Freezer Cooking Extraveganza

In CategoryCooking

I hit some good sales at the grocery store last weekend and got a little carried away.

Fridge Before –

20 pounds of hamburger, 5 pounds of cheese, 2 shredded rotisserie chickens, 6 pounds of ham, 2 pounds of sausage, 2 pounds bacon*, 2 dozen eggs. Everything bought on sale – the hamburger, bacon, and sausage were BOGO.

Freezer After –

3 Chicken Noodle Casseroles, 21 Breakfast Burritos, 18 Beef and Bean Burritos, 10 quarts of Ham and 16 Bean Soup, 10 quarts of Ham and Mashed Potato Soup, 8 Stuffing Meatloaves, 4 pints of taco meat, 6 packets of bacon pre-chopped to make Spaghetti Carbonara on a whim, and several pounds of grapes and raspberries. Plus the assorted pizza dough balls, bread loaves and muffins that I have to make constantly.

I keep trying to get my family to quit eating, but I’m not getting any takers.

Now I shall go watch The Real Housewives, guilt free.

Maybe even with a bowl of ice cream.

Yes, definitely with a bowl of ice cream.

* That’s a lot of pork products, isn’t it? I NEVER buy bacon or sausage – it’s too expensive, smells up the whole house, and is probably not what you’d call healthy. But it was all on SALE and I had COUPONS. So there.

And the Secret Ingredient is…

In CategoryCooking

I make a killer Ham and Bean soup (she said modestly). It has not one, but TWO secret ingredients in it. I am prepared to open the vault and share the recipe. 

As you know, I am all about stocking my freezer, so this recipe makes approximately 10 quarts of soup. Cut it down if you don’t want to make that much. Get a gigantic stock pot if you do. I bought a 12 quart stock pot at WalMart several years ago for about $40 and have never regretted it. 

Ham and 15 Bean Soup

  • 2 20-ounce bags of dried 15 Bean Soup Mix
  • 2 white onions, diced
  • 3 pounds cooked ham, cubed
  • 2-ish Tablespoons garlic paste
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 3 48-ounce bottles of V-8 juice (secret ingredient #1)
  • 22 ounces of store-bought basil pesto (secret ingredient #2)

Rinse and soak the beans 8 – 12 hours. Sauté onions in oil in the bottom of a 12 quart, heavy-bottomed, soup pot. Add the ham and the garlic and sauté an additional 15 minutes or so. You are not trying to brown the ham, just warm it and get it to release some of its flavor. Add the soaked beans, the chicken broth, and the V-8 juice. Cover, and simmer on low for 3 or 4 hours until the beans reach desired doneness. Stir occasionally. Right before serving, add the pesto. Stir well to combine. 

This will stay fresh in the freezer for months. To serve, heat and top with grated parmesan cheese. 

That’s it! 

I have made this before with crushed tomatoes and chicken broth in addition to/instead of, the V-8. Do it however you like – this is a good soup to make with leftover ham at the holidays, or to clean out your pantry. I like the ease of using V-8, since it cuts down the ingredient list. It gives a nice, vegetable-y flavor without having to cut up a thousand vegetables. V-8 is the secret ingredient in a lot of my soups. It goes especially well in beef stew. 

Whatever you do, DO NOT SKIP THE PESTO. Pesto is THE most important ingredient. If you taste the soup before you add it, you will think it is too thin and very bland. The pesto adds an incredible richness and depth of flavor, and also thickens the soup. I know it seems like a weird ingredient, but it is the secret to a lot of my soups. I got the idea once after we ate at an Italian restaurant. When they brought my Chicken Minestrone soup, it had a big spoonful of pesto in it for me to stir in. It was delicious. I add pesto to all my chicken and turkey soups now. It can be expensive, especially at the grocery store. I buy large containers of it at Sam’s or Costco for much less. Pesto also freezes well, so you could divide it and store it that way. 

Let me know if you try it! It’s an easy, delicious freezer staple that we can thaw and eat after a busy day. I created a printable .pdf file and added it to the Printable Recipes section (left sidebar) to make it easy to add to your collection.

This recipe linked to Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop!

Knock-Off Beef Burgundy

In CategoryCooking

A while back I bought some Mediterranean Beef Skewers. They were seriously on sale and it seemed like they would be handy to have in the freezer. However, they taste very strongly of rosemary –  which it turns out, I don’t really like. 

Naturally, I don’t want to waste the meat, so I decided to use it in my knock-off version of Beef Burgundy. I don’t make that very often because the recipe calls for cooking a bunch of bacon and then browning the meat in the bacon grease. I don’t care for browning large batches of meat – it’s messy and gets grease everywhere. It can also be very time consuming when cooking large quantities. 

Note: I do not have a problem with bacon. Bacon Makes It Better. Remember that.

But the other day when I decided to use the Mediterranean beef, I figured we might as well grill it since it’s already on skewers. I could avoid the messy browning of the meat, assemble the stew as usual and continue cooking it in the oven. Plus, the smoky grill flavor might be a yummy added dimension. 

It was TO DIE. Seriously. I might even order more of the skewers I don’t even like, just to make this stew. 

