Jennifer's Blog Random Stuff in My Life Sat, 19 Oct 2013 15:41:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Outdoor Storage Bench Tue, 15 Oct 2013 10:24:41 +0000 Jennifer I built a storage bench for our patio, now that our concrete has been poured. I wanted a place to be able to hide our extra propane tanks, but still be able to use it as a table/bench seating. I found a plan for one HERE, but I knew that I had to make some modifications.

Storage Bench Web


Change #1. I knew that I didn’t want the primary support to be from the wood slats, so I lengthened all of the wooden vertical slats to a total of 20.75 inches. I also didn’t want the wood resting on the ground, so I added casters to make the bench mobile.

Change #2. The plans instructions for the bottom of the bench state “Attach the bottom boards as shown above using 2″ screws. Use glue if you want a stronger more permanent joint, no glue if you wish to disassemble at some point.” Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t call for any additional support in the middle of the boards, which I felt was necessary to hold three-20 lbs propane tanks. I added the extra length on the vertical slats (mentioned in change #1) to accommodate additional boards for a sturdier bottom.

Change #3. I didn’t need a bench that was quite as wide or long as the original plan (approx. 48 x 24), so I reduced the plan down to approx. 38 x 20; I simply altered the plan by planning to remove 2 slats from the horizontal length and 1 slat from the depth of the seat.

Change #4. I also wanted a sturdier top, so instead of running 3 boards along the length of the lid, I used pocket holes to create a stronger support structure for the boards that make up the lid. I duplicated this pattern to create the support for the bottom of the bench as well.

Storage Bench Hydraulic

Change #5: I added gas springs to the lid, in order to ensure that the lid would only open so far. These particular gas springs will keep the lid open, and provide some measure to keep the lid closed; It is important to note, however, that these springs WILL NOT prevent fingers from getting smashed when the lid is closing – therefore, be careful if you use these not to slam your fingers.

Now all I have left to do is finish/seal the wood so that it might last a little while on our covered patio. Thanks for looking!


Linking up at:

]]> 2
Make Ahead Meals: Chicken and Rice Wraps Thu, 04 Apr 2013 03:00:07 +0000 Jennifer Tonight I ate dinner alone, which was probably a good thing since the meal I planned was a little on the skimpy side. During planning mode, I planned to double this recipe and have two meals prepped, but in preparation, I made a single batch and halved it… oops! As it was, the recipe was still sufficient for my dinner and lunch, but I have a feeling Travis would have still been hungry if he had joined me.

Overall, this was very good. I didn’t feel like shredding cheese just for myself, so I paired the wraps with some ranch dressing and some salsa that I had on-hand in the refrigerator. I use the tortillas you can buy in the plastic package on the bread aisle, and then you cook them on the stove prior to eating. These are the closest I have found to real Tex-Mex flour tortillas, they are so thin and light compared to the precooked ones on the shelves. Because of this, my prep time and clean up are a little bit longer, but it is worth it.

Picture from: Freezer Meals for Us

2 c. cooked, shredded chicken
2 c. water
1 c. mild salsa
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
2 c. instant rice, uncooked
1 pkg. flour tortillas


1.In a saucepan combine chicken, water, salsa, and taco seasoning. Bring to a boil. Add rice and simmer on low for 5 minutes.
2.Freeze rice mixture in a Ziploc and Freeze.
3. Defrost and heat rice mixture.
4.To serve, put rice mixture, cheese, and sour cream, if desired in tortillas and wrap.


I defrosted my mixture in the refrigerator overnight, then reheated it on the stove. It doesn’t take a lot to reheat the mixture, so you could probably place the chicken mixture in a microwave safe container and reheat it in the microwave.  Overall, I think I might add more chicken to the mixture (and make sure that I double the recipe as planned) next time. Very tasty and fairly easy prep once it has been premade
]]> 0
Make Ahead Meals: Beef Empanadas Wed, 03 Apr 2013 03:00:33 +0000 Jennifer So…we took the last 2 days off from freezer meals. But, they were planned days off! Sunday was Easter, and even though I was too tired to attend, Travis made steaks and spent most of his day with his family. He ate quite a bit at lunch, so I planned a leftover/cereal night for us. Monday was our night out, so we used a Groupon to a Brazilian Steakhouse called “Praderia”. The food is awesome, the service is quick, and for all you can eat steak, the overall price is fairly reasonable (with the Groupon) for two people.

