Freezer Meal Party, 10-7-2014

In the fall of 2014, my daughter, daughters-in-law, and I decided to do a meal exchange.  Each of us would make 4 copies of the same main dish (one for each person in the exchange).  This exchange went over really well with our families, and it was nice knowing we’d have a few pre-frozen homemade meals that we could use on days when we didn’t feel like cooking.

A few months later, we decided to up the game a bit, and have a full-blown freezer meal party.  But this time, we’d do all the shopping and preparation together, in one day.  Everyone would get some of each item, same as before.  But instead of only 4 meals, we’d do 17.  Triple the work!  But also more economical. It cost us only about $110.00 per person for the 17 meals.

Each person received the following main dishes, with 4 servings each:

3 turkey breads

3 sausage cheese breads (unpublished family recipe; similar to this one)

2 honey mustard chicken

3 shredded pork barbecue sandwich filling (unpublished family recipe; similar to this one)

3 lasagna (unpublished family recipe; similar to this one)

3 Italian meatballs (unpublished family recipe; similar to this one)

bread-dough-rising

For the turkey and sausage bread loaves, we started with pre-made frozen bread dough.  It’s cheaper to make your own, but for the sake of time and doing all the prep for the meals in one day, we bought the pre-made ones.  Follow package instructions for thawing and rising.

turkey-bread-fillingFor filling the breads, you’ll want to roll them out with a rolling pin, then add your fillings and seasonings. Don’t forget to add lots and lots of cheese.

Fold the sides in lengthwise and pinch them together to completely seal the edges.  Then carefully flip each loaf over so the seam is on the bottom (it’s easier to do with two people). Then add whatever toppings you want on your bread.  The turkey bread uses butter and garlic, yum!

sausage-bread-sealing

turkey-bread-risingHere’s what a dozen turkey breads look like…

After the glaze is on, you’ll want to fold the aluminum foil up around the bread and seal it closed.  Then place each loaf in a 2-gallon ziplock bag to put in the freezer.  This way, the loaves don’t stick together, and you can remove only as many loaves as you need because they’re individually wrapped.

crock-pots-porkThe pork barbecue was the only thing we purchased and started cooking the night before.  We bought pork loin instead of pork butt or shoulder, because it’s leaner.  Just throw it in the crock with some water and onions, turn it on to low, and forget about it for the next 12-14 hours!  The pork just about shreds itself, and all you have to do is drain off any excess liquid (which would make an excellent stock for pork gravy) and add your favorite barbecue sauce.

filling-pork-bagsWe figured the quart freezer bags would be easier to fill if we did this, and it worked great! All you need is a large container that’s taller than it is wide.  Then you can measure the amount of pork filling you want for each bag.  We figured about 3 cups per bag– which is really alot more than 4 people will eat in a single meal, but it makes good leftovers for lunch the next day.  It’s also great for last-minute company.

forming-meatballsThe Italian meatballs went over with our families like gangbusters!  It’s a super simple variation on meatloaf but very versatile. You can add all sorts of sauces to it, anything from savory sauce to marinara to French onion soup! We used a cookie scoop to get evenly sized meatballs, and then baked them in the oven to cook them before freezing.  That makes it easy to just pop a few in the microwave when you really want a filling snack.

baked-meatballs-coolingmeatball-scooper

We did have a little trouble finding an appropriately-sized scoop.  Most of the ones we found were too big.  You want one that’s about 1.5 inches in diameter, maybe 2 inches at the most. Ice cream scoops don’t work as well for this, so keep that in mind.

honey-mustard-chicken-2The honey mustard chicken is another recipe that’s become a favorite with everyone.  Preparation is super simple, and because there isn’t a need to cook anything besides the bacon (or you could use precooked bacon bits for that, if you wanted to), it’s a really quick meal to prep for the freezer.  Just make sure to keep your cheese and bacon separate from the sauce, so that they can go on right at the end of the cooking.

marinara-sauceThe lasagna was next, and we worked the preparation in assembly-line fashion.  First the sauce!  We make our marinara from scratch, which also gave us the bonus of some leftover quart freezer bags of sauce to have for spaghetti.  We could also tailor the sauce to taste and for salt content, which is alot healthier for you.

layering-lasagneWe lined up all the lasagne pans and each person had a job to do, whether it was laying the cooked lasagne noodles, spooning in some sauce, or adding the cottage cheese/mozzarella mixture.  Doing it this way, we were able to make a dozen lasagna pans very quickly.

freezer-meals-stackedWhen everyone was finished, this is how much room it took up in an average freezer above the refrigerator.  It’s surprising how much room is left, because the containers we chose were all similar sized and easily stackable.

We have done another Freezer Meal Party since this one back in December of 2014.  You can take a look here and see how we made 15 family-sized main dishes for $56.94!

Roasted Garbanzo Beans

roasted garbanzo beansAlso known as Chick Peas, I ran across a recipe on Facebook, for making these crunchy little treats, and last night I gave it a try.  Man!  Talk about easy to make.  And super tasty!  Here’s the original recipe and I’ll share what I did to change it a bit.

