Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

We had an unexpected death in the family last week. Darren’s Grandma was 92, but still living alone in her own home with her mind, sight and hearing sharp as a tack.  He lived with her during the summers after his family moved to Texas and again when he graduated from High School so he could farm. They were very close. I lived with her part of the time when I was student teaching and she taught me a lot of things about frugality, being a homemaker, wild edibles and frying mountain oysters.

Lest you think she was all sugar and spice, she was a person who told things as she saw them.  Every time she saw me she complained about my long hair, big earrings and tall heels. When I got pregnant with our 4th baby, she offered to teach me about birth control. I learned to smile and roll with it. If she didn’t care about me, she wouldn’t say a word.  It was her way of saying, “I love you.”

She had a deep faith and prayed poetically. When Darren and I had been married 2 years, her son died in a tragic car accent.  It was a serious time of grief for all of us.  She told me death was beautiful and not to be sad.  She had already buried her husband and oldest son.  She KNEW they were in the arms of Jesus.  During her service I kept hearing her voice say those words, “Death is beautiful.”  But I still miss her.

My oldest son was acting up in the car during the funeral procession to the gravesite, poking his siblings and making them scream. I told him, “Your grandmother is in a hearse 10 cars ahead of us.  Remember what we are doing here and what your frame of mind should be.”

My oldest, Heidi, chimed in, “Yeah if grandma were here right now, she’d whack you with her cane.”

He said, “If she were here right now, I wouldn’t dare.”

After the funeral Saturday we went to her house with all her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren (28!) and a few extended family.  The church brought over the funeral meal leftovers and we ate and visited just like we would have on Christmas day.  The only thing missing was her and we all felt it. It was a lovely day until it was time to leave and I realized it was probably the last gathering like that in her home.  The last time there would be fig Newtons in the jar put there by her own hands.  The memories flooded in as tears running down my face.  My first date with Darren was there, a whole day of learning to farm. Not long after she decided Darren was taking too long and offered me her wedding ring set so we could just go get married.  She didn’t see any point of big weddings or long engagements.  If you love each other, go make a life together. What’s so hard about that?

I had plans to finish Kids and Money month strong with some posts about Kids and Christmas spending, but it was just more important to be with family.  I’ll come back and visit the topic again in a few weeks, but first I want to get some recipes out there.  Too many times I’ve searched my own site for a favorite recipe to refresh my memory on some of the details and find it wasn’t there.  Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas 2

This recipe is my go to when life gets really busy.  It throws together in 15 minutes and then just has to heat through in the oven.  Every ingredient is available at Aldi making a very frugal main dish. Add a tossed salad for a complete meal or make it bigger with sides of Spanish rice, corn, and fruit.  If you are gluten free, grab some gluten free tortillas.  Low carb tortillas work great here too, for a THM S Meal (You can have up to 3 Tbs of refried beans in an S setting.)  You can also assemble the whole thing in a slow cooker and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas

Beef Topped Bean Enchiladas


  • 1 jar, 24 oz salsa
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 10-8" flour tortillas
  • 1 can, 15 oz refried beans
  • 1 can, 15 oz black olives, drained
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar, Colby, or Monterey Jack


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brown ground beef with onion and garlic, drain.
  3. Stir salsa into ground beef mixture. (If you have picky kids, puree the salsa in a blender first, and use onion powder instead of chopped onion.)
  4. Chop the olives and reserve 1/3 for topping.
  5. Divide refried beans, olives and 1/2 of the cheese cheese among tortillas and roll up. Place seam side down in a 9x13 casserole dish.
  6. Top with beef mixture and spread to cover the edges.
  7. Top with remaining olives and cheese.
  8. Bake for 15 minutes or until heated through.


The Cost of Being House Poor

I want to introduce you to a long time friend, Jennifer Dickson.  She and her husband, Andrew, are risking everything to change the world for YOU.  Their dream for you is to never owe another utility bill and to live in a paid for house so you can spend your income and your time with your family.  With that introduction, I’m going to let her tell you more:

Acre Designs

It was a typical morning last summer when I, pregnant and late to work (where I’d recently been told it would be unlikely for me to reduce my 50+ hour work weeks once baby #2 arrived), backed our 10-year-old car into our 15-year-old car. After working through lunch and spending the customary two hours of family time with our toddler that evening, my husband and I agreed that something had to change. But how could we make a drastic career shift and still pay the mortgage?


