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Bulk cooking, then freezing ideas?

I love to cook but am also single, I travel a lot for work, like to go out as well, and get tired of eating the same thing more than twice within the same week or two. So while I can buy fresh food in bulk - too often a good percentage of it gets wasted.

To counter this, the best remedy seems to be cooking a big batch of XXXXXX and then freezing it in individual portions. My best 2 dishes to date have been a bolognase-like pasta sauce and stews.

The pasta sauce(s), adapted from many recipes, usually turn out great and reheat just as nice. They also seem very forgiving/accepting of recipe variances. I've made made them with beef, pork, veal, sausage or blends of each. It takes some work to create a big batch, but weeks later when you want a great dinner with little effort, the sauce is already done and just needs reheating.

Likewise, stews have worked great. Again, it's a big effort to do the initial cooking (which I don't mind from time to time), but if you can bag 10-20 individual meals from a lazy saturday in the kitchem - why not. I've made simple stews, attempts at beef bourguignon, which became stew-like and this weekend made a huge batch of Irish lamb stew thanks to a market that had a great deal on lamb that wasn't in pretty chop form.

What else?

On the flip side, some things freeze well but not so much after a few weeks. Lasagne, for example. The pasta egdes get dried out. Same with things like burritos or enchiladas. They last for a bit but then dry bits get freezer burn or simply flake away. So in these cases, it would seem a better strategy to make/freeze the fillings and keep on hand fresh tortillas, etc. when ready to assemble.

Thoughts?

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  1. I'm in the same situation. My top 3 make-in-bulk, then vacupack/freeze for later are:
    1) Whole bone-in, skin-on Turkey breasts.
    2) Chicken Legs
    3) Tri-tip steaks / roasts all done on my Big Green Egg http://www.biggreenegg.com/


    Turkey is later used for:

    - Completely delicious turkey-ranch sandwiches w/ Provolone and fresh whole grain bread

    - Turkey Salad sandwiches where I vary the fresh herbs used (basil + lemon, cilantro + lime, thyme and oregano), then usually add: sherry vinegar, part mayo, part sour cream or plain yogurt

    - "Toasted" turkey skin pieces fresh off the grill. Yum.

    - Turkey with a cherry sauce and grilled asparagus

    To get the most delicious turkey, start with a fresh whole bone-in, skin-on turkey breast. Sometimes the local store carries them, but the easiest thing I've learned to do is simply call before 8am of the day before I want to pick it up, and the really nice meat market manager is very happy to put in a special order.

    I then:
    - Brine the turkey 1.5 hours / pound with a 1cup salt::1gallon water brine recipe
    )- Dry the skin with paper towels
    - Olive Oil the skin, and put medium density coating of Dizzy Pig's Raging River or Tsunami Spin rubs
    http://www.dizzypigbbq.com/rubs.html
    - Grill it at 350 till it gets to 163degF
    - Pull it and rest it 15 min while enjoying the flavored turkey skin 'toast' and making the cherry sauce if hungry right then.

    I vacupack and freeze it in 1/2 - 3/4 pound portions.

    BBQ Chicken legs are later used for:

    Easy, delicious, and FAST meals, usually with my favorite coleslaw recipe or a spinach salad

    I brine the chicken legs also to keep them moist, but only for 1 - 1.5 hours total.

    I've tried lots of chicken leg recipes, but have found the best combination of techniques to be:
    - pre-boil the legs for 10 min
    - bathe them in Franks Red Hot Sauce after taking them out of the simmering water, before putting them on the grill
    - Grill them at 350-375 deg F till they read 180degF... Basting them w/ favorite BBQ sauce in the last 20 min of cooking or when the temp first reads 165.

    Tri-tip steaks are later used in
    - Spinach salads w/ steak slices

    I follow the recipe for grilled Santa Maria Style Tri-Tip. I've read this cut is actually "Rib-Eye Strips" that Costco mis-labels as Tri-tips. They are in long strips, as opposed to the boot-shaped tri-tip style cut.

    1. i like to make up a huge meatloaf with all the trimmings like mashed taters & fired corn & gravy and get freezer plates at discount stores and make up my whole serving there.
      Spagetti sauce of course is good, I also make big batches of Veggie soup, but I do omit the sliced potatoes in the soup cause they get mushy and gross tasting. I like to make up batches of pulled pork for a quick sandwich.
      any kind of pie is good too for desserts. Just reheat to warm

      1. My mom freezes "tomato soup" base when her garden is producing, and freezes in 1 qt. Ziplocs. Then, in the winter, she heats them up in a saucepan and adds some heavy cream, or small pasta, or rice, or whatever she is in the mood for and has great homemade soup. I do the same thing with homemade chicken stock, then I can make any kind of chicken soup with leftover rotisserie chicken, or vegies, or tortellini.

