Freezer Cooking Day

Last week, I used my first day off for my new schedule to execute a freezer cooking day! A freezer cooking day is basically meal prep on steroids (the prepping, not the meals). In the past, I’ve done one hour or an entire afternoon of freezer cooking sessions, but never have I undertaken so much in a single day.

Why do freezer cooking? Here are my top 3 reasons:

  1. It saves time. Oh no! It’s 4:00 and you haven’t started dinner? No problem. Just pull something out of the freezer, throw it in the oven, make a salad, and you’ve got dinner ready. You can also double or triple batches of certain recipes in the same amount of time it would take to make one!
  2. It saves money. How many times do we order take-out or go through the drive-thru because it’s easy? Think of how expensive it is for a family of 4 to eat out. Homemade meals can be time consuming to make, but eating at home is a proven way to save hundreds of dollars a month. Many times we’ve had weeks where we’ll “eat from the pantry” in order to stretch our grocery budget. Since I’d been stocking up on pantry essentials for a few weeks now, I was able to plan my freezer cooking menu around what I had on hand. I spent less than $40 on my groceries that day.
  3. It saves your health. Convenience foods are expensive and terrible for your health. Yes, you can take a frozen pizza and have it ready to eat in 20 minutes. You can microwave Hot Pockets, Lean Cuisine, frozen burritos, etc. and have a hot meal in minutes. Those foods are packed full of preservatives and chemicals that wreak havoc on your body, not to mention how a serving size just isn’t quite enough to fill you up. By preparing homemade meals, you can avoid a large portion of those chemicals and have delicious, filling, and healthy foods available to eat at any moment.

How did I plan my freezer cooking day? I started by scouring Pinterest, cookbooks, and websites for freezer-friendly recipes. Most tutorials on freezer cooking involves making dinner recipes. Since I usually don’t have a problem planning dinners, my main focus was to find recipes that my husband would like to eat for breakfast, lunches, and snacks.

The day before my cooking day. I printed out this freezer cooking planner pack from Money Saving Mom for planning my day (hint – print enough copies of page 2 so you have enough recipe cards for your plan OR just print out each recipe so you have it on hand). I came up with about 30 recipes to try, which is far too many to attempt in one day. After I wrote down all my ideas, I ran them past my husband to see what he actually wanted to eat. This helped me bring my list down to 15 recipes (still a lofty list for one day of cooking by myself). When I settled on my final list, I printed out each recipe individually so I wouldn’t forget any ingredients. I decided to do my cooking day at my mom’s house, mostly because of her larger kitchen (along with the many dishes I would need), but also because she has a dishwasher!

My final recipe selection was (in no particular order):

 

The morning of, I started loading up my car at about 7am and headed to her house by 7:30. I had a rough idea of what ingredients I needed, but I hadn’t made a final list. I made a list on the computer, added up like ingredients (i.e. 6 cups of shredded cheddar cheese for the day instead of 3 recipes with 2 cups each), compared that list to what I had on hand, and came up with a final list of what I needed to buy. List in hand, I headed out to Winco to buy my groceries. In case you missed it before, I spent less than $40 because of stocking up ahead of time (I even have extra sugar, flour, and yeast leftover for next time)! I was able to return within an hour to start cooking.

After processing the dishes, I started on my cooking. Now, I didn’t keep an accurate record of what time I started each recipe, but I basically cooked from 10:15am till 9:30pm. I took an hour lunch break around 2pm, ran the dishwasher 4 times, and finally got home at 10:30pm after cleaning everything up. I had a 15-hour day!

Look what I came out with after my long day!

freezer cooking day

  • 22 breakfast burritos
  • 22 pasta lunches (each 1 serving of pasta + 1 serving of broccoli alfredo sauce)
  • 11 cups homemade pumpkin puree
  • 2 lbs shredded chicken taco meat
  • 1 lb plain shredded chicken
  • 1 Tex Mex lasagna
  • 1 Easy Baked Ziti
  • 1 Chicken Alfredo lasagna
  • 8 homemade bacon & cheese “hot pockets”
  • 8 garlic parmesan twist breadsticks
  • 6 balls of pizza dough
  • 3 1/4 dozen homemade energy bites (2 bites per serving)
  • 6 pints strawberry freezer jam
  • 3 banana bread loaves (9 servings per loaf)
  • 1 iced banana cake
  • 2 pumpkin cream cheese swirl bread loaves (9 servings per loaf)
  • 18 pumpkin cream cheese muffins (2 muffins per serving)

That’s enough for:

  • 22 breakfasts
  • 30 lunches
  • 17 dinners
  • 1 side dish
  • 65 snacks
  • 1 dessert

That’s 136 meals/sides PLUS:

  • 6 cans of pumpkin puree
  • 6 jars of jam

If you consider the $38 I spent on groceries, it breaks down to $0.28 per meal NOT including the pumpkin puree and jam. If you count the puree and jam as one “meal” each (making the total 148 meals), it breaks down to $0.27 per meal. Either way, it’s a huge savings!

Phew! This was a long post. Thanks for sticking with me! Have you ever tried freezer cooking? What’s your method?