A quick survey of most any family budget will reveal that the biggest monthly expense is housing and housing-related costs.  We take it for granted that mortgage debt is a part of life, and that utility costs will always rise. But it hasn’t always been this way!

In the past 50 years the American home has doubled in size, energy consumption and percentage of income.  While families used to spend 17% of their income on housing, we now spend 35% – and that’s at all income levels, and despite a growing number of two-income families.  It seems that as soon as we start to get ahead of housing expenses, we go shopping for a bigger model!


It’s no wonder so many of us can relate to feeling “house poor.” On an individual level this translates to less time, less disposable income and less flexibility to pursue, say, a different career, a new venture, a missionary opportunity or a travel experience. At the national scale we’re drowning under nearly $12 trillion of mortgage debt, with growing numbers of the population priced out of the housing market altogether.

This is what led my husband, an industrial designer and interior architect, and me, an architect, to found Acre Designs.  We are a startup creating NetZero homes – meaning homes with NO energy bills – for the same cost as traditional construction. We are able to build in about half the time of a standard house, using super-insulated panelized walls and roofs that install in a few short days. Acre homes require a fraction of the typical mechanical and electrical systems, and we make up the remainder with a small solar PV system, allowing the homes to produce as much energy as they consume.


Grocery Shrink readers already understand the power of controlling food costs. Imagine the life that opens up when you can control housing costs as well! We think everyone should be able to expect more from their biggest investment, and Acre homes make that possible.

The average homeowner will save $250-300 each month on energy bills. If those savings are applied toward an accelerated mortgage, the savings are astronomical – well over $400,000 over the life of a typical 30-year mortgage! This is a game-changer for most families, and it’s a solution that’s currently unavailable on the market.

To make all of this possible, we’re fixing problems throughout the entire design and construction industry. Currently building in Kansas City, next year we’ll begin to integrate online tools with a network of builders, allowing us to build Acre homes throughout the country.


Step 1 is to build our NetZero prototype, the Axiom House, in Kansas City. We will use it to demonstrate and document Acre’s revolutionary construction processes, sensors to collect data on actual home energy performance, and the budget to prove we can build at an affordable pricepoint. We’re currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo to make the prototype project possible – visit our campaign, donate and share today!  Each backer can choose from several great rewards, and will help us bring this revolutionary solution to market!

Learn more, and back our campaign, at

P.S.  Angela here–These pics show some of their modern versions of homes, but they have all styles including log cabin and more traditional looking homes.

Homemade Pumpkin Bagels Video Tutorial

Homemade Pumpkin Bagels

Tee hee.  This video makes me giggle.  My family doesn’t quite get why it’s so funny, but they enjoy that I enjoy it.  When I watch the replay and Grant (4) dumps the pumpkin on the counter, I roll on the floor laughing and then back it up and watch it again.  Maybe because I was there for the original moment, trying to balance a camera and helping Grant with the cooking at the same time.  How the pumpkin on the counter shocked us both and I got the giggles, which I tried to hold in making weird background noise.  Grant, relieved that I wasn’t upset said, “We better clean that up.”   Which made me giggle all the more.

After we made quite a mess but got most of the stuff in the bowl, I said “What should we do now?”  I thought Grant would say, “Let’s clean up!”  but he said “SMILE.”  Which made me giggle all over again.

This boy is the joy of my days.  The sleepless nights, messes, tantrums, and battles are all worth it.  I had the option to spend this year in a classroom blessing other people’s children, while I earned money that my family needed.  I would have had to let someone else be with Grant during the day, and I just couldn’t.  It’s his last full year at home and I fought for my chance to be the one to clean up his messes and talk him down from the ledge of toddler insanity. It was selfish and selfless at the same time.  He needs me as much as I need him and there’s something priceless about that.

