Friday, January 20, 2012

Cooking Ahead for the Chaos

Sheperd's Pie...Mmmm comfort food
   I used to wait until dinner time to see what I was in the mood to eat.  Then began the process of searching the cupboards, fridge and freezer to see if anything on hand matched what I wanted.  If it had been a busy day it was easy to give up and just call for take out or have a nice dinner out.  Three years ago, I was introduced to Debi Taylor Hough's book Frozen Assets where she has a detailed plan for freezer cooking an entire month's meals in one day.  While I have to admit I don't do the 8 hour stretch of cooking all at once, I have incorporated batch cooking into my routine.

   Batch cooking is when you make duplicate meals, one for now, one for the freezer.  It's great to have a meal tucked away for a busy day.  If there is a sale on hamburger, I can make a batch of meatballs, meatloaf and tacos all at once.  I used to just make enormous meals and have leftovers for days until we had meatballs coming out of our ears.  After reading Debi's book, I learned to freeze leftovers.  Then when you pull them out two weeks from now, it is a new meal to us instead of leftovers for a week. It is good for the food budget since you can cook up whatever is on sale this week without it withering away in your refrigerator. I'm saving energy by using the oven once to cook many things at once and I'm saving my time and energy, a very precious resource indeed.  

  I don't always plan ahead so well, but when hamburger was on sale this is what I did.  I started by making two batches of meatballs.  One set of meatballs went to a friend and the other was for our dinner the next night.  While the oven was still hot I made two meatloaves.  I had made extra mashed potatoes with our roast chicken dinner the previous night.  I topped the second meatloaf with corn, mashed potatoes and shredded cheese to create Sheperd's pie.  The other meatloaf was set aside in the freezer for a future meal.  Now I had 3 nights of dinner with only one messy clean up. 

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