Meatloaf Freezer Meal

By Rachel Sircy

I don’t know about you, but for me, meatloaf is a comfort food. My grandmother made a meatloaf that was delicious the day of and that made the best meatloaf sandwiches the next day. So, meatloaf is pretty close to my heart. It’s also a great freezer meal.

I was raised to believe that the freezer should be considered part of your pantry. My mother has a freezer attached to her fridge, and she also has two stand-alone freezers and a deep freezer. Since my parents purchase a whole side of beef every year from some of our family friends who raise cattle (a side of beef is an entire half of a cow, BTW) they need a lot of space. My mom is also the queen of freezing stuff. If you tell my mom that you’re hungry, she’s got a dozen meals prepared and frozen somewhere in her house, so you’ll probably be told to go and get something out of the freezer and reheat it.  I utilize the tiny freezer that I have to store vegetables, fruits, gluten free bread crumbs, meat…you name it. I guess it’s in my genes.

Freezer meals are becoming increasingly popular these days. I haven’t yet braved the 40 meals in 4 hours challenge, but I do keep individual servings of soup in the fridge for last minute meals. Just pull them out and thaw in the microwave (it may take a while if the soup’s completely frozen, but much faster than making it from scratch). Soup is easy enough and very convenient if you don’t feel like cooking, or if you’ve forgotten to make something for lunch, but I wanted to try my hand at prepping a meal and keeping it in the freezer for when I’m ready to make it. Not only is meatloaf one of my favorite comfort foods, but it’s extremely easy to make any meatloaf recipe you have gluten free. Basically, the main ingredient that you need to substitute is the bread or cracker crumbs. Of course, if you use steak sauce, Worcestershire or ketchup, etc., you need to make sure it’s gluten free. Beware, I just read that many major brands of steak sauce are not strictly gluten free. Just be careful and always do some research if you’re not sure. Other than that, most of the ingredients used to make meatloaf are naturally gluten free: ground meat, eggs, onions, garlic, etc.

Now, because I don’t want to deal with a huge frozen chunk of meat which will take a long time to thaw, I decided to make mini-meatloaves. I thought that larger than a meatball and smaller than a baseball would be a good size. Each one would be roughly equivalent to a thick slice of a regular meatloaf. In order to figure out the freezing process I, of course, called my mom. She said to freeze the mini-meatloaves properly, they need to be placed on a cookie sheet and placed in the freezer to firm up. They don’t need to fully freeze on the cookie sheet, they just need to become solid enough so that they won’t break apart when you put them into a freezer bag for storage. She said that about an hour would do it. Here they are on the cookie sheet:

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They should make for an easy dinner when they thaw. And here’s the inside of my freezer:

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It’s tiny, but it works for me. I placed the cookie sheet on top of a tower of individually frozen soup containers. Here’s the process of freezing the soup:

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Really, if you haven’t tried freezing meals for later, you really should. It makes for a very easy (and cheap) pre-made meal. I’ll let everyone know how my meatloaves turn out in my next post!

Our Fleeting and Pivotal Moments…

By Marianna Boyce

We all experience them.  More fleeting moments may be the first day of school or becoming a teenager.  Ahh…we knew it all then, didn’t we?

What was your first job?  Mine was working at Hardee’s in Lexington.  It was there that I learned the value of an honest day’s work, and I actually had some fun along the way.

I also recall the purchase of my first car. My daddy wasn’t sold on it but I HAD to have it. It was a yellow Pontiac Sunbird and it was also a lemon!  My daddy was right…again.  Yellow was indeed, the perfect color.

The next car I bought was a brand new Mustang.  Working at Hardee’s actually did pay my bills.  It was my car payment, insurance, and gas money.  I lived at home until I was married.

As for my first date with Gerry, he invited me to his ten year high school reunion. It was 1986 and I actually had just graduated high school myself.  I probably should’ve been intimidated, but I wasn’t.  I had a blast!

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Gerry and I married the following year.

