Kombucha!!!

Kombucha Scoby Hotel

I have been enjoying drinking fizzy cold Kombucha this very very hot summer. I have been making my own Kombucha for a few months now. Lately I have been having problems with mold and having to throw the entire batch out. Luckily, I started a Scoby Hotel before the mold stuck so I had extra scobys to start a new batch.

Here is how I make it. I boil 1 gallon of water and place 12 organic green tea bags in the water. I let it brew for about 10 minutes. Then I take out the tea bags and add 1 cup of sugar to the tea. Stir to dissolve. Then I add 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. This is something you don’t have to do but it helps to prevent the mold. Then it has to sit until it is room temperature. This part is critical. If the tea is just the slightest bit too hot it will kill the scoby. Then add 2 cups of Kombucha from previous batch (if you have any or buy some unflavored Kombucha) and add a scoby. Put a coffee filter on the top of the jar so it can breathe. Wait 5 to 15 days and there should be a nice new white scoby that has formed on top. Be sure that new scoby has no mold on it. If it looks good, then it should be ready. I pour some fruit juice in self sealing soda jars and then pour in the Kombucha. I set the soda jars out on the counter for a few days, burping the jars at least once or twice, then putting them in the refrigerator to chill. Once cold they are ready to drink!

Here is a new batch of Kombucha that I just started. The new scoby has not formed on the top yet.

Kombucha

This jar has a spigot at the bottom to make it easy to dispense the Kombucha. This type of glass jar can be used for continuous brew Kombucha which is what I have been trying out.

I know it doesn’t look the greatest while it is brewing but it is a really good healthy drink with lots of good for you probiotics. Give it a try! You won’t be disappointed! Happy Kombucha brewing!!!

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Assemble and Freeze Meal Plan for August 1-7, 2016

freezer meals

Long time no post!  I have been busy, what can I say?  So busy that I have changed how I cook now.  There is only the two of us now.  Most recipes serve 4 or more, so I have been using the freezer more to freeze the extra servings.  I have finally cleaned out all the freezers and defrosted them.  It was a dreaded chore but I got it done.  Now I have more room to freeze the servings we can’t eat so we can eat it at a later time.

I am also gluten free now. I use all gluten free products in the recipes below. It is easy to find gluten free pasta now. I do use more rice in recipes than pasta however, just because it is easier and cheaper. For the garlic bread I use gluten free bread and spread butter and diced garlic or garlic powder on top and toast it in the oven on the broiler setting.

I have been doing the grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday. (Or if I want to avoid crowds I will grocery shop early Friday morning.)  I try to have everything ready to go by Monday.  Monday is my meal prep day.  I basically assemble all the meals for the week on Monday.  If you work, this could be done on Sunday afternoon.  I assemble all the meals for the week and freeze them.  So nice to have ready to go.  I don’t like cooking in the kitchen very long this time of year because it is so hot.  This is one way I spend the least amount of time in the kitchen and can work on other projects. All of these recipes except for the breakfast, make more than one meal for us to be eaten at a later time. This is also a great way to stock the freezer before school starts.  It seems I am always needing a dish to bring somewhere or have ready quickly if my children decide to visit at the last minute.  This menu plan made 12 meals for 2 people with leftovers.  This will last us about 2 weeks.

Menu
Monday-Tater Tot Casserole, salad
Tater Tot Casserole
Tuesday-Garlic Tomato Butter Chicken, Rice, Broccoli
Tomato Garlic Butter Chicken
Wednesday-Breakfast for Dinner
Thursday-Cavatini, Salad, Garlic Bread
Cavatini
Friday-Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff, rice, salad
Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff
Saturday-Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice
Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice
Sunday-Creamy Cheesy Chicken with Noodles, Peas, Salad
Creamy Cheesy Chicken with Noodles

Grocery List: (side dishes and breakfast meal not included here)
Meat:
3 lbs (5-6 pieces) of chicken breasts plus 4 Boneless, Skinless, Chicken Breasts
½ cups dice Ham, Fully Cooked
1 pound cubed beef stew meat
2 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. pepperoni

Can goods:
2 cans of cream of chicken soup
1 can of cheesy soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can condensed golden mushroom soup
1 can crushed pineapple
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 can pizza sauce
1 small can of mushrooms
1 cup of tomato sauce

Frozen goods:
1 cup Mixed Vegetables
16 oz. mixed vegetables
28 oz. package frozen tater tots

Produce:
5 cloves garlic
2 onions

Dairy:
3 sticks of butter
2 eggs
4 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. mozzarella
1/4 cup milk

Pasta and rice:
1 bag of egg noodles
1 cup rice
16 oz. rotini

Seasonings/Oils:
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbs dried minced onion
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Teriyaki Sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha Sauce
2 teaspoons Sesame Oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Cooking spray

Equipment: Be sure to have plenty of gallon and quart freezer bags on hand, materials for labels, two 9×13 pans (I use 8×8 pans to freeze smaller portions so that would equal out to four 8×8 pans) and foil.

