Monthly Archives: January 2012

What do I need?

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The materials needed to freezer cook are pretty basic.  On your big day, you’ll want plenty of counter space.  Get your ingredients from the pantry organized and be sure you have all the spices you are going to need out and ready to use.  You’ll need several bowls, measuring cups and spoons, and basic cooking tools (knives, spoons, etc.)  You will also need something to store you food in and some way of labeling your dishes.  I prefer to use my food saver since it sucks all the air out!  If you’re going to food save, be sure to freeze anything delicate (muffins, breads, soups, etc) in an open bag first.  Let them get firm or solid and then suck the air out.  You don’t want to crush anything fragile or make a mess of soups.  However, you don’t need one to freezer cook.  Zip Lock Freezer bags work the best.  For dishes that need to be baked (meatloaf, lasagna, etc.) use disposable pans.  Check the dollar store in your area for good deals.  This makes clean up after dinner even quicker! You can also use gladware or other disposable containers.  If you going to freeze a casserole or other dish in a disposable pan, put a layer of foil down first, then fill, and wrap the foil around the food, preventing as much air as possible from getting to your food.  If you’re going to be making anything individual like potatoes, quesadillas, you’ll need plastic wrap, and either foil or freezer paper.  Write the dish title, defrosting and heating instructions, and date prepared on the bag first.  Use a sharpie since it works the best.  If you write after filling, the moisture on the bag prevents the ink from sticking. 

So gather up your recipes, ingredients, and necessary materials.  The big cooking day is coming soon!

Where to begin?

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No freezer cooking this weekend!  My dear husband made a wonderful paella dinner for me and my close friends.  It was truly wonderful.  If there had been any leftovers, then those could have been frozen… but of course there weren’t any leftover for the freezer.  If you count the ice cream for the sundaes we made, then there was something from the freezer!

As the month comes to an end, my freezer is starting to become empty.  Then again, this is the goal right?  This means it’s time to start planning the next month’s menu and preparing for the big day.  In the past I’ve waited for the wonderful ladies at Once A Month Mom to share their menus and then I would happily shop and cook from it.  This month Im challenging myself to make my own menu, with recipes from several cookbooks, and the websites!  Oh, I won’t be abandoning Once A Month Mom, in fact, I’m anxiously waiting for the new menu to come out on Wednesday!

As I am planning my next set of menus, I am also thinking of more healthy options.  Our house is not only trying to eat better by not eating out so much, but also by watching what we are eating.  I’m working on using more whole foods (making my own pizza sauce and such) and eating lighter. My husband is working on eating healthier, so since I’m planning the menus, I want to be sure to include options for him.  Of course, we can all eat a little lighter and healthier! 

This week I will be walking you through the process I learned to create my big day menu and cooking day.  Of course, I got this training from Once A Month Mom, and some useful forms from Money Saving Mom.  Of course, you can always just use some blank paper.

Step 1:  Consider your needs.  I start with a calendar and mark off days that I know we will be gone or not eating at home.  For example, we’ll be at my mom’s house one weekend, and my brother’s house another weekend.  After you have marked off the days you won’t be eating at home, count up the number of days you will need meals for. Don’t forget to think about how much food your family eats at each meal.  If you are a family that usually has leftovers, then plan for those.  I plan for left overs 2 times a week, so I need 5 meals a week, times an average of 4 weeks per month, giving me a total of 20 dinners.  This helps me to know how many meals I’ll need to plan for.

Step 2: Gather your recipes.  This can be a really therapeutic experience.  I start with my family favorites you know, the meals that simply must be on the menu!  For our family, it’s pizza.  Instead of buying pizza, we make it ourselves.  My son loves making his own, and it allows each of us to make it how we want it.  Next, check out the web and challenge yourself.  There are millions of recipes online, and great sites to help you select recipes to fit your needs.  If your dieting or eating healthy, be sure to include those.  If your Gluten Free, then look for something new for your family to try.  I also look in my pantry and freezer to see what I already have on hand.  I may have stocked up on pasta the last time it was on sale, or bought some meat in the middle of the month to save for another day.  I’ve always got my eye open for what’s on sale that I know we’ll use and I can freeze or stock away.