I also became instant mom to a pretty, blonde haired, blue-eyed, independent, headstrong little girl.  I was nineteen and she was eight!  We both grew up together…God bless my sweet husband’s heart!

Pictured is Tiffany and me on my wedding day.  I don’t recall if this was before or after we told her she couldn’t come with us on our honeymoon.  Based on her stuck out tongue…probably after!

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I gave birth to my son Cody nine months after Gerry and I were married.  Yes…that was a close one!  He was indeed a honeymoon baby!  This is a story all in itself.

My promotion from mom to “GiGi” is a phenomenal moment in my life. Avery is now five and she is the mirror image of that pretty, blonde haired, blue-eyed, independent, headstrong little girl that Tiffany was when Gerry and I were first married.  This is Avery sticking out her tongue too…just like her mama!

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I’ve taken several amazing road trips across the United States of America. The most pivotal one was our Arizona adventure in June, 2016.  This was the full-out, purely unadulterated, top down, wind in your hair, road trip!

 I experienced an unforgettable pivotal moment the instant I arrived home from this whirlwind trip.  I stepped out of the car and onto my driveway.  My body immediately told me something was wrong.

My pain began in my feet and ankles.  Gerry and Cody initially thought it was from being in the car for extended periods of time.  Although that idea was worth entertaining, this pain was much different.  Within two short weeks, this pain would quickly spread and intensify.  I was completely blindsided.  My life would never be the same.

It’s not so much the fleeting moments, but the pivotal moments in life that define who we are…good and bad!  I do not want to forget my very humbling and intimidating journey, but I will not allow it to define me either.

No one has a perfect life, but life itself…It is a gift.  God gives me breath, therefore I breathe, therefore I live.  I will live life to the fullest!

Our road to debt freedom

By June Headley Greenlaw

Hold onto your teeth, my friends.  I’m about to tell you a story that will make them want to fall to the floor!  About six years ago, after a combination of life challenges, my husband (Jeff) and I found ourselves with $125,043 worth of credit card debt.  We had almost no equity in our house and two cars we were making payments on while my husband had been without a paycheck for about a year.

Hubby and I are both on “do over” marriages after first marriages that expired at around 20 years.  We both brought in hunks of debt from our starter marriages. There were lots of things that contributed to this mountain of debt that I won’t bore you with because we all have them.  They are called LIFE!

We were determined to get to debt freedom by the time I was retirement eligible, which is now 25 days away, and we have come pretty close.  We are literally just months away from having all credit cards paid off!  We are about one year away from having all cars paid off!  We now have a big chunk of equity in our house!  I wanted to share our story so that anyone finding themselves in that dark hole of debt could gain some hope that you can dig out too!

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Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The first thing we did was create a spreadsheet that listed all of the things we had a balance on and what payments were being made to each of them every month.  I had the spreadsheet incorporate the interest rates so we could accurately see what was happening to the balances after every payment.  We set it up with a goal of having everything paid off in three years.  Lofty, I know!  As you can surmise from the fact that the first paragraph of this post says “about six years ago”, it didn’t work as well as planned, but it HAS worked.  We now owe less than $8,000 to credit cards!

I won’t provide the color for your rose-colored glasses and tell you that it was easy.  It wasn’t!  No, we didn’t file bankruptcy.  We had to say no to our kids a lot.  Heck, we had to say no to ourselves a lot.  But with some hard work and determination, we’re doing it!  I took on extra jobs outside the house that even included selling Rainbow vacuum cleaners.  I still love that machine!  Hubby picked up nearly all the jobs inside the house.

I read a lot of “get out of debt” things on the web and after waffling back and forth about the best approach (paying off highest interest rates or smallest debt first), we went with the smallest debt first so we could keep ourselves inspired by shredding new cards each time one was paid off.  You can’t shred them before they are paid off because you might need them to play the “move your balance” game.  We did that a LOT to take advantage of lower interest rates for short periods of time.  You need to be careful when doing that because there are generally fees associated with those transactions and you’ll need to evaluate how much money it will really save you.