Roasted Garbanzo Beans

1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and patted dry, then placed in a quart ziplock baggie

1 tbsp either olive oil or melted coconut oil, more or less depending on how much you like

1 tsp seasoning mix, like creole seasoning, greek seasoning, italian seasoning, etc.

 

Drizzle the olive or coconut oil onto the beans in the baggie, sprinkle the spices over the top, seal the bag and shake.  Pour the seasoned beans onto a cookie sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper.  Resist the urge to eat your garbanzo beans before they are roasted.  Okay, maybe eat half a dozen.  Then roast the rest of them for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or depending on your level of desired toastyness.

Nutritional information per 1/2 cup serving:  Calories, 150; fat, 7 grams; carbs, 18 grams; fiber, 6 grams; protein, 6 grams.

I was reading that garbanzo beans are great for snacking when you’re trying to lose weight, too.

 

Easy Homemade Coconut Butter

coconut butterI had no idea you could make your own coconut butter!  And it’s so easy.  I’d picked up some shredded unsweetened coconut.  All you do is fill your blender about 3/4 full of shredded coconut, and turn the blender on.  You’ll want to turn it off every minute or so, give the coconut a good stir, and then go back to blending.  It will take about 5-10 minutes, depending on the power of your blender and the coconut you’re using.  If you feel like the coconut isn’t shredding well enough, you can always add a tablespoon of coconut oil to it.   But the transformation is amazing to watch (and would even make a good science lesson for elementary school kids).  First the shredded coconut seems like powder spinning around.  Then at the bottom there seems to be some liquidation going on.  Then it turns to a thick white sludge, then finally it liquefies as it gets warmed from the friction of the blender blade.  Pour the coconut butter into a jar with a good seal and as it cools to room temperature, it will solidify again.

What do you use coconut butter for?  Well it’s a great substitute for regular butter if you’re lactose intolerant.  And here’s a list of 25 ways to use coconut butter.

Did you know that Big Lots carries the Bob’s Red Mill line?? I stumbled across it one day and was so happy to find it.   There’s a Big Lots about 1/2 a mile from me, and the prices are about a third less than at the health food store.

Fantastic Low Carb Brownies

miracle browniesI had been telling my youngest daughter-in-law that I was gonna make these Miracle Brownies from Laura Dolson’s Low Carb Diets section on About.com.  I just hadn’t taken the time to do it.  Well, work was slow, I was cleaning the kitchen, and I decided it was time to give this recipe a go. They really are very good!

I only had half the butter the recipe called for, so I substituted homemade coconut butter for the other half, which gives a slight German Chocolate Cake flavor and texture to the batch of brownies.  I also chose to follow one comment Laura made, and that was if you wanted the brownies less sweet, to use half the artificial sweetener at the end.

Mine came out very cake like with a slight chewyness from the coconut butter.  I thought they needed to be a little sweeter, so next time I’ll make them with the full amount of sweetener, and I’d like to try them with full butter, and only cook them until they’re just set so that they are a bit soft and gooey inside.  Flavor wise, they are very much brownie like and when you need something sweet but you don’t want to compromise your diet, they are a fantastic option.

Nutritional value, per 2″x 2″ square: Each of 32 brownies has 1 gram effective carbohydrate, plus 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat, and 107 calories.

Chocolate Chip Scone Recipe!

Last Sunday, one of the youth leaders brought a plate of homemade scones to the leaders’ meeting.  I tried one, and wow, it was pretty good.  And I’m not really much of a fan of scones; the ones I’ve tried in the past tasted really dry.  So as we were leaving the meeting, I told her again how I really wanted the recipe, and she said she had it in her car and would get it for me.  She also said it was a Weight Watchers recipe!  I would never have known if she hadn’t told me.

Well, we got out to hanging with the teens and both of us forgot about the recipe.  But I’ve had those scones on my mind all week!  They didn’t quite taste like a chocolate chip cookie; they were more like chocolate chip cake (sans frosting) in flavor and consistency.  So this morning I looked online to see if I could find it.  Voila!  There it was!  And I want to share it with you.  I’m probably going to be making some of these myself, this weekend.  Oh – by the way, these are only 3 points per scone, and don’t have artificial sweetener in them.

Ingredients

2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup(s) sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 oz semisweet chocolate, (1/2 cup)
3/4 cup(s) Friendship Lowfat buttermilk, or other brand
1 large egg(s)
1 Tbsp orange zest, (about 1 orange)
1 cup(s) powdered sugar
4 tsp fresh orange juice

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  • Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. With a pastry blender or 2 knives used scissor-fashion, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs with some small pieces of butter remaining. Stir in the chocolate chips. Whisk together the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest in a small bowl. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until a dough forms.
  • Gather the dough into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Lightly knead 2 times. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough to 3⁄4-inch thickness. With a 1 1⁄2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds, dipping the cutter into flour between cuts to prevent sticking. Place the scones on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Gently gather the scraps; reroll and cut out more scones, making a total of 24 scones. Bake until golden brown, 10 – 12 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet on a rack until warm, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir together the confectioners’ sugar and orange juice in a small bowl until smooth. Place a sheet of wax paper under a rack. Dip the tops of the scones in the glaze; place, glaze side up, on the rack. Let stand until the glaze sets, about 1 hour. Yields 1 scone per serving.

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