Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Preparing for MB, Canning Jars and Freezer Cooking

As we prepare for our newest wee one to join the fam, mama has been doing a little nesting.  If you've been reading for a while or if you know me in real life, this comes as no surprise to you.

Today's episode in Crazy Nesting Mom is freezer food edition.  

MB has lived his 5+ years eating two basic things:  Injera and some variation of Ethiopian wat (imagine lots of garlic, onion and spicy spice).  He's never had chicken nuggets or pizza or mac n cheese.  His world is about to be rocked in a way most of us will probably never be able to fathom.  If I can give his life one little piece of familiar, I'm going to do my best (it's not like I haven't had over a year now to prepare ... sigh).  Since my other kids (and husband) are less than excited about switching to an all Ethiopian fare diet, I've been cooking and storing away shiro, doro wat, sega wat, mesir wat and atkilt in family and single-size servings in my freezer for a couple of months.  On an unrelated note, my injera starter died and I'm too ashamed to ask my friends (again) for another one, so I've been experimenting on making my own start.  Should I be successful, I'll post my injera recipe sometime soon.

And now I'm going to let you all in on the world's best kept secrets in regards to freezer cooking and leftovers: CANNING JARS!  My step mom was a master gardener and canner and I inherited a good bunch of her canning jars this summer.  I have since found approximately 75,000 ways to put these babies to good use, my favorite being in regards to leftovers.  When I make dinner, I typically double the batch (it really takes no extra effort) and then dish family size portions into canning jars, stick them in the freezer and voila - you have a dinner for next month already prepared.  I love having extra homemade food prepared and on hand like this.  You never know if a friend might be going through a hard time, have a baby or get sick.  It's the perfect way to help someone out with little to no extra effort.  Canning jars work so much better than plastic tupperware, always coming completely clean and never wearing out.  I can't believe I didn't think of this earlier.


*Always label the jars before you freeze them.  You may *think* it will be obvious (since the jar is clear), but lots of things look alike.  Also, the label will not stick to the glass once it's cold.

*I prefer these plastic lids because they are easy to clean and won't rust.

*This works great for main dishes, especially the type you can pour over noodles or rice.  Some of my favs:
Spaghetti and meatballs
Beef stroganoff 
Pizza sauce
Chicken cacciatore 
Honey glazed chicken
All kinds of soups or stews
Ham and Beans

*As well as side dishes that take a little extra time to prepare.  Some of my favs:
Creamy cheesy mashed potatoes 
Cinnamon apple bake
Cheesy broccoli and rice
Green bean casserole 
Jalapeno cream corn (I've yet to thaw this and see how it tastes.  Not 100% confident in thawed cream cheese mix?)

*On serving day, just set the jar out in the morning (or, if you're like me and you rarely think that far in advance, pop it in the microwave).  For side dishes, put into a casserole dish and heat in the oven.  It will look like you slaved in the kitchen all afternoon and no one will be the wiser.

*I recently bought the book Don't Panic.  Dinner's in the Freezer which has tons of great recipes to make in large batches.

*Leave at least 1-2" of air space at the top for expansion, or else this will happen:

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  1. 1. You are my hero. I long to be organized like you. But alas....
    2. Birkutan at the guest house told me that we struggle making injera here because of the difference in water. She suggested I buy lots o' injera from a restaurant here and then freeze it in ziploc bags. Just a thought in case your starter doesn't work out.

    1. LOL. That is probably true - our water doesn't contain near enough of that good ol' bacteria :) But, I have had pretty good success making injera here before (if I do say so myself), but I've never made my own start. We'll see how it goes. Worse case scenario, I tuck my tail between my legs and ask my friends for another one.

  2. I will take a spaghetti and meatballs and cinnamon apple bake please! LOL

    1. Dang! I'm spoiling my pathetic card and thus ruining my chances of getting dinner from Shiloh three nights in a row, aren't I?

  3. I always thought you couldn't freeze glass! Hmmm...loving your idea. I'm sure MB will be thrilled to have all of those tastes of home as he adjusts.

  4. holy shitballs you label your jars (with a labelmaker!). I love you so much in this moment.

    1. doesn't everyone? oh wait, they don't, do they? I might be crazy after all, eh?

  5. i'm generally not prone to breaking and entering, but should you ever come home to find your door jimmied and the contents of your freezer swiped (but your electronics/cash/jewelry untouched), you'll know who it was.

    you're my hero.

    1. If you lived closer, I would bring jars to your freezer (and maybe lock up my extra stash) :)

  6. This is great! I would love it if you come by and link this up at From Scratch Friday @ Marriage from Scratch! It’s live already on the blog 


  7. You can also label the jars by using a dry erase marker...then when you use the contents, you just wipe it off and fill it with something else!

    1. Excellent tip Brooke! Thanks for sharing.