For those who prefer a written recipe here you go:

pumpkin bagels 009

Pumpkin Bagels

  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast

Put all ingredients in the order listed in your bread machine.  Set for the dough cycle.  When the cycle is ended, divide the dough into 10 balls.  Poke your finger through the center and make a large hole.  Let the bagels rise for an hour or until doubled. Pour 8 cups of water into a stock pot, boil bagels for 1 1/2 minutes, turning once.  Remove to a dish towel to drain.  Place bagels on a greased baking sheet.  Brush with egg white and sprinkle with a little sugar.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden on the top.  Cool on a wire rack.

Back from Paradise

Last week, Darren and I went to Paradise Island, Bahamas with a trip we earned working with my MomCeo team and paid for by Melaleuca.  We had a gorgeous room with a lush view and $480 in room credit to buy whatever we wanted.  Food at the Atlantis resort can be very expensive ($50-$100 a plate.)  We knew this because Dave Ramsey brought us here 10 years ago with the Total Money Makeover Contest (has it been that long already?!!!) We arrived with a plan.

To help stretch our room credit and minimize our personal expenses, we packed protein powder and granola bars for breakfast.  For lunch we ate poolside with our room credit (which was only $15 a plate) and then walked over the bridge to Nassau Island

bridge to paradise islandto buy inexpensive authentic Bahamian dinners at the Fish Fry Shacks.

fish fry shack nassau

conch fritters

Famous Conch Fritters

chef hair net

Our Fish Fry Chef and his amazing hair net

By the end of the week we had saved so much money we had enough room credit to pay for an extra night in the hotel plus buy a couple of EXPENSIVE workout shirts with the Atlantis logo.
snorkel starfish nassau

On Thursday we took a bus to Nassau to go snorkeling.  One of our guides spotted a starfish from the top deck, dove in to grab it and handed it to us for a photo op.  Snorkeling in the clear Bahama water is my favorite.  One of our dive stops had a shipwreck that we could swim to and check out.  The last one, they baited nurse sharks to come and swim beneath us so we could observe them closely. So cool. (Nurse sharks don’t eat people, but they might nibble on your feet if you don’t have on flippers.  Feet kind of look like fish to a nurse shark..but are not tasty.)

blown glass sculpture atlantis

A lit hand blown glass sculpture in the hotel.

glass sculpture

A hand blown glass light fixture.  It was gold glitter glass…pictures do not do it justice.

Atlantis royal towers

The famous Royal towers.  We stayed in the west wing on the first floor. The fist floor rooms are handicap accessible and much larger than normal rooms.  They have walk out sitting areas in green space and wet zone bathroom areas with zero entry showers.  (Sorry I didn’t take a lot of pictures, just enjoyed life outside the view finder.)atlantis fountain

One of the fountains near the entrance to the recreation area.atlantis 3

One of the many conservation areas for marine life.
Ebenezer Methodist church

Most of our friends left on Sunday.  We saved $200 by staying an extra day and not flying on the weekend.  We used our room credit for the extra night and walked into town to experience the Bahamian culture and worship with the folks in the Ebenezer Methodist Church.
Grant missed me

When we got home Grant was glued to my side. He snuggled beside me as I caught up on work and took part in a team conference call, then fell asleep in bliss that we were all home and together again.Me and Sue bootcamp on the beach

Meeting team member, Sue, for the first time on bootcamp on the beach.  Bootcamp A.  Run a 1/4th mile B. 30 pushups C. 30 sit-ups D. 30 squats REPEAT 4 times with a final finisher of 30 burpees.  I’m sweaty in this photo but better off than Sue, because I modified EVERYTHING and only did 3 rounds and no burpees. Sue did EVERYTHING and is such a rock star.  I have 2 years left to make a full recovery from Subclinical Adrenal Failure–so I’m being careful. I never want to end up in that bad way again.

I haven’t felt so healthy and energetic in a long time.  We got plenty of rest, tons of exercise, never missed my vitamins, and all the food I ate was full of the freshest yummies veggies, fruits, and fish.  This was the first time in 5 years that Darren and I had a few days together without the kids.  There were times I missed them fiercely, like when we saw the sawfish with his chainsaw looking snoz, and when we were racing down one of the 8 super fun water slides on the resort–that I knew the kids would have LOVED.  Thank goodness for Facetime and free wifi.

