Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cooking Ahead

Our schedule during the "school year" is crazy. We leave home at 6:30am and arrive home between 8:30pm and 9pm. Then the kids have to eat, shower and get ready for bed...and do their chores. Not much time, huh? I could come home and spend an hour or more cooking something from scratch, which puts them in bed at about midnight, or I could do the bulk of my cooking on the weekend, still eat well during the week, and let the kids hit the sack at a more reasonable time. Guess whick I pick?

This week's menu consists of Shepherd's Pie, Chili Baked Potatoes, and Meat filling over rice or pasta.

Here's what I did. And by the way, this took about 2 hours start to finish, and I have five meals in my fridge and freezer.

Ingredients, in no particular order

5 pounds ground meat
3 Vidalia onions
2 cans kernel corn
10 pounds potatoes
1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
1 packet fajita seasoning
1 15 ounce can Ranch-style beans
8 ounces cheddar cheese
2 sticks butter
5 cloves garlic
1/2 cup milk

1. Chop the onions finely, grate cheese. Peel 5 pounds of potatoes, cut in cubes and start cooking them in salted water.

2. While potatoes are cooking, brown the ground beef in a large skillet. Season it up with some salt. Be careful, as too much salt now can make things problematical later.

3. In another skillet, melt 1/2 stick of butter, toss in your onions, and press the garlic thru a garlic press into the pan. Saute until translucent. This just brings out the sweetness in the onions and garlic. Set aside, it will cool on it's own.

4. When beef is free of pink, pull about a pound and put it in a small bowl or pan. To this add fajita seasoning and can of ranch beans. Mix completely. Put in quart sized freezer bag. Label and freeze. One down.

5. When potatoes are fork tender, drain them. Put them back in the pan and dry cook them to make sure all the water cooked off. About 30 seconds or so. Add 1 1/2 sticks of butter. Stir to melt butter into potatoes. What I did was stir it a little, then put the lid back on, and walked away for 7 minutes (set the oven timer). By the time I had recovered a bit, and the timer went off, the butter was all melted. Stir in the butter. Add milk, and grated cheese. Stir until a nice consistency is reached. No mashing required! Cool, huh? I had nice creamy, cheesy potatoes and all I did was stir in all my goodies.

6. To the rest of the ground beef, add the corn, tomato sauce, some salt and stir it all up. I used a slotted spoon out the beef into another deep pan (5 qt or more) and then poured about half the ground beef juices into the now fairly dry beef. Test your seasonings now, as we are putting 3 of these together.

7. In 3 8x8x2 square pans (or whatever you have) put a layer (1/2 way up) of ground beef mixture. Then top with mashed potatoes. Done. 3 more dinners out of the way. Make sure every thing is cool before you put it in the freezer. Cover the casseroles with plastic wrap, label and freeze. (Ok, I put 2 in the fridge. One for tonight, and 1 for tomorrow). WOWEE, now we have 4 dinners done.

8. Put the remaining ground beef in a gallon sized freezer bag, squeeze out the air, label and freeze. Mine was cool enough at this point to freeze.

Eating Day

1. Shepherd's Pie. Thaw in fridge overnight. Put in a 350 degree oven (I never preheat) until potatoes are golden brown on top, and meat part is bubbly. It's a complete meal in one pot.

2. Chili Baked Taters. Thaw in fridge overnight. Scrub and bake enough potatoes for your crew. Warm up beef mixture in a small pan and check your seasonings. Grate a bit of cheese (only you know how much you guys want, for us, about 6 ounces is about right. We love cheese.) When potatoes are done (I use the microwave, it's quick), split them in 1/2 lengthwise and put on serving plates. Split the beef evenly between the potatoes, top with cheese, sour cream if you want and serve.

3. Leftover meat filling and rice or pasta. Thaw in fridge overnight. Kinda depends on what we have available. I actually have both this week, but we'll figure it out later. Make enough rice for your crew, while that's cooling warm up the beef mixture. Serve beef over rice.


Ok, just because I'm eating 3 Shepherd's Pies this week doesn't mean you have to. Properly covered, it will keep in the freezer for a couple of months. You can freeze the meat and potatoes separately, thaw and assemble the day of cooking. You can cook one right away if you want.

I used beef today, because guess what, that's what I have. You can use beef, buffalo (VERY low fat), lamb, pork, venison or any combination of the above. You can't beat a mix of pork, venison and beef....that is just pure yum on a plate.

I adjust my seasonings as I go. I know how my family likes things. You don't have to use salt and pepper, you can use any of the green dried herbs you want in the Shepherd's pie mixture (tarragon, basil, parsley, cilantro, oregano, sage, you get the idea). This dish NEVER tastes the same way twice, especially since I tend to make it with what I have in the house. The ingredients I gave are what I had on hand, except the beef, cheese and potatoes. I had my husband buy that yesterday. I try to maximise the different uses out of the minimum of ingredients. You can make 3 different kinds of shepherd's pies, just by seasoning up enough filing for one at a time. I didn't, but I have in the past. Frozen or fresh veggies (thaw the frozen ones first) work just as well as canned, I just had the canned available.

1. Serve the chili mix over tortillas instead.
2. Use cornbread batter to top one of the shepherd's pies.
3. Use your imagination!

So, enjoy. Sorry I'm a couple of days late, but I hope you think it's worth it! One of these days, I'll actually remember to take pictures.

1 comment:

  1. Well, it looks like yor family and mine eat a bit alike :) I pre-cooked a bunch of burger yesterday, used some today for taco salad, put the extra of that up for use later on in the week for nachos...Anyway, I am always on the look-out for some freezer recipes, and, as I said, I can start doing more of that now :) Before it was mostly pre-cooked burger-which helped but some days, only goes so far!! Thanks!!