Sunday, October 30, 2016

"Freezer Dump Meal" Cooking Session #1

Down in the "Dumps"...?  Bavarian Red Cabbage Freezer Dump Meals

I've spent a lifetime cooking. 

Day in and day out, homemaking, working part time/homeschooling/freelancing and raising a family, the chore of meal planning always fell to me.  Which is fine, because in general I do enjoy cooking.  Well, for the most part I do.  Though it often feels like I'm trying to find a delicate balance between several factors when it comes to meal making.  I'm a health-nut, so I gravitate towards Whole Foods.  I'm naturally a cheap Frugalista, so I want to save costs and economize whenever and wherever I can.  Plus as much as I do enjoy cooking, I'm a busy person, with, at any given time, dozens of other things I could or should also be doing.  So I don't really want to be spending 
*ALL* of my time chopping, hanging over the stove, washing dishes and cleaning up.  Sure, there are days when I'm totally down with making long, drawn-out and complex meals, but others when I'm totally not.  And yet we still need to eat, and eat healthfully (and cheaply).  So it can be a quandary:  Convenience food items may seem like tempting time-savers, yet they are significantly more expensive.  Plus typically chock-full of chemicals and preservatives the more processing it goes through.  Plain, whole foods are more wholesome, and generally less expensive, but cooking entirely from scratch can eat up huge chunks of time if you let it.  My food budget, in addition to my time budget, are both limited.  So what's the solution...?

Well, I think I may have found one with the meal planning method known as "Freezer Dump Meals".  Which is a rather unfortunate moniker for a concept that is actually quite positive -- minimal-prep, mostly raw ingredients that are 'dumped' into freezer bags, which are then dumped into the freezer, to later be 'dumped' into the slow-cooker with little fuss on cooking day.  These meals, AKA "Freezer-to-Slow Cooker", are prepared assembly-line style -- getting all the washing, peeling, chopping and measuring (and clean up) out of the way and done at once.  With as little pre-cooking as possible.  Genius!

The thing is, I'm whole foods/plant based, and not only that, but oil-free as well.  When you look these particular 'Dump'-style recipes up online, you'll find a PLETHORA of icky animal ingredients, oils, or processed food items -- like canned soup, jarred sauces and dressings. I don't use any of these things, so it looks like I'm going to have to experiment heavily with altering existing Freezer Dump Meal recipes to suit my specific needs, and even make up some McDougall-friendly recipes of my own.  But that's okay, I'm up to the challenge.

And so I'm going to document my experiments here on my blog, for my own amusement and education.  

 And so we have here my first attempt.  I had a lot of garden red cabbage to use up, so I batch-prepped four "Bavarian Red Cabbage, with Apples and Onions Meals" :

Assembly Line Style

 Bavarian Red Cabbage (Freezer Dump Meal) :
(which I quadrupled to make 4 meals): 
 ~1 large head red cabbage, washed and coarsely sliced
~2 onions, coarsely chopped
~6 tart apples, cored and quartered
~6 T bacon grease or butter (Nope!)
~2/3 cup cider vinegar
~2 tsp salt
~3 T Sugar

Freezing directions:
Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl until well mixed, then transfer to a heavy-duty gallon-size freezer bag. Label with the name of the recipe, the date prepared, and cooking instructions. Lay flat to freeze.

Cooking Directions:
Thaw the frozen mixture. Spray the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray (nope again!). Empty the contents of the bag into the slow cooker. Add 2 cups of hot water. Cover and cook on low 8 hours or on high for 3 hours. Stir well before serving.


 First I chopped all the cabbage, then the apples, then onions, then added the measured amounts of vinegar, salt and sugar (I subbed some of the sugar with a little grape juice) as required by the recipe, into each bag. It didn't take that long to assemble these (wasn't that much harder to put together 4 as opposed to 1.  And most of the work was the chopping), plus only the one-time clean up. On cooking day, weeks to months from now, I will throw a thawed bag into my slow cooker, adding some veggie sausage (which I intend to batch-make at a later date) -- to be served over wild rice and topped with a little homemade soy yogurt, for a complete meal. 

So I actually made a batch of this last year, at the end of the gardening season, using red cabbage that I'd harvested from the garden from a recipe I found in an ebook.  I guess I was feeling unsure of how it would turn out, so I made just the one bag.  Months and months later, I was anticipating an especially busy day where I was going to be out of the house for most of it.  I remembered the frozen "Bavarian Red Cabbage Meal" in the freezer -- fishing it out and cooking it up using the slow cooker function of my Instant Pot.  It turned out really yummy to me -- I am a fan of red cabbage anyway (the color cooked was the most intense purple, wow!), plus it made for such an easy meal for us that day.  Thus I felt confident in making up four more of these....

In any case, I'm intending to amass more Freezer Dump Meals like this -- pretty easy to do and a pleasant feeling knowing there is already something on hand all set and ready to go for especially those busy days...!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Yes, I 'Can'......

A bathtub full of garden greens, washing all at once....

Been a busy bee lately.... 

Tomatoes Galore....

