Saturday, December 31, 2011

Getting started with Freezer Cooking...

Looking to get started with Freezer cooking, but don't know where to start? It is pretty intimidating...the planning, shopping, weekend long binge-cooking...but the satisfaction you get when you start with an empty freezer and in only 2 days, have enough meals to feed your family for a MONTH, is awesome.

I posted some tips a while back, you can find that post HERE.

Starting small and working your way up is the key.

I begin by choosing the recipes I want to make for the month. It's nice to have a bunch of freezer meal recipes in your repertoire. I make 15 different dinners (two of each). So, I go through my recipes, choose 15 that sound good for that month (if chicken is on sale the day you go shopping, try to choose more chicken meals for that month). I make my grocery list of ingredients to make 2 of each meal. That gives me one dinner a night for 30 days.(Onceamonthmom.com has some good recipes and even a monthly meal planner with grocery lists and step by step instructions).

First, know that most of the time, you aren't cooking the meat before you freeze the meals. The meat is raw until the day you plan on eating the meal. Not a whole lot of actual "cooking" is involved in your weekend of Freezer cooking. It's more like "Freezer Assembling", really. The point of this method is to get all your ingredients organized and designated into dinners. Instead of spending time thinking about what make for dinner, and then preparing the ingredients, cooking the dinner, and then starting over the next day, you do all that planning beforehand, assemble the components, freeze, and then it's just a matter of pulling out the components and throwing them in the oven.

For example: My Italian Tenders are a big hit with my kids. I used to defrost my chicken tenders, marinade them in a bowl of Italian dressing for a few hours, and grill or bake. This was a super easy recipe to freeze. Put your raw chicken tenders in a labeled gallon freezer bag, pour Italian dressing over them, seal the bag, and freeze. Then the morning of the day you plan on eating them, take out the frozen tenders bag, put it in the fridge, go to work, and when you get home, put the defrosted tenders in a baking dish and cook. It just cut out a step.



Another easy freezer meal is meatloaf. Line your loaf pan with tinfoil then saran wrap. Combine your raw meat and other ingredients in a bowl, spoon the meatloaf into the lined loaf pan, and freeze. Pop the meatloaf (with the tinfoil and saran wrap) out of the loaf pan once frozen, put in a labeled Ziploc bag and put it back in the freezer. The day before you plan on cooking the meatloaf, take it out of the freezer, unwrap it, and put the raw meatloaf "ice cube" back into the loaf pan you froze it in. Let it defrost in the fridge until you're ready to cook it. Once defrosted, bake as normal.

I have full upright deep freezer but freezer cooking can be done with even a side by side fridge/freezer. Maybe you won't be able to fit 2 months worth of meals in a side by side but you can get a few weeks worth of dinners in there.

You don't need to buy any special containers for freezer cooking. You just need your baking dishes, saran wrap, and tinfoil, and gallon sized freezer bags (Ziploc works best in my opinion). I have two 9X13 dishes, two 8X8 dishes, two loaf pans, in my kitchen. I'm able to freeze two large casseroles, two small casseroles, and two meatloaves at one time. My favorite freezer meals are the Ziploc bag wonders.

A favorite is the BBQ chicken. Put raw chicken drumsticks in a labeled gallon freezer bag with a chopped onion. Pour a small container of BBQ sauce over the chicken and seal the bag and freeze (literally takes 3 minutes to make this meal). The night before you plan on eating the meal, take it out of the freezer and let it defrost in the fridge. The next morning, pour the chicken and sauce into your slow-cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours until the chicken is done.



Another easy crockpot freezer meal is Pot Roast. In a bag, layer mushrooms, sliced raw carrots and celery, a chopped onion, a can of cream of mushroom soup, a pack of onion soup mix, and a 3-4 lb roast, cut in half, seal and freeze. Let it defrost the day before you plan on cooking it, pour into crockpot, and cook on low for 7-9 hours.

I make two of every meal. I don't mind eating something twice in a month.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuit Tutorial

I searched high and low for the perfect rolled biscuit recipe. I am TERRIBLE at making biscuits. They always come out hard and crumbly. Until I found this recipe. Very easy to make, bakes for only 9 minutes, and the perfect melt-in-your mouth texture.

Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter (or shortening)
1 egg
2/3 cup buttermilk (or plain milk if you don't have buttermilk on hand)

Step 1


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Stir to combine.

Step 2




Cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs (use your hands if you don't have a pastry cutter).

Step 3



In a measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Pour over the flour mixture, and mix with a fork until moistened.

Step 4



Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead 20 times.

Step 5





Roll out with a rolling pin to about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into circles, I use a drinking glass. Place in a non-stick cake pan.

Step 6



Bake for 8-10 minutes at 450 degrees until golden brown.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chocolate Strawberry Brownies Tutorial

A delicious twist on a plain boxed brownie. Use any flavor preserves or jam you want. It makes a great potluck dessert or gift.

