This week’s edition of Favorite Ingredient Friday is a Freezer edition! Right up my alley….thanks Overwhelmed 🙂 I have quite a few recipes that I’d like to share. And also some concepts that I’d like to share for anyone that is new to “feeding their freezer” or “investment cooking”, etc.
I’ve been doing Once a Month Cooking, Batch Cooking, Kit Cooking, Make Ahead Cooking, Investment Cooking….whatever you want to call it, I’ve been doing it for over 20 years now. I grew up in a home where my mom would buy whatever meat was the loss leader for that week, and she’d buy it in bulk, and bring it home, and she and I would spend the next several hours preparing it for the coming weeks.
When I was pregnant with our oldest daughter, I knew that I wouldn’t feel like cooking after her birth, and we were trying to go from 2 incomes to 1 so eating out was out of the question, and no offense to my sweet husband, but I didn’t want to eat spaghetti, macaroni and cheese and hot dogs every night. So, I started preparing a few weeks before her birth. I’d make dinner for the 2 of us and follow a recipe that fed 4 or 6 and we’d eat that night’s dinner, and I’d freeze the remainder in one or two casserole dishes for future meals. By the time I had R we had a good month’s worth of dinners in the freezer…..what a blessing that was! And I hadn’t done ANY extra cooking, it was just splitting each night’s dinner and freezing part of it.
A concept that I was introduced to some years later was “batch cooking”…..when I can find the extra lean ground beef on sale, I buy 5-10 pounds of it and prep it for future meals……here’s what I would do with 10# of beef:
I would cook 5# of it up with salt and pepper and onion and divide it into 2 cup packages to be used for……tacos, stroganoff, other casseroles, etc.
the other 5# I would divide as such…..
2 pounds would be made into a meatloaf and frozen raw in a loaf pan shape
2 pounds would be made into mini meatballs (we prefer our meatballs small) and baked off then frozen on a sheet pan and transferred into an air tight container for later use
1 pound would be made into burger patties (although now I have to use 1 1/2 pounds for burger patties to feed us 1 meal of burgers) and frozen with wax paper between each formed, and seasoned patty
The next concept that I learned was Kit Meals…..
I purchase groupings of ingredients and store them together to be used as a fast pantry/freezer meal. Some examples of kit meals from my freezer are:
spaghetti sauce/dry noodles/grated parmesan cheese……I make my sauce in bulk, and freeze it in a container, then in a large ziplock bag I’ll write “Spaghetti dinner kit” and add a package of whole wheat spaghetti noodles, and grated parmesan cheese and maybe a loaf of garlic bread, andput the sauce container into the bag and seal it all up, and I have a meal in a bag all ready to be pulled out and cooked (I do include any cooking instructions on the bag so that my family can prepare it if I’m not available)
taco kits….cooked and seasoned taco meat or beans in one container, tortillas in a bag, grated cheese in a bag, all of this in a larger bag and frozen all together….add a salad and you have dinner
pizza kits……frozen pizza dough (raw or prebaked), grated cheese, whatever meat toppings you may use
Another concept that I know of is just straight Once a Month Cooking….where you have a cooking marathon and freeze a bunch of casseroles, soups, stews, meats, etc in one day to last you 2 weeks, a month, 2 months…..whatever you prefer. I have used this concept the most and it works well. My favorite way to do it though is to do it with a friend, have each of you make say 5 entrees x 2 (one for each family) and then swap your meals. When I have swapped with a friend we both had VERY small families (for her it was just 2, for us it was just 3, one being a toddler) and we would each cook 10 meals doubled, and we’d be able to eat for a whole month, and we were able to do it in the same amount of time as it now takes me to do 5. Anyhow, this works great!
Ok, onto my recipe……this is a family favorite, and it is very tasty. The name is funny, I know, but it is SOOOO good, and the kids love it ….. don’t know if it’s because of the name, or because of how delicious it is 🙂
Twelve Gorilla Casserole
Serves 20 ( I split this into 2- 9×13 pans)
2 1/2 pounds ground beef (or ground turkey breast, I use organic beef)
2 large onions, chopped
3 stalks celery leaves , chopped
3 large carrots, grated
2 cans Italian style tomatoes (29 oz. cans)
2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. oregano
1 t. pepper
1 t. garlic powder
1 1/2 pounds macaroni (I use whole wheat penne or whole wheat elbow macaroni)
2 packages frozen spinach, thawed, not drained
~Brown ground beef in oil in large pan. (If using a less lean ground beef, you can probably omit
the oil) Add onions, celery, and carrots. Cook 5 minutes and stir in tomatoes, salt, oregano,
pepper, and garlic. Bring to a boil then lower heat, cover and simmer 1 hr.
~Meanwhile, cook macaroni till just tender (if you cook too long it will get soggy while
freezing) and set aside.
~When sauce is done, stir in pasta and spinach. Mix thoroughly. Put in 2 13x9x2 casseroles and
sprinkle with 1 cup parmesan cheese. Cover, label, and freeze. ( I use the foil pans and
cover with foil)
~To serve: thaw completely and bake at 350* for 30 minutes until edges are bubbly and center is
hot. (All ovens are different so you made need to adjust the time)