Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Freezer Meals: Filling the Freezer in One Day!

Days of thought an preparation go into a big cook day, but the reward is a freezer full of pre-made meals that take only minutes to make each day rather than hours.

No more thinking about what to make each day, wondering if I have all the ingredients. I just pick a meal out of the freezer the night before and let it defrost in the fridge, then pop it into the slow cooker or oven.

Freedom from the kitchen and more time to play with my kids!

It's big cook time!

Before I get started I make sure I'm prepared. If you haven't already read it, read my last post about Preparing for a Big Cook. I plan my meals, get my ingredients, and have my kitchen ready for this day.

I make a list of the meals in the order I plan to make them. The order depends on the meals I'm making each time, but I usually start with the meal that takes the most time. Pasta sauce, chicken stock, chilli, or soup require simmering time so they are usually first. If I'm starting in the morning I'll often put the stock on the night before in the slow-cooker so it's ready to be used in the morning. Next, I make anything that is required for another recipe (like meatballs or tortillas). Then it's on to the difficult/time consuming recipes (Lasagne or Manicotti). Finally I do the remaining recipes.

My meals usually require two kinds of meat; ground beef and chicken breasts. If I need pre-cooked meat for a meal I brown the beef together all at once and divide it up for each recipe. While the meat is browning I also turn on the oven and put my chicken breasts on a broiler pan @350 for 20 minutes (or until cooked).

While the meat is cooking and the sauce is simmering, I start preparing the veggies and cheese. The food processor is my best friend for this task! Huge blocks of cheese can be reduced to shredded mounds in seconds and it saves the tears when slicing bags of onions.

Once I have all the meat, sauces, veggies and cheese prepared, I start to assemble meals.

One meal at a time, I boil pasta, mix sauces and fillings, arrange, layer, stuff and roll the more time consuming meals.

The Lasagne is done...

The Enchiladas are filled and laid out on cookie sheets for freezing in individual portions...

Now I move on to the dump and pour meals - my favourite because they are so satisfying!

I store most of my meals in freezer bags to save space. They are all pre-labelled with the name of the dish, any ingredients that need to be added at cooking time, cooking instructions, and the date. I also include the number of servings as I make several different sized meals.

To make this task a whole lot easier, I discovered that some of my storage containers hold my freezer bags open to make for easy filling.

I use a measuring cup. Starting with the meat - dump the required amount into each bag, then move on to the veggies, sauces, and any other ingredients needed to finish the meal.

If everything is already prepared, this step takes very little time!

Finally I seal the freezer bags, cover the baking dishes with plastic wrap and aluminium foil, and make sure everything is labelled correctly before cooling it and putting it all in the freezer.

Here are the meals I made this time: (recipes coming)

Warming Chili (x2)
Spinach Lasagne (x3)
Manicotti (x2)
Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff(x2)
Meatloaf (x2)
Hawaiian Chicken (x2)
Beef Enchiladas (x3) (yes, I forgot to take them out of the freezer when I took the final picture!)

For a grand total of 16 meals in 4 hours.

Now that's a productive day. My feet hurt and I'm ready for a glass of wine and a PVR'd episode of Bunheads.

Happy Cooking!

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