Sunday, January 1, 2012

Once A Month Cooking, January 2012

It had been approximately 30 days since I'd ventured to the grocery (except when I needed cream cheese for the 10-batches of truffles we made).  It.  Was. Empty.  In.  Here.  Chicken was on special at 1.99/lb and I had been toying with the idea to try Once A Month Cooking, especially with the new job. Previously I would beat Mr. Sweetest Designs (Mr. SD) home and would prepare dinner and have it mostly ready when he came home.  Now we're going to carpool 3 days a week.  What's a girl to do?  Push back dinners another 45 minutes?  Eat out?  Eat take-out?  $200 at the grocery, 4 hours later, several pans washed and rewashed and we have 26 meals in the freezer and fridge.  We have baked ziti, stuffed shells, cashew chickenchicken pot piecripsy chicken wrapssavory chickentaco bake, taco meat and spagetti sauce.  I actually have supplies for four other recipes (probably yielding another 12-16 meals), but had to quit when the freezer was full!!  I packaged everything in 8"x8" foil pans and ziplock bags.  This will also reduce the evening dishes!  In theory I can be doing better things in the evening - better than cooking and cleaning the dishes and kitchen.  (And if my math is right, we're at $5 a meal, $2.50/serving).

Some general notes about my adventure today:
The baked ziti made 4 full pans.  I could not find my cornstarch quickly, so that was skipped.  I added a bit more parm cheese to make it thicker.  Serve with a salad or garlic bread.
One pound of shells needed 4 cups of filling and used one jar of sauce (yep, cheated on that one).  I used lasagna filling and meat sauce.  This yielded three pans.  Serve with a salad or garlic bread.
As a time saver, I did not change the hot pasta water, I spooned out the cooked pasta, added a bit more water and the next batch of pasta noodles.
For the cashew chicken, I added water chestnuts, omitted bamboo shots and peas and used can mushrooms.  I didn't read the instructions carefully enough the first two times, so I have all the ingredients (including the cashews) in a bag.  I placed small baggies frozen flat.  I will reheat quickly on a skillet and serve with steamed broccoli and rice.
I also froze flat the chicken pot pie in baggies.  I will heat in a skillet and serve over biscuits.  I used fresh carrots and celery, canned corn and frozen peas.  It was a mish-mash of things I already had on-hand.
Because I boiled several pounds of chicken today, several meals are chicken based.  After the chicken was cool, I shredded and cubed the chicken.  I combined the meat-mixture for the chicken wraps and froze it.  I will heat the meat in a skillet quickly and assemble the wraps as instructed.
I am most nervous about the savory chicken (company's coming chicken).  Most of these are new versions of recipes we already use/have/like.  This is completely new but Mr. SD loves stove top stuffing.  I remember in college, he made it weekly.  I feel like it has way too much sour cream in it.  We'll see after it bakes.  This yielded three very full pans.
My sister-in-law made Taco Bake on vacation several years ago.  We have it in our rotation, but I've never tried to freeze it.  I've stopped short of baking it.  In addition to the chicken, we also browned several pounds of hamburger.  I used one bag to make the taco-meat for this dish.
One bag will join jar-sauce and frozen cheese ravioli's (they were already in my freezer).
I will update photos and reviews of the post-served meals.

I have a goal to stay out of the grocery store for another 30 days, except for lunch food.  We also pack our lunches; the meals are 8"x8" foil pans packed full.  I'm sure there is more than 2-3 servings in the pans; but I was working with limited freezer space and wanted the pans full (to mitigate air in the dish.  air = freezer burn).  I will take any left-overs for lunch the next day.  I'm always looking for fresh new things to try for lunch.  Leave me any comments with what you pack for lunch.

Here's to a great 2012.

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