Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day! Celebrate!

Today is a day to celebrate!  Celebrate your mother, celebrate being a mother, and celebrate those who are mothers, even if you are not.  It's not a day to feel sad and sorry.  I know that this day can be hard for some people.  Maybe your mother wasn't there for you.  Maybe she was abusive to you.  Maybe on this day, you long to be a mother and your dreams haven't yet been fulfilled.  Those are terribly difficult things to face on a day like today when we celebrate and honor mothers.  I want to encourage everyone out there today to celebrate.  For those of us who are mothers, celebrate without guilt.  For those of us who haven't yet become mothers, focus on those around you who are mothers and celebrate them!  For those whose mothers were absent or abusive in some way, maybe today would be a good day to celebrate the life that they gave YOU, which may be the only gift they gave to you. I know that can be hard, but today try to do that.  It may lift your spirit.  Today could be a day for you to celebrate a wonderful mother in your life who is not your own mother, but who has invested in you in some way and has been like a mother to you.

I felt compelled to write this today, because over the last several years, I have noticed a trend on this day in which people want to focus on the negative.  I have sat through several sermons delivered on Mother's Day focusing on those whose mothers were abusive or absent and how we need to forgive those mothers.  While this is true, can we save that talk for another day?  Can we encourage everyone to celebrate God's invention of the mother?  In its ideal form, the form that God intends, it is a beautiful reflection of HIM!  Can we find the good and the worthy and that which mirrors the heart of God and celebrate *that* today?   I pray that today across country, instead of guilt, sorrow, or self-pity, there will be celebrating.  The negative talk can wait for another day.  There is no need for those who are blessed with being mothers to be made to feel guilty because there are others out there who desperately want to be mothers and haven't realized that dream.  We do mourn with these women, but today it's okay to celebrate and be celebrated.  

I recently read an article that spoke of not being the "Hallmark" mom, not being the perfect mom.  Well, of course, none of us are that perfect mom, but it's ok to let your children celebrate you, to let them tell you how wonderful you are, even though you aren't perfect.  It really doesn't matter if this day was created by a card company.  What's wrong with a day set aside to celebrate mothers?  In this day and age, mothers are rarely revered and exalted.  Many times, mothers are told they could or should be doing something "more important." Today, let's remind them they are doing the *most* important thing, and that it is God Himself who has called them to that place!

I felt today I needed to write a word of encouragement to really celebrate this day.  No guilt. No sadness. Think on the positive side.  I don't mean to come across as insensitive to those for whom this day may be difficult.  My intention is to encourage everyone today to find the mother who reflects the heart of God in your life and celebrate her.  It is to encourage the moms out there who deeply feel all their inadequacies and failures to bask in the love and attention of the dear ones in their lives and allow themselves to be celebrated! 

To all mothers out there, I shout with joy: HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!  Enjoy YOUR day! This doesn't happen very often!  Be blessed today!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tater Tot Casserole: A Step-by-Step Freezer Cooking Recipe

If you are looking for a meal that will get your kids to eat some vegetables, this one is for you!  This recipe is very kid friendly, and extremely easy to make in bulk.   I make the "easy" version, which uses canned soup, but you can also actually make this recipe with homemade soup base instead of canned, if you prefer (see recipe below).  Tater tot casserole is a great meal that is full of vegetables for the kids, and they just love it!  It freezes very well, too, so if you cook several batches at a time, you can freeze them and eat later whenever you need a meal that is ready to pull out of the freezer and go! The recipe and step-by-step guide here is for a batch of 6 9x13 pans.  We are getting to the point where our family can eat two pans of this in one sitting, so if I make 6, we will most likely get 3 dinners out of it, with a little left over for lunches.

Tater Tot Casserole (x6)
6 pounds Ground Beef (I always use ground turkey)
1 1/2 cups Onion,  chopped
3 cloves Garlic, minced
6 10 3/4-oz cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
6 cups frozen Peas and Carrots
6 15-oz cans Sweet Corn
6 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
192 oz. Tater Tots, frozen (or 6 32-oz bags of tater tots)

Brown the ground beef or turkey together with the onions and garlic. 

