Cooking Together

MEALS TO COOK WITH FRIENDS AND FREEZE FOR FAMILY

Recipes By: Laura Swayne; Written By: Kim A Fuqua

What could be better than discovering a way to spend more precious time with your family, and with your friends? That’s what “group cooking” is all about – getting together with friends and cooking a number of meals together to freeze for family dinners.

Some home cooks, like Swayne, may find themselves skeptical of the idea at first. Swayne initially found ti hard to believe that she and her friends could prepare enough interesting, tasty, quality meals that the time and energy put into the process would be worth it. Needless to day, Swayne has since been converted. Over a six-month period, she and her four friends have met three times to try out the group cooking concept. Here’s how the process works in Swayne’s group: For each group cooking night, two participants are responsible for creating a menu of 12 dishes, typically consisting of ten entrees and two dessert. Those two participants must print out all of the recipes and buy all of the groceries for the whole group. With five participants, you simply multiply each recipe by five, so that each person takes home one of each dish for her freezer.

Swayne’s group gathers at one house around 5 p.m., after the husbands and/or sitters have arrived. The group makes the plans to be together for 6 to 7 hours, during which each participant chooses a recipe to begin preparing and makes it for all five families. Each person then packages their designated meals for freezing, and then moves on to another recipe, until the group has all 12 recipes prepared and ready to go home in their individual coolers.

Swayne’s group typically orders something easy for dinner, such as pizza, for their group cooking events. The best part, though, is having all of those delicious dinners that can be thawed and prepared in no time for weeks to come.

The following dishes are just a sample of what Swayne’s cooking group has prepared and enjoyed so far.

A FEW TIPS ABOUT FREEZING

  • If freezing vegetables, blanch them quickly before doing so
  • There are numerous packaging options available in most grocery stores; the sturdier, the better. The kind you can put directly in the oven or microwave is particularly nice
  • Make sure to release any extra air in your Ziploc bags before zipping. If you are covering a dish with saran wrap, add an extra cover of aluminum foil on top of it
  • When thawing, place frozen items in the fridge the night before you plan to use them. You can also thaw items in cold water in the sink. If not packaged in metal containers, they may also be defrosted in the microwave

ASIAN MARINATED SALMON

Grilling over indirect heat allows the fist to stay moist and take on a subtle smokiness

Servings: 9; Prep Time: 40 minutes; Cook Time: 10 minutes

1/2       cup rise vinegar
1/2       cup soy sauce
2           tablespoons honey
1           teaspoon ground ginger
1/2       teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3          garlic cloves, minced
1           lemon, thinly sliced
1/4      cup chopped green onions
1          tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Combine vinegar and next 6 ingredients in a large Ziploc bag, seal. Shake to combine. Add fish; seal. Freeze, or if using same day, marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.

If fish is frozen, remove from freezer to thaw. Preheat grill to high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Remove salmon from marinade and place on grill. Lower grill temperature to medium. Cook 5 minutes on one side, carefully lift, spray grill again with cooking spray, and turn filet over. Fish should flake easily when done. Garnish with chopped onions and toasted sesame seeds.

CITRUS MARINATED PORK CHOPS

These tangy chops are great served with the pineapple-cashew rice

Serving: 4; Prep Time: 10 minutes; Cook Time: 25 minutes

            juice of 2 limes
           juice of 2 oranges
2        tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2        tablespoons honey
1        tablespoon Dijon mustard
1        tablespoon paprika
1        teaspoon garlic, minced
1        teaspoon black pepper
1/2    teaspoon salt
4       pork loin chops. trimmed of fat

Mix together all ingredients except pork. Pout into a Ziploc bag. Add pork chops and turn to coat. Freeze if not using that day.

Thaw overnight in fridge. Heat a large skillet over high heat. Spray with cooking spray. Add pork chops and reserve marinade. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn over and cook another 5 minutes, or until brown. Add marinade. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook 7 minutes more, or until middle of chops is no longer pink.

