By Leanne Ely, C.N.C
A few years ago (quite a few years ago, actually), a new cooking trend was born – Once A Month Cooking – OAMC for short. The whole idea was to spend a day cooking, freeze what you make, they reheat it as needed; sort of DIY Stouffers concept.
Great idea, soggy delivery. The proponents of this type of cooking said it only took a day to make a month’s worth of meals and you had “great” dinners that you could reheat anytime. The problem was that most of these dinners took on the watery characteristics of reheated casseroles and the flavor of the food was as lukewarm as their presentation. The other issue is time – a whole day for heaven’s sake! Who can literally take a day off from life to do this?
In the early 2000’s, a new version of OAMC was born and the result was dinner assembly franchises popping up like ground hogs in the spring. Everywhere you turned in suburbia you could find several types of these storefronts.
The idea of these places goes like this: come into their store, spend two hours or so assembling 12 to 15 meals from their already chopped veggies and pre-prepared ingredients, so all you have to do is put them together raw, label and freeze for cooking at a later day, thus removing the OAMC twice-baked casserole deal. The problem is it doesn’t come cheap.
So what’s a time stretched harried homemaker to do? Do it yourself, of course! There is a way to do this. Here’s how:
Find meals that can be assembled in their raw state, defrosted successfully, then cooked freshly. A good example of this is meatloaf. All you have to do is make your meatloaf mixture, shape it, then put it in a freezer zipper bag, mark the bag and date it, then on the day you want to use it, defrost it and bake it. You will never know that your meatloaf was previously frozen!
Here is a freezer meal recipe for you to try!
In a 1 gallon plastic freezer bag, mix and blend well together:
Mega Marvelous Meatloaf
2/3 cup dried stuffing mix
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 1/3 teaspoons garlic powder
2/3 teaspoon thyme
1/3 cup ketchup
2/3 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste
Seal the bag and blend the mixture together by squeezing and kneading the bag. Unseal the bag, starting at the bottom of the bag, roll the mixture to force out any air then seal the bag again. Insert this bag into a gallon sized plastic freezer bag and place a copy of the recipe into the 2nd bag as well and seal it. Place your label on the bag or write the name and date on the bag and place in the freezer.
When you want to have this meatloaf for dinner, thaw in the fridge overnight and then:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place meatloaf in a loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour or until done.
Per serving: 390 Calories; 24g Fat; 26g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 133mg Cholesterol; 578mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain (Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 3 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates. Points: 10
SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve with mashed potatoes, steamed green beans and crusty whole wheat rolls
Note: To save storage space in your freezer, place blended ingredients into a plastic storage bag and roll it up to force out any air, then seal and place in freezer.
Secrets to Preparing Delicious Freezer Meals
What You Need to Know About Cottonseed Oil
By Leanne Ely, CNC
One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to food is when manufacturers don’t give you the whole scoop on a product they’re trying pawn off as food. Don’t lie to me and tell me it’s good for me when it isn’t, right? One of the worst offenders of this practice is cottonseed oil. The cottonseed oil industry has spent a lot of money convincing the public that their product is healthy.
The truth is since our cotton crop is not grown with the food industry in mind, it often has a higher than normal levels of pesticide residue. Add to that, that it is genetically modified and you’ve got the potential for some problems. For example, some of these modifications cause the cotton to produce very toxic protein. And even worse, we don’t have the information about these proteins to be able to discern their potential danger.
Cottonseed oil is in a lot of processed and packaged foods available for purchase at the supermarket. Reading labels can help you avoid it, but with it being so widespread, the most you can hope for is minimizing your exposure when buying packaged foods. This is just another reason I write this stuff–to persuade you to skip the junk and prepare fresh healthy meals for your family.
With good old-fashioned meal planning, you will naturally have the food you need at home to make your family meals that feed their soul and nourish their bodies. If you start freezer cooking, schedule planned shopping trips with your Menu-Mailer, and read labels religiously, you can avoid 99 percent of the toxins in the food supply. Now that IS good news!
Thanksgiving Freezing Tips
by Leanne Ely, C.N.C.
Here is a question I received that I believed warranted answering for everyone–
Hi- I LOVE “Saving Dinner”! My husband loves the food even more 🙂 Here is my question: how feasible is it to freeze any Thanksgiving side-dishes in advance (ie cranberry sauce, casseroles, even stuffing)? Thanks! I am busy with a new baby AND hosting this year!
From, Flybaby Barbara
Great question. You know how I’m all about doing things ahead for the holidays. And I’m all about the freezer, too. Can these two things be compatible and make for an even easier holiday? The answer is… yes and no. Some things just need to be done freshly and some things freeze beautifully, so let’s take these things one by one:
1—The Turkey. Yeah, it freezes, but the quality will not be the same. This is one place where I will say make it fresh the day of. I make it the easy, juiciest most delicious way if I do say so myself. And the best part? You don’t stuff it and you don’t baste it. If you need the recipe (and you do!) go to savingdinner.com for the Thanksgiving Menu-Mailer—it’s totally FREE, with recipes, grocery lists, timelines and even decorating hints for your table.
2—Cranberry sauce. Go ahead, knock yourself out! Again, I have a great recipe for it and it freezes beautifully. For the record, I’ve bought bags of fresh cranberries and frozen them in the bag I bought them in, used them about six months later and they were great too. Or you could save yourself some trouble and buy the canned variety.
3—Stuffing. I can tell you from personal experience that stuffing freezes fairly well. It can dry out a bit, but if you’ll thaw it overnight in the fridge, then drizzle a little melted butter and broth over the top, cover it with foil and heat thoroughly through, it will work fine and no one will be the wiser.
4—Gravy. Good gravy, yes! Gravy is a wonderful thing to behold and it freezes fabulously. Here’s a secret for you that I have in the Thanksgiving Menu-Mailer—extend your homemade gravy with some storebought stuff. Oh yeah, that’s the best cheating secret out there. No one will know (your secret is safe with me!) and you too, will own the Endless Gravy Boat. This is important stuff when you’re worried that your father-in-law is going to hog all the gravy!
5—Pies. You can freeze your pies—or you can buy them frozen, LOL. This is one place where I would either have people bring them or buy frozen myself. Having had a Thanksgiving baby myself (my son was born November 21st, 16 years ago!), I remember doing Thanksgiving and having my mom bring the pies.
6—Mashed potatoes. In my book, they are a non-freezable item—quality and texture suffer big time. I would make these fresh in the morning and put them in my crockpot on low all day. BUT, and this is the big BUT; TEST YOUR CROCKPOT FIRST with a pot full of taters (you can make cream of potato soup out of them later) to make SURE your crockpot won’t burn them. All crockpots are not created equal and it’s through trial and error that we learn our own crockpotty appliance’s nuances.
7—Veggies. You can freeze sweet potato casseroles and green bean casseroles too. Those are not my particular favorite Thanksgiving veggies, but if they are mainstays at your table, rest assured, they freeze fairly well. May get a little watery on top, but easily blot-able with a paper towel and a little finesse.
8—Rolls and Butter. By all means, freeze the both of them. They freeze well, thaw well and quality does not suffer.
That about covers it. Hope it helps and Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!
PS: Want to WATCH me make Thanksgiving dinner? Check out www.savingdinner.tv or buy the DVD! And don’t forget we have a Thanksgiving for the Freezer menu also!!