Anyhoo, so that’s why the blog has been quiet, and won’t be any longer.  I have a few things I can’t wait to share in September and in October I’m taking part in the 31 day challenge.  The theme here will be 31 days of Kids and Money.  You’ll want to
subscribe in the side bar now, so you don’t miss a post.

31 days of kids and money green

Coming in October!

Why We Wait

why I wait

How long are you willing to wait to save a few bucks? I’ve been asking myself that lately.  I was ready to paint the boys’ bedroom in July, before school started.  Except my home repair envelope was empty.  I hosted a garage sale in August and earned enough money to buy paint if it’s on sale.

That sale is supposed to happen this Labor Day Weekend.  By waiting I’ll save around $40.  Waiting also means I could either move the boys out of their room until I leisurely finish it;  This would displace them while they are trying to get good sleep and be organized for going to school,  OR I could push myself and paint their room and put it back together over the 3 day weekend.

The pushing sounded like a good plan a month ago, before I knew how much other fun we’d have opportunities for this weekend.  It’s going to be a blast of family experiences with some little pockets of time for painting smooshed in.  I’ll need to be efficient.

I’m still feeling optimistic though. I took the popcorn ceiling removal, skim coating and ceiling painting off the schedule this time.  I decided I could do that part later.  Maybe NEXT summer so they aren’t disrupted during the school year.


I’m optimistic because I’m thinking about all the ways I can bribe my teenagers to help with the painting. My first plan is try the Tom Sawyer method and to make it so much fun that they can’t stay away.  If that doesn’t work, I’m going to try candy…and then money.  If all that fails I’ll remind them of the hours of labor it took to bring them into the world.  That should do it.

Living debt free can be hard. Sometimes we wait for things or do without.  We make hard decisions about what we can and can’t do.  Sometimes we face criticism of friends and family.  It’s hardest when we see other people enjoying the immediate gratification of debt, while we wait. Since we aren’t there for their private moments when the consequences of debt are felt, it’s hard to remember they still exist.

It’s impossible to rightly judge another person’s choices unless we are there, loving their family as much as they do and knowing every detail of their income and expenses.  We can’t really know what we would do in their shoes without being in them.

Recently I had to make a tough financial decision that made some friends close to me question my faith. The decision was painful, but the criticism was more painful.  They thought I should move ahead  and commit to something that I couldn’t pay and trust that the money would come.  Since the money wasn’t there, we chose to live within our means.

As hard as waiting and doing without can be, living with debt is WORSE.  It’s a panic that is there all the time.  An awful feeling that becomes so familiar you don’t realize it’s there until it’s gone. We choose freedom.

That’s why we wait.

It’s “Getting Food on the Table” Month

Getting food on the table month

Happy August!  It’s my birthday month and my husband’s too.  Plus our daughter, his mother, his sister, my grandfather, my aunt, our niece, and a cousin too.  Everyone shall eat cake!

It’s also the month that school starts.  3 of our kids start in 9 days.  Honestly, I’m not done with summer yet but que sera.

In light of all the crazy that is happening in homes across the nation Read more

Day 1: Summer Here We Come

Storm Clouds

Today is our first Monday of summer vacation.  I’m a barrel of mixed feelings about school being out.  I love having the kids home and the sound of stirring in the lego bin as they search for that perfect piece. We are making different education choices for next year and I am mourning the change.  I’m not ready to talk about it publicly yet.  Soon, I hope.  For now, I want my friends to know we weren’t offended or upset in any way.


I’m still trying to figure out the whole summer vacation thing. In the past, I’ve written a summer bucket list and then had terrible Mommy guilt when I didn’t do much of it.  Last year I made a list of things I wanted to do around Kansas City, one a week. We did 2 things, then adrenal fatigue had me mostly bed bound the rest of the summer.


I want to be a fun mom.  I look at the pictures on facebook of families doing things together, like eating in a restaurant, going to the trampoline park, or in an extreme case, taking a girls’ trip to England….and I feel a little small inside.  It’s dumb to compare, I know.  But I do it anyway–it comes naturally.

