Sunday, October 31, 2010

Frozen Assets-Freezer Cooking Master List!

For this post, I'm going to list the food items I selected for the freezer cooking day. I consulted several books, blogs, etc...

So, this will be a LONG post. I'm including all the list, and recipes (some will be linked in the list). Now, bear in mind that I decided to alter our usual shopping trip this time. I've got enough meals planned to get us until Thanksgiving break and not all of them are freezer. I'll make sure to mark which ones are which. :)

I'll also make as short list of supplies that you'll need to have for freezer cooking days and items that are not freezer friendly. Okay-here we go!!

Master Freezer Cooking List:

*Pumpkin muffins
*Whole wheat chocolate chip pancakes

*Cheeseburger meatloaf
*Pizza dough (x2 batches) (I like to make four pizzas from each batch so everyone can make their own...bake them just until they are barely cooked, cool, and wrap them individually in foil or press n seal wrap, then bag them in batches)
*Chicken pot pie
*Sloppy joes
*Sausage rigatoni (x2)
*Chicken stir fry
*Bean burritos
*Stuffed shells

*Marinated chicken (x3)


Non-Freezer List (if you want any of these recipes, just send me a message and I'll get them to you!)

Apple BBQ crockpot chicken, spinach/ham/cheese pasta, crunchy ranch chicken, Brunswick stew, Balsamic dijon crockpot pork, roast beef/veggies

Supplies: I shop at the Dollar tree for the best value on freezer containers (I like the aluminum take-out style containers), but here are some tips:

*Choose glass or aluminum storage containers (hard plastic ones may crack or break and may not be microwave safe)

*If using plastic storage BAGS (these are safe!), be sure they are listed FREEZER not just storage or you may suffer freezer-burned or spoiled food.

*You will also need a cookie sheet for freezing individual or bagged items

* a tip: acidic items (lemon and tomato based items) can eat through aluminum. If using aluminum storage for those items, spray them first with non-stick cooking spray to avoid this problem!

*You can line baking dishes with foil, put your foods in them, and freeze. When frozen solid, remove the food, double wrap, and stack as "bricks."


Chicken pot pie:

1 cup cooked, cubed chicken

1 8oz block cream cheese, softened

1 can cream of chicken soup (undiluted)

1 can mixed vegetables

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 unbaked refrigerated pie crust

Mix cream cheese and soup. Add in chicken, veggies, and seasonings. Stir to combine. Pour into greased 8x8 pan. Top with pie crust (either trim edges or fold them over) and make slits to vent. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown or freeze unbaked. To cook from frozen: thaw in refrigerator 4-5 hours before baking and cook as directed or put directly into oven for 1 hour 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Sausage Rigatoni

1 lb sausage, cooked and drained

1 lb penne pasta (cooked to package directions)

1 jar favorite pasta sauce

1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese

Combine sausage, pasta, and sauce (if freezing, you may want to use extra sauce as the pasta will absorb some...also, you may want to keep the pasta on the "firmer" side of cooking if you plan to freeze, since it will cook more when reheated). Top with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or freeze. To cook from frozen: thaw in refrigerator for 4-5 hours before baking and cook as directed, or put directly in the oven and cook for 1 hour or until hot all the way through.

*Note: this makes one heaping 9x13 or two 8x8 pans. I am choosing for this to make 2 8x8 pans

Chicken stir-fry

1 cup chicken, cut into bite sized pieces

1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 tbsp oil (canola or vegetable)

1 bag frozen stir fry veggies (we like the sugar snap pea blend)

1/2 cup teriyaki glaze

Put oil into skillet and turn onto medium high. When oil is hot, sprinkle chicken with garlic powder and add to pan. Cook chicken until no longer pink. Add in veggies and glaze. Stir to combine and cover. Cook 10-15 minutes until the veggies are crisp-tender (keep them on the crisper side if freezing). Serve with hot, cooked rice and sliced pineapple. If freezing, pour into freezer safe container. To reheat-thaw in the refrigerator and add to skillet to warm through or heat in a mircrowave safe container. (You can cook the rice ahead and freeze too-put in a separate freezer bag and attach to the stir fry in the microwave)

