Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Filling the Freezer

Happy New Year!   I've never been so productive on a Monday! Making good use of our winter break, I got down to business in the kitchen yesterday and set off to get most of my January cooking complete.  And I did! I not only was able to cook for my family, but my brother requested meatballs for 15 people for a trip he is taking next weekend, so I whipped up 80 meatballs as well!  I was pooped at the end of the day (and we ended up going out to dinner—how ironic) but I feel so accomplished and relaxed about the upcoming month! Usually when I do a large cooking day, I have Angela cooking beside me, but she is resting and enjoying being a new mommy now that her baby boy, Andrew, has arrived! Congrats to her and Ryan! With Angela busy, I took on this cooking day on my own!  From start to finish (and by finish, I mean kitchen and dishes all cleaned) it took me about 8 hours.  I did take mini breaks every so often!  It’s a long day, but totally worth it.  If you’re not into doing a whole day, pick a few meals and start small or with a friend.  You could always try our Crock Pot Wonders page and put together a few crock pot meals, which don’t require cooking on the day you prepare the meals for the freezer! 

freezer cooking meals

I made:
-Gravy and meatballs (3 bags for my family + enough to feed 15 25 year olds on a ski vacation)
-Breakfast Burritos (13)
-Crock Pot Chicken and Dumplins (2 bags to thaw and dump)
-Hot Roast beef and Cheese Sandwiches (12)
-Chili (3 lunch servings)
-Chili Cornbread Muffins (16)
-Chicken Pot Pies (7)
-Chicken Stir Fry
-Homemade Frozen Pizza (4 9” pizzas)

Here are some tips to help your cooking day go smoothly:

-Snag a babysitter! Harper was at my mother in law’s, which was great because while I love her help in the kitchen, it always takes a bit longer when she’s assisting.  I was able to focus totally on my cooking.

-Wear sneakers! I made the rookie mistake of starting barefoot…2 hours in I realized my mistake and put my sneaks on. 

-Turn up the jams! I’m so guilty of to Christmas music year round while I cook.  Monday I opted for the Salsa channel. 

-Reuse dishes as much as possible (makes for less cleanup).  For example: I cubed my potatoes and tossed them with oil and seasoned salt for breakfast burritos.  Once they were in the oven I used the same bowl to whisk the eggs for the burritos.  Two birds, one stone.

-Have a game plan. Even if it’s in your head and just an idea, it’s better than just winging it.  I started with my potatoes and sausage for my breakfast burritos, because I have to cook each component, but they need to be cooled completely for me to wrap and freeze.  By making them first, I could utilize the cooling time to start on my sauce and chili. 

All in all, not bad at all and I’m pretty pleased with how full my freezer is!  Below I’ve included all of the recipes I used and freezing and eating directions.  If you’d like your own planning and shopping list page, those can be found on our Meal Planning 101 page!  I hope you enjoy and venture in the kitchen soon!  We’d love hear about your freezer cooking day!

Stay full,

NeNe’s Gravy & Meatballs (aka Angela’s gravy)
{I multiplied this recipe, but as is it makes an ample amount for freezing!}

