Freezer Meals

As we approach our little one’s due date, I’ve been making lots of freezer meals. I found it so helpful to have these when my son was born. We had about thirty dinners in the freezer and they were a lifesaver when my husband was doing everything those first few weeks, and as I slowly started getting back to normal household duties.

I have lots of cooking and baking in the freezer but apparently I didn’t save all the recipes. I’ll link the ones I did save, and for the others, there are heaps of recipes on Pinterest that look amazing!

Freezer Meals: Baking

With sweet breads, I find it’s easy to bake them now and then freeze. When you’re ready to eat them, just pull the bread (or muffins) out of the freezer and let thaw at room temperature, then slice and eat.

Banana Bread

Pumpkin Bread

Lemon Berry Loaf

Zucchini Bread

Breakfast Cookies

I froze balls of dough for breakfast cookies, since I find they are way better freshly baked rather than baked then frozen. Just thaw and then bake as per the recipe.

Berry Crisp

I used this recipe, and just used berries instead of peaches. I haven’t tried baking them yet but I think they’ll turn out good!

Freezer Meals: Cooking

Chicken Drumsticks

One easy way to meal prep is to buy chicken drumsticks when they’re on sale, whip up a few marinades, and freeze the chicken in a ziploc bag with the marinade. When you need an easy dinner, throw a bag of already seasoned/marinated chicken in the slow cooker, and cook some frozen veggies or make a salad.

Peanut Marinade

2 TB peanut butter

3 TB soy sauce

⅓ cup water

½ teaspoon coriander

½ tsp cumin

¼ tsp chilli powder

2 cloves garlic

Teriyaki Marinade

3 TB soy sauce

1 TB water

4 TB brown sugar

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp minced ginger

Lemon Paprika Marinade

Enchiladas

I made the Mexican Chicken recipe below, and used the leftovers to make enchiladas. Simply fill tortillas with the chicken mixture and grated cheese. Top with salsa, cover with foil, and freeze. Bake from frozen or thawed until hot.

Mexican Chicken

I actually left out the cilantro, used a can of flavoured tomatoes instead of salsa, and taco seasoning instead of the spices called for. It turned out amazing but I’m sure the original recipe is as well!

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

This is one of my favourite recipes ever! The meatballs are delicious and the sauce is tangy but sweet. This is a huge recipe and made 6 meals that suit Jared, Abel, and I just fine.

Meatballs:

2.7 kgs mince

3 cups bread crumbs

⅔ cup milk

4 eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup minced onion

2 TB minced garlic

1 TB salt

2 tsp black pepper

Sauce:

2 cups packed brown sugar

½ cup cornflour

6 (425 gram) cans of pineapple (juice reserved)

½ cup soy sauce

2 ½ cups red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 260 celsius. Using your hands, combine all the meatball ingredients. Shape into 1 – 1 ½ inch meatballs, placing close together on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes or until temperature is 71 celsius. Cool meatballs.

While the meatballs bake and cool, mix the brown sugar and cornflour in a large pot. Add pineapple juice, soy sauce, and vinegar; stir. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. 

Add meatballs and pineapple chunks to sauce. Divide into bags/containers and freeze. To reheat, thaw and bake at 175C for 30 minutes, or in slow cooker for 2-5 hours. (until heated through)

Meat and Vegetable Pasta Bake

I made three pans of pasta bake with the following recipe: Cook one bag of pasta as per instructions. Brown 1kg of beef mince. Dice 1 onion, 1 1/2 small zucchini, 1 bell pepper/capsicum, and 1 broccoli stem. Sautee in a few tablespoons of oil until softened. Mix all ingredients together with a large jar of pasta sauce and a few spoonfuls of pasta water. Pour into three square foil pans, cover with foil. When you’re ready to bake, top with cheese and bake from frozen or thawed at 375F or 190C until hot.

Cheesy Pasta Bake

I made four loaf-size pans of pasta bake with the following recipe: Cook one bag of pasta as per instructions. Make a cheese sauce with: 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup flour, salt, pepper, italian seasoning, and hot sauce to taste, 6 cups milk, 1-2 cups grated cheese. Mix with pasta, and if desired stir through any additions such as spinach or cooked meat. Pour into pans. Combine 1/3 cup butter with 2 cups bread crumbs, sprinkle on top of pasta. Cover and freeze. When you’re ready to bake, bake from frozen or thawed at 375F or 190C until hot.


