Merciful God, You are great in compassion and Your tenderness for us is without measure. We ask You to give us today our daily bread, and also provide for the needs of all of Your hungry children around the world. Through Christ Your Son and Our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Freezer Meal Festival

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Freezer Meals have caught quite a bit of attention in the past few years, especially among the busy moms who do once-a-month cooking. Admittedly I've never done more than double a recipe and freezing the second half for later. And while that is often very convenient (there's really nothing like pulling your own homemade food from the freezer in the morning and knowing you your dinner is done), sometimes it's just absolutely necessary. As I mentioned last week, I have a major surgery scheduled this summer, and there is just no way to get through the weeks following without a stockpile of meals. If it were just two or even three of us, we could get by on store-bought frozen meals and carry out. But with six people in a family, four of whom are, for all practical purposes, adults, I need to prepare my own meals.

After crying out for help (which isn't easy for us moms, is it?), a few of my favorite online friends answered the call. While I really rather have them pay me a visit with a hot casserole, their tips and recipes are most appreciated.

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Deborah, at the new Tastie, sent me some links to the recipes she recommends for freezing. Deborah says that their freezers in Ireland aren't really large enough for freezer meals, but she assures me that these are good, freezable meals (I can't imagine not having my extra freezer, much less not having one big enough for an extra meal -- so sorry for you Deb).

Lasagna is not only a traditional comfort food (and thus a good recovery food), it is also a traditional freezer food (after all, where do you think Stouffer's made those millions?). Deborah recommends trying her bechamel version, which I fully intend to do. Deborah recommended preparing it up to the last layer of mozzarella, freezing it, and baking it straight from the freezer. To take a page from the once-a-month cooks, I'll put the last layer of mozzarella cheese in a freezer bag and tape it to the frozen lasagna with directions for adding it in the last part of the baking time.



picture from Tastie


Another recipe from Deborah's files is Shepherd Pie. I can't imagine a better person to give me a Shepherd Pie recipe, than someone who is Irish by birth. Again Deborah says prepare it up to the baking step, freeze it, and bake it straight from the freezer.

Thank you Deborah, I'll say a little prayer for you when we these dishes come to the table.

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Herbs pictured by recipes4us.co.uk


My dear friend from Texas, the Waltzing Matilda, dedicated a post yesterday to freezer meals. She offers many great suggestions, but I particularly love the idea of of pre-assembling crock pot meals. I think even my husband can manage a crock pot meal if it's already assembled for him. I also like the sounds of the Teriyaki Tenderloin recipe she links to. I'll definitely get a few of those in the freezer with a few boxes of my favorite Birds Eye packaged vegetables.

Thank you Matilda, for taking pity on me! I will remember you during my recovery and offer up a few prayers.

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Kristine from The Cookin' Sisters & Friends sent me a soup recipe that sounds really good and comforting. The recipe came from www.smittenkitchen.com and Kristine says when you freeze it, the soup gets thicker and heartier when you thaw and reheat it. It's one of her favorite soups and she says it's "so easy you might cry."

Here is the recipe with a few of Kristine's tips:

*Last time instead of using ham, I threw in some leftover bratwurst, which I prefer. Or you could skip the meat all together.

* the notes are Deb's of SmittenKitchen, but I also used the spinach instead of arugula. Believe me you can pack this baby with a LOT of spinach.



Fast White Bean Stew
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2007

2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 c. plus 1/2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 (14- to 15-oz) can stewed tomatoes
1 3/4 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 (19-oz) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (3 cups)
1 (1/2-lb) piece baked ham (1/2 to 3/4 inch thick), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (5-oz) bag baby romaine (er, what? I used spinach)
or baby arugula (10 cups loosely packed)
8 (3/4-inch-thick) slices baguette

Cook garlic in 1/4 cup oil in a 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes.
Coarsely cut up tomatoes in can with kitchen shears,
then add (with juice) to garlic in oil.
Stir in broth, beans, ham, and pepper and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.
Stir in greens and cook until wilted, 3 minutes for romaine or 1 minute for arugula.

While stew is simmering, preheat broiler.
Put bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil.
Broil 3 to 4 inches from heat until golden, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

Serve stew with toasts.

Thanks, Kristine. I'll offer one up for you.

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Lana at Knit and Pray sent me a few recipes she thought my gang could handle. With our recent cooking lessons, she may be right.


Crockpot Pasta

8 oz.small shell pasta
1 can mushrooms
8 oz. mozzarella cheese
1 pint sour cream
8 oz. provolone cheese
1 qt. spaghetti sauce
1 lb. hamburger, cooked

Mix sauce, hamburger, shells and mushrooms together.
Put half in crock pot, sour cream over this and sliced provolone,
now rest of sauce mixture with sliced mozzarella on top.
Cook on low for 6-7 hours.


