Sunday, August 18, 2013

Freezer Cooking Adventure #1

My freezer is full, and I'm pooped! Yesterday was our first freezer cooking group event. It was a long day, and my shoulders are aching from chopping, wrapping, stirring and scooping, but I think it was a great success, overall. Our little group of four unexpectedly grew to five, but we had a massive table to work around, and some of us had prepared extra meals, so it was all good. Four of us prepared multiples of two recipes each, and the fifth person prepared multiples of one recipe. Every person walked away with at least one (in some cases more) each of nine different meals. Score! Variety!

As you read in my previous post, we spent a couple hours last Saturday planning and organizing the event. Since so many people would be prepping and cooking all at the same time in one kitchen, we each made a packing list of all the tools we would need to bring with us, in addition to the ingredients for each of our recipes. So when we arrived at Olivia's house, step one was to "apron up" and unpack the goods! (I think Christina wins the prize for best apron. Nice briefs, Batman.)
Step 1: Apron Up & Unpack!
Community Box

We also decided during our planning meeting to create a community box that we would each donate items to for group use and one person would be the designated keeper of. I donated the storage tub, the aluminum baking pans and covers, a Sharpie, and the wax paper. Others donated quart and gallon-size freezer bags, plastic wrap, commercial-size aluminum foil, and salt and pepper. We got this idea from an awesome book called Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer. Such a great resource for planning and for recipes with detailed freezing and reheating instructions. I'm so glad I invested in it.

Step 2: Organize Tools & Ingredients
Step 3: Cook!

We were blessed to have such a massive kitchen table to work around. With only a little shuffling, there was room for everyone to prep their food and wrap and package their meals. We each staked our claim on a little section of table and stuck with our spots the entire day. Another imperative was a sink full of hot, soapy water all day. Staying on top of washing the pots, pans, mixing bowls, cutting boards, and utensils was an absolute must to stay sane.

The only thing I would prefer to have different next time would be no kids and no pets. We had a small army of four children (I'm pretty sure there were four - they didn't stop moving long enough for me to accurately count them all) and three dogs beating a path through the kitchen all day. At least the doggies had manners and didn't try to snatch any meat off the table like they would have at my house! (My boys are rotten and have no manners.) My plan is to talk to my church about the possibility of using our church kitchen (industrial, lots of open space, LOVE IT) in the future. I'm also planning a baking day with my girl Penny (AKA P Diddy).

Baby, the sweetest black lab, and Pixie, an equally sweet
American bulldog puppy. Beggars, the both of them.
Assembly line for breakfast burritos

So, do you want to see the fruits of our labors all laid out at once? Do you? It's pretty darned impressive. Recipes provided where possible. What you see below is:

  • 80 Breakfast Burritos - Scrambled the eggs separately and formed an assembly line to divide the labor; made some with onions & peppers, all WITHOUT hash browns - I've done that before; it was gross with the potatoes.
  • 8 portions of Stromboli meat - Each portion makes 6 sandwiches - recipe below.
  • 6 portions of Meatloaf - Some portions divided into individual packaging for easy husband lunches and some divided into 2 smaller loaves for smaller families. Recipe below.
  • 4 Chicken Pot Pies 
  • 8 (I think) 4-count bags of French Onion Burger patties
  • 4 gallons of Broccoli Cheese Soup
  • 4 Cheesy Ham & Potato Bakes
  • 4 Chicken Potato Casseroles
  • 4 portions of Chicken Tacos (cooked in the crock pot all day - shredded chicken, salsa, taco seasoning, black beans, and I'm not sure what all else - they look delicious!)

Easy Meatloaf 
(makes two loaves that serve approx. 6 each)

2 lbs ground beef
8 oz Pepperidge Farm Herbed Stuffing Mix
2 eggs
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup water

~1 cup ketchup
~1/2 cup brown sugar

Combine all meatloaf ingredients and mix well. Form into two loaves. Place both loaves in 9x13 pan. Combine topping ingredients and spread evenly over top of loaves. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees, or until done.

If freezing, wrap each loaf in plastic wrap, then in foil, and place in gallon freezer bag. Then place in freezer. When ready to cook, thaw overnight in the fridge, mix topping ingredients and spread on meatloaf, and cook as directed above. Loaves can be cooked individually and can be frozen in loaf pans, if desired.

Barbecue sauce is a nice alternative topping as well.

Miss Wendy's Strombolis
(makes 6 sandwiches)

This recipe comes from an old friend of mine. When we were in grade school, our teacher asked each of us to bring in a family recipe and a story about it for a classroom recipe book. My friend Jake brought his mom's Stromboli recipe. My mom started making it soon after, and it's been a family favorite ever since. Incorporated below are a couple of my own tweaks I've made over the years, but they are so insignificant that I felt the need to give Miss Wendy credit where credit is due.

1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb pork sausage
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese (the fake powdered kind)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp oregano or Italian seasoning blend
6 steak or hoagie buns
12 slices provolone or mozzarella cheese

Brown beef, sausage and onion. Drain. Stir in sauce, ketchup, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and oregano. Cook over medium low heat for 20 minutes. Split the rolls and divide meat evenly on bottom buns. Top with cheese slices - 2 per sandwich. (I fold my slices in half so they don't hang over the edge of the bun and cook onto the foil wrapper. I want to make sure ALL the cheese goes on my sandwich and in my belly!) Close sandwiches and wrap in foil, leaving open at the top. Heat in the oven 15 minutes at 350 degrees to melt cheese and toast buns.

If freezing, stop after cooking meat and sauce mixture for 20 minutes. Let mixture cool. Place in quart-size freezer bag, squeeze all air out of bag, lay flat on counter and gently press mixture flat. Flash freeze and store. When ready to eat, either thaw mixture in refrigerator or open bag and defrost in microwave. Either way, warm meat in microwave before assembling sandwiches to ensure finished sandwiches are hot all the way through.



  1. So fun! I have been wanting to do this forever with a few friends. Thanks for motivating me!!

    1. So glad I could help inspire! Thanks for checking it out!

  2. This has nothing to do with your freezer cooking adventure. I just had to say that the Batman apron is pretty awesome.

    That is all. Have a good day.

    1. It is pretty awesome, I have to agree. I'm all for creative aproning. :)