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Monday, October 27, 2014

Shelf-Stable Dinner Recipes in a bag

A few years ago when I was in Nursing School and homeschooling my children, we survived the demanding schedule with homemade freezer meals. Each month, I'd spend one really long day cooking and prepping 30 meals, then we'd freeze them. It made dinner time so much easier! There was one serious drawback though- when our freezer unexpectedly died one year, we lost a big investment of food (to this day I still feel a gut-wrenching sensation when I remember throwing away almost a QUARTER OF A BULL. Yikes- hundreds of pounds of meat were garbage. Sad, sad memory.).

So I don't like relying on electricity or appliances to keep my food in good order. This year I've been exploring the Bagged Meal approach. (This is totally not my own idea- I had this idea from the book, "It's In The Bag", by Trent and Michelle Snow.........but I really didn't like half of their recipes. So I worked on making better ones. And...I lost the book somewhere, so I can't use even the recipes we loved. Drat! But I learned how to alter our already-favorite recipes to be shelf stable.)

With this idea, all the ingredients are shelf-stable. This is because everything is either canned, home-canned, dehydrated, or freeze-dried. I just measure out all the seasonings/veggies into a sealed plastic baggie, and assemble it with all the other necessary ingredients in a sturdy plastic gift bag. (I bought my gift bags online- they are pretty cheap when ordered in bulk. I think mine are size 5 1/2 X 8 inches.)

Attach the recipe to the bag, put on a quick sticker noting the expiration date for the ingredients, and -Viola!- dinner's ready for a busy day. Most of my recipes just ask me to throw everything in the crockpot and forget about it until dinnertime. We usually add some fresh steamed vegetables or sliced fruit to the meal to round things out.

I needed to rotate through some food storage anyway this year, and all those yummy freeze-dried veggies are just begging to be used. When I assemble a meal, I make around 5-8 bags of each recipe, so there's several opportunities to use each recipe over the next several months.

I love this approach for several reasons. The biggest reason? I hate to cook. Truly. But it's also really nice since my children can put together a healthy meal with minimal effort on days when I'm away working long hours (often the case in October, the hey-day for body artists) or when Nathan and I are making a long trip to worship in the temple.

I measure all the freeze-dried or dehydrated veggies into plastic baggies, along with all the spices. Here is what my seasoning packets look like before I add them to the dinner bag:

Then I assemble the other required ingredients for one meal:

And put them all together in one bag with the recipe pinned in place. 

In less than two hours, I had over 30 meals prepped, labeled, and packaged away on our storage room shelves. Check out this glimpse of one shelf- all these meals are ready to jump in on one of my Crazy Days, when my day is packed from morning til night with obligations. 

I only need to spend 5 minutes putting it together in the crock pot, then we have a healthy, tasty meal ready to be enjoyed. Here are some of the recipes we've put together. Many of these were originally highly rated recipes online, then I tweaked things to make it shelf-stable. I'll eventually post more recipes as I remember to type them up. The next batch of bags I am prepping for include: White Chicken Chili, Hawaiian Haystacks, Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Korma over rice, Moroccan Chicken with Couscous, Pancake mix, Pumpkin Pancakes, Muffin mix, Cake mix, and Oatmeal-in-a-jar. 

Oh! One more thing- I cannot stress enough how important it is to have high-quality freeze-dried or dehydrated veggies! Out-of-date stuff will ruin your meal. Every. Time. Especially onion- that one seems to have the most variation in quality. I tossed my old can of dehydrated onions and bought new, organic dehydrated onion to work with. It made a world of difference. Test out your ingredients before you mix them into everything!

(And one more last thing. Promise. I have no idea why the spacing is wigging out on me in this post, I tried to fix it several times, but it just keeps reverting to the bad spacing. You'll see what I mean in the recipe section. So sorry about that!!)

