Thursday, December 05, 2013


Hello again!  An update in picture format:

 Willow and Daddy enjoying a read.

 Eliot's new favorite crafty activity: Loom Bands.

E and his favorite cousin at Thanksgiving during their rousing croquet tournament.

The little cousins enjoying a ride in the wagon.  They are only 2 days apart!  I can't wait to watch them grow up together.

 Eliot trying to get a picture with his little sis.  Classic.

Willow enjoying her favorite activity, food!  She is such an awesome eater.  She never complains about anything food related.  If she could have spinach at every meal she would.  The only thing she doesn't like is tuna.  She is talking so much now and mimicking all of our actions and words.  She wants to be just like her big brother.  Eliot is thriving in the 1st grade and is starting to read chapter books!  I am so proud of his progress and his transition.  

We are starting to get ready for Christmas by slooowly putting out decorations.  I have been doing a little crafting and a lot of craft planning.  I will work on getting photos of everything soon.  Ease in...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Organic Crockpot Freezer Meal Project Part 1

I posted on Facebook that I had made a month’s worth of food for the crock pot and a few people asked me how I did that.  So here it is broken down step by step.  

My main goals for the organic crockpot project:
  1. Save time especially since school is about to start and I have a clingy toddler that doesn’t let me do much with both hands at dinner time.
  2. Freeze enough Crockpot friendly recipes to last a month with a few easy dinners tossed in along the way accounting for leftovers.
  3. Feed my family yummy, healthy organic food on a budget.
A side note:  I tweaked these meals to be dairy free as my daughter has a sensitivity. 
First I started with Pinterest and the general internet looking for recipes that were either crockpot friendly or could be easily tweaked to work for the crockpot.  I tried to stick with food that is in season right now (New England) and buy local.  Here is a link to my board as it stands so far.  I am sure I will be adding to it, too!  I picked a few old favorites that I knew will be a hit and added a few new ones and one that I like and no one else does that I can refreeze into jars for my work lunches (Eggplant Stew, yum).

I also am totally tired of making purred food for my little girl so I wanted to make meals that would result in soft enough food for me to give her to feed to herself while introducing her to new flavors along the way.  The crockpot is perfect for that!  I also know that my family of 3 big eaters and one little eater will get one meal plus leftovers for one and sometimes two days out of these meals.  They are also easy to double if you want to do that!  I usually add a salad to all meals and sometimes rice, bread or whatever is in season for roasted veggies.  I also skipped browning the meats.  In my experience it doesn’t make enough of a difference for the time. Herbs like Basil and Cilantro don't always hold up in the crockpot but I added them to the freezer bags anyway.  I will add more to those meals that call for them the day of for more flavor but that is optional.

These are the recipes I used for this month and the sources where I found them.  They are all in one place on the Pinterest board, too.  I added my notes about what to add the day of and changes I made:

Recipe list:

                Left the chicken breasts whole.  Froze the cider I needed in a mason jar for the day of.

                Will add the Guinness the day of.  Skipped the oil and tossed the meat in the bag with the flour to coat.

                Used cumin, coriander and turmeric for taco seasoning.

                Used 2 bags frozen corn.  I’ll add soy milk and water the day of.

                Add PB the day of.

                Broth the day of and I'll skip the sour cream.

                Broth day of.

                Broth and quinoa day of.

                Broth day of.  I’ll cook the noodles or use rice that day, too. I skipped the lemon grass and added some lemon juice instead.

Stuff you will need (and some you don’t):

Gallon zip lock bags.  I’d really like to find another way to store food of this size inexpensively, neatly and without plastic but for now this will do.  Any ideas let me know!

Sharpie markers to write on your bags.

1 big fry pan

A couple of big bowls and several small bowls.  I stuck with bowls I could put in the dishwasher for the small stuff because I didn’t want to have to clean up all day afterward.

Big knife and big cutting board. 

Note: I have a TINY kitchen with very minimal counter space.  As long as you are semi -organized this is no big deal.

A place to put all of the ingredients nearby.  I used my kitchen table as the staging area and a counter within reach for spices, can opener etc.

Food processor is really helpful but not necessary.

