Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Freezer Frenzy

7 Steps to Freezer Cooking

Step 1 – Pick a day.
This is a day that you can devote just to cooking. Think through a day when you will have the least interruptions and least amount of commitments. Don’t forget to make room in the freezer, as freezer cooking will fill it up quickly!

Step 2 – Gather grocery store flyers.
The purpose of the flyers is to plan your freezer meals around what is on sale. Many grocery stores also put their flyers on their web page so if you aren’t sure what is on sale you can look online.

Here is a very general rule of thumb that I use for buying meat. I try to never pay more than $2.00 per pound for meat. Of course there are special occasions that I will pay more but I try to use this number as a top end. Boneless chicken breasts can often be found for under $2.00. Whole chickens, drumsticks and thighs can be found for under $1.00 per pound. For ground beef I try not to pay more than $1.50 per pound. Pork and fish tend to be pricier but I still try to buy them for less than $2.00 a pound.

Many people have a Sam’s or Costco membership. I have found that buying meat in bulk at a wholesale club is a great way to get the low prices per pound. And when you are doing bulk freezer cooking, buying in bulk is not a problem – it’s a good thing. We come home and divide it up into freezer bags or vacuum sealed wraps. Speaking of vacuum sealing, it is really the best way to go.

Step 3 – Plan your meals.
Get organized and plan your meals. Use Microsoft office online calendar templates for downloadable and editable calendars. Or, you can use a regular calendar or a sheet of paper to plan your meals.  Or see my earlier freezer frenzy post for other meal planning ideas.
Step 4 – Make your Shopping List
Don’t forget to add freezer bags, freezer wrap and aluminum foil to your list!

If you have your freezer recipes already written on cards, and your ingredients on the back - this is done!

Step 5 – Go Shopping
This is best done, if possible, before your actual cooking day. The reason is that shopping for an entire week or month can take time (especially if you are visiting different stores to get the best prices.) You want to be able to focus on just cooking when it is cooking day. This is especially true if you are buying meat in bulk and need to cut it up. We usually buy 2+ weeks of groceries and a month of meat at once.

Step 6 – Cooking!!!
If you don’t feel comfortable with combining steps then just do one recipe at a time. This can be very easy especially if you’ve opted to make double or triple batches.

Step 7 – Freezing Food
There are different methods for freezing food that you may use depending upon what you have cooked.

• Freezer Bags – I purchase bags that are specifically freezer bags. I press out as much air as possible before sealing. I use this method primarily for meals that have a lot of liquids. When I freeze them I put them directly on the freezer shelf until their frozen form has been established. I can then stack them on top of one another without worrying about them freezing together.
• Foil and Plastic Wrap – Do not use this method until your foods have cooled down! I use this method of freezing when I am freezing things such as meatloaf or lasagna. It is for items that use a particular pan and need to keep a particular shape. To use this freezer method you must begin by lining a pan first with foil. Then put a layer of plastic wrap on top of the foil. Make sure that you use enough wrap to cover the entire dish. Put the food item into the dish and seal all the foil and wrap securely. You don’t want to allow any air to get to the food. Place the food, in the dish, into the freezer. Leave it in there for a couple of hours or until the food is frozen enough to hold the shape of the dish. Remove the dish from your freezer and leave the food in the freezer. Now when you are ready to cook you can thaw the food slightly, remove the foil and plastic wrap and place in the baking dish to finish thawing. This is a great method because you don’t tie up all your baking dishes in the freezer and your food fits perfectly into the baking dish when it is time to cook!
• Vacuum Sealer - you don't need a big fancy one; just the Ziploc one (always coupons for this online or in the paper!)

And here are some recipes you should try soon:
Teriyaki Chicken - There are 2 ways you can make this very easy dish. The first is to buy a pre-made Teriyaki sauce to marinade the raw chicken in. The second method is to make your own Teriyaki Sauce.

Ingredients for Cooking Day:
• Chicken – you can use any chicken parts that you like for this recipe: breast, legs, thighs, wings or a mixture!
• 1/4 cup water
• 1 small piece of fresh ginger, crushed
• 1 tsp. garlic salt
• 1 cup soy sauce
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 1/4 cup white wine (cooking wine)

Directions for Cooking Day: Put raw chicken in a freezer bag. Combine rest of ingredients and pour over chicken. Freeze.

