Dollars & Cents of Batch Cooking

My house is filled with frozen meals right now.

No, not Lean Cuisine or Publix frozen pizza. But, all sorts of delicious homemade dinners.

My mom, who just left on her return trip to Pittsburgh about 90 minutes ago, spent hours with me yesterday cooking all of those meals. I had been a little frustrated lately trying to make sure Gray and I ate decent meals (i.e. not pasta or items from the frozen food section) with busy schedules. Unfortunately, many nights we were coming home tired and not really wanting to make food. So, it would be frozen pizza or pasta or food that one of us picked up on the way home from some fast casual spot.

In terms of our waistlines and pocketbooks, this way of living wasn’t really working.

My mom gently reminded me that we could cook a lot of stuff and freeze it, which is what she has done for years. So, we went to the neighborhood Publix to stock up on ingredients and set to work.

We made:

This is my freezer right now:


So, here’s the financial breakdown of this trip. I spent about $111 at the store — it was probably closer to $100 if we take out the bug spray and crackers I got for my mom to have on her drive home.  If you take just the broccoli cheese soup, tacos, sausage dish and sloppy joes, that makes about 20-24 servings, depending on how big your serving size is.  That means, we were looking at anywhere from $4.69 to $5.55 per meal (using the $111 figure). But, that figure doesn’t even include 40 sausage balls and 27 energy bites.

It’s a pretty good deal. And though I wouldn’t refer to any of these meals as super healthy, it’s always healthier to eat at home than in a restaurant.

Also, because I’ve never posted it before, here’s my mom’s recipe for sloppy joes.

Ingredients: 1 pound ground beef, 1 large onion diced, 1 green pepper diced, 1 cup celery diced, 1 cup ketchup, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 Tbsp vinegar, 1 tsp salt

Directions: Brown meat and drain; add onion, pepper and celery. Cook for a few minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing well. Simmer for at least 30 minutes and serve.


Sunday means waffles

Good morning, Blog.

Gray and I have been trying to recover from a rather long week, so I thought comfort foods were the right way to go this weekend.

Last night, I made Eat, Live, Run’s spicy pork and kale soup. And this morning, I finally tried a new waffle recipe that I’d been eying on Pinterest. Well, to be fair, the bloggers Kevin & Amanda adapted it from an Alton Brown recipe, and I adapted it from them.

My adaption was more out of necessity. On Pinterest, the words cinnamon-nutmeg waffle immediately caught my eye. Of course, this morning, as I was dragging down my waffle iron from a high shelf, I realized that we were out of nutmeg.

So, it became more of a cinnamon-ginger waffle. I subbed out nutmeg for ginger and also reduced the amount of sugar. Their recipe called for 2 tbsp brown sugar and 1 tbsp granulated sugar. I skipped the granulated sugar.


Ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda,1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon,1 tsp ground ginger, 3 eggs, beaten,4 tablespoons butter, melted, 2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

Directions: Combine the dry ingredients in a medium size bowl. In a large bowl, beat together the buttermilk, eggs and butter.
If needed, spray waffle iron with PAM and ladle batter onto your waffle iron. Cook according to your waffle maker’s directions. (I use about 1/2 cup batter on mine.)
Serve with your favorite toppings — syrup, fruit, applesauce, etc. My batch made seven waffles, but I probably could have stretched it to eight. So, depending on how many people you are cooking for, you might have leftovers.
Both Gray and I were big fans of this recipe. The waffles were light, fluffy and flavorful. i definitely would make this again.
Next up: Vegetable soup.

Orange-Rosemary cookies equal awesome

Dear Blog,

I realize it’s a bit early to start talking about Christmas baking. But, I can’t help myself.

I love the holiday season. I’ve been pinning recipes and decorations on Pinterest and humming Christmas carols on my way to work. And yesterday, while flipping through the channels, I noticed a show called the “Holiday Baking Championship” on the Food Network. So, naturally, I stopped changing channels to watch the contestants present their holiday cookies.

A home cook named Nayley LaRochelle presented an orange and rosemary cookie that the judges were raving about. And, lucky me, Food Network had indeed posted such recipe online.

This cookie is phenomenal and fairly easy to make. They are light and buttery, and the rosemary and orange flavors both come through. Plus, the only thing I didn’t happen to already have in my kitchen for it were the oranges.

These cookies just made me happy. Even Gray, who is not a big sweets person, sneaked an extra one while they were cooling.

