Friday, June 28, 2013

Sweet Summer Time

It's HOT!  It has been sweltering here the last week or so.  Super hot days, followed by muggy, thunderstorm filled nights.  My garden certainly isn't complaining!  The hot weather is the inspiration for my post today.  When we say "freezer friendly" or "freezer cooking" that doesn't just mean dinners!  Meghan Loc makes a mean breakfast burrito, I make homemade egg "McMuffins" for my hub and today I've made a snack/breakfast/healthy dessert to keep in my freezer.

I made yummy Greek yogurt "Popsicles."  So super easy and the combinations are endless!  I got these super cute and tiny popsicle molds from my grocery store not too long ago.  I made these pops with vanilla Greek yogurt, Kashi Go Lean Crunch and  some Berry Greek Frozen Yogurt I had already made in my freezer/

I simply layered a scoop of the vanilla yogurt, some Kashi, some Frozen Yogurt and then more vanilla yogurt.  I popped the lids on and they are currently sitting in my freezer!  Really the possibilities are could add fresh fruit, jelly, granola, any kind of cereal, any kind of yogurt...

Frozen Yogurt Breakfast Pops
1-2c of your favorite yogurt (I used vanilla flavored Greek Yogurt)
4 TBSP of Kashi Go Lean (or granola)
4 TBSP of Berry Greek Frozen Yogurt

Berry Greek Frozen Yogurt (Jamie Oliver)
1 cup yogurt (I used plain Greek, but use any that you have)
2 cups frozen berries 
2-3 tablespoon honey 
A few Mint sprigs

Blend in food processor until smooth and creamy.  

Here they are mid freeze:

I promise a better picture of the final product...still working on that camera!

Stay full and cool!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

So We Meet Again!

Oh last night was so much fun!  Yesterday was my last day of school (teachers had to go back Monday & Tuesday for PD time), and ending my day with cooking club was such a wonderful way to start my summer! I've said it before, and I'll say it again...LOVE these ladies!  We even said last night...even if we don't cook, let's still have cooking club meetings to have girl time!

I had a random burst of inspiration one day and asked Angela what she thought about Cooking Club: BBQ Edition--Burgers.  She was down so I emailed the rest of the ladies and our menu this month was born!

On our menu this month we have:
Angela: Chicken tequila burgers
Meghan Loc: Buffalo chicken burgers
Andrea: pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches AND pizza burgers (someone had their fancy pants on!)
Meghan Lo (me!): Balsamic, Bacon & Onion Jam stuffed burgers

Beth couldn't join us this month because she recently gave birth to sweet baby Roman, but that doesn't mean her freezer stays empty!  We started our tradition for Andrea before she had Christian and we're continuing it on for the other new (or soon to be new) moms in our group.  Beth got some burgers and since Meghan Loc is about to pop (and still looks adorable, by the way) we all made an additional meal for her! (Angela made her salsa chicken and I made chicken cacciatore.  Andrea loaded her up with extra burgers.)

After lots of snacking, tomato pie, yummy lemon-mint water (half of our group are pregos!), and gossiping we finally swapped meals and said our good byes.  Next time we see Meghan Loc she will be holding Baby Tank in her arms (that'd be the baby's nickname...she doesn't plan on giving birth to the hulk).

These recipes and freezing instructions can be found under our "recipes" page.

Let us know: What's your favorite burger to throw on the grill?

Stay full!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Revisiting an old recipe

I happen to have my nice Nikon camera out in our office from Mother's Day (when I finally pulled it off the shelf...).  It was a great wedding gift from my parents (thanks, Mom & Dad).  Since it was within easy reach, I decided it would be fun to snap some photos as I prepared a recipe for my freezer.  (Disclaimer: I may have gotten married four years ago...but I'm still learning how to work this camera!)

I wanted comfort food (my all time favorite) on our menu this week, so I revisited an old freezer meal: Chicken and Stuffing Bake .  I used the measurements and recipe that can already be found on our blog, but divided everything by two and made 2 meals for the freezer...expect one never made it to the freezer...we had it for dinner last night.  It was THAT yummy, we just couldn't wait!

Here are the ingredients:

 Then I mixed the milk and cream of chicken soup.

 Poured half over each tray of chicken breasts (2 in each tray).

 Letting my stuffing cool.  (I also may have taste tested it...several times.)

Then I packed half of the stuffing mixture in each tray, trying my best to keep it on top of the chicken. 
(no idea why the date is off..)

