Monday, July 18, 2011

Once a Month Slow Cooker Freezer Cooking from the Stockpile: The Final Installment

Well, it's over. It took 24 hours, about 10 pounds of meat, 4 pounds of shredded cheese, and 1 ginormous zucchini, but my Once a Month Slow Cooker Freezer Cooking from the Stockpile is finally finished. 

Overall it went well. I ended up with 5 complete meals and 8 pre-cooked ready-to-reheat meal components. 

  • Chicken & Stuffing Casserole  x2
  • Slow Cooker Lasagna 
  • Brown Sugar Chicken (just add fresh rice)
  • 32 Meatballs
  • 1 meal's worth of seasoned taco beef
  • Italian Marinated Chicken x2
  • Barbecue Marinated Chicken
  • Sneaky Mac n Cheesy x2
I totally skipped making the pancakes, the pasta sauce, and the greens and beans. I wasn't 100% sure how the greens and beans would freeze, and I just didn't get to the pancakes and sauce. And frankly, I had enough to keep me busy yesterday morning.  Here's my play by play post-mortem of the day:

The night before: I went "shopping" in the basement and set out all the ingredients I needed. In the blue bucket is about 10 pounds of ground beef and chicken.
I started getting set up at 8:30 Sunday morning. I hadn't started the crock pots the night before, so I  assembled the Brown Sugar Chicken and Slow Cooker Lasagna, and got those rolling. This took about an hour and a half because my kids, although unbearably cute and sweet, kept asking me for random things (a snack, a clean pair of undies, a hair tie) during this time.Finally, around 10 am, my husband took both kids outside so I was able to focus a little more. I quickly assembled the 2 Chicken and Stuffing Casseroles and put them aside.
I finally got into a groove around 10:30. I started rolling out meatballs and decided to fry them because I just didn't want to turn on the oven. Maybe it's because I'm Italian, but this was my favorite part. I love making meatballs, and I rarely do it. The meatballs turned out really savory and delicious. As a thank you to my husband and kids for leaving me (somewhat) alone for a few hours, I saved some and made meatball subs for lunch. 
The last things I did Sunday morning was cook 2 pounds of pasta for the Sneaky Mac N Cheesy and brown up the taco beef.  I realized as the pasta was cooking that I needed ricotta for the recipe, and I didn't have any (or cottage cheese), so I had to put that recipe on hold until I went to the store.

At that point I took a break, shared some meatball subs with my family, and put the kids down for naps.  I also passed out at this point. :)
When I woke up, we had a picnic to go to so I threw the final 3 servings of chicken (1 barbecue, 2 Italian marinade) in the two washed-out crock pots, and left. When we came home about 5 hours later they were bubbling, juicy, and tender.
This morning I ran out to Target at purchased cottage cheese (they didn't have ricotta!) and finished up the Mac N Cheese. Phew. A little over 24 hours later, and I am finally done with my cooking marathon.

Here's my freezer before:
And After:

To conclude, I'll leave you with some tips I discovered along the way:
  • Make sure to read every recipe (no matter how many times you've made it!) and make sure you have all the ingredients on hand. It was a pain to spread this out over two days because I wasn't as prepared as I should have been.
  • Let me say this: I LOVE my kids and my husband. But this project would have been SO much easier if they had planned to be out of the house while I worked.  Aside from the frequent interruptions,  it's hard to pan-fry meatballs with an 18-month old clinging to your leg.
  • Clean as you go. I did this and never got really overwhelmed with the mess. I was able to get the kitchen looking back to normal pretty easily (well, our normal at least).
  • Let frying oil sit for a moment in the pan before trying to dispose of it. I tried to quickly pour it in an aluminum can and this happened:
That is bubbling, smoking hot oil overflowing all over the stove. Not my best moment in the kitchen.
  • Don't undertake a plan like this more than once a month.  It consumed about 5 hands-on hours, all told, on a busy summer weekend. 
It's awesome knowing how much "easy" food I have in my freezer, though, and hopefully this will help us resist the temptation to order out on busy nights. Also, I made all 12 items using food that was in my pantry (except for that darn ricotta).  In every case, I can just add fresh veggies or greens from our local CSA to make a complete, healthy, and delicious meal.

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At July 18, 2011 at 4:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done! Maybe this will give me the encouragement to do a freezer cooking day. Right now I have just been making extra here and there to freeze. My fear about the big freezer day is fitting everything into our tiny freezer! I can't wait to have a dedicated extra freezer (when we are in a place that can house one).

At July 18, 2011 at 8:13 PM , Blogger Sarah said...

Thanks, MHE! We do have a chest freezer, but I have heard of people doing freezer cooking in just an attached freezer. I think if you pack stuff flat in ziploc bags, you can fit more in.


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