Wednesday, September 1, 2010

day 225: freezer foods—“once a month cooking”

Twenty years ago this month I had our fourth baby—Colic Kara. (She screamed day and night non stop (except when she was nursing or asleep in my arms) for three months, not kidding!) Prior to her birth, I got a hold of a book called “Make-A-Mix Cookery.” This book, and my three hundred cans and bags of harvest that year from our garden, got me started on the concept of “mega cooking,” “freezer cooking,” “once a month cooking,” or “dinner’s in the freezer.” It began with that “mix cooking” book (which had mix recipes to replace boxed mixes, plus some freezer meat mixes, etc.), then I starting trying out different freezer entrees, etc.

Soon I was a freezer cooker---before one of the first books, “Once a Month Cooking” ever came along! As a matter of fact, I had been working for a few years on organizing my recipes for a potential freezer cooking book when that one came out. (I could never have done it because I am not a detail cook—when I have too little of something, I just throw in something else…I hate the task of figuring everything down to the teaspoon or pinch.)

Now twenty years later, we have used this concept over and over and over again—for weddings, graduations, showers, gifts, helping families in need, and, of course, for our own family. Our children can all do it to a large extent, and we always think in terms of bulk or cooking ahead whenever possible. Ten years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for us to have one to two hundred freezer entrees or sides in the freezers.

Fast forward ten years later, and time is a precious commodity since I write, teach cottage classes, homeschool, and am deeply involved in our young adults’ lives. So when Kayla was home itinerating for her first full time mission post this summer, she cooked up a storm for us and left us with over a hundred entrees and side dishes.

This post is in answer to those who have asked what, exactly, to you cook ahead and freeze? I will paste Kayla’s list below—and hopefully, I will figure out how to get my recipes posted. (Right now, when I take them from my freezer cooking program to word or blogspot, the formatting gets all messed up.)

Here you go:

*5 Florida steaks

*7 creamy hash brown casseroles

*5 Swiss steak

*5 ham loaves

*4 mashed potatoes

*3 broccoli rice casserole

*3 vegetable garden dinner

*2 broccoli soup

*4 herbed rice

*4 rice pilaf

*4 hamburger stews

*7 Grandma’s meatloaves

*8 lasagnas

*4 shepherd’s pies

*3 crock pot enchiladas

*4 salmon patties

*4 onion hamburger patties

*4 meatballs

*4 taco meat

*3 sloppy joes

*4 cooked, ground hamburger

*6 braised beef cube mix

*4 bags grilled chicken breasts

*2 Mediterrean chicken and rice

*4 crispy chicken tenders

*3 crunch ranch chicken

*2 marinated chicken breasts

These are all in various stages of preparation. For example, the meat loaves and ham loaves are totally uncooked. We just pop them in the oven. The salmon patties and grilled chicken breasts are cooked and ready to heat and eat (like you would buy in the freezer convenience section). Others are semi-cooked, like the braised beef cube mix has been partially cooked and will be finished when it is made into stroganoff or stew. Etc.

It’s so convenient—and so fast to do two or four things at once instead of one. That is a good way to get started if you would like to try your hand at it. Just another thing we found to help organize our home and make things run more smoothly. I highly recommend it.

Tomorrow—some links for resources for “cooking ahead.” And then a few recipes…then back to other organizational techniques.

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