Monday, March 31, 2014

Easy Hot & Sour Soup (Vegan, GF)

Vegan Hot & Sour Soup
This is an amazingly delicious, fairly light soup. Simple and satisfying. My little girl just loves it. It is perfect served as an appetizer course, or for a very light meal. You may well want to double it if your family are big soup eaters.

It is both Vegan & Gluten Free, assuming that you use all ingredients (especially Soy Sauce & Bouillon) that fit that description.

This recipe is adapted from one in Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson.

Hot & Sour Soup
Drain, Cube & Saute in a lightly oiled non-stick skillet, then set aside

1# Firm Tofu Cubes*

In a large pot or Dutch Oven,
1 teaspoon oil
2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon ginger powder
add and simmer 5 minutes or so
6 Cups Water
3 large cubes Vegetable Bouillon (I use Knorr brand - where each cube makes 2 cups broth)
2 small cans (8oz total) Mushrooms (your choice of variety) or equivalent fresh
3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
3 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
3/4 teaspoons Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha, or to taste (or your favorite East Asian hot sauce)**
2 Tablespoons Tapioca Starch, dissolved in a little cold water (you can add more for thicker soup)
1 handful Greens (such as Spinach or Bok Choy)
OR a handful of Green Vegetables such as Snow Peas
2 or 3 cans (any size) of the following Asian Vegetables, according to what you have or prefer:
Baby Corn
Sliced Water Chestnuts
Sliced Bamboo Shoots
Tofu Cubes (from above)
Pepper to taste
Add at end of cooking
1 1/2 Tablespoons Dark Sesame Oil


*Silken tofu that is cubed and not sauteed is traditional here. I like a little more substantial texture, so I use "Chinese style"(firm, non-silken) tofu, and saute it first

**I keep Sriracha to a minimum in cooking, then serve more as a condiment at table, so that my little girl doesn't find it too hot.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Ten MYO Vegan Seasonings, Spices & Sauces

It's so easy to make your own seasonings!
Most of us like the convenience of having a ready-made salad dressing, spice mix, or sauce on hand.

Manufacturers know that - and make a lot of money off of it!

But, maybe you need to control a certain allergen. Maybe you want to eat all organic, and find that you have trouble finding these things in organic forms. Maybe you're frugal and don't want to waste money. May you'd LIKE to waste money- but just can't right now. Maybe you'd rather have the freedom of not running to the store so often. Or, maybe you're a strict Vegan, and want to be sure that you're avoiding all animal products. 

Whatever the reason, it's easy to whip up your own sauces & seasonings. And, spending a wee bit of time making these things when it is convenient for you can save you a lot of time, health & money in the long run.

Many of these recipes - Worcestershire Sauce, Taco Seasoning, and Curry Powder - you probably already have favorite uses for.

Others are more specialized.

Here are ten of my favorites - and how to use each one:

Curry Powder, No Heat
       Curried Chickpeas over Rice

Sausage Seasoning Mix
        Vegan Sausage Patties

Taco or Chili Seasoning
      Black Bean Enchiladas
       Chili Cornbread Casserole
       Chili-Topped Potatoes
       Fill Your Own Tortilla Night

Simply Greek Dressing (Traditional or Fat Free)

      Black-Eyed Pea Salad
      Fruited Black-Eyed Pea Salad
      Mediterranean Green Bean & Potato Salad
      Mushroom Kabobs, Grilled ( Manitarakia )
      White Bean Salad

Slaw Dressing
      Better than Coleslaw
      Carrot Raisin Salad without Mayonnaise
      Dinosaur Salad! ( Kale Salad )

Tofu Scramble Pantry Mix

      Breakfast Burritos
      Scrambled Tofu

Vat O' Spaghetti Sauce
     Eggplant Stew
      Pasta & Sauce
      Stuffed Manicotti

Veggies Vinaigrette Dressing
      Green Beans Vinaigrette
      Cauliflower & Broccoli Vinaigrette

