Frozen Assets: Cooking with a Friend
by Deborah Taylor-Hough
Does the thought of preparing 30+ meals by yourself sound like a lonely way to spend the day? Why not share the job with a friend? Not only is it fun, you can also share cooking utensils, pots and pans, recipes, and cooking know-how.
You'll need to choose someone with the following similarities: family size, appetites and tastes in food. Special dietary requirements also need to be taken into consideration. Choosing a partner who's cooking for the same size group really helps when it comes time to divide the meals-simply split everything fifty/fifty. But most importantly, you need to choose someone you enjoy spending time with-it's a much better idea to choose your best friend rather than the best cook you know (unless the best cook is also someone you love to be with for hours on end).
It might not be as difficult to agree on which meals to prepare as you think. Get together with your intended cooking partner and each of you bring a list of 10 -12 of your family's favorite everyday meals. If you plan on tripling recipes as you prepare them, you'll only need to agree on 10 recipes total for a full 30 days of meals.
It helps if you divide the various duties beforehand-maybe one of you can do the shopping one month while the other takes care of babysitting duties; and someone could prepare chicken meals while the other prepares ground beef recipes.
One potential difficulty of cooking with someone else is a lack of freezer space during cooking day. You might want to plan on cooking at the home of whoever has the most available freezer space. Also, have several picnic coolers handy for transporting frozen meals to your home.
If you know a group of people experienced in freezer-meal cooking, you can arrange for a group meal exchange. This is sometimes referred to as a "freezer potluck." I'm referring to a method where everyone prepares their meals at home separately and then brings the freezer-meals to an "exchange meeting." It would be a bit more difficult logistically for a group cooking day where everyone joins together to cook in the same kitchen- although I've heard of that option being used for groups cooking in church or community center kitchens.
If there are ten people in your cooking group, everyone would prepare ten (10) family-sized portions of one recipe. Then the group would get together every ten days or so to exchange meals. To discover meals that most people in the group would like, ask each group member to list their three family favorite meals, or what they frequently serve to company.
This potluck technique works well for the people I know who have tried it each family gets a variety of frozen meals without one person having to do all the cooking by themselves.
The following recipe was submitted by a reader who frequently uses this in their freezer-meal cooking.
Zesty Macaroni & Cheese
(from the back of a Ro*Tel Tomato label)
3 c. uncooked elbow macaroni
1/2 c. margarine
1/2 c. flour
2 c. milk
4 c. (1 lb.) shredded cheddar cheese
1 can (10 oz.) Ro*Tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies
Cook and drain macaroni noodles. Preheat oven to 375`. Place cooked macaroni in a 9x12 baking dish (or 2 smaller casseroles); set aside. In med. saucepan, melt margarine over low heat. Stir in flour, cook 1 minute stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Stir in milk; heat to a boil, stirring constantly. Add cheese and Ro*Tel. Stir until cheese is melted. Pour over macaroni and stir to combine. Bake uncovered 30 min. or until heated through. Makes 10 - 12 servings.
Deborah Taylor-Hough is the author of the bestselling Frozen Assets: Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month and A Simple Choice: a practical guide for saving your time, money and sanity. She also edits the Simple Times email newsletter. To subscribe, visit Debi online at: thesimplemom.wordpress.com