Friday, November 14, 2008

Yes, I've been a slacker!

Yeah, I know! It has been awhile since I posted last, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. Quite the contrary, actually.
We haven't been travelling any, so no really cool photos, but the weekends at home have been put to good use cooking and cleaning.
Two weekends ago, I tried to tackle some major cleaning projects but really only succeeded in defrosting my deep freeze. Joe and I did squeeze in a little time to catch up on finding some Helena Geocaches that had been hidden over the past few months.
Last weekend I did a "Once A Month" cooking marathon session. "What's that?" you ask? It is where I cook a large set of meals all at once, then place them in the freezer to be used as needed. Yeah, it is tons of work, especially for someone who has Rheumatoid Arthritis like me, but it helps out in the long run. I find one or two days of recovery is worth the ability to just open the freezer everyday and have healthy meals ready to heat and serve.
I always start out the morning by putting together a pot of spaghetti sauce, then letting it simmer on the back burner all day. Then I make a double or triple batch of meatloaf. I separate this into single serving loaves, wrap and freeze. If I am by myself, I cook only one. If any kids happen to be home for supper... and usually a friend has tagged along... I cook as many as I need for that meal. I then prepare a large batch of taco seasoned ground beef, cooked, and stored in 1 cup measures in zip-lock bags. Krystle loves this one... she is my nacho queen. I usually end up with 6-10 cups of taco meat in the freezer, and use it as a base for many other dishes. Of course, I use it for tacos, nachos, or a quick add-in to a can of chili.
After those basic tasks are finished, I make anywhere from 5 to 15 other "dishes", but always split them up into "two serving" sizes. That way I have left overs, or I can share if someone else is at the house.
Before starting anything (except for the spaghetti sauce), I get all the ingredients together on the counter... spices, canned goods, things like that.... so I don't have to search for anything. This also helps in making double sure I have everything I will need throughout the day. Many times, I do this the night before, and take out the measuring cups, spoons, bowls, freezer containers, and zip-locks. I also make a rough count of how much chopped onions, bell peppers, celery, carrots, chopped chives, etc for all the items I am making. I do ALL the chopping, slicing, and cutting at one time. This saves TONS of time. I do use a food processor for most of it, so I can have it all finished in less than an hour. Yep, all the prep work for one months of meals done in 60 minutes or less! After that, I pick a meat group (chicken, ground beef, steak, etc) and make all the meals in my plan with that group, clean up, go to the next group, clean...etc, until I am finished. I usually finish with anything that requires spaghetti sauce (lasagna, manicotti, etc. ) Everything is labeled with cooking instructions and put into the freezer. Pretty much every dish I make will be a dinner for at least two, and up to 4 different nights since I freeze them in two-serving size amounts. This way, if I make 5 different dishes, plus the meatloaves, taco meat, and sauce, I can have a variety of seven different meals for at least two, but usually 3 weeks. I normally make 8-10 different dishes, so that gives me nearly ready-made meals for about 2 months!
I'll post tomorrow on what I made this time. It is time to leave work now... we are heading out to see Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond movie.

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