Friday, May 5, 2017

A Compendium of Freezer Meals and My "Bolognese" Sauce Recipe

I've been at Bungie seven months now. For those of you who don't know, Destiny 2 is due to hit store shelves in September. That means Mama is working a lot to help ship this game. A LOT. 

Daddy is working a lot, too. Since my hours started getting longer a few weeks ago, Dusty has had to take on more than half his share of our three jobs. In addition to working on his indie VR project, Dusty is handling all the laundry duties, wrangling the kids after school, making weeknight dinners, and keeping the house clean.*

I still do the bulk of the grocery shopping and weekend meals, so I try to make at least one weekend meal a Freezer Meal. That means I make a big ol' batch of something—mostly soups, stews, and sauces—so we have enough for dinner that evening and extra to freeze. Sometimes it takes me half a day to cook so much, but it's hard to beat an economy of scale that produces multiple meals. 

An inadvertent tableau that aptly depicts our life at the moment.
I call it Both Parents Crunching.
Below are links to recipes I've shared on this blog before. They are all family favorites (i.e. almost 80% guaranteed that the kids will actually eat it) and they are fantastic freezer meals.

Pro Tip: Save large plastic containers with clear lids to store your meals.
Make sure to label them clearly with the name and date of cooking.
1) Kalua Pork—Freeze the pork in containers big enough to hold however many servings you want per meal. If you put cabbage in your kalua pork, I recommend freezing the pork sans cabbage. Frozen cabbage gets all soggy and gross. You have to plan ahead a little to have these leftovers; the night before you want to have this dinner, put a container in the fridge to thaw overnight. Heat the pork on the stove or in the microwave until it's hot. If you want, you can blanch some cabbage to add to the kalua pork after it's heated. Make some rice and salad and you've got dinner.

2) Tinolang Manok (Pilipino chicken soup)—You don't even need to thaw it out before reheating. When you take the container out of the freezer, run it under a hot tap to loosen the sides. Then just wiggle the frozen block out of the container into a saucepan and heat it. Boil for two minutes to make sure the chicken broth is bacteria-free. Make some rice and you've got dinner.

3) Green Chile Soup—As with the Tinolang Manok, you can just chuck the frozen block o' soup into a saucepan and bring it to a boil to kill any nasties. Heat some tortillas and you've got dinner. If you're feeling extra fancy, you can cube up some avocado. Dot the soup with avocado chunks so you get a little creamy avocado bite with each spoonful. Yum!

4) Lamb and Lentil Stew—This may be our favorite freezer meal; it's delicious when it's fresh, but somehow the flavors just get better as it mellows out. Again, no need to thaw the stew beforehand; just heat up the frozen block in a saucepan. If it looks like it's too thick or you want to stretch the meal a little, add a cup or two of water as it is heating.

And now for our fifth and final Freezer Meal: "Bolognese" Sauce. The quotation marks there are because this is not a typical Bolognese ragu; this is: 

I Kinda Made This Recipe Up and It's Slightly Different Every Time but It's Always Yummy "Bolognese" Sauce** 

Prep Time: ~15 minutes
Cook Time: ~30 minutes
Makes 3-5 meals' worth of sauce

1 lb ground turkey
1 lb Italian sausage, out of the casing
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 C pesto OR 1 tsp each dried basil and dried oregano
2 15oz cans tomato sauce
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 lb veggies (frozen spinach, zucchini, kale, etc.***)
1-2 bay leaf
olive oil

  1. Brown meat in a little olive oil, then take it out of the pan.
  2. Add onions to pan and sauté on medium heat until soft. 
  3. Add garlic to pan and sauté for 1 minute.
  4. Add vegetables and sauté for 5 minutes or until soft.
  5. Add tomato sauce and 1 can of water.
  6. Using a hand blender, wazz up the vegetables and tomato sauce until veggies are nondescript tiny dots of green. If you don't have a hand blender, spoon out the sauce and veggies into a food processor or blender and wazz it up there.
  7. Add meat back into pan and stir.
  8. Add tomato paste and pesto, then 1-3 tomato sauce cans of water to desired consistency. If you don't have pesto, add basil and oregano.
  9. Add 1 bay leaf and simmer on low heat, uncovered, for about 30 minutes to thicken or until it has cooked down to your desired consistency.
  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Take out bay leaf.
  12. Serve over pasta (my girls like penne best) or spaghetti squash. You can also put it on rolls for sloppy joes. 

