Monday, November 11, 2013

Trying My Hand at Once a Month Cooking

I recently stumbled on Once a Month Meals and went down a rabbit hole of freezer cooking recipes on Pinterest. The concept cooking a big batch of food once a month instead of cooking every night sounded glorious. I devoured every blog post I could find on the subject (like this one and this one) until I decided that I wanted to dive in.

For my first attempt at once a month cooking (OAMC) I decided to do 10 recipes, 3 times each for a total of 30 meals for 2 people. I selected 4 freezer meals (Which only required me to dump the meat and all the ingredients in the bag ) and 6 pre-cooked meals.I spent 3 hours on Saturday night labeling the containers, chopping veggies and preparing the freezer meals. The freezer meals I prepared where: Balsamic BBQ Pork, Honey Sesame Chicken, Italian, Lemon Chicken and Teriyaki Pork Chops.

On Sunday, I spent 4 hours cooking the remaining recipes making 9 lbs of ground beef, 3 lbs for each of 3 recipes: Puerto Rican Chili, Meat Sauce for Pasta and Lasagna. The final 2 recipes were Twice Baked Potatoes (slightly edited) and Kielbasa Sausage Soup (It's my mom's recipe but I haven't made this yet. Promise to share recipe when I do.) I spent a total of 7 hours and $250 on more than a month's worth of food, saving me precious hours after work that I can now dedicate to spending time with my hubby.

Balsamic BBQ Pork Tenderloin (Recipe of my own invention)

  • 3lbs Pork Tenderloin
  • 10 oz BBQ Sauce (I used Jack Daniel's Original Recipe)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1/4 teaspoon of the following dried spices: basil, oregano, salt and black pepper.
  • Sugar to taste

Add tenderloin, BBQ sauce, balsamic vinegar and sugar to freezer bag. 24 hours before cooking, thaw bag in refrigerator. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

  • 2-3 pounds of chicken
  • 1/6 cup lemon juice (about half a large lemon)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed, olive, or canola oil *
  • 1/4 teaspoon of the following dried spices: garlic powder, basil, oregano, onion powder, kosher salt, black pepper, paprika
Place chicken in freezer bag. Whisk together oil and spices and pour marinade into the bag and freeze flat. 24 hours before cooking, thaw bag in refrigerator to let the chicken marinate as long as possible. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.
  • 4 pork chops, about 1-inch thick
  • Salt and pepper to taste (you can sprinkle them before you add them to the bag.)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
Add the pork chops, garlic cloves, brown sugar,  soy sauce, and chicken broth to the freezer bag and freeze flat. Cook on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 6-7 hours.
  • 1 lb chicken tenders
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 T sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. pepper
  • 1 package frozen broccoli
Place all ingredients in freezer bag, toss to coat and freeze flat. Cook on low for 4-5 hours. Remove chicken & shred, then return to sauce. 

Puerto Rican Chili (my own recipe)
  • Cooked ground beef
  • 8oz tomato sauce
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 14.5oz Diced Tomatoes
  • 15.5oz Goya Pink Beans
  • 15.5oz Goya red Kidney beans
  • 1 packet Goya Sazon seasoning
  • Season with salt pepper 
Add all ingredients freezer bag along with cooked ground beef once it's cooled. 24 hours before cooking, thaw bag in refrigerator. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

  • 8 medium potatoes
  • 1/2 C cream
  • 1 t garlic
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/2 -1 C chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese - divided 
  • 8 slices cooked and crumbled bacon

Preheat oven to 350℉. 

Scrub clean your potatoes and place them on a baking sheet. Place potatoes into the oven and bake for 60 minutes. When done, remove from the oven and allow potatoes to cool enough until you are able to handle them. Slice a lengthwise opening on the potatoes and scoop out the majority of the flesh and place it into a large bowl. Put your potato skin "shells" back onto your baking sheet(s).

To make your filling, add your cream, garlic, salt, pepper and butter to the potato flesh. Mix with a hand mixer until thoroughly incorporated. Fold in 3/4 C of your shredded cheddar.

Spoon your mixture into your potato "shells" and then top with remaining cheddar cheese, bacon and chives. If eating now, place the potatoes back into the oven for approximately 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. 

