Details of our freezer cooking cycles:
1. Crumbled cycle—these recipes are all made with crumbled ground beef. Thus, we started the morning with a couple of skillets and one full time “beef cooker” (the person frying the meat). All of the meals we did on “crumbled beef” day had ground crumbled beef or turkey in them. These recipes included, but were not limited to, the following: lasagna, spaghetti sauce, chili soup starter (condensed chili that just needed broth/tomato juice added to it on serving day), taco meat (tons!), sloppy joes, hamburger stew, enchilada casseroles, pizza burger cups, and more. (We did TONS of casseroles when the older kids were little—now my “guys” are more “meat” men, and we do fewer casseroles. This was an economical cycle—and I still use many of the “meaty” ones often today.)
2. Shaped cycle—these recipes are all made with shaped meat (chicken, beef, or salmon that is shaped into patties, balls, or loaves) or pieces of beef. They include, but are not limited to, the following: meat loaves, meat balls, ham loaves, salmon loaves, salmon patties, Florida steak, swiss steak, master beef cube mix (to be used in stroganoff and beef stew on serving day), pizza burger patties, flavored ground beef patties, beefy-vegetable soup starter, shredded beef (for casseroles, noodles, Mexican, bbq, etc. just to have on hand), etc. This has a lot of “company” recipes in it—things that I liked to have to use with guests or for carry-ins, etc.
3. Shredded chicken cycle—these recipes are all made with shredded chicken. (We used to cook whole chickens and spend the day before cooking day shredding it all, but after too many bones turned up in casseroles for my comfort level, we began buying boneless, skinless chicken breast and chicken thighs for this.) These recipes include, but are not limited to, the following: chicken noodle casserole, chicken lasagna, chicken tetrazzini (sp?), bbq chicken, hot chicken sandwich filling, chicken enchiladas, chicken taco meat, shredded chicken in broth (to use for casseroles, noodles, chicken-rice soup starter, Mexican, etc., just to have on hand), etc. This was an economical cycle that stretched far for our growing family.
4. Chicken breast cycle—these recipes were all made with whole chicken breasts or chicken breast tenders. I didn’t use this as much many years ago (too expensive) as I do now with chicken breasts so inexpensive most places today. These recipes include, but are not limited to, the following: chicken corden bleu (sp?), grilled chicken breasts, marinated chicken breasts, chicken parmesan, sour cream chicken breasts, oven fried tenders, bbq chicken breasts, Monterey chicken breasts, grilled tenders, and more. This is a yummy cycle, but like with the “shaped” one, the entrees require a potato/rice type of side dish, as opposed to lasagna, enchiladas, etc. that are more “all in one.”
6. Side dish cycle—these recipes have been evolving over the years. The first “once a month” cooking book that I used recommended not freezing potatoes (other than potato skins) or macaroni/thicker noodle as they become grainy when frozen. (Lasagna noodles do not, though…weird.) Thus, I didn’t have a large repertoire of side dishes for a long time. Now, the rule of thumb is “if ‘banquet’ or ‘Marie Callendiers’ (sp?) can freeze it, you can freeze it too.” My newer sources have mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, and more in them as freezer dishes. This cycle contains or formerly contained (depending on the stage of experimentation I was in!) the following: twice baked potatoes, hash brown casserole (made with frozen hash browns), cream cheese mashed potato casserole (made with instant mashed potatoes), mashed potatoes, vegetable medley, veggie-rice casserole, broccoli rice casserole, rice pilaf, Mexican rice, broccoli soup, scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, parmesan noodles, baked bean casserole, three bean bake, scalloped corn, green bean casserole, white sauce balls (for making white sauces for ham loaves/salmon loaves and cheese sauce for veggies, etc.), and much more.
7. Dessert cycle—I did this off and on through the years. More often than not, I just tried to make extra of anything I was making, so things would be in the freezer and ready. Some of these things included un-iced cakes that could be used for cake or for things like layered desserts, etc. or cookie dough, pies, etc. Quick breads freeze very well, so we often froze zucchini, pumpkin, carrot, applesauce, apple, and banana breads. Cookie dough balls were awesome to have on hand, as were 9 x 9’s of bars, etc. that could be pulled out and used for gathering, pot lucks, for kids to take to things, etc. We are trying to cut back on the boys’ (and mine!) sugar, so we don’t do as many of these as we used to.
Tomorrow and the weekend: reviews of “mega cooking” resources and some recipes to try!