were a few things I forgot (I didn't add brown sugar to the chicken n' cherries and didn't use enough stewed tomatoes in the taco soup) but usually these recipes are pretty forgiving. At least I can still blame baby brain ;)


Freezer stocked, check!

These are all the dishes I ended up with!!

Lincoln's nursery

  • How far along? 36/37 Weeks
  • Baby is the size of a: a winter melon 
  • Total weight gain/loss: 35
  • The Bump: and I are in a love/hate relationship
  • Symptoms: back aches, hips discomfort, heartburn, tired, emotional...the list goes on. Still woundn't trade it for anything :)
  • Food Cravings: Rita's mango ice
  • Anything Making Me Queasy or Sick: nope
  • Sleep: what sleep?
  • What I miss: walking like a normal person
  • Weddings Rings On or Off: Off. They still fit sometimes, depending on the time of day, but I'm keeping them off so they don't get stuck!
  • Any Names Picked Out Yet: Lincoln
  • Gender: Boy
  • Movement: He still gets hiccups but less frequently. Now when he moves, you can see him all over, instead of just one spot. He is definatley using all of the space provided!
  • Maternity Clothes: wearing a mix of 'regular' clothes and maternity clothes
  • Best Moment of the Week: Finally feeling like everything I wanted to get done, is done. Scott got the carseat installed, which was actually quite easy and Lincoln's nursery is done! Everything checked out great at this weeks doc appt. and he still thinks I will be delivering early.  
  • What I’m excited about/looking forward to: meeting our little one.

  • We have been working on getting Lincoln's room done, piece by piece. I am so happy with the special place we have created for him and am so thankful for all of our family and friends who have made it possible! Here are some pictures of Lincoln's nursery:




    And me and Lincoln on Scott's Birthday:


    Monday, March 25, 2013

    My Hospital Bag Packing List

    When you think of the 'it's time' moment, many think of THE HOSPITAL BAG; mom or dad grabbing it as they rush out of the house. I've been doing some research on what to pack for a few weeks now, but when our Dr. informed us of our possible early delivery, I figured I'd better throw at least one or two things in my bag. During my research I found all types of hospital bag packing lists (oh, the many uses of Pinterest!); everything from the minimalist's bag to the bag that has everything you might need if you were giving birth in the woods during the dead of winter. There are even hospital bags that are pre-packed and available for purchase- you can find anything online! I have checked out a few lists and taken advice from friends and family and finally have my bags all packed (aside from the items I am still using). Here are my lists. Feel free to make suggestions and recommendations, I'd love to hear them! :)

    Lincoln's Bag (packed for the hospital, not for every day usage...yet):
    Ju-Ju-Be BFF Diaper Bag and Paci Pod

    - 2 Receiving blankets (I know the hospital will give us some but these we will use for Scott to bring home for the cats to smell the baby, before we bring him home)
    - 2 burp clothes
    - Lincoln's giraffe blanket, to use as a backdrop for some cute pics and for some super soft cuddling :)
    - a few pacifiers, travel size diaper ointment and baby powder
    - a bunch of clothes; onesies, gowns and outfits- we don't know what size he'll be and I just have no idea what I will want to put him in, it's not like we live close to the hospital or anything ;)

    Hospital will be providing necessities such as diapers, wipes, and more receiving blankets. And of course we will have the car seat :)

    My Bag:
    Ju-Ju-Be Super Be tote
    - A robe and slippers that I don't mind sacrificing to the cause
    - A roll of Quarters, compliments of Grammy, in case we (Scott) need vending machine $
    - a few pairs of underwear and a few pads (although I am pretty sure the hospital will provide me with most of the post-pregnancy care items that I need)
    - 2 nursing tanks from Target as well as a nursing sports bra, a nursing t-shirt, a pair of fleece lounge pants and a pair of grippy socks
    - a nursing apron, nipple pads and Motherlove nipple cream that my amazing hubby bought me
    - my camera charger
    - an extra, empty bag to take things home in that we receive at the hospital
    - a cotton maxi dress to wear home
    - a SimplySarah cosmetic bag containing toiletries: lotion, shampoo, conditioner, a toothbrush, elastic hair ties and headbands, hair clips, and deodorant
    - Lincoln's baby book in case I can get the nurses to put his footprints in it

    Things I will add when 'it's time'!- my makeup, cell phone charger, laptop for access to the Spotify play list I've made and to other music
    Things I will have in my purse already- my camera, insurance info (although I have already pre-registered at the hospital)

    I'm  not sure that I'll need or use everything but at least I'll have it, and if there are things I need but don't have, we are close to home and stores to pick up anything. Scott's not packing anything, as most packing lists recommend, since we do live so close to the hospital (1.66 miles to be exact!).