If storing for later, individually wrap each potato with plastic wrap and place them into gallon freezer bags and place into the freezer. (They're best if eaten within 3 months) When ready to eat, remove your desired amount of potatoes from the freezer, unwrap, place on a baking sheet and place into a 350℉ oven for 20-25 minutes. 

All except the ground beef recipes are new to us, so I'll let you guys know how they taste.  

Have you ever tried to cook only once a month? Any recipes that you loved and would like to share?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Columbus Zoo & Brewing Our Own Beer

Seems like being stuck home after having a molar extracted is as good a time as any to get back to blogging after a month long absence. September was a fairly busy month with a weekend road trip to New York on Labor Day weekend and 12 glorious days in Puerto Rico. September also holds 2 very important dates: Our dating anniversary (We celebrated our 6 year dating anniversary on September 23rd) and Tomas's birthday on September 20.

My hubby turned 25 this year and he needed a great gift to mark this momentous occasion. Fortunately in July I stumbled upon something that I knew he would LOVE. Tomas has been interested in craft beers and brewing for a few years.Through a Living Social deal, I booked us a spot at North High Brewing for half the price it normally is.

I made a day trip out of it, we spent the morning at the wonderful Columbus Zoo.

We've visited our fair share of US zoos and this one has the BEST gorilla exhibit we've seen so far. They have more than a dozen gorillas in a really cool and spacious enclosure but the highlight of the day was getting to see the zoo babies, we saw a 3 month old baby gorilla and some Bengal tiger cubs.

After the zoo we made our way to North High Brewing, which was a surprise for Tomas. I told him what we were doing just as we pulled into the parking lot and his smile lit up like a kid's on Christmas morning. He was super excited  about a chance to make his own beer. We picked out the Chocolate Milk Stout out of their recipe book after tasting it on their tap room.

You start the brewing experience by weighing out the grains which go into a huge teabag that is then immersed in a 15 gallon vat of boiling water. Once the bag full of grains is removed from the boiling liquid, the remaining ingredients are added at specific times. The whole process took 3.5 hours start to finish, and then the beer stays fermenting on site for 2-3 weeks.

We went back this past weekend to bottle our beer using a semi-automated system. We ended up with 108 bottles (Half 22oz, half 12oz.) after 1.5 hours of bottling.

My brilliant sister Kiara, designed the label, commemorating Tomas's 25th birthday by putting his face on a quarter. Brewing our own beer at North High was a super fun experience and has been his favorite present of all time. I totally nailed it this time! His second favorite gift is the 108 bottles of beer he now has to drink ;)

As a side note, before heading up to North High to bottle our beer on Sunday, we made a stop at Ray Ray's Hog Pit in Columbus for lunch. It's a food truck that parked outside of Ace of Cups Bar and their BBQ is to DIE for! We had the grass-fed beef brisket sandwich and some ribs with sweet BBQ sauce, both of which  were extremely delicious. If anyone is near Columbus, Ray Ray's is definitively worth the stop. We also stopped at Jenni's Ice Cream on the suggestion of some friends and I would drive the 2 hours just for some more of their Pumpkin Ice Cream. Jenni's Ice Cream is soft, creamy and perfect and unfortunately nowhere to be found in Cincinnati.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Six Month Update

Six months ago the hubby and I moved into our first house and we've slowly been making it a home. Half a year means it's time for another house tour, showing all the work we've done in the house so far though alot is still to be done.

The front of the house has stayed exactly the same for this half year. Unfortunately, landscaping and planting was not in the cards for this spring. We plan on planting some big hydrangeas in front of the house next spring.

First Floor
Of the dozens of houses that we saw, we fell in love with this house because it was a blank slate. From the minute you walked in everything a blank canvas I could work on. 

Shortly after moving we painted all of the rooms in the house, all four colors we used can be seen as soon as you walk in the door.

~Home Office~
Here's the former living room/now office as it looked on move-in day.

We painted the walls a light mint green called Behr Frosted Jade, added some Ikea Jannette curtains and hacked some Ikea Expedit 2X4's into a DIY semi built in bookcase with a desk.

~Dining Room~
The dining room was just another room painted beige when we moved in.

