A couple times a month, sometimes as often as once a week, I make four or five meals at once to feed me throughout the week. Generally I split each meal in half, freezing half of it as a batch and then portioning out the rest as individual portions. (When you spend between 40 and 70 hours a week on campus, you definitely need to plan ahead when it comes to food.)
I’ve had a number of people ask me for certain recipes or tips on how to prepare meals in advance. I finally took the time to sit down and make notes, so here’s the start to Katt’s Favorite Recipes.
- I have found that baking these as muffins can be messy. And my muffin liners never like to come off the muffins – whether I peal them off when they are hot before freezing, or if I peal them off after they are frozen, or if I peal them off after warming them in the microwave. So, to solve this, I recently baked them in a 9×13” pan. Split into nine and then frozen, they are much easier to deal with than muffins. And, nine servings makes them a bit bigger than 12 muffins, which is good for me as I am rushing to dance classes every morning and need a hearty breakfast to keep me going.
Lasagna-style Baked Ziti
- I highly recommend using a 5-qt pot to cook the meat mixture so you can easily mix the spinach and pasta in together.
- I really like using tri-color rotini as the pasta, however whole wheat shells are also delicious.
- Could be made vegetarian by substituting mushrooms for ground beef. I bet morels would be great in this!
- I usually need to add more than 1 cup of broth for the sauce to cover the vegetables and pasta the way I would like it to. (Though to be honest, it’s probably because I up the amount of veggies and never remember to up the liquid in most recipes.)
- This one freezes fine, but the texture of the pasta does change slightly.
I have my Grandmother’s 3-qt Crock-Pot. Serial number 518! These recipes all work in the 3-qt, though it can be a tight fit and the beef stew would definitely be much easier in a 5-qt.
- Holy yum. This is my new favorite soup.
- I recently tried prepping everything, then freezing prior to cooking. I do not recommend this. The texture of the beef changed and I did not care for it.
- Because stew beef tends to be a cheaper cut of meat, I splurge on really good beef for this meal. I am lucky that the Good Food Store only sells good beef, but I spring for the grass-finished beef here.
- This is great with shredded chicken breast.
- Sometimes I make a batch of brown rice as well and serve this on rice. It’s a great way to bulk up the soup, and it stretches the soup out a bit longer.
- Recently I’ve swapped paprika for the cumin. Oh my gosh, it made this soup even more delicious!
- Could be made vegetarian if you don’t add the bacon. But seriously, why would you do that?!
- Definitely use at 12-qt soup pot for this soup!
- I can always taste a difference when I use a lower quality tortellini, especially when I reheat it. Spring for the good stuff!
- Could be made vegetarian
- The first time I made this, I cooked the sausage as written. My preference, however, is to take the sausage out of the casing so it is ground.
- This is another soup where you can taste the quality of the meat. (Have you noticed a theme yet?) I always buy local sausage from the Bitterroot.
- Best made in a 12-qt pot
- Kale does not shrivel the same way spinach does. Shred, or cut, the kale into bite sized pieces.
- I use a 16-qt soup pot for this. It makes a LOT of soup.
- Remember that however large a chicken you buy, you must lift that weight out of your soup pot.
- Again, buy quality meat. I always buy a local Hutterite chicken for this soup.
OTHER TIPS AND TRICKS
- As you may have noticed, I use a lot of recipes from BudgetBytes. Reading her blog has changed the way I think about planning meals. I’ve learned a lot from Beth in the past couple of years.
- This is a really great resource for freezing food.
- It may take you a while to figure out your groove for binge-cooking. My preference is to plan what meals I’m going to make, fill out my grocery list, and go grocery shopping on one day, then spend the next day making all my meals.
- Always start with your counter space free. I have the tiniest kitchen and cannot do anything in it unless all the dishes are clean.
- I freeze ricotta in 1/4 cup servings. Scoop the ricotta onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet, then put in the freezer for several hours until frozen solid. Place in freezer bag, clearly labeled.
- When freezing soup in bags, I double bag. I label the bag the soup is in, then slide it in zipper side first into another freezer bag. When freezing soup in freezer safe plastic, I put a layer of parchment paper on top of the soup to prevent freezer burn.
- I find it very helpful to have a dry-erase board on the freezer door. Every time I put something in the freezer, I write it down. It keeps things from getting lost and I can rotate through various meals more often.