Procedure (I do all of this on Monday morning or this could be done Sunday afternoon)
1. Grease four 8×8 pans (or two 9×13 pans for larger portions)
2. Chop one onion plus chop 1/2 cup.
3. Dice 5 cloves of garlic. (save 1 teaspoon for fried rice)
4. Brown 1 pound of beef with 1 chopped onion and drain. Set aside. Brown another pound (no onion) and drain. Set aside. (Side note on this: I use my frozen ground beef mix for this so this is already to go for me in the freezer. All I have to do is thaw it. I buy ground beef in bulk. If you don’t have cooked ground beef in the freezer then you will need to cook 2 pounds for the recipes.)
5. Cook 1 pound of rotini pasta and drain. (Can keep pasta in pan so can mix other ingredients in with it.)
6. Shred 8 ounces mozzarella.
7. Cook 1 cup uncooked rice.
8. (Tater Tot Casserole) Mix 1 pound beef/onion mixture with 1 can chicken soup, 1 can of mushroom soup, 1/4 cup milk, 16 ounces frozen mixed veggies. Pour into two greased 8×8 pans or one greased 9×13 pan. Top with 28 ounces package of tater tots. Label and freeze. Use within 3 months.
9. (Garlic Tomato Butter Chicken) Place 4 chicken breasts in two ziplock freezer bags or for a larger portion place all 4 breast in one large ziplock freezer bag. Melt 2 sticks of butter in a saucepan. Saute 4 cloves of garlic in butter. Add 1 cup of tomato sauce to the butter/garlic mixture. Heat to boiling and stir to combine. Pour over chicken in bags, dividing mixture if have two freezer bags. (May need to let liquid sauce cool some before adding sauce to freezer bags especially if using frozen chicken.) Label and freeze. Use within 3 months.
10. (Creamy Chicken with Noodles) Place 6 chicken breasts in a large ziplock freezer bag or put 2 chicken breasts in 3 ziplock freezer bags. In a large bowl add the following: 1 cut up stick of butter, 1 can of cream of chicken soup, 1 can of cheddar cheese condensed soup, 4 chicken bouillon cubes, 4 cups of hot water, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder and 1 tablespoon dried minced onion. Stir until butter and bouillon cubes are dissolved. Pour over chicken in ziplock bags, dividing mixture among the number of bags evenly, if necessary. Label and freeze. Use within 3 months.
11. (Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice) Cook 2 eggs in 2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Add the following to the eggs: 1 teaspoon diced garlic, 1/2 cup diced ham, 1 cup frozen mixed veggies, 1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce. Add the cooked rice. Stir. Label and freeze. Use within 3 months.
12. (Cavatini) Mix in a large bowl: 1 pound cooked ground beef, 16 ounces cooked rotini, 1 jar spaghetti sauce, 1 can pizza sauce, 1 package pepperoni, and 1 can sliced drained mushrooms. Pour into two greased 8×8 pans or one greased 13×9 pan. Top with 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella. Label and freeze.
13. (Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff) In a freezer bag combine 1 pound stew meat, 1 can golden mushroom soup, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire, 1/4 cup water. Squish bag to mix ingredients.  (I love this part!)  Label and freeze. Use within 3 months.

On serving day:
1. Tater Tot Casserole-Thaw in fridge. Bake at 375 for 1 hour or until potatoes are golden brown and filling is heated through. To crisp up tots, broil for 5 minutes.
2. Garlic Tomato Butter Chicken-Thaw overnight in refrigerator. Pour into crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours or bake in oven at 400 for 45 minutes. Serve over rice.
3. Cavatini-Completely thaw in refrigerator. Cover loosely with tented foil (if using foil lid, bend lid so that melted cheese will not stick to lid). Bake at 375 for 1 hour, or until heated through. Remove cover and broil for 3-4 min. or until cheese is slightly browned.
4. Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff-Thaw completely and cook in slow cooker on Low for 8 hours or on High for 5 hours . Stir in 4 oz. cream cheese just before serving. Serve over pasta or rice.
5. Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice-No need to thaw this ahead of time. I just pour this in a microwaveable dish and zap it until it is warmed up. I am not posting how long because each microwave varies. Just check on it as it is warming up and stir it once in a while. Can also warm this up in the oven.
6. Creamy Cheesy Chicken with Noodles-No need to thaw this ahead of time. Empty items into the crock pot set on low and come back 6.5-7 hours later. Stir in a bag of egg noodles (if cooking all 6 chicken breasts at once or one handful of egg noodles if cooking 2 chicken breasts) for the last 30 minutes.

