Make, contain and freeze meals… our new adventure!

Living On Oxygen for Life

Hello everyone! Breathing easy, I hope! On this blog, I have written so much about so many things that it’s actually hard for me to remember not to repeat myself! I’m assuming you are like me and want to read about new things from your favorite author. Am I right? Did I just call myself your favorite author? Hmm.. do I even qualify as being an “author?” Well, I do write this blog but I’ll let you decide on if I’m your favorite. HAHA!

On Monday, K and I dove into a new adventure. Before I start anything new, I research the heck out of it. Pinterest is one of my favorite places to go for information. Then, I move on to Google search! Though, SIRI (on my phone) could find me the information I need faster, I’m the type to do the work myself. I think I learn more that way.

K and I decided, after months of me suggesting we should try this, to prepare a bunch of meals to throw in the freezers for the days where neither one of us are up to cooking. I do most of the cooking in our house and sometimes.. ok, a lot of times, I just don’t have the energy to make a great meal. Since I switched from using an inhaler to using a nebulizer recently, I’ve rediscovered some lost energy. I’m slowly starting to get more done around the house.

Word of warning: Don’t try this until you have one full day of time to cook and make sure you have everything you need before you start. I made a simple list of the order of cooking I wanted to accomplish and stuck it where it would always be right in front of me (on the face of the microwave!) We started with a half empty freezer out in our garage. Yes, we have a separate upright freezer. K bought me an upright freezer because he knew it would be difficult for me to bend over and search through a horizontal freezer. I also did an inventory of what can goods we had for the recipes that I chose to make to fill the freezer. By doing this, I could make a grocery list to make sure that we had all the food we needed. We only wanted to use fresh ground beef and fresh chicken because you shouldn’t thaw meat to cook and then refreeze it. You only want to freeze it once for quality sake.

I knew I had to save K some running around because he spent the day before at his mom’s house helping her with her yard work and her pond. I ordered all the food through Walmart’s Grocery pickup service. All K had to do was pick it up on Monday morning before we started cooking. I had already ordered and received from Amazon.com the foil pans that come with foiled cardboard lids (5 lb containers) and the Reditainer Extreme Freeze Deli Food Containers (with Lids, 16-Ounce, 36-Pack) to store our prepared food. We were ready to rock!

The beginning of our meal prep adventure!

Once K unloaded the food, he proceeded to tell me that he was going to take a shower, which he did, and then he took a 30 minute nap. I was like, what? Wait a minute! I kinda panicked but he reassured me that when I truly needed help, he’d be there. I knew he was tired. It’s the beginning of the holiday season and he really needed the sleep. So, I got started with cooking the meat. I bought 15 lbs of ground beef and 2 packages of 6 large chicken breasts. I think my brain didn’t register how much ground beef could actually fit in my largest frying pan because I had to cook it in 3 separate batches. I had to cook the chicken in two batches. For the chicken, I just boiled them with 2 chicken bouillon cubes, salt & pepper. I used the broth from the first batch of chicken (added a little more water) to cook the second batch of chicken. I also reserved the broth for use in a few of the recipes we were making. Don’t let it go to waste. We ended up freezing the remaining 2 cups of broth! You could use it in chicken enchiladas!

Cooking the meat!

Half of the cooked beef!

By the time I was done cooking the first wave of chicken and beef, I woke K up from his nap in the family room recliner. He’s my heavy lifter and chopping guru. He use to be a Sous Chef in his former career. So, he’s fast with a knife. Really fast. So fast that I’m kinda jealous. I’m too accident prone with sharp things to even attempt to compete with his skills. He was in charge of chopping the onion and all the chicken. Thankfully, I kept the empty milk jug gallon I just finished and used that to funnel all the ground beef grease into. NEVER pour that stuff down the drain.

Beef grease!

By the time the second batch of ground hamburger was finish, I was started to get tired. Unfortunately, as I dumped the cooked beef in my jumbo mixing bowl, I dumped some of it on the kitchen floor. Guess who got to clean up that mess? Yep, my dog.. Rocco to the rescue. Ugh! It’s ok, I had plenty of beef to share. K decided to make the leftover cooked hamburger (about 2 pounds) into taco meat to freeze into 2 separate quart sized ziplock bags. Once we had all the meat cooked and the onions diced and sautéed in a little of the beef grease (K’s idea!), it was time to start preparing the marinara (in my largest fry pan that I used to cook the beef in) and the chili (in the crockpot). It was 2 hours later when K went to stir and taste test the chili, that he told me what I forgot to add… yep, the chili powder. Oops! Where was my brain at THAT moment? I’m not sure how good the chili will taste but I’m hoping by the time we thaw and eat it, I can tweak it to taste better. haha! I may just stick tater tots & a ton of cheese on the top of it and bake it in the oven on the days we thaw some out. Chili is so versatile, isn’t it? *wink*

Marinara for the Lasagna!