1 1/2 med onions, diced small
5-6 cloves garlic minced
Salt  1 1/2 tsp
Pepper 1 1/2 tsp
Garlic powder 1 1/2 tsp
Onion powder 1 1/2 tsp
Fresh basil about six or seven leaves ( pulled apart or diced up small) if not fresh, dried is ok, about 2 tsp
3 cans of tomato puree with basil ( I use tuttorosso) 28 oz
2 cans crused tomatoes in puree with basil 28 oz
1 can tomato paste 14oz or 2 ( 6oz cans) 
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tsp sugar
2 lbs ground beef (80/20)
1 med onion (shredded over cheese grater into mixture)
3-4 cloves garlic shredded into mixture
Onion powder 1 tsp
Garlic powder 1 tsp
Dried basil 1 tsp
Salt 1 tsp 
Pepper 1tsp
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs Italian style 
2 eggs
Directions for gravy:
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil over med heat until onions are soft. Add tomato puree, just to wake it up a little about one minute. Then add your puree and crushed tomatoes. Mix it all well. Then add all your spices, cheese and sugar.  Will take about 45 min to heat through well. While that is cooking start your meatballs.
Meatballs directions:
Bring your meat to room temp. Add your shredded garlic and onions. Add all your spices, bread crumbs, eggs and cheese. Mix very well. If it seems to wet then add more bread crumbs. In a large pan, on med heat, warm some olive oil. Make your meatballs, about medium size, and then add them to your heated pan. Sear all your meatballs on both sides then add them into your gravy to finish cooking through.  Always taste the gravy to see if it needs more spices or sugar, I usually always add something else. Serve over pasta with bread for dipping and enjoy!

1.        Cook according to directions and allow to cool completely.
2.       Pour gravy into containers, label and freeze.

To eat:
Thaw completely and reheat in a saucepan on stove.  Enjoy!

Chicken and Dumplin’s
1 lb chicken breast (boneless, skinless)
1 small onion, diced {I use about a cup of frozen diced onion)
2 cans cream of celery soup
1 can of chicken broth
1 can refrigerated biscuit dough
Fresh parsley, chopped
1.  Place chicken breasts into crock pot, along with onion, cream of celery soup and broth.  Cook on low about 6 hours. 
2.  Remove chicken and using a fork shred the chicken and return it back to the crock pot.
3.  Break raw biscuits into pieces and place in crock pot until top layer is covered. Crank that bad boy up to high and cook biscuits for 30 minutes or until done. 
4.  Sprinkle on fresh parsley and enjoy!

Place all ingredients except for biscuit dough into a labeled freezer bag and freeze.

To eat:
Place contents of bag into crock pot and follow cooking directions as stated. Enjoy!

Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches, ala Pioneer Woman
12 whole Dinner Rolls Or Small Sandwich Buns (I Used Whole Wheat)
1 pound Thinly Shaved Roast Beef Or Ham (or Both!)
1 pound Cheese (Provolone, Swiss, Mozzarella, Even Cheez Whiz!)
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
3 Tablespoons Grated Onion (or 1 Tbsp Dried Onion Flakes))
1 Tablespoon Poppy Seeds
1 Tablespoon Spicy Mustard
1 Tablespoon Horseradish Mayo Or Straight Prepared Horseradish
 Dash Of Worcestershire
 Optional Dressing Ingredients: Sriracha, Hot Sauce, Dried Onion Flakes Instead Of Fresh, Garlic Powder, Pepper, Etc.)

Slice rolls in half. Mix together mayo, grated onion, poppy seeds, spicy mustard, horseradish, and Worcestershire. Taste it and adjust ingredients however you wish.
To assemble, spread dressing on top and bottom buns. Lay on roast beef or ham, then one or two slices of cheese (I cut them to fit the small buns.) If you're using Cheez Whiz, spread a layer on the top bun.
Wrap each sandwich in a foil square, and either keep in the fridge or bake right away. To bake the sandwiches, put them on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. The buns should be slightly crusty and the cheese should be melted.

Assemble sandwiches and wrap tightly in foil.  Place in container or freezer bag. 

To eat:
Either thaw before, or from frozen bake sandwiches as directed in recipe.  If from frozen, make take a bit longer. 

Tip: These make a GREAT  Sunday Funday  snack!