Then I wrapped both tightly in foil, labeled and placed in my freezer.

To cook: thaw and then bake at 375 for about 40 minutes to an hour.  I left mine covered, and then about 3/4 of the way through the cooking time I took the cover off.  ENJOY! 

I've also seen a very similar recipe on pinterest for the slow cooker...has anyone tried it?

Stay full!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Slow Cooker Spaghetti

So I've been seeing it a lot on Pinterest...I've even pinned several varieties myself, but have never attempted cooking pasta in my Crock Pot.  

Well, tonight I tried it.  And I'll do it again!

I pinned this recipe to our Freezer Friendly board not too long ago.  It looked super yummy and my kid will eat pasta and sauce like it's going out of style, so that's a major win in our household.  I made several adjustments to the recipe (due to lack of them...) but it still turned out great.  My hubs even said it was a keeper, and he's pickier than our toddler!  

I signed up for emails for more slow cooker (crock pot...what do you call it?) recipes  from the site.  YUM!

Below is the recipe with my adjustments:
1 lb ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
24 ounces spaghetti sauce
8 ounces (uncooked) spaghetti, about 2/3 of a 13.25 oz box, break into small pieces before adding to meat mixture
2 cups low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Kosher or sea Salt to taste

Sauté onion and garlic until softened, about 2-3 minutes.  Add beef and cook in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking into small pieces while cooking. Ensure the beef loses its pink color before removing from heat. Drain, discard any fat and set aside. Combine meat with marinara and broken spaghetti pieces.
In a medium bowl combine cooked meat with the remaining ingredients, add to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 2-3 hours or until spaghetti is al dente and cheese is bubbly.
Serve and sprinkle with parmesan if desired.
I used my crock pot liner (easy clean up!) and cooked on high for about 2 hours.  I started on low, but I'm impatient and I didn't feel like it was getting hot enough all the way through.  

To make this recipe FREEZER FRIENDLY: 

1. Brown beef with onions and garlic, then set aside and cool completely.
2. Combine beef with spaghetti sauce and cheeses and S & P.
3. In a gallon freezer bag, add beef/cheese/sauce mixture, closing tightly to remove as much air as possible.  
4.  Break up pasta and place pieces in small Ziploc bag. (Now, you could just do this step when you are ready to cook the meal, too). 
5.  Place bag of pasta and bag of sauce into a larger gallon bag (keeping it all together) and label and freeze.

When you're ready to cook

1.  Thaw completely in fridge.                 
2. Mix to bags together.
3. Place mixture in your crock pot (that is fitted with a liner) and cook!

Stay full!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Night Feast

I did say in my last post I want to blog more frequently so I'm back already! I don't know about you, but it was a long Friday. Lots of icky rainy here from Tropical Storm Andrea.
I was excited that I had thought ahead to take out crab cakes for dinner tonight. It was a great meal to end the week with and since it was a freezer meal---no big mess to clean! 

The recipe I used was from (I simply adore that blog!) When I cooked a few weeks ago I doubled the recipe (easy!) and made two batches of 4 cakes each. I put the cakes in a round aluminum foil tin and wrapped tightly with foil. I also labeled with the contents and cooking directions before putting in the freezer. I usually label with the date as well, but crab cakes never last long in our house! I served them over a bed of baby spinach. I put the hot cakes on the spinach to give it a slight wilt. Along side for a starch I nuked some frozen steam-in-the-bag potatoes (don't judge me). All in all, a quick yummy meal!
I used silver sharpie on silver foil...whoops!

half way done cooking!

the final products!

Baked Crab Cakes 

Makes 8 cakes

16 oz crab meat 
20-25 crackers, crushed
2 eggs, beaten
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
2 tbsp mayo
handful (or more!) chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced
s & p

Bake at 400 degrees, about 15 mins on each side.

1. Assemble your tins, foil and markers to freeze.
2.  Toss all ingredients, except crab meat in a medium bowl and mix together.
3.  Gently add in crab meat.
4. Form into patties.  The original recipe calls for using a 1/2 cup measuring cup and it's pure genius! 

Tear off foil, label with date, name and cooking instructions. Place 4 patties in tin and cover tightly with foil. Pop that yummy goodness into your freezer!

To cook:
Thaw over night in refrigerator.  Remove foil and bake in oven as directed.  

