Em's Chocolate Chip Cookies

July 30, 2008

Here it is.
The moment you've all been waiting for.
The moment you'll thank me for.
The greatest freeze ahead tip evah!
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

It's true. Mommies of the world rejoice! You have the capability to freeze huge amounts of balls of frozen cookie dough and cook them up whenever you want, straight from freezer to oven, in less than 10 minutes. Do you see the genius here? Mom I need 4 dozen cookies for Boy Scouts? No problem. Mom, Janie is coming over after school and we just want a little snack. Sure thing. I've had a crappy day. All I want are 3 fresh baked cookies. They're yours.

Let's get started. Here's my recipe for freezer chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
(makes 6-7 dozen)

Beat together:
1 c. butter
1 c. butter flavored shortening
1 c. white sugar
1&1/2 c. lt. brown sugar

3 eggs
1 T. vanilla

Sift into a large bowl:
4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1&1/2 tsp. salt

- Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and combine with wooden spoon. Add 2 bags chocolate chips. Mix.

To freeze:
- Use a cookie scoop to scoop out evenly sized balls of dough. Place them about 1/2" apart on a silpat lined baking sheet.

- Use your fingers to slightly flatten balls of dough.

- Place filled cookie sheet, uncovered, in freezer for 2-3 hours or until balls are frozen. Do not leave in for more than 3 hours.

- Remove from cookie sheet and place in a gallon size Ziplock bag. Label and store in freezer.

To cook from frozen:
- remove as many dough balls as you want to bake and place 12 on a cookie sheet.
- Bake at 350* for 8-10 minutes.
- As soon as you remove them from the oven, hold the cookie sheet 4 inches above the floor (or counter if you have heat safe countertops) and drop the sheet. This releases excess air in the cookies and makes them more moist and chewy. (that's a baker's trick I learned when working in a professional bakery when I was 19 years old)
- Let cool on rack and devour like a crazy person. Yum!

Note: Don't want to use my recipe? Have your own family favorite that everyone loves? Don't worry...I won't be offended. You can freeze your own recipe with minimal changes. The only thing you may want to amend is increasing the flour slightly. Try freezing one dozen as a test first and see if they remain as firm as you like them even after baking. If not, add 1/4 c. of flour next time and see if that does the trick.

You'll soon be the most popular Mom in the PTA. Guarantee it.
Now, this is a recipe that can make you Freeze Happy!


Chicken Potato Casserole

July 26, 2008

Why is it that chicken and potatoes makes me think of good 'ol home cookin'? Well it does and this recipe is warm, comforting and , best of all, a breeze to make and freeze.

*Now, here's my disclaimer. This recipes is pretty simple and is great for a meal to take to a Mommy with small kids, but is not nearly jazzy enough for serious "foodies". So in other words, my kids loved it and my husband and I thought it was just a bit boring, but good for a comfort food kind of day.

Chicken Potato Casserole

10 oz. can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
1-1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3-1/2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
1 c. fresh or frozen chooped brocolli
3/4 c. diced onions
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (to top casserole)
1/2 c. bread crumbs (optional)


In a medium bowl, combine soup, sour cream, milk, chicken, garlic and 1-1/4 cups cheese. Spread three-quarters of this mixture in a greased 2-quart baking dish.

Sprinkle hash browns over casserole. Add brocolli and onions over the top of the casserole and press down lightly, then top vegetables with remaining soup mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bread crumbs.

To freeze: Wrap casserole in heavy duty foil and freeze.

To bake: Uncover and bake at 350 * for 60-70 minutes until bubbly.


Best Meatloaf!

July 22, 2008

My husband and I have good friends named Matt and Jenny. One night we joined them for dinner and I had the best meatloaf of my life. I have had a pretty sad meatloaf experiences (like most of you out there) where the meatloaf was like a solid block of greasy meat. Yuck. But Jenny's meatloaf was perfection. Not too bland, perfect amount of binder, perfect seasoning. I had to get the recipe. Imagine my surprise when she said You won't need a pen and paper, I can just tell you and you'll remember.

I made it for my sister (who had 3 kids at the time) and she loved it and promptly made and froze 5 more for an upcoming surgery she was having. I also recently made this for a dinner party with family and friends and it got rave reviews by all. Yes, this one's a keeper! Trust me.