Breakfast Burritos
(Makes 13-14 10” burritos)

1 dozen eggs
1 lb of your favorite breakfast meat, cooked
1 lb of potatoes, cubed
Seasoned Salt, to taste
Dash of Milk
2 TBSP Olive Oil
Spinach, onions and peppers, optional
Siracha, optional
Tortillas (13-14)

1.        Wash and cube potatoes.  Mix in bowl with olive oil and seasoned salt, to taste.  Place cubed potatoes on baking sheet.  (I line mine for easy clean up and spray with Pam first).Bake in preheated 400 oven for about 25 minutes.
2.       While potatoes are cooking, cook up your breakfast meat.  I used sausage and crumbled it as it cooked.  When finished, place in large bowl to cool. 
3.       In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs.  Add a dash of milk and salt and pepper.  Cook eggs in the same pan you used for the meat, stirring to create scrambled eggs.  When eggs are almost finished, add a handful of chopped baby spinach.  Remove from pan and add to large bowl with sausage to cool. 
4.       When potatoes are done, add to the large bowl and stir ingredients.  Allow all to cool.
5.       Lay tortilla flat in front of you.  Smear siracha on tortilla, then place a few spoonfuls (1/3 to ¼ cup) of breakfast mixture on tortilla. Wrap up like a burrito and repeat process.
6.       Wrap each burrito tightly in saran wrap and place in container or gallon bag.

Wrap tightly in saran wrap, place in bag and freeze.

To eat:
Thaw overnight and remove from saran wrap.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  Enjoy!

Game Day Chili
{serves 6}
3 lbs ground beef
2 28oz cans diced tomatoes, drained
3 bell peppers, chopped (any colors)
2 medium to large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped (can omit if you'd like to lower the heat level)
1 small can, chiptole in adobo
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 6oz can tomato sauce
3 tbsp chili powder (more to taste)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

1. Heat large dutch oven and add beef.  Break apart as meat browns.
2. As meat browns, roughly chop bell peppers, onions, jalapeno and garlic.
3. Remove meat from dutch oven, draining off fat.  Add chopped veggies to hot Dutch oven and sauté until soft, about 5-6 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
4. Sprinkle seasonings over meat mixture and stir.
5. Add tomatoes, chipotle in adobo, tomato paste and tomato sauce to peppers and onions and stir to combine.  Allow to cook for 5 minutes.
6. Add meat and seasoning mixture back into dutch oven.  Stir to combine all ingredients.  Allow to cook together for 5-10 minutes.  Once meat is completely cooked through, taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.
7. Allow to simmer for as long as possible...chili only gets better as it sits!

Serve in deep bowls with shredded cheese, diced onion, and sour cream on top.

Extra notes:
*The chipotle in adobo adds a lot of spice, so if you're someone who doesn't like a lot of heat, I'd just add some of the sauce from the can and leave the jalapeno out.*
*If your chili needs more liquid, I add beer or beef stock*
*Want to stretch this further? Cook 1/2 lb small pasta (small penne works great) and add cooked pasta to chili mixture and stir to combine!*

Cook as directed, allow to cool completely and ladle chili into Tupperware containers and freeze!

To eat:
 Microwave or heat on stove. 

Chili Cornbread Muffins

2 tubes Grands CORNBREAD Biscuits
2 cups of chili
Shredded cheddar cheese

1.       Carefully pull apart a cornbread biscuit to create a pocket.  Fill pocket with chili (about a TBSP) and a bit of cheese.  Carefully pinch ends shut.  Continue process until all biscuits are filled.  Be sure not to over stuff…it’s very tempting!
2.       Place filled biscuits on baking sheet and bake according to package directions. 

Cool chili biscuits completely.  Wrap individually in saran wrap and place in contrainer or gallon bag.

To eat:
Thaw over night.  Microwave for 30 seconds, or until hot in.  Enjoy!

