Monday, January 31, 2011

Spaghetti Sauce - Freezer Style

I know for some people spaghetti sauce means opening a can of Ragu and heating it up. If that is the case, you obviously didn't grow up at my house. I don't know that I have ever seen my mother open a can of ANYTHING and just serve it up. So, she taught us how to make our own sauce. I am not claiming it is anything to die for, but it is what I crave when I want pasta. So, since I bought 10 pounds of hamburger when I made meatloaf, I whipped up an extra large batch of spaghetti tonight.

At my house, spaghetti sauce is made up of tomato sauce, canned tomatoes blended to a puree, hamburger, mushrooms (canned or fresh, whatever I have on hand), black olive slices, celery, green peppers - roasted or fresh, oregano, basil, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. I wish I could give you some idea of the proportions (I was so aggravated with my mother's recipes that didn't give them when I went to college) but that would be fantasy. I just toss the stuff in until it tastes good and then let is simmer. The batch I made tonight yielded one meal and then three 2.5 cup freezer portions. I just put the sauce in Ziploc bags and am freezing them that way. They take less space in the freezer, and I think they will thaw better since there is more surface area. Anyway, three more meals in the freezer!
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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Freezer Meals - Beef Roll-Ups

This is a momma original that I am sharing, with only minor alterations on my part. And, lucky for you, it is in the "freezes bee-u-tifully" section of my personal cookbook, so it came to mind in my fill-the-freezer frenzy. We call this deliciousness Beef Roll-Ups.
My brother and sister-in-law came up with their baby the other day, and since Charlie really likes this dish, I decided to make a double batch and put the three extras in the fridge. Just so you don't get confused by my math, the way Mom makes it puts it in a 9"x13" pan and bakes it that way. Since my little crew can't get through a whole pan, I divide it up into 8x8s and put one in the freezer. So, since I made a double batch, there were three for the freezer on this occasion. And, it really only took me an extra 10 minutes! Okay, enough background, here we go:

Dough - Mom uses biscuits. I like mine with bread dough, but I use Mom's Flat French Bread recipe. It goes like this:

2 c warm water
1 T yeast
1 T sugar
4 c flour
2 tsp salt
Combine warm water, yeast, and sugar- let dissolve. Combine the flour and salt. Stir in the yeast mixture. Mix until it feels like bread dough. Put on counter and roll out into a big circle. If you are a really fancy roller, you could do a rectangle, it would probably work better. I roll it out until it is about 1/4" to 1/2" thick. As thin as I can realistically get it. Since I was making a double batch, I doubled the recipe and split the dough in half. I think if you tried to do all the dough at once, it would just get too big to work with.

Now for the sauce. I mix 2 cans of tomato sauce (I think they are 14 oz) with about 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp Italian seasoning, and 1/4" tsp garlic powder. However, you could just your favorite pizza sauce and that would work too. Spread your sauce thinly on your rolled out dough. If you get it too thick, it will be harder to get it cooked all the way through. I spread it out to about 1/2" from the edge.
Now, go to your stove and fry 2 lbs of hamburger and 1 chopped onion seasoned with salt and pepper. Drain and sprinkle half of your hamburger on the dough. If you have them on hand, you can also add a small can of mushroom pieces and some pepperoni. I wasn't that prepared this night.
Okay, this is the fun part. Roll. That's why they are beef roll-ups.
Once you get the whole thing rolled up, it should look something like this:
Now, slice that puppy. Since this is going to go into two pans, I start by cutting the roll approximately in half. I know some of you would expect me to get a ruler out, but I just eyeball it. Now, have you ever made cinnamon rolls? It is the same concept. You cut your roll into slices about 3/4" thick. Again, eyeball it.
Once you cut your piece, stick it in a greased pan. I use a 8" cake pan or a 8"x8" square, whichever I have on hand.
Continue cutting and placing in pan until it is filled.
Repeat the steps until you have filled all your pans. Take your remaining sauce (there should be most of it left) and spread on top of your rolls.
Sprinkle with grated cheese.
Cover your pans with aluminum foil and freeze. When you are ready to bake, take out of the freezer and thaw. Then, bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes. The cheese will be golden brown, but more importantly, the bread will be golden brown too. You want to be sure they are done, because doughy rolls are not worth the time it takes to toss them.
Well, I hope that wasn't too confusing. Let me tell you, the end product is super-tasty! So tasty, in fact, that I couldn't even wait to take a picture before snarfing them down!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Meatloaf for the freezer

Well, for once, an impulse of mine has continued past the first trial. I am still freezing up a storm! The other day I made a batch of four beef roll-ups, one for dinner and three for the freezer. However, since it is such a tasty dish and an original of my own dearest mothers, I took pictures all along the way so I could show you the whole process. That would take more time than I have yet had, so I am saving that post for another day. Today, I did meatloaf. Instead of just making one batch, I made a double batch of a big recipe, which ended up yielding five loaves. One went to a friend, one went to the Cub Scout potluck tonight, and so three made it to my freezer. And, here they are:

Since the recipe isn't one I will use again, I am not going to bother to post it. However, the idea is a great one, so here is how I did the last bit.
Make your meatloaf. This is an easy one to just make a bigger batch, since there isn't really that much work and making more doesn't double your work. I made a big old batch, and then split it into five pieces. Since my super-dee-dooper vacuum sealer is currently out of bags, I went with good old-fashioned freezer paper, which I need to use up anyway. I put my mound-o-meat on each paper and shaped it into a loaf. Cute, isn't it? Okay, not really.