I think the most important thing is to create a list or spreadsheet of your balances and be able to watch them go down.  It helps keep you grounded when you want to fly off the handle and spend money on “wants” vs. “needs”.  There is nothing more empowering than cutting up that card!

 

Kitchen Essentials

By Rhonda Woods

Hello!  I just want to take a moment to thank the Lexington Medical Center team for the beautiful video they produced for my initial blog.  I was so pleased and heard so many wonderful comments from so many viewers!  My “Sweet Husband” would be so proud of his “Bride”!

My next blog is about Kitchen Essentials.  Here is a list of smallwares I find the most useful in my kitchens, both commercial and home. This list can also serve as a wish list, because Christmas is right around the corner.  Yeah, I’ve got you covered, foodies!  I made a large plastic tote box full of baking essentials for my daughter, one Christmas.  She still has it and has added to her collection as well.

Food Thermometer (digital or bi-metallic)
Strainers, large and small (large can double as a sifter)
Bowl scrapers (I can never have enough)
Whisks (same as above)
Digital Food Scale (@ $20.00, battery operated)
Sheet pans-aluminum/stainless steel (heavier gauge or weight does not warp and last longer)
Heavy Aluminum foil
Plastic Wrap
Parchment Paper & Waxed Paper
Disposable Decorating bags OR Gallon Freezer bags
Zester
Vegetable Peeler
Dough/Pastry Cutter
Rolling pin
Set of biscuit cutters
Portion scoops (1 oz., 2 oz. & 4 oz.-make quick work for portioning cookie dough and muffin batters)
Electric mixer (counter or hand held-I love my “Big Red” Kitchenaid)
A sharp Chef and paring knife
Dry measuring cups (2-3 sets)
Measuring spoons (2-3 sets)
Food processor
Cutting boards, plastic-not wood, large & small
Mixing bowls
Cupcake pans (2)
9″ x 13″ pans
8″ cake pans (3 or more)
Off-set spatulas
Aprons (I collect them, cookbooks and magnets from my travels)

Can you tell I’m a smallwares collector…you should see my kitchen drawers and cabinets…just saying. We call them “Tools of the Trade!”

IMG_2877Here’s a picture of my “Sweet Husband” and me taken in front of the old truck he had when we first met.  It has since been lowered from the 4-wheel drive lift and repainted to cover the light blue color, named “Old Blue”  We now refer to it as “Old Blue-Green”, and it still roams the back roads of Green Swamp with a new generation of riders and hunters. 39745152_272914836856988_2960821067972608000_n

It’s hard to believe it has been almost eight months, and it does not get any easier.  Celebrating my “Big 6-0” in a couple of weeks just won’t be the same without hearing him say, “Yeah, you don’t look bad for 60!”  😇

May God bless you and your family,

Chef Woods

Volunteering Does a Heart Good

By Tina Michelle Cameron

Ever since I was young, I have always had the desire to help others. I became a nurse in my early twenties and have been an oncology nurse since 1994. Helping others either professionally as a nurse or by doing volunteer work makes my heart smile. Volunteering can and will change your life as well as those you are helping.

Throughout the years I have volunteered with different cancer walks as well as being a yearly volunteer for the past 10 years with Fight Like a Girl here in Columbia. It was started by 5 amazing twenty-something’s who were diagnosed with breast cancer. They help raise money for unfunded, under insured patients at a large oncology center that I use to work at here in Columbia. I have also been a mentor to at risk youth at Dutch Fork Elementary School.

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Feta, my favorite goat at the zoo

I now volunteer four hours once a week at Riverbanks Zoo. I work in the Farm, zebra/ostrich area as well as the Education Center with snakes, rabbits, opossums, turtles, frogs and Madagascar hissing cock-roaches! It is the highlight of my week to be a “pooper scooper”, to feed and water them, to clean out their homes and to give these sweet babies hugs. I have been a volunteer for 13 months. It is hard manual labor and my doggy can’t quite figure out the different smells on my clothes and shoes when I get home, but, I absolutely love doing it.  I also enjoy helping the wonderful zookeepers at Riverbanks. I have a great love for all animals and it makes me smile to know I am helping them.