*On the day I took these photos I made three meatloaves so amounts shown in pictures are tripled.

Super Simple Meatloaf
Recipe from Jenny Meese
(recipe makes 1 loaf and can be multiplied.)

1-1&1/2 lb. ground beef
1 egg
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 can manwich
1 box stove top chicken stuffing

- Place stove top stuffing in gallon sized ziplock bag. Seal bag and use a rolling pin to crush. (this is optional, but my sister and I both felt the bread crumbs were too large in the finished meatloaf when added straight from the box)

- Combine all ingredients (including seasoning packet from stuffing) in a large bowl.

- Mix with hands. Feels kind of creepy, but in a fun, childhood way.

- Place in loaf pan and top with ketchup (if that's how you like your meatloaf)

- Bake at 350* for 40-55 minutes or until internal temperature is 155*

Freezing Instructions
-Place raw meatloaf mixture in disposable aluminum loaf pan.
-Cover with foil and freeze.
-Thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours before baking.
- Bake as directed.

Healthier Options
- Replace half pound of raw hamburger meat with lean ground turkey.

Don't Try
- Manwich "bold". We like spicy food, but it turned out nasty.
-Other flavors of stuffing besides chicken. We have tried both pork and beef and both produced a weird taste.

Serve With
- Stuffed Baked Potatoes (recipe to follow this month)
- steamed veggies.


Vegetarian Jambalaya

July 19, 2008

True jambalaya uses sausages, shrimp and chicken. This rich vegetarian recipe version uses beans to provide meaty texture and flavor - with no meat. My kids gobbled this up and so did my husband (the manly meat-eater) and I. This tastes so much like there is meat present that it's a bit spooky.

Veggie Jambalaya

1 Tbsp. oil
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups water
14 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (reduce or omit based on spice preference)
1/8 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed (not usually in my cupboard, but totally worth buying for this recipe)
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
15 oz. can butter beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. can red beans, rinsed and drained


In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, green bell pepper, celery, and garlic in hot oil until tender, about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add water, tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, cayenne and fennel seed.

Bring to a boil and add rice. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until rice is tender, stirring frequently.

Add beans and cover. Simmer 5-10 minutes longer or until well heated, stirring frequently.

To freeze: cool casserole in refrigerator and ladle into plastic freezer containers. Seal and freeze.

To reheat: Place frozen jambalaya in saucepan and heat over very low heat, breaking up and stirring frequently, until hot. Serves 6-8


Freezing Cooked Rice

July 17, 2008

Rice can take quite a significant amount of time to cook, especially the brown rice that we like. And I hate the taste of quick rice. So you will be happy to know that you can freeze rice for later!
You just need to follow a few important steps before freezing to ensure the quality is still good when you go to thaw and re-use it in a later dish.

- Cook your rice as usual.

- Allow to cool at room temperature, then place in refrigerator. Allowing the rice to chill will avoid the problem of mushy rice when you thaw it.

- After the rice is chilled in the fridge, transfer rice to freezer bags by one or two cup incriments. Label and freeze.

To Reheat: simply thaw in refridgerator and reheat in microwave!



July 14, 2008

You asked for it and here it is.
The very first vegetarian recipe.

makes 4 meals for a small family, 2 for a large family or potluck

2 pkgs. manicotti noodles
1 (32 oz.) container of cottage cheese*
1 (32 oz.) container of ricotta cheese*
32 oz. part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 eggs
2 tsp minced garlic (or 2 minced cloves)
large handful chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 T. dried
8 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained (optional)
2 tsp. salt
2 jars canned pasta sauce

large pot
4, 8x8" square aluminum disposable pans or 2 9x13" disposable pans
gallon size ziplock bag
aluminum foil
sharpie permanent marker

Assembly Instructions:
- Boil manicotti noodles in large pot of boiling, salted water for 5 minutes.
- Remove from pot and place on silpat lined (or oiled) baking sheet to cool.

- Combine cottage cheese and ricotta cheese*.
- add herbs, salt, garlic, eggs and frozen spinach (if desired). Stir thoroughly to combine.

- Add 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese. Stir to combine.