You can find more menus and ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

Apple Cobbler

This is so good and easy.  It is so much easier to make than a pie.  It also makes the house smell good too.  Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Apple Cobbler


Apple Cobbler

      • 3 pounds Granny Smith Apples, peeled and sliced
      • 3 tablespoons sugar
      • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
      • 1 box white cake mix
      • 2 sticks butter, melted
    • Place peeled and sliced apples in a greased 9×13 pan.
    • Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
    • Mix the apples, cinnamon and sugar.
    • Sprinkle white cake mix over the top.
    • Evenly pour the melted butter over the top of the cake mix.
    • Place in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Ground Beef Mix

I buy ground beef in bulk, 5 pounds at a time.  If I decide to buy some Zaycon beef, of course I have a lot more.  Usually with Zaycon beef I freeze it in 1 pound ziplock bags.  However, I cook 5 pounds at a time in the slow cooker.  I put 3 chopped onions, 3 chopped green peppers and 5 pounds of raw ground beef in the slow cooker.  I cook it for 4 hours on high, stirring every hour to break the beef up.  At the end of the 4 hours, I put the beef in a large sieve and rinse it with cold water.  This cools the beef mixture down and it also rinses the grease out.  I put about 3 cups of the mixture in each quart ziplock freezer bag.  There should end up being 5 quart bags.  Then I label and freeze the bags.  They are ready to go for dinner quickly.  This cuts the time I have to spend in the kitchen on Meal Prep Mondays!

For those of you who are interested, I do buy a lot of meat from Zaycon Fresh.  They offer bulk meat for less then what can usually be bought in the stores.  If you are interested, I have a referral link if you would like to try it out.  I have been very impressed with the beef and chicken.  I haven’t tried anything else but I probably will be ordering some other things soon!

Here is the referral:  Zaycon Fresh

I will be starting “assemble and freeze” weekly menus soon!  First one will be posted this week!  I used this ground beef mix a lot in those recipes and thought I would post this ahead of time.

Slow Cooker Veggie Lasagna

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Oh my goodness! This is so good and so easy. We didn’t even miss the meat! It did make a lot of lasagna but it does freeze well. And of course it is even better the next day!

Slow Cooker Veggie Lasagna

1 (12 oz.) bag Bird’s Eye Recipe Ready Primavera Blend frozen veggies, defrosted
1 (10 oz.) bag frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and extra liquid squeezed out
2 (24 oz.) jars marinara sauce
1 (24 oz.) container cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups Italian blend cheese, shredded
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 (16 oz.) pkg. regular lasagna noodles, uncooked
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the veggies, cottage cheese, water, garlic powder, salt, pepper, eggs and 3/4 cup each of the cheeses and mix well. Cover the bottom of a 6 or 7 quart slow cooker with 1 1/2 cups or so of marinara sauce. Top with lasagna noodles. Add cheese and veggie mixture. Cover with sauce again. Add a layer of lasagna noodles. Then a layer of cheese and veggie mixture and repeat until ingredients are gone ending with sauce over the noodles. Cover with lid. Cook on low 5-6 hours or until liquid is absorbed. Shut off slow cooker and top with the remaining Mozzarella and Italian blend cheeses and cover to melt, maybe 15 minutes. Cut and serve with a fresh salad and garlic bread.

Cinco De Mayo Enchiladas

Tomorrow is Cinco De Mayo or May 5. Here in Texas it is an excuse to eat MORE delicious Mexican food. So in honor of Cinco De Mayo I made up a pan of my enchiladas.

enchiladas

Here it is:
1 pound of meat (I use leftover roast and shred it)
1/2 pound monterrey jack cheese, shredded
1/2 onion, chopped (if your family doesn’t like onions then leave it out)
18 corn tortillas
3 cans hot enchilada sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour a little enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 13x9x2 inch pan. Warm up the corn tortillas in the microwave. Take some shredded meat, a little chopped onion and a little cheese and put it in the center of the tortilla. Carefully roll tortilla up putting it seam side down in the pan. Keep doing that until the pan is filled up. Then pour more enchilada sauce over the top of the rolled up enchiladas. Sprinkle top with any remaining cheese. Cover the enchiladas with foil and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes.

