1. This has been a great month for meeting up with internet peoples. A couple weeks ago, Nell (who lives a few miles from us) hosted Haley from Carrots for Michaelmas and some other awesome friends Jacqui, Laura, Anna, Nancy, and more at her house for a ladies evening. I haven’t had that much fun hanging out with ladies in a long time. T and I stayed out past my bedtime, and even then I did not really want to leave. But responsibility and limited time to sleep at night finally called me home. 2. Tomorrow, sweet Nell is hosting people again. (She is very generous with her awesome house.) The Blessed is She Minnesota brunch is tomorrow morning! There are supposed to be over 50 ladies coming! We are going to be doing small group discussion, and apparently I get to be a leader…so, hopefully I can pull that one off. I have not had to be a small group leader since college, but I was just telling M that one of these days someone is going to discover that I used to lead all sorts of things (like in college) and make me do it again…I am very excited for the brunch, especially since I am bringing watermelon, which I don’t eat very much since G is allergic.
3. It would not be a summer quick takes without a discussion of the garden. I made my first roasted tomato sauce. Turning these:
Into this: It was delicious. And in case you were wondering. Three pounds of grape and cherry tomatoes makes about a three and a half cups of sauce.
4. I was so excited about this sauce that I impulse bought a 25 lb box of Roma tomatoes at the farmer’s market last Friday and turned it all into roasted tomato sauce. We have 27 cups of sauce for the winter in our freezer. And my advice to you is, make sure you have some ventilation besides the A/C running if you are going to run both gas ovens for 2.5 hours on a hot summer morning. Otherwise you might set off your carbon monoxide detectors…
5. Speaking of freezer, we finally got around to buying that deep freeze. You may remember my photo of the packed freezer from before T was born. This was our normal upper freezer above our refrigerator. And it was packed full of freezer meals.
As we ate the meals, I started adding fresh summer fruit, and with the decision to buy a 1/4 cow this Fall, we knew it was time to get a deep freeze. Plus, we just had a boy and one day he will be a teenager and eat lots and lots.
Lots of frozen fruit, and still room for the cow! Hooray!
6. There is a legend on my father’s side about two of my aunts. First, I have to provide a bit of background. On my father’s side there is Lebanese ancestry and Irish and Scots ancestry (and a number of others), so of him and his 6 siblings, 3 of them ended up looking more Lebanese and the other 4 had a more Irish/Scots look. Well legend has it on one day when one of his sisters was sick another one went to get her work for her, and the teacher was in complete disbelief that they were actually sisters because their complexions and hair color were so radically different. Well, I think the same thing might happen to these two:
She has all the Greek and Lebanese, and he has all the Scots/Irish/English. Those eyes of his are so light, but I am not sure they will stay blue.
7. We are doing a three day school week starting Monday, but are also in the midst of three weekends in a row of visiting family. This weekend is my father’s sister and her husband. Next weekend is my sister, her husband, and her three girls plus one boy. Labor day weekend brings in my in-laws. This will make up for the lack of road trip this summer! And then it will be school full time until Christmas (school full time means 2 hours a day…)…
My friend Jacqui, who is due in four weeks, asked me to give some freezer meal ideas, so here they are! At 33 weeks pregnant, I have not put one meal in the freezer for when baby comes, but I plan on getting the freezer stocked by the time I am 37 weeks. I usually have one or two things in the freezer, but Lent was an emptying things out of the freezer phase.
While I do some freezer cooking, I am not an expert, like my sister who has whole cookbooks devoted to it. I probably should have her write a guest post with her favorite ideas. She does things like freeze whole casseroles, while I am a bit lazier initially and am satisfied with thawing and heating a sauce and throwing it on noodles I cook the day we eat the meal (also, pasta is something that my husband is expert at cooking). A note on freezing: You should never freeze warm or hot foods, wait until they are room temperature or stick them in the refrigerator overnight. My favorite way to freeze things is in freezer quart bags in stacks. Like this:
Some meat dishes I precook and freeze the meat, while other meat dishes I throw the raw, cut meat into a marinade and it is all ready for cooking when it thaws. So, without further ado, I give you the dishes I plan to cook/prep in the next four weeks. I will probably make at least 2 dinners worth of each dish to make my efforts more productive.
1. Tomato Sauce. I used a modified recipe from this edition of the Joy of Cooking: Some people buy this canned, but my husband is a sauce snob. He actually prefers home canned tomatoes made into a sauce as opposed to store-bought canned tomatoes.
I love having tomato sauce in my freezer, because I can use it on all sorts of things like meatless cheesey pasta, pizza, “pizzadillas” (cheese, sauce, and toppings baked between two tortillas), spaghetti and meatballs, etc. I only make the sauce in huge batches, so I will probably make four dinners worth, and maybe serve it for dinner the night I make it.
