November 3, 2009

Freezer Cooking Day

For the last 6 months, I've been designating (about) every other Monday as my "Baking Day." I'll bake enough muffins, quick breads or cereal bars to put in the freezer that will last us around 2-3 weeks. (recipes at the bottom of this post...since I'm always up for trying new recipes) This has been really helpful to me for snacks or a hurried breakfast (if we're trying to get out the door quickly for some reason) or even just a lazy-day breakfast when I don't want to scrub the eggs off my (used-to-be) non-stick pan. (This is absolutely the WORST part of making breakfast to me...does anybody else hate this?)

Anyway, Asher loves to help with this, while McKlayne pretty much just likes to taste-test.

Our church has a HUGE fellowship meal after our service on Sunday evenings...which is something that I LOVE but most Sundays it has stressed me out, trying to make a meal, plus a side dish or dessert, and get everyone dressed, ready, bags packed and out the door in time. So, about a month ago, my wise husband told me that he'd like for me to find a way to make Sundays more restful.

My solution?

Several weeks ago, Crystal, from
MoneySavingMom inspired me to have a freezer cooking day...she is also who inspired me to have my very first baking day 6 months ago...and I am sharing this, in hopes, that maybe it will inspire you to make meal preparation easier on days that are busy or difficult!

Read up on how to package and freeze meals properly here. (This had been what kept me from attempting something like this in the past, but this lady gives great, easy-to-follow instructions!)
**Secret Ingredient to a successful Baking Day: If you have kids (and you live in a college town), get yourself a cute college girl, who wants to learn how to cook but can also step in to help with babies when needed.**

Madeline (my cute college girl)

Then, get all of your ingredients for each meal, along with the recipes (even if you have it memorized because when you have several different meals going at a time and if you're trying to double/triple recipes-it just gets CRAZY!) and group them (along with the pans or bags that you're freezing them in) together like so:

Then get to work...leaving your once clean kitchen, very messy...and rejoice as you think about all the hours that you're about to redeem since you're getting that kitchen REALLY messy ONE time rather than FOURTEEN!

In about 6-7 hours, we made 14 meals (not all pictured here):

-3 meals of Spaghetti Bake
-2 pans of Lasagna
-3 pans of King Ranch Chicken
-2 meals of Baked Ziti
-2 meals of Angie's Fideo
-1 meal of Sloppy Joe's (meat mixture)
-1 chicken pot pie

This has worked SO well for our family that I will probably do this every month. In two weeks, we've already eaten 4 of these meals, I'd designated 4 of these meals as New Life (our church) meals (2 of these down and 2 to go) and two families from our church have needed meals and I took them each one of these. So we've only got 4 left...but it's been such a blessing to be able to run to the freezer in the morning (or at about 4:00 in the afternoon in desperation) and pull out one of these ready-made meals. A stress free wife/Mommy=a MUCH less cranky and irritable wife/Mommy.

What I will do differently next time:

-Ask a friend or two if I can borrow at least one (maybe two) extra large pot(s) and several large bowls for mixing so that I can have several things going at once...this will speed up the process.

-Possibly brown the turkey/beef/sausage and boil the chicken the night before.

-Figure out a new way to cook the Baked Ziti. The noodles in the spaghetti and the lasagna (though, those were not cooked before I froze them) tasted fine! But, the penne pasta in the Ziti was a little too mushy. Suggestions? Would you barely cook them next time, since they'll freeze, thaw, and be cooked in the oven again?

-Experiment with different recipes to see how they freeze.

And if you only browse my blog to see my cute kids and you don't care what I have to say, I don't want to disappoint:

Asher grabs "his" apron every time we bake.

Guess what? As I was typing this post, I realized that Crystal is having a Two Day Freezer Cooking/Baking Day...starting today!
And if you have any tips or recipes that you know freeze well, PLEASE share! I'd love to hear!
Oh, yes, the recipes that I promised from Baking Days. I usually choose a couple from these depending on what ingredients I have:
Banana Bread (my sister gave me this recipe...I love this because it uses minimal ingredients, is simple and delicious!)

3/4 c. unsweet applesauce
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking
1 tsp. baking
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. grated carrots (optional)
1 c. mashed bananas (about 3)
*I sometimes I'll add choc. chips. (Just eyeball it.)

