Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stocking Up

I'm visiting my mom in Phoenix! I'm going to be there for almost 2 weeks. I am beyond excited. I can't wait to see her condo, visit with family, and just tool around Arizona and possibly Vegas.

I've been out of work for 5 months now. In that time I've completely become a housewife. I do all of the housework (cleaning), laundry, shopping, and of course cooking. I make sure that we have a healthy home-cooked dinner on the table at least 6 days a week.

So I stared thinking, and we all know that is never a good thing.

Anyway, I started thinking and I know this sounds completely irrational but, if I'm gone for 2 weeks...what will Vince eat for dinner? Stupid, right? Well, the thought was eating at me. I just couldn't leave him to his own devices. If it were up to him, he would happily have fast food every night until my return. I just couldn't let that happen.

So, I started making dinners and freezing them. He has no excuses. All he has to do is pull something out of the freezer before he leaves for work. Some of the meals will require assembly and/or a little cooking, but the meal is prepped and ready.

As always, I went completely overboard. I took a simple, good idea and made it into a huge project. My irrational mind was thinking that I should make a dinner for each night that I am away. That Vince should not have to have the same dinner two nights in a row. Vince very kindly pointed out that all of the meals I was making were for more than 1 serving. He said if he defrosted one every day then there would be a ton of leftovers sitting in the fridge when I got back. He also protested my planning out his meals for him. Apparently he is an adult and can choose to eat whatever he wants, whenever he wants...including Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Chick-Fil-A, McDonald's, etc. He actually said that he would eat the junk anyway and just not cook what I had prepared. Oh well, at least I know it's there if he wants it and it will keep me from having to cook so much as the weather gets hotter.

This is a list of what I'm making.

Beef Kabobs
Ginger Sesame Chicken with Rice Noodles
Pork Satay with Brown Rice & Steamed Broccoli
Turkey Tacos
Turkey Noodle Soup
Eggplant Parmesan
Stuffed Shells
Chicken Pizza
Stuffed Peppers

Some of them are pretty easy to put together and stick in the freezer. I've made "meal kits", just to make it easy for Vince to determine which ingredients go for which meal.

The best tip I got was for marinading meats. Basically you put the marinade and the meat into a ziplock freezer bag, roll it, seal it, and stick it in the freezer. When you want to have that for dinner, take the bag out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost. As it defrosts it marinades the meat so you have seasoned meat by the time you get home.

Be sure to label all of your bags/containers with what is in it and the date that it was put in.

Beef Kabobs:
I made a simple marinade for the beef. I dumped the marinade and the cubed beef into a big freezer bag, rolled and sealed the bag and stuck it in the freezer.

Then, I cut a couple of bell peppers and an onion into big chunks. The peppers and onion each went into their own ziplock bags. I also made a bag of cherry tomatoes.

I then took a big freezer bag and labeled it as "Beef Kabob Kit" and put all of the individual bags of veggies into the one big bag. That kit now resides in the refrigerator. I would probably serve this dinner with some brown rice but I doubt if Vince will make or eat that.

To make: 
Defrost the beef. Soak a few bamboo skewers in water for about 20 minutes. Then make the kabobs by sliding beef, peppers, tomatoes, and onions onto the skewers. Grill until the meat is cooked through.

Ginger Sesame Chicken:
I was bad and used a bottled marinade for this one. It was easier and it really tastes good. I put the marinade and the cubed chicken into a labeled freezer bag and stuck it in the freezer. There is a bag of frozen "Chinese Stir Fry" vegetables in the freezer for this dish as well.

The recipe is served over rice noodles.

To make:
Defrost the chicken. Boil water and cook the rice noodles for about 7 minutes, then drain. Cook the chicken and vegetables in a skillet/wok until done. Serve over cooked rice noodles.

Pork Satay:
I made the marinade from this recipe. I, once again, put it into a freezer bag with the pork strips and stuck it in the freezer. There is also a steamer bag of broccoli in the freezer to go with this meal.

I did not make the peanut sauce for this recipe since Vince could take it or leave it and I didn't think it would hold up well if not used right away. This dish is served with brown rice and steamed broccoli.

To make:
Defrost the pork. Soak some bamboo skewers. Slide the pork onto the skewers and cook on a griddle or grill until the meat is done. Microwave the steamer bag of broccoli for 5 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

Turkey Tacos:

This is one of Vince's favorite meals so it had to be in the rotation. It is pretty easy to make and there was not a whole lot to do ahead of time. I basically just made sure all of the ingredients were in the cabinets and easy to find.