2. Meat Sauce. I used the recipe from the Joy of Cooking. I also make this in huge batches. I plan to use 2 lbs of meat for 16 cups of sauce.
This will last us about 8 spaghetti dinners, or maybe I will get adventurous and freeze a lasagna. I also love St. Louis style “mostaccioli” which is layered sauce, tube noodles, and lots of cheese.
3. Chicken and Biscuits. I use my mom’s recipe. This is basically chicken pot-pie filling baked in a 9×13 pan with biscuits on top. I will make my favorite freezer biscuits (I use half whole wheat flour) and freeze the filling cooked in it’s entirety.
On the day of cooking I simply thaw the sauce and raw biscuits, and bake them all at 400°F for 15-20 minutes.
4. Bow tie chicken. Another recipe from my mother. I have never freezer cooked this before, but I am going to do it this time. The sauce is diced chicken cooked in garlic, then added chicken stock with peas and shredded carrots, and the sauce is thickened with cream cheese and finished off with Parmesan. It is served with farfelle/ bow tie pasta. I am going to freeze everything but the cooked pasta.
On the day we eat the meal, I will simply thaw and reheat the sauce and cook the pasta. 5. Fajita chicken. I use the marinade from the Joy of Cooking. I know I am supposed to use strip steak for real fajitas, but the chicken is soooo good and much more affordable. For this meal I will simply cut my chicken breasts into grillable size pieces and freeze it in the marinade.
On the day of eating, we will thaw the chicken, cut up sweet peppers and onions for our grill basket, and gather other toppings. The hardest part of the meal is prepping the chicken.
6. Marinated chicken for salad or rice.I am not sure which marinades I will use at this point, but I am going to find a few that look good and prep them in the same way I did the fajitas. If you have any favorite marinades, I am up for suggestions!
On the day of cooking, my husband can thaw and grill and decide if he wants to do grilled veggies with rice or a green salad.
7. Brown sauce stir fry chicken. A recipe from my MIL. This recipe involves coating the chicken in a cornstarch-soy sauce mixture and letting it sit, so I am going to throw the diced raw chicken into this mixture and freeze it. Then I am going to pre-make the brown sauce that goes with the recipe and freeze it adjacent to the chicken.
The day of cooking we will simply have to thaw the sauce and the meat, prep and cook whatever veggies we want, make rice and cook the chicken. Once again the labor intensive step of prepping chicken and washing raw chicken dishes will be skipped.
8. Sesame chicken. I found this sauce online and we really love it. I will prep the chicken and freeze it raw and make the sesame sauce and freeze that separately.
On the day of cooking, I will thaw the chicken and cook it, prep a veggie to stir-fry (I always add veggies to this), and cook rice. This meal is already really quick and easy to begin with.
9. Steak kebobs with pita. Not sure what recipe yet. My plan here is to find a good steak marinade, and cut the steak into kebob size chunks and freeze it in the marinade. If I am feeling motivated I will make my favorite homemade pita from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and freeze them in family size portions.
On the day of eating, we will thaw the steak, and cook it with mushrooms, grape tomatoes, peppers, and onions. And eat it on thawed pitas or rice.
10. Beef Stroganoff. A recipe from my MIL. This recipe has two steps. The first is cooking mushrooms, onions, and browning the beef and mixing them with the sauce. The second step is baking it for 40 minutes. I am going to prep it up to the point of baking.
On the day of, we simply thaw the sauce, bake it, and cook egg noodles.
11. Blackbean chili. I use an adaption of this recipe I found online. I add diced tomatoes and frozen corn (my husband loves corn). If I have ever brought you a meal post-partum (and on a Friday), there is a good chance that it has been this. What make it even better is that it is gluten free and dairy is optional as toppings. This I will cook mostly, but probably cut back on the flavor combining simmering, since the freezer will add to that.
On the day of we will thaw and reheat. We do at least the cheese and sour cream toppings and like to eat it with corn chips or on macaroni noodles.
12. Alfredo sauce. I found this one online. It may not be authentic, but it is sooooo good. This sauce takes literally 10 minutes to make. I am going to make a whole bunch and freeze it in dinner sized portions.
On the day of, my husband might grill meat or shrimp or do veggies in the grill pan, and we will eat it over pasta. Or we will use it as pizza sauce, because we love white sauce pizzas.
13. Macaroni and cheese. I use a recipe that I got from a friend. This is a stove top sauce that is mixed with cooked noodles and baked to brown the topping. I am going to make the sauce and freeze it into portions enough for an 8×8 dish, which still serves our family of five.
On the day of, I simply thaw the sauce in a bowl of water while cooking the pasta, combine, top, and bake.
And that’s it! I would love to hear of other easy freezer meals, especially hot weather friendly ones. If you really want a recipe, send an email and I will see about typing it up!