A guest post from Kayla
A favorite book at our house is If You Give A Mouse a Cookie.
It’s a story about a little mouse who gets a cookie, which makes him need milk, and so on, constantly getting distracted through the whole book. It very much describes my work style.
This Sunday we had no plans, so I…
“cleaned the cupboards.” It started when I went to make breakfast.
I went to make scrambled eggs but found only one egg. I found plenty of other things to use up within the week though:
- A whole quart of plain greek yogurt, plus another half-full container
- Unsweetened almond milk
- Heavy cream
- A whole pound of sliced ham
So I made grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. We’re out of potatoes for American fries, so I went digging in the freezer. I found some smoothie packs but it took some digging. I had plenty of things to use up in there too.
I moved some marinara sauce to the freezer for pizza. I buy 1 quart jars of marinara and save leftovers in silicone trays (I found these baby food ones at a garage sale, but if I were buying new I’d get a set that fit my Instant Pot like these). After the 1/4 C portions are frozen I pop them into a freezer bag.
Greek yogurt pizza crustRead more: Cleaning the cabinets: An all-day adventure
The pizza crust recipe we like (when I can’t have Mom’s pizza, that is) is this one that uses a cup of Greek yogurt. The linked recipe is for breakfast pizza in the air fryer, but I use the crust recipe in my 10” cast iron skillet. It’s a quick and easy recipe to make with Jasper and the size is perfect for the three of us.
Cooked cubed chicken breast in the Instant Pot pressure cooker from frozen
Greek yogurt makes a good substitute for condensed soup in casserole recipes (with plenty of extra seasonings of course), so I thought I’d make some chicken broccoli casserole. But while I was cooking chicken anyway, I might as well fill the Instant Pot.
I filled my 6-qt Instant Pot with frozen chicken breasts and then half way with water. I added a quartered onion, a generous sprinkle of salt, and a bulb of garlic, crushing each clove first. I cooked this for 18 minutes with a quick release.
Meanwhile, I cooked a pound of pasta on the stovetop. In the last two minutes of cooking I added a 16-oz bag of frozen broccoli pieces and some chopped carrots (I chopped and froze about 2 cups last time my carrots looked wilty). Then I mixed my “condensed soup.”
Greek yogurt as a condensed soup substitute in casserole recipes
I was looking to replace the equivalent of about 2 – 10 oz cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup. Here’s a loose idea of what I whisked up:
- 2 1/2 C Greek yogurt
- 1 t each: Salt, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, Italian seasoning
- 1/2 t pepper
- Enough heavy cream to make it look “right”
I promise this is good even if you don’t like yogurt.
When the chicken was done I poured the broth into a shallow pan to cool. I chopped the chicken and added about two cups to the yogurt mixture, along with the pasta, broccoli, carrots, and what was left of a bag of shredded mozzarella cheese and cheddar cheese.
How I freeze casseroles
This recipe filled 3 6-C glass Pyrex casserole dishes, or about a usual 9 x 13 pan. Most casserole recipes are made for big families, so I freeze extra portions for later.
I put one right into a greased dish for later in the week and refrigerated it. I lined the other two with a single sheet of foil, portioned them out, and set them in the freezer. Three hours later they were solid enough to move to zipper seal freezer bags, but not to solid to get stuck.
I like to freeze this way so I don’t use up all of my containers.
Rice, ham, and peas casserole
Somewhere in here I started another casserole. I used some of the chicken broth to cook rice in my Instant Pot. I melted a chunk of butter from the fridge that seemed like about 2 tablespoons. I chopped and cooked an onion and garlic, added 2 T flour, and cooked until toasty. Then I filled a two-cup container with as much liquid as I needed to use up. It ended up being about 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, a half cup of cream, and I filled it the rest of the way with broth.
I whisked in the liquid and added some Parmesan and shredded cheese. I don’t remember what I used for seasonings but it was probably salt, pepper, and a bit of nutmeg.
I mixed in frozen peas- it was the rest of a half full-ish bag, the rice, and some chopped ham.
I froze the rest of the ham in 2 cup portions.
How to cook white rice in the Instant Pot perfectly
DON’T use the rice button. RINSE the rice first (I use a fine mesh screen for this). Use equal parts rice and water (broth for more savory flavor) in the Instant Pot. I add some butter and salt if it’s for a casserole. Give it a little swish and cook for only five minutes (not the 10 that the Instant Pot has for rice!). When the timer goes off, let it sit for 10 minutes before shutting it off or releasing the pressure.
Back to the casserole…
I cooked two cups of dried rice and mixed it all in. This made enough for one family-sized casserole for later in the week and three individual meal preps for the freezer.