Transfer meat to a plate and cover to keep warm. Increase heat to high and cook marinade, stirring frequently for 3 to 5 minutes until thickened. Spoon over pork chops and serve.

PINEAPPLE-CASHEW RICE

Make this side dish a meal by adding baby shrimp, chicken breast, ham, or a combination of all three. Serve in a pineapple shell for extra flavor!

Servings: 4; Prep Time: 15 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes

1            tablespoon butter
1            tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4       cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1           cup white rice
2           cups chicken broth
1           12-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
1/4       cup cashews, toasted and chopped
1/4       cup carrot, diced
1           teaspoon salt
1/4      teaspoon red pepper flakes

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In an oven-proof skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add rice, and stir to coat. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and bake about 30 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. Let stand covered for 5 minutes before fluffing. To freeze, let cool, then place in Ziploc bag or freezer container. To us, thaw in fridge, add 2 tablespoons water, and microwave 2 minutes, or until heated through.

THAI CHICKEN FETTUCCINE

Save the time by substituting a 16-ounce jar of your favorite picante sauce for the homemade version here.

Servings: 4; Prep Time: 15 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes

Picante Sauce
1            10 1/2-ounce can tomato puree
1            4 1/2-ounce can chopped green chilies
2           tablespoons onion, minced
2           tablespoons green bell pepper, chopped
1           clove garlic
1           teaspoon white vinegar
1/2       teaspoon salt
1/4       teaspoon celery seed
1/4       teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/8       teaspoon hot pepper sauce
 
Peanut Sauce
1/4      cup peanut butter
2          tablespoon honey
2          tablespoon orange juice
1          teaspoon soy sauce
1          teaspoon fresh ginger
 
Fettuccine
8          ounces fettuccine, cooked al dente
1           teaspoon vegetable oil
3          boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch pieces
1/4      cup cilantro, chopped
2          tablespoons chopped peanuts
1          cup red, yellow, and orange bell pepper, sliced

If preparing your own picante sauce, combine ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Combine 1 cup picante sauce and peanut sauce ingredients. Cook over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat. Toss cooked fettuccine with 1/4 cup picante/peanut sauce mixture. Place in serving bowl and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet and saute chicken until brown and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Add remaining picante/peanut sauce to chicken and stir well. Arrange chicken on fettuccine. Sprinkle chicken with cilantro, peanuts, and colored peppers. Serve hot or at room temperature with any extra picante on the side.

To freeze this recipe for easy preparation later, simply store the picante/peanut sauce in a large Ziploc bag. In smaller Ziploc bags, store chicken pieces, peppers, and peanuts. Thaw in the fridge on the day you plan to serve. Cook your fettuccine and chicken as described above, chop up some cilantro, and serve!

Rice Twist: Substitute cooked rice for the fettuccine if you like.

APRICOT OATMEAL BARS

Oats add crunch, and apricot spreadable fruit gives this cookie bar a rich fruit flavor

Servings: 12; Prep Time: 15 minutes; Bake Time: 30 minutes

3 3/4       cups flour
1 1/2        cups sugar
1 1/2        cups baking soda
3/4          teaspoon salt
3 3/4       cups oats
2 1/4       cups melted butter
1               30-ounce jar apricot or raspberry preserves
1               cup flaked coconut

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, oats, and butter to make crumb mixture. Reserve one cup.

Press remaining mixture into greased 9×13 pan and spread with apricot preserves. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture and coconut on top. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Before baking, remove from freezer to thaw. Bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Nutty Twist: For extra crunch, add 2 cups ground almonds to the mix.

KAHLUA ICE CREAM SANDWICH BARS

This recipe couldn’t be easier, but it tastes like a special treat!

Servings: 12; Prep Time: 5 minutes

11         ice cream sandwiches
1/2      cup Kahlua
1          Skor bar or other favorite candy bar, crushed
1          large carton Cool Whip

Cover the bottom of a 9×13 pan with ice cream sandwiches; cut to cover entire bottom. Sprinkle Kahlua over ice cream sandwiches. Mix crushed Skor over ice cream sandwiches. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Cut into squares and serve whenever you like.