    * I've gotten some compliments on my bags and wanted to take a moment to talk about them. My sister introduced me to the brand, Ju-Ju-Be, as it is what she has uses as her diaper bag. She has a purse from them too. I own the BFF, Super Be tote, Paci pod and the Be Quick and even though I haven't actually used any of them outside of the house, I know that they are all going to be great! My diaper bag can be carried as a handbag, a shoulder bag or a backpack. The patterns that Ju-Ju-Be offers are really fun and I love the material of the fabric, which is also anti-microbial. Sorry- that's starting to sound like a sales pitch! Check out their website- they have videos that explain every bag! I checked out a bunch of diaper bags and wanted to make sure I picked one that was going to last and was cute but still functional. It came down to the BFF and the Skip Hop studio tote- so far I am really happy with my decision. I'm glad I have a sister to give me good advice! :)

    Friday, March 22, 2013

    Happy Spring!

    What a crazy time this month has been so far and it is FLYING by! Here's the recap.

    I had a beautiful baby shower at an adorable tea bar, The Cup,  in Downtown Westminster. The Cup is a really cool tea bar/cafe and they've got great food too- I recommend you check them out if you are in town! My mom and sister (plus all the awesome help they had!) did a great job selecting the place and making my day extra special :)

    Gorgeous cake made by by Rene Fink!

    I got to celebrate with LOTS of friends and family :) (I don't have too many photos and had to steal even these, so email me if you've got some! Thanks!)

    Camden is ready to meet baby boy!

    And we got so many things for Lincoln, including my awesome Ju-Ju-Be diaper bag and about 5,000 wipes (that should last us at least a month, right?)

    Boomer must inspect all new items.

    Scott and I visited with, and selected, Lincoln's Pediatrician, which made the whole we-are-having-a-baby thing much more real :)

    I helped to celebrate Maddox's 1st Birthday- Lincoln's future girlfriend :)

    The cats continue to bond over their love of Lincoln's things. They have no idea what they are in for.

    George and Trey in Lincoln's Snugamonkey bouncer

    We took an infant child safety course at Carroll Hospital Center. We learned infant CPR and what to do if they are choking. We also learned that safety courses will make you feel more nervous than you did going in to the class! Anyone want to come join us in our bubble? I mean, they warn you not to let your kids play in soil for fear that it may contain lead! Isn't that what little kids do?! Crazy. When it comes to these courses you definitely have to take some and leave some!

    Scott with our mini baby

    We had an appointment with my OB. We are at 35 weeks but according to the doc, I am 36 and full term. At this point I guess it really doesn't matter.
    Total weight gain: 32 lb
    And this we were not ready for!...

    I am 2 cm dilated and our OB predicts that we will be meeting Lincoln much earlier that we originally thought- possibly 14 days earlier which means in about 2 weeks!

    Our OB is happy with this because Lincoln is already on the upper end of 6 lbs and if I go another 4 weeks he thinks Lincoln will be quite a large baby. I guess now would be a good time to finish packing that hospital bag!

    Wednesday, March 13, 2013


    Even through the aches and pains, I have really enjoyed being pregnant. Feeling our little baby move around inside and knowing that I am growing a human being is just amazing; little kicks and butt shakes, hiccups and all of Lincoln's twists and turns. I knew my belly would get big. I knew I might suffer through typical symptoms such as heartburn, food cravings and swelling. However, there are many things that I was not prepared for. Here is my list of pregnancy surprises. Sorry if this post is TMI. If knowing that this post may be TMI, you may just want to stop reading now.

    1. Bloody boogers. Yea, who knew? Because my body is pumping so much extra blood, it is actually not uncommon for pregnant women to have blood in their snot. Some even get a bunch of nosebleeds. Because I am also producing an increased amount of mucus, this makes for a really nasty yet satisfying nose blow in the morning.

    2. Leaky boobs. I knew this would happen, but surely didn't expect it at 32 weeks pregnant! Just another reminder that my body is preparing to give life to another being.

