For people who are trying to cut their carbohydrate intake, switch to a low-carb lifestyle, or follow the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) diet (or other lower carb/no sugar diets), cutting out sugar and either completely cutting most grains or greatly reducing them (and eating healthful ones such as brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and oat flour) are mandatory first steps.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed the ease of my shredded chicken method! It is so simple to put chicken in the crock pot overnight or in the morning and come up with a speedy meal when it is done cooking. There are actually times in which I put the chicken in without even knowing for sure what I will do with it the next day since I know I have so many options that I can turn to at the last minute. (Plus, having it cooked forces me to do SOMETHING with it!) If nothing else, I can pour some bottled BBQ sauce over it and have BBQ chicken sandwiches!
Did you try the Arroz Con Pollo? Jonathan and his new bride are here for two weeks on spring break while Jonathan works at the factory and Maelynn does her junior practicum at a local middle school. I will probably be making that Arroz Con Pollo next week for them!
In addition to the BBQ chicken mentioned above, when all else fails, I know I can pull out some chicken broth, enrich it with chicken base (always!), boil some packaged noodles in the broth, and come up with a pot of chicken noodle soup in no time flat. Here is how I do that quickly.
I have been working on recipes for my newlyweds–Jonathan and Maelynn (son and daughter-in-law married in August 2014) and Will and Kara (daughter and son-in-law married in January 2015). I like to categorize my recipes just like I have done with all of my mega-cooking/freezer cooking recipes for the past twenty-five years…according to type of meat/main ingredients. For freezer cooking, this is ideal because I can cook up twenty, thirty, or forty pounds of that type of meat and put a lot of entrees together quickly.
My pasta, lasagna, wrap problems have been solved! DJ Foodie from Low Carb and Loving It recommended using crepes for lasagna and wrap substitutes, and I took his advice–now I always have a container full of savory and a container full of sweet crepes in my freezer, ready to make wraps, lasagna, noodle soup, noodles with sauce (red or white), tuna noodle casserole….you name it, I can make it–VERY LOW CARB!
When I first started using this method, I cooked two days one week (a day of preps then the next day cooking/freezing) and began using those meals immediately (about four per week). Then before those were gone, I did another cooking day and filled another freezer for the next month, etc. This book is a terrific resource for learning what freezes well and getting recipe ideas, as well as just getting an overview of freezer cooking in general.
Obviously, to do “once a month” cooking in a day (by yourself or with a partner or kids), you don’t have to follow this book. After a while of using this book, I moved on to my own style of “once a month cooking” in which I would do mostly one certain type of food (i.e. crumbled ground beef one month; shredded chicken the next). The problem with this is that if you are relying too much on your freezer meals, you end up eating the same type of meats that whole month. (See my solution below in my “six month cooking week.)
4. “Cycle cooking”–or “six month cooking week.”
The aforementioned “one type of meat per cooking day” led me to what I did for many years–a method that is not for the faint of heart! In this method, I divided my recipes into six “cycles”:
a. Shaped beef and other beef (meatloaves, meatballs, tuna balls, salmon loaves, swiss steak, Florida steak, braised beef cube mix/stroganoff)
b. Crumbled beef (spaghetti pie, sloppy joes, lasagna, taco meat, taco pie, hamburger stew, chili soup starter, etc.)
c. Shredded chicken (chicken rice soup starter, bbq shredded chicken, chicken tetrazinni, chicken spaghetti, chicken lasagna, hot chicken sandwich filling, chicken rice casserole, chicken enchiladas, etc.)
d. Chicken breasts (parmesan chicken breasts, grilled/marinated chicken breasts, chicken parmesan, oven fried chicken, chicken fajita meat, Oriental chicken, chicken cordon bleu, Monterey chicken breasts, bbq chicken breasts)
e. Sides (potato casserole, rice casserole, fried rice starter, mashed potatoes, broccoli and rice, four bean bake, green bean casserole, cauliflower au gratin)
f. Desserts (cookie dough, unbaked cakes, pies, quick breads, etc.)
In the “six month cooking week,” I started the process by shopping on Friday, preparing my bags and containers and labels on Saturday, and starting the cooking on Monday. I did about thirty entrees each day–one day shaped beef, one day crumbled beef, etc. I would fill one freezer with six months worth of freezer meals by the end of the week. It was exhausting (and at times overwhelming), but it was amazing to have that freezer full of meals.