        I agree that pasta and tortilla dishes tend to deteriorate, best to freeze the "makings" and cook the pasta fresh.

        Whenever I make a batch of beans (any kind), I always freeze leftover portions in various size Ziplocs, and use them later. Little if any decline in quality, and homemade beans are always better than canned.

        1 Reply
        1. re: dkenworthy

          This is a great thread - I struggle much like the OP and have myself relied on the same foods!

          I also like to do a hearty spicy tomato soup with chick peas and brown rice and maybe swiss chard embedded in there, which freezes well. Soups in general I've had good luck with.

          Also chili?

          Would really welcome other ideas. I had no idea that cooking chicken legs and freezing them would work!

        2. just thought of another great freezer item.
          Swiss steak. I make mine in mushroom soup and let cook till fork tender and then freeze it.
          Chili is also good.

          1. Since I work full time and have 2 small kids, I make a lot of things in big batches and then freeze them in smaller portions to pull out of the freezer for my kids during the week.

            Things that I keep on hand:

            -- Meatballs (various kinds) -- I freeze in batches of like 6 or 8 meatballs and then just make spaghetti to go with it.

            -- Meatloaf -- I make and then freeze in packets with 2 or 3 slices of meatloaf.

            -- Chicken Cacciatore

            -- Chicken Burgers (see link below) -- we had these tonight for dinner and I made several extras to freeze. Sometimes I will just freeze the "mixture" and then pull that out and cook it. Saves time in preparation when you don't have to start chopping scallions, etc.

            http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/rec...

            -- Brisket

            -- Pesto

            Oh, and get a Foodsaver....you will be glad that you did.

            1. I buy wild mushrooms (crimini, hen of the woods, whatever) in bulk -- 3 pounds or more at a time. Saute with diced shallots and olive oil/butter (all butter would burn), salt, pepper, thyme. Let it really cook down and get a bit caramelized and toasty. Drop a bit more butter at the end. I then vacuum seal in small batches and freeze. Great for pastas, sauces, soups. Roast a chicken, then drop the mushrooms into the pan and use as base for pan sauce. Top a steak.

              1. I do this to take for lunch at work, as well as eat for dinner. My best results are always with things that have a soup/stew consistency, whether intended to eat plain (like your stew) or to pour over rice or noodles. I also like to make all dishes that fit into the same size container, for ease of stacking in my tiny apartment-size freezer.
                -Stroganoff
                -Chili
                -White chili
                -Pork and sauerkraut, although to be fair mine is more like sauerkraut with pork
                -Curries
                -15 bean soup
                -Stew of every variety - I am making Brunswick tomorrow, in fact
                -Cabbage roll casserole
                -Mock shepherd's pie: I stir the meat mixture and veggies together, put individual serving amounts into containers, then top with mashed potatoes. It is oversimplified, but it works for me.

                I've tried to do up little servings of baked chicken with veggies and things like that and their freezer life isn't as good.
                I've been wanting to do enchiladas, but I am concerned about either the tortillas getting freezer burnt on the edges (as the OP mentioned). I think I am going to try making an "enchilada casserole" by cutting chunks of tortilla and submerging them in the "filling," but I am not getting my hopes up. I suspect the sauce taste will be overbearing or the tortillas will disintegrate too much.

                Good luck :)

                1. I always have baggies of cooked ground beef, sliced grilled chicken breast and pulled pork in the freezer. If one of the kids has practice I can make tacos for one, grilled chicken ceasar salad or pulled pork sandwich. If whole family is available but time is critical I have a huge head start for chili, pasta with olive oil, garlic, broccoli and chicken or white rice, can of black beans topped with pork, chopped onions, tomatoes and cilantro. (Of course these are just a few ideas with the 3 basics above)

                  1. Along with all these great ideas I've discovered that stuffed peppers and cabbage or lettuce rolls freeze really well and last a long time. I also do large batches of raviolis and tortellinis. I use a Reynold's Handy-Vac to vacuum pack my stuff and it works great for about a tenth of the cost of a Food-Saver and fits in a kitchen drawer. The bags are reusable. I don't have a problem with freezer burn on the pasta with it either. I pull out the amount I need, close the bag, and the Vac reseals it no problem. I've found it handy for keeping whole spices like vanilla beans fresher too.

                    Veal/chicken picattas and marsalas freeze pretty nicely as do swiss steak type dishes.

                    When we go on fishing trips I immediately clean, fillet and vaccum pack the day's catch and get it directly into the ice ready for the freezer at home or freeze it immediately at the site if a freezer is available. Another reason the Handy-Vac is so, well, handy. Don't know if that tip will be helpful but there it is.

