Tuesday, October 27, 2015

First Crockpot Freezer Meal Prep Session!

I've been meaning to do some freezer meals for like, ever.   It seemed like it was going to be such a hassle, though, compiling all the recipes and then figuring out a giant grocery list.... Until I found a great link on Pinterest where she did it all For me!    I chose 7 Kid-Friendly meals that could be made for $75 and it included the recipes and a detailed grocery list!   Bam!   I was in!

Keenan helped me shop (and we spent $72.75 for our 7 meals), and Moriah helped me prep them all!

We made a great team!

Moriah was a big help!   She peeled carrots, cut up bacon, grated cheese and carrots, measured spices and opened cans!    We had fun!    The first meal we made was the Chicken Pot Pie, which skipped the freezer all together and immediately went into the crock pot for that night's dinner.

One of the most fun parts was making the Mozarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs!

Hunk of cheese and a meatball...

...shove it in there...

...and it's buried...in meat!


 All done!   1.5 hours (and 10 minutes to clean up and do the dishes) later we had Six meals ready for the freezer and one in the crockpot!

First up - Chicken Pot Pie!

Our whole family Loved this and gave it two thumbs up!   It's definitely a "make again!"   It was the perfect amount of food for the five of us.  The only thing I would change next time is I would use 1/4 tsp instead of 1/2 tsp of pepper.   The recipe suggested crushing Ritz crackers over top.   The rest of the family did this and said it was great!

 Second - Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Pesto Meatballs

These were amazing.   Soo cheesy and delicious.    I made my own pesto.  Philip and the kids had wild rice and green beans with this, I had zucchini.   Will definitely make again.

 Cheesy inside

 Third was the Turkey Black Bean Chili
(I subbed in kidney beans in place of one of the cans of black beans since my kids prefer them)

My kids love chili and they declared this the best chili they'd ever had. =)   What I loved was that I didn't have to brown the meat or anything - I may never make chili the same again!

Number Four - Chicken/Bacon Tater Tot Casserole

I know what you're thinking... this sounds delicious, but it's probably terrible for you!    While it may not be The most nutritious of these meals, it's not bad.  Unlike most tater tot casseroles, there's no canned "cream of" anything soup in this, just cheese, milk, salt and pepper.   We all LOVED this.   The kids said, "It's better than cheesy potatoes!"  Which is just about the highest compliment you could pay any food in this house.   The addition of bacon to anything does kind of puts it over the top. =)  I had salad and the kids had green beans with this.

 Number Five - Chicken Noodle Soup

This was a great soup!   The broth was very flavorful and the egg noodles were yummy.

Number Six - Chicken Tacos

I used only about half of the taco seasoning in this because we don't like spicy.  It was perfect.   The meat had soo much flavor!    I made yellow rice as a side for this and I had my chicken over a salad.

Last One - Beef and Cheesy Tortellini 

The kids loved this.   Philip and I thought it was okay.   The sauce could have used more spice and the cheesy tortellini wasn't as flavorful as I had expected.   Still a good meal.   I think next time I'll skip the tortellini and make the beef into spaghetti sauce in the crockpot.

So... yes, I will definitely do this again.   Maybe these same meals, or I'll mix it up and try some others!

Here is the link for all these kid friendly meal recipes and shopping list!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Post Trip Bits and Pieces

Here are just a few pictures from the tail end of our trip until now:

(It was the seventh cache Ever placed!)

A little later, they found another one, not nearly as old, but a lot more interesting...

Just connect a AA battery between the posts on the side...

...and the cache is lowered out the bottom of the box.

The opening on the bottom of the box is just large enough to let the cache enter and exit.

After a quick bathroom break and another cache at a rest area, we passed one of these... They are just SO huge!  We saw hundreds if not thousands of wind turbines on this trip throughout western Kansas and eastern Colorado!


