Batches? Batches? We no need no stinking...
I've never tried to do the big batch of freezer meals before, so this seemed like a good time to experiment. I grabbed a few recipes that could be done in a few hours on Sunday afternoon - those Pinterest articles about doing 40 meals in eight hours seemed like a leeeeetle more than I wanted on my last free day.
This is what I did, in case anyone's thinking of trying it:
• I used simple disposable foil pans from Wal-mart. I could have gotten giant pasta pans at Sam's Club, but that seemed like an awful lot for just my family of three. I might explore some other options (ordering from Amazon, the Dollar Store) because even at a dollar or two each, that's a bit of cash for convenience. For some, I used gallon-size disposable bags - and that seems like something that would work really well for normal worknights, preparing the ubiquitous chicken breast and freezing in advance so that I could just thaw, bake and whip up some rice or pasta to go with it.
In this case, though, I needed it to be really simple, since Boy will be cooking these unsupervised via my text instructions and he's only in his first week of culinary arts. He has basic skills, but I know my spawn. Left to his own devices, it's a box of macaroni and cheese or a frozen pizza, and Jim and I will starve to death.
Total work time: 2.5 hours.
• One pan of simple baked chicken drumsticks. I used a nifty seasoning rub (Canadian Chicken) from a local spice shop. I pick up these rubs many places - there's a pork seasoning mix from a little tourist-trap spot near Nashville that has yet to be topped anywhere in my travels, and a seasoning mix ostensibly for burgers that I absolutely love on chicken that I can only pick up from a burger joint in Memphis. I could have done several pans of these - it's my get-out-of-cooking-free card on busy weeknights - but I was looking to experiment.
• The chicken stuffing casserole became a chicken pasta casserole because I was stupid and forgot to buy stuffing mix. I made up this one in college and named it Stupid Chicken because it was stupidly easy. Just mixing cream of chicken soup, sour cream, the herbs of your choice and pour over boneless skinless chicken breast, then top with stuffing mix that you've already softened with about a cup and a half of water. I've never done it with pasta before, so that should be an experiment: a pound of ziti instead of stuffing. Besides, Boy requires vast quantities of pasta to fill him up on a regular basis.
• My mother's chicken curry casserole, doubled in size for freezing. That's 1.5 lbs. of broccoli, 1 1/2 c. cooked chicken, and sauce mixed up with two cans cream of chicken soup, sour cream or milk, onion powder and lots of sweet curry. Layer the broccoli, mix the rest together and pour over the broccoli. Then top with shredded cheddar or colby jack.
• Ravioli lasagna, which was stupidly easy from Pinterest. Layer two bags of frozen ravioli with jar spaghetti sauce and lots of mozzarella. I added some of my own herbs because I can't bear to just use jar sauce. Watch, this'll be the most popular choice.
• Chicken tetrazzini, another Pinterest one and slightly more work. Cook 8 oz. spaghetti (I doubled that, because Boy), saute two cups of mushrooms in 1/4 c. butter, then stir in 3 tbsp. flour and two cups chicken broth and simmer until the sauce thickens. Then remove from heat and add 1/4 c. half and half, 1 tbsp. parsley, 1 tsp. salt, dashes of pepper and nutmeg and 3 tbsp. sherry, which I omitted because I seem to be out. Add in 2-3 c. cooked chicken, mix together and pour over the spaghetti in the pan. Then cover that with parmesan cheese.
• Easiest one: Lemon garlic chicken. Four tbsp. olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, 2 tbsp. parsley, 3 tbsp. lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper in a gallon-size bag with three chicken breasts. There were several "chicken dump bag" recipes, and I think I might do a lot of these in the future.
• Baked ziti: Brown a pound of ground beef with mushrooms, onions and garlic, then drain fat. Add 2 cans of diced tomatoes, oregano, basil, marjoram and other Italian-type herbs as desired. Simmer 20 mins. - the recipe said to add water to thin if necessary, but I found there was more than enough liquid. Meanwhile, boil more ziti and drain. Mix them all together in the freezer pan and top with at least a pound of mozzarella. (I added some sprinklings of oregano.)
Theoretically, these should all be fine cooked from frozen. Theoretically. In the meantime, there's a roast in the oven and I've got some bread to bake. We shall see how the experiment works out...
Do you have a freezable recipe to share? Please do so in the comments!