Barb needs our help! Are you a freezer cooker? I am not. But... I freely admit that it is because I have never really tried. A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who is and has been doing it for about 2 years now. She gets together with two other ladies and they put together meals that go in the freezer and are ready to pull out, thaw, cook and eat. Here is what I gleaned from our conversation:
1. When you think freezer cooking, you don't necessarily have to think "casserole". ( I admit that this is one of the reasons I have always shied away from the idea.)
2. You can also think outside of the foil casserole pan especially if you only have a side by side freezer. She said that those foil pans never seemed to fit in her freezer unless she rolled the edges inward, but you can pack more in a side by side if you layer gallon size freezer bags instead of the foil pans.
3. She makes a lot of freezer meals that go in the crockpot like the ones you've might have seen in the freezer section of the grocery store. Think of it as pre-assembling all of the ingredients and putting them in your own bag ready to dump and cook. For example, I have a very simple recipe for pot roast that is basically a roast, carrots, potatoes, with a packet of Lipton Onion Soup mix sprinkled on top. My friend says, put all of those things into a freezer bag and you are done.
4. She has tried many of the recipes that you will find in those specialized cookbooks and some of them they really liked, but some of them they didn't. So, in a situation like Barb's, it might be better to try to convert your already tried and true recipes to freezer recipes instead of trying a bunch of new ones that might not rate highly with your hungry family.
For example, one of our favorite meals is Teriyaki Tenderloin. You can slice it thin and put it on a roll with some fancy mustard or use it to make loaded baked potatoes. When I was fixing a freezer meal for a friend who had been in a car accident, I mixed the marinade, poured it over the tenderloins in a freezer bag, sealed it and froze it. I wanted to see for myself how it would turn out so I made a batch for us as well. We used it last week and it was great. Tasted just like I had made the marinade that morning.
Now here is my own advice. Don't get focused on the main courses and forget the sides. If you are trying to prepare for a time when you will be out of commission, spend a weekend baking quick breads, muffins, and cookies; maybe even some veggie dishes although with canned and frozen veggies so readily available you might not worry about the greens. Plus, breads thaw so quickly that you can pull them out at the last minute if you tend to forget to set aside enough defrosting time like I do. Sometimes it makes you feel like more of a mom to be able to give them a well rounded meal instead of just the main course and when you are feeling rotten, whipping up some simple banana bread can seem like an impossible dream. This is a great muffin to freeze; not savory but not so sweet that it can't be served with dinner.
Zucchini Lemon Muffins
2 C. all purpose flour
1/2 C. sugar
1 Tbl. baking powder
2 tsp. grated lemon rind (you can substitute orange in a pinch)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 Tbl. poppy seeds
1 C. shredded zucchini
3/4 C. skim milk
3 Tbl. oil
1 lg. egg, lightly beaten
Preheat to 400º. Mix first 7 ingredients. Set side. Combine all of the wet ingredients. Add to flour mixture stirring just until moist. Spoon into muffin cups and bake 20 minutes.
And don't just think dinner is in the freezer, breakfast can be frozen too! My MIL makes tons of breakfast casseroles for the people who come to the retreats at the convent. She whips them up ahead of time and then transfers them from her freezer to the convent's freezer so that the Sisters can pull out as many as they need and save the rest for later. Think scrumptious eggs, quiche (I'd go with the crustless version so you don't get a soggy bottom), even waffles and pancakes frozen individually can be toasted up in the morning by the little ones on their own (or even the surly big ones).
So, feel free to leave any recipes or tips for Barb here or over at her place and say a prayer for her and her family that all goes well. Take care friend!