Worcestershire Sauce, Vegan
       Tofu Creole

Yachni Sauce - Double Batch
      Bulgur Pilaf ( Pourgouri )
      Greek Bean Soup ( Fasolia Yachni )
      Greek Chickpea Stew ( Revythia )
      Greek Giant Beans ( Gigantes )
      Greek Green Beans ( Fasolakia Yachni )
      Greek Okra & Tomato Stew ( Bamies Yachni )
      Greek Peas & Artichokes Yachni
      Greek Stuffed Veggies ( Gemista )
      Indian Chickpeas in Ginger Sauce over Rice
      Indian Spiced Blackeye Peas over Rice
      Red Lentil Soup - Moroccan or Sephardic Styles
      Stuffed Eggplant
      Tofu Creole

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Monday, March 17, 2014

MYO Wrinkle Remover Spray & Anti Static Spray

Wrinkle Remover Spray with a before & after pair of trousers
When I was young, I spent an entire year ironing for a living. I'm good at ironing, and I really don't mind the physical task of ironing. But, I do see it as one of the most futile parts of housekeeping, and for that reason, I seldom do it. No one really enjoys pointless work.

I recently discovered a way to even further reduce the time I spend ironing.

As you can see in the picture - this really produces amazing results!

But, besides saving time, this method is also better for the environment, for your budget, & can be better for allergies. In addition to removing wrinkles from clothes, you can selectively treat certain garments for static- rather than adding Fabric Softener to every load of laundry. If you have one family member who is allergic, and cannot have fabric softener on the skin - it doesn't have to go on their clothes. Besides which, quite frequently only 1 or 2 items in a load of laundry even need fabric softener!

This is also a great method to reduce your ironing after you hang laundry to dry instead of using the dryer - another environmental bonus!

I found this many years ago in one of the volumes of Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn. 

This is what you do:

MYO Wrinkle Remover & Anti Static Spray

Find a Standard Spray Bottle (1 pint size)
Put in 1 ounce Liquid Fabric Softener (I use a "Free and Clear" Variety)
Fill up to the 20 ounce mark with Water

That's it! : )

When you have a wrinkled garment, hang it on a hanger. Lightly spray it all over (till slightly damp) with the Wrinkle Remover Spray. Stretch and smooth with your hands. Allow to air dry.

Do not use this on polished Silk or other very delicate fabric which might be harmed by water spots.

Additional tip (from a former co-worker) : If you are a lady who still wears nylon stockings (I realize they're out of fashion with some), and find that your skirt gets static-y - carry a tube of hand lotion in your purse. When you have a static attack away from home, smooth a little lotion  on the outside of your stockings, and the problem will disappear! 

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Monday, March 10, 2014

My Amazing Mother's Kid Tips

Mom with Me - about 10 weeks before being Widowed

Three years ago this week, my Mother entered Heaven. I miss her, but mostly I am filled with joy when I think of her.

My Mother was nothing short of amazing! In the course of her life she raised 8 kids -4 Boys, 4 Girls - some Adopted, some Foster, some Birth, some Grandkids. Sure, lots of people have done that! (including many bloggers I read). But, Mom was different. She was different from most other Moms of large families because she was suddenly widowed in her prime - when she had several young children at home (including a newborn, me). She also had profound health problems. But, she managed, with God's help, to raise a bunch of us!

She was a living testimony to 2 Corinthians 12:9: God's strength IS made perfect in weakness!

Mom never kept a house that looked like a set on Martha Stewart, but she DID get the important things done.

Mom would have told you that her biggest priority was teaching her Children to be good Christians, and she spent countless hours obeying Deuteronomy 6:6-7, which she quoted frequently enough:

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

As a devout Presbyterian, she also loved to quote the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
I doubt a day passed that she didn't read us some great passage she had found - frequently from the Bible, or a Christian reading of some kind. And, she sprinkled all her conversation with Spiritual insights. In addition to that, she was always willing to help others in need. She frequently would treat someone else to a dinner out (I suspect that often the "poor" she helped were better off than we were!), collected money for the disabled, or assisted someone in some way they needed.

It was before the days of homeschooling, but Mom had been a professional teacher, and many, many times took it upon herself to educate us in some way the schools did not. Truancy laws weren't as strict back then, and I remember her taking her kids from classes frequently to do things like: watching a court trial, helping a sick relative, hearing a presidential candidate's speech, or watching the elephants put up the tents when the circus came to town! 