I had more ideas that I wanted to try but just ended up running out of time. I’m 38 weeks now so I may be able to make a few more freezer meals, but if not I feel great about what we do have!

An update on baby girl, she was transverse last week but today she is head down. We went to the hospital for an ECV but when we arrived and they checked her position on ultrasound, she was already head down. Praise the Lord! We are just praying she stays head down so that we can go ahead with our original birth plan.

Abel, just a few days old.
decoratedchristmascookiestutorial

Christmas Sugar Cookies Tutorial

Christmas Sugar Cookies Tutorial

I’ve been baking and decorating sugar cookies for years! It’s a sure hobby of mine and I even used to do custom-orders and sell them. Some of my favorites are these dinosaur fossil themed cookies and the donut sugar cookies I made earlier this year.

When I was growing up, one of my favorite Christmas traditions was to decorate sugar cookies with friends and family! We would bake dozens of sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies, make a few huge batches of buttercream frosting, and have an assortment of candy and sprinkles to decorate with. To be honest they didn’t always look the fanciest (sometimes ten-year-olds just care about piling on as much candy as possible…) but they sure tasted great. This year I made sugar cookies decorated with royal icing. They’re cute and Christmas themed and so tasty as well!

This is my absolute favorite sugar cookie recipe. I’ve always used this one! This is the icing recipe I use, which is an easy alternative to traditional royal icing. However I’m planning to try making real royal icing next time.

These cookies would be perfect for a Christmas cookie exchange, Christmas party, or hostess gift. They keep well for up to five days in a sealed plastic bag.

Supplies

A batch of sugar cookies, circle shaped
Icing
Food coloring (red, green, yellow, black)
Piping bags (eight)
Rainbow sprinkles

Instructions

Mix up a batch of sugar cookies (this is my favorite recipe). Cut them in circles and bake.

While they cool, make your icing. I usually use this icing recipe. Half of the icing should be thick enough to hold it’s shape when piped, and the other half should be runnier. The thicker ‘piping icing’ should follow the ‘twenty second rule’. If you run a butter knife through the icing, it should take twenty seconds for the line to completely disappear. For your runnier icing, called ‘flood icing’, it can take 5-10 seconds.

Divide your piping icing into five small bowls and your flood icing into three small bowls. Color the piping icing red, green, yellow, black, and leave one white. Color the flood icing green and red and leave one white. Spoon the icing into piping bags. To pipe, cut the corner off a bag to make a small hole.

Tutorial: Christmas Tree Cookies

Outline the cookie with white piping icing. Fill with white flood icing. Let dry. Using green piping icing, pipe a zig-zag in the shape of a tree. While still wet, dip the cookie in rainbow sprinkles to coat. Use black piping icing to pipe a tree trunk, and yellow piping icing to pipe a dot on top of the tree as a star.

Tutorial: Santa’s Elves Cookies

Outline a cookie with red piping icing. Fill with red flood icing. Let dry, then use green piping icing to pipe the collar. Use white piping icing to pipe three horizontal stripes across the middle of the cookie. To finish, use yellow piping icing to pipe dots at the points of the collar. Repeat on another cookie using green as the main color and red as the collar color.

Tutorial: Santa Cookies

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Use red piping icing to outline a cookie. Fill with red flood icing. Let dry. Use white piping icing to pipe a cloud-shaped collar at the top of the cookie. Use black piping icing to pipe a thick black line across the center of the cookie, for a belt. Let dry. Use yellow piping icing to pipe a rectangle at the center of the black belt as a buckle. Let dry, then pipe a line through one side to finish the buckle (see the last photo).

Tutorial: Christmas Lights Cookies

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Outline a cookie with white piping icing. Fill with white flood icing. Let dry. Use black piping icing to pipe a zig-zag across the cookie. Immediately dip the face of the cookie in rainbow sprinkles to coat the wet icing.

Enjoy your finished product!

Let your icing dry completely and then you can enjoy your cookies! If you use the icing recipe linked above they may not stack well, so keep that in mind and use parchment paper between the cookies if stacking. The cookies will stay fresh in a sealed plastic bag for up to five days.

