Freezer Cooking

I hate rushing around in the evenings to get dinner ready, and even a good Sunday of meal prep isn’t enough for every night.  By far the EASIEST solution I’ve found has been to do a session of freezer cooking every couple of months to stock the fridge with healthy, easy, meals that are ready to roll.  I’ve done almost a half a dozen of these freezer meal prep sessions with different friends in different situations:  once as a class I took, once in a church kitchen with my entire family of in laws, a couple of times for or with friends who were having babies, and a time or two by myself.  Each time it gets easier and quicker to plan and execute.  I think I’ve worked most of the bugs out by now.  🙂

I HIGHLY recommend getting together with friends to do this.  Crank up the music and you’ll be finished before you know it and have a good time in the process.  Would make a GREAT date night w/ your accountability group…hint, hint.  This time I had the pleasure of helping my friend Meg put together her first batch of freezer meals.

Because she only needs a couple of servings at a time and she doesn’t know these recipes yet, we opted for just doing one batch of each.  If we were to repeat this after she tries and approves of all these recipes, I’d have her double the World’s Greatest Chicken, Chicken Teriyaki, and Burritos recipes.  But for now, we stuck with one batch a piece.

Here’s what we made:
Chili 280 cal, 10f, 21c, 28p
Taco Soup  280 cal, 10f, 21c, 27p
Freezer-to-Microwave Burritos (also amazing as breakfast burritos, but that’s another post) EACH 166 cal, 7f, 19c, 17p when made w/ 1 tbsp each of cheese and salsa
Chicken Teriyaki 374 cal, 9f, 27c, 48p
World’s Greatest Chicken (that’s what Pinterest says about it…it’s basically an amazing twist on dijon chicken)  298 cal, 7f, 16c, 45p
Taco Night JumpStart (basically the meat is ready to become nachos, tacos, taco salads, etc) 215 cal, 11f, 7c, 23p

For macro info, if you don’t want to have to log all this yourself in MFP, search MacroTools and the name of the recipe and you can use mine.  Ex.  MacroTools Chicken Teriyaki  And these macros will improve when you start making your own taco seasoning.  Also play with the amounts of maple syrup and honey to see if you can get away with less when you repeat these recipes (after you’re sure you like them as-written).

First things first, here’s the  shoppinglist.  It has all of the ingredients for each recipe.  The first two columns will be your shopping list: Ingredients and Totals.  They’re organized by department of the grocery store.  My first freezer meal experience had me chasing all over the store back and forth, over and over because they weren’t broken down like this.  Nearly killed the OCD in me. 😉  I think you’ll find these easier to follow.

When you’re ready to start, here’s the plan of execution:

Label bags before you start.  Put today’s date on each bag in Sharpie.  I’m going to assume you need four servings/bag, so label them as such (feel free to divide more or less according to your needs):
Bag #1: World’s Greatest Chicken; Bake at 425 for 30ish mins or Grill
Bag #2: Chili; Add H2O
Bag #3:  Chili;  Add H2O
Bag #4:  Chicken Teriyaki; Sauté, Bake, or Grill
Bag #5:  Taco Soup; Add H2O
Bag #6: Taco Soup; Add H2O
Bag #7:  Taco Night!!!
Bag #8: Burritos; Remove foil, microwave 2-3 mins in plastic

Dice all onions and peppers.
Brown beef with onions and minced garlic.  Add 100g onions to each lb of beef.
Drain beef/onion/garlic mixture.
Divide beef/onion/garlic mixture into 3rds.  Put 1/3 in a pot for chili.
To chili pot, add:
1 can chili beans
100g diced onions
100g diced peppers
1 can tomato paste
1 can diced green chiles
1 can diced tomatoes (I prefer the type that have no salt added)
Seasonings (these are suggestions…if you’re a comfortable cook, get wild with em…if you need a smart place to start, use these)
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp cumin
1/4 C chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

To beef left over (not in chili pot), add 1.5ish cups of water (you may need more) and 3 packets of taco seasoning (or make your own with this recipe http://www.smells-like-home.com/2011/06/diy-taco-seasoning/) to remaining 2/3 of beef.
Once the seasoning is mixed well, divide the taco meat into 4ths.  Put 1/4 in Bag #7.  Lay it flat (like a credit card) and squeeze all of the air out of the bag.  Place it in your fridge until the temp comes down, then move it to your freezer.  One bag down!  High five!
Put another 1/4 of the taco meat into a bowl and set it aside for burritos.

The remaining taco meat is your base for taco soup.  Add the following to it:
1 can chili beans
1 can corn, drained
1 can diced green chiles
1 can diced tomatoes (I prefer the ones without added salt)
1 can tomato paste
100g diced onion
100g diced peppers
chopped cilantro
1/2 packet of dry ranch mix (or make your own here: http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/homemade-ranch-seasoning-mix/)
(Feel free to add more seasonings to taste.  The ones you used in the chili will play well here if you want more heat.  It’s also just fine as written w/ taco seasoning and ranch mix.  If I added one thing, it would be the paprika)

While the Taco Soup and Chili are simmering, assemble the chicken bags.

Slice 2 lbs of chicken breasts into strips and add to bag #1
In a bowl, whisk together:
1/2 C dijon mustard
1/4 C maple syrup (not colored high fructose corn syrup…read your labels!)
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary (remove from stem and chop)
Add to Bag #1.  Smush chicken and dijon mixture together well to coat.  Lay flat.  Squeeze out air.  Seal and freeze.  Two Bags Down!

