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Freezer Meals from my Farm Friends

UPDATE: Links to all eight of the recipes! 
I don't know where to start with this story, but I'd like to just get to the point: Last weekend, I got invited to one of the coolest parties ever ... a freezer meal party sponsored by the Ohio Farm Bureau, as well as the Ohio Pork Council and Ohio Beef Council! Basically, last Sunday I went to a lovely little farm house about an hour away to prepare freezer meals with several lovely bloggers, farmers and friends. The Farm Bureau gave us ALL of the ingredients and supplies, and I went home with EIGHT healthy meals for my family. BONUS: All of the meat came from Pettisville Meats, a local butcher/processor. How awesome, right?!
Clockwise, from top: Alicia and Ashlee tag-team a station, some delicious cilantro chicken in progress, Bailey and Michelle working together at the counter, and bags full of freezer meals!
When my friend Taysha first messaged me about the opportunity, I thought I was dreaming. First of all, I thought, "You want me to cook?!" (Because Kyle does the majority of the cooking in our house), and then "You're giving me all these meals for FREE?!" Yup!

The timing of this event couldn't have been more perfect. Kyle and I were JUST talking about the idea of buying a small cube freezer so we could store extra meals, meat and garden produce. AND I had recently bought a cookbook with several freezer-friendly recipes to I wanted to try. There was really no way I could turn this down.

OK, so I know FREE MEALS AND RECIPES are already awesome, but this event was amazing for a few other reasons:

From left: Ashlee, Jen, me, Jess (Cultivated with love), Mandi, Sarah, Bailey (in front), Taysha (Dirt Road Charm), Michelle (LivingIt), Kat (Mom on the go in Holy Toledo) and Alicia.
I got to meet some really cool women. Gong into this event, I only knew Taysha and our friend Ashlee ... and I also sorta knew Taysha's sister Jess. I was a little hesitant to go along because sometimes my anxiety gets the best of me in social situations. I clam up when I have to meet new people, which I KNOW can come off as rude or bitchy ... which makes me even more anxious ... it's a vicious cycle. It didn't help that I was nervous about having to cook, but everyone was great, and it was a good experience for me to step out of my comfort zone. I may have hit up the appetizers a little too much (hello, emotional eating!), but I seriously had so much spending an afternoon with so many great women.

Taysha listening while she cooks.
The recipes came from a dietitian. Michelle Rudolphi of Fort Wayne happens to be Taysha's trainer, and she has a passion for showing people how to cook nutrition meals for their families. Even though I'm not a great cook, I do share her passion for helping others live a healthy lifestyle, and it was great to pick her brain about a few things. For instance, I didn't know what plantains were before this party ... Don't judge, OK?!

I got to have some great conversations about food! One of the things I admire about Taysha is her passion for connecting consumers and producers in order to have OPEN and HONEST conversations about food. This was of course her goal for the party, but no one ever pushed opinions or had an agenda - we just chatted away like friends tend to do when they're working in the kitchen. :)

While we were working on the meals, I was actually the first one to bring up some questions. A lot of my family members are farmers, and I grew up on a small farm (we raised angora goats for many years and also had hogs and other livestock for 4-H projects), so I definitely have an understanding and appreciation for where our food comes from BUT I'm always interested in learning more!

I learned SO MUCH, and I'm sure this blog could get a lot longer ... But if you want to know more about food/farming/nutrition, I encourage you to ask an expert instead! Seriously, I was going to launch into some facts/thoughts I took home with me, but that's all just my perspective. I think if you're interested in learning more about food, you should get your facts straight from the experts. Michelle and Taysha both have a TON more experience/wisdom than I do, and I'm sure they'd LOVE to answer any questions you have.

Success! My freezer is FULL!
Let's get to what everyone cares about: the meals! Michelle had us set up eight stations - one for each meal. At each station, there was the recipe, the ingredients and any supplies you needed (measuring spoons, cutting board, etc.). At first, I thought we would go around to each station and make each meal. Instead, we picked just ONE station and made that meal 16 times (we were supposed to have 16 people, but a few canceled). This made me VERY nervous because I didn't want to screw up everyone else's meals! So while everyone else was grabbing an apron, I found a meal that didn't look too intimidating: Apple Balsamic Pork Chops. I haven't gotten to cook/eat my recipe yet, but I managed to finish them all without making TOO much of a mess ...

When I got home, the food BARELY fit in my tiny freezer, but we made it work. Some of the recipes are for the Crock-Pot; others are for the oven. Either way, I'm VERY excited to try each of the meals and then SHARE the recipes with all of you! My plan is to do one per week, but forgive me if I get behind, OK? Committing to eight consistent weeks of blogging is hard with my schedule, but I REALLY want to try because I think a lot of my friends/readers are also interested in trying healthy freezer meals.

To wrap this up, I'd like to say THANK YOU to everyone: the Farm Bureau and pork/beef councils for sponsoring the party, Taysha for organizing everything, Jess for helping her with the shopping/delivery, Bailey for opening her home, Michelle for providing her recipes and knowledge and everyone else for being so kind and understanding of my lack of kitchen skills ... (If your pork chops are awful, don't tell me, OK?)

This is the first time I've ever gotten free stuff as a blogger, so I guess I'm probably supposed to disclose that the Farm Bureau paid for the party, but they didn't pay me for my opinion or even ask me to write about this event. I just want to pay it forward by sharing my experience and the recipes with my readers! If there were enough meals to go around, I'd share those too ... you'd just have to fight my husband for the bacon-wrapped chicken ;)

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