Ingredients for Serving Day:
• Sesame seeds to taste

Directions for Serving Day: Defrost chicken mixture. Cook this any way that works best for you. Sometimes during the summer we will grill the chicken and other times I will cook it in the oven. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before cooking. I usually do about 30 minutes at 425. Cook until chicken is completely cooked through.

Honey Baked Pork Chops
Ingredients for Cooking Day:
• 6 boneless pork chops
• 1/2 cup honey
• 1/4 cup cider vinegar
• 1/4 t. ground ginger
• 1 clove minced garlic
• 2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Directions for Cooking Day: Place honey, vinegar, ginger, garlic and soy sauce in blender and mix well. Place uncooked pork chops and honey mixture in a freezer bag and freeze.

Directions for Serving Day: Thaw completely. Place pork chops and honey mixture in a baking dish. Bake for 350 degrees for 1 hour or until pork chops are cooked. Turn pork chops occasionally while baking.

And a few more kitchen time-saving tips:
• If you want to remove fat from soup or stew but can't wait for it to chill and congeal, drag a slice of bread across the surface of the broth to soak up as much grease as possible.
• Before party guests arrive, scoop ice cream into muffin tins lined with cupcake liners and refreeze. You won't have to fuss later when serving cake.
• Transfer jelly to a small plastic squeeze bottle. Less mess and no sticky jars or spoons! This also works well for homemade salad dressings.
• Use a cooking spray or oil the measuring cup next time you need to measure honey. No more messy process of scraping the cup, as the honey slides out easily.
• An empty salt shaker makes a great container to dust a little powdered sugar over baked goods.
• To make dusting a pan with flour easy and convenient, place some flour in a salt shaker and keep it stored in the freezer.
• When a recipe calls for sifting, it works just as well to put all dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and stir with a whisk.



8 comments:

Nicole said...

Love reading your freezer frenzy blogs. We'll have to try your recipes sometime. They sound really good.

Sarah said...

I love this post! I actually got a brand-new freezer because I was so psyched about making lots of freezer foods- and a few months later it is still sitting in my garage completely empty. Isn't that terrible? You have inspired me to get moving!

The Sneaky Mommy said...

Brilliant!!! Can't wait to try these steps and tips! As much as I love to cook, freezer cooking is something that still freaks me out a bit! I'm going to try some of your recipes for sure!

une autre mère said...

Your tips are awesome!! I love them all, but was especially excited to see the one about freezing your food to the form of the dish without having to use the dish. I was wondering about that.

You have inspired me to fill my freezer full of yummy meals. I'm glad you're picky like me so I don't have to worry about what I may find in your recipes. :)

Jenny said...

My goodness, I was madly converting US$ into AUD$ and pounds into kilograms and am just stunned at what you pay for meat!! Our meat here, is about $8 per kg for 'cheap' meat but I can rarely buy that. Whole chickens are about $12 each, and breast and thigh fillets are about $10/kg when on special. For weekends, I buy good meat and it's getting up toward $30/kg. Our food prices are exorbitant. Loved reading this post and making comparisons.....

Jenny said...

My goodness, I was madly converting US$ into AUD$ and pounds into kilograms and am just stunned at what you pay for meat!! Our meat here, is about $8 per kg for 'cheap' meat but I can rarely buy that. Whole chickens are about $12 each, and breast and thigh fillets are about $10/kg when on special. For weekends, I buy good meat and it's getting up toward $30/kg. Our food prices are exorbitant. Loved reading this post and making comparisons.....

Jenny said...

My goodness, I was madly converting US$ into AUD$ and pounds into kilograms and am just stunned at what you pay for meat!! Our meat here, is about $8 per kg for 'cheap' meat but I can rarely buy that. Whole chickens are about $12 each, and breast and thigh fillets are about $10/kg when on special. For weekends, I buy good meat and it's getting up toward $30/kg. Our food prices are exorbitant. Loved reading this post and making comparisons.....

Cheryl said...

You remind me so much of your mother. She is an excellent cook, too. BTW, I tried the chicken recipe today, and it's delicious.