Freezer Cooking Round Two

Recap of our Fall Freezer Cooking Day

by Melody on November 20, 2011

My friend Sarah and I spent about 4.5 hours last week cooking up a storm and attempting to make her kitchen look like a war zone.  Sarah’s mom was watching her kids and my husband stayed home with ours, so we were on a mad dash to get as much done as possible while we were kid-free.  I showed up at her doorstep promptly at 7 (trust me, I’m not usually prompt to anything), armed with a car full of chicken and my cooking shoes on.

A few weeks prior to cooking, she and I sat down with the Official Ingredient List and decided what we would each provide from our pantries and what we would purchase.  Between the two of us, we had most of the ingredients on hand and only had to pick up a few things at the store.  We used chicken as our main ingredient for two reasons: To keep the baking simple and the dishes to a minimum and because we were able to get it for crazy cheap last time Zaycon Foods came to town.

We followed the Prep & Cooking Schedule almost to the letter.  While we were prepping all of our ingredients and putting together our crockpot recipes, we threw most of the chicken in the oven to bake.  This was an easy, less managed way to cook the chicken.  We could just throw it in and forget about it while we worked on other things.  Once all the chicken was done, we let it cool a little and quickly cubed it all up so it was ready when we wanted to assemble our various recipes.

Sarah and I had a good balance of work going on and we were constantly prepping, assembling, chopping or doing dishes.  I’m afraid I was a bit of a dictator, I’m hoping that was only because I wrote the cooking schedule.  Sarah seemed more than happy to go along with my orders.  I think.

We assembled the Chicken Enchiladas, Cilantro Pesto and Pizza Dough and Sauce at Sarah’s house.  I brought my own crock pot and stock pot (for the White Chicken Chili), so I just threw those in my car and let them cool at my house before tossing them in freezer bags.

We were both super happy with how the day turned out.  We each went home with about 10 full meals.  If you think about the fact that we spent 4.5 hours in the kitchen, this is about 45 minutes per meal.  I would spend this time on an average day getting dinner ready, but now I don’t have to do it in those crazy hours between 4 and 6 PM.  Plus, if I know we are going to have a super busy day or aren’t going to be home much, I can pull something out of the freezer in the morning or the night before and we have a hot meal.  No peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and no takeout.

My freezer is happy too.  Busting at the seams, but happy.

If you would like to plan your own cooking day, you can see my entire series of Freezer Cooking Day posts here.

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Freezer Cooking Day: Prep and cooking schedule

by Melody on November 7, 2011

What is a Freezer Cooking Day?

We are joining together for a fun group cooking day in a few days (our cooking day is scheduled for November 11th).

I’ll catch you up to speed:  Here’s the official Freezer Cooking Day menu plan and tips for getting yourself organized and here is the official Freezer Cooking Day ingredient list.

I have been working on a tentative schedule for the actual cooking day to try and keep us as organized as possible.  This is going to look different for everyone, but hopefully my schedule is a good jumping off point for you.

You can never be too organized or plan too much for a cooking day like this.  The more you can get prepped and ready before you start, the better off you will be.

The day before

Double check your ingredient list and make sure you aren’t missing anything.  You don’t want to be running out at the last minute, you will be busy enough as it is.

Make sure you have enough aluminum pans, if you are following my plan exactly you will need two.  You can either print out labels for your lids or foil that are going on top of your pans or write directly on the foil with a Sharpie.  You will also need approximately eight gallon freezer bags plus about 6 quart freezer bags, print out labels for these or write cooking directions with a Sharpie directly on the bag.  I use sandwich bags for the Pizza Sauce and Cilantro Lime Pesto.

Print out your recipes or make sure you have them all bookmarked on your computer

Make sure all of your meat is defrosted and in the fridge ready to go.

Make sure you have something planned for dinner after all your cooking.  Use one of your freezer meals to keep it simple or plan to have a pizza delivered.  I can guarantee that you won’t want to cook anything elaborate that evening.

Prep, prep and then prep some more (BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE)

Shred all your cheese
Mince garlic
Chop onion (or use food processor)
Shred carrots

Assemble all ingredients for Crockpot Cream Cheese Chicken and start your crockpot

Cook chicken

We’re going to bake our chicken, so we aren’t tying up a burner and we can just toss it in the stove and forget about it until it’s done.  Once the chicken is done and cooled slightly, cube and set aside.

While chicken is cooking, assemble all ingredients for Pizza Sauce on stove top and let simmer.

Saute onion and carrot for White Chicken Chili, add remaining ingredients per the recipe and let simmer while you are getting everything else ready.


Mix all ingredients for Pizza Dough and let rest

Make Cilantro Lime Pesto

At this point, you should have everything prepped and ready to assemble.  Feel free to assemble your recipes in whatever order you like, this is just how we will be doing it to keep it simple.

I tried to include every step of the process, but I may have missed something small so please double-check your recipes.  Truthfully, it was a lot of work to wrap my brain around this kind of planning.  Doing the steps in this order is what makes sense to me, but you may have a different idea of what will run smoothly for you and your kitchen layout.

Sarah and I went through our ingredient list and actually had most of the things we needed in our two pantries.  We will just pick up a few additional ingredients at Walmart, including the few produce items we need.  For a few of the larger items (sour cream, cream cheese), I am going to buy those at Costco and we will just split what is leftover.

Are you ready for this?  I’m so excited to be cooking with all of you!  When is your cooking day planned?

I have included all the Freezer Cooking Day posts on the sidebar of the blog for easy navigation.  You can find them under the Freeezer Cooking header, next to the Amazon Diaper Deals banner.