Awesome Knock-Off Beef Burgundy 

  • 3 boxes Mediterranean Beef Skewers, grilled (about 6.5 pounds of meat)
  • 2 lbs bacon, diced and fried
  • 1 lb mushrooms
  • 2 white onions, diced*
  • ½ cup flour
  • 30 ounces tomato paste
  • 3 32-ounce boxes beef broth
  • 1 bottle Tisdale Shiraz (cheapie red wine recommended by Emeril himself)
  • 4 bay leaves

Get two really deep disposable tin foil roasters – mine were 9 x 11 x 4 inches deep. Put half the bacon and half the meat into the bottom of each roaster. In a pan on top of the stove, sauté the mushrooms and onions together in a little bit of oil (or bacon grease). Pour half the mushroom/onion mixture over the meat in each roasting pan. Add 2 bay leaves to each pan. 

Wisk the remaining ingredients together thoroughly, except one box of beef broth. It might be very thick. Feel free to add in the reserved broth, some V-8, or even some water. Pour half of the mixture into each casserole dish. Stir to combine, cover with foil and bake at 350° for 1.5 hours. (I put my roaster pans on cookie sheets to help me get them in and out of the oven) Uncover, stir, and bake uncovered an additional 1.5-ish hours or until meat is super tender. Stir occasionally. Depending on how thick you want the gravy, pour in the reserved beef broth until you get the desired consistency. Serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes. 

Obviously not everyone is going to have 7 pounds of skewers in their freezer, waiting to be turned into a delicious stew. But you could easily chunk some stew meat, and either marinate it in a rosemary salad dressing before putting it on skewers and grilling it, or do what my original recipe calls for and fry the meat in batches in the bacon grease. 

The sauce was VERY thick and rich, so next time I’ll probably use less tomato paste. Maybe I’ll even cut it down by half and use V-8 juice along with the beef broth for the liquid. I had originally intended to quarter some red potatoes and cook them in the stew, but the roasting pans were so full, there wasn’t any room. 

The method was not dissimilar to the Irish Beef and Stout stew I made the other day. The flavor was totally different though. I am more of a method cook than a recipe cook. The idea of a beef stew cooked in the oven for several hours could have all sorts of ingredients – use beer instead of wine, use V-8 instead of tomato paste, leave out the mushrooms and add carrots… the possibilities are endless. And it turned out to be a great way to use some meat I had in the freezer. 

I was thrilled to put 9 quarts of this delicious stew in the freezer. Let me know if you try this!

* Actually they were puréed in my Magic Bullet to accomodate my husband and his Onion Issues. I wrote diced, because I assume that’s how normal people would do it.

Irish Beef and Stout Stew – Sort Of

In CategoryCooking

We have been ordering steak from Big Name Mail Order Meat Company for several years. Jim and I will grill some little filets on weekends for our We Have Kids Now at-home date nights. They have a sale a couple times a year and I stock up. 


The last couple of batches we have gotten have not been up to their usual standards. Our favorite little 4 ounce bacon-wrapped filets have been truly awful. Like, I would send this back in a restaurant awful. The beef is livery tasting and the bacon seems almost rancid. I’m sorry Big Name Meat – we have enjoyed a long and delicious relationship, but I am afraid we need to move on. 

It’s not us, it’s you. 

I am not the kind of girl who can just pitch a bunch of filet mignon because it doesn’t taste great when it’s grilled. No. So I checked my cookbooks and cruised the internets until I decided that Irish Beef Stew sounded like just the ticket. A nice long braise in the oven with some strong Guinness ought to take care of it. 

I read enough recipes to get the basic idea, and headed to the liquor store, where I was rudely awakened to the fact that beer is kind of expensive. I bought some cheap-ass inexpensive red wine for my fancy pants Beef Burgundy (more on that later) and the beer was twice as much. 

I chickened out on the Guinness. I don’t like beer and I thought it might be too strong – maybe even bitter. So I got Heineken instead. 

I defrosted the steaks, removed and discarded the bacon*, and cut the meat into 1 ½ inch cubes. I ended up with about 5 pounds of meat. 

I roughly followed this recipe from Martha Stewart. Except I used Heineken, changed the amounts of the liquids, and puréed the onions**. 

Irish Beef and Stout Stew – Sort of 

  • 5 pounds beef, cut into cubes
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 18 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 medium white onions, diced
  • 2-ish tablespoons garlic paste
  • 3 32-ounce boxes beef broth (use two, reserve one)
  • 2 bottles Heineken
  • Salt and pepper
  • Red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
  • Handful baby carrots 

Get two really deep disposable tin foil roasters – I think mine were 9 x 11 x 4 inches deep. Put half the meat into each roaster. Wisk the remaining ingredients together thoroughly, except the potatoes, carrots, and one box of beef broth. Pour half of the mixture into each casserole dish. Stir to combine, cover with foil and bake at 350° for 1.5 hours. (I placed my roasting pans on cookie sheets to help me lift them in and out of the oven) Uncover, stir, and add the carrots and potatoes. Bake uncovered an additional 1.5-ish hours or until potatoes are done. Stir occasionally. Depending on how thick you want the gravy, pour in the reserved beef broth until you get the desired consistency. 

You could easily cut the ingredients in half and make a smaller batch, but I am all about leftovers. We ate dinner and put 8 quarts in the freezer. My picky eater reviewer said “I LOVE this and I want you to make it like this EVERY TIME!” I am taking that as two thumbs up. 

I think next time I will be brave and put a stronger beer in it, and maybe a smidge more flour to make it thicker. Other than that it turned out great. Plus it was EASY, since it did not call for browning the meat first. Just chuck everything in the oven for 3 hours and walk away. That’s my kind of cooking. 

*I really want to describe this bacon as flaccid. flaccid…flaccid…FLACCID! It’s just funny. 

** I have to purée onions because my husband will file for divorce if he sees an actual piece of onion in anything. He has Issues. It’s my mother-in-laws fault.