    3. Itchy skin. Again, I knew my skin might get itchy due to the stretching and growing, but I had no idea that I would itch all over so bad! Over the past week or so it has calmed down quite a bit compared to a few weeks ago but sometimes I start scratching and feel like I just can't stop!

    4. The inability to see past my belly button. It's not like I didn't expect the big belly, but it still is just such a huge change that I'm not sure I'll get used to. Its not like I can just suck in my stomach or squish it to the side. No matter how hard I may try, the mirror is my only friend when it comes to this change.

    5. Flatulence. I have even gassed myself out of the room. No more needs to be said.

    6. Hair growth. Long black hairs on my belly. Sexy. Can you say "tweezers"?

    7. Chest acne. Throw a little backne in there to make it extra cute. Scott's been super great and reminds me that its all part of this amazing experience. For this, I love him!

    Just because I have mentioned these side effects in this post, please do NOT expect me to discuss them in person. I do have some boundaries after all.

    Our cute new chalkboard (Thanks Aunt Debbie!). 6 more weeks to go!

    Wednesday, March 6, 2013

    Road bumps

    33 Weeks! Just a few more short weeks until we will have our precious Lincoln to love, support and hold for the rest of our lives. We will be his #1 fans! This weekend is our baby shower and I could not be more excited. Here's why.

    Scott and I have been married for almost 5 years (boy, does time FLY!). Our wedding day was one of the best days of our lives. I did not have a ring for Scott since the one I ordered him came wrong. Scott fell really ill due to the combination of the horrendous heat and his failing gall bladder that, unbeknownst to us, would have to be removed just a few weeks after our wedding. Most of the photos we took after the wedding were of me and our parents, me and the bridesmaids, me and the groomsmen, you get the picture (no pun intended). While I was outside, a brand new bride in all her glory, Scott was inside bowing to the other goddess of the day- a porcelain one. Our lovely niece, who was only around 2 years old at the time,  took a finger swipe of the wedding cake before the reception even began.

    Scott's sister happened to have their great-grandfathers wedding ring at home. She lives in Salisbury which was where we were getting married and was able to go home and let us use it for the ceremony. She then gave it to us to use as Scott's permanent ring. This was really special to us, since I have my grandmother's engagement and wedding rings. It's really cool to us that we are able to honor both of these special people in our lives by wearing their wedding rings every day.

    Scott recovered and was able to join me for photographs and enjoy the wedding reception dancing with his new bride.

    Our photographer was able to edit out the icing mishap in most of the photos. Honestly, the ones that he did not photo shop are my most favorite. It reminds me that life is way too short to sweat the small stuff, kids will be kids, and for these reasons I love the memory.

    Even though our special day had some bumps, including others that I will not mention and involve the consumption of a large amount of alcohol (not by your mother or father, Lincoln!), our day was perfect. This was because we were surrounded by all of our supporters; high school friends, family from near and far, college friends. Everyone was there to help us celebrate our love. It is these people that form our support system which has gotten us through the first 5 years of our marriage and will continue to do so for the rest of it. We are so lucky to have so many people in our lives that are there to love us and encourage us.

    And this is why I could not be more excited for our baby shower. I will get to spend the day with our supporters; people that will be there to celebrate the start of this new chapter in our lives. These people will be there for only one reason (maybe two if they know who is baking the cake!)- they will be there to rejoice in this new beginning.  I am so happy to know that as we start on this new journey as parents to Lincoln that we have the best support system in our friends and family that one could ask for! Years from now, I hope that Lincoln knows the same; that he has, in his friends and family, a group of people that love and support him through and through.

    My excitement may also be fueled by the fact that this will most likely be the last big party thrown in my honor where I will get to open a bunch of presents!


    Friday, March 1, 2013


    32 Week update. I'm itchy, my back hurts. really bad. and I feel huge and extremely emotional and I am just not up to my usual can't-sit-still, gotta-keep-busy way of going about the day. I feel kind of miserable and if it weren't for the fact that I feel this way because I am carrying our son, I may just hate the world. To my dear husband, I would like to apologize now for my behavior over the next 8 weeks- May you find your strength in the coming weeks. I will just keep reminding myself that this is all worth it. To feel his strong kicks and his hiccups, is something I would not trade for the world.

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