These bottles turned into an inadvertent science experiment.  One was well sealed in Colorado at 9,000 feet before we left for home.  When we stopped for lunch at the Kansas welcome center around 3,800 feet we noticed that it was looking a bit crushed.  The other one wasn't closed well so we sealed it up at the rest area and kept driving home.  Ignoring everything other than the elevation change the bottle from Colorado should be at about 75% of atmospheric pressure and the one at the welcome center is at about 90%.  Can you tell the difference?

Keenan snapped this picture of Caleb and I doodling on the whiteboard the other day
(He chose this activity for some one on one time with me)

We were out for a family run on Thursday evening when it started to rain a little.    We were bummed... until we saw that there was a breathtaking, complete rainbow in the sky (you could see most of a double one as well!)   What a blessing!   Had we been dry and in the house, we never would have seen it (as it disappeared within 10-15 minutes).  The camera did NOT do it justice, but we got a couple fun pictures anyway...  

Love these two great runners!   
(Moriah had just finished 1.33 miles and Keenan pushed through to do 2.25!)

My family at the end of the rainbow - better than any pot of gold!!

The highlight of my day yesterday:
Check out those savings!!!
This will be plenty of meat for four meals (and leftovers I'm sure!)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Colorado Trip, October 2015 - Hiking The Crags Trail (Day 6)

We were up and at 'em this morning to get to one of the most anticipated parts of our trip - our long family hike!

As we were driving up to the trailhead, we spotted this handsome fellow just chillin' out beside the road...

What are you lookin' at?

It was pretty chilly out, so we put on all our layers, as well as mitts and gloves!  We purposely didn't tell the kids the length of the hike, so as not to overwhelm them, but we were confident that they would be able to do it (we were a little unsure about Caleb, but they all did so great!)

These three are READY!

This cute bridge was at the very start of the trail and seemed like a great "starting shot"

All of us at our first rest stop

The trail, scenery and vegetation changed so often!
(We let Caleb take the lead on the way up so we wouldn't overwhelm him and to keep the rest of us at a good, slow steady pace due to the trailhead elevation of 10,000 feet.)

Here we came out into the sunshine in a grassy valley

So beautiful

Snack time!

Gorgeous peak in the background

This is possibly my favorite shot of the day
(We are soooo tiny compared to everything around us)

This huge clump of boulders was much larger in person

Girls picture!

Some really steep stuff on the final ascent

A short ways before the peak we came out into a clearing with this view

...and some people were passing by just then so we got this picture

...and a nice close up one too (I love it when people know how to use a real camera) =)

Not sure what type of bird this is, but a bunch of them kept following us, I think they're used to being fed

At the top!  We made it!  Around 10,800 feet elevation.


Panorama from NW to SE centered on NE

Panorama from SE to NW centered on SW

Different views all around...

These are the North and South Catamount Reservoirs accessible from Pikes Peak Highway

This is Crystal Reservoir where we had lunch after driving down from Pike's Peak.  We could actually see part of the highway, probably somewhere around mile 7 or 8.

Looking to the northwest over Divide, CO toward the Tarryall mountains and more of the Front Range

More westerly view toward the Mosquito and Sawatch Ranges

(Can you see the two planes in this picture?  We were almost as high as they were!)

Looking back at some granite spires in another part of The Crags

For the effort we put in, we got a lot of bang for our buck with the view at the top! =)

Philip and the kids also found their 700th geocache up there!

Caleb "signing" the log

They had to open this large container, two bags, and then all of these little boxes to get to it! =)

More photos taken by friendly hikers

Another favorite

There were also a TON of very tame chipmunks up there...everywhere!

While we were eating lunch, this guy decided to get very friendly with Keenan!

On the way back down...

Hiding in a cave...

...while Keenan and Moriah play on nature's playground (see them way up there?)

Closer up

Caleb wanted to do some climbing too

All of them in the cave

Just the 'rents

...and we're back at the cute little bridge!  Success!

The kids were Amazing!  We hiked 5.4 miles and Caleb only needed to be carried for just under 1 mile.  We are so proud of all of them!

When we got back to the cabin, these two cuties were lounging in the yard =)