Sweet Jack Falstaff Custard: An Elizabethan Cookbook

But for sweet Jack Falstaff…banish plump Jack, and banish all the world. – Henry IV Part I

This is the final recipe in my Elizabethan cookbook series. It seems fitting that the last recipe be the one that inspired the whole project. We had just read Henry IV Part I in my Shakespeare class. Falstaff’s favorite drink in the whole world is sack, which is a type of wine. I was driving home and thought about adding booze to a custard for a more flavorful dessert. I remembered the quote from above and thought, “Sweet Jack…..DANIELS.” And thus, the inspiration for this recipe was born.

Most of the other recipes in the cookbook were adapted from other recipes I’d found, or were adaptations of recipes from Shakespeare’s time. This was the one recipe that I created completely on my own. I did watch a few tutorials for making custard on YouTube while doing my research, but this recipe is 100% mine.

Sweet Jack Falstaff Custard

Serves 4

2 cup unsweetened almond milk

3 Tbsp corn starch

1 ½ oz Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey (or 1 sample bottle)

1 tsp vanilla

1 cinnamon stick

3 egg yolks

½ cup sugar

Ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan, combine almond milk, whiskey, vanilla, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Whisk in corn starch and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and let it cool another 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and discard. Combine egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl. Once milk mixture has cooled, add to egg mixture slowly, whisking to combine thoroughly. Pass mixture through a strainer and discard any cooked egg chunks. Spoon mixture evenly into 4 ramekins and top with ground cinnamon. Can be served either hot or cold – either serve immediately, or place in fridge until chilled.

Shrewsbury Cakes: An Elizabethan Cookbook

Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale? – Twelfth Night

 

Shrewsbury Cakes

Recipe adapted from original 1808 recipe.

3 ½ cup flour

1 ½ cup sugar

2 eggs

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp cinnamon

1 ½ cup butter

Dash rosewater

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut sugar and butter together. Add in rosewater and eggs and beat until smooth. Mix flour, nutmeg, salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Slowly add in to wet ingredients until it forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out dough on a floured surface to ¼” thick. Cut with cookie cutters or a pastry cutter.

Bake for 15-20 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

Grilled Cornish Hens: An Elizabethan Cookbook

Some pigeons, Davy, a couple of short-legg’d hens…tell William cook. – Henry IV Part II

Chicken was a popular food in Shakespeare’s time, but they weren’t tripped out on growth hormones like they are today. They would have been small, so I chose Cornish hens. I love roasted Cornish hens stuffed with Rice-a-Roni. It’s a classic in my family. For this recipe, I wanted to try something different. Grilled Cornish hens! You could definitely stuff the hens if you wanted, but that will increase the cooking time.

Grilled Cornish Hens

Serves 2

2 Cornish game hens, giblets removed

¼ cup butter, softened

1/4 cup loosely packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Mix together brown sugar, paprika, allspice, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes, set aside. Working from the cavity end of each hen, run your fingers between the skin and flesh of the breasts and legs to loosen the skin without tearing. Push half of the butter under the skin and massage from the outside to spread the butter evenly over the breasts and legs. Spread the remaining butter over the entire surface of the hens. Rub seasoning mixture over the skin evenly.

Grill over indirect high heat (450° to 550°F) until the juices run clear and the meat is no longer pink at the bone, 55 to 75 minutes. Remove the hens from the grill and let them rest for about 5 minutes.

Serve warm (possibly with stuffed artichokes?).

Much Ado about Stuffed Artichokes: An Elizabethan Cookbook

A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuffed with all honourable virtues. – Much Ado about Nothing

 

This was my absolute favorite recipe from the entire book. Artichokes are, hands down, my favorite vegetable. I love them on pizza, in dips, or even just steamed and dipped in melty butter. This recipe is a multi-step process. Even though it’s labor  and time intensive, it’s totally worth it.

 

Much Ado about Stuffed Artichokes

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is.

Serves 2

2 artichokes

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

2 peeled garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I got a Parmesan Gouda blend from Trader Joe’s. It was divine.)

Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Rinse artichokes. Remove stems and cut off the top 1/2-1 inch of artichoke. Trim remaining leaf tips if sharp. Scoop out the fuzzy insides (this takes a bit of muscle, especially when the artichokes are raw). Place upside down on a vegetable steamer in a large pot and fill with water to an inch above the steamer. Steam for 20 minutes.

Remove artichokes from pot. Let drain upside down for 10 minutes.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/8 cup butter. Add chopped garlic, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Stir until mixture comes together. It will most likely be dry, so add the remaining oil and butter. Add in the cheese and stir until lightly golden brown.

Gently pull apart artichoke leaves and generously spoon breadcrumb mixture evenly inside. Make sure to get the leaves on the side as well.

Place artichokes in a baking dish and add 1 inch of water to the bottom.

Bake for 15 minutes uncovered. Place foil over the artichokes and bake another 25 minutes. Serve with melted butter.

Copywright 2013 Scot Woodman Photography

Copywright 2013 Scot Woodman Photography

Rosemary Olive Bread: An Elizabethan Cookbook

Prove this a prosperous day, the three-nook’d world shall bear the olive freely.