Despite my hectic schedule between two jobs, being in school full-time and volunteering, I wouldn’t have it any other way. After I finish my degree next May, I want to become a volunteer at Palmetto Health Richland Children’s Hospital.

There are numerous places to volunteer a few hours a week at. It will change your life and you can impact someone else’s life. Please consider volunteering either at a women’s shelter, the zoo, cancer walks or at a shelter handing out food. It will make your heart smile knowing you have given back to your community and to those who need help. I have listed a few links below for volunteer opportunities.

To become a zoo volunteer, go to https://riverbankszoo.org and complete an application. To help at the yearly breast cancer fundraiser hosted by Fight Like a Girl follow them on Facebook (The Ta-Tini’s)-the event is held every year in April or May.

 

 

 

 

 

What Did You Do This Summer?

By Shannon Boatwright

As a teacher, it’s one of those questions you get asked a lot…as if we’re going to respond with some magical, fabulous and/or impressive descriptions of all the incredible things we experienced and accomplished over our treasured summer break.  Of course, people don’t seem to realize that some, or I should say, most teachers actually still work over the summer, whether with a second job to help fill in the terrible pay gap or whether they’re having to take chunks of their summer to take required classes in order to keep up certification and/or to reach that next pay raise level.I'm a Teacher.

In years past, I’ve had to take classes and fill my summers with studies and classwork. This past summer I decided to give myself a break. No classes, no time taken away from the break that I earned and definitely needed!

Now, last summer was literally the ONLY summer that I was actually able to respond to people with something fabulous that knocked my own socks off, much less others. I never dreamed I’d be able to respond and tell folks that asked that lovely question that I’d actually gotten the opportunity to go to France and Switzerland -and it was one of the most memorable, amazing experiences of my life! Ironically last year when someone would ask what I did over the summer, I’d almost feel a bit embarrassed to say anything about my incredible trip because it so was NOT a normal travel experience for me. I’ve written a previous blog about it  Are You Experiencing One Wild and Precious Summer? You should check it out. It’s a good one for sure. I’d say it’s inspiring. 😉

But back to this summer, my summer of 2018. No fancy excursions in first-class to fantastic, far off fantasy like locations. But, I did indeed make it a great summer. (An important side-note to those reading…you don’t have to go on impressive, big time trips to create a fabulous summer for yourself!)

This summer, I utilized quality time with precious family and friends. I caught up on much needed sleep when my busy mind would allow it. I spring-cleaned and organized. We took only two short family trips – one to the mountains (See blog entry, Live Your Life!) and one recently, to the beach. And the beautiful thing…we made the most of every moment and greatly appreciated our time together. It was a summer with those I love and adore. It was a summer that allowed me the time to just be, to read, to work on future aspirations and gain personal insight.

Did I accomplish even half of what I wrote on my summer to-do wish list? Nope.

Did I accomplish other impressive things that weren’t on my list or even in my mind at the end of the insanely busy school year? Yep.

Did I gain weight and eat really well over my summer? Oh my gosh, YES. I immensely enjoyed cooking for my family, trying new recipes and sharing the yummy results of my cooking with family and friends!

Did I experience my own inner battle of deciding to accept my fuller bod and recognize my own health happiness? Actually…yes.  It’s a constant work in progress, but with every year I have the pleasure of being alive, I’m learning to accept and rejoice in not only my talents, gained knowledge and individual gifts as I age and mature, but also accept my body and rejoice in its flourishing, changing ways! (That’s of course the super positive outlook I’m feeling in this moment. I’m quite certain if you were to catch me tomorrow in the moment when I try on a piece of clothing in my closet that will inevitably be way too small, I’ll most likely respond a bit differently. Just saying. I am only human after all. We’re Only Human) 😉

So what did I do this summer?

