Tag Archives: freezer

Massive Cooking Session – how’d it work out?

Now that the weekend is over, I wanted to report back on how well (or not) our cooking sessions have worked.

First, the plan was to do some chopping and prep work on Friday – I managed to get to Costco and the grocery store, and not much prep work was done except getting the beans soaking overnight.

Saturday, Dad and I worked during Daughter Person’s nap (2 hours), and we were able to chop quite a bit of veggies and cooking the beans.  Then, we worked after she went to sleep for about 3 hours.  We put aside 25 meals: 15 Ginger Beef, 4 Black Bean and Vegetable Chili, 3 Vegetable Chili, and 3 Wild Rice and Nut Bake.  (I also made 2 batches of Basic Red Sauce in there, but those aren’t meals…)

Sunday, we were at a birthday party during naptime, so we didn’t start until Daughter Person went to bed, and Dad was tired, so we put up shop at about 9:30.  We got 23 meals/sides put aside: 4 meals Beef Barley Soup, 3 of Penne with Rosemary Chicken, 16 of Rice Pilaf.

Dad is not working on Monday and Daughter Person is at daycare, and he’s supposed to be making the Chicken Curry and the Port BBQ Chicken during the day since those need cooked and cooled before they can go in the freezer bags.  Once that’s done, that’ll leave us with 6 recipes to finish.  Which is good since I’m working on Daughter Person’s birthday cake as well (2 years!) for Tuesday night.

We’re going to shoot for the Baked Ziti (and another batch of Red Sauce), Swiss Chicken, and 3 cheese spinach soup tonight.  And if we’re doing well, we can get the pork tenderloin with pears and provencal flank steak.  Maybe getting the corn muffins too, since they’re just throw stuff in the mixer (and hope the mixer is big enough).

One of the lessons we’ve learned this time around is that the Dream Dinners recipes are *huge* and our biggest mixing bowl is *not* big enough to hold a triple batch.  That makes it a little more difficult to mix since we have to break them down into 3 separate mixes.

Also, Onion Goggles are apparently pretty awesome.  Dad bought a pair, and he chopped all the onions with them – while I had to leave the room since even my eyes were tearing and I wasn’t chopping the onions.  They don’t fit my face very well, and Dad wanted to try them, so while I’ve put them on, I haven’t tested them yet.

Freezer cooking 3: Planning cooking session and shopping

After you’ve planned your meals and when you want to have them, comes what I think is one of the harder parts of massive freezer cooking – planning your cooking session and shopping session.  We’re going shopping this weekend, so now it’s time to get all this done.

Cooking Plan:
Time will tell if we follow this, but this is the plan. If things go beyond Sunday, we’ll be working in the evenings.

Friday night: Dice/chop/mince all produce, cook beans (we’re using dried instead of canned)
Saturday morning: Put ziti together, Put soups together, lay flat to freeze.
Saturday night: wrap ziti in saran wrap and remove from dishes. Cook rice pilaf while putting together ginger beef. Put Penne with Rosemary chicken in dishes.
Sunday morning: wrap Penne with Rosemary chicken and remove from dishes. Put Swiss chicken in casseroles.
Sunday night: wrap swiss chicken and remove from dishes. Put together remaining marinades/dishes.

Grocery List: (generated by plantoeat.com)

No Category
Low-fat shredded cheese blend  3 cup

Seasoned dry stuffing mix  6 cup

Beef bouillon granules  ¾ cup
Cayenne pepper  1 1⁄2 teaspoon
Cornmeal  3 cup
Dry mustard  1 1⁄2 tablespoon
Flour  5 cup
Honey  1 cup
Molasses  1 1⁄8 cup
Paprika  1 teaspoon
Pecans  1 1⁄2 cup
Salt  1⁄3 cup
Vegetable oil  5⁄8 cup
Walnuts  1 1⁄2 cup

Canned Goods
Black beans  105 oz
Chicken broth  10 cup
Cream of chicken soup  97 1⁄2 oz
Hot pepper sauce  ¼ cup
Kidney beans  165 oz
Marinara sauce  9 cup
Pear halves with syrup 45 ounces
Tomato paste  24 oz + ¾ cup
Tomato sauce  56 oz