Needless to say, this post doesn't cover all of Mom's amazing-ness, but a few of the many memories that come to mind are here. 

She also had a few everyday methods that made it possible to run a household without a spouse there to help:

Asking for help from the kids   

When Mom was first widowed, she called my older sisters together and asked them for their help in raising me. I was a newborn at that time. They all did - and did to a remarkable extent. I've always said that if there were two pieces of cake, any of my sisters would have given me the bigger piece! THANKS, SISTERS! : )

She trained us to help with many practical things that had to be done: laundry, vacuuming, food prep work, installing sump pumps, inflating tires on the car, scraping frost in winter, bringing in wood for the fire, taking out the trash, etc. Not only did that help her - it helped US! 

Packing for trips   

Mom very seldom planned a trip, she often spontaneously went on the same day she decided to go! Most of our trips were to visit our Grandparents, who lived a few hours away (and in times of illness sometimes needed us to get there quickly), but some of our trips were more exotic. This is how Mom did it: She gave each of us a carry-on sized suitcase, and told us to open it on our beds. Then, she would go open her suitcase on her bed. Her policy was that four outfits should go on a trip - period. No matter where we were going, or for how long - it was four outfits! One Church outfit, three everyday outfits. She told us to pack our clothes whether they were dirty or clean (with a preference for clean, of course!) - and if needed we'd do laundry at our destination. Then, as she packed her suitcase, she would call out to us to put the same items in our suitcases. "Everyone, put three everyday shirts in your suitcases!" "Put in one Church shirt" "Put in your Church shoes!" "Okay, now pack your toothbrush!" and so on. When everyone was done, she'd do a walk around and inspect, then we'd zip up and go! Not only did she save herself a lot of work that way, but she also apprenticed us to be good grown-ups. 

Color coding

Mom color-coded some of the things in our house. In the kitchen and in the bathroom, there was a row of drinking glasses, and we each had our own color. Any time we wanted a glass of water, we could help ourselves, then return the glass to its spot in the row. She also color coded things like photo albums - we each had our own. She didn't color-code towels, as she felt that was less efficient. In every color-coded system, we always had the same color. I was purple. 

The Dot System

I've heard two ideas for laundry identification repeatedly: 1) Write the size inside the item - which is fine as long as you have the constantly changing chart of everyone's sizes memorized. and 2) Write the name of the owner in the item - which is fine till you have a hand-me-down. What do you do then, cross out one name, and write in another? Then, the third time the same thing is passed down, what do you do? Mom's system was much better. She used a system of dots written on with a laundry marker pen. Each family member was assigned a number in order of age - oldest to youngest. Mom was 1, Oldest child was 2, Second child was 3, etc. Then, you could expect to find a configuration of dots inside each clothing item, by the tag (or on the sole of socks). As the item was passed down each time, one more dot was added. I was 6 - my configuration of dots looked like the "6" on dominoes :::

The Towel System

Mom didn't color-code our towels, instead, she installed enough towel bars that we each had an official, labeled spot for our towel. She also installed bedroom towel rods, so that we could wrap up in our bath towel and walk to our room to dress, hanging our towel in our room. (We had one bathroom for a moderately large family - dressing in the bathroom was not practical. Also, for many years we were an all-girl household, so modesty inside the house was less of an issue than it might have otherwise been) 

The Voting System

Mom cared about our opinions! She let each one of us vote, and have our say frequently on things like what restaurant to go to when we went out, or what T.V. show to watch (we had to agree on 2 hours total screen time per week when I was little!) But, she always had the majority vote (rather like a majority stock holder in a corporation). We could all vote first - we each got one vote - and she'd see what our preference was - then she'd cast her VOTES - all of them - and determine the outcome. That way, she knew what we felt and took it into consideration - but she wasn't ruled by it.