Tonight I planned empanadas – no defrost required, you put these in the oven straight from the freezer. These came out pretty well. I left out the salt and pepper to taste in the preparation stage – in the future I will definitely not skip this step as the meat mixture by itself was a little bland. I also played with the idea of adding a bit more of the other spices (especially the cumin) to add more zest. Once baked into the empanada shell, it was actually very tasty, and paired with salsa was a good meal

Beef Empanadas Picture from:

1/2 cup chicken broth
1 pound 85% lean ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup taco shredded cheese blend
1 package empanada dough rounds (Goya)
1.To make the filling, heat the oil in a skillet and saute the onions and garlic until softened. Add the corn, black beans, cumin, cayenne, and cloves and cook until fragrant. Crumble the beef into the pan and brown. Add the chicken broth to the pan to deglaze and transfer the beef mixture to a bowl; cool.
2.Stir in the cilantro leaves into the beef mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cool completely in the refrigerator. Once cooled completely, fold in the cheese.
3.Using the premade empanada dough, place 1/3 cup of filling mixture in the center of each dough round. Brush the edges of the dough with water and fold dough over the filling. Press the edges to seal and crimp the edges using a fork. Once assembled, place empanadas in a gallon sized freezer bag in one layer. Remove any excess air from the bag and freeze flat.
4.When ready to prepare, preheat oven to 425 degrees and place a large baking sheet in the oven. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil over the surface of the large preheated baking sheet and then return to the oven for 2 minutes.
5.Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the frozen empanadas onto the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the empanadas with oil. Place the baking sheet of frozen empanadas in the preheated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until well browned and crisp. Cool empanadas on a wire rack for 10 minutes and serve.
]]> 0
Make Ahead Meal: Chicken Enchiladas Sun, 31 Mar 2013 03:00:42 +0000 Jennifer Enchiladas

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast meat – cut into chunks
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
1 (1.25 ounce) package mild taco seasoning mix
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped, divided
1 cup water
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt (to taste)
6 soft taco flour tortillas
3 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce


1. Place the chicken in a large pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the chicken pieces are no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Shred chicken by placing two forks back to back and pulling meat apart. Set the shredded chicken aside. Meanwhile, combine the cream of chicken soup, sour cream, and chili powder in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, then turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

2. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, chopped green chilies, taco seasoning, chopped green onion, and water. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the lime juice, garlic salt, and 1 cup of the soup mixture; simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

3. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spread the remaining soup mixture on the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish.

4. Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture. Sprinkle Cheddar cheese over the chicken filling before folding the tortillas, reserving half of the shredded cheese for topping the enchiladas. Fold tortillas over the filling and place seam-side down in the prepared pan.

5. Pour enchilada sauce evenly over the enchiladas. Cover with the remaining 1 1/2 cups of Cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the reserved chopped green onions and the sliced olives on top of the cheese. Bake in the preheated oven until filling is heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 15-20 minutes.

I have made this enchilada recipe many times since I first posted about it almost three years ago. It is a favorite of both Travis and myself. The only problem with this recipe is that it can take 3-4 hours to make on any given day. When I prepared this, I used 7.5X7.5 inch pans that I bought for $0.92 each and are reusable. I doubled the recipe (since it is a favorite), and was able to make 5 trays of 6 enchiladas each. I prepared the recipe up until baking in the preheated oven. Instead, I covered it with plastic wrap and foil, then froze the trays. The day before, I took out a tray of enchiladas and left it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. I was able to bake at the same temperature and time as per the recipe.

The flavor was well maintained, we enjoyed it as much as fresh. The clean up was even easier than last night – a 7.5X7.5 tray, 2 plates, and a couple of utensils. Super easy and no fighting over the kitchen! WIN WIN :-)

]]> 0
Make Ahead Meal: Beef Stroganoff Sat, 30 Mar 2013 03:00:26 +0000 Jennifer

Beef Stroganoff Picture from: Freezer Meals For Us

1 lb ground beef
1 diced onion
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery or chicken soup
¾ cup milk
1 pint sour cream
opt. 1 small can of sliced mushrooms, drained

Brown ground beef and onions in skillet. Drain any fat. Sprinkle meat with garlic powder and coat evenly. Add soups, Worcestershire sauce, (if adding canned sliced mushrooms, add now) and milk. Stir until well blended then simmer 10 minutes. Add sour cream and simmer 2 minutes.

For freezing: Let cool. Pour into Ziploc gallon sized freezer bag. Freeze flat. When ready to eat pull out the day before to thaw in fridge. This thaws fairly quickly on defrost mode in the microwave. Simmer a few minutes on stove top. Serve over cooked egg noodles.

Tonight was our first night using our prepared meals from the freezer. I prepared the beef stroganoff as directed from the recipe, except I split the recipe into 2 separate gallon size bags and froze them to create 2 meals.

Tonight’s preparation was easy enough, I thawed the stroganoff overnight in the refrigerator, and when dinner time came around, I cooked the noodles in one small pot, and warmed up the stroganoff in another. At first, the cream products appeared to be a little chunky from the freezing, but after the sauce warmed up, the chunks disappeared leaving it smooth and creamy.

Overall, the recipe was good as is. I think I could have added some more salt and pepper in the initial cooking stages to add some additional flavor, or maybe additional Worcestershire sauce. My husband suggested adding a can of Rotel (but he likes everything hot). Clean up was easy as there were a total of 2 easy to clean pans, 2 bowls, and 4 spoons (no dishwasher required!)

]]> 0