Monday, June 30, 2014

Freezer Cooking - Wheat Free, Dairy Free

You are about to be privy to some very top secret information.  I am about to give away a family secret. 
Letting you look at this is like showing you the contents of our household safe.  Well, basically this is our family safe.  All our precious things are stored in here.  Can you keep a secret?

 Because what is more valuable than a freezer full of meals for a month?
Ok, yes, I'm being drastic.

But, not.

Seriously, this is precious beauty:  All those frozen packages of food, just waiting to be thawed, heated, and served.  All the main messy work done and over, and a month of dinners just waiting to be eaten.  Not to mention having a quick and easy answer to the millionth time I get asked by a hungry Pickle, "What's for supper?"

Ha.  I'm prepared.

I like.

Since I was so bold and daring to show you our family's precious stash, here's yet another glorious sight to behold: the kitchen in process.
Mmmhmmm.  You're welcome.  I know we all like seeing a counter covered with dirty dishes and messy meals in process. 

Actually, I really do.
(Well not the dirty dishes, just the meals in process part.) Look at all that potential!  Food is in the making!  And of course I mash my refried beans with a hand-held mixer, don't you?!  (Come try the wild side sometime...)

For a big-cooking/freezer-packing session, I break out all my big mixing bowls, my big pots and pans, and my arsenal of recipes.  And I cook like a crazy lady.  I get the momentum going, and inevitably I come up with more recipes to make while I am multitasking away in my domain.  It's addictive, this bulk freezer cooking.  Both the process and the product.  

Cooking is cathartic. Cooking is rewarding.
Win, win.  Boom.

I like my (self-proclaimed) profession.

On to the recipes, since I know that is what you are actually most interested in.  Thank you for humoring me to look at my crazy photos and pinky-promising to keep my freezer/safe location top secret.  Yes, you did pinky promise.  No going back now.

Here you go: 
The recipes that I stocked our freezer with for the month of June:

    So technically every time I make meatballs they are slightly different.  The recipe link is one way everyone here loves them! I mixed up the meat mixture, formed them into balls, and froze them until they were solid, and then bagged them in dinner sized portions.  I'll bake them up fresh when we're ready to eat them. Sometimes we'll cook them in marinara sauce and we'll serve them with rice or potatoes, oh, or spaghetti squash!  A side of veggies and some summer fruit and we are set to go!

     Ok, so not much different from the meatballs, but it's a slight variation and I happen to have a Pickle who looooves meatloaf, so I aim to delight.  Since I made meatballs and meatloaf in the same freezer-cooking month, I try to make sure that I season them differently.  It's all about variation.  Excitement!  Change!  (Which makes no sense whatsoever as I type that since I made meatballs and meatloaf in the same month.  Oh well.  Don't judge.  Moving on...)

Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli
      A new recipe for us...we'll see how it goes over. But broccoli is loved here, and quite honestly so is beef. I think we're at least headed in the right direction with this recipe.

Beef Enchiladas
     Hands-down the best recipe I have is from the $5 Dollar Dinner Mom Cookbook.  Her recipe is a true from-scratch tuturial for the enchilada sauce (it's reeeeaaaally good!) and refried beans (yep, these are good too!).  I use corn tortillas for those that need it, and wheat for the others.  We love these!  Like, reeeeeaally.

Black Beans
     The Pickles love black beans over rice.  It's just satisfying.  (Ahem, I have to say it:  I realllly love beans too!!!!) A little bit of bacon, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper add great flavor to make a very economical meal.

Black Eyed Pea Casserole
     Another recipe from the $5 Dinner Mom.  I know; it is more beans, but that is because beans make the month of meals economical and filling.  What can I say?  I love bea....  Sorry, I know; you already know.

Super Citrus Chicken
     Ok, so when mixing this up, be ready for the most uh-mmaaaazing combination of fresh citrus and herbs to overtake your kitchen!  Yes, I am telling you to make this.  Side note:  I finally got to use my fresh oregano that finally decided it was safe-to-actually-grow-up out of my herb garden!  And my thyme went into overdrive this year after looking like a wimpy wanna-be last year...oooooh baby!  I am a happy camper gardener cooker!  Herb happiness aside, this even made my freezer smell delicious and fresh!  Yay summer flavors!  (Mix up the marinade ingredients in a freezer-safe bag and add in raw chicken.  Mix it all around in the sealed bag and pop in the freezer.  Flavors will marinate as the chicken thaws when you pull it out of the freezer in preparation for cooking.  The recipe isn't written for freezer cooking, so that is my free tutorial so you can easily convert it that way.  You're welcome  Yes, you are making this.)

