Thursday, September 30, 2010

FREEZER FOODS FRIDAY - Guest Post


Today is Freezer Foods Friday and my guest is Kim from The Mommy Machine.  Kim is from Alaska and a mother of four.  I love hearing about "life in Alaska" from Kim and you have absolutely GOT TO check out her photography!  (Look in the right margin on her blog,  and click on "Life through the Camera Lens"  under First Time Visitors.  They are awesome!   So, with my introduction to Kim, I'd like to say a "thank you" to her for guest posting and sharing her OAMC adventures.  Take it away Kim:

I was hanging out in my sister-in-law’s kitchen, leafing through her cookbooks, when
I came across a copy of Once-a-Month Cooking. She raved about the method and
encouraged me to try it. I skimmed through the book, and while I never followed its
system as outlined, I recognized the value of its philosophy, which is basically to cook
meals in batches and then freeze them for later consumption. Whenever I prepare lasagna or enchiladas or any sort of casserole, I try always to make a couple—one for that  evening’s dinner and one to stick in the freezer for another meal.

About a year ago, I happened upon the book's updated version, Once-a-Month Cooking Family Favorites.   I bought it. I read it. I pondered. I made a decision. I was going to try the method exactly as directed. I talked it over with my husband to make sure he was on board, because he would have to watch over the children all day so that I could work undisturbed in the kitchen. He agreed, and I set out on my cooking adventure.

As suggested, I shopped for groceries the day before cooking. The book provides a very organized shopping list, divided in categories (bakery, frozen, canned, meat, etc.), so my trip was focused and simple. It took me about two hours, because I chose to visit two stores (Sam's Club and my local market).


Then I committed my entire Saturday to cooking. The first three hours were spent in
prep: rinsing, peeling, chopping, etc. Once you finish all your prep work, you go into
assembly line mode and begin preparing each dish. For example, you start with a big
batch of meat sauce, some of which you'll save for spaghetti and the rest for covering
stuffed shells.

The day was horribly, exhaustingly L—O—N—G, but the upside was that my freezer
was full of 30 meals.



THIRTY meals, gentle readers! One day of pain in exchange for a month of meals is the type of discomfort that I can handle.

I’m glad I went through the process exactly as directed, because I was able to figure
out how to adapt it to my needs. I kept a pencil by my book to jot down comments and
reminders into the margins as I cooked. Some of the recipes provide only 4 servings, so I noted to double those next time . . . to use fresh mushrooms instead of canned . . . to forget chopping an entire head of cabbage for the minestrone since it won’t get added to the soup until it’s actually served at a much later date . . .

Since my first experience with Once-a-Month Cooking, I have completed the method
twice more. Only now I break it up into 4 parts: 
Day 1 Shopping,
Day 2 Prep,
Day 3 Assembly (meals 1–15), and
Day 4 Assembly (meals 16–30).

I’ve learned to enlist one of my kids to wash dishes while I’m cooking, because I run
through every mixing bowl and cooking utensil that I own several times over. The first
time I attempted OAMC, I probably added a good hour onto my day just by stopping  to rinse out my finite number of skillets.

Like many cookbooks, a few of its recipes aren’t very good, some are quite tasty, and
others are absolutely delicious. Everyone in my family loves the Italian Sausage Soup
with Tortellini, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you. Feel free to make extra and
freeze it!

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini
(from Once-a-Month Cooking Family Favorites by Wilson & Lagerborg)

1 pound Italian sausage
1 c. chopped onions
1 tsp. chopped garlic
6 c. beef broth
½ c. water
½ c. red wine or water
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 c. chopped carrots
½ tsp. dried basil leaves
½ tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1-1/2 c. chopped zucchini
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
½ c. chopped green bell pepper
16 oz frozen cheese-filled tortellini
Parmesan cheese

If sausage comes in casing, remove the casing. Brown the sausage in large pot. Remove
the sausage, leaving 1 Tbsp of the drippings in the pot. Sauté the onions and garlic in the reserved drippings until the onions are tender. Add the beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, cooked sausage, zucchini, parsley, and green bell pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Label and freeze in a 12-cup plastic freezer container with the packages of frozen
tortellini attached.

To serve, thaw the soup. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Add the frozen
tortellini and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, or until the tortellini are tender. Sprinkle
Parmesan cheese on top of each serving. (Serves 8)


Thank you again Kim for guesting today!   Seriously y'all, go check out her blog The Mommy Machine!  I loved spending some good relaxing time there!

8 comments:

  1. this sounds really good, I think I will try it, though I am not really into cooking..but, I'm the mom sooo I have to cook,yes? I do something similar, but not very fancy and probably not as good, I take a couple cans of chicken broth, add a bit of water, add some cooked chicken, chopped celery, chopped carrot, maybe a bit of chopped spinach and some bean sprouts, cus I like the crunch- and then I boil cheese tortillini in it. I serve it with Hawaiian Sweetbread. It's good, but a bit on the bland side. I will for sure try this, thanks!

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  2. I've been thinking about this method for sometime and I think we'll try it once we're living together full time

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  3. I love the idea of it all! What a time saver!!! Amazing!

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  4. i wish i had a bowl of that right now!
    blessings,
    aimee

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  5. what an awesome book. i'm curious what you spent grocery shopping. where there a lot of ingredients that you used for multiple recipes? what a great idea. might have to ask for this book for christmas!!!

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  6. I can't wait to try this soup...but a month of cooking in a day for just the 2 of us would be waaaay too much work!! I can see how it really makes sense for families with children though!

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  7. Julia, I'm not going to lie: the grocery bill for batch cooking is enormous, probably about 1/2 to 2/3 of your monthly budget for food. The good news is that the authors of OAMC have got the shopping lists down to a science, so you use everything that you buy and, of course, you end up with 30 pre-made dinners. You do save money overall (you just spend it in one big chunk up front) and you definitely save time (excluding the marathon day of cooking!)

    Poetess: you're right—it is a lot of work . . . for just one day. Then you don't have to cook for a month! I have to admit, though, that it's too much for my old bones to finish it all in one day (I have to split the cooking up in two sessions).

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  8. This looks wonderful. I need a bigger freezer to do this.

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I love your sweet comments and read them all. Please let me know you were here!

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