I have a presentation on Freezer Meals and Power Cooking on Saturday morning for 30 moms of our preschool, so I thought I would include the information that I have accumulated here for everyone to read and for anyone on Saturday morning who wants to share it. (Just a reminder, none of these links are paid or pay me. It’s just stuff I’ve found and nothing is for profit.)
Here are the Handouts and Power Cooking Recipes in PDF format.
Why Freezer Meals? Well, I started making them mainly because having a new baby doesn’t allow you a lot of time to cook. I ordered and made 3 months of meals at Time for Dinner in St. Louis after having baby Juliana and it was absolutely wonderful. Food just needed popped in the oven or crock pot and it was finished. Clean up was a breeze, I didn’t have to meal plan, and I didn’t feel like we needed to go out to eat as much as before. But making my own recipes is more fun and a little more convenient than the 45 minute drive to Time for Dinner. So, I started reading more and making more freezer friendly food — sometimes hit and miss experiments and sometimes using techniques that Time for Dinner used like the Apple Butter BBQ Pork.
1. Save Time: You are condensing repetitive dinner preparation like cooking onion, garlic and meat into one session instead of 4-5.
2. Save Money: Most of the time, eating at home is less expensive than going out to eat. But sometimes I go out to eat because I don’t have time to cook or I don’t want to deal with the dishes and freezer meals solves both problems. (Of course, then I go spend the money I saved on stuff to make more food like espresso powder and vanilla beans.)
3. Save on Last Minute Gifts: Several times a year I need to make a meal for a friend who has had a baby or who has fallen ill. I also had a few friends actually request a freezer meal instead of a fresh one because their mom would be in town to cook and clean for so long that she wanted the meals for later.
Books for Further Reading:
Some books that I have used and have great step by step guides are: Don’t Panic – Dinner’s in the Freezer, Don’t Panic – More Dinner’s in the Freezer and my friend Jackie liked Fix, Freeze, Feast. Check them out at the library and always try a few recipes before you buy. I found that most were tasty – not outstanding perhaps like Cook’s Illustrated, but good.
Method to Time Management:
There are several options and I have tried them all depending on the time I have available to me.
1. 1-2 hour freezer sessions. Here I will take the ground turkey/beef or chicken that I bought and split it up into several freezer recipes after the kids go to bed. They are asleep by 8:30pm, so I work on cooking for about 90 minutes or marinating for 60 minutes (or less).
2. Full or half day freezer sessions. This might work better if you have everything ready to go and precut like at the “make a meal” places like Time for Dinner or Dream Dinners. I made 12 meals in 3 hours when the ingredients and steps were all listed and everything already precut and ready to go.
3. No time freezer session: This is more like very little time. Instead of one batch of pancakes, make two and freezer the other one. Instead of one big 9×13 casserole of lasagna that your small family never finishes (like mine!!), split it and save the rest in the freezer. You are out little time, but have another meal all ready to go as long as you know how to freeze it.
HOW TO FREEZE MEALS
My general rule of thumb in freezing meals is this: if it is frozen in the grocery store, then I can probably freeze it at home. For example, I had seen frozen pre-chopped onion at Schnucks (St. Louis grocery store) and tried it at home – it worked! I have never seen frozen green onions/scallions and well, that does not work. My one exception is yeast breads. You can freeze pre-cooked yeast dough (like Rhodes rolls), but it is difficult to gauge how much of the yeast will die in the freezing process. Therefore, I always just bake the yeast baked goods first and freeze afterwards.
1. Bag Method: Keep everything air tight. Sometimes I even use a straw to suck out the remaining air in a ziplock bag.
2. Foil and Wrap Method: Line a baking dish with foil. Put food in it. Wrap and freeze. Then once frozen solid you can remove the food from the dish, and wrap in saran wrap.
3. Double Wrap Method: Once baked good is cool, wrap baked goods in saran wrap and then stash in a freezer bag.
(**In the photo I used and tried the Ziplock slider freezer bags. I would not recommend them. I had more freezer burn using those than regular offbrand zipper bags. The make a meal places provide Ziplock brand zipper freezer bags. In a pinch, a regular zipper bag will work, too. Just don’t use sliders!)
Lay out your cookie dough balls on a lined cookie sheet. I use silicone. You can use parchment or grease a cookie sheet. Put in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Then drop the frozen dough into a ziplock bag. Bake as many or as few as you want. You can also freeze baked cookies as well.
HOW TO ORGANIZE FREEZER MEAL MAKING
Why so glad you asked that! I made a handy dandy planner sheet. Most sheets I find online don’t have a location for the recipe. I use recipes from websites and all kinds of books, but I would forget which recipe came from where. So, I included that column as well.
1. Plan the meals you want to make. List all of the ingredients you have on hand and add what you don’t have to your shopping list.
