I have always been fascinated with batch cooking, meal exchange, and food storage. The problem is I have one of those 2 door refrigerators with the teeny tiny narrow freezer and the almost as teeny tiny and narrow fridge section. Whoever invented those had never cooked. So for my birthday (last week) I begged and begged for a deep freezer. John and my dad went in together and got me a small one so I was inspired to batch cook. Some days I'm just too tired to cook. I love to cook, but not when I am tired and hungry. I have found it to also be a great way to use all of the ingredients- limp, rotting celery in my fridge drawer is like the story of my life.
Last week on one of my tutoring days off I decided to try my hand at batch baking. I have a once a month cook book, but like I have mentioned in previous posts, I can't turn down a good cooking magazine. Paula Deen had her 5 year anniversary best recipes cooking magazine out so I was inspired.
There are a few main rules/ideas that I have found that are very helpful to batch cooking:
1. get some storage dishes with tops- for my batch of stuff I used pyrex with lids- you want something that can go straight into the oven-for my grandmother's stuff I made I used tin pie plates and baking dishes
2. invest in some freezer bags, Glad press n seal freezer paper, and heavy duty foil- you don't want freezer burn to ruin all of your hard work
3. use centralized recipes- stick with a few main ingredients so you don't go bonkers in your cooking excursion- I used chicken and shrimp for my stuff and just chicken for my grandmother's
4. never thought you'd add a fraction again? add up all of the amounts of onion, celery, bell pepper, chopped chicken, etc and go ahead and cut it up and measure it. This will save your life.
5. Label, Label, Label!! Label all of your entrees with what temperature to cook them at, what else you need to complete the supper, and attach any toppings possible (I had individual portions of cheese to top stuffed shells)
6. Figure out the best way to store- some stuff needs to be cooked before you freeze, some half, some not at all- I assembled pot pies, stuffed shells, and enchiladas but did not bake them before freezing- i under cooked all pasta since it will be cooked again, I cooked things that needed to meld together all the way through- my jambalaya had raw rice and the squash casserole had bread crumbs
7. If you aren't feeling creative, check out websites on the internet dedicated to batch baking
After I did my batch cooking I decided my grandmother would really benefit from this- I just did 1/2 portions of my stuff, but she is blind and bed bound most of the time so she needs individual portions of meals or small family sizes. I found some small chicken pot pie tins and bought 2 dozen. Even with organization and similar ingredients, both times I have done this I've spent about 5-6 hours in the kitchen- it is worht it. It feels so great knowing I have meals in my freezer if I don't want to cook.
Spicy Seafood topping to go over stuffed potatoes
shrimp topping for shrimp and grits
chicken and sausage gumbo
tex mex lasagna
I also saved 15 c of leftover chicken broth in mini 1 c serving bags
For Grandmama I made:
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken and Rice Casserole
Chicken Noodle Bake