What will you do with these cookies? You can bring them to your family Christmas gathering, a Christmas party, use for a cookie exchange, or just make them to take a photo for Instagram and then eat them!

cactuscaketutorial

Cactus Themed Cake Tutorial

If you’re looking for an easy but adorable cake to make, this cactus themed cake is perfect! You don’t need any fancy tools or piping tips. Just grab a plastic bag and some food coloring and you’re set.

First, bake two round cakes. This is my favorite recipe for cupcakes because it’s so easy and simple!

Once your batter is ready, separate part of the batter into two smaller bowls.

Color the separated batter green and pink. Divide your plain batter evenly between two greased cake pans, then swirl in the green and then pink batter. Bake as directed (my cakes took 30 minutes) and allow your cakes to cool.

Mix up a batch of your favorite vanilla frosting. I used this one.

The first step when decorating a cake is the crumb coat. Begin with one layer of cake. If necessary, cut the cake into the size that you need. I cut mine down a little so that it would fit on the white cake platter I used.

The professional bakers have a trick to keep their cakes moist, and this was my first time trying it. Make a simple syrup by boiling 1/2 cup water with 1/2 cup of sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Use a pastry brush to coat each layer of your cake with a few tablespoons of this mixture.

To do the crumb coat, use a spoon to spread a thin layer of frosting all over your first layer of cake. This helps trap the crumbs and provide a good base for decorating.

Next, make your filling for between the layers. I mixed 1/4 cup of vanilla frosting with 1/4 cup of black doris plum jam.

Use your vanilla frosting to build up a ‘moat’ around the edges of the cake, then spread your filling evenly inside the moat. The edge keeps the filling from spilling out the sides.

Next, place your second layer of cake on top and finish your crumb coat.

Now for the fun part! (Okay, ALL of it was fun for me…)

Separate some of your vanilla frosting and color it green, and pink. Spread an even, smooth layer of vanilla frosting over the entire cake.

Fill a ziploc bag with your green frosting, and one with the pink frosting.

Cut a jagged hole in the corner of your bag of green frosting, and pipe cactus shapes on the top of the cake, and fill in dots underneath the cacti and around the bottom edge of the cake.

Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag of pink frosting to pipe flowers on the cacti and fill in pink dots beneath the cacti, and around the top and bottom edges of the cake.

Finally, place chocolate jimmy sprinkles on the cacti as the spikes.

This cake is perfect for a desert-themed party and we know cacti are all the rage right now! It’s easy to make without needing fancy piping tools.

Making this cake was so fun and I’m looking forward to making more in the future! It tasted amazing too. Little Abel was very cooperative and took a few good naps that gave me time to make this cake. Here’s hoping he keeps it up!

dinosaurfossiljurassicparksugarcookies

Sugar Cookies: Jurassic Park Dinosaur Fossils

One of my hobbies is baking and decorating sugar cookies, and several years ago I made these Jurassic Park themed dinosaur fossil cookies.

dinosaurfossiljurassicparksugarcookies

No need for fancy cookie cutters, I just used a knife to cut a rough rectangle, and then looked at a drawing of a dinosaur skull and copied it as best I could with white icing. The great thing about a dinosaur skull is that it doesn’t need to have perfect lines and exact angles.

These would be perfect for a Jurassic Park themed party, or just a kid’s dinosaur party too! The eggs and footprints were easy to make. Just use a round cookie cutter to cut out an oval, and for the footprints use a knife to shape the claws. Again, so easy and simple.


You might also like my donut themed sugar cookies!

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applerecipesforautumn

Apple Recipes for Autumn

Originally published April 2019

I love warm apple flavors, but especially in autumn! Here are three recipes I found this week that I love.

three amazing apple recipes

At the grocery stores near us they have this thing called ‘The Odd Bunch’. You can buy a bag of ‘the odd bunch’ produce at a discounted price because it’s unusual or funky shaped.

Well, last week I got groceries at Countdown, and since Jared needed our vehicle that day, I had my groceries delivered. How cool is that? I wanted to make some homemade apple cider (especially since I’m pregnant I feel like I should add this disclaimer: in NZ if you say cider you automatically mean hard cider. In the US it’s a name for a kind of apple juice, basically. I’m referring to the American kind). Honestly it didn’t turn out as great as I’d hoped… the powdered kind from Costco is still ten times better. I kind of regret not bringing any back when we were in the States because it’s the perfect autumn drink.