Dice 2 lbs of chicken breasts and add to bag #4
Add to it:
bag of frozen vegetables
1/2 C honey
1/2 low sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos
1/4 C red wine vinegar
100g diced onion
some minced garlic (1/2 tbsp.? maybe)
1 inch peeled and minced ginger root.  Or be lazy like me and use 1tbsp of this stuff: http://www.gourmetgarden.com/en/product/104/ginger-stir-paste  From produce section.
1/4 tsp black pepper
Smush to mix.  Lay flat.  Squeeze out air.  Seal and freeze.  Three Bags Down!

Make sure someone is stirring the Chili and Taco Soup.  You’ll notice they are VERY thick.  We’re making soup concentrates.  There’s no reason to add water to a recipe just to freeze it and have it take up more room in your freezer.  So you’ll add the water when you reheat these.  Don’t panic.  They’re supposed to be like this.  Add a little water if they need room to simmer, but don’t feel like either recipe should look/feel like the finished product.  They aren’t supposed to.

tacosoup

While those are simmering, assemble your burritos.  Here’s how they should look:
large square of foil
large square of plastic wrap
Ole tortilla
1/8 of taco mixture
salsa and cheese to taste
Roll it up in tortilla.  Roll inside plastic wrap.  Roll again in foil.
Repeat for all 8 burritos.  Add to bag.  Get as much air out as you can without squishing your burritos.  Lay flat in fridge until cooled.  Then add to freezer.  Four Bags Down!!!

The soups should be ready by now.  Check to see that onions and peppers are tender.  If so, bag em up!  Divide chili between bags 2 and 3 and taco soup between bags 5 and 6.  If you don’t have a friend to hold the bag while you fill it, put it in a pitcher with the top folded over (or a blender but only if you remove the blade first).  Lay flat.  Smush out air.  Cool in fridge then throw in freezer.  Bags 5-8 are now complete.

Pour yourself a beverage and put your feet up.  Dinner is (mostly) covered for at least 8 nights.  When you’re ready to use, just thaw in fridge the day before you want to use it then follow directions written on the bags.  Easy peasy.

food

Big thanks to the following spots for recipes/inspirations/spring boards:
Chili By George (3k people are using this recipe) http://allrecipes.com/recipe/14985/its-chili-by-George/
New Leaf Wellness for the killer Chicken Teriyaki  http://newleafwellness.biz/2014/10/20/6-healthy-freezer-crockpot-meals-50-minutes/
World’s Best Chicken http://rachelschultz.com/2012/07/11/worlds-best-chicken/
Taco Soup recipe courtesy of my momma ❤

I’m not really blogging: Freezer Cooking Party, Round 1

One day, I’ll blog.  This is not that day.  lol.  I don’t have the time or mental real estate available to take on another project at the moment, BUT it is a good place to share info like this cooking adventure.  So, here you go!

We got together and cooked last night.  In case you want to replicate it, here’s the info.

In the end, you’ll have:
6 gallon-sized bags and 3 quart-sized bags of taco soup
4 batches of Italian Sausage w/ peppers and onions
6 batches of chicken teriyaki
6 batches of chile lime chicken fajitas
6 batches of Dijon chicken, aka World’s Best Chicken according to pinterest (and the original recipe)
40+ burritos that are ready to microwave-and-go
6-9 servings of taco meat to jump start Taco Night

I stuck to recipes I use all the time.  The only new one in this batch is the Chicken Teriyaki and it came highly recommended on the Pinterest.  I didn’t want to make 6 batches of a recipe only to find out it was a dud.  We may get more adventurous later, but for now, this seemed like the best bet.

As for price, everyone shops differently, but by using our own spices, olive oil, and making our own taco seasoning, we were able to pull this off for just over $300.  We did 2 shopping trips: one to Sams for meats, frozen veggies, spaghetti sauce, peppers, onions, and limes.  The other to Walmart for everything else.  We split the shopping responsibilities and they went really quickly.

Here are the Recipes.

And here’s the Shopping List.

The day of the cooking, here’s how to put it together:

  • FIRST THING–Dice 2 onions. Brown all meat with diced onions.  Once cooked, add taco seasoning.
  • Trim and butterfly chicken breasts.
  • Mix all marinades in bulk (ours were all 6x the original recipe except for the Italian sausage w/ peppers and onions…we only made 4 of those).  Then divide out among bags.
  • Slice onions and green peppers into fajita strips for fajitas and Italian sausage w/ peppers and onions.  Dice the rest of the onions.
  • Once taco meat is finished:
    Assemble taco soup in large kettle if you have one.  If not, dump canned beans and vegetables into individual bags.  Add taco meat.  DON’T cook the soup.  Just bag it up once everything is assembled.
    Make burritos.
    Any leftover taco meat will be bagged in 1-2 lb portions to be used for tacos, taco salads, etc.
  • For all other recipes, just dump ingredients in bags and remove as much air as possible.  Air = freezer burn = crappy tasting food.

We learned a few things along the way.  Here are some tips and tricks:
If you can, buy larger quantities (ex. 3 large cans of beans instead of 6 small cans).
Label bags before you fill them.
If you want to make your own taco seasoning, try this.  We love it.  http://www.smells-like-home.com/2011/06/diy-taco-seasoning/
Your own ranch mix, try this.  http://thecraftyblogstalker.com/smaller-portion-best-homemade-ranch/?showComment=1385332419483#c2584216732193509382

If you have any questions or comments, let me know.  We had fun with it.  I hope you will too!