- Next you'll need a large ziplock bag and a pair of kitchen shears or clean scissors. Fill freezer bag with filling mixture. Seal top and cut small edge from bottom corner. This has now become like a large piping bag.

- Spread 1/4 c sauce in bottom of pan (so noddles don't stick while baking).

- Take manicotti tubes one at a time, hold noodle in one hand, place clipped edge of ziplock into the top of the noodle. Apply slight pressure to the ziplock to fill noodle with filling mixture.

- Lay in close together, but not crowded, in a row in baking sheet. Repeat until pan is filled with one layer of filled manicotti.

- Spread a layer of jarred sauce on noodles.

- Top with 2 cups grated mozzarella.

- Take piece of foil large enough to cover pan. Write Manicotti and the baking instructions. Label with a red sticker to indicate that this item should be thawed before baking for best results. Repeat until all other pans are completed.

Baking Instructions:
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until cheese is browned and sauce is bubbling. Sprinkle top with fresh cut parsley is desired.

Serving Suggestions:
- Serve with rustic bread and a side salad.

*Alright...let's talk soft cheese for a minute. I have always disliked the texture of straight ricotta cheese. I find it kind of pastey. Also, it's kind of pricey. Some people I know (including my mom) substitute with cottage cheese, but we all know that leaves your filling with no flavor or cheesy goodness. My solution is to mix the two 50/50. This is not only more affordable, but it makes a creamier filling.


Pre-Cooked Ground Beef

July 11, 2008

No, I haven't given up on this blog. Our family just moved from Utah to Delaware and I was without computer for more than a week. I still have to unpack our kitchen, so no new recipes for a few more days...however, today you will learn something invaluable to your Freeze Happy lifestyle. Pre-Cooking ground beef.

Here's what you'll need.

5-8 lbs. raw ground beef
2 cups finely diced yellow onion
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cookie sheet
Silpat Mat or Wax Paper
Small Ziplock bags
Sharpie Marker

1. Get a huge non-stick pot, like the kind you might make soup in.
2. Cook the onion and garlic on medium heat for 3-5 minutes.
3. Add your ground beef and cook until completely done. Drain any excess fat.

Now here's where I'm gunna get all Food Safety Inspector on you. The temperature in which bacteria grow is the luke-warm temperature. therefore, any time you are cooling meat you want to chill it as quickly as possible. This explains your next step.

4. Line a cookie sheet with a silpat mat (or wax paper). Lay out your beef in an even layer.
5. Place in freezer, uncovered, for 4 hours.
6. Use a Sharpie marker to label ziplock bags with date.
7. Use a cup measure to measure out 2&1/2 cups into each ziplock bag. Store in freezer.

Now here's what's so genius about this. 2&1/2 cups of cooked ground beef equals 1 pound of ground beef in a recipe.

So let's say it's 5:00 pm and your day was so stressful that you have no dinner planned for tonight. Grab a jar of your favorite jarred marinara sauce. Boil pasta noodles you have in your pantry. While the pasta is cooking, throw your marinara in a medium pot and add one of your packets of hamburger straight from your freezer. Cook on medium heat until heated through. Voila! In 15 minutes you have a filling, warm and easy meal. What could be better?

Also try adding your precooked meat to...
- Canned soup
- Chili
- Casseroles
- And anything else you can think of.

Pre-Seasoned Variation: When your cooking your meat in step 3, put half on a cookie sheet to freeze and leave the other half in the pan. Then add 1-2 taco seasoning packets and place to freeze on a separate cookie sheet. Then you or your kids can simply throw a seasoned meat baggie straight into the microwave and have instant taco meat. Genius right? I know.

Healthy Version: And of course, for the Health Conscious you can choose how lean you want your beef or do this with ground turkey or (for picky families) you can combine a mixture of lean ground beef and ground turkey.

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About This Blog

A new recipe will be posted each Monday and, of course, you can always search the archives by category.

The Goal of this blog is not just to give you my recipes, but to teach you which ingredients freeze well, which don't, methods and tips to help you freeze your own recipes...because who knows better what your family likes than you?

Do you only cook organic? Great! Are you a vegetarian? No problem! Make what works for you and save time, money and (let's be honest...stress) while doing it.

The Freeze Happy philosophy has made my life better and I'm pretty sure it can improve yours too.

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