>> Thursday, March 4, 2010
After a great day of shopping yesterday, I was able to pick up most of the ingredients I didn't already have on hand for our meals for the month. I do plan on one trip to Sam's Club to pick up just a few more things, and then we will be set.
After I got our meal plan for March figured out, I was able to break down my task list for my cooking day(s). This is what it looks like:
Sunshine Chicken x2
Lemon Pepper Chicken x2
Pizza Sauce x4
Pizza Dough x4
Homemade Mac & Cheese x3
Brown Rice x3
Garlic Bread x4
Italian Sausage & Veggies for Spaghetti Sauce x2
Italian Sausage for Pizza x4
Cooked, Diced Chicken Breast x2
Whole Wheat Rolls x3
Kung Pao Chicken Kit x2
Jasmine Rice x2
Taco Meat x2
It may look like a lot, but it will all cook up pretty fast. I actually think this month will be faster and easier than last month since I'm not doing two soups.
The first two tasks are actually really simple. I like to get my chicken fresh (not frozen) so that I can mix up all of my marinades and divide my chicken into freezer bags and then store them in the freezer with the marinade. Then, the night before I would like to serve, I can pull it out of the freezer and put it in the refrigerator to thaw. The next day, all I have to do is pull it out and either throw it in the over or throw it on the grill. All of the prep, marinade time, etc. has already been done.
Like I've mentioned before, we LOVE homemade pizza. So I'll make up a huge batch of sauce, enough for eight pizzas, plus an extra recipe or two to make pizza pockets for quick lunches with the kids. The dough is really easy to whip up in my Kitchenaid and it freezes really well. We usually make a mixture of whole wheat and white flour, but I recently discovered 'white whole wheat flour', so I'll be using that for this our dough this month.
Macaroni & Cheese is of course a kid favorite, and my husband and I enjoy it too, so it's an occasional side dish. We haven't had it in a while, so I'm going to make a few batches. I discovered a new way of making it, with sour cream and sharp cheddar cheese to make the sauce. I've tested it a few times and did find that it needed just a tiny splash of milk to smooth it all out, and just a pinch of sugar to offset the sharpness of the cheese. It's very good though.
Brown rice is always a nice side to a chicken dinner, but I seem to always time it wrong, so that everything else is done and ready to eat and the rice is still cooking on the stove. (and brown rice takes longer to cook than white rice!) So last month I made up two giant pots of brown rice all at once and froze it in meal size portions and it worked out so well. It only took about five minutes to heat through and it was ready to serve. I'll be doing this again for March.
I'll admit it. I'm very picky when it comes to spaghetti sauce. Very picky. There is one and only one brand of jarred sauce I will buy, and even that needs to be.... doctored. :o) We add really good italian sausage, green bell peppers, fresh garlic and onions and a few herbs to the jarred sauce or to canned tomatoes, which ever we have on hand. If I'm going to brown up one pound of sausage, I might as well brown up five pounds and get it over with for the whole month. So I'll chop all the veggies and saute with the browned sausage and get it all ready to go. I'll package in meal size portions in freezer bags, and its ready to be tossed with sauce whenever we are serving spaghetti. I use virtually the same mixture for lasagna too.
Speaking of lasagna, that's probably one of my favorites for fresh-home-cooked-meal-meets-convenience! I'll make up two pans this month, but I've been known to make four or five pans of lasagna at a time. Once I'm making one pan, it doesn't take too much more work to do a few more. I got a huge pack of disposable pans at Sam's Club a while back and they work really well for making up pans of lasagna, enchiladas and other 'pan' food and they work great in the freezer. I take my lasagna strait from the freezer, to the oven and it takes about one hour and its ready to serve. Not a single dirty dish involved in getting this meal on the table at dinner time!
Since I'm hoping that spring really is around the corner here, I'm not going to make soups for this month. Instead I'm making my husband's favorite Chicken Salad. Obviously a cold chicken salad wouldn't do well being frozen in its entirety. The veggies wouldn't taste so great after thawing. But, I will cook up all of my boneless, skinless chicken breast, chop it and divide it, so that it's ready to be tossed with the veggies and dressing when its time to eat. Although it's not totally prepared in advance, doing at least this one step will greatly cut down on the prep time and mess.
Another great idea is to make up dinner kits. Some things can't be frozen all together, but could be separately. Like my Kung Pao Chicken. I'll mix up the marinade and put that and the chopped chicken in a freezer bag. But I'll also mix all of the ingredients for the sauce that goes on after the chicken has been cooked, and I'll place that in another freezer bag. I'll place both items together with a batch of Jasmine Rice in one big freezer bag, and label it "Kung Pao Dinner Kit". Not totally ready to serve, but much of the time consuming prep work will be done.
Aside from all of this, I'm going to also make a few breakfast items and baking kits for March. I'm shooting for Saturday to get it all done, but maybe I'll get a head start tomorrow.
If you are interested in trying out Freezer Cooking, I highly recommend you checking out what FishMama and Crystal have to say. They certainly are the experts!