Monday, October 17, 2011

Freezer Cooking While Making Dinner: The Payoffs

Pineapple Zucchini Bread

I didn't do much freezer cooking the week before last because, well, my freezer was full. For a while you took your life in your hands every time you opened the freezer door, because some rock-solid frozen food item was liable to come flying out at you.

Last week, I went away for a weekend, and when I returned, I started working outside the home for the first time in seven years. Needless to say, it was an intensely crazy week! I didn't even make  a meal plan. We did eat take-out on a few occasions (okay, really FOUR), and I leaned heavily on my freezer stash to provide the rest of our meals and food needs.

For instance, over the past few weeks I baked a batch Chocolate Chip Cookies twice, and I went ahead a froze a pan's worth of cookie dough each time.

The Payoff: I had committed to bake dessert for a teacher luncheon at the kids' school, and when it came time to bake, I was feeling exhausted. Instead of making cupcakes like I had planned, I popped the frozen dough into the oven and had 3 dozen cookies ready to go in less than half an hour--and the only dishes to clean were the storage containers from the freezer and the cookie pans and spatula!

I also leaned on my stash to help feed the family when I took a trip with my mom and sisters, and left my non-cooking husband and kids to fend for themselves. The freezer food came in quite handy. I used the frozen topping and chicken to make a large batch of Baked Chicken Tenders before I left town, and also made a list of foods available that they should eat, including a large quantity of leftover pot roast, frozen pre-sliced mini bagels, bread and cheese for grilled cheese, fresh melon and apples, and an assortment of frozen vegetables.

The Payoff: They did eat out a few times, but the rest of the time they were able to put together simple meals at home using what was on hand. Making a clear list of what should be eaten was helpful because my husband would have otherwise not been sure what was okay to eat (all those packages in the freezer start to look the same after a while!)

When I got home, I jumped right into my new job, which included some long days teaching a training class. I was so caught up in the adjustment that I didn't have any brain power leftover to even think about a meal plan--or to make dinner on some nights. We ate some carry-out meals, and on days when I could focus I used these items from the freezer for various meals:

Lots of free space!

 Now that things are settling into The New Normal--and I have some newly cleared space in the freezer, I need to get back on track with my menu planning and continue whittling down my current freezer stock to make room for my favorite fall meals, such as Mom's Chili, and for holiday baking, which is coming up just around the corner!

I also want to continue refreshing my freezer stock. I need to keep things simple this week, so I am only going to plan two freezer cooking projects:

1. I need to restock our supply of frozen Bean and Cheese Quesadillas. These are so quick to prepare into a protien-rich, nutritious dinner on crazy evenings--I serve them with salsa, sour cream, steamed vegetables from the freezer, and some fresh fruit. I just need to assemble a bunch of them so that I can grab them when I need them, for quick meals or for snacks.

2. I want to get my 4 homegrown pumpkins baked and pureed for some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (my version of this recipe to come). My plan will be to serve some of the pumpkin as a side dish for dinner one night, then to puree and freeze the rest.

First I will have to figure out how to harvest this one.

Maybe I can saw it in half to extract it from the trellis it sneakily grew inside? Hmmm...

I hope to continue this pattern of using dinner prep time to maintain my freezer stash. It's working for me!

1 comment:

stacey @ said...

I have Been working on my freezer cooking lately and I love seeing my freezer fill up! Thanks so much for posting your chocolate chip cookie recipe and process. I made some for the freezer this week and they weren't vey good. Want to retry soon.