Ora et labora
~St. Benedict

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Freezer Cooking Pointers

By: Guest Blogger Anne Jefferson

Freezer cooking changed the lives of my family members over ten years ago.  When I take the time to create the menu, grocery list and devote the time to preparing my meals ahead, we eat better and I have less stress.  As you can see, it’s a Win-Win! 




When I began freezer cooking there were very few resources available but I purchased a book to learn how to do this and get recipes that freeze well.  I purchased “Once A Month Cooking” by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg from Amazon.com.  That book is stained and sad looking due to much use.  

However, today a quick Google or Pinterest search will provide more recipes and ideas than you will know what to do with. My suggestion is to see if any of the recipes I have shared here appeal to you and your family.  If not, look at the repertoire of recipes you have and see how you can adapt them to be plan-ahead, make-ahead freezer meals.  You have to find what your family likes and tailor your plan to your needs.  


Along the way, I found many other things that freeze well.  The only foods I have found that froze poorly were fresh mushrooms.  YUCK!  Canned mushrooms freeze fine but I still prefer to add mushrooms while actually preparing my meals for the table or leave them out entirely.  

Easiest way to start: Marinades

When you are starting on this adventure you want the cooking day and the prep day to be balanced between things that take very little work and things that take a lot of work.  Marinades are super easy.  Place meat in a Ziploc bag, add veggies and other marinade ingredients as per recipe, zip shut and freeze!


Buy your meat in bulk at Sam’s Club, Costco or the grocery store(Unfrozen).  Large packages of chicken breasts and thighs can be purchased and then packaged together for families who have members who prefer white or dark meat.  

Examples of marinated meats:


Teriyaki Chicken (Once A Month Cooking) 
Marinade:
½ Cup Soy Sauce
¼ Cup Sugar
1 ½ Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Vegetable Oil
1 Small Clove Minced Garlic
¾ Teaspoon Ground Ginger 

Chicken Breasts
Uncooked Rice 

Mix soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, oil, garlic and ginger. Freeze chicken in marinade in 1- gallon zip top bag. When preparing to serve, thaw chicken. Pour chicken and marinade into baking dish. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Prepare rice according to package directions. Serve with chicken. 

Lemon Chicken(Once A Month Cooking)
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme Leaves
1 Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Pepper
1/8 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/3 Cup Lemon Juice
1 Pound Chicken Pieces
1 Cup uncooked rice 

Mix all spices and lemon juice in 1-gallon zip top bag.  Add chicken pieces and freeze.

When thawed, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange chicken in 8 x 8 x 2-inch baking dish treated with non-stick spray. Pour liquid over chicken. Bake 20 minutes. Turn chicken over and baste it. Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until chicken is tender and no longer pink. Prepare rice according to package directions. Serve chicken over rice. 

Marinated Flank Steak(Once A Month Cooking)
Marinade:
½ Cup Vegetable Oil
¼ Cup Soy Sauce
¼ Cup Sherry
2 Teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
½ Teaspoon Ginger
1 Clove Minced Garlic
1 ½ Pounds Flank Steak 

Mix first six ingredients for marinade. Put flank steak in a freezer bag, pour marinade over it,seal bag and freeze. To prepare for serving,thaw flank steak,remove from marinade. Barbecue 8 to 10 minutes per side; or set oven to broil and/or 550 degrees. Broil steak six inches from heat until brown, turning once,about six minutes on one side and four minutes on the other. Cut steak across grain at slanted angle into thin slices.  

Easy Marinated Pork Tenderloin (allrecipes.com)
1/4 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup soy sauce 
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons dijon honey mustard
salt and pepper to taste 

1(2 pound)boneless pork loin roast 

Whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Place the pork loin in a large sealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Transfer the pork loin to a baking dish; pour marinade over the pork. Cook in the preheated oven until the pork is no longer pink in the center, 45 to 60 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 145 degrees F (63 degrees C). 

GROUND MEATS:

Purchase ground meat in preparation for the following meals: Meatloaf or meat balls, sloppy Joes, Tacos and Spaghetti. Use your favorite meatloaf/meat ball recipe or use the one below.  Prepare according to recipe and instead of placing meat into the oven, wrap it in foil, place in a Ziploc bag and place it into the freezer. I do not use a loaf pan. I freeze it in the shape of a loaf and then bake in a 9 X 13 baking dish when defrosted.  Meatloaf needs to be put in the refrigerator to defrost the day before you plan to eat it.

