Monday, September 2, 2013

Freezer Cooking with Friends

I love to cook, but find weeknight cooking tedious.  Having to come up with what we are going to eat after a long day is annoying.  I like having time to cook and being creative with it.  After realizing this about myself I experimented with once a week cooking using Rachel Ray's recipes and it was awesome, but time consuming.  I lost a whole day 4x a month and just didn't have the time to do it that often.  Then I found Once a Month Mom's website that had monthly menu options depending on your diet needs and I knew that I had to try it.  We are trying to follow a whole foods diet and that was one of the options, so it was perfect!  The first time I did it I did 4 of the dinners and it was awesome.  Then I did it again with my sisters and it went well.  This last cooking day I did it with 2 friends, 6 meals, 8 hrs, and $110 investment for each of us.  Here are the tips that I have for freezer cooking with friends:

1.  Meet together ahead of time to pick the menu, come up with the grocery list, split the list, and choose your date/time frame. Customize the menus to your diet needs.  We didn't like mushrooms, so we omitted them from one recipe.  Another recipe called for Orzo, but we decided to use a low carb spaghetti instead. The stuffed zucchini recipe called for no meat, we added some.

2.  Split up the grocery list by stores/friends.  One of us went to Costco and bought the bulk items, one went to the grocery store, and the third has a young baby and got to sit out the shopping :)  Plan on having ziploc bags and aluminum pans.

3.  Chop everything FIRST! This will save you time and help keep things clean and organized.
48 cups of chopped tomatoes were needed for our day. 

Your food processor is your friend, use it!
All of our ingredients chopped
4.  Finish one recipe before you start another.  With three or more people in the kitchen things can keep crazy and you might try and get ahead by having one person work on one recipe while another does a different one, but I promise things will get left out or missed.  It is much better to focus on one at a time.

5.  Label every dish with not only the name, but cooking directions too.

6.  Pick simple recipes that have a limited number of ingredients.

7.  Have each person bring a cooler to store their food in until they head home.  We were lucking enough that the house we cooked at had an extra freezer and we were able to put our dinners in the freezer and then take them home.

8.  Use some convenience items.  We used prechopped garlic because we needed such a HUGE amount.  If you aren't a fan of prechopped then buy the cloves already peeled and chop them in the food processor.

This one day will be tough.  Your back will hurt and you will exhausted.  However, the laughter and memories made are totally worth it.  Not to mention knowing that after a tough day all you have to do is come home and put something in the oven is totally worth all of the effort.


Cheesy Artichoke Chicken
Shrimp and Feta Bake
Asian Meatballs
Peachy BBQ Pork
Stuffed Zucchini
Citrus grilled chicken

Click on each of these recipes to see the complete ingredients/directions.

If you decided to do a freezer cooking with friends day, please come back and let me know how it went!

Asian Meatballs

This was one of the recipes that I was MOST excited about, but it ended up being a little lackluster and needed some oomph.  The original is here and my spins are down below.  I chose to serve mine with sautéed peppers and onions, but you could use any veggies.  The final product was delicious and I can't wait to have them again.

Ingredients: (makes 2 freezer meals of 4 servings each)

  • 0.5 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2.5 pounds extra lean ground beef
  • 2 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 0.50 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 6 medium green onions, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. red chile flake 
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 8Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 4 Tablespoons water
  • 1 cup medium green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsps. grated ginger 
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed


Preheat oven to 500. Mix together all ingredients listed for meatballs in a large bowl. Mix well with hands until combined. Shape 1/4 cup meat mixture into balls.  Place rolled meatballs in baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix all sauce ingredients in small bowl.  Serve meatballs with sauce for dipping.

Freezing Directions:

Prepare meatballs as directed above, but do not bake. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Flash freeze. Once frozen, place in gallon freezer bag. Place sauce in pint freezer bag. Label and freeze. TO SERVE: Thaw. Preheat oven to 500. Place meatballs in baking dish. Bake 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté two cups of mixed peppers and one large onion in a large frying pan.  Once soft, add the sauce.  Remove the meatballs from the oven and toss in the sauce and veggies.  Serve over rice. 

Low Carb Shrimp with Feta Pasta Bake

I love Mediterranean flavors because they are usually light and delicious.  This recipe definitely falls into both categories.  The original recipe can be found here and uses orzo.  I am trying to do the lower-carb thing so we decided to use broken Dreamfield's spaghetti instead.  You can find this pasta at Winco, Ralphs, and Von's grocery stores.  I have also ordered it on! We did switch up the recipe a little because our cooking group likes a little spice and we had extra basil.

Assembled and ready to go into the freezer.


  • 2 cup cooked pasta 
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, chopped
  • 12 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 cups tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 2 Tbsp chopped green onion
  • 1.5 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 8 ounces feta cheese
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice


Cook the pastaaccording to the directions on the package.  Drain.  Heat olive oil in a large pan.  Cook onion for 5 minutes.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook 30 seconds.  Add wine, tomatoes, chives and oregano.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer, cooking for five minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.   Combine shrimp, cooked orzo and tomato mixture.  Divide among baking dishes.  Sprinkle feta and lemon juice over top.  Proceed to freezing directions or bake immediately at 425 for 15-20 minutes until shrimp are thoroughly cooked.   

Freezing Directions:

Prepare baking dishes as listed above and freeze.  To serve, thaw and bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes until shrimp are thoroughly cooked.

Cheesy Artichoke Chicken

This is probably my favorite recipe from our Freezer Cooking with Friends menu.  It was DELICIOUS.  The original recipe can be found here.  My friend Heather cooked her's first so she gave us the tip that it needed to be served with pasta to catch the yummy sauce.  I used a low-carb spaghetti from Dreamfields that I tossed with butter, parmesan, and parsley.  I am still thinking about this and know that I will have to make it soon!  Word of caution, the freezer recipe has you put the cheese topping in a bag and then freeze it on top of the casserole.  Make sure you remove the baggy of cheese before you put the casserole in the oven.  This was learned the hard way by one of our group ;)

Ingredients: (makes 2 freezer meals, of 4 portions each)

  • 8 cups diced roma tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 30 ounces artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 4 cups chopped baby spinach
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Serving day:  Cooked pasta of your choice 


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, artichoke, basil, spinach, olive oil, flour, salt, and pepper to taste. Divide mixture evenly among 8 x 8 baking pan or pour all into one 13 x 9 pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste and Italian seasoning. Place on top of vegetable mixture. (If freezing, proceed to freezing directions at this point.) Bake chicken and vegetables at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until almost done. Top with cheese and place under the broiler for 1-3 minutes (watch closely) until cheese and veggies are just browned. Remove and sprinkle hot dish with fresh basil. Serve alone or over pasta if desired.

Freezer Directions 

Layer vegetables in the bottom of an 8x8 pan.  Top with chicken, sprinkled with seasonings.  Place parchment paper over the top.  Mix cheeses and put into a quart sized ziploc bag.  Place ziploc bag on top of the parchment, cover with foil and freeze.