The dining room was painted a tealish turquoise blue called Behr Lap Pool Blue, we added our refinished dining room table and bought some metal dining chairs.

There's a tiny half bath on the first floor.

We painted the half bathroom the bright tealish turquoise Behr Lap Pool Blue and brought in a little of gray and purple through the towels.

The two-story staircase is illuminated by a big side window.

The downstairs & upstairs hallway and the staircase were painted in a light grey from Behr, French Silver. We swapped the old brass light fixture for a purple globe light fixture and added a colorful gallery wall to bring some color into this bland space.

~Family Room~
The family room is a great entertaining space, open to the kitchen and breakfast nook.

We painted the family room a dark gray, Behr's Dark Pewter. We bought some light gray couches, added some colorful cushions and a cute throw. For now, the coffee table is the only place to store our many board games.

~Breakfast Nook~
The breakfast nook is a very useful space right off the kitchen on the day we moved in.

The kitchen/nook were painted in Behr's French Silver.

The kitchen had all white appliances and beige walls.

The walls were painted in Behr's French Silver. The microwave and refrigerator were upgraded to stainless steel and satin nickel hardware was added to all the cabinets.

Second Floor

~Hall Bathroom~

We painted the hall bathroom in Behr's Dark Pewter and added some teal towels and a couple of colorful bathroom accessories.

~Guest Bedroom~
The room started out with just the dark blue carpet as a stand out.

The room was painted in Frosted Jade by Behr and HomeGoods carried a bedding set that tied in together the mint green of the walls with the dark blue of the carpet.

No babies yet, but the smallest room in the house was designated the nursery.

We painted it a neutral light gray, French Silver by Behr, thinking that is could be personalized with colored accents whenever a baby moves in.

~Master Bedroom~
The master bedroom gave is a lot of space to play with.
Sorry for the mess. We were so excited after closing that we decided to buy an inflatable mattress and stay the night.
We painted the walls a tealish turquoise blue, Lap Pool Blue by Behr, and paired it with some gray bedding.

~Master Bathroom~

 The master bathroom was painted in Behr's French Silver with some gray/teal accessories added.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Colorful Gallery Wall: Harder than it Looks

The Gallery wall. I have Pintrest to blame for this small obsession. As soon as a saw the 2 story staircase in our house I knew I wanted to cover the walls with a random assortment of frames. Unfortunately, I thought this project was going to be much simpler than what it turned out to be. 

It all started with the frames. A quick stop by the Pottery Barn Outlet on a early July weekend got me 5 out of the 6 frames in a Pottery Barn Gallery in a Box set for $20 (set retails at $129). We stopped at a big thrift store on the way home bought 18 more frames for $30. I came home from my shopping trip and and laid them all out on the office floor in the layout that I wanted. I wanted to bring in some more color, so I bought spray paint in Moss Green, Purple and Turquoise and choose 2 or 3 frames to be spray painted in those colors.

And there they sat for weeks, I ordered pictures and filled the frames but left them on the office floor. It seemed like such a huge undertaking, all the measuring and aligning and color coordinating. I was completely overwhelmed by the task and kept delaying it for weeks. This weekend I reached my limit,  realizing that my house is not a museum and that I don't care if it's not perfect, if it's not exactly aligned or centered. 

I started by marking the limits of where I wanted the gallery wall to start and end. I chose to start at the same height as the stair's handrail and for the frames to reach approximately 45 inches from that point. I cut out outlines of the frames on craft paper, marking where the nails would hang from and taped them on the wall inside the outline. I played with the paper cutouts a bit until I achieved the look I wanted.

I hung all of the frames on the nails that had been previously placed and noticed a couple of holes in the frame arrangement. Off to IKEA I went early on a Sunday morning, in search of 4 or 5 frames to finish the damn gallery wall.

A couple of hours and $30 later, I went back to the wall to move some pieces around and make sure that the 5 RIBBA frames I bought at IKEA were evenly distributed in the layout.


The finished gallery wall is a bit narcissistic but filled with great memories of our travels in the U.S. and around the world. Empty frames are motivations to add to our travels.


We have a great new view as we climb up the stairs. It's bright and cheery and the frames add a lively spice to the otherwise blah staircase.