Friday, January 29, 2010

Our Freezer Cooking Plan: Cook with a Friend

My son took this picture of my friend and I cooking lasagna together recently. It's fun to see things from his perspective!

I am so inspired by people who schedule a day to do a bunch of advanced cooking for the freezer! MoneySavingMom and LifeasMom are hosting a Freezer Cooking Day to start off the month of Febrary and I find this to be a great way to share recipes and strategies for cooking ahead.

I have tried various methods and I've decided that one intense day of cooking is too much for me and my family. In addition, some of the recipes I like to make don't take well to freezing, which is all right because my freezer is an incredibly small and useless space anyway.

Instead, I try to cook 'ahead' all the time. Examples from the past 2 weeks:
  • When I made salmon the other day, I froze half the marinade with additional frozen salmon filets. I often prep a marinade once, divide it and use it for two separate meals.
  • When I make quesadillas for lunch, I keep making extra until I run out of beans and cheese, freeze them and use them for future meals or snacks. (see below!)
  • When I have leftover cooked chicken or turkey, I chop it and freeze it. When I accumulate enough for a recipe, I use it in soup or casserole.
  • I save chicken and turkey bones in the freezer to make Bone Soup, which I hope to make this weekend. I have a separate freezer bag for vegetable trimmings to either add with the bones, or to use seperately for a vegetable stock.
Another strategy that I have really been enjoying and benefiting from is getting together with a friend for a play date... and cooking! We have made home-made spaghetti sauce, lasagna, chicken casserole, baked ziti with mini meatballs, potato kale quiche, cookies, etc.

One friend and I like to get together in the afternoon after her son's nap. For both of us, the later afternoon can be the hardest part of the day. We are tired, the kids get moody, and relief in the form of "Daddy" doesn't come soon enough! We take turns coming up with recipes and shopping for ingredients, then we cook as quickly as possible before sitting down for a cup of coffee or tea--if the kids will let us, of course; sometimes we have to take turns in the kitchen while the other person is entertaining the children. (It's great to have another adult to distract the little ones when we are at a crucial point in the cooking process!) At the end of the afternoon, we both have a hot meal (and sometimes an extra meal to freeze, or a dessert!) and our kids have entertained one another and worn one another out.

This arrangement has been working so well that I am adding 2 cooking days in February with another friend, and one happens to be on Monday, so it fits right in with the Freezer Cooking Day! We've cooked together in the past; we made dinner for our families as well as a third portion for our other friend who had a new baby. Our daughters play well together, so we are anticipating having a decent amount of productive time. One thing that we doing differently this time is that we are making different stuff--I need to finish my advance cooking for the Sunday Brunch and my friend is making something for a school function.

The catch is that I wasn't planning to go grocery shopping until later in the week to wrap up The Pantry Challenge for the month of January. (You know, to make up for my inability to stop myself from shopping a mere 2 weeks into the challenge!) I'll get over it. I just need two items!!! Oh, and we need milk, bread, and fruit too.

I am planning to prepare:
  • Crock Pot Chicken (for cubed/shredded chicken meat, which I plan to use in this recipe for dinner soon, saving the rest for a future meal. Waaaay less hassle than roasting the chicken like I did last time!)
  • Salmon Corks (for the brunch)
  • A Quiche (for the brunch, probably something quick and simple such as a cheddar-bacon quiche. This is not in the original Sunday Brunch meal plan, but I decided it would be good to have a spare quiche on hand. Also, I have all the ingredients so I might as well whip one up.)
  • Bean and Cheese Quesadillas (my daughter loves to help with these, and they will probably be served for lunch with extras being frozen)
  • Pumpkin Chocolate chip muffins (just because! I make a slightly modified version of Crystal's recipe)
 Then we will sit down and drink some coffee and eat some muffins.

If you'd like to see what other people are planning to cook, stop by!

No comments: