Saturday, June 4, 2011

Freezer cooking, take 1

A friend from college - who is far more crunchy than I am (that's a good thing) - mentioned on her blog that she had stumbled upon a "once a month" cooking web site and was going to try it. I was intrigued.

My Nana always had a freezer stocked with food, just in case a swarm of hungry people descended on our house unannounced. Soups, pie, bread, jelly... gosh only knows what was in there when my aunt moved her out of the house. Now that we have a full-size upright freezer, I feel like I could be using it more. For the rouge swarm, you know. Or when my kiddos have me outside enjoying the summer and I don't feel like really preparing a meal.

Yes, I'm slowly turning into my Nana. She is 95, deaf as a doornail, sharp on occasion and can still drink a beer a day. I think I could aspire to worse.

This web site my friend found puts out new recipes each month ( so when June's came out last week I decided to jump in. Hubby had agreed to help - he loves being in the kitchen and is the take charge, organize kind of guy. He keeps me from getting flustered and is actually a better cook than I am.

The best chance we had was shoehorned in after a Friday night grocery trip and the kids were in bed. How many meals could we squeeze in before midnight with no prep ahead of time? The lucky number was 9.5. We did 3 breakfasts, 3 pastas, 2 kinds of burgers and a chicken dish. The twice-baked potatoes were not quite baked the first time and we weren't prepared to wait longer, hence the half dish.

Now this web site is thorough, but we had a hard time with a few things. A few of the recipes had amounts that were wonky - one burger recipe called for 2 lbs of beef, the other 4 lbs. How does that make sense? A lot of things were measured by cups for easy dividing or multiplying in a spreadsheet, others in ounces. What is 21.33 oz of pasta? Was it by weight or volume? We guessed and changed a few amounts on the fly when it didn't seem right. And by "we," I mean Hubby.

I had to ignore the month's grocery list because I wasn't making everything and I couldn't figure an easy way to delete the ingredients I didn't need. So I made my own. Annoying, but tolerable.

The list of instructions that was supposed to help figure out the order of our recipes got chucked after two dishes because there were steps missing. Really annoying for someone who is not naturally organized and doesn't handle "new" well.

One recipe didn't seem like it would spread to two 8x8 pans (spaghetti pie), so we ended up making just one. It will be a big meal for us, but it can be dinner for all four of us and several days of lunches for Hubby and I.

I don't want to give a full grade until we actually taste the meals (although they smelled pretty good), but I'm leaning toward "C." The process and the specifics were iffy, which is what I needed help with most. That meant that Hubby took the reins and ended up doing more than I did. That isn't why I wanted to do this experiment.

The high points: I appreciate the meal ideas and hints on how to freeze and then heat/reheat. I love the breakfasts. Hubby may actually grab an egg sandwich or breakfast burrito on his way out the door and we can mix up the cereal, oatmeal or toaster waffle rut the kids and I get in.

Next time (yes, there will be a next time), I will try to put my thinking cap on and not follow the letter of the site. I'm not great in the kitchen (I am getting there), but I can try to figure out when things don't seem right. The idea is to watch sales and stock up on ingredients when there is a deal. Since we were in a time crunch, that wasn't possible this time. Speaking of time, I'd like to start BEFORE 8 p.m. I didn't hit a wall until 11:30, really, and all that was left then was bagging the last few meals and clean-up, which was waiting for me bright and early this morning.

So for anyone who is curious, we used mostly the "traditional" menu : raspberry breakfast cake, bacon hash brown wraps, sausage mac n cheese, bacon cheeseburger chicken, ranch burgers, green chili burgers, and garlic chicken farfalle. Left to go tonight are the sneaky stuffed potatoes, buffalo chicken sandwiches and peanut butter pork kabobs, which are mostly assemble and freeze. From the "whole foods" menu, we made spaghetti pie and oatmeal on the go bars.

I encourage you to try it! Nobody can feel as lost as I do in the kitchen sometimes and I survived, so take a chance. And if you live closer than my college friend, maybe we can cook together sometime.

Or maybe I'll let Hubby do it and I'll just eat what's in my freezer.

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