Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What Works For Me: "Two-fer" freezer meals

A Home-making post? On a blog that claims to be about housewifery? That even calls itself "Hot Mess HOUSEWIFE"?!? Blasphemy!

I'm just as shocked as you are.

I will never claim to be a master chef, 'cuz I'm NOT. I can cook, though. The Hubs even admits that one of the things that "sealed the deal" for him was that I can cook as well as, if not occasionally better than, his mom. And she has some tasty dishes in her arsenal. (My MIL even claims that I roasted the best turkey she's ever tasted! THAT was a huge compliment.) I'm not quite at the point where I can make my own recipes, but I alter a lot of them to my own needs, and generally improve them. I think I'm getting to the point where I should just stop being a big weenie and give it a shot.

But that's not the point of this post. The point of this is to "pass it on", in the sense that I love reading "housewifery" blogs because they are full of great tips and recipes. I hoard recipes - if they did an "internet Hoarders" special, I'd probably get an intervention and take up most of the hour. But yeah, so I figure I should share what strategies work for me - like I do with recipes, I've mixed and molded ideas to figure out what works for me. I've gotten my rhythm in some areas, but I'm still playing around in others.

One area I've found my rhythm is the feeding of our tiny family, for the most part. Yes, there was a 2-week gap between meal plans recently, if you noticed my meal plan side-bar not changing... it's been crazy around here, schedule-wise. I'm working as a temp, and my current position requires a nearly 2-hour commute each way. I'm compensated quite nicely for it, but it's EXHAUSTING. The job is off and on - over the summer, it averaged about one week "on" every 3 weeks, but it's picked up lately to where I'm working every week, and almost every other week is a commuting week (the rest of the time is local). So as it started happening more frequently, I started seeking out and cooking more recipes that could freeze well. The Hubs and I would eat one serving, and any leftovers were wrapped up tight and thrown in the freezer.

Now, as long as I remember to take the food out of the freezer the night before, I can come home, microwave the food for 10 minutes, and have a hot home-cooked meal that is instantly comforting. Plus The Hubs is happily fed and we aren't wasting money on fast food.

Some of my favorite meals to cook now and freeze for later:
Enchilada Casserole
Slow-Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken
Chili (I don't have a link for the recipe, it's my friend's recipe)
Taco Soup (I prefer it without the tomatoes, and I add black beans)

Also, I like to freeze the components that mix to make great meals, like my Burrito Bowls (shown below). They are DELICIOUS, and cheaper to make than to buy at Chipotle!

Carnitas Burrito Bowl (like "Chipotle"!)
To cook:
Cilantro-lime rice (recipe)
Black beans (canned or cooked from dried - I'm lazy, I use canned), warmed in their "juice" in a sauce pan.
Carnitas (recipe below)

Layer the rice, beans, and carnitas into a bowl. Add toppings like cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc. Nom the S*** out of it, it's freakin' delicious.

My carnitas recipe (modified from various other recipes) - if you're cooking for a small family, this recipe halves easily and works just as well!
- 4-5 lbs. Pork shoulder or Pork roast (I prefer pork shoulder, but pork roast is less fatty)
- 2 tsps. cumin

- 2 tsps. garlic powder
- 2 tsps.salt
- 3 cups beef broth

Cut your pork into huge chunks (about 2"x2" at the biggest). Mix up all the spices and rub the pork chunks with the spice mixture.

Pour the beef broth into a 4-quart (or bigger!) slow-cooker. Lower the chunks into the broth, cover, and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or on HIGH for 4-5 hours. (I've done high with no problems, but my slow-cooker cooks a little fast.)

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F towards the end of your cooking time. Once the pork chunks are done, take them out of the broth and shred them however you prefer. (I use two forks, old-school.) As meat's shredded, put it back in the broth so it stays juicy. With all your meat shredded, put it in a baking pan, spread out, and spoon some more broth on the meat. The meat should be wet, but it SHOULDN'T be swimming in broth. Place the pan in the oven and let it cook for 15-25 minutes; this crisps the meat up a little and enriches the flavor of the meat. (You can skip this step if you want, but the carnitas taste AMAZING after you bake 'em for a little!)

To Freeze:

- Rice - Let the rice cool to at least lukewarm. I put it in plastic zipper sandwich bags, about 2 cups per bag.
- Beans - again, let cool to lukewarm, and put it in plastic zipper sandwich bags, about 1 cup per bag (or one big bag if you're not doing individual servings), with some of the "bean juice" from the can.

- Carnitas - 3rd verse, same as the first! Let them cool to "warm" temperature, baggie it up - only change is to ADD SOME MORE BROTH. It'll help the carnitas stay juicy when you warm them up later.

To Reheat:
- The night before, put beans and carnitas in fridge. LEAVE THE RICE FROZEN UNTIL ABOUT TO EAT.
- Warm up the rice in the bag for about 30 seconds, just to make it more pliable, then transfer to a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap (making sure it's not touching the food). Nuke 2 more minutes, stirring once. Add defrosted beans, warm covered 1 more minute.
- Warm up carnitas w/ liquid in another bowl for 1-1:30 minutes, covered in plastic wrap. Top rice and beans with carnitas, and add desired toppings like the first time.

TA-DA! Delicious dinner that lasts for two meals!

1 comment:

  1. I've tried a recipe specifically for this purpose, but have yet to eat the frozen part. Maybe once the recipe is posted, you can take a look and see if it's something you'd find in your tastes to add into your rotation. BTW, I'd always admired your Weekly Dinner Plan on the side-bar! So neato!



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