Pre-Cooked Goodness

Well it seems like its been forever since I had a cooking day! Unfortunately it has been about a month! (Ridiculous) But we finally got around to it. This week was a bit of a challenge though because my family is completely and utterly sick of crock pot meals. We needed to change things up a bit and make “freezer to oven” meals. Going into this cooking day I have to admit I was nervous. What are the logistics of freezer-to-oven meals? Can I just do the same thing and throw them in the bag and then cook when ready? Do things need to be par-cooked? How will the things taste if I cook them first and then freeze them? But most importantly will I have tiiiiime???

Right off the bat I found a couple of great recipes and it made me feel so much better. I had a “meeting of the minds” via email with my cooking buddy and after a couple of days of deciding we were ready to take this different kind of cooking day. The result was 7 recipes, for roughly $45! (This time I saved my receipt to prove it haha)

About 4 of the recipes came from the same webpage which was SOOOO convenient! The website says “Freezer Marinades for Summer Grilling” but you don’t NEED to grill this stuff… especially in the winter. Essentially what we did with these is make the marinade and add it to the meat of our choice.

Lemonade Marinade Chicken:
Bag of frozen chicken drumsticks
3 TBSP of Worcestershire Sauce (Why is it so difficult to say that word??)
2/3 cup of Lemonade Concentrate
1 TSP of Celery Seeds
2/4 TSP Salt
2/4 TSP Pepper
2 Clove Garlic- Minced

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Put the chicken in a foil pan and pour the marinade on top!

Mediterranean Rub Pork Tenderloin:
4 lbs Pork Tenderloin (We got 2 2lb Hormel tenderloins)
2 TSP Ground Sage
2 TSP Dry Thyme
2 TSP Pepper
1 TSP Salt
1 TSP Garlic Powder
1 TSP Dried Rosemary
1 TSP Olive Oil (We ended up using more of this to make the rub stretch a bit more)

Combine dry ingredients and olive oil in a mixing bowl. Put pork in a foil pan and spread mixture with a rubber spatula all over the pork.

Garlic Dijon Chicken
Package of Chicken Breasts
4 Cloves Minced Garlic
8 TBSP Dijon Mustard
4 TBSP Lime Juice (we just cut a lime in half and squeezed 😉 )

Mix ingredients together in a bowl. Put chicken in foil and pour mixture over it. This was a little bit thicker so I used a marinade brush to make sure that it was even.

Lemon & Garlic Chicken
Bag of Chicken Thighs
4 Cloves Minced Garlic
1/4 cup Olive Oil
4 TBSP Chopped Parsley (we used fresh parsley… yummm!)
6 TBSP Lemon Juice (Cut a lemon in half and squeezed!)
1/4 TSP Pepper

Mixed all the ingredients together, put chicken in foil pan, pour mixture over the chicken. (Are you noticing a trend?)

Balsamic Glazed Chicken
About 20 Chicken Tenders (I used breasts and then cut them in half… for some reason that ends up being cheaper)
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Balsamic Vinegar (we used balsamic vinaigrette dressing… that’s all we had lol)
1 cup Honey
2 TBSP Rosemary
7 TSP Minced Garlic

Mix all together… put in foil pan…. pour mixture over it. OR you can put it all in a freezer bag and put them out on a pan when you are ready to cook it.

The picture is only with about half the chicken you need….

Ranch Burgers (there is no link for this)
Roughly 2 lbs of Ground Beef (you can use ground turkey too)
One Packet Ranch Dressing Mix
One bag of shredded cheddar cheese
Mix all together… form patties out of them… makes about 9 or 10. I put them in the foil pan and separated each one with wax paper. (We made these last night and they were seriously AMAZING)
Herbed Turkey Meatballs – this is a little bit more involved… I recommend doing this one first
Roughly 1.25 lbs of ground Turkey (we used 93/7)
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
1 TBSP dried basil
1 TBSP dried thyme
1-2 minced garlic cloves (I did 2… but I love garlic)
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 and line baking sheet with parchment paper (oops just realized I didn’t do this! lol). In a large bowl mix together all the ingredients. Then with your hands make walnut sized balls and put them on the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes. Then let cool and put them in a freezer bag.
I didn’t get a picture of them but these are the perfect addition to pasta night!
Our grocery list was pretty simple. Some stuff we had at home so if you are going off of this list please make sure that you check the recipes too to make sure you have everything!
Jenny O Ground Turkey 93/7- $4.30
Chicken Breasts- $10.25
Chicken Drumsticks-$3.99
Chicken Thighs- $3.99
1.5 lb Ground Beef- $7.25
Pork Loin- $7.75
Fruits and Veggies:
Parsley- $1.39
Lime- $0.50
Lemon- $0.50
Dijon Mustard- $0.99
Ranch Dressing packet- $1.45
Shredded Cheese- $1.99 (we had a coupon for $0.40 off!)
Lemonade Concentrate- $0.75 (on sale!)
Celery seeds- $2.39
That’s a grand total of $47.49!! And the things like the parsley, mustard and celery seeds were split between two of us. The great thing about this is that so many of the items in the recipes are things you probably already have in your pantry.
Happy cooking everyone!