A big bottle of water for yourself.  You will need it after standing, cutting, and zooming around.
A cup of tea doesn’t hurt either.

After I compiled the recipes I made a spreadsheet with all of the ingredients I needed to buy along with amounts of each.  I then read through the recipes and made a list of what I needed to physically prep (other than just tossing into the bag – chopping carrots for example) and then what I needed to add the day I decided to toss it in the crockpot.

I made the mistake of shopping at 6pm on a Friday night with two hungry kids and had to go back again the next day to pick up what I forgot.  Shopping the day before is helpful.   Getting a babysitter is also helpful. (Thanks Kevin).

The night before I laid out the freezer bags and wrote the name of the meal and what I needed to add the day I cook it.  I left out additional salt in all of these recipes because I find the chicken stock to be pretty salty and I like to add it at the end so I don’t overdo it.  I put everything in a folder so I had it all in one location.  A big deal in my house.

Day of:

Kick everyone out of the house.  Clear the freezer for space.  Put on NPR or some tunes.  Make my tea and have a slug of water. 

I set up one bowl specifically for putting the freezer bag in so the bag wouldn’t fall over or spill (or leak) when adding ingredients.  I debated about double bagging but I think they are safe.  I will update if I have issues.  

I then set up the food processor.  I also set up a bowl for veggie ends to make soup stock with later (also freezable).

All of these recipes call for onions and most of them for carrots so I started with those.  I quartered all of the onions and processed in batches.  Once the first batch was done I started browning them in the big fry pan.  It took about 3 rounds to brown all of the onions.  Some of the recipes didn’t call for browning first but for the sake of time and I like browned onions, I browned them all.  I put them all in a big bowl with a measuring cup on top.   I estimated about a cup of browned onions equaled about 1 large onion.  That proved about right.

I then processed a big bunch of carrots while the onions were cooking.  Next I peeled and chopped potatoes while the next batch of onions was cooking.  Several of these meals call for cilantro so make a bowl for that, too.  

One big time saver would have been to buy a jar of pre-minced garlic in oil.  I forgot it in the hungry haze at the store so I ended up peeling and using the garlic press.  I don’t suggest that – my hands were sore!

The corn chowder calls for bacon so I ended up cooking that later but could have easily done it in the oven.  It would have been easier and less in the way than on the stove top like I did.  The leftovers certainly didn’t go to waste, either!

After the produce was ready I started filling the bags.  I chopped veggies when I needed them, like the bok choy and celery.   I went one by one through the recipes so that I wouldn’t get things mixed up.  I had set up all of my spices and can opener etc. so I wouldn’t have to go searching for things.  

Another time saver/contamination saver I would do next time will be to have all of the meat packages open.  I started with all of the chicken recipes (I used all breasts no matter what the recipe called for to make it easier) and so on.  If I had all of the chicken breasts in a big bowl I could have used tongs instead of having to wash my hands so many times in between.   Live and learn. 

I made some minor substitutions to recipes.   For example: instead of lemon grass for the Thai chicken I just squeezed some lemon juice in there because I had it for another recipe.  I didn’t add any rice or quinoa to those bags – I will do that on the day off.  I also left out the peanut butter from the eggplant stew to put in once it has been cooked. 

The last and only non-crockpot meal (other than a quick batch of pesto with the leftover basil and garlic – also easy to freeze in mason jars) was the turkey meatloaf.  I love that recipe so I doubled it.  I find that is a doubled recipe the way it is written anyway.  It was perfect to do last because it is very forgiving and I just dumped the rest of the onions and herbs that I had left into the mix.  I lined my loaf pan with plastic wrap, formed the loaf then popped it out and stuck it in the freezer in the wrap so I still have use of my pan.  I’ll pop it out of the plastic and back in the pan when I cook it.

Then I was done.  And I was tired.  But I think it will be worth it!  Today I put some chicken I saved and vegetable trimmings in the crockpot to make a chicken soup – very little waste! 

Clean up didn’t take much time.  I used one cutting board, one knife, one big fry pan and lots of bowls that fit in my dishwasher.  I love big stainless steel bowls because they are light, cheap and easy to clean.