2. Make several similar meal steps at the same time. If three recipes require sauteed onion, then saute all 3 onions at the same time.
3. Don’t overload. Start by freezing food in 1 hour, or half a day or a full day.
4. You don’t need to freeze an entire meal. Freeze some chicken, some veggies and put it all together later. Use little steps. If chicken is on sale at Schnucks for $1.89/lb. I take one night that week to divide that chicken into 4 different baggies with four different marinades.
What Do I Make?
Start off with your family’s favorite meals. Things you eat every month or every week like tacos, chili, steak, pork, chicken, fish, meatballs, etc. You can make the entire meal or just one part of it. Using a lot of lemons to make lemonade? Freeze the zest and keep it for later! Don’t be limited by accumulating an entire meal each time.
2. Taco meat
4. Pot Roast
5. BBQ Pulled Pork
6. Chicken Noodle Soup
7. Chicken strips
9. Pancakes, waffles, morning glory muffins
10. Breakfast burritos
11. Breakfast Casserole, Oatmeal
12. Stuffed French Toast
13. Marinated or Rubbed Pork
14. Marinated or rubbed chicken
15. Chocolate chip cookies
16. Chopped veggies: bell peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc.
19. Honey Butter
20. Chicken Tortilla Soup
Food You Can Freeze
-meat and fish
-chicken and turkey
-cheese, block and/or shredded (like Cheddar, Mozzerella, Monterey Jack, Colby)
-vegetables, pre-chopped (like green bell peppers, onions, carrots, etc.); but not scallions
-already baked muffins, cake, pancakes, waffles, brownies, cupcakes, bread, cookies etc.
-pureed pumpkin, carrot, squash
-soups and chili (with no potatoes)
Do Not Freeze
–potatoes (unless they are already baked and cooked like twice baked potatoes, or mashed)
-eggs (unless already baked)
HOW TO COOK MEALS FROM FREEZING
To serve, always thaw in the refrigerator. Most meals will thaw overnight and during the day to cook for dinner. Breakfast items like oatmeal and such and not thick cuts of meat and always fine for me in the morning. Pancakes and waffles can be put directly from the freezer into the microwave or toaster.
POWER COOKING – BEEF
(Most of these are based on Pampered Chef recipes although I adapted and added notes to make your own spice mixes from scratch)
Beef Base Recipe: 3 lbs 90% lean ground beef, 1 onion, 3 cloves garlic
Chop onions. Press garlic in garlic press. Place onions, beef and garlic into a 12 in skillet. Cook over medium-high heat 15-18 minutes or until beef is no longer pink.
Divide beef mixutre into 3 portions as follows:
Easy Beef Stroganoff:
8 oz sliced mushrooms, 1 can cream mushroom soup, 1/4 cup water, 1 tsp ground paprika, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
Add this to one portion of the beef mixture, combine in large resealable plastic bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.
If cooking immediately…..combine ingredients in skillet and bring to simmer over medium heat. Stir 8 oz sour cream into beef mixture. Spoon stroganoff over 1lb of cooked egg noodles.
1 cup Chunky salsa, 6 oz. tomato paste, 3/4 cup water (or chicken stock), 1 pkt taco seasoning mix**
Add this to one portion of beef mixture & combine in large resealable plastic bag. Freeze up to 3 months.
If cooking immediately…..serve with your favorite toppings and your choice of hard or soft shells.
**To avoid prepackaged stuff, I make my own: 1 Tb. cornstarch; 1 tsp. of each: garlic powder, cumin, paprika and chili powder; ½ tsp. onion powder; ¼ tsp. cayenne; OR I use now: 2 Tb. chili powder, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. coriander, ½ tsp. dried oregano, ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (or omit for kids), ½ tsp. salt and then I add 1 tsp. brown sugar and 2 tsp. cider vinegar at the end of cooking
1 cup ketchup, 2 tbsp Pampered Chef Smoky Barbeque Rub**, 2 tsp cider vinegar
Add this to one portion of beef mixture, combine in large resealable plastic bag. Freeze up to 3 months.
If cooking immediately…..combine ingredients in skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
**I make my own: ½ cup chili powder, ¼ cup brown sugar. ¼ cup kosher salt, 2 Tb. black pepper, 2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Saucy Beef Chili – Add the following ingredients to one portion of the make-ahead beef:
1 can (16 ounce) chili beans in sauce, undrained; 1 can (14.5 ounce) petite diced tomatoes, undrained; 1 ½ cups water; 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste; 1 packet chili seasoning mix**. Freeze. When it’s a chili night, just put the frozen mixture into a skillet over medium heat and cook until heated through. Once it’s hot, the chili’s ready for bowls and you can add your favorite toppings like shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onions or sour cream.