– Antony and Cleopatra

This flavorful bread is great with melty butter. YUM.

 

Rosemary Olive Bread

½ Basic Bread dough

1 – 1 ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped

4 – 6 sprigs of rosemary leaves

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Mix chopped olives and rosemary into dough.  If you want it to be super flavorful, go for the larger measurements. If you prefer a simpler flavor, add in the minimum. Form into a round, baguette, or try a braid. Bake 30-40 minutes. Transfer bread to cooling rack.

Tutorial with pictures for the Winston knot (pictured above) found at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.

Sweet Cinnamon Swirl Bread: An Elizabethan Cookbook

Sweets to the sweet! Farewell. – Hamlet

Not overly sweet, this bread would be great with breakfast, afternoon tea, or post-dinner coffee.

Sweet Cinnamon Swirl Bread

½ Basic Bread dough

¼ cup butter, melted

1 Tbsp ground cinnamon

¼ cup white sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll out dough to ¼ inch thick on a floured surface. Mix melted butter, cinnamon, and sugar together and spread evenly over dough. Slowly roll the dough, mashing down the ends to enclose the loaf. Bake 40-45 minutes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (for easier cleanup). Allow bread to cool completely. If desired, brush cinnamon mixture on top of bread.

Optional: Cut rolled dough in half and braid. Braiding tutorial with pictures found at Home Cooking Adventure.

Basic Bread: An Elizabethan Cookbook

What’s better than fresh, homemade bread?

Maybe fresh, homemade bread with melty butter smooshed all over it.

 

Definitely.

This bread is the base for two Elizabethan recipes. I mixed my dough up the night before, let it rise in a warm place overnight, and then split it into two loaves the next day. I’ll be posting those separately. You could also just use this recipe for basic whole wheat bread.

 

Basic Bread

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Yields 2 loaves

2 cup lukewarm water

1/4 cup sugar

1 packet active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons instant yeast

5-6 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

1 Tbsp salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

In a large bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, yeast, and 2 cups whole wheat flour. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap, and let it stand 10 minutes, until bubbly.

Stir in the salt and vegetable oil.

Stir in the flour 1 cup at a time. When the dough holds together and most of the flour is mixed in, transfer it onto a clean, floured work surface.

Knead the dough. Sprinkle your hands and/or the work surface with just enough flour to prevent sticking. After 5 minutes, take a break and let the dough rest.

Knead the dough for a few more minutes. When you lightly press it with your fingertips, the dough should bounce right back. Put it into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm place and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Divide it in half, and form each half into whatever shape you like.

If you’ve made braids, rounds, baguette shapes, or other freeform loaves, place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let them rise again for 30 to 60 minutes, until they look nicely puffy.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 375°F.

Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the loaves. If you’ve made rounds or baguettes, slash the tops several times with a sharp knife.

Bake the loaves for about 30 to 40 minutes, until their crust is golden brown and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Cool completely before slicing. Store any leftovers, wrapped in plastic, for several days at room temperature; freeze for longer storage.

Lamb Stew: An Elizabethan Cookbook

Tut, she’s a lamb, a dove, a fool, to him!

Taming of the Shrew

This stew is both savory and sweet, and it’s wonderfully filling. I thought dried fruit in stew would be strange, but it adds a light flavor to an otherwise robust stew. This recipe involves a lot of prep time, but it’s well worth the wait.

Lamb Stew

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 cup lentils

4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

2-inch piece ginger root, finely chopped

2 tsp ground coriander

8oz diced lamb

3½ oz apricots, chopped

3½ oz raisins

½ bottle white wine

½ pint lamb or chicken stock

1 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp corn starch

Soak ½ cup dried lentils in 2 cups of water for 1 hour (they will expand).

For lamb stock, place bones in a large pot filled with water. Boil for 30-40 minutes. Strain out bones.

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot and cook the onions for a few minutes until softened. Stir in the garlic, ginger and ground coriander, and cook for another minute. Add the lamb and cook until the meat is browned. Add the lentils, apricots, raisins, wine, stock and honey. Stir well and bring to the boil. Simmer it over a low heat for 1½ hours. Add a tablespoon of water to the corn starch to form a paste and stir this paste into the lamb. Cook for a further couple of minutes to thicken. Add salt to taste.

A Midsummer Night’s Salad: An Elizabethan Cookbook

Indeed, sir, she was the sweet marjoram of the salad, or rather, the herb of grace. – All’s Well That Ends Well

This salad is light and fresh, not to mention beautiful. The fresh herbs give it plenty of flavor, and the edible flowers and radishes fill it with vibrant colors!

 

A Midsummer Night’s Salad

Serves 4

1 bunch watercress

1 bunch baby spinach

3 radishes, sliced

Fresh sage leaves

Fresh mint leaves

Fresh rosemary leaves

Flowers for garnish (roses, pansies, marigolds)

Wash and trim all greens. Toss with radishes and garnish with fresh edible flowers. Drizzle with dressing.

 

Dressing:

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 Tbsp honey

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake to combine