                    I also do sheet cakes without the icing, cut into smaller portions and frozen. They thaw quickly and are ready for any kind of dressing up. Bread and rolls freeze well too. But don't vacuum pack these, they'll squish ;-)

                    1. Near the end of summer/fall On a lazy sunday, you'll find me bbqing (smoking) five chickens at a time. I then 1/2 them, vaccuum seal them, and pop them into the freezer for wonderful bbq chicken dinners throughout the winter. They freeze surprisingly well. And there's nothing like the smell of real q to get you outta the winter funk when it's 30 below and there's a foot of snow on the ground.

                      1. I keep uncooked meat, poultry and seafood, and frozen green peas, corn and oj. I freeze homemade chicken and basic tomato sauce in quantity: they are easily adapted to a multitude of recipe ideas. Oh yeah, and perogies ...

                        1. I second the suggestion of stuffed peppers. I use spanish rice, black beans, and chicken~ they freeze great and are easy to grab on the go for work as well as home.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: washingtonred

                            arygalyn, i tried doing a sort of enchilada lasagna myself and the tortillas disintegrated in the freezer because of the liquid involved...

                          2. As a Mom have fallen in love with our vacuum bags...really keeps the stuff fresh...though the machine had sat unused for 5 yrs before baby came. Besides the sauce everyone has mentioned i have started to make turkey, spinach, & feta burgers (w/a little ground lamb for more flavor) as well as Vietnamese pork burgers. Neither of these i serve as sandwiches but over rice egg noodles...with a little lemon vinaigrette for the first and fish sauce the 2nd. Also pureed Spinach soup...spinach cooked w/chick broth, onions, & then puree & mix with mashed potatoes and just a little cream...puree again...dash of hot sauce.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: wellfedred

                              i love stew but find that freezing gives potatoes a funny texture.

                              1. re: divadmas

                                Kind of a delayed response, but I just got around to reading this thread. I had the same problem with stew, but then a friend of mine gave me a great idea. He told me to cook the stew up to the point where you would add in the potatoes. Set aside the portion you want to freeze, add potatoes to the portion you want to eat. That way, when you warm up the frozen portion, you just add potatoes at that point. Works great!

                            2. the non-freezer idea:
                              Go to costco, get some of the Indian "pouch meals". Rice cooks in half an hour flat, and is super cheap from Costco (even their divine Basmati).

                              1. I find lasagna freezes well if well wrapped - I wrap a single meal portion tightly before freezing, and it doesn't dry out much.

                                Beans and rice both freeze well, so fried rice, or beans and rice would be good options.

                                Pesto freezes well. I make a big batch, leaving out the parmesan. Then when I want it I pull it out in the morning to thaw, grate some cheese and mix it in while the pasta boils.

                                Cooked lentils (dhal, for example) and refried beans.

                                I cook chicken breasts, beef and ham ahead of time. The chicken I sautee on medium low heat in a bit of olive oil until browned. This is good in quick pasta dishes and salads. For beef, I get cheap tough cuts (beef shanks are great), and simmer in water for a couple of hours. The liquid is saved for soup, and the beef can be quickly added to other dishes, as it's already tender. For ham, I bake it, slice it, and store in one meal portions.

                                Soups in general are a good option, particularly hearty ones - chicken rice, beef barley, tomato vegetable, pureed roasted vegetable soup, potato leak, pumpkin soup.

                                I do different types of tomato sauce - tomato meat sauce for on spaghetti, pureed tomato-basil-mushroom sauce for ravioli.

                                I haven't had problems freezing tortillas (they're hard to get here, so I buy a big batch at Costco, which stocks them), and find the good for a quick quesadilla.

                                When I make sausage patties from ground pork, I do a big batch and freeze uncooked patties for later use.

                                1. I make quiches and then freeze in individual portions.

                                  1. I agree with those who pre-cook their chicken/turkey and pull it out for re-use. I put mine up in broth so it stays moist and resists freezer burn, in single/double serving sizes. The chicken can then be used with the broth, or drained for use in tacos, salads, sandwiches, pasta, etc.

                                    I just don't like the texture of many pre-assembled casseroles when they come out of the freezer (lasagne, enchiladas, etc.) so I'd rather assemble on the spot from frozen + fresh.

                                    1. Great thread. I do a lot of cooking ahead, but am just beginning to think about using the freezer. This is mostly because I have tried in the past to cook ahead and freeze, and due to a huge lack of organization on my part...the meals sort of got "lost in the great beyond" of the freezer. I may try again soon, I've gotten a bit more organized lately:)