Packaging up the lasagna in 4 foil pans! SIDE NOTE: Yes I crocheted those pot pads!

BONUS NOTE: Make sure you pre-cook enough lasagna noodles for the pans you’re preparing! I cook mine to where they are just pliable because I’m freezing the pans of lasagna. I don’t want the noodles to be mushy when they thaw. I don’t prebake the lasagna before freezing either. I definitely misjudged how many noodles I needed. So, it took two batches. Overall, I think we did pretty good. We worked well as a team without killing each other. K let me be leader in this adventure which was nice. I really wanted this to work. By the time we were done, I was super exhausted. My legs & lower back hurt. We started at 10:30am and finished around 3:30pm. I think I shocked K. I don’t think he thought I would be able to pull this off. I showed him, huh? *wink* And then, I realized I had to get up at 8:30am the next morning for a doctor appointment. UGH! haha!

I was in charge of making space in our freezer. I was able to free up 2 shelves because the freezer was already half empty (or half full!). K was in charge of carrying all the prepared food to the garage and loading the freezer. He only sent me out there because we had to squeeze in one more larger pan of Impossible broccoli pie. I love that stuff. So, I made sure to fit it in the freezer without blocking the vents in the freezer. You have to have enough room the freezer for the cold air to circulate to maintain proper freezer temperature. Overall, we spent $135 on food for this project. We already had about half of the canned goods we needed. The meat alone was about $65. Then the containers cost about $33. The plastic containers are reusuable. Here’s our freezer now:

Lots of meals in our freezer!

The list of meals we made on Monday is as followed:

Impossible Broccoli Pie – 1 big pan made
Broccoli, Chicken & Rice Casseroles – 4 9×5 pans made
Lasagna – 4 9×5 pans made
Taco Soup – saved in 16oz bowls (didn’t count)
Chili – saved in 16oz bowls (didn’t count)
Burrito Pie – 3 9×5 pans
Taco meat – 2 1-quart ziplock bags
The remaining diced cooked chicken breasts in several quart-sized ziplock bags to make chimichangas or chicken quesadillas.

Overall, this adventure was a success and it proved to me that I can do something this major as long as I have some help. Yes I was very drained and I had to sit down a couple of times while I spooning food into containers or writing labels. Would I do this again with help? Yes I think so. I may try a few different recipes though. I don’t think I would try to make so many recipes at once again but K thinks we could do just as much next time. There are somethings I would PRE-MAKE ahead of time the next time we do this. Like, precook and then refrigerate the beef and chicken the day or night before. That would save a lot of time if I could get at least half of the meat cooked ahead of time. I’ll try to get some recipes that I used on my blog later this week.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of This is Christine’s Life! lol! Stay warm everyone. It’s getting cold down here in Texas.

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My Rookie Experience in Trying a New Thing and How to keep life interesting.

Living On Oxygen for Life

The past few months, I have lost a lot of interest in doing a lot of things that I normally would enjoy. Part of it is from depression and the other part is a decline in health. I’ve slowed down quite a bit. I still “garden” but K waters the garden for me. I still crochet but it takes me longer to complete an afghan. I don’t leave the house on my own as much because it drains me a lot. But I still do it because I need to feel like my old self as much as possible. I get out of the house more WITH K than alone.

I try to find different things to experiment with to keep my interest and find the happiness I need to keep me getting out of bed while K is working. So, I look to Pinterest a lot. Recently, I’ve challenged myself into conquering Yeast Rolls. Since I don’t have a KitchenAid stand mixer or a bread machine, I thought mixing and kneading the dough by hand would wear me out. When I finally found a recipe the creates only 4 rolls, I thought… “What the heck! Even I can do THAT!” Right? So, my foray into baking with yeast begins. My first time I produce the 4 rolls but the crust was too hard and they were dense. The third time I tried, I found the perfect recipe! This recipe calls for more milk than water and 2 eggs. Wow! Who knew that these changes would produce awesome dinner rolls?