Hairbrushing Chain  

When you're raising 4 little girls - that's a lot of hair to get done to leave the house! Mom would put us in a line, oldest to youngest, and have us each do the hair of the person in front of us. In the time she could do my oldest sister's hair, we were all done. She said she had read the trick in a book somewhere : ) (I don't think this works with teen girls, only younger ones)

She DIDN'T "Choose her Battles" 

Mom believed that the parents should lead the family. If she said it, it was law. She thought that anarchy was a dangerous slippery slope with children - and that failing to enforce her own rules would weaken her authority, making it even more difficult to manage children by herself. There was never a "Well, it's not important if you're disobedient, as long as the rule I made isn't that important to me." (how does a kid figure that out - except by breaking all the rules?) Obedience was important, and not negotiable. But, she was also amazingly permissive about some things - she often quoted a friend who said, "You should always say "yes" to your children unless there's some good reason to say no." So, our freedom came in not having as many frivolous rules to obey, rather than in being allowed to disobey on "small battles."

The Lord's Day

My Grandparents had always strictly observed the Lord's Day. Not only did they not work on that day, but they would not engage in business that required others to work (except for acts of necessity or mercy). They did not go to restaurants, listen to the radio, shop, or get the newspaper on the Lord's Day. Mom was not as strict as her parents had been, but she still rested and insisted that we all rest on Sunday. After Church and lunch, we all lay down on Sunday afternoons to rest. Mom slept, and those of us who could sleep would also nap. If we were unable to sleep, we were to stay in our beds doing some sort of Christian reading. During the rest of the day, we were forbidden to use the day inappropriately. That meant no homework on Sunday evenings! We had to learn to plan our work do be done during the week, and not procrastinate till Sunday night. No sports in any organization that played or practiced on Sunday. No playing outdoors or doing yardwork on Sundays, either. I really think that this weekly habit of rest, in obedience to the 4th Commandment, is what saved my Mother's health & sanity when she had such a huge burden on her shoulders - and it was tremendously beneficial for us kids, too. When you have to "do it all yourself" it is SO easy to think that you have to work 24/7. But, she believed that Scriptures mandated rest as an act of Faith - that God WOULD help us if we didn't insist on being the powerful one and acting as if the world was on our shoulders. She rested in her demonstration of her dependence upon God.

May Her Memory Be Eternal!


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Monday, March 3, 2014

How to Design Your Own Freezer Cooking Plan

Custom Freezer Meals - made by you - ready to go!
It was many years ago when I was a pretty new cook that I first heard about the convenience of freezer cooking and making your own mixes. I was first inspired by the Make-A-Mix Cookbook, and later books like Once A Month Cooking. I loved their ideas, and used them to cook for family. But, those books were based on the Standard American Diet, and when I went Vegetarian and later Vegan, they could only provide me with inspiration, not with actual cooking plans & recipes that matched the way I ate. 

Over the years, I did research, looking for plans that fit my diet & lifestyle, but there just weren't any that were right for me. Some were Omnivore inspired recipes - you know, take 2 pounds of fake hamburger and top it with fake cheese and make a cheeseburger casserole.


Or, Vegetarian meals that were all cheese-and-egg based, and not very healthy. Or, things that for other reasons just didn't appeal to me.

Eventually, I decided that if I wanted something done, I better do it myself. So, I started writing my own plans.

Which brings us to a recent evening, when we decided what would be on the menu for a weekend with company, and I walked out to the kitchen and prepared 5 freezer meals from things on hand - without giving it much thought. That way, I could relax and enjoy our company without having to stress over meal preparation : )

Over the years, I've learned to create freezer plans on my own that work for me - and really - it's pretty easy once you know the ropes!

Maybe you're Vegan like me, or maybe you have to cook for an allergy or food sensitivity. Or, maybe you have a picky eater to cook for who doesn't like the other recipes you've found. Perhaps you keep Kosher or follow some other Religious diet. Whatever the reason - if the plans out there don't work for you - you can make your own!

Here's what I do when I create a plan - it's ready to customize to your family's own favorite recipes, or to your own way of eating.

If you keep a record of what you do once, such as a list of recipes & shopping list & order of preparation, you can use the same plan over & over (it will get easier & more efficient each time you use it)

If you're fairly new to this, I provide beginner tips throughout this post - check them out : )

If you're fond of technology, you can do all the "beginner" prep work on your computer screen - I do. If you prefer a more artistic traditional method, you can make a binder with page protectors & make it pretty - you can even print custom labels for your freezer & pantry dishes if you're so minded : )

Select the Recipes YOU like to use!

