Monday, January 23, 2012

Be patient Mama, and stocking up!

Out of the mouths of babes.
So a few weeks LM and I were in the grocery store together.  I was trying to hustle him along because it was the afternoon and I (selfishly) wanted to get home, change into my jammies and throw that fake log on the fire that was in my grocery cart. LM was walking and NOT in the cart. I asked him to "move out smartly" because he was lagging behind and I didn't want to invoke The Cart Rule. The Cart Rule in our house states that when in a store if you can't stay NEXT to Mama then you get in the cart.  I have no idea what the rule is with Dada, but it is a FIRM rule with me.  Poor LM was really dragging his feet and when I asked him again to put a little hustle in it, he looked up at me with his crazy long eyelashes, gave a big sigh and said, "I am moving, you have to be patient."  Well said LM, well said.  With that I took a minute to slow down my aggressive power walk and wait up for him.

On another note, I spent time last weekend restocking the freezer with a few freezer meals so I CAN be more patient.  I am always more patient when I don't have to freak out what to cook for dinner.

Here is how I do it.
  • I always grocery shop the day prior to my prep day.  I can't pull myself together for doing it all on one day. I generally do one type of protein (holla Top Chef) at a time.  I find this easier for me with planning.
  • assess freezing supplies- I use FREEZER gallon and quart size bags, aluminum foil casserole dishes (or what ever I can find).  I bought a TON on sale after Christmas so we will have snowman on our dishes for the next year. There are different techniques and the book can help you with this, but I mostly use the disposable pans.  I like the no mess, no clean up of it.  I also don't have to flash freeze the dish then pull and wrap.  Do some research and decide what you want to do.  Remember this should make your life easier!
  • Sale items dictate recipes that are used
  • I heavily use the internet as resources and this book- Don't Panic- Dinner is in the Freezer (I would link to this book but I can't because I am writing this at work and they block EVERY website ever!).  I scan the Sunday paper looking for the best deal on the protein (Top Chef) and match them up with the appropriate recipe.  This time around I hit some crazy sales on boneless chicken breasts.  However, I was short on time so I totally went the easy way.  I bought 6 packages of chicken (3-4 breasts each) for about $1.50-$2 a package. I also wanted to make a few meat things so I also got a total of 4lbs of ground meat- it was on sale but not for an awesome price.
  • 6 packages of marinated chicken- ready to grill
  • 2 meals of sloppy joes
  • 2 baked ziti casseroles
  • 40 meatballs (raw, need to be thawed and cooked for 20 minutes)- good for meatball subs, spaghetti or a white sauce.

Prep Day
  • I set aside about 2 hours for this, but it didn't take that long.
  • Cut up three onions and measure.  Place any left over in freezer bags of 1 cup servings to use later.
  • Brown meat for meat based dishes.  I made baked ziti and sloppy joes.  Both have a base of browned ground beef and onions.  Easy peasy.
  • Make sloppy joes and simmer on the back burner
  • Make and assemble baked ziti
  • while everything is cooling, bag up chicken.
  • I had at home already several McCormick packages of meat marinades and some Italian dressing.  Three breasts in a gallon size FREEZER zip lock with the marinade mixed, labels on front and six meals are ready for the grill.  The night prior or when the first person gets home, the bag is pulled.  As the chicken thaws, the marinade does it's job.  Grill the chicken and you can either eat it straight, cut it up for chicken salad or a regular salad.  I make small batches because it is easier to pull two bags out then make too much and then not eat it.
  • Make meatballs and flash freeze on a cookie sheet.  You do this so that they don't stick together in the bag and so that they don't get as much freezer burn.
Bag it up
  • Soooo my chicken is already bagged up.  I make sure I have a label on the outside with what kind of chicken.  Freeze it flat or roll it is up to you.  I roll.
  • When cool, double wrap the casseroles in foil and saran wrap.  Put a label on the front with then name and cooking instructions.
  • Put the meatballs in a freezer bag and label.
  • Cool sloppy joes, place in freezer bags, label and flash free flat (place bag in a cake pan). When they hold their shape you can pull them out.
Last words
  • I always write up a freezer inventory and put it on the fridge upstairs so ALL of us know what is in the basement.  On this inventory, I also put what needs to be done to the meal (cook, thaw, fully cooked, raw, etc).
  • I like to use disposable things for this.  I am usually desperate when I pull from the freezer and I don't want to deal with dishes after.  The book has different freezing techniques that use other things.  Bottom line is use what is easy and good for you.
  • I encourage my husband to "shop" from the freezer on his nights.
  • Make meals that can double or triple.
  • Don't feel like you have to make a ton of food.  My goal this year is to just have one meal a week for the freezer if I need it.  If I don't need it then no biggie!
I can't give you the recipes for the sloppy joes or the meatballs, but I can give you the baked ziti.- Enjoy~

Baked Ziti
  • 1/2 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 lg onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar (26-28 oz) 
  • 1 can (8oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 10 oz dried ziti cooked, 7 minutes and drained
  • 15 oz ricotta cheese
  • 2 C mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Brown bee, onion and garlic.  Add sauces and oregano.
  2. Bring to a boil and remove from heat
  3. Combine 1 C sauce with ziti
  4. Spoon 1/2 ziti mixture in a 13x9 pan (I use two 8x8 pans)
  5. Top with ricotta, 1 C mozzarella, 1C sauce.
  6. Add remaining ziti and then the remaining sauce
  7. Cover and bake at 350 for 20 minutes
  8. Sprinkle with remining cheese and Parmesan cheese
  9. Bake 10 minues longer
If you are going to freeze then-
  1. Follow above including step 6
  2. Cover with foil and saran wrap
  3. Freeze
  4. When ready to cook, remove saran wrap
  6. Bake covered at 350 for 2 hrs until done.
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