There are some people on my FaceBook Page (Living On O2 for Life) have seen my posts about my experience with baking yeast rolls and want the recipe of the rolls I made this week. So, here it is… I hope you understand my method of explanation:

Buttery Soft Top Yeast Rolls

3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
4 cups flour + a couple of tablespoons if needed (I used all-purpose flour)
2 1/4 tsp of instant yeast (1 package or 1 pkg of active yeast)

I used instant yeast this time but you can use active yeast because I do the same process of proofing the yeast for either kind.

TIP #1: I use glass and tupperware bowls to make the dough.
TIP #2: When measuring flour, ALWAYS spoon it into your measuring cup without packing it in or shaking the flour down. Level off with a straight edge.

Combine milk, 2 tsp of the sugar (the rest goes in the big bowl) & water. Warm in the microwave about 30 seconds on high, stir and then microwave another 30 seconds and stir again. Test with a thermometer and make sure the liquid reaches approximately 110 degrees. NO HOTTER or you could kill off your yeast. (make sure you have the sugar in there for the yeast to eat!) Once your Milk/Water/Sugar is warm, add yeast and stir softly and set aside to froth & foam for 10 minutes. (it smells so good!)

Melt butter in the microwave in a small bowl and let it cool.

While using a blender (I used my hand mixer) to combine 1 cup of flour & 2 (room temperature) eggs and then add in the butter once it’s cooled but still liquid.

Add the frothy yeast/milk/water/sugar to the Flour/eggs/butter that you just combine with the mixer and use the blender while adding another cup of flour. By this time, unless you have a stand mixer, you’ll need to change over to using a rubber spatula to add the rest of your flour. I had to do this last part with a rubber spatula because I don’t have a kitchenaid stand mixer. Don’t worry, it’s not that hard or tiresome.

The dough will seem a little sticky after you incorporate the four cups of flour but it shouldn’t stick to the bowl. If you need a little flour, add it by the tablespoon. I only needed about 2 tablespoons of extra flour. It will be sticky but it shouldn’t stick to your fingers.

Let the dough rest a few minutes in the bowl (I needed a little few minutes of a break) and then knead the dough. I kneaded my dough in the bowl instead of on a countertop for about 5 to 10 minutes (closer to about 10). It saved me from getting my countertop dirty. I eyeballed how much kneading was needed by testing its stretchiness (something about a window of dough)!

After kneading, I just left the dough in the bowl and covered it with a Turkey Roasting oven bag since I had a box of them from when I thought I would try roasting a turkey one year. That didn’t happen. *rolling my eyes* The roasting bag fits nicely over the big, gigantic bowl I use to make the dough. I set the covered bowl in my warm garage (it’s in the 90s here now) and then the waiting started for the dough to rise to twice its original size. About an hour, maybe more, maybe less.

Meanwhile, I cleaned up my mess and read a book on my Kindle app while occasionally glancing at the TV. Yeah, I’m that good! haha! When the dough is twice its original size, I brought it back into the kitchen and pressed/punched it down. I used my cutting board and a 8-inch sharp knife to cut the dough in equal portions. You should be able to get 15 pieces that you can form into approximately 2 – 2.5 inch balls. Don’t over manipulate the dough. Just gently fold the edges under and pinch the bottom seam together.

Rolls after rising to twice their size.


Place dough balls, seam side down, into a Pam sprayed 9 X 13 inch pan. I put my pan with the rolls back into the Roasting Bag and moved them back out into the garage to rise again to twice the size. By the time they have risen, they’ll spread to fill the pan. Take them out of the bag, preheat oven to 375 degrees and used melted butter to brush on top of each roll. Add a pan or baking dish of water on the bottom rake in the over under the place the rolls will go. It helps to bake them with this water to make the tops softer. Bake for 13 – 16 minutes depending on your altitude where you live. They should be nicely golden brown on the top. When they are done, butter the tops again and sprinkle with sea salt (I used Mediterranean Pink Sea Salt). Then eat one! Or two or three! YUM.

Let me know if I made any mistakes or if you have any helpful tips in the comment section.

A fun adventure to get me outside.

Living On Oxygen for Life

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to get my butt outside, especially when it’s either cold or hot outside. K likes for me to stay as active as possible while on my days of feeling good. He also likes for me to push myself a little bit (just a little bit mind you!) even when I don’t feel 100 percent. Ok, well, that’s virtually everyday but let’s not be technical about it, right?

