Sunday, August 24, 2014

Freezer Cooking 2014: Another Batch of Yum!

Hello Fellow Homesteaders!

I have a confession to make... Can you believe after several days of cooking all this homemade food, we ate fast food for dinner one night?! Well, I am just telling on myself because, sad to say, I still love terrible-for-you-fatty-artificial-nasty fast food burgers and fries and I suspect I'm not the only one with this secret love. Between that and my addiction to sugar, I keep the waistline generous! I just want to be real with you all. I love real food, healthy food, made-from-scratch food and then I'll top it off with the worst of the worst! So now you know my dirty little secret. 

It would be easy to hide from those of you who don't know me personally. One day I will post a pic of the real me. Believe it or not, I'm not purposely hiding myself, I just forget to ask the hubby to snap a pose of me when he's home. May as well show myself now while I can hide behind being pregnant...ha ha ha! Though I can't blame any of my kids for the weight. I'm the crazy lady who loses weight during pregnancy then gains it all back plus a whole lot more when I am nursing the baby. I know I'm not the only one there. I have run into other women who have the same issue. So if that's you, now you know you aren't alone either. This time, I aspire to change that, so pray for me if you will.

In the meantime, I will share with you some more of my yummy food projects. No tutorial here, they are all pretty simple. First up, I made a quadruple batch of chili! Tell me that wasn't a chore! Even though it's August, it was a cool rainy morning when I made this and I have been in the mood for soup-like food lately.

I got the recipe from this awesome book! I highly recommend it, or one like it. Everything I have made out of here is super tasty. We have made several jar meals over the years to give to friends. It provides little cards to put on the jars telling you what to add to the mix. A wonderful way to make your own instant box meals. Scoot over Tuna and Hamburger Helper, we have a homemade version in town! I also have one for breads and desserts. They are equally as good. You can do an online search and come up with a ton of recipes there as well.

When it came time to freeze the chili, I discovered, not only did I not have enough freezer space to freeze it all at once, I had to get creative to find space in my refrigerator for the rest of it! That was quite the ordeal. After eating 2 meals, sending a third to a friend with a newborn, and a couple servings left over from measuring it out, I got 3 - 4 cup bags of chili, and 2 - 8 cup bags of chili. Folks, that's a ton of chili! I'm thankful now I bought that massive cooking pot for water canning! It's all very thick too, like gravy, so chances are, it will need a bit of water added on re-heating which will bulk it up even more.

Next I made a bunch of chicken and beef broth using my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook. Well, what was supposed to be beef broth. I had some frozen bones in the freezer and I thought they were all from some t-bone steaks we ate a few months ago. They were crusted over with frost, probably freezer burned, but for broth, I though it would be ok. I had 2 bags of it and threw them both in the pot with the veggies and seasonings. Later, when I went to stir it, I saw a chicken back pop up! Well, so much for that. But it still tasted good, so I kept it. I got 4 bags out of it, one of the bags has 3 cups and the rest have 4. I also got 3 bags of chicken broth at 4 cups each. So the homemade broth stock should be good to go for now. One day if I get a pressure cooker, I'd suspect it would be more convenient to can them because thawing it out can be a pain. But it's worth the effort for the health benefit. (Never mind my fast food/sugar binges.)

Then I have freezer burritos inspired by this recipe. Though I made mine with taco meat, homemade refried beans, and cheese. I haven't been able to find the reference for the homemade taco spice mix to share with you, but there are several out there. Just find the one you like best and go for it! For the refried beans I found several crock pot recipes and created my own out of the mix. I like to use dry beans, but sometimes that can really be time-consuming and/or heat up your house. So I like to use my crock pot for them when I can.

Refried Beans in the Crock Pot
1 chopped onion, or 1 T of dry minced onion
2 c dry pinto beans, sorted and washed
1 can of Rotel, or salsa, or a can of green chilies and some chopped tomatoes (or whatever you have!)
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp each of salt and pepper or to your taste
1/2 tsp cumin or to your taste
5-6 c of water depending on how "liquidy" your other ingredients are
Combine and cook on low 8-12 hours or overnight and blend to desired consistency. If you have a lot of liquid, you may need to drain it first so you don't end up with soupy beans. If you cook it overnight, beware, you will wake with the smell of Mexican food filling your house! Perhaps some breakfast burritos are in order?

Notice I don't have any fats in this recipe. That's because I like to double it and preserve the rest by dehydrating it. (Dehydrated foods last a lot longer in storage if there are no fats that will go rancid.) The way I do that... After I blend the beans, I spread them into my dehydrator and let them dry completely. Then I blend them into a powder and put it in jars. When it comes time to use it, I slowly stir in boiling water until it reaches my desired consistency. The more gradually you mix it, the better because it takes a few seconds to fully absorb the water. Then it's ready to eat! It's so much easier than freezing and thawing it. Plus you can easily create a single serving. Use roughly half the amount of powder for the amount of beans you want to end up with. For instance, if you need a cup of refried beans, start with 1/2 cup of powder. It's not exact depending on how much water you use, but it's a good starting point.

I mixed the meat, beans and cheese together, filled the burritos, then laid them out individually on a pan to freeze. After they are frozen, I put them in bags. I thought, the burritos you buy in bags at the store aren't individually wrapped, so I didn't wrap mine either. Saves waste! They reheat in the microwave just the same as the store-bought kind, but are so much better! Heating time depends on how big you make your burritos. I made them with both white and wheat tortillas.

I hope you are enjoying my cooking endeavors! I sure enjoy sharing them with you! I have gotten so much help from cooking tips and suggestions, so I am happy to keep passing on the love. Until next time!

Happy Cooking!

Jen Hen

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