Teaching Students How to Cook

One of my dreams has come true.  Next year I get to teach a middle school cooking class.  I have taught 7th grade English for the past 4 years, which has been great.  However, I was offered a new position where I will be teaching 3 reading intervention classes and 3 cooking classes.

I’m very excited but hesitant at the same time.  Change can be good and scary.  There are still many different kinks and questions to work out and answer, but I feel confident that the class will  be great.  One of the biggest kinks that I’m dealing with now is funding for the class.  This is a new class for our students, and I am starting from scratch with a very small budget.

If you’ve read much of my blog, you know that I enjoy cooking from scratch.  However, starting a new class from scratch with very little money isn’t very easy or enjoyable.  To help fund the class, I created an account on http://www.donorschoose.org.  I’d love for you to check it out to find more information about the class and what is needed.  The link to my account is http://www.donorschoose.org/mrs.soll

If you do decide to help fund the class, you will also receive personal photos and letters from my students.

Although Soll Mom’s Real Food was intended to focus on the cooking that I do at home, I plan on providing updates and  posting photos of the students learning how to cook.  I am also going to create a separate blog for the class that the students have to keep updated.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”  My hope is that by getting my students involved in the kitchen, I will be able to make a difference in their lives.  Even if you can’t support the class through donations, I hope you will decide to follow the blog in August once the class gets started.

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Batch cooking, round 2

A few weeks before Spring Break we finished off our last frozen meal.  I was already planning on spending time during our Spring Break cooking and freezing more meals.  During those few weeks before our break, I realized  how convenient frozen meals were.  Supper took more time and effort to fix, and I missed the convenience of my frozen meals.

So, I started planning out what I would cook.  We enjoyed all of the meals I made last time, but I wanted to make some new dishes this time.  I also didn’t make any soup this time; I assumed since it would be spring soon, we would start to  have some warmer weather.  Although, it did snow the first 2 days of our Spring Break.

turkey-shepherds-pie

Along with the 2 Shepard’s pie,

http://www.laaloosh.com/2011/01/21/turkey-shepherds-pie-recipe/

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I also made 3 Chicken and Pasta Casseroles,

https://sollmomsrealfood.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/chicken-and-pasta-casserole/

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2 Taco Casseroles,

https://sollmomsrealfood.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/taco-casserole/

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and 2 Chicken and Potato Casseroles.

https://sollmomsrealfood.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/chicken-and-potato-casserole/

The following day I cooked a 15 pound turkey in the oven, separated it into 1 pound bags, and vacuumed sealed them.  I also fixed 4 green bean kits and 5 meat loaves.

I have a feeling we will be well stocked until the summer.  I’ve come up with a few tips to help when planning on cooking a big batch of meals.

1. Potatoes that need to bake or boil get priority.

2.  Cook as much meat ahead of time as possible.

3.  Have a plan for the order in which you will fix the meals.

4. Keep in mind the pots that you will use and try to use as few as possible.

5.  Make sure the kids are not at home.

6.  Be very certain that you have all the ingredients you need.

7.  Find recipes that use very basic ingredients that are easy to fix.

8.  Find recipes that use similar ingredients. * Notice that 2 of my meals used potatoes which are very inexpensive.

I only spent $175 on all of the food, and I expect to get a total 50 servings.   Which, in the end, means that each serving will cost around $3.

Keep in mind that all the meat and fresh produce are organic and nothing I used was highly processed or pre-made.  I made all of the chicken broth (which was used in almost all of the recipes) from the chicken scraps, bought the cheese in blocks and shredded them, and used dried beans that I soaked the night before.

It took me about 8 hours to put everything together.  I was very tired at the end of the day but was proud of what I had accomplished.  If you haven’t tried cooking in bulk yet, I highly recommend you do it.  Start out small if you need but at least give it a try – and be sure to let me know how it goes.

Chicken and Potato Casserole

100_2887I love potatoes.  Fried, hashed, baked, stuffed, mashed, twice baked, you name it…  I love them. Most casseroles don’t use potatoes as a main ingredient.  Usually it is either rice or a pasta.  So, I was really excited when I found one online that used potatoes.  This dish can be made ahead of time and then frozen if desired.  I changed the recipe a little and added chicken in order to increase the protein in the dish.  Here’s my updated version as well as the original recipe.

Chicken and Potato Casserole

2 pounds red skinned potatoes

Olive oil

Kosher Salt

5 slices of bacon

3 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup melted butter

1 cup sour cream

2  1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese – keep the 1/2 cup set aside for the topping

3 green onions sliced

2 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp of pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub potatoes, puncture each with a knife to vent, toss with olive oil and salt and place on a pan. Bake at 400 degrees F for 45 minutes or until tender.

Cook the bacon till crisp and then break into small pieces.

Once potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice them in half lengthwise, then slice them in half again. Place into a large bowl. Add 2 cups of the Cheddar cheese, 3 cups chicken, and half of the bacon. Set aside a big pinch of the green onion for garnish and add the rest to the potatoes.

