Back in the day when my husband and I didn't have a lot of money, I got very good at making our food budget stretch. I'd hit the grocery store, list in hand, with an entire two weeks worth of meals in my head - preparing family favourites like make ahead meatballs, sloppy joe mix, upside down chicken and rice pie, and mini pizzas.
It`s a funny thing time. As the minutes, hours, and years pass by, time has a way of softening the edges on moments that were once overwhelming and devastating - giving us the gift of perspective that can only come with experience.
I can remember going to the grocery store one afternoon with a friend. She had all the money in the world, and I had $56.00 from a family allowance cheque I had cashed earlier.
Oh for the resentment.
I wandered through the store lamenting my lot in life, wishing for frozen entrees I couldn`t afford - somehow equating my worth with my ability to purchase Lean Cusines and Hot Pockets. I compared and struggled, instead of realizing what a resourceful young person I was.
The thing about blogging is that it provides constant opportunity for insight. I realize right at this moment that perhaps I`ve written the above as a reminder to myself not to be such a tough task master.
That maybe I could take a lesson from a young mother from long ago who compared herself instead of saw herself.
Back to now.
Where I once knew the price point of every item in the grocery store, I was suddenly faced with a new found freedom. And I'll never forget the moment I first realized it.
Pushing my cart down the cereal aisle trying to decide between Frosted Mini Wheats and Special K, I realized I was making my decisions based on preference and not on price. Further, I had absolutley no idea how much the groceries in my cart were going to cost.
In the years since I`ve been blessed enough to enjoy the freedom of being able to buy whatever I want.
Frozen pizzas, pre-packaged frozen dinners, and even the coveted Lean Cuisines have all made their way into my freezer at one time or another.
But as is often the case with things longed for, the frozen entrees I once wanted so badly turned out to be just okay and not what I had built them up to be. They couldn't compare to the things I had painstakingly and lovingly prepared myself; a marriage, a confident son, a few good meals.
Which is why I`ll be posting a variety of freezer recipes over December, starting with an all time favourite snack: English Muffin Pizzas. In our house, having a fully stocked freezer with all kinds of home made goodies has became a bit of a tradition - and one my son doesn't only look forward to - his friends do too.
One day, I will no longer have my small home filled with boys wanting to know if I made any of those "pizza thingies" this year - but if God smiles on me, perhaps there will eventually be grandkids to take up the cause.
Until then, though, these are really great to have on hand.
And they're so easy to make!
Simply take 2 or three packages of english muffins and split each muffin in two.
Brush each split muffin half with extra virgin olive oil, about a tbsp of your favourite pizza sauce and then top with whatever you like.
The batch in the picture above was topped with pepperoni, fresh basil (basil freezes very well), and shredded mozzarella cheese.
I have also made ham and pineapple, Italian sausage and black olive, and three cheeese. Really, the possibilities are endless. Just be wary of omitting things that don't freeze well.
For another variation, spread the muffin halves with cheeze whiz and then top with ground beef, tomato sauce, and cheese.
To store any variety: lay on a cookie sheet and put in freezer until firm. Individually wrap each pizza bun in plastic wrap and then store in large freezer bags.
Freeze for up to 3 months or bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 6 dozen. To use frozen Pizza English Muffins: Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.
If in a big hurry, you can put these under the broiler for about seven minutes - just watch them :-)
There's a certain kind of bonding that happens in families over food.
I still make the tuna buns my mother made back in the 70's when company came over.
At the time, I thought of them as a big treat, but it's only as an adult I've come to realize that my mother was doing the best she could with the ingredients she had.
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
In fact, I made a batch of them Friday night while we took our Christmas decorations out - and while I did, I remembered playing charades in our rec room, good smells, and happy times.
Perhaps one day my son will feel the same, looking backwards on winter nights.
For a brief moment, he'll remember the smell of toasted english muffins, pepperoni, cheese, or tuna - and know for sure he was loved.
"Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return."Mary Jean Iron
Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer
with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe
developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay
believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and
ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of
all levels can accomplish.
Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.