Chocolate Strawberry Brownies

Ingredients

2/3 cup of strawberry preserves
1 (21 oz) box brownie mix ( I used Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge)
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
1 cup white chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Step 1


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In your stand mixer (or in a bowl and hand mixing) combine the brownie mix, eggs, vegetable oil, and water. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Step 2


While the batter is mixing, microwave the preserves in a bowl for 40-50 seconds until it's pourable.

Step 3


Pour the brownie batter into a parchment paper or greased 9X13 pan.

Step 4


Pour the preserves over the brownie mix.

Step 5


Using a butter knife or spatula, swirl the jam into the brownie mix.

Step 6


Bake at 375 degrees 27-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean..

Step 7




Once you take the brownies out of the oven, melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave in a bowl, heating in 30 second intervals and stirring until it's melted. Drizzle over the top of the brownies and sprinkle with almonds. Let cool completely and cut.

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Microwave Pecan Brittle Tutorial

This recipe is done in the microwave. It takes about 15 minutes start to finish. You can have the ingredients on hand at all times and whip this up as a quick gift. Makes a beautiful Christmas gift when packaged in a tin or mason jar and ribbon. You can use any nut you want. The times listed are for a 1300 watt microwave. It's best to measure out the ingredients before you start.

Microwave Pecan Brittle

Ingredients


2 cups pecan halves or pieces
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 pinch salt
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda

Step 1


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or grease the pan with non-stick cooking spray). In a glass bowl, combine the pecans, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Mix together, microwave for 4 minutes until bubbly.

Step 2



After the 4 minutes, using potholders, remove the bowl from the microwave and add the butter and vanilla (you should hear it sizzle when you stir the butter and vanilla in). Microwave again for 2 minutes.

Step 3




Using potholders, remove the bowl, and quickly stir in the baking soda. While you stir it in, it should start to foam and turn white. Stir the baking soda in quickly and then pour the mixture on your lined or greased baking sheet. Spread out the pecans in a single layer.

Step 4



Let the brittle cool for 15 minutes. Once it's cool, break it into pieces, store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Snowflake Christmas Wreath

I recently made some tutu's for my girls for our Christmas photoshoot. They looked adorable in them and the pictures turned out great. But then I got home and stared at these two tutu's that took quite a bit of time to make. I didn't want to toss them and I knew they wouldn't wear them again. I decided to disassemble the tutu's...which wasn't hard since there was no sewing involved in making them, just tying strips of tulle to an elastic band...so I removed each strand of tulle and each snowflake and make a wreath for our door.



I took a metal clothes hanger and stretched it into a circle. Then I tied the tulle to the hanger until it was completely covered (took 6 yards of tulle).


Then with a hot glue gun, I glued the plastic glitter snowflake ornaments around the center of the wreath.



Done! I bet this would be so cute in Christmas colors. The ornaments were from Walmart...they have LOTS of colors to choose from.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Orange-Cranberry Marmalade

My daddy was born in Surrey, England. Apparently, marmalade is a favorite among the English. I, myself, never had it until he came along. This is the second Christmas in a row that I've canned some homemade marmalade for him with the fresh picked oranges and lemons I get around this time.

This year, I decided to change up my usually recipe and I came up with an Orange-Cranberry marmalade and to add some winter flavor, I added some vanilla, cinnamon, and candied ginger. It's amazing. I was eating the leftovers out of a bowl...with a spoon. Pair this with some scones and tea and welcome to English heaven.

Plus, it looks pretty in jars. And isn't the what REALLY matters? =)

Orange-Cranberry Marmalade

4 large oranges
2 small lemons
1 cup fresh cranberries
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 pieces of candied ginger
1 1/2 cinnamon sticks
6 (8oz) canning jars with lids

Step 1


Using a vegetable peeler, begin peeling the orange and lemon zests into a pot. Once all the zests are peeled, you'll want to thinly slice them into strips (I forgot this step and the large chunks of zest are chewy but my dad likes that, so it worked for me...but thinly slice them, it's better that way).

Step 2


Using a knife, cut away the white part of the citrus and discard. Your oranges and lemons should look like this now.

Step 3


Segment the citrus. (Using a knife, cut the pulp segments out of the stringy membrane...there are videos on how to segment an orange on Youtube). Squeeze the excess juice from the membranes into the pot then discard the membranes.

Step 4


Add the water, heat on medium-high for 15 minutes.

Step 5


Add the cranberries and sugar, stir to dissolve.

Step 6


Add the vanilla extract, the pieces of candied ginger, and cinnamon sticks to the pot.

Step 7


Heat on a rapid boil for 30 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't burn on the bottom. Heat until the mixture reaches the gel stage (using a candy thermometer it should read 220 degrees). You can prepare your jars and lids for canning while it boils.

Step 8


Ladle the marmalade into prepared jars, seal with the lid and band. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes. Check the lid for a seal after 24 hours. Store in the pantry for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.

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