Monday, September 17, 2012

Make-Ahead Cooking?

Yes...I am showing you my freezer. 
How many of you have pinned some of those “cook once-eat for a month” or “freezer dinners” pins or Pinterest?  I know that I did and so did several of my friends; however, I don’t actually know anyone who has done it. Well, I decided to try it out this past April (see post and recipes here) on a small scale.  I only made meals that went from the freezer to the crockpot. (These were all raw meats and ingredients, so there was no taste-testing.)  The honest truth…it wasn’t that great. We LOVED the Salsa Verde Beef and still make that one, but the rest…eh.  All of the recipes tasted “okay”, but we only ate one twice and I ended-up throwing most of the food away. 

Why would I pin the idea again?  Well, I still like it and I think the concept is great…I just needed better recipes.  Also, I just changed to a Monday – Friday work week (after 6+ years of a 3 day work week) this month.  It is quite an adjustment.  While I love to cook, I do not like to spend my entire evening in the kitchen, esp. now that I am getting home at dinner time.  The “make-ahead” idea seemed like a great way to guarantee that I have a few go-to meals or entrees in the house with minimal effort.

After reading-up and checking out several “pins”, I opted to order a couple of cookbooks that got rave reviews:  “Don’t Panic: Dinner’s in the Freezer” and “Don’t Panic: More Dinner’s in the Freezer”.  I looked through them both when they arrived and found a lot of recipes that I want to make!  Bonus:  They are both only ~$8/each!So, I made a grocery list based on 7 recipes (6 from the cookbooks and the Salsa Verde Beef from above).  There are only two of us and I do not have a deep freezer, so this is really about all I can store.  I spent several hours (it would go faster if you recruit a helper!) prepping and cooking over two days this weekend, but I wound-up with 60 servings of food in my kitchen!

The two “Don’t Panic” cookbooks give lots of great tips, advice, and instructions for shopping, cooking, and storage,.  Everything was really easy…and the whole house smelled YUMMY all weekend!  Note: I did substitute a few things: chicken and turkey sausage and bacon for pork and fat-free dairy products for their full-fat counterparts.
I was sure to write the re-heating instructions on the packaging!
The filling for Chicken Cilantro Enchiladas! 

I intended to take great pictures, but I forgot…more than once.  My hands were either covered in something or I was busy stirring…oh, well, I think you get the idea.

The recipes I made were: North Woods Wild Rice Soup
Chicken Cilantro Enchiladas
Pork Chops a la Orange
Cranberry Chicken
Chicken, Sausage, & Shrimp Stew
Baked Penne with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cheese
Salsa Verde Beef

We invited my parents over on Sunday evening for the stew.  It was wonderful (and perfect for one of our rare rainy days here in South Texas)!  I am really excited this time around because I know the food is good (I’ve tasted bits and pieces along the way) and it is going to make those busy evenings so much easier.  My son and I can still have a healthy, home-cooked dinner on the table and I don’t have to stress about the time or if I have the ingredients on hand for dinner-on-the-fly.

Pork Chops a la Orange..yummmmm.

If you have done this or are thinking about it, please comment below and tell me what you think!



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