First Friday Freezer Fest – September Edition

The second go at the freezer meal preparation was a success, with one small mitigating factor – during the process, I forgot to take photos!

…with the exception of this lovely composition of white button mushrooms and mini Portobello mushrooms.  I like to mix mushrooms in my recipes.  It gives a subtle extra note of flavor to the dish, and just look how beautiful they are together!

mushrooms

I did, however, remember to take notes.  What worked well, what didn’t work well (or at all!), how to “fix” the procedures, and what I want to try next are the ideas I am sharing with you today.

This month, I did a few of the preparation needs differently than last time, lessons learned (see the August First Friday Freezer Fest here).  I wrote out not only the meals I wanted to prepare and a shopping list, I wrote out how each item needed to be prepared before beginning.  That helped tremendously!  As a matter of fact, as Friday came closer, I realized that I had two other obligations that day. On Thursday, I did the preparation steps a little at a time throughout the day and put it all in the fridge.  Friday morning, everything was ready for assembly, saving me a lot of time and stress.

Other helpful hints that I discovered, some the hard way:

  • Put aluminum foil or waxed paper between the stacked bags in the freezer. If possible, don’t stack until frozen.  Several times last month, I would pull a meal out of the freezer, only to find that I could not read all of the directions written on the front of the bag.  This happened because I stacked the bags directly on top of each other, and when the bags froze, the Sharpie® ink froze to the bag on top of it.  Removing/prying apart the bags removed part of the ink.  I had to look up the recipes again to find the missing information in order to have dinner!
  • Place a second label or write the recipe name at the top of the bag where the zipper is or across the bottom of the bag. This way, the recipe name can be seen without having to dig through the stack of meals to find the one you are looking for, or to simply see what you have at a glance.

freezer stack

  • When choosing a freezer meal to prepare, make sure you allow yourself enough time for the meal to thaw completely before cooking, especially if the meal is an oven-baked meal. With the crockpot meals, this step is not as vitally important.  Choose your meal the day before and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  Otherwise, you could end up with some raw chicken in your otherwise delicious dish.
  • If this is your first time making a recipe, follow the instructions and ingredients exactly. My husband and I almost invariably feel that most of my recipes I try need tweaked a little, but I only tweak them after the first try.  For example, most of the recipes that call for a can of tomatoes we agree could use more tomatoes.  I will try that the second time around, but not the first.
  • In recipes that call for fresh potatoes, parboil them first for about 5 minutes, then drain and immediately rinse them in cold water. This will keep them from turning brown and/or mushy in the freezer.
  • When preparing vegetables, go ahead and chop/dice/slice some extra and freeze them, either by the cup or by the individual vegetable. This helps in two ways:
    • When preparing a non-freezer meal during the week, if you need a cup of chopped onions for a recipe, you have the onion chopped and ready to use.
    • You will have less waste from foods going bad before you have used them.

freezer veggies

Recipe List, Grocery List, Prep List

Recipes

Korean Beef

Cheesy Enchilada Quinoa (we like to add cooked and chopped chicken breast to this one)

Minestrone

Tuscan Chicken Stew

Beef Barley Soup

Balsamic Beef Roast

Orange Chicken

Greek Grilled Chicken

Zucchini Mushroom Pasta

Garlic Ranch Chicken

Bacon Ranch Potatoes

Chicken Marsala Meatballs (my husband wished for extra sauce)

Turkey Parmesan Meatballs (I substituted ground turkey for the chicken)

Pork and Lentil Soup

Zucchini Sausage Casserole

Greek Turkey Burgers  ( I accidentally put in cilantro instead of spinach – don’t do that!  Blech…)

Chili Tortellini

Veggie soup (personal recipe)

Hot hamburgers (personal recipe)

Stuffed peppers (personal recipe)

Smoked sausage and sauerkraut (personal recipe)

Shopping

MEAT

Beef chuck roast, 7 pounds           beef round stew meat, 1½ pounds

Ground beef patties, 8                   ground beef, 2 pounds

Ground turkey, 3½ pounds            chicken breast, 10 pieces

Chicken thighs, 16 pieces             ground chicken, 1 pound

Smoked sausage, 1 pound           pork chops, 1 pound

Pork sausage, 1 pound                 eggs, 3

VEGETABLES

Green onions, 2                            black beans, 1 can                         corn, frozen, 4 cups

RoTel tomatoes, 2 cans                onions, 10                                      bell peppers, 7

Diced tomatoes, 2 cans                carrots, 4 pounds                           celery, 1 bunch

Red kidney beans, 1 can              great northern beans, 1 can           zucchini, 4 pounds

Green beans, 2 cans                    spinach, fresh, 3 cups                    chili beans, 2 cans

Mild pepper rings, 1 jar                 tomato sauce, 1 large can              sauerkraut, 1 jar

Tomatoes, 2                                  baby white potatoes, 12                 red potatoes, 22

Mushrooms, 1½ pounds               peas, frozen, 2 cups                       lentils, ½ pound

Sun-dried tomatoes, 1 package    red onion, 1                                    cucumber, 1

Tomato paste, 8 Tbsp                   sun-dried tomato pesto, ¼ cup      lima beans, 1 cup

FRUIT

Orange, 1                  lemons, 2                   lime, 1

STAPLES AND SEASONINGS

Beef broth, 3 cups                         vegetable broth, 4 cups                 chicken broth, 15 ¼ cups

Brown sugar, 1¼ cups                  minced garlic, 1½ cups                  ginger, 2½ tsp

Onion powder, ½ tsp                     white pepper, 1 tsp                        cornstarch, 4½ Tbsp

Chili powder, 3½ Tbsp                   cumin, 7½ Tbsp                            cilantro, 1 cup

Oregano, 1 Tbsp                           rosemary, 1½ tsp                           bay leaf, 4

Red pepper flakes, 1¼ tsp            poultry seasoning, 1 tsp                 Greek seasoning, 1 tsp

Thyme, 2 tsp                                 ranch dressing mix, 1 pkg              parsley, 1 Tbsp

Bread crumbs, 1½ cups                flour, 1 Tbsp                                   nutmeg, 1/8 tsp

Basil, ½ tsp                                   stuffing mix, 1 box                           dill, ¼ tsp

OILS, VINEGARS, SAUCES

Soy sauce, ¾ cups                         sesame oil, 1 Tbsp              rice wine vinegar, 1 Tbsp

Sriracha, 1 tsp                                salsa, 2 cups                       enchilada sauce, 1 large can

Orange marmalade, ¾ cup            BBQ sauce, ¾ cup              hot sauce, 1 cup

Worcestershire sauce, 4 Tbsp       white wine, 2 Tbsp               balsamic vinegar, 5 Tbsp

Vegetable oil, 1 tsp                         olive oil, 2 cups                   Marsala, 1 cup

Pizza sauce, 1 can                         cream of chicken soup, 1 can

GRAINS AND PASTA

Sesame seeds, 1 tsp                       quinoa, 1½ cups                  ditalini, 1½ cups

Rice, 2 cups                                     barley, 1 cup                        spaghetti, 1 pound

Dry tortellini, 1 pound

DAIRY

Mexican cheese shreds, 4 cups               parmesan cheese wedge, 1¾ cups

Heavy cream, ¼ cup                                ricotta cheese, 1 cup

Mozzarella cheese, 1 cup                        butter, 2 Tbsp

Greek yogurt, 1 cup                                 feta cheese, ¼ cup

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