Monday, May 24, 2010

Freezer Cooking

[I started this post more than a month ago, but I'm finally finishing it now, a few days before we freezer cook again!]

I like to eat. But cooking is another story. It's not that I mind the actual cooking. I just get discouraged when it takes some time to prepare a meal, usually during the time of the day when Ben wants to eat and Cate is eager for Daddy to get home. Then we eat it and I'm left with dishes and a counter top to clean.

So the idea of cooking a bunch of stuff at once, with a friend, is completely appealing. Then I have lots of meal choices with little effort required from 4 to 5 p.m. We cooked so much this last time [our third time together ...] that I had to rearrange the freezer twice to make it all fit.

As of last week, we have a freezer! It's an upright freezer with lots of room for lots of food. I am looking forward to filling it ... or at least coming close!

But for now I thought I'd share some of our freezer cooking day last month, which involved ...

10 recipes [which we doubled and still managed to produce more than one meal each]
4 whole chickens
11 lbs. of ground beef
36 chicken breasts
16 porkchops

We cooked from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., although that time involved feeding my baby twice, changing a few diapers, feeding three other kids lunch, and a trip to Dollar General Store for the cream of mushroom soup we forgot.

Our recipes usually come from "Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer" and more recently "Don't Panic - More Dinner's in the Freezer." We also use other recipes we like that freeze well, such as lasagna, manicotti, broccoli casserole, hashbrown casserole and taco soup.

It's best to come into the cooking day with a plan. And plenty of pans. Although the more you can freeze in gallon-sized Zip-loc bags the better, at least in terms of space.

Here are some recipes we've enjoyed, but I highly recommend "Don't Panic - More Dinner's in the Freezer ...

Parmesan Garlic Chicken
From "Don't Panic - More Dinner's in the Freezer"

6 boneless chicken breasts
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 envelope Italian dressing mix
2 gloves garlic (I just used minced garlic)
1/2 cup olive oil

Cooking day instructions
Mix together cheese, garlic and Italian mix. Dip chicken breasts in olive oil, then coat with cheese mixture. Store in freezer bag.

Serving day instructions
Thaw completely before cooking. Place in greased baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

Hawaiian Chicken
From "Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer"

6 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
2 16 oz. cans pineapple slices, drained
2 15 oz. cans mandarin oranges, drained
1/4 cup cornstartch
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 t. salt
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. red pepper (or less …)
Green pepper

Cooking day instructions
Place chicken in freezer bag. Mix together remaining ingredients except green pepper and pour over chicken in bag. Freeze.

Serving day instructions
Thaw chicken mixture. Place in Crock Pot and cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours. Add green pepper to Crock Pot one hour before serving. Serve over rice.

Colorado Beef Enchiladas
From "Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer"

1 1/4 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 T. taco seasoning
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 small can mild green chiles, chopped
1 6-8 oz. green chile salsa
1/4 cup water
Vegetable oil, for quick frying
12 corn tortillas
1 lb. cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

1 15 oz. can red chile enchilada sauce
1 15 oz. can green chile enchilada sauce
1/3 cup sour cream
3 T. milk

Cooking day instructions
Brown meat and diced onion in skillet on medium heat. While meat is browning, prepare sauce (see below). Drain meat and return to pan; add dry taco seasoning, salt, pepper, green chiles, green salsa and water. Mix well, cover and simmer on very low heat for 15 minutes. Check meat mixture to see if most of the water has been absorbed. The meat should remain moist. Adjust seasonings at this point, if desired. Cover and keep warm.

Sauce: In medium bowl, combine red and green enchilada sauces, sour cream and milk. Whisk together until well blended and smooth. (Add more milk or sour cream if you want a less intense sauce.)

In a smaller pan, add 3 T. oil and heat over medium heat. Dip each corn tortilla in oil for a couple seconds and promptly place on plate lined with paper towels to drain excess. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Assemble: In 9x13 baking dish, pour 3/4 cup of sauce on bottom to cover dish. Place a single layer of tortillas in sauce. Top with layer of half of the meat mixture, then sprinkle with cheese. Repeat tortilla, meat, cheese layers. Pour remaining sauce over layers and top with cheese. Cool. Freeze.

Serving day instructions
Thaw completely. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Taco Soup
1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 package ranch-style dressing mix
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 cup water
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes with green chilies
2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans
1 can (15 ounces) black beans
1 can (15 ounces) cream-style corn

Cooking day instructions
Brown beef with onions. Then combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cook a few hours on low. Freeze in Zip-loc.

Serving day instructions
Reheat in slow cooker. Top with sour cream and corn chips.

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