Saturday, June 6, 2009

Food Prep

Curvaliscious asked: Oh! I am getting my freezer back (finally!) and am looking for ideas for make ahead items like this. Could you possibly share some of the things that you make (without recipes if it is easier) and freezer in preparation for making meals later on etc?

Well...I don't do all the prep work I could. I know it would be easier if I did but I do it on and off. I do prep often after we grocery shop of course.

We often buy value packs of meat (pork chops, boneless skinless chicken breast and leg quarters) so I break those apart into smaller packages for just the two of us. And then sometimes I put them in ziplock bags with marinade, label with kind of marinade flavoring, squeezing out as much air as possible before freezing them.

I do the same with ground burger or turkey - usually buying in the value pack but even when I don't - I often do some prep with it. I will create hamburger patties, layer with freezer paper or saran wrap and then wrap once again and put in a ziplock that I put the date and type of seasoning I used. Such as sometime I do teryiaki burgers or bourbon peppercorn and so on. I also brown ground burger/turkey or Italian sausage to just pull out to make tacos, casseroles or pasta. I will do them up with seasoning or just plain and again label label label.

At times I will grill up some (plain or marinated) chicken breasts for salads, for casseroles or other dishes that I can use it. I have cooked a roast in the crockpot and then split the meat up for other things such beef stroganoff, shredded beef for bbq beef sandwiches, sliced for open faced sandwiches and so on. Same with pork roast. And package up in ziplocks labeling and freezing.

Fresh veggies if I know we are not going to eat them all that week - I chop and freeze in serving sizes. I chop mixed peppers in big junks and strips, onions chopped in big rings as well as chunks and finely chopped, carrots are julienne and so on. I use them on kabobs, in stir fry, on pizza, with pasta, in omelets or frittata, casseroles and so on.

If I am just doing prep for the week I make a menu and then look ahead to see what I can prep ahead. Veggies to chop put into containers or ziplocks. Brown ground meat, boil and freeze rice or pasta. I keep an inventory of what have in the freezer so if we are having grilled chicken - I make sure if I don't have it in a ziplock with the marinade. Or need to take out and marinate before hand.

If I am doing a casserole such as ziti. I brown Italian sausage, cook pasta, make sauce (or pour it from a jar) - mixing it all into a casserole dish and freeze. If I don't have freezer room, I will at least brown the meat and make the pasta and freeze those in ziplocks they take up less room and then take them out the night before. And then it is just mixing it all up and putting into the oven.

I make some bulk items for lunches and breakfast (link for recipe for making bulk breakfast burritos). Also I freeze leftovers in individual portions for lunch too. Such as if we have spaghetti and meatballs - I throw the left overs in a ziplock, push all the air out and then just microwave to thaw at lunch or take out the night before. Chili, pasta, stir fry, casseroles, soups - all freeze well and so are great for freezing then thawing for dinner or lunch. I make up french bread pizzas for lunch too. I often make 2 loaves of french bread at once and often we can't eat one whole loaf so I take them and make them into french bread pizza. I top with tomato sauce, seasonings and then veggies or pepperoni and top with cheese. I cut into lunch sized portions and then flash freeze or wrap and put in a ziplock. I take out and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

I have just the freezer on my refrigerator. We don't have room for a freezer without serious rearranging so of course my prep is limited. I would love to have a big free-standing freezer. I know it would allow for so much more prep and making up whole meals.

Some links that might be of use for freezing and food prep. You don't need to do the once a month cooking but some of the recipes and ideas are good when trying to making dinner easier.

Once a Month Cooking - the key to your freezer cooking
Once a month Cooking World - check out freezer tips there too - they are a little different
Freezer Cooking Guide
Once a Month Cooking Experiment
Busy Cooks - Once a Month Cooking
Marinade.com - just lots of different marinades. Store bought bottled marinades work fine too though
Marinade Recipes
Chicken Cycle - roast a chicken get many meals
Roast Chicken and Leftover Ideas

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this! I will be visiting the links and trying some of your ideas as soon as I have my freezer back.

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  2. When I make my favorite lasagna recipe, I always make two and freeze one.

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  3. I so should search, but I'm lazy. Do you have any tips for learning how to cook for two?

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  4. I'm not danae, but I learned to cook for two. Here's what helped me:

    1) Brush up on your math so you can scale down portionally. Especially on first time trials of recipes (you don't want to make a full recipe, plan on freezing the extra, and it turns out you hate it) Or, if it's a meal for four, plan on having leftovers for lunch. I'm not a leftover fan so I usually scaled down the recipe or froze the other half.

    2) Try one new recipe a week, and write down your comments after you eat ("less oil, more salt, cook for only 22 minutes instead of 25, etc"). It doesn't have to be an entire dinner menu that's completely new. Pair the new dish with tried and true favorites so you can focus on the one with the recipe you are following.

    3) I personally love ratings on online recipes. I look for higher rated recipes, and then browse the comments to see if there's anything that would help me (especially comments about too much/too little spice, oils, etc). I just figured if it's a popular recipe, my chances of it turning out well will improve.

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  5. I also did the work once, used it twice if possible. (Example, I would grill the whole package of chicken breasts- we'd eat two that night and then we'd have it sliced up on the next night's salad)

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  6. Jouet, Thank you for adding your two cents on the cooking for two! Many of the things you mention I do too.

    I cut recipes down. But mostly I just freeze things for meals later, have left overs for lunch or another dinner. Master likes left-overs so I am lucky!

    Rayne, I don't have any other posts on cooking for two. But when I was going from cooking for 6 to 2 it was hard. I checked out cookbooks from the library on cooking for two. And that helped me and after that I think it just became easier to know how to scale a recipe down or jump off their recipes to make my own.

    But again for the most part - I do freeze or leftovers.

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