I hope my kids tell their therapist that I really loved them.  That they know I tried.


I need summer to be as restful as possible.  School is hard.  Teaching; spelling lists, math facts, reading charts, reports and posters, fund raisers, and things to sign x 5  nearly puts me under.  Then we also have ballet class, soccer teams, basketball teams, violin lessons and piano lessons.  Plus Zion’s League and YAChoir for the High School one; Zioneers for the Middle School ones; Young Adults for the parents; Priesthood classes, Gatekeeper training; and family visits for the Daddy who also helps lead the Trailblazers group….and takes the boys to Boy Scouts too.  There’s Handmaidens and Lamplighters for the girls.  The only night we can be home as a family is Wednesday night, and the church would prefer we come to prayer service instead.  We don’t usually go. I have stay at home guilt on those nights, but if anyone walked a day in my shoes, they wouldn’t judge.

We’ve talked about limiting activities more.  We haven’t come up with a perfect solution.  The kids each have special needs that make a certain activity important for their development. The ones that aren’t crucial for congnitive and physical development are the church activities–and that feels kind of wrong to quit.  So we stay with the crazy and ask ourselves often if we’re doing the right thing.


This summer I have no bucket list. The 4 oldest kids will each go to a summer camp.  I will take the children to a family camp (we call it Reunion) while my husband stays back to earn money and hold down the fort.  We are going tent camping in the Rocky Mountains at some point.  And there’s a week of Bible School for the little ones.  There will be a lot of time just at home though.  If I can keep the screens off until 3pm, I will consider it a win, plus minimal fighting, and maybe cleaning once a month week.


Maybe we’ll air up the bike tires and send restless kids out into the neighborhood.  And a summer membership to a local pool.  That was a good thing last year.  I have a few house projects I’d like to squeeze in, but I’m hoping to find lots of peaceful moments.  Lots of peaceful moments.



My mediation:

Drop Thy still dews of quietness.

May all our strivings cease.

Take from our souls the strain and stress,

And let our ordered lives confess the beauty of Thy peace.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Freezer Bag Cooking: Lunch and Dinner

Freezer Bag Recipes lunch and dinner

Yesterday I shared with you some really simple Freezer Bag Breakfast Recipes perfect for camping or just to make ahead for busy moments.  Today I’m going to give you my best Freezer Bag Lunch and Dinner recipes.  When meals are packed frozen in a cooler, you need less ice and they gradually thaw to be ready when needed. (My FAVORITE part of this series is how often I can use the word smoosh <3.)

 Dutch Oven

Dutch Oven Pizza

Crust: 1 2/3 cup water; 1 Tbs yeast; 1 Tbs olive oil; 2 Tbs Honey; 1 tsp salt; 4 cups flour.  Mix together, kneading right in the bag, then press out the air and freeze.

Sauce: 6 oz tomato paste; 1/4 cup water; 1 tsp sugar; 1 tsp garlic powder; 1 tsp onion powder; 2 tsp parsley flakes; 1 tsp basil; 1/4 tsp oregano; a few dashes of oregano.  Mix in a smaller baggie and freeze.  Snip the corner to easily spread onto the pizza crust.

Additional ingredients:  Shredded mozzarella cheese; browned ground beef, pepperoni;

This is enough for 2 pizzas. Spread the thawed crust in the bottom and up the sides a bit of your well seasoned dutch oven.  Top with sauce, cheese and desired toppings.  Top with a lid. Bake for 20-3o minutes with 7 briquettes under the oven and 21 on the lid.
Sloppy Joe

Sloppy Joes

2 lb Ground meat (I use a combination of turkey and beef.)

