My big cooking day was last Monday, and it was mostly a success. Other than the fall and the swollen knee, I mean…..
My plan was to make 14 dishes so we would have 2 weeks of dinners, but it turned out more like 10 dinners. Two of my dinners weren’t made because the chicken thighs I bought at WalMart the day before were ROTTEN! I was so angry! Instead of chicken breasts, I decided to buy boneless, skinless chicken thighs for my pasta and soup dish. They were cheaper than the breasts and I think the dark meat has more flavor. When I opened the package Monday afternoon to cook the meat, the smell of decay was overwhelming. I was out $7. I know I should have returned the package for a refund, but I don’t live near WalMart and my kids had already interrupted my big cooking day several times so I didn’t want to leave the house again. ARGH! I really hate it when I spend money on rotten meat! I generally try to but my meat at Costco, and I really should have bought a whole chicken and boiled it for the meat and broth – that’ll teach me!
To get a jump on things, I put a beef stew and pork tacos in my crock pots the night before. If I learned one thing from this adventure, it is to crock pot anything you can the night before. Then all you have to do is cool the food to room temperature, label and freeze it! I instantly had 4 meals done – one stew, 2 pork tacos, and meatballs for subs because I also got ambitious and baked 21 meatballs and threw them in the freezer, too. Well, I froze 20 of them and used the “extra” for a taste test. It was the best meatball I have ever made! And I’ve made some bad meatballs! Next time I will make a double batch.
I realized the morning of my big cook day that I had to take my daughter to cheerleading for 2 hours. Ugh! Then my son wanted me to take him and a friend to Laser Mania. Then the kids needed lunch and so on….so I really didn’t get started until 1:00. I won’t be doing that again. It was way too late in the day to start something this big.
Many other blogs and websites recommend that you brown all your meat and do all the chopping first. For the most part I did that but I’m glad I had the presence of mind to remember that my mini meat loaves would need formed meat, not crumbled meat. It would have made me really mad if I’d browned it all and ruined my meatloaves. I also made sure I had room in my freezer and all the containers and bags for freezing, including freezer tape and a sharpie for labeling. Another blogger suggested having a sink ready with soapy water to quickly clean frequently used items, such as measuring cups and spoons. This was a great idea, and I also made sure I had an empty dishwasher, ready to go. These two tips made my cleanup so fast and easy!
I didn’t feel confident to cook 2 dishes at once, so I did them one at a time. That really slows things down. Next time I’ll be braver and use my digital food thermometer to make sure the dishes are done.
I ended up making:
Baja Pork tacos x2
Asparagus & Mushroom Quiche – Looks highly suspicious. I’ve never had a Quiche with so little egg
Spaghetti Beef Casserole
Ground Beef Spiral Bake
Mini Meat Loaves (these look good but I think there is not enough meat and too much crispix)
I ended up using the disposable, foil casserole dishes – as I feared they weren’t entirely stable and I’m not sure I will use them again. It was a challenge to get them in my freezer without the bottom buckling. After all my hard word, it was infuriating to see my beautiful dishes being ruined as they finally made it to the freezer!
Today is Friday – I used my freezer dinners every night but tonight. I had purchased the ingredients for chicken enchiladas (I changed from turkey enchiladas) and really wanted to try the recipe. Since I was off of work early today, I decided to cook fresh. Here is what we have eaten so far:
Monday: Baja Pork Tacos
Tuesday: Ground Beef Spiral Bake
Wednesday: Meatball subs
Thursday: Beef Stew
Friday: White Chicken Enchiladas
Everything turned out terrific! Only 2 of the dishes have been really frozen – Monday we ate the pork tacos fresh and I kept the Tuesday dinner in the fridge since it didn’t make sense to freeze it. I thawed the meatballs by cooking in spaghetti sauce for about 10 minutes and I let the stew partially thaw on the counter, then heated it on the stove top. I am anxious to see how long it takes to cook one of the frozen casseroles once it has been in the fridge to partially thaw overnight.
I will post of the recipes of the dishes that come out well.
Baja Pork Tacos
3 pound boneless pork sirloin roast (I used a shoulder roast)
5 cans of 4 oz each green chilies. (I used 3 cans and it was more than enough)
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 tablespoon cumin
24 corn tortillas warmed
3 cups shredded lettuce
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese (6 ounces) (I used cheddar/jack)
Put the roast in the crock pot and mix the green chilies and seasoning. Pour over roast and crock pot all night. Shred with a fork in the morning and stir well. Serve on tortillas with the lettuce and cheese. Use about 1/4 cup pork, 2 tablespoons lettuce and one tablespoon cheese on each taco.Meatballs
I got this off of All Recipes. Click here to go to the link.
I had a McCormick mix so I just used that plus 2 pounds of stew beef plus potatoes, carrots and onion in the crock pot. I paired it with biscuits from my mix I’ve mentioned in previous posts. This time I added 2/3 cup of shredded cheddar cheese and cut them an inch thick. They were tender and delicious.
Ground Beef Spiral Bake
This was nothing special. I wouldn’t make it again. This is for 2 casseroles. I only made 1 and I am glad. Maybe it needs to be doctored up or something.
16 oz spiral pasta
2 lb ground beef
2/3 cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
2 jars (26 oz) spaghetti sauce
2 TBL tomato paste
1 tsp each dried oregano and basil
10 oz (4 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese
Cook pasta according to directions. Brown the meat and onion. Add garlic and drain if needed. Add spaghetti sauce and spices. Bring to a boil for about 5-10 minutes. Combine pasta and sauce and combine between two 9×13 inch dishes. Top with cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Eat one and freeze one.White Chicken Enchiladas
This recipe came from Pinterest. It was good.Oh yeah, about my fall. I was putting together a tuna rice casserole that looked and smelled just awful. It already had 2 cups of mayo ,2 cream soups, some tuna, some rice and some celery. It already looked like a soup, so I was stunned when the directions said to add a cup of melted butter. Really? The small amount of pre-cooked rice was never going to soak up all that liquid! I decided to cut my losses and toss it. As I was carrying the mess out to the garbage, I stepped on a piece of wet bread my daughter left on the sidewalk. It was like stepping on an oil slick. My foot when out from under me and down the pan of glop and I went. Of course I screamed as loud as I could and all the neighborhood kids came running. I landed right on my knee, but my bigger concern was my right shoulder. I have a torn rotator cuff that needs to be repaired and I worried I tore it more. My shoulder seemed to be ok, but getting up with an injured knee and shoulder on the same side was an adventure. To add insult to injury, there were big glops of tuna mayo slop all over my driveway. My knee swelled and I could hardly walk for a day.
What did I learn from my first, mass-cooking experience?
- Triple check to make sure you have all your ingredients
- Don’t have too many ground beef dishes
- Start early so you can end early
- Expect your kids to beg to eat each dish as you prepare it – everything looked and smelled so good!
- Use low fat options when you can – pasta heavy, cheesey cream soup casseroles are full of fat and calories!
- Be brave and cook more than one dish at a time
- Foil dishes are made of…foil….and are not stable
- Chicken parts are more expensive than a whole chicken
- Wet bread is a hazard