Anyways – so Countdown had ‘the odd bunch’ apples – a 2kg bag for $2. That’s a great deal! Normally I buy apples at around $3.50/kg. So since the price was great and I needed lots of apples, naturally, I bought two bags.

applerecipesforautumn

Sonic knows that I hate when he’s in our room if Jared or I aren’t there too! That’s his ‘Am I in trouble?’ face.

Well I didn’t quite realise how much 2kg is. So when my groceries arrived I had two very large bags of apples. I got my apple cider started in the crockpot (apples, water, spices) and then found an applesauce recipe since Jared and I definitely can’t eat 30 apples in a week.

The applesauce was so amazing! It’s so easy to make. I honestly didn’t know that applesauce was so simple. It didn’t take long for us to finish off the batch I made, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what a good deal the apples were.

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$1/kg. They were all in great shape too, I think two apples had bruises and a couple had spots but nothing major. So on Thursday after work I told Jared that I really, really, really wanted to get more apples.

So I went to Countdown and bought some more apples – 4 more bags. Why not?! When will I find a deal like this again?! We have a chest freezer, the applesauce is delicious, and so easy to make.

For those wondering how much 8 kg is in pounds, it’s about 17. And if you count the two bags I got earlier in the week, that’s a total of 12 kg, or around 25 pounds.

HOMEMADE APPLESAUCE

I got the recipe from The Forked Spoon, but it’s really simple so once you’ve made it a couple times it’s easy to just throw together. Click here for the original recipe.

I made several batches as per the recipe, and then made a batch with brown sugar, extra spices and a sliced lemon instead of lemon juice, and that’s the one I got photos of. And it turned out amazing! I didn’t measure, I just added a cinnamon stick, lots of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, and some cloves. At the end, before blending, I removed the lemon peels and cinnamon stick.

Essentially, take a ton of apples (I used mainly royal gala, with a bit of granny smith) and chop them up. You don’t need to peel them unless you really hate apple peels and you don’t use a blender at the end.

Add 1/2-1 cup water (I used 1 cup for a full pot of apples), a few Tablespoons lemon juice, salt, and spices. Add sugar, if you’re using it – it’s up to you! The recipe calls for white sugar, but I made some with brown sugar instead.

applerecipesforautumn

Bring to a boil, then turn down and cover with a lid, and let simmer for about half an hour. I put my burner on 10, then turned it down to 4. After the half hour was up, I took the lid off and let it simmer until I was happy with the amount of liquid left in the pot. Once you’re satisfied, take off the heat and use an immersion blender to get it nice and smooth!

On Friday I started making more applesauce, and had several batches going throughout the day. But since I had soooo many apples I also looked for other recipes with apples and found two great ones!

APPLE WAFFLES

Click here for the recipe for apple waffles. I made a batch and they were delicious, so I made another batch – doubled this time – and put a bunch of waffles in the freezer. The flavor of these waffles is just warm and tasty and cozy. I’m looking forward to being able to pop one in the toaster and have a delicious waffle anytime I want! This blog has tons of recipes including lots for the freezer, and I’m planning to try out several of them.

What I thought of next was a warm, spicy, apple cake. And… I couldn’t find one. All the recipes I found didn’t look like what I pictured in my head. I searched breads, muffins, cakes.

APPLE CAKE

Finally I found this recipe, which isn’t quite what I was thinking of at first but it is delicious! The original recipe is very sugary. So if  you love sugary cakes, this one’s for you! I made a batch, and while it tastes amazing, it was a bit sweet for me, and the spices a bit subtle, so I decided to be brave and try and adjust the recipe. I am not a baker. I love baking but I know nothing about the chemistry side of it. So I did some googling and found this great article from King Arthur Flour about how to reduce sugar in cake. I made this recipe again, but this time I cut the sugar in this recipe by 25%, and added some extra spices.

applerecipesforautumn

I was so nervous. But it turned out great! Still not quite the warm spicy cake I first dreamed of, but it’s a good, tasty, apple cake.

Here are the adjustments that I made:

Original Recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar.
I used 1 1/4 cups white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar.

Original Recipe calls for 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg.
I used 4 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon allspice.