There you go. I hope you eat a lot of yogurt like we do and that you saved all the containers. You have some cookin' and freezin' to do this weekend. 

*He may be a superior maid, but I'm still the best nanny.
**Shoutout to Diana, who helped me type up this recipe.
***I keep a Ziploc bag in the freezer and chuck green veggies in there that I won't have time to cook before they go bad. When it's time to make sauce, I empty that bag into the pot. Waste not, want not.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Aloha 'oe, Daddy

My dad, Cesar Diapues Hiponia, died on Sunday, March 26, 2017. He was born on November 24, 1938 — the same year as Superman, as he was fond of saying. Dad was diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease about a year ago, so we all knew his last day would come sooner rather than later. It did not make the day any easier to bear. I'm sure I will be awash in waves of grief for weeks, months, years...

Yesterday, my family and I bid him farewell. It's hard to capture in a three-minute speech everything my father was to me, but here is what I said to a chapel full of family and friends who loved my dad.

When I was about six or seven years old, my dad got a chance to travel to Europe for business. Somewhere on one of these poster boards, there’s a grainy photo of him wearing a winter coat, posing in front of the Vatican. I remember thinking how novel and exotic it was to wear a coat. Daddy looked so cool — like an American in the movies!

Like an American in the movies!
 He brought home the most wonderful pasalubong for me from that trip — a collection of dolls, one from each city he had visited. Each doll was dressed in national costume, and had different-colored skin, hair, and eyes than me. Through those dolls, my dad was showing me that there’s a world outside the Philippines, full of different, beautiful people.

That pasalubong sparked a lifelong wanderlust, and I became determined to travel to the places my dad described in his stories. Somewhere in my photo albums, there’s a photo of me wearing a winter coat, posing in front of the Vatican. I don’t look as cool as my dad did in his photo.

I miss swapping travel stories with my dad. I miss talking with him about our mutual aloha for Hawai'i and dreaming about a family reunion on Moloka’i. I miss seeing him sprawled on the floor with his grandkids, playing with them, talking with them, and really listening to them. I miss his wide, toothy grin. That grin said, “I’m getting away with something.”

Totally getting away with something.
I miss arguing with him about politics and the state of the world. Dad and I were both Sagittarius, born in the year of the Tiger, just 36 years apart. And when two fire signs argue, honey, it is a FIGHT! But even when we argued, I got the sense that he was trying to learn something, to figure out how he could become a better person from this fight, from any fight.

I’d like to think I got that same drive to become a better person. My dad thought deeply about things, and almost until the end of his life, he was still learning and growing. Much of who I am is a reflection of my dad. I inherited his adventurous wanderlust, his insatiable curiosity, his ambitious determination, and his irreverent sense of humor.

When someone we love dies, our natural coping instinct is to elevate our beloved to sainthood. My dad was a lot of things, but he was no saint. Nah.

I mean, just look at this cool cat. 
My dad was a force of nature. He had the energy of a Signal 5 typhoon, the warmth of the sun over Manila Bay, and the hidden depth of the Pacific Ocean. He laughed and learned and loved and lived out loud, inviting the entire world into his big, open heart.

Thank you, Daddy, for helping to bring me into this world, showing me how wide and wonderful it is, and encouraging me to go out into it. I will strive to keep my heart as open as yours was. I will keep laughing, learning, loving, and living out loud. Maybe someday, I will grow up to be just like you. I love you. 

Aloha 'oe, Daddy. Until we meet again...