Buttermilk  3 cup
Cheddar cheese  10 cup
Eggs  18 ct
Milk  10 cup
Mozzarella cheese  3 cup
Non-fat cream cheese  3 cup
Nonfat cottage cheese  1 1⁄2 cup
Nonfat milk  12 cup
Nonfat sour cream  1 1⁄2 cup
Parmesan cheese  1 1/2 cup
Provolone  8 oz
Swiss cheese  1 lb + 3 cup

Dry Goods
Baking powder  2 tablespoon
Balsamic vinegar  1 3⁄4 cup
Black pepper  3 7⁄8 tablespoon
Bulgur wheat  1 1⁄2 cup
Chicken bouillon granules  ¾ cup
Chili powder  5⁄8 cup
Curry powder  ¼ cup
Dried basil  2 1⁄3 tablespoon
Ground cumin  3 tablespoon
Ground nutmeg  2 teaspoon
Italian seasoning  1 tablespoon
Oregano  2 2⁄3 tablespoon
Pearl barley  2 cup
Penne pasta  3 lbs
Pepper  2 1⁄2 tablespoon
Pine nuts  2 cup
Red pepper flakes  1 1⁄2 tablespoon
Rice  24 cup
Sea salt  1 1⁄3 tablespoon
Soy sauce  5 1⁄4 cup
Thyme  2 1⁄3 tablespoon
Wild rice  3 cup
Worcestershire sauce  ¾ cup
Ziti pasta  3 lbs

Port  1⁄3 cup
Red wine  1 cup
White wine  9 cu

Beef, flank steak  6 pounds
Chicken breast  16 1⁄2 lbs + 12 oz
Diced cooked chicken  3 lbs
Ground beef  3 lbs
Italian sausage  1 1⁄2 lbs
Pork tenderloin  4 1⁄2 lbs
Stew beef  30 lbs

Ketchup  2 cup

Button mushrooms  3 cup
Carrots  23 cup
Celery  22 cup
Diced tomatoes  101 oz + 8 cup
Dried cranberries  ¾ cup
Garlic  1 tablespoon
Ginger  5⁄8 cup
Ginger Root; minced  2 tablespoon
Green bell pepper  4 each + 1 1⁄2 cup
Lemon juice  2 tablespoon
Mushrooms  1 lb
Onion  31 3⁄4 cup
Parsley  7⁄8 cup
Red bell pepper  1 1⁄2 cup
Rosemary  1⁄3 cup
Scallions  3 each + 36 ct
Shallots  12 + 5 oz
Spinach  30 oz
Zucchini  3 cup

Freezer cooking 2: Planning your meals

I’ve been trying to plan our meals for the last two weeks, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I really suck at it.  We operate more on the “what’s in the freezer/fridge this week?” meal planning.  Every Friday, I look at the list of what’s in the freezer (handily on the upstairs fridge), and fill in our meal plan for the week.  Then on whichever weekend morning I’m getting up with Daughter Person, we head to the grocery to get anything we need for the week – mostly fresh stuff.

So, that leaves me without a multi-month plan.  Which I’m OK with.  If you’re more of the need to plan better type – you’ll need to write down what you want to eat on every day you’ll need food.  We just plan dinner for the most part, although I’m starting to get into planning lunches as well, so that we have more interesting lunches.  At this point, for me, the lunches are just left overs, but this go-round, we’re making more interesting lunches for Dad.

Once you’ve gotten your plan ready – whether you’re going with my wing-it method or the more traditional write it all down method, we’re ready to move onto the next part – planning your cooking session(s) and shopping.

Freezer cooking 1: Picking your recipes

The first time I did a really massive cooking spree – I picked too many recipes. While hubby and I enjoyed the variety and the fact that we haven’t bought meat in 4 months, we both think we picked too many. We picked 24 recipes. They were heavy on the vegetarian and fish side since I was not going to be eating for most of a month, and Dad and Daughter Person like fish – I won’t touch it. Some of the recipes we didn’t like and won’t be making again – Like Thai Red Curry – I didn’t like making it anyway, needed too many strange ingredients. However, some we absolutely loved and will be making multiple batches of this time (Ginger Beef). I also acquired a new cookbook in a similar style – Dream Dinners – and I will try a few new recipes from there. The plan is to limit ourselves to several recipes and make multiple batches of the ones we know we like. We’re also picking a variety of recipes for dinner, breakfast, and lunch, so they can be mixed and matched. Dad wants mostly vegetarian meals for lunches, so a lot of these recipes are for his lunch.