Step 3: Make Shopping List.  This is the time involved process.  However, a little spent here will save you time in the end.  First start with your stack of recipes.  As you go through each recipe, write down each item.  Don’t worry if you’re not sure about already having it.  I go back later and edit the list.  I always make my list sorted by department in the grocery store.  Make a tally mark next to each item that you need more than 1 of.  For example, if I need 1 lb of hamburger for 1 recipe, and 2 for another, I make 3 marks next to hamburger.  The tricky part can be when your recipe calls for cups and another one calls for pounds.  How much do you really need?  Check out http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/Homepage.aspx to help you figure out just how much you’ll need of everything.  Doing so will make sure you only buy what you need, thus saving you money and eliminating waste.  Once you have your list done, you’re ready to go to the store.  Remember to shop around if you can, and take your coupons. 

I’ll stop here for now.  This is where I am in the process.  I’ve started collecting my recipes, and once the new menus are posted on Once A Month, I’ll start the grocery lists.  For more on how to create your own menus and Once A Month cooking plan, check out this post- http://onceamonthmom.com/category/resources/create-your-own-menu/

What sort of menu items will you looking for or wanting to try this month?

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Ahh, back to reality

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Well, after taking a few days off, I’m back.  I’ve become addicted to Pinterest.  It’s like a black hole… you just keep clicking on one thing that leads you to another, and another, and before you know it, it’s 10:00, the kids have fallen asleep, and you haven’t eaten yet, or done the work you brought home to do!  The plus side is you’ve come across some great websites dedicated to freezer cooking and some wonderful looking recipes that can easily be converted to freezer recipes.  But tonight I am cooking dinner, cleaning up the house, and will attempt to do some school work.  The last part is doubtful, though my students would be happy if I did.

Dinner tonight and hopefully tomorrow’s leftovers is Buttermilk chicken.  We all know (or should) that when you fry chicken, you should dunk it in buttermilk first.  This makes the chicken more tender.  So imagine you’ve soaked the chicken in buttermilk overnight and let it really marinade.  Add some fresh herbs, and you have a great dish.  I’ll be grilling it on the indoor grill.  I’ve done this recipe with split breasts as well and grilled them outside.  It’s a favorite dish of my husband’s.

As the month winds down, I find that my freezer is also getting empty.  This is to be expected.  What will I cook for next month?  Is there anything you’re looking forward to?  Let me know if you have any requests.  I’m going to be making some more smoothies (they’re so easy!), muffins, meatloaves, and some chicken tacos that cook in the crock pot.  The problem is that my weekends are pretty busy for a while.  I’m hoping my freezer will last me until I can get to a 3 day weekend to do my cooking.

 

Buttermilk Herb Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 pounds Chicken (breasts, legs, thighs, wings, you choose.  Bone in or boneless)

 

Nothing complicated about this one….

Combine everything except the chicken in a large ziplock bag.  Add chicken and let marinade in the refrigerator overnight.  Remove chicken from the bag and discard the marinade.  Grill over medium heat inside on a grill pan or outside on the grill until chicken reaches 170F.

Want to freeze this for another day? No problem.  Follow the directions above and place your labeled bag into the freezer.  When you’re ready to cook this, just thaw it first and grill.  Add some veggies to the grill and you’ve got a great summer dinner!