Swedish Meatloaf Supper (Pampered Chef) 
1 can (4 oz) mushroom pieces and stems, drained and finely chopped 
1/2 c onion, finely chopped
1/4 c fresh parsley,snipped 
1 c fresh rye or white bread crumbs 
2/3 c milk 
1 egg 
1 1/4 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp pepper 
1/4 tsp ground all spice or nutmeg 
1 pound lean ground beef 
1 pound lean ground pork 

Gravy:
1 jar (12 oz) mushroom or beef gravy
2 Tbsp milk 
1/4 c sour cream 

Preheat oven to 350. Mix mushrooms and onion in large bowl. Add parsley, bread crumbs, milk, egg, and seasonings to bowl; mix well. Crumble ground beef and pork into bowl; mix lightly but thoroughly. Shape meat into loaf pan.  *At this point, I shape the meat, wrap in foil and then place in a zip top freezer bag. Bake 1 hour and 15-20 minutes or until meat is no longer pink in the center of the loaf and internal temperature of meat loaf reaches 160 degrees. Remove meat loaf to serving plate; let stand 10 minutes Meanwhile, heat gravy with milk in saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally with whisk. Whisk in sour cream; remove from heat. Cut meat loaf crosswise in half. Cut one half into 8 slices and serve with gravy. 
Serve with egg noodles and gravy. 

Brown the remaining ground meat with chopped onion to prepare for Sloppy Joes (1.5 lb), Taco meat (1.5 lb) and spaghetti sauce(1 lb). Once browned, divide into three portions and season according to recipes below.

Sloppy Joes
1.5 Pounds Ground Beef/Turkey/Pork
1 Medium onion
¼ C. Brown Sugar 
2 Tablespoons Mustard
½ Cup Barbecue Sauce
½ Cup Ketchup 


Mix ingredients into the meat, stir.  Allow to cool and place in freezer bag. 

Taco Meat
1.5 Pounds of Ground Meat
Your favorite taco seasoning. I use Wildtree Taco Seasoning as it is organic and has no preservatives. All you do is mix your meat with the seasoning of your choice, place into zip top bag and freeze. 

Spaghetti Sauce
Ground Meat
Crushed tomatoes, two 26 oz cans
Italian seasoning (Again, I use Wildtree Hearty Spaghetti Blend)
4 Cloves Minced Garlic
Salt

Place crushed tomatoes in saucepan, add seasonings and simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste, add meat. Place in two re-sealable plastic containers and freeze.  Serve with spaghetti or other pasta.  

Casseroles can usually be prepared up to the point of putting into the oven.  Below are a couple of my favorites. 
 
Heavenly Chicken (Once A Month Cooking)
1 10-oz package of Frozen Spinach
½ C. Sliced Green Onions
2 Tablespoons Margarine/Butter
2 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
1 Cup Milk
1 Cup Cracker Crumbs
1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
8 Boneless Chicken Breast halves, skinned
1 Cup Cooked, Cubed Ham 

In a small saucepan, cook spinach according to package directions; drain well. In a medium saucepan, make white sauce; saut√© onions in butter over low heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and add milk all at once. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until bubbly.  Boil and stir one minute more until smooth and thickened.  Combine cracker crumbs and cheese. Dip chicken breasts into crumbs/cheese mixture to coat lightly.  place in 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish.  Stir spinach and ham into white sauce; spoon sauce over chicken.  Allow to cool and cover completely with foil.  
To prepare for serving, thaw dish and bake covered in a preheated 350-degree oven for 60-75 minutes.  Uncover and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 10 minutes more. 

Vegetable Lasagna (Once A Month Cooking with my adaptions) 

1 8-ounce package of Lasagna
1 Cup Finely Shredded Zucchini
1 Cup Finely Chopped Broccoli
1 16-ounce carton Low-Fat Ricotta or Cottage Cheese
1 Cup Grated Mozzarella Cheese
2 Chopped Green Onions
1 Cup shredded Carrots
1 Large Can Spaghetti Sauce or 28 oz Can Crushed Tomatoes with seasoning
Dash Freshly Ground Black Pepper 

Prepare lasagna noodles as per package directions until Al Dente. Drain and rinse in cool water. Cook Broccoli 5 minutes in boiling water. Prepare remaining vegetables. 
Combine cheeses, vegetables, pepper in a medium bowl. In a 13 x 9 x 2 baking dish, layer lasagna noodles, half of cheese mixture, half of tomato sauce. Repeat the process topping with noodles and covering with sauce. Wrap dish in foil and freeze.

To prepare: Thaw the dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake covered for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. 

 SOUPS:

If you have a favorite soup, prepare it as you normally would but do not add noodles or rice until you are preparing to eat.  Freeze in large re-sealable containers.  

Hearty Hamburger Stew (Once A Month Cooking)
1 Pound Lean Ground Beef or Turkey
1 ¼ Cup Chopped Onion
2 Cups Peeled and Sliced Carrots
1 Cup Chopped Green Bell Pepper
1 Cup Sliced Fresh Mushrooms (I reserve these until preparing for table)
1 16-oz can Green Beans, drained
1 16-oz can Corn, drained
3 Stalks Celery, sliced
1 46-oz Can Tomato Juice (I prefer V-8) 
2 Teaspoons Sugar
1 Teaspoon Celery Seed
Salt and Pepper to Taste


Cook ground meat in large saucepan until brown. Drain fat. Add in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer 10 minutes. Cool and freeze in re-sealable container.
To prepare for serving, thaw stew. Bring to a boil; reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes. 
 

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