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Freezer Cooking Day: Official ingredient list

by Melody on October 25, 2011

What is a Freezer Cooking Day?

We are joining together for a fun group cooking day in November (my cooking day is scheduled for November 11th).  I posted a few days ago with the official Freezer Cooking Day menu plan and tips for getting yourself organized.

On to the official ingredient list.  I will do my best to highlight store deals that will match up with our ingredient list, but it’s not a bad idea to print out each recipe and the list of ingredients for yourself, so you can get yourself totally prepared.

MENU

I created a printable Google Doc with all the recipes compiled in one place, thanks to reader Catherine’s wonderful suggestion.  I hope this makes your planning a little easier!

INGREDIENT LIST

All amounts listed are based on each recipe being doubled.  I estimated the number of chicken breasts for each recipe, so please take a look and only cook what you think you will use.  The nice thing about most of these recipes is that the chicken will stretch as it is used more as a filling instead of the focal point.

If you want a printable ingredient list to take to the store with you, I created a Google Doc here.

PANTRY ITEMS

(16) flour tortillas
(6) cans chicken broth (14.5 oz cans)
(4) cans cream of chicken or mushroom soup
(6) cans white beans
(4) cans diced green chilies
(1) can tomato paste 5 oz
(2) cans diced or crushed tomatoes 14.5 oz
(2) packets Italian salad dressing mix
(10) cups high-gluten or bread flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds (check bulk section at Winco)
Instant yeast
Chicken bouillion
Balsamic vinegar

FRESH ITEMS

(2) onions
(2) carrots
Cilantro (1 bunch)
Garlic
Lime (or lime juice)

PERISHABLE ITEMS

(3) cups sour cream
(2) 8 oz blocks cream cheese
(4) cups shredded cheese
(1) cup Asiago, Romano or Parmesan cheese
(20) boneless skinless chicken breasts

HOUSEHOLD ITEMS

(2) 9″x13″ aluminum pans
Saran wrap
Aluminum foil
Approximately (8) gallon Ziploc freezer bags

There are some basic pantry ingredients I didn’t include, like spices and salt and pepper, so make sure to double check each recipe before you start.  This is an approximate list, there may be items you want to swap out or exclude.  I never tend to use as much onion or cheese as each recipe calls for, so my personal list may be slightly different from yours.

Next on my list is to put together a tentative schedule to help keep us as organized as possible.

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Welcome to another round of This Beautiful Frugal Life’s Freezer Cooking Day Extravaganza!

In Round One, my friend Sarah and I cooked together and did one big old full day of cooking.  While this was fabulous, we have just had a hard time finding time in our busy schedules to squeeze in a whole day, so we’re doing a slightly shorter version this time around.  We will be cooking for approximately half a day and doing a few less meals.

We chose Friday November 11th to cook.  Sarah’s mom has the day off to help watch her kids and my husband is off work, so hopefully we can hammer things out in record time (or at least it won’t take ALL day).  We would love for you all to cook along with us on the same day, but I know that probably won’t be a possibility for some.  The purpose of this series is to give you the tools and information you need to cook on whatever day you choose.

A quick recap.

For the next 3-4 weeks, I will be posting a menu, ingredient list, planning and preparation ideas and (hopefully) answering your questions along the way to get us ready for our big Freezer Cooking Day in November.

Tips on planning your day:

  • Between Sarah and I, we have four kids under the age of four.  There is NO way we would ever be able to focus on our cooking and prep, feed our children and get them down for naps and still have the house standing.  If you have young kids at home, I highly suggest hiring a babysitter!  If it’s not possible to find someone who can dedicate themselves to watching the kids, maybe join up with a few friends for your cooking day and trade off duties as the day goes on.
  • Be as organized as possible.  I will do my best to give you all the tools you need, including a timeline for prep and cooking for the day of, but double and triple check your ingredient list before you get started.  You will have enough to do without running to the store for any last-minute items.
  • Don’t take on more than you think you can handle.  My menu plan is fairly basic and planned around similar ingredients, but if you feel like it’s too much for you, don’t do it all!  Start with just two or three recipes.  If this series is successful, I’ll definitely plan another and you can jump in with both feet next time.
  • I’ll do my best to pick up all my items on sale/with coupons over the next few weeks, but anything left on my list in the few days before, I will just grab at Walmart or Winco. You may feel the need to add a little “cushion” to your grocery budget this month to help cover all the ingredients.  I have pulled from the following month’s budget as well, because making freezer meals this month will hopefully save me money next month.
  • Most of the recipes I chose can be adapted for meat preference (turkey, chicken, ground beef) or no meat at all if you prefer.  Feel free to make any changes you like to the recipes to suit your family’s lifestyle.

The official Freezer Cooking Day Extravaganza menu plan:

We looked at two things when planning our meals and recipes for this round of cooking.  We chose recipes that would utilize the fabulous price we got on Zaycon boneless skinless chicken breasts recently.  We also tried to plan one meal per cooking medium: stovetop, oven, crockpot and no-bake.  Hopefully, this will help in planning and make the day run smoother without having to juggle dishes in and out of the oven or battle for burner space.

We will be making four of each dish and then splitting everything.  If you are cooking by yourself, you could double or even triple the recipe.  I find it saves so much time to make multiple pans of each dish at once, this cuts down on prep time and cleaning.

STOVETOP

CROCKPOT

NO-BAKE OPTIONS

The official ingredient list will be up in a few days.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions.  I’m excited to fill up my freezer again!

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