NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Once a Month Cooking

Once a Month Cooking

 

 

                Once a month cooking is a very popular topic. There are entire web sites devoted to recipes, hints, and guidelines for filling your freezer with ready to go meals. If you have a reliable, large freezer and are able to devote one weekend a month to a marathon cooking session, once a month cooking is an excellent way to save time.

                There are a several different ways to tackle once a month cooking.  You can cook double batches of your favorite recipes and freeze them in smaller containers; you can cook 20 individual recipes and freeze them; or you can buy a large quantity of meats and ingredients, cook a large batch of starter foods (meats, spaghetti sauce or chili) and then make lots of different casseroles and entrees from the starter.

                Cooking such a large amount of food at one time, keeping it safe and then packaging and labeling the finished product requires a great deal of organization and pre-planning.

                Plan
Choose the recipes you would like to make and your family will enjoy eating – often more than once in the same month.   There are special websites and cookbooks which feature quantity cooking recipes complete with shopping lists and suggested side dishes.  Until you have sold yourself and your family on this style of food preparation, a less expensive approach is to start with family favorite recipes.

                Get Organized!
Write down all your plans in advance. Find the recipes, plan amounts, then make your grocery list. Make sure you have enough heavy duty freezer bags and/or freezer containers to hold all your finished dishes. Keep a notebook or tablet by your freezer to track of all the dishes you have prepared. This way you can make sure you have eaten all your chicken recipes before embarking on another cooking session. These lists also help you plan your month for the most varied and healthy diet.

                Shopping
Before heading out the door with shopping list in hand, check frig space, pantry space, counter space and any place all those groceries might land.  You will need more temporary storage and prep area than a usual grocery shopping trip requires. Never attempt to cook on the same day that you shop. Shopping for this quantity of food is difficult, and you'll want to allow time for prepping ingredients and stashing them in the frig. Remember too, you want this to be a fun experience and one you'll repeat!

                Divide and Conquer
Some plans recommend shopping on one day, doing major prep work the next and then finishing and freezing all the meals on the third day.  Dividing the overall plan into steps can make it possible to fit it all in one weekend without becoming too overwhelmed. This is a great idea because you won't get too overwhelmed with a lot of work.

                Have Fun!
Throw some tunes on the stereo, have a nice lunch ready to eat, take frequent breaks, and above all have a good time.  Find a friend to cook with and divide the cost and finished dishes with them. Time flies when you are having fun with a pal.

                Try the following basic recipe for your first cook once, eat for a month endeavor.

 

Basic Meatballs

4 eggs
2 cups dry breadcrumbs (seasoned or unseasoned)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
4 pounds lean ground beef

In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add the next 5 ingredients. Add beef; mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls, about 12 dozen. Place in single layers on ungreased 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pans. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until no longer pink, turning often. Drain and then cool. Place about 30 meatballs each into freezer containers. May be frozen for up to 3 months.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs (using basic meatballs)
1 (20 ounce) pineapple chunks, drained, with juice reserved
1/3 cup water
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 batch of 30 meatballs (frozen or thawed)
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
Hot cooked rice

Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Set pineapple aside. If juice does not equal 1 cup, add some water to it as needed. Pour into a large skillet. Add the measured 1/3 cup water, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar and cornstarch; stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Add pineapple, meatballs and green pepper. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until heated through and sauce has thickened some. Serve over rice. Yield: 6 servings

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