Sunday, February 24, 2013

Freezer (Bulk) Cooking Round 2

My oldest asked yesterday if I might make lasagne today.  I love lasgane, but really hate the work that goes with it, so I make them 3 at a time.  Sounds crazy, doesn't it?  Truth is, it takes about the same amount of time to make 3 as it does to make 1.
I started with about 3.5 lbs of ground beef and 2 diced onions which I browned (maybe even a little too much)! 

I added 6 jars of sauce and about 3 T of sugar.  I needed 27 noodles, but cooked a few extra in case some ripped beyond repair, which always seems to happen.

My family does really care for ricotta, but I think it is a necessary ingredient for lasagne, so we compromise.  I take one small container add some pepper, parmesan and thin it out with 4 eggs.  This one container batch is all I use for all 3 lasagnes total.

 I spray my pans with pam and start layering like so:
sauce, noodles, ricotta, mozzarella
sauce, noodles, ricotta, mozzarella
sauce, noodles, ricotta
sauce again, mozzarella

While the lasagne was baking, I made potato soup for tomorrow night.
5 lbs +/- peeled diced potatoes
3 -4 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 large box chicken stock
2 cans evaporated milk
chicken bouillon
1 diced onion
Cook until potatoes are slightly tender, you don't want them to turn to mush!  You can start it on a high temperature, but then turn it way down so the milk doesn't scald and stick to the pan.  It will ruin the whole batch with a burnt taste if that happens!
In the midst of all of this I cut some chicken breast into bite sized pieces and cooked to put in the freezer.  It is always good to have cooked chicken on hand.
I also cooked a second big package of gorund beef with onions in case I under estimated what I needed for lasagne.  I didn't need it, so off to the freezer it went too!
Here's a picture of what went into the freezer:
2 homemade lasagne
1 pkg of cooked chicken chunks (3 - 3.5 lbs)
1 pkg of cooked ground beef and onions (I don't remember if it was 3 or 4lbs)
This was done while cooking a 3rd lasagne for today and potato soup for tomorrow.
We spent January trying to use up what was in our freezer, so February is restocking time.

Freezer Cooking

Last Monday (2-18-13) I did some extra cooking while I was in the kitchen cooking our dinner.  I started by frying some boneless chicken breast cut into strips and seasoned with southwest seasoning. This went on to become our dinner of grilled chicken salads.

I had the tomatoes, celery, carrots, peas, chick peas and cheese set up salad bar style so everyone could choose what they wanted.  One of the boys also added croutons (not shown).

This is my salad on the right.  Yummy and very filling.  I didn't take a picture of what my 2 teenage boys fixed, but let's just say they each made a salad big enough that they had to use mixing bowls!  Anyone elso have 2 teenage boys?  If you do, you know what I mean!

What does this have to do with freezer cooking?  I had 2 packeages of chicken, so while the chicken for the salad was cooking in one pan, I was starting a second dinner in the other pan.

Chicken and rice casserole...
Normal people:
cook 1-1.5 lbs of chicken breast (cut in bite size pieces)
add 2 cans of cream soup (I use 1 chicken and 1 mushroom)
2 cups of water
1 pkg onion soup mix
2 cups instant rice
For several people (or if you have 2 teenage boys in a family of 4)
Increase to:
2-2.5 lbs of chicken
3 cans of soup
3 c of water
2 pkg onion soup mix
3 c instant rice
This can be served right away, but we usually bake it first to thicken it up and brown it a little.
Or, what I did this time was prepare it on the stovetop, transfer to a baking pan and put it in the freezer without baking it.  It freezes well and will make a great supper for a night we are just too busy to bother.
While all of this was going on I was also preparing about 3 lbs of ground beef with onions.  I might sound amazing, but continue reading to see how this story ends!
I used to section the uncooked ground beef into chunks that were about 1 lb each and freeze them in tupperware containers and I could pull out whatever amount I needed.  Trouble was if I didn't take it out of the freezer in the am, it was a bear to thaw and cook.  One day I finally had a revelation that it would be better to brown the ground beef with onions, put it in ziplocs and take however much I need out of the bag.  This works much better.  I leave the bag open about an inch, roll the air out, finish closing and flatten the bag.  I also put a date on all prepared meals that go into the freezer.
This can become taco meat in about 5 minutes, used in spaghetti with meat sauce, soups (like taco soup), and casseroles just to mention a few things.  The possibilites are really endless.  I make hamburgers in individual tupperware patty containers to freeze, but I didn't that day.  The ground beef price was not great, so I will try to wait it out for a better price before attempting to stock up on hamburgers in my freezer.
I was so proud of myself!  Grilled chicken salads for supper that night, chicken and rice casserole for the freezer and enough ground beef for 2 or three meals.  I was on a roll.  The plan was to put roast beef, carrots and potatoes in the crockpot on Tuesday morning to have dinner waiting when we got home... 
So I got up early Tuesday, put the beef in the crockpot and started peeling potatoes.  After I peeled the first 3 I decided to cut them up, put them in the pot, and decide how many more I might need.  As I hurried to cut the first one I gashed my finger.  You know what they say about the best laid plans!
I had my kids call their grandpa for a ride to school, wrapped my finger in a clean towel and drove myself to the ER.  It was a deep cut, but I'll spare the graphic details.  Suffice it to say I ended up with 2 shots,  3 stiches and a dead nerve in my finger.  We didn't have roast that night!