1. Recipe Selection: The recipes that work well for a freezer cooking plan are recipes that your family loves, that are fairly quick to cook, and that freeze well and reheat well. Generally recipes with white potatoes don't work well (they tend to turn black in the freezer and get a watery texture). Similarly, for Omnivores, gravies, white sauces & boiled eggs can be problematic in the freezer.

A huge number of recipes involve Sauteing one ingredient, then adding additional ingredients and simmering. Overlapping the simmering time of several recipes makes your time in the kitchen much more efficient.

If at all possible, it often helps to "theme" your recipes. Choosing recipes that share a similarity - such as a central ingredient or a common ethnic origin greatly increases the number of steps that can be streamlined. For instance, you might have several Mexican recipes that all use Refried Beans and Rice- making a big batch of Refried Beans and a huge pot of Rice for all of them would be an easy step. Or, maybe you have several Italian Recipes that all use a basic Spaghetti Sauce - a huge batch of sauce can go into all of them. Omnivores have traditionally used a single meat to theme their meals around - if like me, you don't eat meat, you can theme around another ingredient, such as chickpeas, or seasoning.

Think about when & how you will be serving these meals. Perhaps you'd be happy to make several Indian meals, and have Indian every Wednesday. Or, perhaps you'd prefer to cook one straight week, with a variety -so that you can have a certain week (finals week, Church conference week, or tournament week) with no cooking at all.

If you're a beginner, I would encourage you to print out your selected recipes & lay them all out on a table for your first planning session, or perhaps put them in plastic sheet protectors in a binder. Beginners should probably do three to five recipes in their first session. (I can do more, but I find my comfort zone without being stressed and without having a huge block of time is usually three to five, or at most seven.)

Here are my go-to Freezer Recipes

2. Cooking equipment: When you plan your freezer plan, take into consideration what equipment you have. For instance, I have Two Crock Pots, Two Stock Pots, One 10" Saute pan, and One Paella Pan (among other things). So, when I make my plan, I choose Two recipes to fill the Crock Pots, Two recipes to fill the Stock Pots, One or Two recipes for the Saute Pan (sauteing is usually quick) and One recipe to fill the Paella Pan.

Freezer cooking seems much less daunting when you look at it this way: Just fill up each of your cooking vessels & simmer them : )

If I cook each night separately, the lion's share of my time is taken with waiting for dishes to simmer. Simmering several dishes at once is much more efficient.

If you're a beginner, write at the top of each recipe you have chosen what type of vessel it is cooked in, and make sure that the needed vessels match what you have (crock pot, saute pan, etc).

3. Freezer Space & Equipment:  It's a good idea to clean out your freezer the day before you cook and make sure that you have room for the dishes that will fill it. If I make three to five dishes, I really only need to use less than 1/2 my over the fridge freezer for freezer meals - I don't have to have a bare-to-the-walls freezer to start cooking! If you need space, finish the Ice Cream (tough job, but somebody has to do it! ; ) Throw the freezer-burned bread to the birds. Tidy up. Then, choose your containers. A lot of people like to use zippered gallon freezer bags - they cool down quickly, can be frozen flat, and actually can be stored on edge (rather like books on a shelf) after they are frozen. They're VERY economical with space. But, I'm not a very tidy person, and I've had the zipper bags slide out of the freezer onto my toe and break open more times than I can count. SO, my personal favorite is a 10 cup capacity plastic box that is nearly cube-shaped. I got them for $1. each at Deals. They stack well, they don't slide, and my just-over-the-fridge-normal-sized-freezer can hold 14 of them! Which means it is possible for me to prepare two full weeks of family meals, and fit them ALL in my small freezer. (I don't have a chest freezer) Pick what works for you.
This is my favorite Freezer Container. It holds an entire Slow-Cooker
Full of food (10 Cups), yet seems remarkably small. I can pack 14 of these into my small
Above the Fridge Freezer! When it comes time to reheat, the cube of food
is proportioned in such a way that it fits tidily into my Dutch oven.

If you're a beginner, I would encourage you to start with a box of sturdy, zippered gallon freezer bags for your first session. As you find out how well freezer cooking works for you, you can plan equipment upgrades into the budget, rather than having to make a big investment for your first session.