As a person who tends to follow Voluntary Simplicity as just part and parcel of my own practical nature, when the opportunity arises to harvest an abundance of produce from a generous friend's big veggie garden, you most certainly take him up on it.  

When life hands you green tomatoes harvested before the Frost...:

I mean seriously, free food...?  Bring it on!  

One of a bunch of pumpkins....

As a self-proclaimed Frugality Nut, I get such a perverse charge out of the prospects of saving money....  


Not to mention I've also been doing my darndest this year to adhere to the Dr. John McDougall way of eating -- as in whole-foods/low-fat/no-oil/plant-based.  Which generally translates into a very starch and veggie-heavy meal plan (for the win!).   Thus, being able to have access to such lovely chemical-free (and FREE-free) veggies like this feels a little bit like manna from heaven....:

It was definitely a Pepper Year....

There is always a certain trade off however.  Because it will then mean a significant amount of effort to be spent processing all the bounty -- like a race against Time to get it all 'put up' and properly preserved, before it goes bad.  As I've said before in this blog, if there is anything this "Non-consumer Advocate" can't stand, it's waste.  Especially after all the effort of my friend to plant and grow his garden -- plus after my own working so hard in the hot sun (and humdity, oy) to pick it all, carry it hither and yon over the vast garden beds to the car, then schlep it all home and into the house.  So it really only makes sense to roll up one's sleeves..., and get to WORK. 


And so, in between my usual working, freelancing, teaching, etc...,

I've been cooking:

Cooking down tomato pulp....

Making Pumpkin Puree in my Instant Pot....

Delicious baked, seasoned Pumpkin Seeds....

And storing...:

Potatoes to last awhile....

And canning....:

Red Tomato Salsa

Where to put all this stuff?

Pizza Sauce, in progres....

Salsa Verde, Ketchup and Green Tomato Chutney

Homemade Tomato Ketchup, thick and rich, no?

And drying....:

Dehydrating Tomatoes

Drying tomato pulp in order to make seasoned, powdered soup base...

And pickling....:

Fermenting habeneros to make my own version of Sriracha Rooster Sauce

And freezing...:

Chopped peppers going into the freezer....

Future pizza toppers, and Fajitas....

Feeling corny....

The makings of Succotash....

Freezing tomato paste in ice cubes trays....

Green Beaners....

Pumpkin Puree frozen in muffin tins in half cup quantities -- practical, no?

Really a heck of a lot of work, whew.  
But now a nicely-stocked larder for the Winter 
-- so very worth it....!

In any case, I know this is primarily an art blog.  However I do also practice the "art" of 'Voluntary Simplicity' as much as I am able -- not just in my artwork (in which I do try to Reduce/Reuse/Recycle whenever possible), but in all aspects of my life.  There are a number of blogs regarding the Non-Consumerist lifestyle that I am following and subscribe to (including this one).  Reading what everyone is doing in their attempts to simplify and streamline, while adding quality and meaning to their lives, is enjoyable, and I find it inspiring within my own life.  Hence, in between featuring my artwork, I plan also to share my Frugal and Simple Living thoughts and actions, both hits and misses, in here....

Monday, October 24, 2016

New Henry David Thoreau Tribute for Oct's Nibblefest Art Contest "PUMPKINS" Theme

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin
and have it all to myself, 
than to be crowded on a velvet cushion...."

~Henry David Thoreau

7.5 x 9.5, "Thoreau, Pumpkin Sitter", painted in oils for Oct's Nibblefest Art Contest

Several months have come and gone since I last entered the Nibblefest Art Contest.  I never intentionally blow it off, and for so long -- but often time does just get the best of me, as it did this long (though it actually seemed so short!) and mega-busy summer.  No matter, it's always there for me to come back to whenever I can...., which I finally did this month with its "Pumpkins" theme.  What better way to celebrate 'Pumpkins' than with these wise words by the venerable Mr. Henry David Thoreau?  As a person who tries to practice Voluntary Simplicity whenever I can in my own life, I can so relate to this quote.  Thus we have here my little personal homage, as always painted in loving (if slightly irreverent) tribute:

Side View

I had the perfect plaque for this, one that I dug deep out of storage -- an aged one, of slightly weathered wood.  I had to scrape off some faded, generic print that was hopelessly stuck to it, sanding it down to a smooth finish.  The slightly rough condition  seemed most fitting for this project -- I wanted a folksy feel -- plus in the spirit of Simplicity I tried to use minimal paint and really let the grain show through....

  Longtime readers might recall this portrait I painted from a few years back, for Nibblefest's "Forest Creatures" theme in August of 2014:

Portrait of H.D.Thoreau, August 2014

 It's been nearly exactly two years since that one so I figured the time was nigh for another visit to that fascinating face.   
So much expression in those expansive eyes....:

Mr. Henry David Thoreau

 RIP, Mr. Henry D.

"Thoreau, Pumpkin Sitter"


Third Place Tie

My Thoreau tribute tied for Third Place in this month's Nibblefest Art Contest!
A big shout out of thanks to all my lovely bidders....!