Chicken Stir Fry

Marinade Ingredients:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1/8 tsp. coarsely-ground black pepper (or more/less to taste)

Dinner ingredients:
1 lb. thinly sliced chicken strips
2 Tbsp. olive oil
12 mini sweet peppers, thinly sliced (or 2 regular-sized bell peppers, thinly sliced)
2 scallions, sliced diagonally into 1 inch pieces, white and green pieces separated
1 cup broccoli florets
2 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup jasmine rice, uncooked

1.       Chop veggies and place in large ziplock bag.  Add garlic and ginger.
2.       Place chicken strips in a smaller, separate ziplock bag.
3.       Add marinade ingredients to a separate small ziplock bag. 
4.       Place ziplock bags with marinade and chicken into large bag with veggies and seal.  Place in freezer.

To eat:
1.       Thaw overnight in fridge. 
2.       Cook jasmine rice according to directions.
3.       Combine marinade and chicken strips, set aside.
4.       Saute veggies in olive oil until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan.
5.       Remove chicken from marinade and cook in pan.  Reserve marinade.
6.       When chicken is done (5-7 minutes) add veggies and marinade to pan and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. 
7.       Serve over rice and enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie
For the filling:
-1 stick of butter
-8 TBS flour
-4 ribs of celery, diced
-1 medium to large onion, diced
-2 large carrots, diced
-1 16oz bag of frozen mixed veggies
-1 lb of chicken, cooked & shredded
-about 6-8 cups of chicken stock, heated 
-1tsp poultry seasoning
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

For the pastry: (
Ina Garten's recipe...NEVER fails)
For the pastry:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper
For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Cooking instructions:
1.        Make dough according to above directions.  Preheat oven to 375.
2.       Melt butter over medium heat in large sauté pan; add celery, onions, carrots, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper and bay leaf.  Sauté until soft, about 5-7 minutes
3.       Slowly add flour and whisk into butter/veggie mixture until incorporated.  Stirring constantly, cook mixture about one minute.  Continuing to whisk, slowly add in warm chicken stock to veggies. Stop and stir to combine occasionally, stopping when you get to the desired consistency for your filling (add more liquid if you like it soupy...add less if you like it more like a stew). 
4.       Let simmer, taste and season as needed.  Add chicken and about half of the bag of frozen veggies.  Feel free to add the whole bag, or a bag of just peas! It's totally up to your preference! 
5.       Turn off burner, ladle filling into tins and cover with dough (if eating right away). 
6.       Brush dough with egg wash, salt and pepper. Poke several holes into pastry dough to allow steam to escape.
7.        Bake in preheated oven (on a cookie sheet) at 375 for 40 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

Follow directions up to number 5, but allow mixture to cool once in tins before putting on pastry dough. Brush with egg wash, salt and pepper, wrap tightly & label and pop into your freezer.

To eat:
Thaw overnight in fridge.
Remove foil, and poke several holes into pastry dough to allow steam to escape.
Place on baking sheet to catch and spills and bake at 375 for about 40 minutes.

Homemade Frozen Pizzas

 (double amounts to make 4 personal pizzas)
1 package active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 ½ cups flour
2 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 16oz can pizza sauce (we love Dom Pepino)
4 cups mozzarella cheese
1 chicken breast, cooked and cubed
½ cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce
Any additional toppings you like!

1.       Preheat oven and pizza stone to 450.
2.        Combine yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl and let stand until the yeast has bloomed and doubled in size (about 10-12 minutes).
3.       Stir in flour, salt and oil.  Stir until combined and smooth then let rest, about 8 minutes.
4.       On a floured surface, turn out dough and shape into a ball.  Cut ball into half (or quarters if you have doubled the recipe).  Take each piece of dough and roll out into a 9” round. 
5.       Poke holes in crust with a fork and bake each crust for 4-5 minutes and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

1.       Once crusts are cooled, grab a piece of cardboard, wrap it in foil and place your crust on it. 
2.       Create the pizza of your dreams!  Add sauce, cheese, toppings—whatever you’d like. 
3.       Wrap the whole thing tightly in saran wrap and freeze!

To eat:
Thaw in fridge.
Preheat oven to 450 and cook until cheese is melted and bubbly!

(Dough recipe from: www.allrecipes.com)

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