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced bell pepper

2 cans, 8 oz tomato sauce

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp garlic salt

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Brown the ground beef, peppers and onions together, drain.  Place the tomato sauce, chili powder, garlic salt and worcestershire in a freezer baggie.  Smoosh it around.  Add remaining ingredients and smoosh to mix evenly. Seal well and lay flat to freeze.  To prepare, squeeze thawed contents into a dutch oven or saucepan and heat through. Serve on buns or stuffed into pitas with slices of cheese.



l lb macaroni noodles (dry)

8 cups tomato juice

4 tsp sugar, xylitol or similar

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp garlic powder

1 lb ground beef, browned and drained

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped bell pepper

8 American cheeses slices

Brown ground beef with onion and bell pepper, drain.  Combine all but the cheese slices in a baggie (pasta should still be dry.)  Seal, and smoosh flat to freeze.   To prepare, pour contents of the bag into a casserole dish or dutch oven.  Top with cheese slices.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes (For a Dutch oven: 7 hot coals on the bottom 21 coals on the lid) or until heated through and pasta is soft.



8 oz broken spaghetti noodles

4 cups tomato sauce

3 cups water

1 tsp basil flakes

2 tsp parsley flakes

1 tsp salt

dash of cayenne pepper (opt)

1 lb ground beef

1 cup onion

Brown and drain ground beef with onion.  Add all ingredients to a freezer bag (use the noodles dry.)  Smoosh flat and freeze.  To prepare, pour thawed contents of the bag into a pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until pasta is tender and dish is thickened.


2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into strips.

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 red onion

1 white onion

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lime juice

1 1/2 Tbs Seasoned Salt (like Lowry’s)

1 1/2 Tbs oregano flakes

1 1/2 Tbs ground cumin

1 Tbs garlic powder

1 Tbs chili powder

1 Tbs paprika

1 tsp salt

In a large baggie combine the oil, lime juice and herbs and spices.  Smoosh all around.  Add the chicken and sliced vegetables.  Press flat and freeze.  To prepare, thaw the bag. Use tongs to lift the meat and vegetables out of the bag into a hot skillet, discard remaining marinate. Stir fry until meat is cooked through and vegetables are tender.  Serve with tortillas and salsa.  (Other toppings as desired: lettuce, cheese, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, guacamole….)

Fiesta Chicken Bowls

2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup lime juice
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 lb corn kernels
1 tsp garlic powder
1 chopped red onion
1 can, 15 oz  black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Combine everything into a freezer bag and smoosh flat to freeze. To prepare, thaw bag.  Pour entire contents into a hot skillet and sauté until meat is cooked through.  Layer bowls with crushed tortilla chips and chopped lettuce.  Top with chicken mixture and serve with salsa, cheese, and ranch dressing.

Teriyaki chicken over Rice

2 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces

1 lb sugar snap peas

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup pineapple juice (I drain it from canned pineapple)

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

1 tsp garlic powder

Combine all ingredients into a freezer bag and smoosh to freeze.  Freeze 4-6 cups cooked brown rice in a separate bag.  To prepare, pour contents of the bag into a skillet and saute until chicken is cooked through. Heat rice, by simmering the bag in hot water for 2-3 minutes.  Serve Teriyaki chicken over rice.

Taco Soup

2 lb ground beef or turkey

1 cup chopped onion

1 lb corn kernels

2 cans, 15 oz each black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can rotel tomatoes, undrained

4 Tbs taco seasoning

Brown ground beef with onion, drain.  Combine everything in a freezer bag.  Smoosh flat to freeze.  To serve, pour contents of the bag into a stock pot or dutch oven. Add 1 cup of water. Heat through.  Serve with Frito style corn chips and cheese or sour cream.

Freezer Bag Cooking: Breakfast

Freezer Bag Recipes Breakfast

Prepping food at home and freezing it in baggies takes up less space in the cooler for camping.  Things stay colder longer this way. (Here’s hoping they thaw out in time for cooking. I’ll let you know on that one.) Even if you aren’t planning a camping trip, these recipes can easily be cooked in a regular kitchen and make rushed mornings that much easier.

Today is just about breakfast.  Tomorrow we’ll talk about dinner and then desserts :).  All of these recipes are good feed our family of 8.

Quick tip: Be sure to label your bags with a sharpee.  A few weeks later pancake batter and frozen smoothie can look kind of similar.

