Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Day of Freezer Meals

As all the freezer meals are eaten and gone, I am updating this post.  My comments in red beneath each recipe is how they turned out. One common theme I learned when doing this is do NOT freeze potatoes. They do, indeed, as I was warned, turn black. If you don't mind them black, then go for it, because the taste isn't affected or anything. They still taste good. It's just strange and somewhat unsettling eating black potatoes. 

Also, I do have to say that the frozen, cooked hamburger meat wasn't the greatest once reheated. It's more rubbery when it's cooked before being frozen, but it's not that big of a difference really. It still turns out good and the time saving factor makes it definitely worth it.

Frozen shredded cooked chicken, however, was still fantastic. Didn't notice a difference there. And I loved the convenience of it. I did find out by doing this project just how much I prefer boneless skinless chicken thighs over the breasts. I know the breasts are healthier, as well as cheaper, but I have a hard time cooking them properly. Almost always, it's too dry. With the thighs, however, they are always full of flavor and very juicy. I've started buying thighs now.

Will I do this again? Probably, though not so much in one afternoon. And probably not for a while.

I cannot believe my blog is still surviving (maybe on life support, but still surviving). And not to mention the out-of-date pictures of my boys above. Maybe someday I'll update those. Oh, and the tabs that don't even reflect my most recent writing projects and novels. Oi.

Anyway, I logged on this morning for the first time since September 2011, half expecting it to be gone or something. And I'll be honest, seeing the blog made me a little sentimental and nostalgic. Not that I'm going to start blogging again (who knows, maybe here and there). I'm doing a post today dedicated to yesterday--the day I dedicated my time to making freezer meals.

I am in NO way a cook. I don't enjoy it. So, no, this is not turning into a cooking blog. In fact, I'm so below par on my cooking abilities that I would never feel qualified enough to give people any kind of advice on the subject. But in my recent feelings of failure as a mother and homemaker, I've realized I need to do way better at making sure my family has a meal to eat every night. Usually, I cook about 2 to 3 meals a week, leaving my husband fending for himself and the boys resorting to hot-dogs or sandwiches the other days (like on days the boys play Tee-Ball, etc.). So, I decided to be like all the other Super Moms out there, though I'll never measure up.

But because I dread spending the late part of my afternoon preparing meals, I decided to look into freezer meals. After spending a day gathering information on tons of different blogs (found through Pinterest, of course) and making my menus (some ideas taken from other blogs, some recreated from my own stock of recipes), I went shopping.

And what a shopping trip that was. The kids and I didn't finish at the store until 10pm. And then we had to drive 1.5 hours home...on my son's school night.

Anyway, the following day, I dedicated my time to preparing these freezer meals. I spent from 9am to 8pm in my kitchen. On my feet. I wanted to finish so badly that I didn't even stop to eat or drink. Not even a minute break to check facebook, or even to turn on Pandora. The only breaks I took were the annoying necessary breaks to change or feed kids, pick up Sam from school, dress them for Tee-Ball, etc. (Dave took them to Tee-ball, thank goodness).

By the end of the day, I was so physically exhausted and achy and hungry, that I never wanted to set foot in my kitchen again (unless someone was going to spoon feed me). And the mess...holy crap, the mess. I don't think my kitchen has ever been as messy as it was after I finished.

I know, I sound like a baby. But this is coming from someone who only cooks when absolutely necessary. So I am a baby.

Anyway, I'd say the day was a success. Crazy, but a success. I originally planned 29 different meals. The reality was 21. Honestly, I don't know if I'll be doing it again ever any time soon, but I'm sure on those late afternoons I don't feel like cooking, I'll be grateful.

Back to the reason I'm doing this blog post (Does anyone even blog anymore?): I've had a few requests from friends and family on the menu and recipes I used. So rather than send them to a few individual people, here it is for the tiny blogging community that may still exist with Fond of Blond world to see.

I chopped all the veggies first, divided them up and set them aside. Then the potatoes. Since they brown in the open air, seal them in the ziplock bags for the meals that call for them.

Then I did the chicken (I should have taken a picture of my fridge the night after shopping; the entire thing was stuffed with poultry and meat). I cooked the chicken that needed to be shredded, and amidst that, I chopped the chicken for the recipes calling for cubed chicken. I added the chicken to the bags as I finished it (which I already had labeled with the meal, the date, any further directions I will need after removing it from freezer, and how many bags; some recipes required 2 bags, some only 1). The only chicken I cooked was the bunch that needed to be shredded* (which I shredded in my Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle attachment after it was cooked).
*I cut it into cubes, then fry it in olive oil, minced onion, and shredded carrots. Then when cooked, shred.