Once that freezer was full, I just did regular freezer cooking one day a month–but I did a different cycle each time–and began filling up my other freezer. By the end of the six months, the first freezer full of meals was empty and the next one was full. It was my favorite system ever because it brought together the efficiency of freezer cooking with my super efficiency of cycle cooking–doing one type of meat at a time. (This system actually trained me to do the “ten pounds of meat a week” method I now use. Doing all of the same type of meat at one time is super efficient!)
5. “Power Hour” cooking
When I can’t have my three hour “Kitchen Session” as described above, I often opt for the “power hour” freezer cooking. In this method, my son and I (or my husband at times) go into the kitchen for one hour and do as much as we can possibly do–of all the same things. In this regard, we might make six lasagnas or ten bags of sloppy joes or ten bags of taco meat or eight bags of chicken rice soup starter. This method only works if you do it often though–otherwise, you end up eating the same thing over and over!
So what kind of freezer cook do you want to be? What would best meet your family’s needs? How do you cook–big or small? What feels right for you?
In starting out with freezer cooking, you can do whatever works for you! And you will bless your family and make your days run more smoothly in the process.
|Image from sonomatowns|
As we head into fall, I am saddened that I won’t be able to just walk out the back door and get Ray Baby’s veggies everyday! I am still heading out there often and getting a tomato here and a green pepper there–I haven’t given up completely. However, very soon that obscure tomato or tiny pepper will not even be there to pick. Sadness…
On the other hand, it is time to turn my attention to buying (and even harvesting in my “fall garden”) and preparing fall vegetables.
Here is a list of what I will be looking for to use in cooking low carb this fall:
1. Beets—very low carb, deep purple means very nutritious
2. Broccoli–very low carb and my sons like this veggie steamed with cheese, so that is a win-win
3. Cauliflower–low carb–plus I will use it for cauliflower pizza crust and cauliflower rice–and I will stir fry it along with broccoli and zucchini for oriental dishes as well as just for sides
4. Eggplant–I have never cooked with eggplant, but it is relatively low carb, deep purple for all of that nutrition–and I have some recipes pinned to try it out!
5. Garlic–I didn’t even know this was a fall vegetable, and I definitely use it year round. I know everybody loves fresh everything, but I couldn’t live without my jar of minced garlic in oil that I can dip into and get those aromatics going (along with onions and peppers) as the beginning of tons and tons of low carb veggies and stir fries.
6. Green beans–I have my fifteen year old watching his favorite show on Netflix this afternoon and snapping tons of green beans! I can use them so many way–I love putting them in the crock pot with potatoes and ham or sausage for my kids–then pulling out a heaping serving of just the green beans for Ray Baby!
7. Kale–I have some winter kale seeds that I am planting this weekend! Anxious to see if they really grow in the cold weather that the package says they will grow in. Ray enjoyed the kale chips I made him for a snack a few weeks ago–but kale is pricey, so if I can get this winter kale to grow, I will be excited!
8. Zucchini—I have been harvesting and cooking zucchini all summer! I froze it three weeks: a. shredded for breads, muffins, etc. (anxious to try out my new almond flour and swerve sweetener!); b. cubed with yellow squash for casseroles and stir fries; c. sliced (also bagged with sliced yellow squash part of the time and sometimes by itself) also for stir fries, but Ray Baby likes the sliced zucchini just to steam in a little broth and season it (though he’s not the best seasoner! lol).
I am also looking forward to using three “fall” herbs:
Though my sons would have me using four of them–and they would have to sing it: “Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”–they love to follow me through the kitchen when I am cooking, carrying those four spices in their hands and waving them in my face while singing “Scarborough Fair”! Kids–never a dull moment!
4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz cream cheese
1 jar Kraft Old English cheese spread
1/4 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp onion salt
1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 green pepper chopped finely (or more or less)
a few green onions chopped finely (or more or less)
1. Cream the cream cheese in mixer.
2. Add Old English cheese spread and mix it.
3. Add all seasonings and chopped veggies.
4. Add shredded cheese and mix until shape-able.
5. You can shape now if not too soft or refrigerate and shape later and roll in nuts or bacon bits or ham bits.
People LOVE this cheeseball!
|Many jobs make for fun family cooking: sauce making, chicken cutting, pepper slicing, onion chopping, meat frying…..many hands make the work light!|
It’s last minute seminar preps…so that means it’s family cooking night…whoever is home gathers in the kitchen and slices, dices, and juliennes as fast as we can, so Mom and Dad can get back to work quickly, but everybody gets fed a decent meal.
What does your family like to cook together? I like to cook things with my kids that have a lot of/variety of steps (usually multiple dishes at one time with an Odyssey blaring in the background and three to five conversations all going on at the same time. Big mess….lots of fun and relationship-building! Smile…