Chia Seed Yogurt Breakfast Preps
I often make a frittata on Sunday to send for Spencer’s breakfasts through the week, but we were out of eggs. He likes this mix a lot too. I mix a ratio of about 3/4 C yogurt to 2 T chia seeds and 1 C frozen blueberries. I divide the portions out and add a pinch of pecans to each. For his four-day workweek this looked like:
- 3 C yogurt
- 1/4 C chia seeds
- 4 C frozen blueberries
I found a box of Chex cereal in the cupboard and made Puppy Chow. Kelli has shared a recipe on the blog before, but it’s a very forgiving recipe. I fudged it to use half a bag of Chex cereal, what was left of some chocolate chips, and what was left of some peanut butter. It turns out Jasper eats cereal a lot better if it’s covered in peanut butter and chocolate!
Banana Everything Cookies
I wanted to get down to one canister of oatmeal so I planned on some oatmeal cookies. I found three frozen bananas in the freezer, so I made a triple batch of Banana Everything Cookies from my favorite cookbook, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. The everything cookies are my go too but this recipe book has all of my award winners. Many blue ribbons were earned with recipes from this book, and the chocolate cut out cookies earned a purple.
I haven’t been vegan for a few years now, but this is still my favorite cook book. No eggs, no problem, obviously! The Banana Everything cookies are my favorite clean-the-cupboard cookie. This batch also used a quart of miscellaneous pantry items: Walnuts, raisins, craisins, chocolate chips, and pecans.
I only baked nine cookies and froze the rest. To freeze large cookies, I use a quarter-cup disher to scoop dough onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. I cover with another parchment sheet and a cookie sheet and press until the dough is only as tall as the rim.
After the dough freezes for a few hours I move the chunks to a freezer bag. Then I can bake small batches of fresh cookies.
My meal prep favorites
I love portions scoop dishers. They are standard sized according to how much of a quart they use up. For example, my #8 disher is 1/8 of a quart, or a half cup. My #16 is a quarter cup. I love them for meal prep portioning. If a cookie recipe says to “drop by tablespoon,” I use a #40, which is a little less than 2 tablespoons.
We have several 3-cup Pyrex dishes for individual meal preps. (Linking to Amazon, but we found better prices at Target) I put leftovers right to the freezer as individual portions so they are easy to grab. I can still cook my family-of-seven-sized recipes for my family of three and we don’t have to eat the same casserole for days on end.
On days that I will have lunch away from home, I grab a meal prep from the freezer and pop it in my plug in lunchbox. It’s hot and ready to eat by lunch!
My favorite container for freezing ingredients like the chopped ham, chicken broth, and cubed chicken is 24-oz wide mouth jars. They are a little more than two cups. We use them for drinking glasses too. I like these lids for them because they have a rubber lining, unlike plastic versions. It makes a better seal for freezing. They are the perfect height for the basket in my chest freezer and the drawer of my freezer-refrigerator. I label the top and can quickly scan the ingredients without digging.
Cleaning the cabinets
It took a long while, but I did end up cleaning out the cabinets, refrigerator, and upstairs freezer. I cleared a whole cupboard space and made the remaining space a lot more manageable. I also have plenty of meals and snacks.
Did my kitchen look like chaos for most of the day? Yes. Did it turn out much better in the end? Also yes.
Do you “clean” in entire day projects like me? What tips do you have?
Ok, this isn’t a complaint at all. Is there only one picture in this post? If there is more I can’t see them. I know you wanted to know of any problems. Great post by the way!!
I too get on a cleaning ‘terror’. And a cooking “binge” as well. I tend to precook ingredients though for assembly later. I keep a bag of chopped onion, a bag of cooked rice, a bag of cooked black beans, a bag of cooked gr Turkey/Beef and a bag of cooked gr/Turkey/Beef/Italian Sausage and like you a bag of chopped ham.
I can do a lot in 30 minutes with these ready to go plus frozen veggies when the garden is out of season.
Congrats on a very productive day!
Interesting and inspiring! I’m a family of one and my
freezer is full! Thanks for the great ideas.
Whew! I had to take a nap after reading this post.
What a great post, Kayla! So much info to absorb. My favorites were using Greek yogurt (plus spices) in place of condensed soup and the plug-in lunch box. So many recipes (that look good) too. We love the “If you Give a Mouse a Cookie” books too. My brother-in-law is a doctor and he often refers to it when talking to patients. He will be telling them something and make the comment “well, it’s like if you give a mouse a cookie….” and some people would look at him like “what are you talking about?” So he keeps a copy of the book in the office for them to read. By the way, I thought you were a vegetarian…but do you eat chicken?
This is so like me – start one job which inevitably leads to another then another….. but at the end of the day you’ve achieved loads!