Friday, June 15, 2012

Recipe for Success

I’m not a natural born cook.  My mother cooked dinner every night while I grew up so you would think that I would have gained some skills but it’s actually the opposite.  I never had to fend for myself for food so I never really did a whole lot of cooking until I lived on my own.

Since cooking doesn’t come naturally to me I have found that the best way to build my confidence (and successes) is to use recipes.  Now I know that sounds kind of boring and DUH! But the thing is that I only use each recipe once or occasionally twice.  That doesn’t mean if I have a recipe tacos that I only make tacos once ever – but that I learn what the basic ingredients are to season my tacos properly (some taco seasoning packets have gluten – they also have a lot of salt!).  After the first meal I know what the recipe tastes like and then I know enough about food to know what kind of things I can add to make it perfect for me (and Mark too).  Which, with tacos, usually means SPICY!  Another reason I like to use recipes other than to learn basic flavor combinations is to learn to use a food that I’ve never used before.  This was the case when I recently embarked on my newest adventure of freezer/crockpot cooking.  I stumbled across Mama and Baby Love and her easy instructions and recipes for delicious and healthy meals.  Please visit her site to learn more about the basics –

I started with her first three recipes – BBQ Chicken, Chicken Curry and Stephanie’s Goulash.  I had a Saturday at home by my self, so after my early am workout with Jamie of the ReallyReallyBlog I headed to Kroger and loaded my cart.  I needed pretty much all of the ingredients except for a few spices and it turned out to be one of those shopping trips where I feel kind of smug because my cart was loaded with all kinds of veggies and just a few packs of meat and fancy spices.  I was especially excited about the beets (one of those foods I mentioned that I was going to learn to use).  My Kroger only sells organic beets so I took my time selecting my beets and acted like I was some kind of fancy beet elitist.  My whole grocery bill was right around $50.  Some of the purchased things will be able to be used again and again such as the brown sugar, gluten free flour and curry powder and I ended up not using all of the sweet potatoes and zucchinis so I figure that if I were to make these 6 meals again it would cost about $35 which is just over $5 for each meal which has been enough for each of us to eat at least twice - so about $1.25 per serving!  I like that!

Fruits and Vegetables for Freezer and Crockpot Recipes

I then arrived home and it began.  I spent the afternoon chopping, chopping, chopping and then some measuring and seasoning.  The whole shebang took me around 5 hours but that included cleaning up (and a freezer clean out to make room for my food) and doing some extra chopping (I chopped some extra onions, garlic, peppers and tomatos for the tacos I was making for dinner and I chopped some celery for snacks!).  But in the end I had 6 meals that were to be frozen and then just put in the crock pot when needed.  So 5 hours for 6 meals (7 really if you count the tacos I made for dinner that night) and a freezer clean out and kitchen clean up?  I thought it was worth it and I know it will go faster if I do it again.

Prepared bags of freezer and crockpot dinners.
After this photo I mixed everything in the bags, squeezed out the air and massaged them flat and stacked them up in the freezer.

We have since eaten the Goulash (which was pretty good but Mark didn’t like it because of the tomato-y sauce), and the Chicken Curry (which was good but I will add a little extra chicken broth – WATCH OUT FOR GLUTEN! – next time I make it, and more spice too!).

Crockpot Goulash over Gluten Free Pasta
Goulash with Plain Yogurt and Gluten Free Pasta
Tacos with homemade seasoning, avocado, tomato, cheese and plain yogurt
One of the Tacos that I simultaneously prepared.

 But just after one session of following Mama and Baby Love’s recipes I had an idea of what foods work well in freezer and/or crockpot cooking so I already made my own recipe! Spicy and Veggie Loaded Chili!  Mark and I thought of a few changes for the next batch and the recipe below reflects that.  Remember we REALLY like spicy food – so adjust peppers to your liking.

Ellen’s Crockpot Chili!

1  large sweet potato
½ zucchini
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 bag red kidney beans (I do soak these overnight the night before)
1 30oz. can tomato sauce 
1/2 cup chicken, beef or vegetable broth
1 lb of ground beef - browned and drained (I bought a bunch on special and browned it and froze it in about 1 lb portions)
1 green pepper
4-5 hot peppers (We like Serrano or Habenero)
Spices (amounts are not exact – I just kind put it in until it smells good)
2 tbs Chili Powder
1 tbs cayenne pepper
1tbs cumin
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper to taste

This made enough for each of us to eat it 4 times!

NOTE: Occasionally I say that I don't like music and that I'm not actually any fun.  This was a perfect example as I sat alone in the kitchen chopping and such for 5 hours in complete silence.   Just me, my mind and some veggies.  There was however a snippet of Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe playing in my mind.


  1. Hmm. I was hoping to be motivated to cook knowing this post was coming but I'm still not. I've had the same thoughts about why I have no interest in cooking - because I never had to. If it wasn't my mom cooking, it was Amanda! This is also happening in my sims game. The mother was a fantastic cook so the kids never learned. Sadly she passed on but then she came back as a ghost!!!! Now the ghost continues to cook awesome meals while the kids continue to perfect other skills like painting and writing. TMI?

    1. RIP Ruby! Hello Ruby's Ghost!

      So the opportunity to be a faux beet elitist didn't entice you? You could start practicing for next years Chili Cook off now. Get rid of that Crying Towel!