Mix together the milk, sour cream and melted butter. Add parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Pour mixture over the potatoes and gently toss. Use a potato masher to break down the chunks to desired texture.

Pour mixture into greased baking dish, cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes or until heated through. Remove, top with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese, return to the oven, uncovered, until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Garnish top with remaining bacon and green onion.

* If freezing the casserole, go ahead and add the remaining cheese and bacon before freezing.  You can easily pull it off once the dish thaws and then add it back for the last 5 minutes.

This link will take you to the original recipe.  http://www.deepsouthdish.com/2012/08/cheesy-loaded-twice-baked-potato.html

Chicken and Pasta Casserole

100_2888As I was planning my menu for the next few months, I wanted to have a chicken pasta dish.  I didn’t want one that had an Alfredo sauce or a tomato based sauce.  I found this tuna noodle casserole and decided to use chicken instead of canned tuna.

It turned out great and makes for a nice chicken pasta dish.  I cooked a whole chicken in the crockpot and shredded it.  I used to bones and scraps to make the broth.  I also made bread crumbs from my homemade bread.  The most expensive ingredient in the dish is the mushrooms.  That’s mainly because I made my own cream of mushroom soup and used organic mushrooms.

Overall, it’s rather inexpensive to make and very delicious. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

http://onceamonthmom.com/lighter-tuna-noodle-casserole/

Taco Casserole

100_2886I have always been a  fan of Mexican dishes and casseroles.  I love the mixture of flavors and textures.  So, when I came across a Taco Casserole recipe, I was excited.  It included simple ingredients and would be inexpensive to make; however, I still made a few changes in order to meet our budget and lifestyle.   Here’s my version and a link to the original recipe.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Taco Casserole

Ingredients:

2 Tbls olive oil

1 bag of pre-sliced frozen mixed peppers and onions (could substitute 1 green pepper and 1 cup of chopped onion)

2 garlic cloves minced

1 lb ground turkey

3 Tbls homemade taco seasoning ( or 1 store-bought taco seasoning packet)

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup salsa

2 cups soaked black beans or 1 15 oz can

1 cup frozen corn

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Saute peppers, onions, and garlic in olive oil till tender and most of the water is evaporated. Add turkey and cook until no longer pink. Add taco seasoning and mix well.

In a small bowl, combine the cheddar cheese and the salsa. In another bowl, mix the beans and corn.

Cover the bottom of your greased casserole dish with the ground turkey mixture.  Top that with the cheese and salsa.  Add the beans and corn for the next layer.  Last of all, cover the top with mozzarella cheese.

Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Here is the original recipe that I used. http://www.budgetsavvydiva.com/2012/03/taco-casserole-recipe/

 

Green Smoothies

100_2839 I have been trying to find new ways of adding veggies into our meals.  I’ve seen many post about green smoothies but always assumed they didn’t taste that great and were rather bland.  The idea of drinking a green liquid didn’t seem very appealing to me.  They reminded me of the toxic green goo from the Ninja Turtles.

But, I was having trouble incorporating veggies into our food everyday and decided to summon the turtle power within and try a green smoothie.  The result, well I didn’t turn into a ninja fighting mutant, which was slightly disappointing, but I did enjoy it.

I have tried a few different recipes and most have worked well.  The main ingredients are spinach (which you don’t even taste), a mixture of fruit, and a liquid.  So far I have used mangoes, bananas, blueberries, pineapple, and strawberries in different combinations.  I have made them with yogurt, milk, almond milk, and Kefir.  The yogurt and milk add plenty of protein but include lactose.  The almond milk and kefir are both lactose free, so they are useful for lactose free diets.  I also add Chia seeds.  These little seeds add some good fats and can keep you fuller longer.  The smoothies are best when all the ingredients are frozen or cold.  I recently bought 3 bunches of bananas on sale for 99 cents each.  They were really bruised on the outside, but perfect on the inside.  I peeled them and put them in a plastic bag in the freezer. 100_2841

I did need to buy a new blender for my smoothies.  I had had my old one for about 8 years and it didn’t work well pureeing frozen foods.

We now try to have a smoothie everyday.  They make for a quick breakfast or a nice afternoon snack.  I highly suggest you summon the turtle power within you as well.  I believe you will be pleasantly surprised.

Things I love about real food

I love tovegetable-heart  cook.  There is no doubt about it.  I always have.  But, my  love for cooking has changed ever since I started cooking real, wholesome food for my family.  This has grown significantly and I decided it was time to put it in writing.  So, here is what I love about real food:

I love…

1. the way real food taste.1100035_love_food

2. that my kids know and recognize the smell of fresh bread.

3. that my kids are learning the concept of taking turns when they help me cook.

4. that I can make over a dozen whole wheat muffins that contain no sugar on a Saturday morning and have more than 1/2 of them gone within a few hours.

5. that my sons are learning to enjoy fresh foods.

6. that my pantry is filled with ingredients and not processed meals in boxes.

7. that my kids will eat snacks that do not contain sugar without complaining.

