Friday, February 26, 2016

Freezer Cooking with Friends

Freezing with Friends is definitely a fun way to lighten the load of bulk cooking, prepping and freezing all that food.  Plus, you get to try new recipes.  Recipes that your friend's family have enjoyed (and hopefully yours will too).  

Last year, my cousin's wife, and my dear friend, mentioned she was running out of ideas for meal time.  I told her I was getting ready for another freezer session and asked if she wanted to do it together.  So began our Freezer Parties.   By the way, we also do canning parties - but that's for another day.

There are many approaches to 'Freezing with Friends' and you can tailor make it to your needs, or whims.  One method is a Freezer Swap.  For this, you don't necessarily freeze together, but it's like a cookie exchange.  You might want to keep it small, because you will prepare a meal for each person.
The method my friend and I used, though, is the one I like best.

We put on our calendar a date to get together to plan.  Each of us came up with a list of recipes our families loved.  She had never done a freezer session so she came armed with recipes they loved and we decided if they froze well and would work. Most recipes convert well to freezer cooking but there are a few ingredients that, though won't harm you if frozen, just don't hold up well.  A good rule of thumb, if you've seen it in the frozen food section (think TV dinners) than you can freeze it! And if you're just not sure, when you prepare a favorite dish, put a portion in the freezer.  Try it in a month.  Do you like it? Did it re-heat well?  Winner!   Our list was long, so we concentrated on trimming it down to a workable session and save the others for another time.  We decided on ground beef and chicken categories.  And, being the list maker that I am making a list in what order we would be doing the food according to like ingredients.  A planning day is very important.  There were some ingredients in my favorites that her family didn't care for so those where whittled off the list right away.  Had we not planned.. oh boy!

Next step was to list all our ingredients and gather total measurements from all their  ingredients list. (We're making our master shopping list) and making note of what we have in our pantry like spices, etc.  

Next, shopping!  We ended up going to Sam's Club for most of our supplies, but stopped at a grocery store to finish up.   Don't forget to get the pans you will be freezing in!  We found the party supply store had the cheapest prices at that time.  So check around.

Next, actual preparing day! Since she had a 2 year old, we do things at her house so I bring all my kitchen supplies, pots, crockpots, etc. with me early that morning.  We have breakfast and start right into it.  We had a blast and by the end of the day had a month's worth of meals to slide into the freezer.
(just one section of her kitchen with some of the dishes!)

And here's the recipe for the super-easy manicotti pictured here...

2 packages Manicotti (14 each)
1 pound ground beef
2 eggs
1 box chicken stuffing mix (like Stove Top)
2 cups cottage cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 to 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (depending on how much you like it)
8 cups prepared spaghetti sauce

Mix stuffing mix, seasoning packet that comes with it, beef, eggs, cottage cheese, Parmesan and cheddar cheese to make a thick paste.  Set aside 5 minutes to absorb moisture.  Spread small amount of spaghetti sauce in pan.  Stuff uncooked manicotti shells and place side by side in pan.  Spoon spaghetti sauce over shells.

To bake: cover and bake 350 degrees 1 hour.

To Freeze:  Cover with foil, or Ziploc bags.  Freeze up to6 months.  To bake,thaw overnight in frige and bake according to directions.

This recipe makes two 9 x 13 pans, or three 8 x 8 pans.

So have you tried "freezing with a friend", or any other variation?  Share with us in the comments.  I'd love to hear!


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