My husband has been traveling a lot lately. He's been working out of town Monday - Friday and so the weekends are our family time. It seems that we have been spending too much of the weekends running errands, fixing dinner or going out to eat. Wanting to take advantage of the short amount of time our family has to be together, I've been thinking of stuff I can do differently throughout the week to free up some time on the weekends.
Today I finally got around to trying out the concept of making many meals in one day and freezing them for later use. I really liked it! It is so nice to have my freezer full of home cooked meals that are ready to be thawed and heated.
- Chile Chicken Verde (to eat in soft corn tortillas w/cheese)
- Slow-cooker Ribs
- Cranberry Chicken
- Swiss Steak w/gravy
Each of the above is a single recipe. My family is small and I can usually get two meals from a single recipe. The Chile Verde and Ribs got rave reviews from the family. They haven't tried the other two yet.
I have several freezer meal cookbooks but, today I used just two:
Dinner is Ready by Deanna Buxton
Once-a-Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson & Mary Beth Lagerborg
So, as a beginner freezer meal cook, I thought I'd share a few cool or helpful things that I learned today, as well as the recipes for the two meals the family liked...
A few main things make cooking in a day possible:
- You need to start in a clean kitchen
- You need to have a variety of meals that use different cooking methods (oven, slow cooker, stove top and assemble for cooking later).
- It helps to have two sets of measuring cups and spoons, one for wet ingredients and another for dry
- Have the trash ready and empty
- Read through the recipes and prep identical ingredients at the same time. (Three of the recipes above called for onion. It was quick to cut all of the onions at once.)
- After you label and fill the freezer bags put them on cookie sheets so they freeze flat. It will be easier to stack and store that way.
Slow Cooked Short Ribs (from the Dinner is Ready cookbook)
2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 pounds boneless beef short ribs (I used pork ribs)
1/3 cup butter
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup chili sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 cup corn syrup
Combine flour, salt and pepper. Coat ribs with flour mixture. In a large skillet, brown ribs on all sides in butter. Transfer browned ribs to slow cooker. In the same skillet, combine beef broth, onion, brown sugar, vinegar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, garlic, chili powder and corn syrup. Mix well. Heat until mixture comes to a boil. Pour over ribs in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 9 - 10 hours. Remove from slow cooker and allow to cool. Place in freezer bag. Label and freeze.
To Serve: Thaw. Heat until hot and bubbly.
Chile Verde (from the Once-A-Month Cooking cookbook)
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups water
3 chicken bouillon cubes ( I like Knorr)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt (I omitted this)
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese*
1 dozen corn tortillas*
1 24-ounce jar salsa*
Combine chicken with chilies and seasonings; refrigerate until needed. At the same time, combine beans, water, bouillon cubes, garlic, salt, and onion in a large pot; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer until beans are soft, about 1 hour. Add more water if necessary.
Combine chicken and spices with beans; simmer 10 more minutes. Cool and transfer to a gallon sized freezer bag or a 5-cup freezer container. Grate cheese, put it in a 1-quart bag and attach it to the freezer container with the chili.
To Serve: thaw chile verde and cheese; serve on warmed corn tortillas
Serve with: fresh tomato, cilantro, and avocado slices