After getting home from work, with not even one step in the door, the question would be "what's for dinner." I used to cringe every time my husband would ask. For years we would get by with grilled cheese, pizza, and mac and cheese for dinner. I really hated cooking.
After having our first child, I decided I really needed to step it up on the cooking. I felt my son deserved some variety and some actual meals with all the food groups. I debated on trying the freezer cooking, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to dedicate a whole day to cooking either.
My mom got me the program and cookbooks called 30 Meals in One Day for Christmas. It gave me the extra push I needed to give it a try. I read the books and gave it a try on a much smaller scale. I devote nap time and night time to cooking and I cook every 2-3 weeks instead of preparing a whole months worth of meals in one day. The first time I tried it, to my surprise, I walked through the door after work and food was on the table ready for me to eat. It was amazing! I have to give some credit to my husband because he has been great at heating up the meals before I get home.
I don't claim to be an expert, but this is what I have found works for me:
First, the program has a list of recipes that you can pick out your meals. You can also add your own recipes to it. I pick them out according to how they are prepared. Oven, Assemble, Slow Cooker and Stove Top. I usually pick out 1 slow cooker, 3 assembles and 2 oven recipes.
One of the books great suggestions is to utilize all your cooking surfaces. It helps save time. I usually do 6 recipes and create enough to divide each meal in to 2. So when I am done I have 12 meals. Some meals have surprised me and I end up getting 3 out of one.
Once I have selected my recipes the program creates a shopping list for me and labels so I can print them out. The shopping list categorizes all the food and adds all the items together from each recipe. The labels are great for marking the containers with directions on how to prepare each meal. The easy to follow instructions have made my husband more willing to help out.
I do all my shopping around 12:00 p.m. and I leave out all the items so they are ready for me to start cooking, except for meat and items that need to be kept cold.
During my sons nap, I get all the vegetables chopped up and get my kitchen organized. As I stated earlier, I leave all my ingredients out so I don't have to do any searching for anything. I also move the trash right next to me. This was another one of the books suggestions that I found handy. I also place trash stations on my counter top using small grocery sacks. It helps keep the mess in order and saves time walking to and from the trash.
Another thing I do to stay organized is to leave my netbook on the counter with all my recipes on it. I can scroll up and down between recipes. Once I get my vegetables chopped up I put them in bags or in a container with saran wrap and put them in the fridge for use later. I usually get my slow cooker recipe going at this point since it needs a little bit more time then the other recipes.
Once I put my son to bed, it is time to begin the cooking. I pour myself a glass of wine and turn on the music. I usually read through my recipes again and get a game plan. Sometimes I can brown beef for multiple recipes at once or cook all the pasta at the same time. I found large pots are a necessity with freezer cooking. If I start at 8:00 p.m. I can usually finish by 10:30 or 11:00.
Once all the meals are cooked, I like to either store them in freezer bags or 8x8 tin pans with foil. The tin pans are great because you can dispose of them when you are done. A dinner with no dishes! My favorite.
Freezer cooking has been working well for me and my family. I have been doing it for 4 months now and I love the freedom it gives me at night, plus the benefits it gives my son.
Below are some recipes that are our favorites. The Hawaiian Chicken is the only chicken I have been able to get my son to touch. I served it over white rice and we had pineapple with it. YUM!
Chicken Cordon Blu
recipe courtesy 30 Meals in One Day
6 small boneless skinless chicken breast
2 Tbl Dijon mustard
6 slices ham
6 slices Swiss cheese
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup dry bread crumbs
Place each chicken breast half between two pieces of plastic wrap. Pound until thin. Spread mustard on each piece of chicken. Wrap cheese in ham and place on chicken. Roll chicken around cheese and ham. Secure with a toothpick. Dip chicken first in evaporated milk then in bread crumbs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake on greased baking sheet for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cover chicken on baking sheet with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 3 hours. When frozen transfer to a freezer bag. Label and freeze.
To serve: Thaw. Heat in microwave or in oven. 6 Servings
recipe courtesy 30 Meals in One Day
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
1 1.25 oz envelope onion soup mix
1 cup pineapple apricot jam
1 cup Russian dressing
Cut chicken into strips. Arrange chicken in a greased baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Pour off liquid. Combine onion soup, jam and dressing. Pour over chicken. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Place in freezer bag. Label and freeze.
To serve: Thaw. Heat until hot and bubbly. 6 Servings
Easy Cooking | Simple Cooking