From Food Network:

Ingredients: 2 1/4 cups  all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 small sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped, 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 large egg, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 orange, finely zested with juice reserved, 2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary in a medium-sized bowl. In larger bowl, cream butter and sugar together with a hand mixer until it is light and fluffy (about 4-6 minutes). Add the egg, vanilla and orange zest.

Add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and thoroughly combine. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper. (I forgot the parchment paper and just sprayed the sheets with PAM.) Roll the dough into one inch balls and bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

While the dough is baking, combine the leftover juice from the orange with the confectioners’ sugar.

Remove cookies from the oven and let cool on baking sheet for about five minutes. Then, spoon the glaze over them.

Eat and be happy. 🙂



Sometimes you just need soup

Hi there,

So, let’s be honest, soup is awesome. You can really never go wrong. Roasted red pepper, chili, broccoli cheese, tomato basil, etc.

My sister, a fellow soup lover, gave me this recipe from Heather Likes Food for chicken tortilla soup that is so easy and fantastic. It’s fantastic even when you forget to buy enchilada sauce, a pretty key ingredient for the soup. (oops)

I actually did make this once before, but never blogged about it, so I can with some certainty that the finished product is better with the enchilada sauce. However, it was still quite tasty without the sauce. Gray added some hot sauce to his to give it a little kick and proclaimed it a good substitute.

The best thing about this soup is that it is a crock pot soup. Throw everything in the crock pot in the morning and let it sit for eight hours. And voila!

The only thing is when you do this, maybe do it on a day that your husband isn’t working out of the house and you’re not working late. In the situation where the husband is working at home and you’re at work for an extra hour, you get a very hungry husband who has been tortured by the delicious smells coming from the crock pot all day.


You could serve it with cheddar or sour cream, but I’m quite happy to eat it plain.


Menus · Recipes

A week of Thanksgiving cooking

It’s over. My parents, sister and grandfather departed Tallahassee at roughly 6:30 a.m. today to head back to Pennsylvania after a few days of cooking, eating and manatee spotting (my sister loves manatees, so we went to Wakulla Springs to see some).

This was my FIRST time hosting Thanksgiving, so I was pretty nervous. My mom was going to handle the turkey, though I bought it.  And she brought the spice mixture for the stuffing and cranberries. I was responsible for hors d’oeuvres, homemade applesauce, pumpkin pie, squash casserole, corn and sweet potatoes. We sort of both worked on the mashed potatoes at different times.  My boyfriend brought over ingredients for a special champagne drink and my friends Lindsay and Chris brought wine and a bouquet of flowers for a centerpiece.

Here’s how the cooking went down.


Applesauce day. I didn’t have off until Wednesday, so I decided to start cooking Monday morning at roughly 7 a.m. I cut and peeled 10 apples, threw them in the crock pot with a 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar,  sprinkled it liberally with cinnamon and let it cook for eight hours.


I had it all planned out that I would make sausage balls when I got home from work Monday, but there was still some cleaning/painting of the bathroom that had to be done, and I didn’t get to bed until after midnight. So, I got up at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and after a shower and breakfast, started in on the sausage balls. (I finished at right about 9 a.m., so I could scurry off to work)

You brown a pound of Italian sausage (casing removed) as you break it into smaller pieces. Drain the grease and put in bowl. Mix in three cups of bisquick and four cups of cheddar cheese and a  3/4 cup of water. Mold them into balls and bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes.


There was a near disaster in our Thanksgiving plans. My sister’s and dad’s flight from Pittsburgh to Jacksonville was delayed because of a mechanical failure and U.S. Air nearly canceled the flight. (My mom and grandpa had driven with a bunch of stuff for my new house and arrived Tuesday afternoon). But they wound up getting in to Jacksonville just a few hours later than originally planned.

So, that morning, instead of driving to the airport, Mom and I cooked. She worked on the stuffing and I made pumpkin pie.

I just followed the recipe on the back of the Libby’s pumpkin can.

Mix 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cloves in small bowl. In larger mixing bowl, beat 2 large eggs and stir in 1 can of pumpkin and then the spice mix. Gradually stir in 1 12-oz can of evaporated milk.  Pour mixture into 2 9 inch pie shells or 1 9-inch deep dish pie shell.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and cook for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for two hours, then serve or refrigerate.

Click here for my mom’s stuffing recipe.

Finally, it was Thursday

My parents arrived from their hotel at about 9 a.m. (my sister and grandfather stayed with me) and my mom went straight to the kitchen.  She hadn’t totally finished the stuffing prep, so she worked on that for a little while. At about 10:30 a.m.,  the boyfriend showed up with ingredients for squash casserole (his only food request, so his mom sent the recipe).