Stuffed Shells

1 box pasta shells, cooked according to package directions (keep on the firmer side if freezing)

1 15oz container part-skim ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded mozzerella cheese

1 tbsp italian seasoning blend

Jar of favorite pasta sauce

Combine ricotta, cheeses, and seasoning. Put a heaping spoonful in each shell. (to freeze, place stuffed shells on cookie sheet in freezer. Freeze until firm-a couple hours tops, then place into freezer bags appropriate for each meal). Put a thin layer of pasta sauce on the bottom of 8x8 pan. Place shells in the pan. Top with sauce and bake 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Marinated Chicken
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (this will vary depending on the size/appetite of your family: 3 full-size breast pieces or 5 tenderloins is sufficient for our family per meal)

Marinade of choice (Italian dressing, hawaiian, and lemon pepper are favorites)

*hawaiian marinade: 1 small can pineapple juice, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp brown sugar

*lemon pepper marinade: 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/4 cup lemon juice, coarse

ground black pepper to taste

Put chicken in freezer safe bag with marinade of choice. Freeze flat on cookie sheet. Stack in freezer. To use: thaw in refrigerator overnight. Grill or bake until chicken is cooked through.

What NOT to freeze!

When making your list, some items just don't freeze well, and that should be considered.

*Lettuce/cabbage/etc...will be soggy and mushy when re-heated

*Pasta and rice should be slightly undercooked before freezing (they will cook some when reheated and if overcooked, will become mushy)

*Eggs will become rubbery in texture

*Milk and cream sauces (with the exception of cream cheese which has a different texture), will likely separate when re-heated

*Fried foods will become soggy

Next post will be after freezer cooking day (should be tomorrow as it's a day off school so hubby can watch the kids!).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Frozen Assets...Post 1

It's been a while since I wrote a blog post. I've known what I wanted my next subject to be, but I've been doing some research the past month or so, trying to formulate a plan that will work for us. This will be a series of posts-this first one will deal with the basics (followed later by the shopping trip and cooking day posts).

I've read numerous blogs, books, and talked to several people about freezer cooking. I made an attempt at it once before, but it wasn't entirely successful. Hopefully I've refined my knowledge on the subject so that I can make this a monthly staple. Some things I've read suggest cooking the entire month's worth of meals (30 meals) to put in the freezer. That isn't a good option for us because it calls for lots of repeat meals, and very precise shopping. However, I've decided to cook 14 meals, to use at our discretion throughout the month.

Why cook ahead? Well...there are a lot of good reasons.
*Saves cooking and cleaning time during the week! Can you imagine a whole week where you never have to clean up cooking utensils? It also prevents that rush during busy nights. Just grab a meal out of the freezer and pop in the oven!
*It's a portion control device. A lot of items I make (specifically pastas and casseroles), make WAY more food than we need for the meal and a day of leftovers. We end up grossly overeating and still throwing away food. So, it's just as easy to make the same amount on cooking day, but separate it into two freezer containers. Voila! Two meals ready to go. And, should you need an extra meal to take to a sick friend or have unexpected company, you are no worse for wear.
*It's money saving. Planning ahead, freezing meals, and having easy to prepare side dishes makes for quick meals. You can control your impulse spending on fast food and eating out this way. Also, the planning portion allows for a chance to implement coupons and other seasonal deals.

Don't have a big freezer? No problem! You can freeze meals flat, in zip-top bags and stack them (a dozen meals takes up only half of a traditional top of fridge freezer)...they do require more prep time when you plan to eat them, but more on that later. I DO recommend getting a deep freeze if you have space (even a garage, laundry room, or corner of a kitchen are good options) because they allow for bulk purchases. Even consider sharing a deep freeze with a friend who has space for one (Maybe they can even exchange a couple of ready-to-eat meals for your freezer space!)

How do you cook for a day with kids under foot? Hire a sitter, send them out with dad, or find a friend who will exchange watching them for food or their own cooking day.

So that's the basics. On the next post, I'll include the meal plan and shopping list. After that, I'll post with actual shopping and cooking days. I'd love for some people to try out this with me!!