Note: The recipe is extremely versatile. The meat I used in these enchiladas is leftover from our Easter pork loin. I had frozen the leftovers and thought I would do something with them later. I didn’t have quite enough meat for the enchiladas so I thaw out some venison roast that was leftover too. I combined the two meats together with a little enchilada sauce. These enchiladas turned out wonderful. This is a good way to use up any leftover meat.

Penne Alla Vodka

I am going to try to start cooking 2 or 3 vegetarian meals a week. I would like to cut meat out entirely but I know I would get lots of protests from the family. I cooked this the night before Easter. Everything is cooked in the pressure cooker so it is fast and easy. I served it with a big green salad and garlic bread.

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3 cups penne pasta, uncooked
1 1/2 cups water
1 (24-26 oz) jar marinara sauce
1 ( 14-16 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients, except heavy cream and Parmesan cheese to pressure cooker and secure lid. Set the cooker to high and cook for 7 minutes. Perform a quick release to release the cooker’s pressure. Remove the lid. Stir in the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese until melted and creamy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pressure Cooker Round Steak with Veggies and Gravy

IMG_2784

It was one of those days and I needed to get dinner on the table fast.  I didn’t want to have to go out in this cold to the grocery store so I used what I had on hand.  This recipe turned out wonderful and I am going to have to cook this one again!  The recipe below serves 2 people so if you need it to serve more then increase it accordingly.

1 pound of round steak, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 slices of turkey bacon
1 onion, sliced
1 package of baby carrots
4 small russet potatoes cut into fourths
1/2 cup cooking sherry (or dry red wine if you have it)
1 tablespoon dry parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Press the Brown button on your pressure cooker. If you don’t have a brown function then do this part in a skillet. Put 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in bottom of pressure cooker. When the oil melts put the round steak in. Brown the round steak and then place it on a plate. Put bacon in pressure cooker and brown the bacon. Add the cooking sherry and deglaze the pot. Turn the brown function off. Return the steak and collected juices to the cooker. Add the remaining ingredients except for the cornstarch. I added some a little extra water too, maybe 1/4 cup. Lock the lid in place and set to high pressure for 20 minutes. Let pressure release. Remove the lid. In a pyrex measuring cup place 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and some of the hot gravy in and stir it up. Pour it in the cooker and stir until the gravy gets thick.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dressing

IMG_2780

4 chicken breasts (thawed)

1 box of Stove Top Stuffing mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1/4 cup water

Put chicken in slow cooker. Pour in stuffing. Mix sour cream, soup and water. Pour in and cook on low for 4 hours.
Note: The dressing turned out somewhat dry. I might try making the dressing instead of pouring it in dry.

Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf

IMG_2775

This is a basic recipe for meatloaf.    I dressed it up a little though.  I didn’t have 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef in the freezer but I did have 1 pound and I found 1/2 pound of ground veal.  Mixing two different meats together was really good.  A 1/2 pound of ground pork would be good too!  The thought of adding 1/2 pound of venison crossed my mind but I decided not to since I like to eat venison with spicier ingredients to hide that wild taste.  Some people probably wouldn’t mind it though.  I put everything else in the meatloaf as the recipe calls for except I had 1/2 of a green and red bell pepper leftover in the refrigerator that just seemed to be crying out to me.  So I chopped those up and put them in the meatloaf.  Most leftover veggies go well in meatloaf.  This recipe was enough for supper for hubby and I and then sandwiches for lunch the next day.  Half of the meatloaf was still leftover so I put that in the slow cooker spaghetti the following morning.  This meatloaf could easily feed a family of 4 with enough leftovers to make spaghetti the next day minus the sandwiches.  I served the meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy and peas.  Yummy!

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 egg
1 onion, chopped
1 cup milk
1 cup dried bread crumbs or cracker crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoon prepared mustard
1/3 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the beef, egg, onion, milk, and bread or cracker crumbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste and place in a lightly greased 5×9 inch loaf pan, or form into a loaf and place in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking dish. In a separate small bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard and ketchup. Mix well and pour over the meatloaf. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.