Breakfast Recipes

protein pancakes 033


3 cups flour

1 Tbs sugar or stevia blend

1 Tbs baking powder (or 1 tsp baking soda plus 1/4 tsp cream of tartar.)

3 eggs

3 Tbs oil

3 cups milk

Blend all ingredients together and process for 1 minute.  Pour into a gallon freezer baggie and squeeze out the air.  Lay the bag flat smooshing all the batter into an even layer and place it on a cookie sheet or tray to freeze it flat.

To cook, thaw the batter.  Then snip off a lower corner of the bag and use it to pipe the batter into a hot skillet.  (I’m going to test this method on my protein pancake batter and let you know how it freezes.) If you don’t want to use a blender, you could also just dump the ingredients in the bag and smoosh it around. It won’t be as smooth, but it will be ok.

Hash Brown and Egg Casserole

1 lb frozen hash browns (Raw potatoes don’t freeze well, so if you want a homemade substitute, cube leftover baked potatoes. For a low carb substitute, try frozen cauliflower bits or diced radishes.)

1 lb bulk sausage, browned and drained

1 cup diced onion

1 cup diced bell pepper (I like the baby bell peppers because of the pretty colors.)

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 cup shredded cheese

8 beaten eggs

1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper

Beat yogurt or sour cream and salt and pepper into eggs.  Pour into a gallon baggie and add remaining ingredients. smoosh around until well blended.  Seal well, removing all air. Lay flat and freeze on a tray to keep it flat. To bake, pour thawed casserole into a dutch oven.  Use this handy guide to decide how and where to place your coals: Bake at 350 for about an hour.  You’ll need around 24 hot briquetts, 6 underneath and 18 on the lid.

This casserole can be made without all vegetables (but why?!) To make it dairy free, 1/2 as much plain almond milk can be subbed for the yogurt and the cheese can be left out or replaced with Daiya cheese.  I’m slightly milk sensitive, but found Daiya cheese (cheddar variety) to be pretty gross and would rather just skip it.

Apple Muffins

¾ C milk

½ C applesauce (or oil)

1 egg

2 C flour

½ C sugar

3 t baking powder

1 t salt

½ t cinnamon

1 med apple, pared and chopped

Mix everything together in the gallon baggie, then freeze flat.  To bake, snip off a corner and pipe into a seasoned cast iron muffin tin OR fill hollowed out orange skin halves 2/3 full with batter. Wrap loosely with aluminum foil (to give room for rising batter.) Nestle down into the hot coals (right side up!) and bake for about 1o minutes.  Any muffin batter can be baked this way.  Imagine chocolate in an orange. (If you compare recipes, the difference between a muffin and a cupcake are minimal….)


Use a quart sized freezer bag for each person.  Crack in 2 eggs then add whatever you like:  spinach, onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, ham, bacon, sausage, cheese etc.  Mush it all around, then freeze.  To cook, drop the bags in a large kettle (or dutch oven) of boiling water.  Boil for 8 minutes.  Only put in enough bags that can float freely (you don’t want them resting on the bottom of the pot.)


Blend up your favorite smoothie ingredients, then freeze flat in a freezer bag.  Thaw until slushy, cut off a corner and pipe into drinking glasses.

Portable Yogurt

Fill snack size baggies with a half cup of flavored yogurt.  Fold over and tape the zipper seal to the side and freeze firm. Snip off the end and push up to eat. Credit

Quick Oatmeal

This doesn’t need to be frozen, but goes in a baggie….so here you go.  Add 1/3 cup quick oats; 1 Tbs sweetener (brown sugar, coconut sugar, or xylitol etc….); 2 Tbs dried fruit; and 1/4 tsp of flavor (Cinnamon, nutmeg etc.)  Other flavor options: 1 Tbs chopped nuts; 1 Tbs mini chocolate chips;  1 Tbs peanut flour; 1 tsp flax meal; 1 tsp chia seeds; 1 Tbs cocoa powder; 1 Tbs dry milk; scraped vanilla bean.  To prepare, pour contents of the bag into a mug.  Add 2/3-3/4 cup of boiling water and let stand for 5 minutes.

Just for fun, let’s clear up some confusion about the different types of oatmeal.

1. Whole Oat Groats: look similar to wheat berries and are the hulled seeds of the oat plan. Since the seed is intact, there is no danger of oils going rancid. These take a long time to cook.