To fill your bags, set them down in a large coffee can or #10 can, and fold the top edge down outside the coffee can for easy filling.

4. Shopping Lists - Look at each of the recipes you will use on cooking day. Make a list of all of the ingredients on all of the recipes. Make at least two lists: perishables & staples - this makes your kitchen inventory more efficient, and it also makes your shopping more efficient. Of course, you can further separate the list into such categories as "Frozen Foods," "Produce," and "Spices," if you like. Look through your kitchen and inventory what you already have in stock, lining through the items you don't need to buy on your list. You will probably want your list to be reusable for future sessions, so either make a copy before your inventory, or slide the list into a plastic sheet protector, and keep it in place with a little tape before you do your inventory. If you're doing this on the computer, copy & paste the whole list, then delete each un-needed ingredient. Or, simply use the old-fashioned pen-and-ink grocery list method.

Be especially aware of larger quantities needed, and make sure you have enough of everything on hand. (Early in my cooking experience, I looked and saw that I "had rice already" when I had only one pound, but needed three pounds!)

If you're a beginner, highlight each ingredient on each recipe that you need to purchase. Cross out anything you already have in stock.

5. Consolidating Steps - This is one place where freezer cooking can really save time (in addition to overlapping simmering times). If you have three recipes that each call for an onion to be chopped & sauteed, plan to chop & saute three onions all at once. If you have three recipes that use Taco Seasoning, make a big batch. If you have three recipes that use cooked beans, cook a big pot instead of three little pots on different days.

Simply waiting for several pots to simmer at once, rather than waiting for each pot to simmer on a different day is a huge time-saver and efficiency booster.

If you're a beginner, make a list on a separate paper of each consolidation you will make (Saute three chopped Onions, Cook 3 pounds of Black Beans, etc)

6. Designing the Order of Cooking.

You will generally want to do things in this order:

If you're a beginner, make a list of every step you will do, and the order you will do the steps in.

Cold/advance preparation - this can be done in advance of your cooking day, or first thing on cooking day (depending on your recipes). This may include things like making a sauce like Spaghetti Sauce, blending a seasoning mix like Taco Seasoning, making a pantry mix such as Cornbread mix that will be used in several recipes, making a bread dough, or cooking beans in a slow cooker to use the next day in recipes.

Chopping/purchasing - Most recipes will call for chopped aromatics (onion, garlic, celery, carrots, peppers) in some combination. If you have a limited budget, or garden your own veggies, start chopping! If you have less time & a wee bit more money, you can often purchase these veggies pre-chopped & frozen in the grocer's freezer section (in winter, this can actually be cheaper than buying fresh and chopping by hand!). I usually buy Frozen Chopped Onions, Jarred Minced Garlic, Frozen Three Pepper & Onion Mix & Frozen Mirepoix Mix (Carrot, Celery & Onion Blend). If you want the best of both worlds, prepare & chop the veggies in your food processor, and keep them in the freezer to use when you need them.

This is a bag of Three Pepper & Onion Mix from the freezer sautéing
No chopping required!

Sauteing - Saute things like onions and/or peppers that you need in more than one recipe (see "Consolidating Steps" above)

Simmering and Baking - start the dishes that take longest first, and the ones that cook most quickly last. This is where you fill up all your pots and get them started. I start one at a time and as it begins heating, I turn to the next one. (A person with a very clear head might be able to put Onions in all the pots that need Onions, then Oregano in all the pots that need Oregano, etc. - but I find that method too confusing, and a good way to end up with a cup of Sugar accidentally added to the Chili. Not to say that has actually happened to me, or anything ; )

Adding Finishing Touches - Many dishes require a finishing touch - some vanilla, lemon juice, spice blend (Tadke for Indian cooking), or wine added near the end of cooking time. Be sure not to forget those touches.