There isn't a lot of filling in this recipe (which is a good thing!) so the patties may not stay perfectly together, and that's ok!  They will still taste delicious.  Between that, and the fact that there will be extra moisture in the patties from defrosting, I cook them slightly longer than the original recipe.  I suggest to start checking on them about 10 mins into cooking on the first side.  Give em a nudge and see if they're ready to flip.  If not, cook a few more minutes before flipping to the second side.  

Also, the sauce from the original recipe is to die for!  I haven't tried freezing that yet, because it's a mayo based sauce...but I have left overs from tonight that I might just try and freeze to see what happens! Like I said before...mistakes are OK!

If you wanted to freeze individual cakes, I would make as directed then wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then foil and place cakes in a labeled gallon freezer bag.  Follow above directions for cooking! 

Stay full!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What I've learned from Freezing cooking!

Wow!  It has certainly been a while since I've posted on this blog! Whoops! Having a baby who doesn't sleep and then turns into an active toddler really keeps you busy!  But don't worry, she's a good sleeper now, so Mommy can blog again and not be a total zombie.

Just because I haven't posted doesn't mean we haven't had our Cooking Club, although we have fizzled out a bit.  Between our regulars we have had (or are expecting) 5 babies and 2 weddings!  I have good intentions to keep up with this blog now that summer vacation is around the corner!!! (Only 7 days left with my students, but who's counting?)

We are currently trying to set up our meeting for the month of June, but of those 5 babies I mentioned, one just made his debut (Hi Roman!) and another is expected almost any day now (c'mon Baby Tank!).  This month we are doing a BBQ theme: Burger Edition.  I'll try my best to get some pictures and recipes up after we meet.

Since we haven't met in a while, I don't have any fresh recipes to post, but I do have some things we've learned over the course of our year+ of meetings that I thought you might find helpful!

Being Freezer Friendly:

If the thought of setting up a cooking club and sharing freezer meals with your friends seems intimidating, you can certainly try a day of freezer cooking yourself!  Angela and I have done that several times when our club hasn't met so we still have full freezers.  So by all means, grab a friend, some wine (or, if you're knocked up like Angela, grab a decaf Arnold Palmer...aka an "Angie Palmer") and go to town in your kitchen at your own pace!  We have a board on Pinterest that's FREEZER FRIENDLY  that has some great recipes, pre-made shopping lists and tips on what freezes well to get you started!

Think in bulk:  it might seem a little strange to double or triple a recipe, but really it makes so much sense!  When I freezer cook now I almost always make two meal portions of each recipe.  And since it's just me, my husband and our toddler, most recipes I can just make as is and halve as I put them in containers to freeze and viola--two meals for the price of one!

Disposable pans are your friends!  My favorite thing about freezer meals is the clean up...NONE!  When I pop a meal out of the freezer it's great to just put it in the oven, eat and then throw the tin away!  Now I know, that's not very green of me...BUT I don't toss tins away every time I cook (or even for all of my freezer meals) and I always recycle those containers!

Freezer gallon bags are wonderful!  Use them to store your cooled soups, stews and chilis.  They enable you to lay the bags flat, thus taking up much less space in your freezer.  I just place them in a pan in my fridge to thaw in case of any leaks.

Mistake will happen, and that's ok!  There have certainly been some things I've made and frozen that just weren't so yummy when I cooked them, but that's ok!  You live, you learn, you move on and make something different next time!  For as many things as I've made that haven't frozen well, there have been plenty of recipes and dishes that the girls have made that have been amazing!

Befriend your crock pot (and crock pot liners)!  Another great thing about freezer cooking (and using those freezer gallon bags like I mentioned) is utilizing your crock pot.  Grab that guy off the shelf and put him to work!  Making pre-made meals to go in the crock pot is a super great way to get started in freezer cooking because on cooking're not actually cooking!  Just dump the recipe ingredients in a gallon bag and freeze!  When you're ready to cook, line your crock with a liner (easy clean up, remember?), toss the ingredients in and cook!  I personally only slightly thaw my ingredients and then toss into my crock pot, but you could completely thaw and then cook as well.

Meal plan!  It might seem silly, but I have really found that sitting down with a cup of coffee and going through my pin boards finding recipes to try really helps.  I am able to know exactly what ingredients I have or need, what supplies I need to stock up on and how many meals I'll have in my freezer.  It makes cooking day a breeze AND saves money! HEY!

Those are my tips for now...perhaps I'll add more with another blog post soon!  If you have any tips, etc for freezer cooking I'd love to hear them!  And we're always here to answer any questions you have about freezer cooking!

Stay full!