Thursday, April 17, 2014

Start your own Freezer Meals Swap Group

After the success of my massive freezer meals feat, I decided there had to be a better way to do things.  I had some interest from friends on Facebook to get more information on doing Freezer Meals.  I had heard from others that a 'Swap Group' works well.  If I can do 1/20th of the work with the amazing outcome of easy straight from freezer to oven, 'from scratch' meals... You betcha.... "I'm in!"

A few 'Guidelines' to get you started:

  1. Once you gather your group of people, get a 'family headcount.'  My swap group has families as small as 3 people and as large as 10 people.  The best way to make this work for the large and the small families is: The meals made to swap should feed 5-6 adults, 1 serving each.  Larger families act as (2)- contribute 2 meals to the swap and take 2 of each of the other contributions. 
  2. *Important* Find out any SEVERE ALLERGIES.  The only one in my group is Seafood.  Pretty easy to work around.  We personally as a group do not cater to Gluten-Free, Vegan, or Picky Eaters.  I do have to say that so far, we have had some pretty amazing recipes come out of these ladies' kitchens! 
  3. Choose a swap location that is somewhat central for all swappers and has easily accessible parking for EVERYONE to park in one straight line.
  4. Choose a time to swap and ask that everyone is 10 mins early so that swapping can commence on time and no one gets missed.
  5. If there happens to be someone not show up or cancel last minute, we take the contributions that would have gone to them and donate to a needy family.
  6. More than 15 people/ Meals to make is too much
  7. Between 5-6 weeks between each swap is just about perfect.

Here are some highlights from our first swap (2/16/2014) and the recipes to each contribution:

Spaghetti Pie (In the round tin on the left)
Contributed by: Angela Hatsfield

Instructions from freezer to table: The day before serving, remove pasta dish from the freezer. Remove foil, and place in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Cover and thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Bake as directed. (Note: Pasta dish may also be baked frozen. Plan to double the baking times.)

Homemade Stromboli (in the cooler on the right)  Contributed by: Angela Hatsfield
From freezer to table: Remove the foil wrap and thaw your plastic-wrapped Stromboli in the refrigerator for 24 hours before baking. Keeping the plastic wrap on the Stromboli while thawing prevents the bread and interior from drying.  Paint the egg wash over the thawed Stromboli bread immediately before baking with a basting brush. Bake your Stromboli dish in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes or until the top of the bread is golden brown.

Contributed by: Nichole Boehland
1 med. pork roast
6 sm. carrots, sliced diagonally or a couple handfuls of baby carrots
3-6 red potatoes sliced in half
3-5 cloves of garlic
1 envelope of Lipton Onion soup mix
1 pkg. pork gravy mix
1 1/2-2 c. water
Salt and pepper, to taste, Garlic powder
Salt and pepper pork roast. Slice 2-3 openings in the top of the roast insert garlic cloves. Put prepared vegetables around meat; sprinkle with garlic powder. Mix gravy mix, onion soup mix, water, and pour over vegetables. Cook for about 8-10 hours on low in crock pot or about 2 1/2 hours at 350 degrees.

Contributed by Cristi Hall
Thaw/Heat then garnish.

Shepherd's Pie
Contributed by Kristen Morton
Mash 7-8 potatoes w/ butter salt, pepper, and milk- set aside
Brown 1 lb. hamburger. w/ one med. onion, salt, pepper, garlic, and onion salt
Drain off fat, add: 8 oz can tomato sauce 1/2 C ketchup 1/2 C brown sugar 1/2 C grated cheddar cheese 1 can green beans
simmer together @ 5 min
Butter casserole dish, line w/ mashed potatoes (reserve @ 1 1/2 cups for top)

Pour on hamburger mixture. Top w/ leftover potatoes. Sprinkle w/ 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Sprinkle w/ salt. Bake 350 for 25 min. **Freezer to table: Thaw overnight before baking.
Shredded Beef Enchiladas Contributed by Kristen Morton
* 3 pounds beef chuck roast * 1/4 cup water * 1 1/2 cups beef broth * 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar * 2 tablespoons chili powder * 1 tablespoon ground cumin * 1 large onion, chopped * 2 (4 ounce) cans chopped green chile peppers * 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour * 2 cups sour cream * 3 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided * 1 cup oil for frying * 20 (6 inch) flour or corn tortillas
1. Place roast in a large saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid. Pour in water, cover, and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Increase heat to medium/high, and brown the roast on all sides. Once the water has boiled away, pour in the beef broth, vinegar, chili powder and 1 tablespoon of cumin. Cover tightly and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the beef falls apart when you try to pick it up. Shred the beef, using 2 forks or your fingers. Place shredded beef back into the saucepan with all the juices, and let cool to room temperature.
2. In a large skillet, saute the onion until just soft, not browned. Mix in flour and green chilies. Stir constantly for 2 minutes to cook the flour taste out. Stir in sour cream and 2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese. Cook on low for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the cheese is all melted and mixed. Set aside and let cool.
3. In a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil. Using tongs dip the tortillas, one at a time, into the oil for 30 seconds each side. Drain on paper towels.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Spread 4 tablespoons of sour cream mixture down the center of the tortilla. Top with about the same amount of beef. Roll up and place seam side down in one or two 8x11 inch baking dish. Repeat for each tortilla. Continue until you are out of the filling. Sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack cheese. 5. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling.