8. that my kids ask for water instead of a sugary drink.

9. that my freezer is filled with food scraps because I know I can find a way to cook with them.

10. when my kids take a bite of a homemade meal and respond with, “Mmmm… Yummy!”

11.  that my kids eat food that is green. And red. And blue. And yellow. And orange.  And none of those colors are artificial.??????????????????????????

12.  when my kids get excited about picking out the organic bananas and want to eat them before we have paid for them.

13. that our organic fruit doesn’t turn brown 5 minutes after being bit into.  It usually take a whole day for the browning to begin.

14. that sometimes I cook something new and it is an “epic fail” because it means that I can learn from it and make something better next time.

15.  that we spend more money on organic produce and organic meat than on any other food.

16.  shopping at the farmer’s market in the summer.

17.  when we sit down for a meal and bless the food, that we are blessing food that is  fairly close to the way God created and intended for us to eat it.

18.  that the food we buy helps support small farmers.

19.  that my kids get excited when they see the mixer out on the counter top.

20.  And last of all, I love that every meal I cook for my family is made from real, wholesome, healthy, non-processed, fresh, and delicious food.

My goal for this post was to explain what I love about cooking real food.  My hope is that by sharing my love of real food, it can encourage you to make some changes in what you eat in order to experience this love as well.   The changes weren’t easy (and some still aren’t) and the love wasn’t immediate.  But in the end, it is all worth it.

Petition to end the use of artificial dyes in Kraft products

Petition to end the use of artificial dyes in Kraft products

Be sure to sign this petition if you haven’t done so already.  The petition is for Kraft to stop using food dyes in their Mac and Cheese.  They sale Mac and Cheese in other countries that doesn’t contain the food colors but not in America. 

Watch the video and sign the petition.  The best way to make a change is to spread the word and voice our opinions. 

Mango Jelly

In case you 100_2848haven’t figured it out yet, I hate wasting food scraps.  I figure there has to be something that can be done with bones, skins, peels, cores, and any other scraps.  I recently bought some mangoes to add to my green smoothies, but I couldn’t dare to throw away the pit because there was some “meat” left on them.  So, what do you think I did?  Of course, I used it to make jelly.  I froze the pits until I had 13 so that there would be enough meat to work with.

I recently made some apply jelly by using leftover apple cores and peels.  I assumed I could do the same with the leftover mango pits.  I searched online but could only find recipes for mango salsa.  None of the recipes saved the pits, so I decided to try it on my own.

I was surprised at how easy it was. I used a large amount sugar in mine in order to help it set.  You can always buy pectin and use it instead of the sugar.  You will need to follow the directions on the box to make the jelly set.  I didn’t write down the exact measurements ( my main mistake when creating a new recipe), but the measurements below are pretty close.

Mango Jelly

13 mango pits with “meat” still on them

2-4 cups of sugar (depends on how sweet you want it)

2 Tablespoons of lemon juice

Cover mango pits in water and boil until the meat is soft enough to scrape of100_2849f the pit.  It took mine about 20 minutes.  Add mango pulp back to remaining water. Continue boiling until water has reduced by half.  Using a fine mesh strainer, separate the remaining liquid from the mango scraps.  Return liquid to sauce pan and add sugar and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil, stirring often, over medium high heat until mixture sets and reaches jell point.

Allow to cool and store in glass jars.  You can boil the jars and can the jelly if you want to.  I wanted to go ahead and enjoy it, so once it was cooled, I stored it in the fridge.

This turned out to be one of the best jellies I have ever had.  It is great on a piece of 100_2859toast with some cream cheese.  It also makes a fantastic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I highly suggest keeping any food scraps and try creating you own jelly.  If you do try it, let me know how it goes.

Homemade Chicken Salad Sandwich

100_2856For lunch, we usually have a sandwich, fruit, and popcorn.  Luckily I have a husband who doesn’t mind having the same thing for lunch everyday.  I make our lunches the night before, and I don’t want to deal with anything complicated.

In order to add a little variety to our routine sandwiches, I created a chicken salad spread.  Peanut butter and jelly are good, but I like to change things up every so often.

Here’s the recipe I created.  If you decide to use a non-organic chicken, I suggest increasing all the other ingredients.  Non-organic chickens are much larger than organic chickens, so you will need to make modifications.

Chicken Salad Sandwich

1 whole organic chicken

1 cup oil (I prefer coconut oil)

1/4 cup white vinegar

2 jalapeno peppers with seeds removed

1/2 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 onion

Roast whole chicken in crock-pot or oven.  Remove as much meat as possible and save the bones and scraps for chicken broth.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and mix until everything is chopped.  Store in refrigerator.  Since coconut oil becomes a solid when cold, the salad will be a little difficult to spread but still tastes great.100_2854  You can always use a different type of oil though.

Of course, this taste best on homemade honey-wheat bread, but it is also good with crackers or chips.  Just recently I’ve started adding some organic spinach to the sandwich.  This helps add some veggies to our lunch and gives the sandwich more texture.

I hope this helps add a little variety to your lunches.