Monday, February 25, 2013

Freezer Meals and Batch Cooking tips

A friend on Facebook asked if anyone had ideas for freezer meals. Stuff you can make up and freeze for easy meals later. This is a project I've been working on for the last year, but felt I hadn't gotten as far as I'd have liked with it. Then I started typing... and realized just how much I'd learned!

Well I spent 20 minutes writing up a list for her, and thought it might be a helpful reference for others. If I don't have a recipe for something and I'd like one from me, feel free to comment and I'll write one up.

* Tip: When cooking casseroles from frozen, put them in a cold oven. It decreases the likelihood of your dish shattering. 

Non-Soups:
Broccoli Mac

Sloppy Joes (in this house is usually lentil sloppy joe's because it's one of the vegetarian meals Pops truly LIKES)

Marinara sauce (because I didn't have canning supplies until recently

Sausage gravy! I love making a batch of sausage gravy and then being able to heat it up in the microwave on a whim for breakfasts (usually)

Shepherd's Pie freezes great!

Mashed potatoes heat up from frozen in a 400 degree oven in a couple hours, but are much better if you thaw them first.

I like to cook ground beef or even stew/steak chunks, spread it on a cookie sheet and freeze it, then dump the crumbles into a bag. This makes it easy to add some beef to an otherwise vegetarian soup/stir fry/etc. dish, like chili or mushroom barley soup. Also along this line, buying burger in bulk, seasoning it, and freezing it in patties on cookie sheets so they come out one at a time. Black bean patties are supposed to work great this way, though I haven't tried that myself yet.

* Tip: If you're overwhelmed with the idea of stocking your freezer with easy meals for later, I have one suggestion: Cook more. That's it. Make yourself a list of the things you want in your freezer, map them out over the next few weeks, and make them for dinner (or lunch or whatever). Then, when you're making it, make an extra batch or two. You don't even have to do it every day, a few days a week will get your freezer stocked pretty quickly. Then it's all about maintaining some stock. If you make an extra casserole every time you make one, then plan ahead to have two casserole days each week: One on a busy day to make dinner easy by pulling it straight from the freezer, and one on a lighter day where you can make two. 

Lasagna (don't cook the noodles; I don't anyway, but the longer cooking time would make the super mushy if cooked ahead)

Enchiladas

Jambalaya/gumbo

Baked potatoes (? haven't tried this yet)

Darn near any traditional pasta/rice/potato casserole with cream of crap soup and some sort of meat and veggies (I make my own cream of crap soup from scratch, super easy, and freeze in 12 oz portions, but if I were going to make casseroles to freeze I'd do both at the same time)

I caramelized a HUGE batch of onions into onion goop and froze it in baby food jars, perfect for thawing out the night before I know I want a turkey sandwich or portobella melt (yummmm). You could also caramelize them a little less so the onions are still individual, which would make french onion soup an easy dish later. I don't like french onion soup that's frozen with the onions and brotyh together, YMMV.

* Tip: I have an overabundance of casserole dishes, but some people don't. You could go to your local thrift store and buy some in the best sizes for your family, or you could line the pan with freezer paper before you put the food in; then you fill with food, freeze, remove the paper (from the food too) and freeze in a bag or wrapped up in plastic wrap. When ready to cook, pop the food back into the same casserole dish and bake. This way you have use of your casserole dish when you're not actively freezing something. If you find that the food is not slipping right back into your pan, next time try lining the pan with a layer of cardboard between the pan and the paper, giving yourself a little gap of leeway. 

Soups:
Potato Leek/Baked Potato (only difference is the leeks, because I top with cheese and bacon and sour cream regardless)

Wild Rice and veggie, similar to mushroom barley

Chili (I usually make it too thick and then thin with stock or tomatoes when I reheat, just to save space)

Split pea (great vegetarian, or with ham, bacon, smoked turkey leg, even just chicken)

Chicken stew, reheat with fresh dumplings from Jiffy mix

So. Many. Soups. Nothing with pasta, bad bad plan. Add the pasta when you heat up later. Most of these even reheat well in the crockpot, I just dump the frozen block of soup in and turn it on high, it's usually reheated in a couple hours.

2 comments:

  1. I'm wanting to do a garden this year but afraid we will be too busy! Looks like you are doing raised beds? Does that go well?

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    Replies
    1. Our lot was the rock pit for the subdivision as it was being built, and it's not MUCH of an exaggeration to say that it's pretty much just sod on top of rocks with some dirt thrown in to fill the cracks. Plus, two of the three gardeners aren't able to get on the ground to do much, so we will be building our beds on legs. Raised beds are simply a must here!

      Bonus, raised beds are typically warmer than in-ground beds, and certainly easier to make "cold frames" which I've gathered to mean putting windows on top for in-bed greenhouses. In our location, being able to do that would mean we can grow almost anything year-round, and even get better results from our tomatoes and peppers. I'm pretty excited.

      Thanks for commenting!

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