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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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
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.
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.
Would really welcome other ideas. I had no idea that cooking chicken legs and freezing them would work!
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.
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.
Oh, and get a Foodsaver....you will be glad that you did.