To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Freezer Cooking

I've been a busy bee in my kitchen today. With the munchkin's school starting in just a little more than a week and my piano teaching term starting the following week, I'm feeling the pressure to get some food prepared and frozen to make our busy year a little easier.

I've set a goal for myself to make 28 freezer meals by mid-September. This will give me at least one meal prepared to throw in the crockpot, oven, or microwave for every full week of my piano teaching year from October forward. I also want to have several recipes of soup frozen in single serving packages to make them easy for hubby to grab and go for work lunches and several recipes of muffins for breakfast and school snacks.

Today, I've made a double batch of spaghetti sauce, enough to freeze one and have spaghetti for supper tonight. Since I have already frozen chicken pot pies, a bag of Chicken Cacciatore, and another of Honey Garlic Chicken, I've still got 24 meals to go. Sounds like a lot, but I have a plan.

In September, I'm going to host a Wildtree freezer meal workshop! They've developed a great little program for putting together freezer meals that are economical and healthy. You buy a packet of seasonings and oils, bring your meat and vegetables, and then at the workshop, we all assemble 10 meals in zip bags to freeze. I plan to use the seasonings I have left over to make another 10, meaning I will only need to make 4 more meals before the party, and I should have all of my 28 meals done with ease!

Here are the recipes I've used so far or know I will be using. (These are not the Wildtree recipes.) None of these are specifically written to be freezer recipes, but there's no reason they can't be. There's nothing in them that can't be frozen.

Chicken Cacciatore
Combine ingredients in a zip-bag and freeze. To cook, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then follow recipe directions to cook in the crockpot. `

Honey Garlic Chicken
Same plan as above

Spaghetti sauce - no recipe, just browned ground beef and jarred sauce. Cook, cool, place in zip-lock and freeze. Thaw overnight in refrig, then warm in the microwave.

Chicken Pot Pies
These are frozen already cooked. Thaw overnight in refrigerator then warm up to eat.

Crockpot Peppercorn Steak

Ham and Cheese Sliders
I froze these to take on our beach trip, and they came out great. I assembled the sandwiches without the topping, then froze them in a single layer in zip bags. I put all of the sauce ingredients together in a small zip bag and froze that, too. Then, I just thawed the sandwiches, melted the sauce ingredients in the microwave, and followed the baking directions in the recipe. You'd never have known any of it was frozen. (BTW, I just used mayo on the sandwiches. Don't care for the Miracle Whip.)

Split Pea Soup With Ham

Broccoli Cheese Soup
I've read that cream-based soups can separate in the freezer. The trick seems to be to thaw it slowly (like overnight in the refrigerator, not quickly in the microwave), and then be prepared to use an immersion blender to blend it all back together. As long as it tastes good, I'm not sure I care much.

Pasta e fagioli
Purists will say that the pasta should be added later after thawing because it will become soft in the freezer. Again, I'm not that picky.

Pumpkin muffins

Blueberry Muffins

This is the recipe my mother uses. I've tried several recipes, but keep coming back to this.

2 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 cups plain, all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup blueberries (I usually use a little more.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the sour cream, then the eggs. (I do it this way because I usually melt the butter in the microwave. The sour cream cools it off before I add the eggs, and this keeps them from cooking in hot butter.)

Sift the dry ingredients together. Add the blueberries. Fold berry and flour mixture into egg mixture until just blended. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins.  Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 16-20 standard-sized muffins, depending on the size of your tins. If baking mini muffins, check them for done-ness after 13-14 minutes.

High Fiber Energy Muffins
These sound too healthy to be tasty, but I love them, and even the munchkin likes them.

1/2 cup plain, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup wheat germ
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups bran flake and raisin cereal
1/3 cup chopped dates or raisins (optional)
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. low-fat milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
2/3 cup applesauce
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Mix first 9 ingredients (through milk) together in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Combine egg, applesauce, brown sugar, and butter. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture just until moistened. Fill muffin tins until 2/3 full. Bake at 400 for 15-18 minutes.

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