Preheat to 350. Spray 9 x 5 loaf pan w/ cooking spray.
In one bowl combine applesauce, sugar, and eggs; beat until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl combine flour, salt, soda, powder, and cinnamon. Add to batter and blend well.
Fold carrots and bananas (and choc. chips) into batter.
Pour batter into pan(s).Bake for 60-65 minutes, or until toothpick comes clean.

Brown Bread (This is what my Baking Day will consist of today...I plan on making MANY loaves..this is my kids all time favorite snack/breakfast bread...this recipe is an old family favorite.)

With my recipe, I bake them in a can in the oven. Just save an old, tall (family size) soup can or spaghetti sauce can and a big fat shorter can like what a can of whole tomatoes would come in.
Two of either (or I use one of each) size will be enough for the recipe:
-Boil 1 and 1/2 cups water, put in 1 and 3/4 cups raisins, once it boils, remove from burner and let stand for 15 minutes. Put 2 teaspoons of baking soda in raisin mix.

-Beat together 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1 egg. Then add raisin and water mixture. Add 3 cups flour.
-Pour batter into greased cans and stand them up in your oven. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Stonyfield Farm Strawberry Muffins (from the Stonyfield Farm yogurt carton)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup Stoynfield lowfat plain yogurt (I've used vanilla yogurt and omitted the tsp. of vanilla and did not taste the difference)
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped strawberries
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a 12 muffin tin or line it with paper baking cups. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar andbaking soda. In another bowl, stir together eggs, yogurt, melted butter and vanilla until blended. Toss the strawberries with the flour mixture.
Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir until the flour is just moistened. The batter will be lumpy. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Yields 12 muffins.

Jason's Deli's Gingerbread Muffins (Asher loves these!)
I just googled it and tried this recipe one day...
these are pretty close to the real thing!

Cereal Bars
I googled these, too, and got this recipe.


Megan Sandoz said...

I am intrigued by the brown bread- how neat to be baked in a can! Do the little loaves come out of the can easily? Very cool, Kirby.

Kirby said...

Yes! As long as you grease them well and let them cool a bit. Then, just slide a knife around the edge...

The Houstons said...

HA! That's what I said when I read that you made "Angie's Fideo"!
It's so funny you posted about this, bc I had just emailed Jon last night about freezer meals too! He's excited about me starting it when he about a week!!!!!!!!!! He's coming home Kirby!!! YAY!

the lewisi male said...

We freeze a lot of soups around here... tortilla and chili (regular and white) have all worked out well and can go in freezer bags or individuals sized Tupperware and make great lunches. I also make bean burritos w/ black beans, cheese and Heather's salsa and wrap in saran wrap and freeze for Drew to take to work for a hot lunch.
Can't wait to try out the breads! I need to start having baking days now that Stella is here and likes to feed right as dad gets home from work and is ready for dinner!

Brettney and Key Bradley said...

I am totally going to start doing this even though we have a freezer the size of my hand... I will just use my parents freezer. We have also discussed doing a "meal swap" around here. But for now, I will just try to bake and freeze. I LOVE cooking, but HATE cleaning the kitchen. This will help out.

jordan said...

It has been very hard for me to find good, quick and easy snack foods for the way we eat.

Until, I found this excellent recipe for granola bars. I make it the week before, put it in the freezer, and snack on it throughout the week.

(no need for re-heating, just cut and go... :)

Although this is no meal. It is a wonderful snack.

I miss seeing you around!

Rachel said...

I love freezer cooking--my freezer is overflowing with meals already! Casseroles and soups get really old to me, so I bought the book, Fix, Freeze, Feast. There are a ton of recipes that are not casseroles. You should check it out, I got it for less than $10. What I love is that for each recipe, you make 2-5 meals of the same thing, so you really stock your freezer fast (and have plenty of meals for giving and sharing!)

For breakfasts, we make soaked grain waffles and pancakes on the weekend and freeze them for breakfasts. I whip up some eggs (the trick is to clean your pan immediately, don't let it cool and it cleans easily), toast some waffles and we have a great breakfast for everyone. This is the recipe, I experiment with different grains each time:

Ryan and Cate Shipley said...

I LOVE that you did this post. I was doing pretty well with my 'marathon' baking days as I call it before the move- even better before Eli:) Sadly, our huge deep freeze is EMPTY and it's time to get back into it!

