WRITE: Mega-Cooking FAQs, Part I
Writers write. That may seem like basic information, but that simple phrase sets the professional apart from the amateur. If you write full-time as I do, you write—no matter what. Sometimes other people or things take precedence, but in order to keep publishing, writers keep writing.
I have a secret weapon in my homemaker/homeschooler/conference speaker/full-time writer and editor arsenal. We call it mega-cooking, a project our family accomplishes over a period of a few days. During this time we (or, as the children have grown older and busier, I) buy ingredients, prepare, and fix more than fifty main dishes for our freezer. That provides the base for our dinner meals for the next several months.
Yesterday, I posted a photo and shared a comment on Facebook about our latest sets of meals. It drew so many questions and comments that I decided to respond where I have a little more room. I’m condensing and compiling some of the similar questions, so don’t think I’ve omitted yours.
How do you do this? First of all, I don’t cook fifty or more individual meals. Instead, I make each of several recipes six or seven times over. I follow a simple procedure in which I multiply the ingredients and list them according to type to help me compile a grocery list. After I have all the ingredients, I make a task list that shows everything I need to do to make every meal. I combine common tasks such as chopping vegetables or browning meat and do those as early on in the process as I can.
After I finish the basic prep work, I start going through the task list to prepare individual meals. I also try to accomplish more than one thing at a time. I might bake the potatoes for Loaded Baked Potato Soup while I’m browning the meat for Tacos, or cook up some veggies in chicken broth while I’m mixing up a soup base, etc.
Mega-cooking is (of course) both easier and more complicated than this, but you get the basic idea.
Do you have a big freezer? Yes. And no. We do have a chest freezer in our garage (I think it’s about cubic feet, but I’m not sure). But the meals take up less room than you might think. I freeze the majority of ours in gallon-size zip-top bags. I load my soups, sauces, and even casseroles into the bags, push out as much air as possible, and freeze them as flat as I can on a cookie or other baking sheet.
Once the meals freeze, I can stack the bags high without taking up much room. One year when we moved and had no freezer except the small one above our refrigerator space, I still did my mega-cooking using the available freezer space. I couldn’t do seventy meals, but I’m sure I fit twenty-five or thirty in our little freezer.
In my mega-cooking world, “meals” is also a relative term. I have meals like large pans of chicken enchiladas and lasagna that look like a meal to you. But I also have bags of taco-seasoned ground turkey, already browned, frozen to use in (you’ll never guess) tacos, Spanish Rice, nachos, or taco salad. I freeze spaghetti sauce in three-cup portions to use on spaghetti or two-cup portions to use on homemade pizza crust (I bake and freeze those, too). And I use the same spaghetti sauce in the lasagna I prepare and freeze to bake later. And I consider each of these a “meal” because again, most of the work for our dinner meal is done. It’s easy to add a salad or other vegetable to most of these meals and have a healthy, homemade (and, I hope, delicious) dinner.
Do you have a list? Here (below) is a list of the meals I prepared this past week and, in parentheses, how many meals of each I froze. Six Chicken Enchiladas, for example, does not mean six rolled tortillas with filling and sauce. It means six 13 x 9″ trays of Chicken Enchiladas, ten enchiladas per pan. You can also find a free download here with a few of my mega-cooking recipes.
Chicken Enchiladas (6)
Company Potato Casserole (side dish) (3)
Loaded Baked Potato Soup (Light) (8)
Marinated Chicken (7)
Noodles and Crumbs (5)
Pizza Sauce (12)
Spaghetti Sauce (6)
Spinach Quiche (2)
Taco Meat (8)
Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetables (6)
Wendy’s Chili (7)
This way of cooking has been a part of our family life for more than 20 years thanks to the kind mentoring of my dear friend, Sue Ferguson. I’ll share more about the how-tos as well as the blessings of this way of cooking later in the week. Watch for more FAQs then, and feel free to leave more questions and comments here.