Chicken Noodle Soup

1 pint cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
1 quart chicken broth
1 packet of small pasta (I like ABC pasta, star pasta, or vermicelli)

Seasoning packet:
1/3 c dehydrated celery
½ c dehydrated carrot
2 T dehydrated onion
½ t dried marjoram
½ t ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 T dried parsley

Separate Packet:
⅓ c freeze-dried peas

Stovetop: Add chicken, broth, and large seasoning packet to large stockpot. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add noodles and peas, simmer until noodles are ready, according to pasta package directions. 
Crock pot: Add all ingredients except noodles and peas to crock pot and cook on low for 4 hours. Turn to high, add peas and noodles. Cook 10 more minutes.
Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
1 pint cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
1 quart chicken broth
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
2 c egg noodles

Seasoning packet:
1/4 c dehydrated celery
3/4 c dehydrated carrot
4 T dehydrated onion
½ t dried basil
½ t dried oregano
1/8 t dried thyme
½ t minced garlic
scant ½ t ground black pepper
Separate packet: 1/2 c dehydrated peas

Stovetop: Add all ingredients except the  noodles and peas to large stockpot. Add 4 cups water. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add noodles and simmer 5 minutes.
Crock pot: Add 4 cups water, chicken broth, condensed soup, and seasoning packet to crock pot and cook on low for 4 hours. Turn to high and add peas and packaged noodles. Cook 20 more minutes.

Coconut Curry Garbanzo Beans


2 15oz cans garbanzo beans
1 15oz can coconut milk

Veggie Packet:
3 T dehydrated onion
3 T dehydrated bell pepper
3 T dehydrated carrot

Seasoning Packet:
1 t ground coriander
1 t sugar
½ t salt
½ t garlic powder
1/4 t ginger powder
6 T curry powder
2 T dehydrated tomato paste

Sealed bag-
3 cups uncooked rice

Rehydrate dehydrated veggies in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain. Heat cooking oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot  and bell pepper. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add seasoning packet. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in garbanzo beans and coconut milk. Simmer uncoverd for 20-30 minutes. While this is cooking, cook the rice in 6 cups of boiling water. Serve the curry over cooked rice.

Chicken Tortilla Soup


1 can diced tomatoes (preferably with chilis, or Mexican style)
2 cans chicken broth
1 can chicken (optional)
1 can corn
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Seasoning Packet- 
1 T dehydrated onion
1 t garlic powder
2 T freeze-dried bell peppers
2 t cumin
1/2 t chili powder
½ t salt

Stove top method: Add all ingredients to pot and simmer on low for 45 minutes.

Crock pot method: Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on low for 4 hours. 

Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream , cheese, cilantro, avocado.

Taco Soup
1 15 oz can or 1 pint home-canned red or kidney beans, with liquid
1 15 oz can or 1 pint home-canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can corn, with liquid
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 15oz can Mexican stewed tomatoes
1 4oz can diced green chili peppers
1 can or 1 pint home-canned ground beef or chicken
2 14 oz cans chicken or beef broth
1 4 oz can sliced olives
Seasoning Packet-
2 T onion
3 T taco seasoning
1 t garlic powder
optional 2 T Ranch powder
Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on low for 4 hours. 

Serve with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese, green onion, cilantro, or avocado.

Beaker’s Amazing Vegetable Barley Soup

2 quarts beef or vegetable broth
1 14oz can organic diced tomatoes with juice
1 14oz can or 1 pint home-canned garbanzo beans, drained

Seasoning Packet-
1 cup uncooked barley
½ c dehydrated carrots
½ c dehydrated celery
1/2 c dehydrated green beans
3 T dehydrated onion
3 bay leaves
1 t garlic powder
1 t white sugar
1 t salt
½ ground black pepper
1 t dried parsley
1 t curry powder
1 t paprika

Pantry item-
1 t Worcestershire sauce

Place all ingredients in crockpot and cook on low for 4 hours. Or cook on stove top by bringing to a boil, covering and reducing to med-low for 90 minutes. The soup will be very thick. May adjust by adding more broth or water. (I prefer to add 4 cups water- the soup is too rich for our tastes if I add more broth.) Remove bay leaves before serving.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Final pics of Kingsley Reunion 2013

Today I rediscovered a Kingsley Reunion CD that was tucked away in our movie binder. It's chock-full of pictures Nana Kingsley took during our 2013 Kingsley Reunion. Many of you know I use this blog as a family journal. SO, before I can move on to more recent stories, here is the last post (promise!!) sharing pictures of that memorable trip. 