I lived. I survived. I rested. I played. I dreamed. I rejoiced. I engaged in being ever grateful. I created. I researched. I planned for my future and the future of my family. I planned as a drama teacher/director and what I want to provide for my students.

I tried my best to appreciate every moment with those I love. I listened to the sounds of the creek in the mountains. I made sure to consciously listen to the sounds of the ocean at the beach. I made sure to play with my children – we wrestled, we fished, we created, we watched movies, we rode bikes, we swam, we played pretend with my precious little nieces & cousins, we colored, we rode ocean waves, we jumped for joy on the beach…

Did I do something totally spectacular, crazy impressive over my summer?  Maybe not in most folk’s eyes, but, I did me. I had a super summer.

Jumpin for Joy on the Beach

Now here’s to hoping people will stop asking the question, “When do you go back to school?”

Note to readers: Never ask a teacher when she or he has to go back to school. We’re on summer break. Spare us, please… pretty please.

And now, you know I have to ask…

What did YOU do this summer?

 

Dementia Diagnosis

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet Lisa:

By Lisa Baker

What is the first thing you think when you hear dementia? Well, for me and my family this very word has put our lives in a tailspin.

First, my Mom was diagnosed with dementia in May.  From the day she got her diagnosis she went downhill so fast.  She couldn’t walk without a walker.  She had to wear adult diapers or pull ups.  She blamed me for so many things:  I took all of her money and spent it.  I messed up the checkbook.  I was trying to kill her.  That’s just a few things I had done, according to her.

Slowly we began to realize the very best she was going to be was at that moment.  For the only guarantee was she would get worse not better.  So we began the whirlwind of trying to get used to our new normal that was changing daily.

mom and dadIn June, my Dad also was diagnosed with dementia.  So now we multiply all the above by two.  If we thought things were tough before you could only imagine how they were now.

So…….how do you even begin to get through the initial shock?  I think one of the most important and valuable things my parents did for us was to already have their wills done.  And with them their medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney.

So many people think that they will do their will later, sometime in the future.  You need to do it while you are of sound mind.  After a diagnosis of dementia isn’t the best time to do this.  Talk with your loved ones so you know what they want.  Yes, my parents have all that in place and still it can be hard.

We still had to get a letter from their doctors stating they could no longer handle their financial affairs.  Most doctors will want to see your loved one before they will write such a letter.

Talk with your loved one now about what they want and don’t want for medical care.  That also means the hard questions such as, “Do you want all life saving measures such as feeding tubes if your quality of life will be compromised? Do you want to be resuscitated if you stop breathing?”

Know about their medical insurance as well as life insurance.  Where you can find the policies and who can you ask if you have questions.

The next thing to try to get used to is things constantly changing more for the worse then for the better.  Remember there is no cure and no guarantees other than they will get worse.

So today is the best it will be and tomorrow won’t be as good as today was.

If and when you need to consider a facility for your loved one do all the research you can.  There are memory care centers and nursing homes as well as assisted living centers.

At this time, we have my Mom in a nursing home facility and on hospice care.  My Dad is in a memory care facility.  They are at separate places that are best for their needs at this time.  We would have loved to keep them together however Mom’s care is a lot more involved at this point then Dad’s.

Cost is also a huge factor in finding a facility for your love one.  I’m talking thousands of dollars.  Yes, there are places that take insurance but there are also private pay places as well.  Ask to take a tour of any facility before placing your loved one.

You also learn quickly to join your loved one in the frame of mind they are at in this moment.  There is no way to change their mind and no need to argue, you won’t win.  You will learn to redirect them, but you won’t be able to change their mind.

During one of my Mom’s hospital stays she insisted that Dad had divorced her and had remarried a 17-year-old girl.  This was during the time that Dad got his diagnosis and therefore had not been able to go see her very much.  I did start out trying to get her to understand only to realize nothing I said was going to change her mind.  Looking back, I have to laugh a bit about it.  She was very serious.

dementia tips