Repeat with as many loaves as you have.
Then, I wrapped those puppies up, taped them shut, and (the all important step) labeled them with the cooking instructions. Ta Da! Three more meals in the freezer. That brings my total up to ... 13!
When I am ready to cook these babies, I will just pull them out of the freezer in the morning, put them in the fridge to thaw, and bake on a cookie sheet according to the instructions.
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Freezer Meals

My mind has been running on its own lately. Apparently my subconscious is aware of some impending doom, because I cannot get rid of the urge to make and store meals in the freezer. So, I am giving in. For the next few weeks, I am going to slowly fill the freezer. This was last night's effort.
- Chicken Pot Pie -
Since this was really easy, I am going to give you my directions in case your brain goes haywire.

- 3 2-crust pie crusts (I make mine, but you can substitute a purchased one without too much guilt)
- 2 Costco rotisserie chickens
- 1 lb bag of frozen broccoli pieces
- 2 cans (14oz?) quartered artichoke hearts
- 3 cans cream of chicken soup
- salt and pepper to taste

First for the chickens. I tear all the breast meat out and then tear it into chunks and place in a large bowl. The rest of the carcass I put in a ziplock bag and toss in the freezer to be used for chicken and noodle stock/meat later. Take out your artichoke hearts and cut each quarter in half. Dump the chopped hearts, broccoli, and salt and pepper in with the chicken. On a side note, I HATE when people put in "salt and pepper to taste". I mean, really, how are you supposed to duplicate that? However, I didn't measure. I dumped salt into my cupped hand until I had a nice little mound, and I would estimate that it was 1.5 to 2 tsp salt. Pepper measured the same way, probably 1-1.5 tsp. But, I could be totally wrong. Anyway, after you have all that stuff in the bowl, mix it well. If you do this part thoroughly, it will be easier when you add the soup. Now, add your soup and mix. Since the soup is fairly thick, you need to mix a lot to get it well blended. However, you don't want to water it down or you will have watery pot pie - yuck!

Now that you have your insides mixed (and yes, this should look like a lot. I said a LARGE bowl) put one pie crust in three pie plates. When they are all ready, divide your mixture between the three, and put on your top crust. They will look approximately like the picture above at this point. I always cut a few slits in the top of the pies, but I don't know if that is anything but aesthetic. Once they are done, cover in aluminum foil (or tin foil for us poor folk) and pop into the freezer. I don't know the rules, but I would recommend eating these inside of three months. After that and they would probably taste freezer burned.

When you are ready for a mouth-watering chicken pot pie for dinner, pull a pie out in the morning and thaw. Again, I don't know the rules on this stuff. I leave mine out on the counter until it feels thawed. Since there is nothing raw in there, I don't think it will spoil unless you really get extreme. When you are ready to cook, heat your oven to 425 degrees and bake for 35 minutes. If you didn't let it thaw all the way, adjust accordingly, whatever that means.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks to see what else goes in the freezer!
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Monday, January 17, 2011

What do you do with a good sale on green peppers?

Buy a bunch, roast them, and freeze them for later! Yum!
This process is really very easy. You line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, wash and dry your peppers, put them on your lined cookie sheet and put them under your broiler on high. When the skin turns black, pull them out and turn them over and put them back in again. Repeat this until the whole pepper is covered in black crusty skin. Then, pull those puppies out and pop them in a big ziplock bag. Shut the bag and ignore it for 20 minutes. Paint your fingernails, check a few emails, but don't do anything productive. Somehow the peppers know if you were productive and take it out on you. Anyway. After 20 minutes, one at a time, take the peppers out and peel the skin off. It slides off fairly easily, and now you have roasted peppers. I add them to anything that smells like it could use that particular flavor. Spaghetti sauce was my most recent user of the peppers.

Then, if you are like me and did eight of them at once, I pull out the seeds and cut the pepper into strips. I line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (I don't really know if you need to do this, it just makes me feel domestic) and put the pepper strips on the paper. Put these into the freezer for an hour or two to flash freeze. Then, you can peel the peppers off the paper and stick them all into a freezer ziplock to be used at a later date. Yum!