Hawaiian Chicken & Rice
Contributed by Me :)

Freezer to Table-
Throw contents of bag into Crockpot on Low for 6-8 hours.  Steam rice.
Serve Chicken & Sauce on top of rice.

Farmers Casserole
Contributed by Sarah Bastian

Freezer to Table:
Place thawed contents of bag in greased casserole dish and bake for 40-45 mins at 350 degrees.

Chicken Noodle Stir Fry
Contributed by Kayla Gross

Chicken chunks in Stir fry sauce in one bag
Yakasoba Noodles in 2nd bag
Stir fry Veggies in 3rd bag.

Wok chicken in sauce until almost completely cooked.  Add veggies and noodles.  Cover to steam.

Here's what my freezer looked like after I got home.

Perk #1: It takes an incredible amount of stress off my plate knowing I can come home, have MANY choices for dinner and that it will be healthy and from scratch.

Perk #2: It typically costs around $100 to make my freezer meals to swap and those dinners last darn near all month.  When is the last time you said that you were able to feed your family dinner for a month on $100?  :)

Perk #3: It feels like I have take out EVERY night because these are not my recipes! Something new all the time :)

Time, Health, Savings......Yay!

Perfect Freezer Cookies

Whens the last time you wanted just one cookie?  I have been seeing a lot of  'One Cookie' & 'Brownie in a Mug' Recipes on Pinterest lately and all I can say is.... that's great, but if I have to measure out all the ingredients anyway, why not just have a whole batch prepped for later?  On to the next part of the story... Have you ever seen that show Top Secret Recipes? The one where Todd Wilber goes to like KFC or the Nabisco Corporate Headquarters and tries to duplicate a famous recipe?  Ok well, I was watching this one time when he was trying to make a Mrs. Fields cookie.  After many many trial and error fails... He came to one simple conclusion about the Famous Mrs. Fields cookie success.....

Cook from frozen.

What happens when you cook raw dough from frozen at a lower temperature for longer time?

A. The edges get crispy
B. The inside is chewy

I tested this theory on two different recipes.  

The first was the famous 'Oatmeal Scotchie' 
(Recipe on the back of the Butterscotch Chips Bag. - It's no secret, but the cooking directions most certainly *are*)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or grated peel of 1 orange
3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Butterscotch Flavored Morsels Directions

1. COMBINE flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in small bowl.
2. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl.
3. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats and morsels.
4. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.- BAKE for 7 to 8 minutes for chewy cookies or 9 to 10 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

FROM FROZEN: Bake at 325 for 18-23 mins! = PERFECTION

The second cookie I tested is a basic M&M's Candy Cookie 
(Original recipe found on the back of an M&M's bag... with one added secret ingredient)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter or shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 Small package of Instant Vanilla Pudding <--*SECRET*
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups M&Ms (reserve 1/2 cup for decorating)
  1. Position one of your oven racks in the middle of your oven and preheat your oven to 375F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper for best results. Otherwise, use ungreased cookie sheets.
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda until well blended.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter (or shortening) and sugars with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (This will take several minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is well blended.
  4. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until creamy.
  5. Stir in flour mixture with a wooden spoon just until blended.
  6. Stir in 1 1/2 cups M&Ms.
  7. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Press several additional M&Ms into each cookie.
  8. Bake one cookie sheet at a time in the middle rack of the oven for 9 to 12 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown around the edges and just set in the center.
  9. Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies with a thin metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.
FROM FROZEN: Bake at 325 for 18-23 mins! = PERFECTION

Basically, I'm saying you can pre-make your own cookie dough (All different kinds) and then lets say you want one of each of 3 cookies.  Pull one of each out of your freezer, plop on a cookie sheet and bake all together for 18-23 minutes at the same temp!  Fresh, homemade cookies and you didn't have to eat a dozen to get your fill.  

.... yep, you are sooooo welcome.

Poppyseed Ham Sliders

A friend made these for her second Christmas dinner and ever since, I decided these are the most amazing Ham Sandwiches I've ever had!

You'll need:
Large (12 buns) tray of Hawaiian Rolls
Around 1/2- 1 lb of thickly sliced Ham
12 slices of white cheese
1 bottle of Dijon Mustard

Place bottom portion of buns in a deep casserole dish.
Put Dijon mustard on each entire bottom bun.
Put Swiss, Provolone or any other white cheese you'd like on top of dijon.
Layer a nice thick slice of ham next.
Another piece of cheese.
More dijon.
Top Bun.

When ready to bake, melt 1 stick butter in a glass pyrex container that will 'pour'.
Then add the following and stir:
1 tbsp(ish) yellow mustard (I give it a good long squeeze)
1 -2 tbsp Worscheshire (about 10 dashes)
1/4 C Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Celery Salt (Shake it in)
1 tbsp Dry Minced Onion
1 tbsp Crushed Garlic
2 tbsp poppy seeds

Pour mixture evenly over assembled sandwiches.Bake at 375 degrees for 15-25 mins.

*If you are preparing as a freezer meal, mix the sauce together and store in a ziploc bag.  when you are ready to bake and serve, 'melt' the sauce and pour over before placing in the oven.   Also, if frozen when placed in oven, consider covering with tin foil, baking for 15 mins, then removing the tin foil and baking for another 10-15.

 ~Enjoy :)