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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Round Four- Freezer Cooking with Friends

You might be interested in other freezer Cooking posts:

Recipes below
1. Ground Turkey meatloaf
2. Crockpot White Bean Chicken Chili
3. Stacked Chicken Enchiladas
4. Crockpot Lasagna Soup
5. Shepherd's Pie with ground turkey
6. Crockpot BBQ Pulled Pork
7. Crockpot Chicken Taco Soup

Ground Turkey Meatloaf
Makes one 1.25 lb loaves

Materials needed;
O       Cooking spray
O       Loaf pan to help shape loaves
O       Aluminum foil
O       Sharpie

O       1.25 pounds lean ground turkey (half of Sam’s Club 2.5 lb Package)
O       1/2 cup 2% milk
O       2 large eggs
O       1 packages onion soup mix
O       1 tsp  minced onion
O       3/4 cup breadcrumbs
O       1 TBSP parsley
O       1/4 cup shredded carrots (adds moisture to turkey so it doesn’t dry out while cooking)
O       1/2 teaspoon salt
O       ½ teaspoon pepper

1. Prepare 9 × 5″ loaf pans by placing one piece aluminum foil in bottom and sides, then coating with cooking spray
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine turkey, milk, eggs, onion soup mix, shredded carrots, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and dried parsley.  Spoon half into prepared pan.
3. Fold foil over loaf.  Take loaf out of pan, cover with another layer of foil. Label and store in freezer for up to 3 months.

To serve
1.      Thaw in fridge for at least about 2 days
2.      Bake at 350 degrees for 90 min, or until cooked through (use meat thermometer)  
3.      Add topping of your choice half way through cooking (ketchup or BBQ sauce).

Crockpot White Chicken Chili
Makes one gallon bag
O Gallon sized Ziploc bag
O Sharpie

O       1 pound (about 2 cups) boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
O       2 cans-15.5oz ( about 3-3.5 cups) of Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
O       1- 4oz can of chopped mild green chilies (half a can if want less spicy)
O       ½ bag of 1 lb bag of frozen corn
O       1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
O       1 tbsp dried minced onion
O       2 garlic cloves, minced
O       2 teaspoons ground cumin
O       1 tsp dried ground oregano
O       1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
O       1/4 teaspoon pepper
O       1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Day of cooking
O       2-3 cups chicken broth (more broth makes it less chili and more soup like)

To Prep
1. Label your freezer bag.
2. To your freezer bag, add all ingredients except broth.
3. Remove as much air from the freezer bag as possible, seal, and lay flat in your freezer.

To Serve
1. The night before cooking, move frozen bag to your refrigerator to thaw.
2. The morning of cooking, pour contents of freezer bag into your Crockpot and add 4 cups of chicken broth.
3. Cook on “low” setting for 6 hours or until chicken is cooked through.
4. Shred chicken and serve with sour cream, cheese.  Cornbread or tortilla chips are good side.

Stacked Chicken Enchiladas 
O       9x13 Disposable casserole dish
O       Aluminum foil or lid
O       Sharpie

O       2- 3 cups diced cooked chicken (about 1 1/2 pounds chicken), shredded
O       3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese blend (or desired cheese combo)
O       1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chilies, undrained (optional)
O       1 cup frozen corn (optional)
O       1 package of flour or corn tortillas
O       1 (16 oz.) can refried beans
O       1 (19 oz.) can enchilada sauce

To freeze
1.      Mix the chicken, 1 1/2 cups of cheese, and the chilies (optional) in a bowl together.
2.      Add a few spoonfuls of enchilada sauce to the bottom of the casserole dish and spread it evenly across the dish, then layer two tortillas on top of the sauce, making sure that the entire bottom of the dish and part of the sides are completely covered by the tortillas.
3.      Spread about half of the beans on top of the tortillas (warm up if not spreading well), followed by half the chicken mixture, half cup of corn, and then half of the enchilada sauce.
4.      Put another two tortillas on top of this layer, followed by the rest of the beans and chicken mixture.
5.      Add the rest of the enchilada sauce on top of these tortillas and finish by sprinkling the rest of the cheese (1 1/2 cups) on top.
6.      Top with Foil and Freeze

To serve
1.      Thaw in fridge
2.      Preheat oven to 350º F.
3.      Cover the dish in foil and bake it for 45 to 55 minutes, or until bubbly (peek under the foil to check).
4.      Let the dish stand for about five minutes.
5.      Garnish with chips and cilantro if desired.