Easy Chicken Pot Pie

1 2/3 c. frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 c. chopped cooked chicken
1 c. biscuit mix
1/2 c. milk
1 egg

Mix vegetables, chicken and soup in ungreased 9" pie plate.
Stir remaining ingredients with a fork until blended.
Pour into pie plate. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
(Chicken could be cooked, chopped and frozen ahead of time
and thawed with the vegetables.)


Kentucky Fried Chicken

3 c. flour
1 T. paprika
2 env. Lipton Cup-a-soup (tomato)
2 packages Good Seasons Italian dressing mix
1 t. seasoned salt
chicken pieces

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine in a plastic bag.
Coat chicken pieces.
Place on well greased cookie sheet.
Coat with melted butter.
Let bake for 1 hour.
For crisper chicken, baste every 15 minutes with 1 t. oil and 1 t. water per piece.


And a few of Lana's tips:

*Pancakes freeze well as do homemade biscuit and sausage sandwiches.

*Cookies and cookie dough and banana muffins for treats are good to freeze as well.

*Meatballs freeze well and can be used to make sandwiches or with the traditional spaghetti and meatballs.

Thank you so very much, Lana. I'll remember you with a couple decades.

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Barb at SFO Mom and Mom's Fridge did me the huge favor of going through her archives for some great freezer meals. I read Barb's menus every week and I know she serves up a great dinner every night, so I really appreciate the offering.

The first one, Barbecued Chicken, is a marinade that Barb freezes the chicken in. I have done that before, and the meat marinades as it thaws -- it's a foolproof technique. I think this marinade is calling for some chicken legs!

Another chicken recipe link she sends is for Paula's Sesame Chicken Strips. I've not tried this one, but I will, along with this Hawaiian Chicken recipe. Yum!

Barb also sends a recipe for Chicken Divan which I haven't had in a few years. She says if I don't want to put the casserole together, I could freeze the parts. I might just put them in individual bags with directions for the boys to put it together (although if I leave it to the boys they might "lose" the broccoli).

This recipe for Bourbon Chicken Bites is tried and true in my house. It's one of the boys' favorites and it really couldn't be easier (although I suppose just pulling it out of the freezer and popping it in the oven officially makes it easier).

This recipe for Goulash is just dying to be pre-assembled for the Crock Pot. I think after my recovery my guys will be expert crock pot cooks. This Chicken Chili and this Stew look like good candidates, too.

And finally, Barb's Five Cheese Lasagna looks very yummy. Who ever had too much lasagna?

Thanks, Barb, you really came through for me. I owe you one, or two, or three (Hail Marys).


Many thanks to the wonderful ladies who lended me their favorite freezer recipes. I know that they will become regulars in my house, frozen or not.

From my own experience with freezer meals, I would like to add that when you have the need for many frozen meals, like I will, you don't want to tie up all your baking pans, and you don't want to invest bucks in foil pans (I am not a fan of aluminum anyway). One technique I learned from Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer is when you are making and freezing a dish, first, line your pan with long pieces of aluminum foil. Then layer the foil with plastic wrap (so the foil is not touching your food the plastic is). Place your food in the dish and fold over the long ends of plastic wrap and then the foil. Freeze until solid. I then wrap it in another layer of foil, or place it in a large freezer bag. Be sure to label it. When you are ready to thaw and bake (or even bake frozen), remove the outer foil layer, then the plastic wrap (rinse briefly with warm water to release if necessary). Place food in the original dish you froze it in and either thaw completely and bake, or bake in its frozen state. By using this method, you save room in the freezer (stacking just the food takes up less room then stacking pans), and you free up your dishes for other freezer meals and baking.

Another tip is to freeze liquids and foods like marinating chicken on a flat pan or in a dish. Then, when frozen, stack them (don't forget to label). They will be easier to stack and access if they are flat (like the picture at Matilda's).



2 comments:

Deborah said...

Wow Barbara you have lots of work ahead methinks! :)

Tell me about the fridge, it's miserable. But I can live with that, it's the tiny washer that takes over an hour to do a load of laundry that kills me! :)

Love the freezer tips, especially the one with the saran/foil. Excellent plan!

I also put my ground beef in 1lb bags and flatten the heck out of them so they are maybe half an inch thick. Then I stack them. ALL about conserving what little space I have! :)

Barb, sfo said...

All this talk of Chicken Divan had me wanting some. So I switched out the soup planned for today and used the cooked turkey to make turkey divan :) And Middle Sister is cooking it! She gets all irritated when I come in to supervise, too--but she's not ready for prime time yet.