Here are a couple of my staple recipes that freeze super well- they are great for a quick meal for us, for company or to take to someone.

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina Casserole:

Chicken (or Turkey) Enchiladas

We also recently tried these sweet potato burritos and though they were pretty good:

love you! thanks for doing this post!

Kirby said...

Okay, Brett, what is a "Meal Swap"...already sounds good to me!?

Rachel, I definitely want to look into that book, b/c YES, I will be getting tired or casseroles soon, too, I'm sure!

Your waffle recipe sounds DELICIOUS! Heather just bought a new waffle makes with her swagbucks, so we'll be giving that recipe a try sooN!

Catey, your full freezer is ALWAYS an inspiration to me! Will you write a post on tips and tricks of freezing, since you're the pro on this issue? If nothing else, you could direct us all to some more links? PRETTY PLEASE?!

Thanks for everyone's feedback so far!

Brock & Megs Birkenfeld said...

This is genius! :)

It will be so nice to just have a meal on hand for the crazy days that come up and of course for the fellowship meal!

I can't wait to do this.. all I need is a deep freeze and one of those cute college girls. Ha!

Megan Fletcher said...

I came over to your site from Heather's. I've been doing some freezer cooking since the beginning of this year and find it very helpful. I don't have a deep freezer, but I can still fit quite a few meals in my small space. I actually started a food blog for our family so I could have all my favorite recipes in one place and could easily share them. I haven't added many to the bunch, but there are a few that are really good freezer recipes. I look forward to trying some of the recipes you mentioned in this post. I find that having the meals in the freezer makes it so much easier to offer to help someone else, as well as making our afternoons a little more sane. Thanks for sharing!

The Montalbos said...

Kirb, I love you.

I'm so glad my whole freezer was (And still is!) filled with breast milk so Todd had to go buy me another. Now I can finally do this!

I do want to say that for those who don't have a deep freeze (or extra freezer space) another good thing to do is cook huge batches of meat and separate into 1 lb. freezer bags. It makes it so much easier to throw together a lasagna, ziti, soup or whatever and it doesn't take up so much space.

Kat said...

Hey Kirby! This was a great post!

A family recipe that freezes super well (and multiplies very well and is absolutely minimal effort to make) is red beans and rice. You can either soak the beans the night before, or boil them for 5 minutes, then let them soak for an hour the day of. I usually do the overnight thing.

The recipe is super simple:
1 lb dry kidney beans
1 lb meat (I use turkey keilbasa, but any smoked sausage would work...I think my great gramma even uses a ham hock)
1 large onion
Soak the beans, cut up the onion and the sausage, throw it all in a crock pot with enough water to cover the beans, then let it cook for the day! I usually do about 10 hours on low (because that's how long I'm out of the house for), but you can shorten the cook time by putting it on high.

Also, I don't know what you do for grocery shopping, but the two tools that I've found to be absolutely CRITICAL for me are the shopping list generator from (you find your recipes, then say "Add to My Shopping List" and it adds all the items for you, sorted by grocery store department!) and cloudlist. Cloudlist lets you create a shopping list, then share it with friends or family...when any of you buys an item, you check it off the list and everyone else who has access to the list immediately sees that it's been taken care of! Super handy for roommates/cookathons/etc.

Kirby said...

Yes, Kyle, I am glad that you said that about the meat! I've been doing that for a while and it saves so much time (and mess) when making a meal from scratch! (And, I must mention here that I steal MOST of my ideas from you! Couponing, crafting, totschooling...etc. When is Todd going to make the switch to the Bryan branch? What would I do with out my big sis?!)

Megan and Kat, I'm going to check out your blogs and recipes next time I plan another large cooking day. Thanks, ladies!

The Currie Family said...

this is awesome, now I just need to do it!! can't wait to try out some of these recipes--always looking for yummy ones!!

BTW anyone would hate to clean your pan, you need a new one honey. that one is AWFUL!!


kseale said...

I am so excited to try this! I told one of my friends about it and she gave me this great website that has freezer meals.

She also has tips to help you out.

I'm planning on trying lasagna, with no bake noodles, spaghetti sauce, mash potatoes, and apple pie filling.

Hope this helps.

Madeline said...

I love that I'm the secret weapon... I don't love the picture so much tho haha

Kirby said...

I just found this great link with a ton of freezer-friendly recipes: