Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Freezer Meals: Take 1

I've been wanting to do this for a while...but I haven't mostly because I was just too lazy to do the work: find recipes, make detailed shopping lists, and then spend an entire day in the kitchen.  

But then I realized I hate the "what should I make for dinner" dance.  So I bit the bullet and got to work.  First let me say that Pinterest is a godsend.  Seriously.  I scoured and scoured...until my scourerer was sore.  There are two types of freezer cooking.  The "make bags of stuff to heat in a slow cooker" kind and the "cook the meals and then freeze them" kind.  I love slow cooker meals in the winter, plus it seemed easier so I opted for the slow cooker version.  I looked for recipes that would work in the slow cooker and recipes that I knew we would eat.  I came up with a list of about twelve.  I pared that down to seven.  

Ok, so let me explain the process (in case there are other newbies like me) and then I'll post the recipes.  

Freezer Cooking Process:

First, decide how many meals you want to make.  Take into account your freezer size.  If we had a deep freeze I'd make 364 meals.  Ok, probably not that many actually.  Probably.  

Next, find your recipes.  I used Pinterest, and THIS website.  All the recipes I found (but 2) made two large ziplock bag portions.  Each bag is enough to feed us (2 adults and a toddler) for dinner and lunch (for hubby..and maybe me) the next day.

Make a DETAILED shopping list.  I do love lists.  But sometimes I get skimpy on the grocery list.  I'll put "tomatoes" not "6 large tomatoes" You need to bring out all your OCD on this list.  Trust me.  I had to go to the store three times because of things I overlooked.  Once you have your list, check it twice.  (ha ha...couldn't resist...tis the season!)  But seriously.  Check. It. Twice.  Be sure you have heavy freezer ziplock bags on your list.

Then go shop!  I didn't plan my shopping and prepping day for the same day.  It seemed like too much to do in one day.  (The base grocery store is 45 mins from our house...that's quite a hike) I did NOT freeze my meat when I got home from the store.  I didn't want it to thaw and then refreeze it.  Somewhere in my brain I think I remember hearing that isn't ok.  I used the packages of thinly sliced chicken breasts.  So on my recipes that's what it references.  

On your prep day, keep your recipes handy.  I started with my odd (single...not doubled, also my only non-chicken) recipes.  I was planning on one pork roast and one beef stew.  I bagged the roast, then started chopping carrots.  Almost every recipe had carrots, so I had a TON to peel and slice.  Then I moved to onions, and then garlic cloves.  Those were my most common ingredients.  After those three things were done I bagged the stew.  Then moved to the veggie soup (TONS of chopping there), and the remaining chicken dishes.  When doing the double recipes, I would chop all the veggies first (or chicken) and then split it between bags.  When it came time for the spices, I would just measure half of the spice listed directly into each bag.  The only ones I put meat in right away were the roast and the stew.  ALL my chicken ones I waited until the remaining recipes were complete except meat, then did the meat all at once.  I just filled the bags with the ingredients and lined them up on my counter until they were done.  Then I started on the chicken, adding it to each recipe as I went.  You can leave the chicken breasts whole, or chop them up.  I prefer them chopped...but it is a personal preference.  You will be able to stretch chopped chicken farther than a whole breast.  When the recipe is complete, squeeze the air out of the bag, massage it a bit to get them all marinating in their juices, and stack them in the freezer.  

Oh...and I made sure to label each of the bags; the name of the dish as well as the cooking instructions.  All of the info I found on these said to pull the bag out of the freezer the night before you want to use it, let it defrost in your fridge and cook it in your slow cooker the following day.  Cooking times will be 4-5 hours on high and 6-8 on low.  It depends on your slow keep an eye on it! onto the recipes.  

Ginger Cranberry Pork Roast
1 pork roast
1 bag fresh cranberries, washed
1/2 C. fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs cornstarch

Cooking directions: add 1 C. water and cook

Cumin/Cinnamon Beef Stew
2lbs roast meat
3 C. chopped carrots
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne 
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cooking directions: add 1 C. water, 4 C. chopped potatoes, cook

Veggie Soup
2 onions, diced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 bag of frozen mixed veggies (beans, corn, peas, carrots)
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 bag frozen cauliflower
1 can diced tomatoes
2 C quinoa

Cooking directions: add 1 can of broth (veggie, chicken, beef...your choice) and cook.

Cilantro Lime Chicken
2 packages chicken
3 Tbs olive oil
2 limes, juiced
2 C. chopped cilantro
1 bag of frozen corn
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cans of black beans, drained
2 tsp cumin

Cooking directions: cook.  Serve with tortillas and sour cream

Teriyaki Chicken
3 packages chicken
1 C. carrots, chopped
1 red onion, cut into chunks
2 cans pineapple chunks
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 bottle teriyaki sauce

Cooking directions: Cook, serve over rice

Chicken Curry
2 packages chicken
3 Tbs flour
4 Tbs curry powder
2 tsp cumin
2 C. sweet potatoes, cubed
2 C. carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

Cooking directions: add one can of chicken broth and cook.  Serve with rice or noodles, garnish with peanuts. 

Chicken Chili
2 packages chicken
56 oz tomato sauce
1 can kidney beans
1 can great northern beans
1 can black beans
30 oz frozen corn
2 onions, diced
1 can diced green chilies
4 stalks of celery, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs flour
4 Tbs dried, minced onion
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 sugar
1 tsp cumin

Cooking directions: add a little bit of water if needed. 


V said...

Thanks for sharing! I've been wanting to jump on board but too daunted to take the first step. Now I'm going to reap the rewards from your research and experience. Thanks Holly!

Anonymous said...

I could assemble these meals.... problem is.... I couldn't cook them. I don't know what "cook" means. Frying pan? Sauce Pan? Crock Pot? Although I wish I could, I can't just "cook".

Marsha said...

That is awesome. I hope I can do something like that to prep before William comes and I have to let Scott get some of the meals ready for me. :)

Holly said...

Anonymous (I'd address you personally but you chose to post as anonymous):

All the meals are cooked in your slow cooker (crock pot). Length of cook time is mentioned, but be aware that each slow cooker is different, so keep an eye on your food to make sure it doesn't burn.

Leonora said...

Thanks for the info. That website looks like a great place to start. I've been considering something like this for a while.