And this time “almost” really means almost, not half. (I wrote a post about my tendency to leave things “almost finished” only to discover them to be only halfway done later.) The food I’m referring to had been prepared in advance at the end of October. In an attempt to make the holidays more enjoyable and to survive NaNoWriMo intact, I tried doing Mega Menu-Mailer for the first time. I bought one of the Mega Menu-Mailers from Leanne Ely’s website, bought tons of fresh ingredients, chopped them up and assembled everything into freezer bags. Into the freezer everything went and we ate those meals since the beginning of November. There are two more meals left in the freezer, but I feel confident they will be as good as the last 18.
Before I forget it, here are the two single most important things that I learned about the whole thing: spread everything real thin before freezing. If you make nice fat lumps of meat before you put it in the freezer you end up with frozen food that’s still not thawed after 48 hours in the fridge. There was not a single meal that wasn’t cooked partially frozen. So, hear my advice, make flat packages. The second thing, and of minor importance, is: Really measure the ingredients, don’t think, “Oh, this might be half a tablespoon of garlic, who cares.” and end up with most meals being too garlicky and several where you had to hurriedly substitute garlic powder, because you run out of the fresh one.
Before I review the meals (not in detail, no worries) I have to tell that I didn’t do anything right – as always. Everything that had to be grilled was fried. Everything that was supposed to be cooked in a crock pot was done in the pressure cooker. There are neither GladWare containers (whatever that might be) or jarred sauce Alfredo in Germany. And not realizing that there is tinned salmon even in Germany I mistakenly substituted tuna. And a word of caution: Never try to fry anything coated in honey! The honey instantly turns black and burned. Nonetheless the meat tasted good, only the sauce was, um, not fit for human consumption. And: If you decide to do the Crock Pot Pork Jambalaya in the pressure cooker, don’t, and I repeat, don’t put the orange juice mixture in. It was burned totally. The pork had a distinctly smokey taste. Good, but smokey. That time we could replace the sauce, because we had all the necessary ingredients in the house.
We haven’t eaten all of the menus yet, because we did something else in between and because since we are only 2 1/2 persons here, we usually eat two days on any of the meals. Everything tasted good to delicious, apart from that Chicken Pot Pie Lasagna. But I won’t blame Leanne for this, since I made up the aforementioned sauce Alfredo out of a wikipedia entry and had to substitute milk and butter for half of the cream because I hadn’t bought enough. Then we spiced that up with a fight during cooking, lunch served too late, and my husband refusing to eat it because of the fight and the fact that there was milk in it. (No, he isn’t Jewish, this has something to do with Italian cuisine where you never put milk in anything not sweet.) We ate that one for two days and then threw the other half out.
As I said, everything tasted just fine, but all in all it was a little too much meat for us. Especially too much pork, since we don’t like to eat pork. Also I have the dawning suspicion that I should have ordered only half the pork chops and steaks, since they were real big. One time we had the Cashew steak one day, then cut the rest of the meat up and mixed it with peppers and ate it Asian style with rice and the day after we ate it with pasta.
So, for anybody out there wanting to try it, I can recommend it, it made cooking and menu planning much easier. Oh, and the actual cooking took about half an hour per meal. That’s okay with me, and for the second day it took less, because we were only reheating. Since we still have something left, it was totally worth the effort to put it together. I think we’ll be doing it again next year, only maybe we’ll do it at the end of September then and cut up bunches of vegetables with it to make instant vegetarian meals in between. Next time I’ll definitely use my food processor. I feel very stupid for not having thought of it, but I never use it since it is enormous and only good for processing vast amounts. If you’re baking two or three cakes at a time it’s marvelous. If you bake one, the blender only scrapes at the flour. Also, next time I’ll take the time to convert all the measurements beforehand. Fluid ounces to milliliter, pounds to kilogram, and so on. And then I’ll write it on the sheet so that I’ll never have to do it again.
Now I’m back to my old method of menu-planning. On Wednesdays I sit down and try to think of five to six healthy, tasty meals which don’t take much time to prepare, and then we end up eating pasta or frozen pizza for three days of the week. I’ll miss having a whole freezer packed with things I only have to pull out. 24 hours before, which is quite a feat. You end up every meal with a discussion about what to cook the next day. (In our house everything turns into a debate.) But then you already have something ready. And if something happens and you don’t cook it the next day, no problem. Since it was frozen perfectly fresh you can cook it the next day. Especially when it’s still frozen in the middle.