I hope that you are all enjoying the Freezer Cooking February series. Today, I have another Guest Post, this time from Ann of 3 Girls and a Pug. She shares some Freezer Cooking Failures along with a great Chili Recipe. Take it away, Ann:
Freezer Bombs: Tips for Tasting Success With Freezer Meals
By Ann Springer (www.3girlsandapug.com)
From the second I turned on the “Baby Songs” DVD for my two toddler daughters – ages 18 months and 2 ½ at the time – I knew I had exactly 28 minutes to whip up a good meal. No, I wasn’t trying to impress Rachael Ray. Rather, I knew I had a small window of time before the clock figuratively struck midnight and I would again struggle to juggle cooking with one baby on my hip and the other one at my feet crying.
So, when I heard about the concept of freezer-meal cooking I couldn’t wait to test out this ingeniously efficient cooking method in my own kitchen. I made out my menu plan. I carefully crafted my shopping list and tied on my apron. Part way through the process, I decided I was a genius and I declared myself Best Homemaker Ever. Here I was preparing a month’s worth of meals so I could have more time to spend with my children, all while saving money on my food budget.
Later, when one of my many prepared freezer meals for the month thawed, so did my 15 minutes of fame. I lifted open the carefully wrapped tinfoil expecting to find delicious homemade chicken pot pie; instead I discovered a soupy, gray-colored mess. Words can’t describe the disgusting, watery meal before my eyes that I knew I could never allow to pass my lips.
I feared more disasters—like the chicken pot pie—were carefully sealed and labeled in my fridge like mini-bombs ready to ruin my night. Then I relaxed and realized that like all other failures in life, this was a learning experience. It wasn’t the end of a great relationship—it was merely a setback. It also meant we were ordering take out (which isn’t exactly a horrible end to a day either).
With that learning experience behind me, here are three tips from me, a self-proclaimed, freezer meal-diehard.
1. Figure out the quirks. - I pushed ahead despite my failures and discovered some things don’t freeze well – particularly raw items like potatoes, dough toppings, and items with cooked rice. Some sauces separate when frozen, too. I realized that this was just a matter of trial and error, with successes for some recipes and others I wouldn’t feed to the dog.
2. Be flexible. - Some recipes could be made up partially, frozen, defrosted, and then finished up the day we ate them. For example, I make one of my mom’s recipes that requires a mashed potato topping. (Mashed potatoes don’t freeze well.) I make the rest of the casserole and freeze it. On the day we eat it I add the potato topping while the casserole heats up. While this does take a bit more time it still saved a lot of time and money in the long run. It’s worth it if it’s a meal your family adores and loves.
3. Take breaks from the ritual. – It does take careful planning and a good chunk of time to commit to creating freezer meals, so it’s good to take a break from it for periods of time. As my kids have grown I’ve discovered freezer meals all over again. I’m able to involve the kids in the cooking process now and there’s nothing better than heating something yummy and healthy up after a long afternoon of soccer practice and piano lessons.
Below I share one of my favorite freezer meals. This meal makes me feel like I’m back in the running again for some sort of mommy accolades. It’s healthy, cheap, and easy to make, so you can’t go wrong.
1 package of dried beans (15-bean soup mix)
1 pound of ground meat (Turkey is the leanest. Or you can omit the meat if you prefer a vegetarian chili.)
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon garlic
1 small container of fresh salsa (from the refrigerated section)
1 package taco seasoning mix (or 3 tbsp. from a jar)
2 packages ranch dressing Mix
1 small can of corn, drained
1-2 cups of water
1-2 tablespoons of Tapatio or Tabasco hot sauce
1. Soak 1 package of beans overnight. Fill water ¾ of the way full in a large bowl. The beans should swell up and absorb a portion of the water.
2. Brown onion and garlic with meat.
3. Drain the beans and put them in a crock pot with the meat.
4. Add the rest of the ingredients in and stir together.
5. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or on low on the stove top for 1 to 2 hours.
Freeze the remainder into serving size, plastic re-sealable bags for lunch, campouts, or for a night when you’re too busy to cook a full meal.
Ann Springer is a published author of many magazine articles. Someday her tombstone will read, “Killer of Plants,” because in her house if you don’t bark or cry you just don’t get fed.
I had to laugh at her closing. I’ve given up on house plants myself right now because I can’t seem to take on the simple task of watering them regularly. Thank you, Ann, for sharing your tips and recipe with us! Make sure you check out her blog at 3 Girls and a Pug. (She has the cutest picture of her girls and pug together!) And stay tuned as I have the next installment of how to get started on freezer cooking coming up soon!