So, what gets me excited enough to get out in my yard? Gardening! Not just any kind of gardening, you know… With flowers and what nots.. I’m talking about growing food! Now my yard isn’t big. K says it’s about the size of a postage stamp but I make it work for me. That’s right… I use raised garden beds and half whiskey barrels because, having Pulmonary Hypertension, bending down is difficult for me. This year, I’m growing potatoes (red & white), spinach, carrots, cilantro, thyme, chiles, Bibb lettuce, garlic and a few onions.

This year (2016) K built this raised bed for me to have more garden space.

This year (2016) K built this raised bed for me to have more garden space.

Last week we had 2 major hail storms that damaged our house and K’s car. I feel a little bad because my van was in the garage. hehe! Here’s a picture I took of the second storm. It was so loud!

This hail did some damage to our house and to K's car.

This hail did some damage to our house and to K’s car.

Thankfully, and quite unbelievably, my gardens survived both beatings! Maybe it’s because of the netting I have over them. I use it to keep out the bugs. I’m looking more and more like a farmer everyday! Even my dwarf orange, lemon, & lime trees survived.

My first attempt at growing carrots!

My first attempt at growing carrots!

My first attempt at growing Bibb lettuce.

My first attempt at growing Bibb lettuce.

Because I use a Bipap, I tend to have a problem with too much air in my tummy sometimes. When I eat iceburg lettuce or onions, it only makes the problem worse. I like salad but most salads have iceberg lettuce in them. I can eat spinach with no problem though. I thought I would try growing the Bibb lettuce as a way to eat a Spinach & Bibb lettuce salad instead.

I like to work around any problems that come up. I call it MacGyvering! Don’t forget to follow my blog to stay up to date with all of my adventurous moments. Happy Easter Sunday everyone!

Random Picture Day #14

Living On Oxygen for Life

I had a very exciting 4th of July weekend. My older sister came down for a visit and Saturday, we all went to her in-law’s house to watch the fireworks display while sitting on a lawn chair on the sidewalk. How awesome is that? They had great food and HOMEMADE ice cream (two flavors… chocolate or raspberry). I was in ice cream heaven for a little while. Yum! While we waited for the Fort Worth firework show to start, the kids lit the sparklers and my niece (who’s 5 years old) had a hay day with the snaps that you throw on the ground and they pop like a fire cracker. K was so funny. Every time she threw one near him, he acted all scared and jumped and screeched. Oh the joys from the laughter she makes. Even though I had a LOT of fun, the fireworks smoke and the humidity became too much for me. I had to go inside after the show was over. When I got home, I was feeling it badly. Sunday, I got up to see off my sister & her family and after that.. it was a blur… We crashed for about 4 hours. A five year old can really wear you out!! Sheesh! Once again, Miss C, told me that she still has the little canula tubing that I gave her when she was about 2 years old. So sweet and precious.

I’ve been pretty busy lately with gardening, crocheting, and working on a new adventurous project involving my rubber chicken, Klondike. Maybe you’ve heard? You can read about it here. So, I’ve been getting him prepared to leave and head to my sister’s house so that he may continue on to PARIS, FRANCE!!! I’m gathering things that he might need for the trip…. He’s getting really excited and I don’t blame him one bit. *wink* I just think that this is such a sweet thing my sister is doing for me. Here’s what I have so far!

Passport with Klondike's picture, Mad Money, a Beret and matching scarf.

Passport with Klondike’s picture, Mad Money, a Beret and matching scarf.

I’m also having some gardening luck this year. I actually have 3 whole lemons growing! *shocker* It’s the first year since I’ve had the Meyer Lemon dwarf tree that it’s produced fruit. Hey, maybe they will be edible! One could only hope.

July2015_Lemons

Next is my raised flower bed that I got for last Christmas. My spinach didn’t make it… bummer… but my yellow onions, garlic, chives & basil all are growing well. It’s my first time growing onions and garlic. I hope they survive because I’m really getting into fresh food. I can’t believe how much tastier a recipe is with fresh garlic. I mean, wow! hehe!

July2015_garden

The other thing I’ve been working super hard on is sending out Need a Hug afghans. I love doing this. If you need a hug and have trouble breathing, you email me! goredrider@gmail.com It’s free thanks to some really wonderful and generous donors. Here’s the afghan that I just sent out last week. My current afghan that I’m working on is going to Illinois!

June 2015 Need a Hug Afghan

June 2015 Need a Hug Afghan

I hope everyone is doing well this Summer. *HUGE HUGS* I love hearing from you. Be well! Sign up to follow my blog so you won’t miss any of the exciting things I write… even Klondike’s adventure! YAY!

[2015]