Pizza Sloppy Joes
     This is a favorite.  We serve it with tortilla chips and plenty of fresh veggies.  I also tend to deviate from the green pepper but plenty of garlic powder!  This is a Pickle-Pleaser!

Pizza Crusts
     While we are on the topic of pizza, I like to make some pizza crusts ahead of time and have them ready to fill for a fast supper.  (I keep jarred pizza sauce in the pantry with my stash of olives, and pepperoni in the freezer.  You will have pizza faster than the delivery guy could ever drive.)  I tried this recipe and really liked it.  HOWEVER, take note:  I tripled the recipe but only used 1/3 of the amount of xanthan gum.  It just sounded like waaaaaay too much, so I reduced it.  Drastically.  And it was fine.  Don't overdo.  Just make it work.  And yeah, it was great!

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings
     I'm so ready for grilling weather.  And these sounded like a good reason to heat up the grill.  Or simply learn to grill.  The only miracles I have ever produced on our little personal sized Coelman grill were grade-A hockey pucks, which made claim to be ground beef patties in their former life.  My sweet parents, visiting from out of state, compassionately ate them and said I was doing well.  I do believe it is time for me to get a grip on this talent and produce something that doesn't resemble the charcoal I'm cooking over!

     I will say, this is a first time for this chicken wings recipe, so we'll have to see how they turn out.  The cool thing about making this a freezer meal is that I can mix the flavors that the chicken is supposed to marinade in with the chicken in a freezer bag, pop it in the freezer, and when I come to a day that I want to grill some wings, I can pull that bag out and while the chicken thaws, the flavors will be marinating.  (You know, just like I already explained on the Super Citrus Chicken.  Same thing, only different.  Well, still mostly the same.  I'm typing this for those that are skimmer-readers.  They might have missed it the first time around.  I'm not being redundant, I'm being thoughtful.)  It's kinda overly simple, but hey, I like it that way!

Tuscan Chicken Stew
     This was another new recipe, but a simple reading of the ingredients and you know it's gonna work.  There is really nothing phenomenal about the flavors, but they happily converge and the stew is satisfying.  What I love most about this recipe is that you make the broth you need while you cook the chicken. My husband even commented how great the broth was, and how we don't believe in the canned stuff.  Oooh, I think I'm hearing signs of a convert!  Basically, I believe in getting all you can out of your ingredients, so why buy the pre-made stuff when what you need is literally sitting in front of you?  This recipe is the way to do it.  NOTE:  Because of my just-stated opinions on the "canned stuff," I did not use the chicken broth she calls for.  I simply used water, and the chicken made its own broth just fine. Way to stick to my economical standards.  Why yes, I will high-five over that one!

Chicken Breast
     Yep, just plain chicken breast.  Bagged individually or by twos for easy thawing and recipe division.  You see, I know myself too well.  I love variety.  And I love new recipes, and if perchance a new chicken recipe shows up in my life somewhere in the middle of this well-planned-and-prepared-for-month, well then, I will be in a tizzy until I can try it. I will literally count the days until the end of the month in recipe-trial-anticipation. And so, when I am doing my massive "It's a big cooking weekend!" shopping trip, I grab a package of just-plain chicken breast.  For the potential.  For the possibility.  Or even if we have a few extra guests for a meal.  This is my back-up plan.  Always ready.  Or at least trying to be...

I was on a roll, so I mixed up a quadruple batch of Oatcakes.  The Pickles LOVE oatcakes for breakfast, and I have found that they freeze and reheat well. 

I also whipped together a whole little army of Quick and Easy Orange Rice Bread loaves (recipe coming!). Five is an army, right?  We have some little travels this month, and I think these will make some more easy breakfasts with a smoothie!  (Update:  not the best freezer-flavor-friendly bread, but best right out of the piping hot oven)

After carrying my precious load to the freezer and washing up the last big pan, I may have gone back just a few times more, just to peer into that freezer and thank God for His bountiful blessing to our family.  You know, just standing there looking forward to all the delicious meals ready to go and being reminded of the testimony they are to the Hand that has provided for everything we have ever needed.  The food itself isn't what is so precious.  It is the Love of Jesus Christ who has given us everything we need.  The food is just a tangible reminder.

What recipes do you like to fill your freezer with?

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