I froze 1 pound of ground turkey. In the cabinet I have 1 can of diced tomatoes (no-salt), 1 can of sliced mushrooms, 1 packet of taco seasoning (no-sodium), and 1 package of 8 grain tortillas. In the fridge I have a tub of soy sour cream and a bag of cheddar flavor veggie shreds.

To make:
Start by defrosting the turkey. In a skillet, brown the turkey and drain any fat. Then add the taco seasoning and water. Add the tomatoes and mushrooms. Cook until the liquid evaporates. Serve on tortillas with sour cream and veggie shreds.

Turkey Noodle Soup:
This is actually an easy one. I have a great recipe for this soup. It uses turkey breast, tons of veggies, and broth. Pretty simple. The key is to freeze it before putting the noodles in. That way, when you defrost it the noodles don't get too soggy.

To make: 
Just defrost and heat up the soup. In a separate pot, boil water and cook a package of egg noodles. Once cooked, drain the noodles and add to the soup. Voila! Turkey noodle soup.

Eggplant Parmesan:
I made eggplant cutlets and froze them. I very lightly bread them (each cutlet has less than a teaspoon of bread crumbs) and bake them instead of frying.

To make: 
Defrost the eggplant and then place into a baking dish. Pour tomato sauce over the cutlets (I go sparse on this but really it is to taste), then place slices of Vegan Delight Mozzarella flavored soy cheese over everything. Bake in a 350 degree oven just long enough to heat everything up and melt the cheese (~30 minutes).

I love spanikopita. Flaky, cheesy, and very filling. I not only make my spanikopita dairy-free but I also make it so each pastry is under 200 calories. Unfortunately, Vince doesn't share my affection for this buttery dinner so I've only made and frozen enough for me to have for lunches when I return.

I use a tofu, egg, and spinach filling (along with other seasonings) inside a phyllo dough crust. Check out the full recipe here, in case you missed it.

Basically, I make each spanikopita triangle and then freeze them before baking.

To make: 
Take the spanakopita out of the freezer and put them onto a baking sheet. Bake them in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Take them out when the crusts are golden brown.

Stuffed Shells:
I found this recipe for "Lasagna Stuffed Shells" on Allrecipes.com. As always, I adapted that recipe to be dairy-free and lower in fat. You can check it out here. I use a tofu mix for the "cheese" portion and I use turkey instead of ground beef/sausage. I also go light on the tomato sauce.

I use disposable tin pans so that I can bake them and stick them in the freezer without having to transfer to bags/containers. You don't want to completely cook this dish. Completely assemble the shells in the baking pan with the tomato sauce. Then put them in the fridge and let them cool so that the cheese is set. Once they are cold you can wrap the pan up in plastic wrap or a freezer bag and put it in the freezer.

To make, take the pan out of the oven and place it in the fridge to thaw for the day. Once it is completely thawed bake the shells at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so, until the cheese is completely melted on top.

Chicken Pizza:
Vince is a pizza addict. I knew that if left alone for too long, pizza would be delivered to our door. I'm sure he will still be ordering some Papa John's while I'm away but having this alternative in the freezer means that maybe he'll only order it once instead of several times.

I make whole wheat pizza dough and shape it into a crust. I par-bake the crust by putting it into a 500 degree oven for 3 minutes. After the crust has cooled I either wrap it in plastic and freeze it or I add all of the topping, wrap it and freeze it. You could also make a pizza kit by freezing eat component in its own bag and then wrapping them all together.

I have fully made pizzas frozen, just to make it easier for Vince while I'm gone.

To make, just put the pizza on a pan and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes (until the cheese is melted and the crust is brown).

Stuffed Peppers:
This is an easy one. Prepare them to the point of putting them in the oven, but don't. At this point cool them down in the fridge. Once they are cold, wrap them up and put them in the freezer.

To make, defrost them in the fridge then put them into a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

I also chopped up a bunch of fresh fruit and stuck those in the freezer. Frozen fruit is great in smoothies instead of ice cubes. You can also thaw it out and use it for fruit salad. Yum.

I made high protein banana muffins as well and those went into the freezer. Those are individually wrapped so Vince can take one to work, the gym, or have one for a quick breakfast. Just heat it up in the microwave or leave it out to thaw before eating it.

I made a big batch of whole wheat rolls. Some of those went into the fridge for immediate consumption and the rest went into the freezer.

I'm sure that Vince is not going to eat all of this food. I really did go overboard with the cooking. It will be nice to have a freezer full of food when I get home though. Having the oven on in the middle of summer in Virginia is something I try to avoid at all costs.

I'll keep you updated on my adventures here in Phoenix!

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