Monday, October 25, 2010

Freezer Meals 101

I really do love cooking as little as possible! So I am a HUGE fan of freezer meals. When I first started the cooking a once a month system I was overwhelmed. I had no idea how long I could freeze certain foods. I didn't know what froze well and how to store it in the freezer. I'm here to help!

First here's what doesn't freeze well: Mayonnaise, sour cream, gravies and cream based sauces. The foods made with these will separate when thawed and have a watery or curdled look. Raw produce like cabbage, lettuce, leafy greens, cucumbers watermelon, radishes, tomatoes and citrus fruits become limp and nasty when frozen. Onions and peppers are the exception here. Cooked potatoes are also a no-no. Well when they are used in soups and other dishes. Mashed potatoes and twice baked potatoes are fine to freeze and freeze well. Dairy items will separate while defrosting so don't freeze those. And be VERY careful with cooked pasta. I'll give you more hints about pasta later. 

I should mention that all recipes that I post have been tried by little ole me and I have found them to be delicious and to hold up to freezing.  So if you see sour cream and things like that just know that this recipe makes it work.  

I like to use foil baking dishes and zip top bags to store my food in. If a recipe calls for a 9x13 pan I use a disposable, foil one. If it's soup or a sauce or something to re-heat in a pot I use a zip top bag. And I always double up on the bags just in case one gets a tear in it or something like that.

Is anyone interested in learning how to cook for a month in one day or are you just interested in how to double up your recipes and freeze those? I can teach you all both if you want. Just let me know. So for now I'll just share some of my favorite, tried and trusted recipes that freeze well!

Beefy Macaroni - Makes 2 casseroles (8 servings each)

4 C uncooked elbow macaroni
2 pounds lean ground beef
2 C chopped onion
4 8 oz cans tomato sauce
2 t celery salt
1/2 t pepper
1 C beef broth
2 8 oz packages softened cream cheese
2 C cottage cheese
1 C sour cream

Cook macaroni in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes less than the shortest time recommended on package* Brown the ground beef with the onion. Remove from heat. Add macaroni, tomato sauce, celery salt, pepper and broth. In a separate bowl, beat together cream cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream. In a greased 9x13 foil baking pan, make 2 layers each of beef and pasta mixture then cheese mixture. Cover with extra heavy foil. Label and freeze**

To serve: Thaw. Bake covered for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Or you can bake one now and freeze the other one!

*DO NOT OVERCOOK THE PASTA. As it sits in the freezer and defrosts the pasta will continue to soak up the moisture. If you under cook it like this you will end up with perfect pasta. If you cook it for the recommended time you will have a nasty mushy meal.

**Label with a permanent black marker with the name of the dish, the date made, and the baking/re-heating directions.

I will take pictures of tonight's meal and post later! We are having Spaghetti Beef Casserole! Yum!


Patricia Hodge said...

I would love to have some of your freezer recipes. We just started a freezer meal group at church and I'm kinda at a loss. I'm on the search for freezer meals that have been tested and are kid friendly, since everyone in our group has small children. Thank-you for posting the info about what freezes well and what doesn't. I have discovered that when using potatoes, if you use frozen ones to begin with, then they will re-freeze just fine. I made a potato soup and froze that and it was just as good reheated.

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