It's so rare to have all 10 Kingsley siblings together, so we took family pictures our last day of the reunion. Here are all the children, spouses, and grandchildren. 

Here are Kingsley siblings and spouses/fiancees.
Nana Kingsley REALLY wanted to get a good picture of all her biological children together. I had forgotten what an ordeal that request was.

They were very pointedly NOT doing anything she asked them to do (face the camera, smile, etc) and they were having a hilariously-good time about giving her a hard time. When I opened the image files, I found what seems to be 100 images documenting her attempt of a family picture. The Kingsley siblings kept doing weird poses, covering their faces at the last second, making sad faces, and generally laughing together at each other's ridiculous attempts to mess up the photo. I think it took about 30 minutes to get one good shot of this group, but everyone was laughing so hard we had tears.  Here is one example of their 'family picture  pose'.

More glimpses of the DC trip and the National Mall:

Many of the relatives enjoyed feeding bits of their sack lunches to the flocks of birds around the capital. They had such fun seeing who could get the closest to the birds. 

Nana Kingsley also brought a time capsule the family created 10 (or was it 20?) years ago. The siblings had all written letters to their future selves, so it was great fun to gather and hear these letters read aloud. Some letters were very thoughtful, some were very funny, some were sarcastic (I could just imagine an unwilling 10 year-old begrudgingly writing a letter for the capsule). We really loved seeing a glimpse of the childhood lives and hopes of each person.

Then Nana passed out papers and pens, requesting us all to write our own letters for the next time capsule. Just a year later, I can't remember the slightest detail of what I wrote.....I hope I didn't set any goals in my letter that were forgotten so soon!

Here is a better picture of all the grandchildren together. LOVE these little people!

And finally, one picture of everyone all together. LOVE LOVE this family! The next reunion can't come nearly soon enough!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Kingsley Reunion pics

Here are some group shots of our little cousins, after a memorable week of hard play together. Kudos to the fun uncles who did silly antics behind the camera to try and get all the Littles looking in the same direction or smiling all at the same time. 

And one of all the Kingsley siblings and their spouses. Man, I love these people! It's such a treat to spend time with them!

Another random shot....

Several of the relatives went to Six Flags together for one long day of play together. This was so memorable! The kids were counting dimes to buy their own tickets, and were SO excited to participate with the Big People while the babies/toddlers stayed home.

The Kingsley family is scattered across the North American continent, so it is rare for us to be all together in one place. (People currently live in Alaska, Texas, Delaware, Washington, Utah, Louisiana, and Michigan. Yikes!)

One of the highlights of the reunion was to sit together around Nana Kingsley's feet and listen while she read aloud funny stories from her Joke Journal collection. It's a cute little box filled with bits of paper....anytime her children had said something funny, she'd immediately jot it down on whatever writing surface was handy. She pulled out scraps of paper one at a time, read the funny quote, and we all laughed together until tears streamed down our faces. With ten children and years of notes, there were plenty of memories and laughter to fill an entire evening. SUCH a wonderful way to spend time together!

Family reunions are always over too-dreadfully-soon, but I am happy to soak up all the great experiences with the snippets of time we have together. I appreciate the ways family helps strengthen and inspire me, and I truly cherish any moments we get to share. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kingsley Reunion in Delaware, Day Trip to DC

We spent a day of the Kingsley reunion exploring Washington D.C. together, which was a grand adventure spending the day inside several Smithsonian museums. We all loved exploring the different collections, but I think the favorite sites for our kids were the Natural Sciences building and the American History building. 

In the American  History Smithsonian museum, we were able to participate in a fun activity where a SUPER-huge American flag is opened up in the main entry. Hundreds of visitors help unfold the flag and hold it off the ground. Then we all sang the national anthem together, with our voices echoing off the granite walls. Afterwards it was like a huge team-building game to properly fold the flag up again. It was so memorable. 