Crockpot Cookin’

I love the feeling of having a fresh, home cooked meal for my family. There is just something about it that makes me feel like I have succeeded at life, and perhaps evaded mommy failure for at LEAST an hour. However since the birth of our latest little one in February and our older children being increasingly more active, I am often left with little time to shower, never mind cook. Shamefully, I had succumbed to the life of frozen pizzas and boxed mac and cheese (with the occasional pasta with meat sauce for good measure).

For at least a year a very good friend of mine had been telling me that she (and a good friend of hers) take one day a month to do a cooking day and cook for the entire month! The idea of it seemed daunting. That’s an awful lot of organizing, preparation, par-cooking which in the end will probably not even be worth it! (Sorry Liz… its just how I felt! haha)

It wasn’t until talking with another good friend of mine and realizing that we were BOTH failing in the department of feeding our children/husbands (especially on a budget) that I actually considered this “cooking day” idea as being a viable option. We decided we would try it: but in a smaller scale. We decided we’d do two weeks at a time instead of 4 weeks. It took about 2 months and many planned and then canceled days to actually get it done, but eventually we did it!

Since posting on Facebook about our second bi-monthly cooking day was met with many requests for recipes and shopping lists, I decided I would just post it on the blog (and will continue to do so every time we have a cooking day).  I am almost positive that I lost the receipt for the shopping, however I will do my best to remember everything that we bought.

We make 7 recipes for 2 weeks. We ALWAYS have enough leftovers from a meal with enough to feed the entire family again. This week we got all of our recipes off of Stephanie O’Dea’s A Year of Slow Cooking blog and they are all Gluten Free. (I don’t need to cook gluten free but my friends family does and since I’m too busy/lazy (mostly lazy) to pick out the recipe’s we cook what she wants!)

Our 7 meals we cooked are:
Crockpot Bacon and Cheese Chicken
Obama’s Chili (I have a more endearing name for it that I probably shouldn’t share at this point)
Brown Sugar Chicken
Whole Chicken in the Crockpot
Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup
Hirino Psito
Sausage and Peppers (scroll down, the only recipe not from crockpot365)

Items I had at home already:
Terriyaki Sauce
Most of the typical seasonings
Jenny-O Italian turkey sausage
Brown Sugar
Balsamic dressing (if this isn’t your favorite dressing then put your favorite on your list of things to get)
Worcestershire Sauce
Dijon Mustard

My shopping list:
        5 lbs of whole chicken breasts
        1 lb ground turkey
        About 12 chicken thighs
        1 whole chicken
        4 lb boneless pork tenderloin/butt/whatever
        1 package of Italian sausages (I like Jenny-O and already had some… but my friend didn’t)
        1 package of bacon (Hormel sells hormone and nitrate/nitrite free)
        2 packages of the 3 pack multi-colored peppers
        1 large onion
        5 tomatoes
        Sliced mushrooms (optional… and I most DEFINITELY did NOT use them…. blech)
        1 cup frozen corn (not fresh but whatever)
        Ranch Dressing
        bag of shredded cheddar cheese
        1 can kidney beans
        2 cans black beans
        1 jar of minced garlic (the wet kind… I”m sick of chopping garlic)
        Red wine vinegar
        Can of Sprite
        Tamari Sauce
        Box of chicken broth
        Sour Cream
        Gluten free beer (Redbridge)
        Can of diced tomatoes

The produce, meat and some of the miscellaneous items we doubled and our grand total was about $150 for both of us. So that is 7 recipes and, if all goes according to plan, 14 meals for roughly $75! We did all of our shopping at Walmart and did cost comparison.

Then we got home and started the prep work. We had 4 children running around the house (2 of them were VERY unhappy) and it still only took about 2 hours for prep and organization. First we sit down and organize our freezer bags: 7 bags with the name of the item as well as the amount of time required in the crcokpot (ex: 8hrs on low or 4 hrs on high). And then one recipe at a time we put them together. A lot of people chop everything up first but that’s is just way to confusing for us! The only things I par-cooked this time around was the ground turkey (even though the recipe says you don’t have to) and the bacon… but make sure that you keep an eye on the bacon, or set a timer, or else you are going to be forced to fan the smoke alarm for 20 minutes because your entire house is filled with smoke (I PERSONALLY have never experienced that… just heard that advice some where… at some point…yeah).

Yes… your kitchen will look like a bomb went off at the end of it (unless you are a neater person than I am… which I doubt, because I’m extremely neat and clean and also… the sun shines out of my butt) and it could look something like this

But as a result you will have this (super cute kid not included)

Now remember when I said earlier that I used to do pasta with meat sauce for good measure every once in a while. Well please don’t think that I have given that up! This week I also made a home made sauce that was given to me by yet another amazing friend. It is super super easy (because we all know I love easy) and its incredibly tasty as well!

Here’s the recipe for that pasta sauce (left out the mushrooms and substituted ground turkey for ground beef):
2- 28oz cans of tomato puree
1- 12 oz can of tomato paste
1 large onion, diced
1 large tomato diced
5-6 garlic cloves, pressed
1 lb of ground beef
1/2 of a container of mushrooms, diced
1/2 tbsp basil
1/2 tbsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp brown sugar

Hopefully that helps all of you realize that you CAN pre-cook your meals and it doesn’t have to break the bank! Trust me, if I can do it ANYONE can do it!