Thursday, May 17, 2012

5 Days of Freezer Cooking (Day 4)

I’m assuming now that you’re doing the mini or big batch method—if your just doubling up you won’t need any special instructions.

The Night Before

Whatever you can get done tonight is one less thing that needs to be done in the morning.  Hagve anything that needs to marinade? Why not brown the ground beef?  In the morning you’ll be able to assemble dishes with cold meat which will be less taxing on your freezer.  Chop the onions and peppers.  Shred the cheese.  Most of the freezer cookbooks I have contain a recipe substitution for “cream of whatever” condensed soup.   If you’re using that instead of buying cans, make this the night before.  I pour mine back into the milk jug once it’s prepared—just fill the jug up to the point where the walls of the jug are still straight.  After it’s cooled it will thicken and congeal and be impossible to pour so on assembly day cut off the top of the jug and you’ll be able to scoop out the contents.  If a lot of your recipes call for cooked, chopped chicken consider throwing the meat in the crock pot over night.  In the morning you’ll just need to let it cool so you can debone and chop it up.

The Big Day

My most recent cooking  day was at my mothers.  We assembled 15 meals each of 3 different recipes so this would really qualify as a mini-session.  We made meatloaf muffins, a creamy shredded chicken dish, and Parmesan chicken. I arrived with baggies of chopped veggies and premixed coating to dredge the chicken in.  We had good conversation and laughs and were done in about 2 hours.  The following is really a list of tips rather than a description of an assembly day. 

If they’re not old enough to help in the kitchen, make sure you have made arrangements for child care—you will not be available for all the “Mom, come see!” moments that occur today.  Can hubby take them to the park?  Maybe you need to co-op with two friends, one to cook with and one to watch kids.  Also, let the answering machine do its job--only take the emergency calls.

Set up “stations” around the kitchen—chopping, measuring, bagging, etc.  Keep hot, soapy water in the sink.  When you use a measuring spoon or cup, clean it and return it to the measuring station so you’ll be able to find it quickly for its next use.

Start the most time consuming or labor intensive dishes in the morning while you’re still fresh. You don’t want to get to the end of the day and discover you need to stuff 200 pasta shells.  
Work through one protein type at a time and wash measuring tools and equipment well in between to avoid cross contamination.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend thawing raw meats and refreezing them in their raw state so if you use frozen ground beef or frozen chicken breasts you'll want to cook the dish before freezing it again.

 Line cookie sheets and baking pans with aluminum foil to make clean up faster & easier with greasy dishes.  For non greasy foods, I like to use Quillon paper (available at restaurant supply stores).

Store foods in sizes that work best for your family.  Consider individual portions that can be taken to work or school.

From The Big Book of Freezer Cooking

I like to store as much as possible in freezer bags (this obviously won't work with lasagna or pot pies).  Remove as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.  If you don't have a vacuum sealer try submersing all but the top of the bag in water before you seal it.  Or seal most of the bag and insert a soda straw to suck the air out before completing the seal.

Tomato based foods can react with aluminum foil (making small holes) so I'd wrap in plastic first and then foil if necessary.

If you only have one 9 X 13 dish and you use it to freeze a lasagna, you won't have it to bake with again until you eat that dish UNLESS you place plastic wrap in the bottom of the pan before assembling the dish.  Once its frozen solid you can remove it from the pan and store it in more plastic wrap or a bag.

Label everything before you put it in the freezer.  After being in the freezer for a month and started to be covered with ice crystals, frozen foods tend to start looking alike.  A friend found out the hard way when she meant to grab pizza sauce and got sweet and sour chicken instead.  You can buy grease pencils to write on plastic or freezer tape where you find canning supplies.  Don't use regular masking tape as it tends to fall off in the freezer.

Let hot dishes cool before you put them in the freezer so you don't tax the thermostat.  Try to spread them out over the entire space to give each dish a chance to freeze quickly.

You CAN fit 30 meals in a standard refrigerator freezer if you store in bags.

From The Big Book of Freezer Cooking
 When you're done--CELEBRATE!!  You've earned it.  Make a chart listing all the meals you've put up and the quantities.  Cross them off as you use them up.  After dinner each night take out tomorrow night's meal and let it thaw in the fridge.

We've got one more day to go and I'm sharing two of my favorite recipes with you.  If you're enjoying the series please consider following Ozark Ramblings with one of the options to the right.  And here's the link to take you back to the 5 Days of Blog Hopping.


1 comment:

Vickie said...

I am enjoying this week's hop. This as been an awesome subject. I'm thinking of talking to my mom when she comes over tomorrow about doing something like this once a month. Could be loads of fun and an excuse to visit with something to do at the same time :)

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