What I will do next time:

I will talk to my local farmers at the market to see if they are willing to sell to me meat in bulk.  If they can’t do that I will wait for a sale at Whole Foods to save a little $.  Meat was the bulk of $ spent. 

I will shop, preferably alone, in the morning when I am fully awake and not hungry! 

I am going to start looking for more recipes for next time and add them to my pinterest board.  I will also update and rate the recipes as we go along.  I hope this is helpful to anyone who wants to save a little time and eat in a healthy way.  Cheers! 

Comment with your favorite crockpot recipies!  I'd love to hear what your family loves! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Some Catch Up

It has been a while since I have been here!  My camera has been tucked away for a while but we certainly haven't been still ourselves.  The biggest news was Willow's birthday.  It is hard to believe she is 1 now.  We had thought about planning a big gathering but it ended up being a mellow affair with some family trickling in and out over the course of a week.  It was about the speed we were all ready to handle.  

We had a fun fourth of July up in Harpswell by the ocean and have been trying to keep cool ever since.  The garden has flourished in the heat.  Here is a picture from this morning.  The huge tangle of snap peas are just about done and will get yanked in a few days.  I'd like to try for some fall greens.  Lot's of my tomatoes from last year self seeded so they are mixed in here and there.  I'm curious what type we will end up with.  The plants I started from seed are doing great.  They really caught up.  I'll have a better plan for next year.  The only things that didn't grow for me this year were the broccoli and kale.  I don't know if they got eaten or what.

My biggest efforts lately have been to launch my photography website finally:  

I have a couple of family portrait sessions planned for the summer.  So fun!

I tried a few new greens.  This one is amaranth.  It is so pretty and tastes a lot like spinach.  Much better when the leaves are small.  I'm letting a few of them grow to see if I can get any flowers.

The blackberries are really going strong!  I can't wait for the abundant harvest.

Eliot's hydrangea is doing fantastic despite being knocked every time someone opens his 'club house'.  It's growing fast enough that I think it will withstand the abuse.  The flowers don't even look real to me. 

I tucked in some flowers into the vegetable garden this year too.  It is nice to have little cheery faces among the green.  I like the bees they bring, too.  More to plan next year!

A little last minute photo session last night.  Mostly outtakes because no one really wanted to have their picture taken and Eliot kept trying to use my reflector as a frisbee.  I was working out a different lighting scenario.  I have some ideas and tweaks and next time I will wait until Kevin is around so I don't lose my patience.  This one is the best of the lot.

This is post shoot - so nice when they play together nicely.  Eliot is still learning how to help her vs try to move her body for her.

This was also post shoot.  The night walks continue.  I really like getting the bit of exercise and it is a good routine for us.  We also get to chat with the neighbors and hear the neighborhood news, pet peoples dogs and do some foraging.  The kids have been pretty sick the past week so he got to ride a couple of times.  Last night he just milked it - better exercise for me though!  She doesn't like that stroller very much because she can't sit up.  But she does like to be next to E.

Back to the outtakes:

Eating the greenery. Too much back light in this one.  And the rug is just a silly prop.  It looked a lot better in my imagination!

Walking away. (Oh I love those cheeks)

Blowing raspberries in the props.

Walking away again.   I like the light, the sun was still a little too bright coming from the back but it created a nice rim light when I had the angle correct.  

One last yard picture.  We were given a sandbox (back upper left) that has been super fun for both kids.  I thought Eliot would ignore it but he really likes it.  They can play together in it when he is feeling patient and W just can't get enough of dirt.  At least she doesn't eat it anymore!  The hosta are flowering like crazy.  Summer in Maine is so beautiful and fleeting.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

More Garden Updates

Another garden update.  I really need to do a kid update, soon.

This cute little guy followed us along on our walk.  All of a sudden I am seeing them everywhere.  As long as they stay out of the garden (and basement) I think they are cute and entertaining.

The peas are really getting tall.  The tomatoes are a little small and spindly but we'll see how they go.

Some beans that need some better trellising.  The carrots and a few other little things are finally sprouting.  I was a little worried they wouldn't come up!