Italian Beef Hoagies
1 red & 1 green bell pepper
1/4 C. water
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 (1oz.) package onion soup mix
1 Tablespoon Italian Seasoning
Chop onion and garlic, then place in a large skillet and cook until onions are almost transparent. Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Drain off any grease from the ground beef. Add all other ingredients to the ground beef mixture and cook until heated all the way through. Serve on a hoagie roll and top with a slice of provolone cheese.
CHICKEN POWER RECIPES
Chicken Base Recipe:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tb. olive oil
1 and ½ tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix cumin, chili pepper, garlic powder and salt. Drizzle 1T olive oil on chicken breasts, then sprinkle a small amount on the chicken. Keep the rest. Bake chicken for 25 minutes or until it reaches for 165 degrees.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 Chicken Recipe
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 cup Diced Onion
¼ cups Diced Green Bell Pepper
¼ cups Red Bell Pepper
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 can (10 Oz. Can) Rotel Tomatoes And Green Chilies (for less heat/spiciness, use Tomatoes with lime and cilantro!)
32 ounces Low Sodium Chicken Stock (least expensive I found was at Aldi)
3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
2 cans (15 Oz. Can) Black Beans, Drained
3 Tbs. cornmeal
1. Shred chicken.
2. Heat 1T olive oil in a pot over medium high. Add onions, red pepper, green pepper and cook until tender. Stir and add garlic and rest of spice mix. Add shredded chicken.
3. Pour in Rotel, chicken stock, tomato paste, and black beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Simmer 45 minutes uncovered.
4. Mix cornmeal with a little water. Pour into soup and simmer 30 minutes.
5. When serving, garnish with red onions, cheddar cheese, salsa and tortilla chips
1 Chicken Recipe 1 Tb. olive oil
1 green bell pepper 1 red bell pepper 1 medium yellow onion
1. Slice chicken into strips.
2. Core and slice green bell pepper and red bell pepper and onion. Cook in skillet over medium heat with 1 Tb. olive oil and remaining seasoning until tender – about 10 minutes.
3. Add chicken with the pepper mixture and toss to reheat. Roll up a portion of the mixture into a tortilla.
1 pizza dough recipe or ball of dough from Trader Joe’s
Marinara or Pasta Sauce
Toppings: cooked sausage, green peppers, onions, etc.
1-2 Tb. Cornmeal
1. Freezing: Put mozzerella in one quart freezer bag. Put cooked sausage, green peppers, or any other freezable toppings in one quart freezer bag. Put pasta sauce in one quart freezer bag. OR*** Roll out your dough, add your sauce, toppings, etc. and Flash Freeze
2. Put all 3 quart bags into one gallon bag and label “pizza”. The next time you want pizza, thaw the pizza bag in the fridge overnight.
3. Pull out your pizza dough 20 minutes before shaping. Shape dough into pizza (size really depends on your dough. Trader Joe’s makes a 12″ pizza.) Spoon sauce, sprinkle cheese and add toppings. Place onto a baking stone or cookie sheet lined with cornmeal. Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
Linked to skiptomylou.org and http://www.ishouldbemoppingthefloor.com/2012/04/mop-it-up-mondays-13.html
Great post! I have tried to start putting some stuff in the freezer but I haven’t really started the freezer meals. It is on my to do list so I guess I will have to bookmark this page and come back soon 🙂 Thanks for the post on my blog. I have stopped by a few times recently but I had a weird computer glitch that didn’t take my post…. so in my head, I commented but didn’t come back to figure out why it didn’t work!! Thanks for all your great posts.
Amy Turnage Downey says
Thanks for sharing all of this good info at the preschool. I’m enjoying reading your blog!
I enjoyed your article/post. As a person who cooks professionally (I manage Dierbergs cooking schools test kitchen), I have two thoughts. (1) The process of getting everything together and lined up is called “mis en place,” and roughly translates to “everything in its place.” Now, besides sounding fancy, you can get yourself organized and the assembly process will go much more quickly and smoothly. If you need 4 cups of onions and “think” you have enough but don’t you end up short some place. Chop onions before you head to the store and know that you have enough or need to pick up additional. Line ingredients up by recipe. It makes assembly that much quicker. The second things is (2) Do not partially cook meat and then freeze it. Either don’t cook it at all, or cook it completely. It is a food safety issue to bring meat into the temperature danger zone (41-140 F.) multiple times. The bacteria within can flourish at those temperatures. (I’m not suggesting you do this, but a warning for others). I love to add marinade to meat/poultry and then freeze. It marinates as it thaws. Good tips and techniques. I love to see more people cooking for themselves and their families; we tend to eat healthier meals and save money if we aren’t wasting what we buy. A freezer is a fairly inexpensive appliance (so much less than a fridge), so consider purchasing one next time you have a little spare money. It will pay for itself pretty quickly.
Howdy! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group
of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!