Where exactly did the summer go? I looked up from the mass chaos that was our summer only to realize that school starts for us this Monday !?! How did that happen? Needless to say, the last couple weeks have been a mad scramble to get things ready for school. Amid finishing up school plans, mapping out books, making forms, organizing supplies and sharpening pencils, I (of course) decided that a massive Freezer Cook-Off Day was in order. Because when you're already busy, why not be insanely busy?
That's right, my peeps. I decided to stock my freezer with 39 breakfasts and 20 desserts. (And yes, I am a little bit OCD about it being 39 breakfasts instead of 40. Why, oh, why did it have to work out that way? I console myself by telling myself that it would have been 39 the minute I served up the first breakfast anyway. I'm still not thrilled about it, though...)
Over the next few weeks, I plan to stock my freezer with easy To-Go Lunches and Dinner Entrees to further simplify my life, but right now, breakfasts were my priority. I've been homeschooling for 14+ years. I know what happens to my mornings when I try to be Mom, Janitor, Teacher, Principal AND School Cook. Something has to give. I need wholesome breakfasts and I need them to be easy. Freezer cooking is the perfect solution. I do the work all at once when I can carve out the time, then I don't have to figure anything out on a busy morning when all I feel like doing is fumbling for the teapot. Instead of making an elaborate breakfast, I can just pull out a handy-dandy freezer breakfast. Life is good.
If you're wondering why I tacked 19 desserts onto my already massive breakfast freezer cooking day, it's because my kids turned their great-big-sad-puppy-dog-eyes on me. Fine, kiddies. We'll have dessert, too. Besides, my kids (even my high schoolers) get a daily school snack at about 10am. (Poor things.) Usually I serve tea and some kind of eatable. Sometimes the snack is healthy, but sometimes it's just a fun dessert. Happy kids study better. Or something like that.
So, without further ado, here's a peek into what cooking 59 dishes all at once looks like (minus the dirty dishes, aching feet and utter chaos).
First up: The groceries. Happily, the former owners of this house left us their second refrigerator. We kept it around for times like these. This is just the necessary refrigerated goods. There were also things in the freezer and and entire counter stacked high with groceries for the Cook-Off.
In case you ever wondered what 3 dozen eggs in a bowl looks like, here you go:
Why yes, that is a 9x13 pan full of bacon.
Six pans of ready-to-bake Gooey Caramel Cinnamon Rolls (made with freshly ground wheat), because, paradoxically, the days you need Gooey Caramel Cinnamon Rolls are also the days you need to hit the "Easy Button".
Freezer Cooking on this scale calls for big pans.
This is my enormous Turkey Roaster pan filled with Breakfast Burrito filling.
And here are the Breakfast Burritos all filled and ready for my family of hungry people.
Cream Cheese Apple Tarts ready for the topping.
These are listed as a breakfast, but I will serve them as a dessert.
Quiche lined up and ready to be wrapped, labeled and frozen. I did a compromise here. Usually I would make a healthy crust for these, but I desperately needed to quickly get ahead in my kitchen. I decided that it wouldn't hurt us too bad to use store-bought crusts this one time, since I usually feed my family healthier options.
There were, of course, lots more recipes prepared on my Big Cook-Off Day, but I won't bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say, we will be eating well.
And here is one of our freezers, filled to the brim with easy breakfasts and desserts.
All told, I made bulk versions of 13 different recipes. Eleven of those recipes came from Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer. Sometimes I make ingredient alterations to make the recipes healthier. For instance, for the Baked Blueberry French Toast, I used my Whole Wheat Bread instead of the french bread called for, and instead of the store-bought pie filling filled with high-fructose corn syrup and dye, I made my own pie filling with fresh blueberries, a small amount of cane juice sugar and non-GMO cornstarch. It tastes even better, and I know it's much healthier for my kids.
The other two recipes of the 13 were bulk versions of our favorite cookie recipes. I simply mixed the cookie dough and either pre-shaped them into balls or made sliceable "logs".
For the pre-shaped cookie balls, line a cookie sheet with wax paper, shape balls and place on cookie sheet. No need to space them since you aren't cooking them. When the cookie sheet is full, pop it into the freezer. Once the cookie dough balls harden, put them in a freezer bag and label. Now it will be easy to have fresh baked cookies whenever you want them. To make a sliceable cookie log, place a sheet of wax paper on the counter. Plop cookie dough on the wax paper and shape into a log about the diameter of a cookie. Wrap the wax paper around the log. Wrap again with aluminum foil, label and freeze. On serving day, pull a log from the freezer and allow to thaw slightly (in only takes 5-10 minutes). Open up the wrappings and slice the dough to the thickness of a cookie. It is easier to slice when it isn't frozen solid, but it isn't totally thawed, either. Place cookie slices or balls on cookie sheet and bake as usual.
Now, when I want to serve cookies, I can just grab a bag of pre-shaped cookies or open up a cookie log, slice into cookies and bake. Serve with tea and a good book. :)
To stock the freezers with lunch and dinner entrees, I'll use the method of "cook 4-6, serve one and freeze the others". I don't think I can face another Big Freezer Cook-Off just yet. But if I'm making one lasagna, how hard is it to make 6 lasagnas instead? I still have to dirty the same number of dishes to cook one as I would to cook 6. Next month, I'll probably try to have another big cook-day, though, so that I can stay stocked up.
For now, I am just super happy to have a freezer full of easier mornings.
Oh, and one bonus tip: Always, always, always label what you put in the freezer. Believe me, after awhile, it all starts looking the same. You won't use it if you don't know what it is. I not only label with the name of the recipes, but also with serving day instructions. That way I don't have to hunt for the recipe to know what temperature the oven should be or if there is anything that needs to be added before serving. It's all right on the package. This also makes it easier if the kiddos need to cook it. This time, I took it a step further and made a Freezer Foods List so I can mark things off as I use them. This will help me stay on top of what I put in the freezer and help me know when I need to plan another one.
Do you ever use bulk cooking to simplify things later?
Have a great day!
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