The squash and cucumbers seem to be doing well, too.  The lemon thyme came back with a flurry and the creeping time is really creeping everywhere.  I need to move it out of the raised bed.

I was gifted about a dozen asparagus crowns that I decided to plant here next to the porch.  I was saving this spot for grapes and maybe a kiwi but I had to get the crowns in the ground and it was the only clear spot.  It needs a good weeding out but it is a cozy warm spot for them to live.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sewing and Knitting

Sewing and knitting projects I have been toting around with me the past few weeks.  I started another little baby sweater, got really far and realized I totally messed up towards the beginning.  So...pulled it out and started over.  At least it's easy and fast. 

A couple more Alabama Chanin tops started.  This black one is the tunic length.  I love the fit.

This one has a narrower fit and was a little too short for my liking so I added on a little gathered hem.  
I needed a couple of simple tops to wear that matched pretty much everything.

For a hand sewing project these really are quick and easy.  I will probably add some embellishments along the way but for now they work!

 Doing the Wednesday Yarn Along over here.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Garden updates

The little seed babies have emerged from the basement to start their journey into the world.  They are living on our inside porch and getting some time outside to harden off.  I'm not sure where I am going to put them now but it is a start and encouraging for next year.  

There are some flowers mixed in with swiss chard, broccoli and basil.  The other tray has tomatoes and watermelon, fennel and bachelor buttons.  It should be fun to see what grows the best.

A little yarn tossed in, too.  I'm looking forward to this next project with bulky yarn and a cute, simple, cable knit with size 13 needles!  Should go fast.

The peas are really growing fast.  I planted triple what I did last year.  I can't wait for the deluge of snap peas.  I've got to get to them before the kids! The little tomato plants next to them are waiting for it to warm up around here.

The blackberries are going crazy now too.  I love the bees and smell.  They are just every where.  That and the phlox that has spread like wildfire makes are yard look really festive if not a little overgrown and wild.

You would think we live in a jungle looking at these photos.  Here's to a blackberry feast soon!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Sweater Love, Baby Love

I finally finished the little sweater I have been working on for Willow.  2nd sweater done!  I learned a lot about counting stitches and paying attention while knitting.  I do like a challenge and this one gave me just the right amount for this beginning knitter.  It isn't quite perfect but I don't think she minds.  I want to give cabling a try next... or maybe a shawl for me??

We had such a nice stretch of hot days around here the flowers have come out and a I am scrambling to get the rest of my seeds in the bed.  Everything is such a whirl with little ones that my garden plan has gone all to (you know) and I can't remember where I planted things again!  Ah well... at least they are in and who doesn't like surprises right?

The baby is so close to walking.  I keep saying that but it really is just a matter of her putting one foot in front of the other at this point.  It is encouraging when I have a little cheer leader following me around clapping for me all day.  And her little curls!  I wonder if she will be curly like her dad.

The leaves part of the sweater pattern are little botched in the last row but I'm trying to ignore it.  I like the blue and green combo with the seed stitch. It is nice to get another project done.

A good way to use up vintage buttons too!  The next one I make waaay bigger in hopes she can wear it for more than a month!

I am also yarning along over here and joining her awesome fossil hunting kit give away.  Pretty cool!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Incredible Whistling Baby

Before I show off my amazing child I will show you a work in progress.  It is a shirt and will hopefully be done soon!  Once I find some buttons I like I will give a better view.

So this is Willow the incredible whistling baby.   She now whistles on command, even.  It is an honest whistle with the intake of air.  She does it when she is crawling around or dancing.  I thought it was a fluke or Eliot making the noise but it is her through and through.  Such a riot.  A picture doesn't do it justice so I will try my best to get a video soon.

I got another 'kitchen baby' as I like to call my kitchen gadgets.  This one is a juicer.  I'm thrilled with it.  I have been juicing lots of green things almost everyday since I've gotten it.  It is such an easy way to get lots of greens in the system!  Eliot even drinks it as long as I don't use kale.  Kevin calls it 'medicinal eating' but I think its pretty good most of the time.  I like making veggie wraps in my dehydrator so my next step is to start saving the pulp (which I feel guilty about composting) and using it for something else.  Any tips?

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