Friday, August 3, 2012

If you doubt it, take a bite

I decided recently to take on freezer cooking for the first time since my pregnancy. Strangely enough, August is not that busy of a month for us. I guess is why I felt I could tackle this, but it's a little counter intuitive. You'd think I would do it for the months where I am busiest! I had a plan for 15 meals, enough to get us through the month once I added in leftover nights, nights out of town and spaghetti nights (a staple around these parts). Then some unexpected expenses hit us and I decided to squeeze that month long menu down to just two weeks. I'll do the second two weeks of the plan later in the month. I made last night's dinner, tonight's dinner to put in the fridge and 5 meals for the freezer. We are also having spaghetti one night which comes together quickly, as does the salmon for Tuesday. 
I've included the links to the recipes I borrowed. 

Thursday – Le Tien
Saturday – Grill – Cilantro Thai Grilled Chicken, Zucchini, Naan
Sunday -- Church Potluck (Salad)
Monday – Salsa Chicken
Tuesday – Leftovers
Wednesday – Beef and Broccoli, TJ's Potstickers, Rice 
Thursday - Thom Kha
F/S/S – Out of Town
Monday  - BBQ Chicken (crockpot) 
Tuesday – Salmon, Potatoes, Brussel Sprouts
Wednesday – Spaghetti

Here's what my counter looked like when I started out:

That's a lot of food! I spent 20 bucks at our farmer's market, $150 at Aldi and $50 at our regular grocery store. That also included quite a bit of shopping for staples and paper products that we were low on, dog food, and some frozen treats. It's hot here! That's a little over budget, but we were low on a lot of staples and I won't have to go grocery shopping for at least two weeks. There were also some things I already had in my pantry, including the things I always stock up on at Trader Joe's when I'm in the Twin Cities. That includes the frozen brown rice I get because I always mess up rice if I make it myself and the lowfat coconut milk for the Thom Kha. 

Weirdest Carrot Ever!

My method was simple. I prepped all the veggies, then the meat, then I assembled. The exception to that was the lasagna and the Thom Kha. They required the elements to be cooked, so I multitasked and did that in between chopping and peeling. In the future I won't include the lasagna recipe on a big cooking day. It was complicated and might be better to do all on it's own. 

All the veggies for the lasagna. The recipe requires the squash to be roasted, the onions to be caramelized and the spinach to be wilted all in different steps. 

I made Le Tien for last night's dinner so I chopped the veggies for that first and then let it cook while I did the rest of the prep for the other meals.

Here's the recipes for Le Tien, Thom Kha and the Salsa Chicken. These are recipes that I make often enough and have changed over the years enough that I consider them "mine."

Le Tien - One of my favorite things from my childhood
One Eggplant
Several Medium Sized Tomatoes
Several Medium Sized Onions
6 oz. Mushrooms
3 cloves Garlic
Herbes de Provence (or Italian seasoning)
Olive Oil
Mozzarella Cheese (I used about a cup, shredded)

Pre-heat your oven to 375. Chop all the veggies into slices. If your eggplant is fat, you might need to cut the slices in half. You want your rounds to be close to uniform. Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of an oval baking dish. Place the garlic in the bottom of the dish along with about a tablespoon of Herbes de Provence. Now stack your veggies in, standing up, alternating between the eggplant, tomato and onion. Wedge the mushrooms in where they fit. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper and more herbes de provence. Here's a really crappy picture of what it will look like:

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until eggplant is translucent and onion is tender. Cover with mozzarella and bake until golden and bubbly and looks sorta like this:

You can also freeze this recipe, just wrap the casserole dish tightly in saran wrap and leave off the mozzarella. I've done it before and it freezes well. 

Salsa Chicken
2-3 Chicken Breasts, cut into chunks
1 Jar of Salsa (I used some stuff from our farmer's market)
Veggies of choice, cut into chunks - I put in an extra tomato, a zucchini and some beautiful purple peppers, all from the farmer's market
1 Tablespoon Chipotle Powder (optional, I use Penzey's)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Throw it all in a freezer bag. When ready to cook put in a crock pot with a tub of plain greek yogurt for 6-7 hours. Serve with rice or tortillas. 

Thom Kha - 
Two Tupperwares of Chicken Stock (No, that's really how I measure my stock. I'm guessing this ends up as around 3 cups)
One can coconut milk. I use the lowfat stuff from Trader Joe's
Lee's Thom Kha paste - I get this at our asian market. I've made it without this and it's fine but not quite the same. 
Fresh ginger root, julienned
2-3 garlic cloves

Combine all the items above and let them simmer for at least 20 minutes. Then add
1 cup chicken, cut into thin strips
Juice of 1 lime and the rest of the lime
1 cup chopped cilantro

Simmer until chicken is cooked through. Remove lemongrass and lime. Let cool before freezing. Serve with rice, more cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime. 

So that's it! Certainly not a profesional effort at freezer cooking, but I'm proud of myself and it's going to feel really nice that I don't have to do much in the kitchen over these next few very hot weeks.