Then I divided up the hamburger (90/10 huge logs from Sam's Club) and began cooking it in 1-2 lb. batches. I mix in onions, shredded carrots, and seasoning in with all of them, usually.

I then cut the steaks, etc.

It was a long process and probably could have gone smoother than it had. Again, I'll emphasize I'm not an expert. So if you think of ways to make this much easier, etc., you're probably right.

Anyway, here are the recipes I used (and these are for our family of 5): There are 5 oven or stove-top meals, and 9 crockpot meals (my favorite). In addiction to those 14, I also prepared 7 meal-size servings of meat that I can pull out of the freezer for any last minute meals (spaghetti, fettuccine alfredo, etc.); (2) 2 lb. bags of browned, seasoned ground beef (with shredded carrots and onions), 3 bags of shredded chicken (about 4 to 5 large chicken breasts shredded), seasoned and cooked, and 2 bags of cubed chicken (not cooked). So 21 in all. And no pictures of the finished products. Sorry. In my rush to get it done and over with, pictures were the last thing on my mind. This was the only shot, before I actually got started:


I don't know if all of these will turn out fabulous or not, so I will update this post (or do a new one) as we eat them, to let you know of the outcome. I will probably plan my menu a week at a time, and the night before, I'll take whichever meal we will eat the next day out of the freezer to thaw, so that by the time I cook it the following day, it won't be frozen.

14 meals:


Chicken, Potatoes, Green Beans

  • 4-6 raw chicken breasts
  • new or red potatoes, cut to your preference (I did large chunks)
  • green beans (I used 2 cans)

Bag it all. Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Arrange in 9x13 dish. Sprinkle with packet of Italian dressing mix then top with a melted stick of butter. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Turned out good, but the potatoes were black.

Pesto Chicken and Vegetables

  • raw chicken, cut in bite-size pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • fresh chopped broccoli (or a 16 oz. bag of frozen, chopped broccoli)
  • fresh green beans (or a bag of frozen)
  • 1 small jar of pesto


Bag it. Mix it together. Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Heat olive oil in large skillet. Pour ingredients in pan (you may need to add more pesto) and cook. When chicken is almost done, add a chopped tomato for added flavor.

Turned out just as good as if I made it fresh!

Meatloaf

  • 1.5 - 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 3/4 C. quick oats
  • 1/4 C. onion, minced
  • 1.5 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 grated carrot (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 C. milk (optional)


Mix all together and place in bag (I pressed it all down flat in the bag so it would fit better in freezer, as well as thaw more evenly when the time comes).

Bag instructions: Place into loaf pan and form into a loaf. Mix 1/3 C. ketchup, 2 T. brown sugar, and 1 t. ground mustard; pour over top of loaf. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Turned out fine, as good as meatloaf can be. Not the best, but still good. My husband and kids liked it!

Pizza Casserole (a family favorite)

  • 1/2 - 2 lb. ground beef, browned with:
  • 1 lb. mild pork sausage, and:
  • 1 onion, minced, and:
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced, and:
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped, and finally:
  • All purpose seasoning


  • 1 cup pepperoni slices
  • 14 oz. jar pizza sauce
  • 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • pizza seasoning (if desired)
  • 4 T. milk


Mix all ingredients in bag(s). Lay flat, freeze.

Bag Instructions: Cook 1 package of elbow macaroni. When cooked, mix together with bagged ingredients in a 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Top with mozzarella cheese and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes.

Good, because this is always a family favorite. You can definitely tell a difference between freshly cooked hamburger meat and cooked-then-frozen-and-recooked hamburger meat. But it's still good, and worth it.

Creamy Chicken & Broccoli Casserole

  • 4 to 5 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 2 cans cream of chicken and/or mushroom soup (I get the combo)
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 2 cups shredded cheese of your choice
  • 1 bag frozen, chopped broccoli


Mix well in bag(s). Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Place in greased casserole dish. Top with more cheese, if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve over rice.

This was purely delicious, and turned out really well!!

Savory Pepper Steak

  • about 3 lbs. round steak, cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 1/2 C. flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. pepper

Mix flour, salt, and pepper in bag. Toss in steak strips and shake until evenly coated. Then, seperately, mix together:


  • 2 T. beef bullion
  • 4 t. worcestershire sauce
  • 2 T. steak sauce
  • 2 T. steak seasoning or rub

Pour into bag with steak, and add remaining ingredients:


  • 1 large onion, chopped or minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • (2) 16 oz. cans of Italian style diced tomatoes


Mix well in bag(s). Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Cook in crockpot on low for 6 hours. Serve with rice and side salad.