The casserole (of which I don’t have a pic) was pretty easy to make. You washed and sliced 6 squash, then boiled them until they were very tender and mashed them to get rid of the excess water. I transferred the squash to a casserole dish and mixed it with 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and some crushed saltines to make it crunchy.  (Since I’d never had it before, I decided to just add more than 1 cup cheese. Cheese would only help, right?) After I’d mixed the three ingredients together, I sprinkled some more cheese on top and topped it with more crushed saltines. It then baked for a half hour at 350.

In early afternoon, we started peeling and cutting up regular potatoes and sweet potatoes. My mom put the regular potatoes on the stove to cook for the eventual mashing, while I decided to pre-cook the sweet potatoes in the microwave for about four minutes to soften them up before putting them in the oven to roast.  When the sweet potatoes came out, I drizzled honey over them and put in a few spoonfuls of brown sugar.

Somewhere in there, my mom made a champagne cocktail for everyone to enjoy. Recipe here.

My actual dining room is too small for eight guests, so it became the food station. That’s my grandma’s china at the end, which my mom brought down for me. The silver came from my other grandma, who passed away about a month before I was born.

Since the weather was perfect, we ate outside. My friend Lindsay had procured an extra long table for us to use.

And then we ate, and ate and ate some more! Many things to be thankful for.


We ate leftovers, watched football and most importantly, we saw some manatees!

My sister has had an obsession with manatees since she was little and after I moved to Florida, she had major hopes of seeing one. We have made repeated trips to Wakulla Springs so she could see one, but the trips have always come up short. Meanwhile, everyone else who has come to visit has seen them. So, we tried again Friday and hit the mother load of manatees. There were probably  more than 20 swimming in the springs and more in the river. Sarah said she could now die happy.  It was the perfect end to their trip.

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving with lots of family, friends and food.


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

On Saturday evening, we went for a quasi date night.

There was a good dinner (Sausage zucchini boats with spinach salad). A football game to be watched (Florida v. Auburn). And a pumpkin to be carved!

I won’t lie. I was more concerned with getting the pumpkin seeds so I could roast them. My mom used to roast the seeds every year after my sister and I dug them out of the pumpkin.  I probably haven’t had them since Halloween 2002, my last one at my parents’ house.

So, like a dutiful daughter, I called Mom to ask how exactly I should make them.

Ingredients: Pumpkin seeds (washed and dried), 1 1 /2 tbsp butter, salt

Directions: Separate seeds from pumpkin. It’s easiest to do this by putting the seeds in a colander and running cold water over them. The pumpkin remnants will separate easily. Then let them dry. I put them on a paper towel and let them sit over night. The only problem with that was that some of them stuck to the paper towel.

Place seeds in mixing bowl. Melt butter and pour over the seeds. Then sprinkle liberally with salt, while stirring the seeds so the salt is evenly distributed. Roast in oven at 250, stirring occasionally, for about 4o minutes or until seeds are a golden brown.

You should then eat copious amounts of this salty, buttery snack!

The other finished product…


Dinner and a Movie

Last night started with chicken parmesan from Skinny Taste. (Obsessed with that website)

And was followed by a movie. You must go see Midnight In Paris. It’s really a lovely film and it will make you want to move to Paris immediately. It’s also filled with some great one liners. (Have you ever shot a charging lion?) The trailer does not do it justice.

Anyway, here’s the recipe. I reduced the amounts because I was not cooking for four people. I also used chicken tenders, not chicken breasts. (Had to work with what was in my kitchen at the moment).

Ingredients: 4 (8 oz) chicken breast halves, sliced in half , 3/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, 2 tbsp butter, melted, 3/4 cup reduced fat mozzarella cheese, and 1 cup marinara sauce.

Directions: Preheat oven to 450. Melt butter in microwave and lightly brush the butter onto the chicken, then dip the chicken into the breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the chicken over for the last five minutes. Remove chicken and spoon sauce and mozzarella cheese over it. Return to the oven for five more minutes.

Serve With: I made whole wheat spaghetti to go with it and some bagged salad.

How Was It: Delicious overall. The chicken was a tiny bit dry. I’m guessing that is because I used the same heat for what is prescribed for chicken breasts and I used tenders. When I put the chicken back in with the cheese, I actually had already turned off the heat. However, the oven was still warm and the stove was on because I was making the spaghetti.

That’s all for me. I’m headed off to the store in a little bit to gather supplies for a cookout. Hooray for a three-day weekend (and our nation’s birth obviously).