Crockpot Lasagna Soup
Makes one bag
O       Materials- gallon sized Ziploc and small Ziploc
O       sharpie

O 24oz jar of pasta sauce
O 1 lb (about 1 ½ to 2 cups) ground Italian sausage- cooked
O 1 tsp Italian seasonings
O Sea salt and pepper to taste
O 1 15oz can (about 1 ¾ cup) of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
O 2.5oz of chopped fresh baby spinach (about 3 cups)
O 4 cups of chicken broth (add day of cooking if won’t fit in bag)

Day of cooking
O 5 uncooked lasagna noodles, broken into small pieces, or  1 ½  cup pasta of your choice

To Freeze:
  1. Place all the ingredients except lasagna noodles in labeled freezer bag: 
  2. Put noodles in small Ziploc bag

To serve
  1. Thaw over night in fridge
  2. Cook for 6-8 hours on "low" setting in slow cooker.
  3. Add noodles and cook for an additional 30 minutes. OR cook pasta separately according to package and add to soup when ready to serve.
  4. Top with freshly grated mozzarella and/or Parmesan cheeses and serve with a side of garlic bread. 

Shepherd’s Pie with Ground Turkey 
O       9x13 Disposable casserole dish
O       Aluminum foil or lid
O       Sharpie

O 1-1/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, diced
O 3/4 cup fat free chicken broth
O 2 tbsp reduced fat sour cream
O salt and pepper

O 1 lb 95% lean ground beef (about 2 to 2 ½ cups)
O 1 tsp oil
O 1 medium onion, diced
O 2 cloves garlic, diced
O 1 bag 10 oz frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, peas)
O 1 packet of beef gravy
O 1 cup water
O 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
O kosher salt and pepper 

Potato Topping
O       Boil potatoes in a medium pot of salted water until cooked and soft. Drain and mash with chicken broth, sour cream, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper, set aside.

      To Freeze:
  1. In a large sauté pan brown meat over medium high heat, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste.
  2. When cooked, set aside on a plate.
  3. Make gravy according to package.
  4. Add frozen vegetables, Worcestershire sauce, cooked meat and mix well..
  5. Spread the meat/vegetables on the bottom of casserole dish.
  6. Top with mashed potatoes.
  7. Top with Foil and Freeze

To Serve:
  1. Thaw 2 days in refrigerator
  2. Bake uncovered until potatoes are golden brown- 350 for about an hour.  Remove from oven and let it cool 5 minutes before serving.

Crockpot Pulled Pork
Serves 8-10
O       gallon sized Ziploc bag
O       sharpie

O       2-3 pound pork shoulder (also called pork butt or Boston Butt)
O       Sea salt & pepper
O       1/2 TBSP Minced Dried Onion
O       1 cups barbecue sauce
O       1 can Root Beer
O       1/2 tablespoon seasoned salt

Day of cooking
O       rolls or hamburger buns

To Freeze:
1. Label your bags with cooking directions
2. Rub meat with sea salt and pepper; set aside.
3. In medium bowl, whisk together barbecue sauce, Root Beer, & seasoned salt, until smooth, then add onion.
4. Place meat into gallon-size Ziploc bags. 
5. Pour sauce over meat; freeze until needed.

To serve:
1         Thaw in refrigerator; pour contents into slow cooker and cook on LOW heat for 8 hours.
2         Remove pork, Pull meat apart with fork, taking off fat, return meat to Crockpot
3         Serve on rolls or hamburger buns.

Crockpot Chicken Taco Soup
O       gallon sized Ziploc bag
O       sharpie

O       1 lb (about 2 cups ) chicken breasts, fat trimmed
O       1  tbsp dried minced onion
O       1 15 oz. can ((1 ¾ cup) pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
O       1 15 oz. (1 ¾ cup) can black beans (drained and rinsed)
O       1 15 oz (1 ¾ cup) bag of frozen corn
O       1 can undrained rotel   tomatoes  (optional for more spice)
O       1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
O       1 packet Taco seasoning (use only 1/2 packet for less spice)

Day of cooking
O       2 to 3 cups chicken broth

To freeze:
1. Label Bag with instructions.
2. Combine all ingredients into a Ziploc bag and freeze flat.