The Natural Sciences museum was absolutely gorgeous and was the highlight of our day trip. The collections here were so riveting and we all enjoyed several hours exploring. The gems/minerals hall was my favorite spot...there were so many fascinating minerals I had never seen before (like the glowing phosphorescent ones- that was very intriguing!) Daniel really loved the insect hall....there were so many interesting displays and we loved watching exotic creatures. 

During our walk between sites, we came across a really talented musician jamming with a drum. His enthusiasm was contagious and he invited the kids to play with him. They had such a delightful time and this man was so encouraging in his feedback. 

The ride home on the DC subway was another grand adventure for the children!

We also spent a day at a beach in Delaware, where my kids made their first sand castles and loved riding the waves with cousins. Matthew had a rough ride on one wave that pummeled him face-down in the sand, then lifted his feet and swirled his body around (effectively filling his nose and mouth with sand and scraping his face all up) which was not the thrill ride he had been he was a very sad boy for part of the day. He didn't let it dim his spirits too much, and after a breather and a quick cleanup he was back in the water again. Joseph was terrified of the water, so he stayed safely away from the surf and played in the sand. 

Nathan kept trying to coax Joseph into getting at least his toes wet, but Joseph would have none of it and would lift his feet up high away from the water. 

Cousin Ella dug this hole for-ever, so I asked what she was doing. She cheerfully said, "I'm digging a hole to China! I think I'm getting close!"

Back at the house, the grandchildren all worked together to transform the large play room into a little house, partitioned into rooms. They used giant boxes to construct the walls and doorways, and made separate rooms for groups of cousins to 'live' in. They had so much fun designing the floor plan and decorating their little spaces. They carefully moved bedding into their rooms and spent every night enjoying a slumber party in their house. What a fun way to spend a week with cousins!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


On our way to Delaware from New York, we eagerly explored several parts of Pennsylvania. We really enjoyed the many factory tours available in this state, and it was so hard choosing which ones to visit. We could have stayed in Pennsylvania for days- there is so much to explore! 

We enjoyed stopping at one of the many pretzel factories and learning how to make our own soft pretzels.

We really loved visiting more Amish towns in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and enjoyed stopping by several local shops to explore the goods. 

I was so determined to purchase some high-quality kitchenwares, but most of the shops I could find were actually just tourist shops that had nothing to do with Amish living, such as Pampered Chef stores. I explored for some time and couldn't find any shops where the locals would actually shop, so I stopped a woman and asked for information. It turns out the local shop didn't have any signs and was hidden in the basement under a fabric store. Away I went and had SUCH a delightful time perusing the goods. The place was devoid of any tourists (except myself) and the local women/girls doing their shopping were so helpful. I have a personal rule that I prefer souvineirs to be something useful rather than just clutter to add on a shelf, so I was looking for metal kitchen goods to take home. I found my treasures and came away with sturdy metal mixing bowls, beautiful metal serving spoons, and an iron dinner bell. I think of our delightful trip every time I use these things. 

One of our favorite Amish shops was a preserves place, packed with jams, jellies, pickled items, and relishes. The store was scattered with samples everywhere, and we really enjoyed tasting so many new recipes. We bought a few jars to share with our relatives and savored every lick of a particular dessert topping we tasted like peanut butter mixed with caramel sauce. Oh heavens, was it delicious!

Here the boys peruse the town map to choose the stops they'd like to make....there were so many choices!

We really enjoyed stopping by the Crayola Museum and playing for several hours. There were so many fun hands-on projects to create here. They really loved melting crayons and creating spun art with the melted wax. There were dozen of neat art stations where kids could use crayons in unconventional ways. Another favorite station was one where they could melt crayons and pour the wax into a fun mold to create a sculpture they could color with.

Joseph really loved painting with melted wax...he made dozens of little butterflies at this station.

Another fun factory tour was a visit to a guitar factory. We enjoyed watching the steps for creating acoustic guitars. It was so fascinating and we all enjoyed learning the story behind one of our favorite instruments.