Drain corn. Thaw peas and carrots.

In a large bowl (I usually use one of my large stockpile because I don't have a bowl big enough to mix all of the ingredients in), mix together ground beef or turkey, vegetables, and soup.  

Ladle evenly into 6 gallon-sized freezer bags or directly into 9x13 foil pans.

[When I was making this latest batch, I was taking three trays to a friend of mine and I was planning to freeze the rest.  I took a ladle and ladled a scoop into each of three foil pans, then each of three gallon-sized freezer bags, and then repeated until it was evenly distributed among the 3 pans and 3 freezer bags.]

Place 1 cup cheddar cheese in each of 6 quart-sized freezer bags.  Leave the tater tots in the bag in the freezer until you are ready to thaw and cook this meal.  [When I took this to my friend, I just assembled it completely and paced the tater tots on top as well.  You can freeze it like this.  I've done this before, and when I want to cook it, I either take it out and thaw overnight in the fridge, or I take it out, preheat the oven, and bake covered for about 1-1/2 hours then uncovered for 1/2 hour more or until hot and bubbly and tater tots are golden.]

Freezing and cooking directions:
Place all three bags (ground beef mixture, cheese, and tater tots) together inside a 2-gallon freezer bag (if you can't find a 2-gallon bag, you can use a small plastic bag to keep it all together and then label the top.  If you freeze in the 9X13 pan, you can sprinkle the cheese on top first, then wrap with heavy duty foil and freeze.  Keep the tater tots near the pan in the freezer or place the pan together with the frozen tater tots in a plastic bag together, label and then freeze.

To serve: Thaw ground beef mixture and cheese.  Pour ground beef mixture into a 9X13 pan.  Sprinkle cheese over the top.  Top with enough tater tots to cover the casserole.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and tater tots are golden brown.

If you freeze this in the trays, you can just defrost in the fridge and bake at 350 as directed above.  Or you can bake from frozen covered for about 1 1/2 hours, then uncovered for 30 more minutes until bubbly around the edges and browned and crispy (tater tots) on top.

Comments: You can vary the vegetables as desired.  Add a can of green beans or any other fresh or frozen vegetables you desire.

NOTE: For a more natural soup base, here is a recipe for homemade cream of "mushroom" soup, if you are inclined to make your own instead of using canned:

You can freeze in these "can-sized portions and then thaw and add to any recipe that calls for canned cream of "whatever"  (you can add different ingredients to make cream of mushroom, chicken, celery, etc.) soup.  

Cream of "Whatever" Soup
Makes equivalent of one "can"
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 cup main ingredient, diced
1/4 cup butter or substitute
1/4 cup flour or substitute
1 cup milk or substitute
3/4 cup broth

Cream of Whatever Soup Base Table

Cream of Whatever Main Ingredient Table

Saute garlic, onion and main ingredient (mushrooms, chicken, celery, etc.) and set aside. Melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add “milk” and broth. Add sauteed garlic, onion and main ingredient. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring regularly, until it reaches desired consistency (about 10-15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper and use as you would a can of condensed Cream of Something Soup in any recipe. If I make it ahead of time, I pour the soup into a pint canning jar and refrigerate it for up to four days.

Freezing Directions:
You can freeze these in batches in pint or quart size bags or use as you would a can of condensed Cream of Something Soup in any recipe and freeze that dish. A great way to keep “cans” at-the-ready for your CrockPot recipes is to make a quadruple batch and bag each “can” serving in a pint-sized freezer bag. Place those bags in a gallon freezer bag, label and freeze. When you need a “can” of condensed soup, pull out a bag, thaw, and drop it in your crock or use in whatever recipe calls for it!
Servings: 1 “can,” about 1.5 cups

Author/Source for Cream of Whatever Soup:
Kristi @