To Serve:
1. Thaw overnight in fridge.
2. In Crockpot, add chicken broth, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
3. Shred chicken in crock pot once cooking is done.
4. Top with sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and/or tortilla chips.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

How to Start Freezer Cooking with Friends

It all started when I started doubling a few freezer meals on my own.  Every time one of those meals saved the day, I fell more in love with freezer cooking. I have now been freezer cooking with friends for a little over a year.  We have done seven rounds, but I have only had the time to blog about three.  I originally asked a close friend if she would try freezer cooking with me, because I wanted to expand my freezer meals, and I do everything better when I have accountability of doing it with a friend. Below are some things I have learned in my year of freezer cooking. 

Keep Group Small and Similar
Pick wisely, you will spend a lot of time with this group. I am blessed because my two freezer friends are the BEST (sorry, you can't have them!)  I would recommend to keep it to one or two friends who have a similar sized family, allergy concerns, and/or schedule as you (we all have families of 4 to 5 people, and are able to have our prep day during a week day afternoon).  

I did my first day with just one friend.  After a few sessions, we added just one 
more.  While it is tempting to add more, it's gets overwhelmingly big quickly. Remember that with every person you add, you lesson the days you can meet, recipes they will agree to make, and space in your fridge for your groceries (trust me, I know from personal experience) .

The Number One mistake you can make is picking too many recipes for your first time (We did this!!! Don't do it!!! I planned 7 recipes; it took us 5 full hours to make 5 of them and we had to divide up ingredients and do the other two at our own homes the next day by ourselves). I would recommend your first prep day to be NO MORE THREE RECIPES.  Of those three recipes, you should not have anymore than one that needs ANY type of cooking (cooked pasta, cooked meat, simmered sauce, etc).  KEEP IT SIMPLE.  If you get done in an hour, you know you can do more next time! Maybe start with three meals with the same meat, like 3 Easy Chicken Crock-pot Meals

Know that not all recipes are freezer friendly 
Just because it is your favorite recipe, does not mean it is freezer friendly (again, learned from personal experience). And just because it is online, does not mean it works. We did a meal from a  very famous "No-Cook" freezer meal Blogger, and it was NOT GOOD. She recommends freezing raw hamburger in  soups, but we found the texture of the meat after boiling in a crock-pot was just gross.  We personally found that only fresh (not frozen) chicken is good to freeze uncooked, and we cook all red meat before adding it to our recipes.

Click here for our past successful Recipes

Divide the Work
Go with each person's strengths, and divide up the responsibilities. I am the shopper in my group because I like making lists & have a membership to Sam's, while one of  my friends is the host because she has the biggest and cleanest kitchen.  Another one of our group cooks some food before prep day, like cooked shredded chicken or 15 lbs of mashed potatoes!  

We have found the most cost effective way to handle shopping is to have one person do all the shopping at Aldi and bulk food stores, then split the cost evenly.  Make sure you take into account how big your fridge is, and how long you will have to store the raw ingredients!  I shop when I have time, so it may not necessarily be right before the prep day.
 Another option is dividing up shopping by having one person buy all the meat, one person buy the dry, and one person the produce & frozen.

A Little Prep BEFORE Goes A Long Way
 I label all the ziploc gallon bags beforehand, which saves a lot more time than you'd think. This is an easy thing to prep if you just do one recipe at a time as you watch TV after bedtime.We also cook all red meat the week beforehand.  You can do this without a bunch of extra fuss.  Plan Sloppy Joe's into your family's meal plan, then 6 lbs of ground instead of your usual one! 

Prep Day 
When it comes to prep day,  I show up to my friends house about 11:00am, and I am there until about 2:30 or 3:00pm after clean up and loading of vehicles.  It takes about a half hour to get all groceries unloaded and set up (we set all like items together like a grocery store). . 
Actual food prep time can take between 2 and 3 hours. 

While cooking, we divide and conquer. 
We split up recipes, usually two of us beginning with the most labor intensive (like Baked Ziti to Stacked Enchiladas) while the third begins cutting raw chicken and/or putting together the recipes that required less steps (crock-pot Ziploc bag recipes).  When one of us was free,  they help hold gallon bags open for another or clean dishes as we went.  It get loud and fun as we yell out things like "Where is the can opener!?", " Can I use the rest of these black beans, or does someone else need them?!" , or "We need Hacienda Chips and Ranch!" (that last one might just our group).

I hope this helps someone else start a freezer friends group, you won't regret it!  My group has been a blessing to me a lot of ways.  While I love that I get home cooked meals for my family, I also love the hours spent laughing over ridiculously giant cans of black beans, or multiple selfie attempts! (above selfie took about 10 tries) GOOD LUCK!

For our Past Recipes, see posts below