Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dinner's ready!

About a year and a half ago I started getting together with my friends Bex and Kathy to make freezer meals. At first, it was a little overwhelming. Have you ever cleaned, chopped and cooked 15 pounds of chicken at once? Let me tell you, it can make you not want to eat chicken for a while....

When we first started, we used the cook book Cooking Among Friends for inspiration. We primarily made meals that were completely cooked and just had to be heated. This method is fine for a lot of dishes; chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, most soups and lasagna all reheat very well. However, there were some disappointments. While all of the recipes we tried were tasty, meat tends to get a little tough after being cooked, frozen and then reheated.

In November, a group of my friends went to one of those meal assembly places, like Dream Dinners, but not. After spending close to $200, I went home with six different dishes, divided into 12 meals. It was a lot of fun. All the prep work was done and we didn’t have to clean. We drank wine and laughed while dumping ingredients into freezer bags. However, I can’t say that I have been overly impressed with my meals. Don’t get me wrong, nothing has been bad, it's just been very basic. For $200, I expected a lot more. We did learn a valuable lesson though…leaving the meat raw not only saves a tremendous amount of prep time, but also guarantees that it will be tender and juicy when you are ready to prepare it.

This weekend Bex, Kathy and I got together and cooked. We each chose two recipes from Dream Dinners and purchased ingredients to make six batches of each. From start to finish, it took 3.5 hours to prepare, package and clean up after making six different recipes and a total of 36 meals. It was just as much fun as the pricey meal assembly place and really not much more work. I now have twelve delicious meals in my freezer and best of all, it only cost $80. Works for me!

Here are the recipes for the two meals that I made:

Chicken Cordon Bleu (1 meal)

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 slices of ham, thinly sliced
6 slices Swiss cheese
½ c canned cream of chicken soup
¼ c white wine
¼ c sour cream
1 T Dijon mustard
1 c mushrooms, sliced
1 t minced garlic
¼ t ground nutmeg
1 t kosher salt
½ t black pepper
2 scallions, chopped

Place each chicken breast on a cutting board. Arrange a slice of ham and Swiss cheese on top of each one. Roll each chicken breast tightly and secure with a toothpick. Place in baking dish.

In a bowl combine everything but the scallions. Mix thoroughly. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle with scallions.

Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 375.

To freeze, cover with plastic wrap and foil. Freeze for up to three months. Thaw in refrigerator before cooking as directed above.

Slow-Cooked Barbecued Beef (1 meal)

2 lbs beef chuck roast
1 c yellow onions, diced
1 t minced garlic
2 c ketchup
¼ c balsamic vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
¼ c packed brown sugar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t kosher salt
1 t black pepper

Place roast in crockpot. In a bowl, combine other ingredients and mix well. Cook on low setting for 6-8 hours, until the meat falls apart easily. Shred the meat with a fork and serve over hamburger buns or potatoes.

To freeze, place the roast in a freezer bag and pour sauce in. Thaw in refrigerator and cook as directed above.

I’ve already tried them both and they were delicious!


reprehriestless warillever said...

Thank you for the tips. Whenever I make a casserole-type dish, I make two extra pans. I spray the casserole dish with cooking spray, then line it with foil. I put the whole thing in the freezer, then pull out the pan a day or so later. Lasagna, Shepard's pie, and baked ziti have all worked well this way.

I'll have to try your recipes.

truth said...

Thanks for sharing. I love your ideas. And cooking with a friend is so much nicer than alone. I used to cook freezer meals with my kids when they were younger. I should have waited until they were much older. But we did have a good time.

~SaltySister~ said...

Thanks for sharing...I started feeding our freezer last year and got away from it when the holidays came. I really need to get it going again so thanks for the recipes!
Have a great day!

CC said...

Great idea. I wish I had some friends (and kitchen space!) to do this with! It must be a huge stress-relief to have dinner already made!

Katrine said...

I've tried freezer cooking before with sad results. But now I want to try it again with your tip about not cooking the meat. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I am so going to try this! I don't get home from work until 6:30 and most days we don't eat until 7:30. How great would it be if I could have hubby throw a ready to go dish in the oven!?!?! Thanks for the inspiration!

ames said...

Oh, awesome! A slow cooker BBQ recipe. We just made some BBQ pulled pork from a spice packet and weren't crazy about the flavor, can't wait to try this!

Anonymous said...

This is great! I need friends who want to do this too! And a bigger kitchen. I freeze "components" of meals very often. For instance, I will use the food processor to chop up a bag of onions, flash freeze them and then put about one cup of chopped onion in a quart size freezer Ziplock. Stack them flat and no tears when I need onions for a recipe.

Michelle said...

Ooooh Sarah,
These sound wonderful! I'm going to definitely try the Chicken Cordon Bleu - it is one of my favorites!

Bethany said...

Thanks for the recipes. I have done Dream Dinners before and enjoyed it. I have also done a meal exchange with friends where we each made 6 of one thing then brought it together one night and traded so we each had six different meals for the freezer before the holidays it was lots of fun. You are right about the dream dinners being a lot....course they do prep and clean which is nice but having over 100 extra bucks is also nice especially now.