NOTES:  Make sure you are careful when handling chicken.  Don’t want to buy buttermilk for this one recipe?  No worries.  I used to say the same thing.  Or I’d buy buttermilk and then feel compelled to use it all.  Not anymore.  I stumbled upon a small round contained of dried buttermilk in the baking aisle one day.  You spoon out the needed amount and add water.  Store it in your refrigerator and use it when you need it, not when you have to use before it expires!

reciped based on the http://onceamonthmom.com/buttermilk-herb-chicken-breasts/ by Kelly @ Onceamonthmom.com

A cold and rainy day

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I love cold, dreary, rainy days…. when I’m at home!!  Speaking for most if not all teachers, rainy days are the pits as my mom would say.  Getting out of bed and getting dressed in anything but a warm fuzzy sweatshirt was a challenge this morning!  I was thankful to be able to grab something quick from my freezer on the way out the door this morning.  I had planned on some warm twice baked broccoli and cheese potatoes, but the first thing I found was my out the door wasn’t a bag of potatoes, but rather a bag of chicken burritos.  Not what I planned for, but still good.

I’m not a bean eating person so this recipe is adapted and replaced the black beans with taco rice.  That’s the wonderful thing about making my own frozen food.  I can always leave out or add what I want to each recipe.  I wrap each one in wax paper, and then in foil.  Like other frozen lunch items, they defrost by lunch time.  All I had to do was heat them up in the microwave today.

Dinner tonight was quite possibly the best thing I’ve made in a while.  Easy enough French Dip Sandwiches.  Unlike traditional sandwiches which are served with sliced meat, these sandwiches are served with shredded meat.  I took the pre-seasoned and pre-browned roast out the fridge last week thinking we would eat it then.  This is an important thing to remember.  When planning to use a roast that you’ve frozen, remember it’s like the turkey at Thanksgiving.  It takes a long time to defrost.  Put the roast in the crock-pot, add 1 cup water, some beef broth, and walk away!  OMG!!  I served them on whole wheat rolls (my attempt to be healthier) with sweet potato fries.  Both of these yummy recipes came from Once a Month Mom.

On a side note, I’ve become addicted to Pintrest.  I keep finding great recipes and ideas for freezer cooking.  I can’t wait to have the time to make some more!  Of course, I’ll probably need a bigger freezer to store it all in!

 

French Dip Sandwiches
Recipe adapted from by OurBestBites.com
1 2.5-3 lb. beef roast (you can use a frozen roast if you want)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
2 1-ounce packages dry beefy onion soup mix
4 c. water
2 t Beef Better than Bullion

6-8 large buns (or more…6 would be VERY generous servings!)

Swiss, provolone, or mozzarella cheese, shredded or sliced.Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and rub roast with salt and pepper.When very hot, carefully place roast in pan and sear on all sides. You’re not cooking the meat, you’re just browning it quickly on all sides to add flavor and seal in the juices.Place in crockpot and sprinkle with onion soup mixes. Pour water and beef broth over roast.Cook 8-10 hours on low or cook 4-5 hours on high and another 3-4 hours on low. It’s hard to screw this part up; basically, the longer it cooks, the more tender it will be. But you know it’s done when you pop a fork in it and the meat just falls apart. When meat is ready, shred with a fork.

Place meat in crusty rolls. Top with cheese and broil open-faced in the oven or toaster oven for a few minutes, until bread is golden and cheese is melty.

Ladle juices into small cups for dipping and enjoy!

FREEZER DIRECTIONS:

Prepare roast through the searing step; after meat has cooled, place in a plastic freezer-safe container (think Gladware), cover with beefy onion soup mix and better than beef boullion, and freeze. When ready to cook, pop it straight into the crockpot (frozen), add 4 cups of water, and set to high until warm or, even better, simmering. Turn to low; cook for a total of 8-10 hours.

Chicken Burritos

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups shredded chicken
  • 1 T taco seasoning
  • 2 cups Taco Rice
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 8 large flour tortillas (I prefer Whole Wheat)
  • Salsa, sour cream, guacamole, or chopped tomatoes for serving

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Divide the filling evenly among the 8 tortillas.  Roll up each burrito, top with your favorite toppings, and enjoy.

Freezing Directions:

Freezing burritos is quite easy.  After making your pile of burritos, tear off a piece of wax paper and aluminum foil for each burritos.  Roll them in wax paper and then in foil.  Place all the wrapped burritos in a large bag and label.  When you’re ready to eat these, thaw them first either in your refrigerator or in the microwave. Remove the foil and heat them in them for just 1-2 minutes in the microwave and enjoy.

I like to unwrap them and remove the wax paper.  Then rewrap the foil and  place them in a warm oven (about 350) for about 20 minutes.  Add your favorite toppings and enjoy.

Based on the recipe from http://onceamonthmom.com/chicken-burritos-2/

Author/Source: Pam @ Onceamonthmom.com

The weekend is upon us!

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Even though this was a short week for me, it seemed longer.  A friend posted the same thought on Facebook this morning.  I wonder why that is.  My freezer and menu board have helped me keep my sanity this week.  While we may not have cooked everything on the menu this week due to last-minute changes in our plans, we’ve definitely been successful in eating healthier and eating out less.  Both of these are goals for this year. 

One of the best parts of this project is sharing it with friends and hearing about how they’ve tried it for their families.  A co-worker who also a mom to 2 very children (i.e. Mom’s taxi is in full service after school) shared with me that her frozen crock-pot meal was a life saver yesterday since she was only home for about 40 minutes between practices and such.  She asked if I had any more crock pot recipes, and I do.  I will definitely be adding them to my menu next month and will be keeping my eyes open for some good additions. 

While I didn’t post last night, we definetly enjoyed a good dinner and lunch was another repeat.  Dinner was Cilantro Chicken.  It was so good and quick, that there were not any leftovers!  Great for us, bad for my lunch today.  So back to my stash I went for lunch, and found some yummy Chicken Fried Rice.  It thawed in my lunch bag by lunch time and as an added bonus kept the rest of my lunch cold!  Tonight would have been lasagna, but some necessary shopping for tomorrow’s events and a stop at the dry cleaners did not allow the time to heat it up. 

I won’t be posting tomorrow or eating the delicious French Dip sandwiches.  A last-minute double date night has come upon me, and so I’m going out for dinner.  It may not be fancy, but it still won’t be cooking at home in any way.  Not to worry, the sandwiches will be a great dinner on Sunday after I spend the day getting myself and the house ready for another whirlwind week of school and meetings. 

Be sure to check out these great recipes…. they are super easy!

Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken

http://onceamonthmom.com/grilled-cilantro-lime-chicken/ 

Author/Source:

Kelly @ Onceamonthmom.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Chicken breasts, preferably organic
  • 2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium limes, juiced
  • 2 medium Garlic, cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons Cilantro, fresh, chopped
  • 0.25 teaspoons Salt
  • 0.125 teaspoons Pepper
  • 1 cups Salsa Verde

Directions:

Mix olive oil, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, salt and pepper in a bowl. Divide and pour into freezer bag with Chicken marinade for at least one hour or freeze until ready to use. Heat grill or grill pan to medium high heat, Grill for about 6 minutes a side. Serve with salsa verde.

Freezing Directions:

Divide and pour into freezer bag with Chicken. Freeze until ready to serve. TO SERVE: Thaw. Heat grill or grill pan to medium high heat, Grill for about 6 minutes a side. Serve with salsa verde.

 

Fried Rice
Recipe by Our Best Bites, adapted from Disneyworld’s Ohana Restaurant

http://www.ourbestbites.com/2010/01/fried-rice/

2 c. white rice + 4 c. water (OR 4 c. cold, leftover rice, which is actually better)
3 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. minced red onion
2 Tbsp. chopped green onions
1/2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 c. chopped carrots
1/2 c. chopped mushrooms
8 oz. (1/2 bag) of coleslaw mix
3-4 generous Tbsp. soy sauce

SEASONING:
1 Tbsp. dried onion
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 ½ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. celery salt
1 ½ tsp. sugar

Boil water and add rice. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. This step can be done even up to 2-3 days in advance (and for some reason, fried rice tastes better when the rice is cold). Heat butter over medium heat and saute onions, carrots, and cabbage until carrots are tender. Add cooked rice, soy sauce, and seasoning to taste (you won’t even come close to using all of it; save the rest for future fried rice or use as you would seasoning salt.)