2. Steel cut oats: Whole oats that have been chopped into pieces for faster cooking.

3. Old-fashioned rolled oats: Whole oat Groats that have been rolled on a press. Oats can be thick rolled if the setting is changed on the roller.

3. Quick Oats: Rolled oats that have been chopped into smaller pieces for faster cooking. Nutritionally no different than Old-Fashioned roll oats.

4. Instant Oats: Quick oats that have been steamed and re-dried for faster cooking.  There is likely some nutrition loss in the heat process, but instant oat’s bad reputation mostly comes from the sugary additions in the prepackaged individual serving variety that make it so yummy.  By packaging up your own flavors you can control the quality of the ingredients and nutrition profile.

We are going camping!

lit up tent

I’m terrified!  I have great memories of family camping as a child.  We went several times a year, almost always to Watkins Mill where they have a fabulous swimming lake and a gorgeous paved bike trail.  In the autumn, we would lie on lounge chairs after riding at least 10 miles, glistening with sweat.  If we were still enough, butterflies would come and land on us and lick up the salt from our skin. It was peaceful and renewing. At least for us kids. As I think back on things, Mom had to work pretty hard to give us such a relaxing time.


I couldn’t wait to start a camping tradition with my own family!  I begged Darren to take us.  I did all the planning and packing, just like my mom did when I was growing up. Except things were different for us. I was 7 months pregnant with WD and it was the hottest day of the year. The first night, my 23 month old daughter cried all night long.  We helplessly comforted her while listening to our neighbor’s Harley revving into the wee hours of the morning.  The next day,  I begged Darren to take us home.  He said, “No.”

Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site, Lawson

We groggily continued with our plans to enjoy the area.  The swimming lake had been drained for repairs and the bike trail was torn up in the section that went over the dam.  Undaunted I strapped my  toddler daughter in the bike child seat and headed on the 5 mile trail around the lake.  When I got to the torn up dam I had two choices, go back the other way and ride 5 miles back to the start or carefully ride the rubble.  It was 104 degrees, I was exhausted—none of this had been fun so far.   I chose the rubble.   In my attempt to ride carefully, I fell way behind Darren who was pulling our older 2 children (aged 5 and 3 in a double bike trailer.)  He was completely out of ear shot when I fell off the dam, taking my pregnant self, bike and back seated baby with me.  Thank the Lord we had helmets!  They were dented but we were relatively safe.  I was bloody and Heather was crying pretty hard.  I put her back in the seat and walked the bike back to our campsite.  I left a trail of blood in the road.   When Darren saw me, I didn’t have to beg to go home.  We just went.

Watkins Mill Bike Trail

We tried camping again 5 years later. This time we went with friends who knew what they were doing and agreed to do the cooking if we would help with clean up and paying for food. I packed no supplies except a borrowed tent, a sleeping bag and a hand crank flashlight. (Yes, not even a pillow or a lawn chair.) The first night, I sat up all night sitting at the campground supplied picnic table, cranking my little flashlight with all my might and pointing it into the woods.   My arm got tired really fast, but I had to keep my babies safe from those loud, stick-popping sounds coming from the woods.  The best part of that trip was the FOOD!  Oh man, my friends knew how to fix a mean campfire meal.

With my frequently pregnancies, illnesses, and financial strains, we have only taken 2 family trips with all the children.  We would like to fix that now that life seems to be settling down for us. Camping is one way to afford a family trip, enjoy lots of together time and see the country.  So off we go!   Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Prep work is the key to a successful trip.  Planning food in advance can help make the trip more relaxing for all.

2.  The right gear is important. Battery flashlights are better than hand crank ones in this situation :).  We will invest in a few small pieces of gear this time, but are borrowing some things to help keep the trip affordable.  If we go camping again, we will be able to buy a couple of things next time too.

It’s a short list, because I’m awful at camping :).  I’ve love to hear your tips in the comments.

Tomorrow I’m going to share some camping friendly recipes I’ve gathered.  If you aren’t planning a camping trip, don’t worry.  These are perfect at home freezer meals too!