Cooling, Packaging & Freezing - As each dish finishes cooking, you will need to cool it, package it, label it, and store it. This is the place in cooking where it is most crucial take steps to avoid food poisoning. Letting dishes cool at room temperature for too long can keep them at the perfect temperature to grow bacteria & can result in illness. This is not just true for freezer cooking, but all cooking. Dishes should be cooled as rapidly as reasonable if not being served immediately, and packaged for freezing. Some people like to keep a sink of ice water to set pots down in to cool, stirring the dish now and then to cool it to the center. I often stagger containers throughout the freezer & fridge, where lots of cold air can circulate around them. If several hot containers of food are packed closely together in the freezer, it is possible for the outside of the containers to freeze, while the inside stays hot and grows dangerous bacteria in the center. Make sure that air can circulate, and that the dish can quickly cool all the way through.

As you finish each dish, label it with its name & date (you can add reheating instructions, too, if it's not obvious). I use a strip of freezer tape (usually in the canning section at the grocery or hardware store) and a permanent marker (such as "Sharpie" brand).

I let the dishes cool in staggered positions overnight, then the next morning I move things into a neat & tidy position in the freezer.

Beginners will want to write down the order of the above steps and what to do when.

That's it! You've done it! Kick back with a little refreshment of your choice, and prepare to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

(Some people like to go out to dinner on the batch cooking evening to celebrate & relax)

Here are a few other planning tips.

Plan for your Personality Type. If you're a Type-A personality, you might enjoy  Marathon cooking session for Six Months' Meals. For an Omnivore plan of this type, check out MegaCooking by Jill Bond. You may also want to plan when you will eat every meal you prepared, and keep a freezer inventory on the side of your deep-freeze.

A Type-B personality (like me) might want to just informally cook a bunch of stuff while you surf the net. Grab it out of the freezer to eat when you feel like it.

If you're a Type A making your plan, you probably want to make a Month of Meals at a time. To do that, you will need large cooking vessels, and probably a larger freezer than the one I have (some claim to put a month of meals in an over-the-fridge freezer - but I can't do it in mine and still have filling meals). Select 14 Recipes. Double each recipe you make, so that it serves your family twice. Plan a 3 to 4 hour morning session in which 7 family meals are each doubled to make 14 meals total. These Meals will be eaten in Week 1 and Week 3 of a month. Have a one hour lunch break (you will probably need the rest!), then make a different set of 7 doubled meals in the afternoon, for 14 more meals. These Meals will be eaten in Week 2 and Week 4 of your month. At the end of a full day, you'll have 28 family meals, and only repeat a meal every 14 days.

If you're a Type B, you'll probably be more content making 5 to 7 regular meals in your average session.

Some caveats about pre-packaged freezer plans floating around out there:

One ingredient does not a meal make. I was looking over a bulk cooking plan one day, and the expert promised an unbelievably huge number of meals in record time. Turns out a bunch of her "meals" involved shaping ground beef into patties and calling that a meal.Other freezer cooking folk put raw chicken in a bag with Italian salad dressing and call that a "meal." If you see a plan marketed that promises too many meals in too short a time, you can expect some of the "meals" to be of this sort. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Plan variety! A one-person serving does not a meal make. So many current freezer plans say "100 meals in 5 hours" - but they mean 100 servings, not 100 meals for your whole family. And, then, you find out that you're making a 4 recipes that each serve 25, and you're going to be eating the same thing day, after day.

Military dining halls have a million ways to shape meatloaf and re-name it and pretend you're having something different. Meatloaf, Salisbury Steak, Swiss Steak, Meatballs, Swedish Meatballs, Porcupine Meatballs, Polynesian Meatballs are just a few of the different names for re-shaped meatloaf. Don't have a military-style barracks menu for your family -unless you really enjoy that sort of thing! Make sure your month plan has contrasting textures, flavours, colours, spices & ingredients. (Just for the record, when an Omnivore who eats the above "variety" of meat asks if a Vegan diet is repetitive & boring, I never cease to be amazed!)

Reserve Time. I allow about 1/2 hour per recipe. I'm a slow, laid back kind of cook. Some go slower and some go faster. If you're rushed against a deadline, though, you're much less likely to enjoy the cooking process - so give yourself space.

These posts might help
Vertical or Horizontal Meal Planning

For Themed Meal Plans:
Greek for a Week  
Indian for a Week
Make Sauce Tonight, Have Easy Meals for a Week

For Variety Meal Plans:
World Tour One
World Tour Two

Another great Method - compliments of Holly at My Plant Based Family
Once a Week Cooking


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