OPTIONAL ADD-INS:

–Peas, snap peas, or pea pods
–Ham
–Shrimp
–Leftover Chicken

Toss a few chopped green onion tops over your serving dish for pretty presentation…

 

 TO FREEZE: Divide into single portion sizes.  Take all the single portions and freeze together in one bag.  Remove when needed.  Thaw and warm in microwave.

Ahh, a great dinner after a LONG day

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Today may have been a minimum day for students at school, but for teachers it means meetings after the work day.  Although I may have been at school until almost 6:00, dinner was still on the table and ready to eat at 6:30.  This is because I had a plan, and dinner was already defrosted.  It also helped that hubby got dinner going.  Tonight we feasted on streak with fresh veggies.  The steak was tender and well seasoned. 

Having a plan also meant that this morning that was extremely hectic (hungry baby and up all night) didn’t prevent me from leaving with a well balanced breakfast and lunch.  Both lunch and breakfast was a repeat from earlier this month: breakfast burritos and BBQ chicken quesadillas.  Both were delicious. 

As I continue on this adventure of freezer cooking, I have become addicted to websites with recipes.  I keep finding delicious looking recipes that would be wonderful in my freezer and on my menu.  I may have to find a good deal on a stand-up freezer to hold all the yummy food I want to make!

Here’s the link to the steak recipe:

http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/main-courses/the-best-flank-steak-you-will-ever-have/

Muffins Muffins Muffins

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This weekend I came across a recipe for Lemon Poppyseed Muffins on Once a Month Mom.  I had already made all my freezer recipes for this month, but this recipe looked to good to pass up.  If you know me, You know I am not a fan of little muffins.  If I’m going to eat a muffin, let’s eat a muffin!  I made them in my jumbo muffin pan.  Oh my, did these turn out soo good.  They were super moist, thanks to the yogurt.  In fact, they didn’t even make it to the freezer.  Mason ate one right out of the oven, he’s my official taste tester, and then they were breakfast this morning.

Lunch was my pizza muffins.  These muffins received mixed reviews.  My son and I loved them, but my husband said they were awful!  So I’m not sure what to say to that.  These too were jumbo sized.  I had mine cold today, Mason heated his up.  I guess I won’t have to worry about sharing them with the hubby though.  The delicious recipe was posted yesterday.

Tonight’s dinner was supposed to be steak.  I was looking forward to a warm dinner tonight after what turned out to be a very cold day!  Winter has finally arrived.  Well, being a teacher means my job doesn’t usually end at the end of the day.  In fact, as most teachers can relate, I have been bringing home papers to correct and then I take them back to school the next day, in the same un-corrected state.  So in an effort to STOP the insanity, I went back to work this evening to correct papers instead of bringing them home.  Therefore dinner didn’t make it to the table in the planned form.  It was in the form of drive-thru.  Oh well, that means steak for dinner tomorrow and the added bonus is that my husband will be home to share it with us!

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

http://onceamonthmom.com/lemon-poppyseed-muffins/#comment-118036

Author/Source:

Kristi @ Onceamonthmom.com Adapted from Poppy Seed Poundcake Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 0.25  teaspoon salt
  • 0.5 teaspoon baking soda
  • 0.5 cups unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs (or egg substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (we use whole milk yogurt; I don’t suggest using non-fat)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat  oven to 400. Line muffin pan with paper liners or spray each muffin cup with a non stick vegetable spray. In a bowl, whisk the flour with the poppy seeds, salt, and baking soda.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in the lemon zest, yogurt, and vanilla extract until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture just until moistened. Do not over mix. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups using an ice cream scoop. Bake at 400 for about 18 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about five minutes before removing from pan.

Freezing Directions:

AFTER baking, divide among gallon freezer bags and freeze. To serve: Thaw. Microwave 30 seconds.