On the recipe list:
Ginger Beef (Fix, Freeze, Feast)
Rice Pilaf (Fix, Freeze, Feast)
Wild Rice and Nut Bake (Fix, Freeze, Feast)
Black Bean and Vegetable Chili (Fix, Freeze, Feast)
Basic Red Sauce (Fix, Freeze, Feast) – for the vegetable chili
Chicken Curry (Fix, Freeze, Feast)
Port Barbequed Chicken (Fix, Freeze, Feast)
Beef Barley Soup (Fix, Freeze, Feast)
Three Cheese Spinach Soup (Dream Dinners)
Corn Bread Muffins (Dream Dinners)
Penne with Rosemary Chicken (Dream Dinners)
Baked Ziti (Dream Dinners)
Provencal Flank Steak (Dream Dinners)
Pork Tenderloin with Pears (Dream Dinners)
Swiss Chicken (Dream Dinners)
Vegetable Chili (Dream Dinners)

I know this list is a bit longer than we initially planned, but there’s mostly new stuff in there. We want to try some new recipes (and Dad really loves new things), and so, I’m leaning towards trying new things (and less of them) than repeating older things. Most of the Dream Dinners recipes are only 3 meals rather than the full Costco size tray (although we’re still going shopping at Costco for the meat).

Once you’ve got the recipes picked out, the next step is to plan them out on a menu – this is where I generally fall short….

Massive Freezer cooking session planned

I’m planning on being out of town for pretty much most of September and October.  Some of that I’ll be overseas in Switzerland, but some I’ll be in the states.  I’m taking off the week after Labor Day to just chill and plan all of our meals for September and October.  I’ve never actually meal planned more than a week, so this will be entertaining.  I’ll be planning over Labor Day weekend, and shopping at Costco that Tuesday, then cooking Tuesday evening into Wednesday.  Leaving Dad with two months worth of food for him and Daughter Person.  I’m a little disappointed that I won’t be able to enjoy some of the fruits of my labor, but that means I’ll also be cooking things that I wouldn’t normally eat so that Dad has more variety.

I’m looking forward to the challenge, and as soon as I’ve got things planned out, I’ll be posting here to share details.

Freezer cooking

I’ve done once a month cooking before (you cook a whole month’s worth of food at once), and I’m just not a huge fan – I don’t really like casseroles (not even lasagna), and unfortunately, a good portion of the recipes for the freezer are casseroles.  After Daughter Person was born, we went to Dinner Done with my mom’s group, and I learned that freezer food could be good!  We had always bought large amounts of meat at Costco and put it in the freezer – but we always had to thaw and then fix something.  With the Dinner Done style meals, we would just have to remember to thaw something – or force thaw it in the sink.

We started pretty simply with marinades that we liked added to the meat before we froze it.  Weight Watchers has a great Korean-style flank steak recipe that we like, so we tried that, and some lemon pepper marinade.  They turned out pretty well.  So we got adventurous.  I went and bought Fix, Freeze, Feast from Amazon, and we tried a bunch of recipes near the beginning of July.  The book is organized well for folks like us who shop at Costco and buy big packages of things.  We only tried 6 recipes: Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Rice Pilaf, 4Bs flank steak, Caribbean Pork, Sweet-Asian Chicken, and Tequila-Lime Chicken.  All are excellent!  We make a trip to Costco about every other month, so the next experimenting will be in September, but we have enough food in our freezer to last until then.

Instead of cooking your food before you put it in the freezer, you just prepare it, then cook it when you thaw it – and most of the cooking instructions have been “grill”, because we’re not interested in heating up the house with the oven.  No worrying about what spices we have, or what to do with the hunk of meat, just thaw the night before (usually sufficient) and grill.  The food tastes fresh – not like leftovers, and it’s quick.  The disadvantage is that you have to have somewhere in your fridge to store all of the meat you bring home from Costco before you prep it all.  What we did was buy a bag of ice and put the meat in a cooler until we were ready for it – but our new fridge is massive and I think we’ll be able to use it next time.
Are we saving money with it?  Most definitely yes.  We’re not ordering out as much – and we’re even eating in on the weekends (at least for dinner).  The meat is the same price whether we prepare it before putting it in the freezer or afterwards, and we’re saving a little bit by buying the Costco sized potatoes, veggies, etc for the prep.  But the big savings are in time and knowing we have a meal ready.