Meat was absolutely fantastic, but the sauce was a bit spicy for our liking.

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham

  • 12 new potatoes (or 8 or 9 red potatoes), cut in 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 cans cream of potato soup
  • 2 cans water
  • 2 ham steaks, cubed
  • shredded cheese
  • 4 cups chopped broccoli, or 1 bag of frozen chopped broccoli
  • salt and pepper


Mix in bag(s). Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Cook in crockpot on low for 6 hours.

Okay, not the best. Definitely eatable. But not my favorite. And again, the potatoes were black.

Salsa Chicken

  • 4 to 6 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • (2) 15 oz. cans black beans (drained a little)
  • 16 oz. bag frozen corn
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes and green chilies
  • 1 jar salsa
  • 1 packet (or about 2 T.) taco seasoning


Mix in bag(s). Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Put in crockpot and add shredded cheese (about 2 cups). Cook on low 8 hours (if still frozen). If thawed, cook on low for 3 or 4. Serve over rice or on tortillas. 

Absolutely my favorite! I have made this again a few times since then because I loved it so much. Everything turned out fantastic and the flavor is wonderful. We had a TON of leftovers, which was awesome, because I used it for nachos and quesadillas in coming days. But Mexican is always my favorite. Oh, and I also added some brown rice in the mix; then, when about an hour remains, I added sour cream as well.

Chicken Curry

  • 4 to 6 large chicken breasts, cubed
  • 2 cans cream chicken soup
  • 1 cup dry cooking sherry (I didn't have any, so I used Burgundy cooking wine instead)
  • 8 green onions, chopped
  • 4 t. curry powder
  • salt and pepper


Mix in bag well(s). Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Place in crockpot and add 1/2 C. butter. Cook on low 4 to 6 hours. Serve over rice with a side salad.

Turned out good! I love anything with curry.

Hamburger Potatoes

  • 8 red potatoes, sliced
  • 1 small bag baby carrots
  • 1.5 C. tomatoe juice
  • 1-2 lbs. ground beef, browned along with:
  • 1 onion, minced or chopped, and:
  • 1 t. salt, and:
  • 1/2 t. pepper, and:
  • All purpose seasoning


Mix well in bag(s). Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Place in crockpot and add about 1 C. more on tomato juice if necessary, to make sure all is evenly coated and to prevent dish from getting too dry. Cook on low 6 hours.

Good, but of course...the potatoes were black.

Sausage and Peppers (I don't know how this one will turn out. I wasn't fond of the smell while making it)

  • 6 Italian sausages (or chicken sausage), chopped. (if you buy it uncooked, like I did, you will need to brown it)
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped or sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped or sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped or minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 T. Italian seasoning


Mix well in bag(s). Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Add a drizzle of olive oil in crockpot. Cook on low 6 hours. Serve over noodles or fresh french bread with mozzarella cheese.

This one was questionable to me when making it, but it turned out fantastic! I absolutely loved the flavors.

Teriyaki Chicken

  • medium bag of baby carrots
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large can pineapple, undrained
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 to 6 chicken breasts, raw
  • 1 C. teriyaki sauce


Mix well in bag(s). Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Add an additional 1/4 C. of teriyaki sauce when in crockpot. Cook on low 6 to 7 hours. Serve over hot rice.

If you use boneless skinless chicken thighs, the chicken is great. The rest was soggy and not so good.

Savory Chicken

  • 4 to 6 raw chicken breasts
  • 2 cans stewed tomatoes
  • 4 T. white wine (again, I used burgundy cooking wine instead. You can also use extra broth here instead)
  • 1 large onion, chopped or minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 C. chicken broth
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 bay leaves


Mix well in bag(s). Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Place in crockpot. Cook on low 6 to 7 hours. Add 4 C. broccoli (or frozen chopped broccoli) during last 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Very good! Use boneless skinless chicken thighs! So juicy.

Lazy Day Stew

  • 4 lbs. cubed stewing beef, raw
  • 8 red potatoes, halved or cubed
  • 10 oz. package dried lima beans
  • 4 t. quick-cooking tapioca
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • small bag of baby carrots
  • 2 onions, chopped or minced
  • 2 cups chopped celery (optional)


Mix well in bag(s). I needed two bags for this one. Lay flat, freeze.

Bag instructions: Add 1 C. water in crockpot. Cook on low 4 to 6 hours. Eat as soup, or serve over noodles or rice.

It was good, other than the black potatoes. And next time, I won't use lima beans. It just made it kind of weird. Not really our thing.

1 comment:

Becca Campbell said...

That all sounds amazing! Sounds like a ton of work. I think I might try it, but a week at a time. Thanks for the ideas Jennie. =)