Happiness is an Organized Freezer

I like organizing stuff. Yesterday as a nice rainy day activity, I took everything out of my standing freezer, cleaned the inside, and sorted the food into categories. I’m a former cataloger, this was easy. It was incredibly full of very healthy things, though some of them had gotten freezer burn or were older than seemed safe to try to eat. But it wasn’t organized and I had no idea what all was in there. Folks, I don’t need to buy meat for months. And now that I know what’s in there, and can find it, I’m looking at new recipes and ways to eat what I found.

This beautifully organized freezer has a divided bottom drawer with meat divided by type, with the oldest in the front so I’ll grab it first. On the right side we have way too many packages of ground beef in 1 lb packages from Sam’s. On the left we have way too many packs of Sam’s chicken thighs. In the middle are random miscellaneous beef such as beef tips, stew meat, and Italian sausage.

In the next drawer we now have frozen veggies on one side (apparently I got a great deal on Birds Eye Pearl Onions, which I love to add to stew but sometimes have trouble finding) and frozen fruit on the other side, heavy on cranberries and blueberries.

Up a shelf we have pre-packaged things such as frozen chicken cordon bleu that I forgot I had. And up one more we find frozen salmon and tilpia, with some portioned out single-serve containers of spaghetti pie and red beans and rice. On the top shelf is a basket with frozen pork tenderloins – I could eat one a week for the next 6 weeks! – and bread things.

And at eye level, organized in rows from front to back, are single-serve containers of things I cooked, frozen, and then sort of forgot were there because I couldn’t easily find them. We have rows of chicken teriyaki, stew, gazpacho, meat sauce, chili, and vegetable beef soup. I don’t have to cook anything for a long time.

On the door are bags of pecans from my yard, a few frozen dinners, and tall containers of chicken and dumplings, soup, stew, and chicken teriyaki. I obviously ran out of individual size containers – gee, I wonder why – so dumped several in one tall plastic container.

I’m feel organized, stocked, and virtuous for doing all of this. I know what’s there and know how to find it. The oldest package of pork tenderloin is defrosting for me to enjoy, and I have plans for a new recipe for Asian glazed chicken thighs in the air fryer, which I have but haven’t actually used yet. Progress. Oh and on the side, I stayed within my food plan yesterday and today. Stringing small beads together, one at a time, for however long it takes.

Christmas Baking

I’ve turned into a lunatic. In the last 24 hours, I’ve made 5 different kinds of cookies. I love to bake but having cookies sit around isn’t a good idea because, well, I want to eat them. Not all of them, because that’s too much sweetness and it makes me sick. But still. I really do like cookies.

Some of these are Christmas cookies, at least for my family. I’ve been making the molasses cookies since college. The chocolate meringues have nothing Christmassy about them but it was the only time of year Mom made them. Walnut Crescents became Pecan Balls somewhere through the years. I still can’t make the Swedish Spritz cookies that Mom made so well, but that’s okay.

Here are the recipes for the ones I made today:

Recipe: Snow Day Cookies

I first made these cookies while trapped in our building due to a 40-inch snowstorm. While we waited for the plows, the residents turned the lobby into a party spot with food to nibble and lots of visiting – very unusual for us on a regular day. Found this recipe online using things I had in the pantry. Voila – Snow Day Cookies to share.

1 C. butter
1 C. white sugar
2/3 C. packed brown sugar
1 C. creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 C. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C. oats
2 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugars. Add peanut butter, vanilla, and eggs and mix until well blended.
Combine flour, baking soda, salt. Gradually add to peanut butter mixture until moistened.
Mix in oats and chocolate chips. Can drop on sheet or use cookie scoop. Lightly flatten with fingers before baking.

Bake on greased cookie sheets in 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes (my oven bakes at 10 1/2 min). Transfer carefully to wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe: Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken

This recipe originally came from somewhere but I’ve adapted it so much I have no idea where it started. It’s one of my favorites and I make it often. Nutrition counts will vary depending on some of your choices.

2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cubed in large chunks
3/4 C. soy sauce (I use reduced sodium)
1/3 C. rice vinegar (or cider vinegar)
3/4 C. loosely packed brown sugar (or 1/3 C.+2 Tb. Truvia brown sugar)
2 cloves garlic, minced

Spray crockpot with cooking spray. Add cubed chicken. Combine other ingredients and pour over chicken. Cook on High for 3 hours. Then:

1-2 green peppers, cut into large chunks
1 large onion, cut into large pieces
1 can pineapple chunks, drained
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
Up to 1/4 C. cornstarch
Cashew nuts (optional – I usually leave out to reduce calories)

Steam veggies with water in microwqve for 3 minutes; drain. Add pineapple, water chestnuts, and veggies to crockpot and stir. Add cashews if desired. Recover and cook on Low for one hour.

Remove some liquid from the pot and mix with cornstarch in separate bowl. I remove about 1/3C. of liquid to a measuring cup and use smalll whip to combine thoroughly until there are no umps. Pour into crockpot, stir, and heat until sauce thickenes. Start with a smaller amount of cornstarch to see how thick it get. If you want thicker, repeat step.

Serve over rice. I usually use 1/3 C. rice with 1 C. chicken. Makes 6-7 servings, depending on how many veggies you use. Freezes well.

When the Pounds are Just Visiting

My Boston Weight Watcher leader Arlene Lewis was inspirational and motivating, and I loved her. She sent out weekly emails with motivational tips and recipes to a huge mailing list. In that time before Facebook groups and omnipresent cell phones, it was an important way to stay connected and on track on the week between meetings.

One thing she said often was that if you gain some pounds but get right back on track, those pounds are just visiting and will leave soon. If you pretend the gain didn’t happen, those pounds settle in and stick around.

This morning I stepped on the scale to see a 4 lb. drop from yesterday. While it was hard when those pounds jumped on this week, I buckled down and made good choices for the last two days, even though my ability to exercise was limited by back and knee pain. Today I found that those pounds were indeed just visiting. I admit it was a relief to see them gone.

I miss Arlene and this week discovered that she passed away in 2018. How did I not know that? The best way I know to honor her memory is to remember her and the things she passed on. Now is the time to put them into action. Her many WW recipes are easily adaptable to Noom and I have bunches of them here on this blog.

If you’re interested, check out some of my early posts with Advice and Recipes from Arlene.