I've had grand plans for the better part of week to sit down and write a post about what has been keeping me busy. We've had two sets of houseguests and in between visiting and cleaning and the never-ending laundry, I've been slowly and painfully working on the last two swoon squares and staring at an unfinished pink sweater that needs just a little attention.
And I've been cooking.
I don't know if it is the change of seasons or the beginning of the school year or some other cosmic force, but I've been spending more time in the kitchen. This is more than your average "it's dinner time so let's throw something on the grill and put a salad together". This is "let's see how much we can fit into the freezer" kind of cooking.
I started by poaching one chicken.
I reduced the poaching liquid for stock, put a quart in the refrigerator and froze the rest in 1 and 2 cup portions.
With the meat, I made two pans of Mad Hungry chicken enchiladas – one pan of 8 for dinner that night, the other pan of 8 for the freezer.
There was still meat left over so I made some Mad Hungry chicken pocket pies. I doubled the dough as I had twice the amount of cream cheese that was needed. I figured I'd freeze the extra pastry for later. After making the first batch of chicken pocket pies, there was still meat left and I had the dough so I made another recipe worth. These 12 pies are now frozen.
I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies – baked half, froze the other half.
I made my favorite Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day dough – the peasant loaf. That batch makes enough for four loaves over two weeks. Perfect.
And that was all on the first day.
Now, I don't want you to think that I spent hours and hours slaving away in the kitchen. I made the bread dough and the cookies while the chicken was poaching. While the cookies were baking, I whipped up the enchilada sauce and assembled them. While the pastry for the pocket pies was chilling, I made the filling. It did take some time, but less than you'd think. And I figure if I'm going to make a mess, it might as well be a big one.
Right now I have a HUGE pot of sauce bubbling on the stove. I'll use some to make a spinach lasagne for tonight and the rest will be frozen in 2 cup portions for later. I'm not good about menu planning so these made-ahead meals are my saving grace on busy nights. All I have to do is remember to pull something out of the freezer that morning, or even the night before if I'm really on top of my game. Add some fresh veggies and that's a family meal with little fuss.
Other ideas I have include doubling up marinades and buying family packs of meat to make one meal for us now and two meals for later. I'm also thinking about making small, individual frozen pizzas for those days when the girls have longer and later sports practices and need a little more to hold them over for dinner time.
Got any good freezer ideas you care to share? Menu planning or big batch cooking ideas? I'm listening.