For the applesauce in the recipe, I used my freshly homemade applesauce – you can’t really beat that!

applerecipesforautumn

Edited to add: everyone LOVES this apple cake, and it freezes well! Just thaw at room temperature, and enjoy.

sugarcookiesdecorateddonuts

Sugar Cookies: Donuts

Originally published May 2019

One of my old hobbies is making and decorating sugar cookies. My mom loves to throw themed parties and she’s great at it, so I loved making sugar cookies for the parties! It takes a lot of time, patience, and practice, and it’s so fun. Search up Pinterest and you can find hundreds of ideas for adorable cookies to make! I had a great time decorating these sugar cookies like donuts.

sugarcookiesdecorateddonuts

Now that I’ve finished work, I find myself with time to actually do things like this – it’s great! I’m enjoying it while it lasts since once Kiwi is here I’m sure things will change and it will be a little more difficult to do things like this. (I can’t wait though!)

I had so much fun making these. The last time I made sugar cookies was probably a year and a half ago, and I didn’t do a great job so they didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked. This time I had more patience and didn’t try to do it all at once, and it was much more enjoyable! I baked the cookies one day, and decorated them the next day. I let them dry for a few hours in between layers which made a big difference as well!

I was going to do a pink and purple theme, until I realized that I only have food coloring in red, yellow, green, and black. I want to get some new colors soon, since there’s only so much you can do with just these! However, I went ahead with pink and yellow and they still turned out great. Colored sprinkles would have been fun too but I only had the chocolate ones and I wasn’t going to walk all the way to the store.

Let me just add that they do taste as great as they look! I have to admit I’m a little offended when people ask if they taste good because why would I spend hours making cookies that aren’t even enjoyable to eat? Of course they taste good! And since I’m telling you this I’ll have to share the recipe with you so you can see for yourself. I found this recipe printed off in my mom’s cookbook, years and years ago – it’s the one I’ve always used. The cookies are soft and delicious. I normally leave out the almond extract just because we never bought it when I was growing up. They’re just as good either way. Click the link below to find the best recipe for sugar cookies!

Mary’s Sugar Cookies

A few tips:
If you’re decorating with icing, don’t sprinkle them with sugar as the recipe says.
When you’re mixing the dough, it can seem like you put too much flour, especially if you’re mixing by hand (don’t; it’s way easier with a mixer) – just keep mixing; it will come together and make the perfect cookies!

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So; donuts, anyone?!

vanillacupcakesjellofrostingrecipe

My Favorite Vanilla Cupcakes with Jello Frosting

Originally published March 2019

Jared and I love teaching sunday school to the kids at church each week. Our church is blessed to have a bus and depending on the week, we have anywhere between 5-25 kids ride the bus to church. Last week I had promised the kids I would bring cake, so on Saturday I made some cupcakes. With so many kids there are birthdays all the time, so I used to make a lot of cake. Eventually I told them I would just make cake about once a month, for anyone who had a birthday that month.

That being said, with so many opportunities to bake cake, I had to find a good reliable recipe, and this one is perfect! It is easy to make, tastes great, and is nice and moist. (Recipe linked under photo)

vanillacupcakesjellofrostingrecipe

EASY VANILLA CUPCAKES FROM LIFE, LOVE AND SUGAR

Can I just say… these cupcakes were good. Only a few kids came to church last week, so there were plenty of leftovers, and after church I walked into the kitchen to find all the adults helping themselves! Which was a good thing because although I could have eaten five of these (and might have), Jared and I didn’t need to bring twenty cupcakes home.

I added sprinkles to the batter, and used this recipe for the frosting. 

Have you ever added Jello to frosting? I’d thought about it a dozen times but was never brave enough to actually try it and I’m so glad I finally did! I followed the recipe linked above, but didn’t use vanilla. Then I took a packet of Jello, mixed it with warm water (1/2 cup maybe? I didn’t measure) until it was dissolved, to avoid a grainy texture, and then mixed it into the frosting. I used lemon Jello, and added yellow food coloring as well. Then I just put it in a ziploc sandwich bag, cut the tip off, and piped it on the cupcakes. I chopped up some Sour Patch Kids, and added them on top.

Truly the best cupcakes. They are easy to make and turn out so delicious. Let me know if you try them sometime, or if you try the Jello frosting!

vanillacupcakesjellofrostingrecipe