Or, “Revenge of the Lunch”. I didn’t think this was going to be an accurate subtitle, and only picked it to continue the day. But frankly, today kicked my butt.
Since my last update on this, I’ve actually finished with my dinner prep, as of earlier this week. I ended up deciding to skip the sloppy joes, but added two BBQ turkey meatloaves that are formed and ready to cook, one bag of Jamaican Chicken Stew that will need some extra things added when it goes into the crock pot, 4 bags of pasta sauce, 2 prepped and ready to throw in the crock pot bags of Hearty Western Casserole (which ended up looking basically like a Tex-Mex sloppy joe, which is why I skipped the latter), and 4 bags of lasagna. I’m hoping the portions I divided it into will be large enough for the two of us. The recipe is supposed to make approximately 8 servings, but this is my husband and meat that we’re talking about.
Case in point: I asked him to pick up two packs of beef at Costco on his way home from work earlier this week, so I could make the Western Casserole/lasagna and have some extra on hand. Somehow, this translated in his head to 24 pounds, aka 4 packs! So two packs were divided up into either 1 pound or 2 pound bags, and I’m hoping this will keep me covered for beef in meals we’re actually eating until the baby is born, too.
So, lunches. I had today free from both lessons and doctor’s appointments, so my plan was to try to knock out 4 of my lunch recipes, and take care of the other two later in the week. I’ve also decided to make a swap to my original lunch plan–instead of chicken parmesan meatloaf cupcakes, I’m going to prep a big batch of these chicken taquitos. I tried them out earlier this week for dinner, and not only were they delicious and way easier to assemble than meatloaf, they were actually better when reheated in the toaster oven for the following night’s dinner because they held together better. Also, it fits my theme of “foods I can easily eat with one hand while my husband isn’t home and I’m alone with the baby”. I think I can leave those and the chicken quesadillas for later in the week, which left me with four recipes to make today: Chicken Alfredo Calzones, Cheeseburger Eggrolls, Pizza Spirals, and Mexican Turkey Roll-ups. All four of these recipes are from Once A Month Meals’ website, and all four are recipes that are more or less assembled and ready to eat, once thawed and reheated (aside from the turkey wraps). Since it’s my first time using anything from this website, or doing pre-made freezer lunches at all, I figured I’d blog through this process and see how it goes.
My Freezer Cooking Day:
Last night: I went ahead and poached/shredded the chicken for the calzones, and divided up the raw ground beef for double batches of the cheeseburger eggrolls and pizza spirals. (The rest of the beef was cooked up for last night’s dinner, since I had about half of a Costco-sized pack left over even after double batches of this. So a single batch would be easy to cover with a small pack from the grocery store.)
8:30 AM: Leave for grocery store, because the plan to knock out these lunches formulated after the Costco Beef Incident, and I don’t have all the ingredients I needed for anything but the calzones. Also, Friday is the day I normally go grocery shopping for the week, anyway.
9:35 AM: Back from the grocery store. Which probably would have gone faster if I hadn’t kept dropping things and having to bend down to pick them up. 8th month of pregnancy is hard when you were already clumsy to begin with, people! By the time I get home, get the bulk of the groceries put away, make my second breakfast (aka fruit and yogurt smoothie, which got stuck on the magic bullet so I ended up not being able to drink it. Sadface.), get my laptop booted up so I can listen to music on my Amazon Prime account, and steal my phone back from the naughty golden retriever who stole it while I was in the bathroom, it’s about 10:15, and I’m ready to start actually cooking.
10:15 AM: I decide to start with the pizza dough, since I need it for 2 recipes and it needs time to rise. I’m just using my family’s pizza crust recipe, which my mom perfected over years of making homemade pizzas when I was a kid. (I’m so spoiled.) I am actually making 6 batches of it–it looks like the calzones need 3 and the pizza spirals need 2, plus I’m making a few extra calzones to use up the extra chicken that I had after shredding what I cooked yesterday. I figure that if I have extra, I can always make some breadsticks or something. So I’m doing this half and half. The first batch takes longer than expected, because I’d called customer service for my blender and they called back before I started putting the flour in. (Good news: it was still under warranty, so they’re sending me a new one and a replacement cup. Yay!) But the second batch mixes up much more quickly. So now I just need to let that rise.
11:00 AM: The dough is done, so it’s time to do more prepwork. The calzones need bacon, and I don’t feel like dealing with the microwave, so I decide to try baking it in the oven. I tried this recently with turkey bacon and it was a total fail, but I’m hoping that using actual pork bacon will help. One that’s prepped and in the oven, and I’ve cleaned up the floury mess around my mixer, I start working on the vegetables. The bacon in the oven seems to work much better this time, so I take that out to cool. The vegetable chopping goes fairly quickly, thanks to my food processor, though I can’t use it on the spinach. Even so, the rest of the prepwork takes me about a full hour. I don’t have to worry about cleaning the floor later, though, thanks to these guys–they’re staying very much on top of cleaning up every scrap of food that falls off the counter!
12:00 PM: Time to start some actual cooking. I throw the beef and onions for the cheeseburger eggrolls into the skillet, while I mix up the rest of the filling ingredients, minus the cheese. The recipe calls for adding the onions later, but frankly, I can’t stand raw onions. I have to make one additional change to this recipe–my grocery store didn’t have egg roll wrappers, but a quick internet search says I can use fillo dough instead. Thank you, smartphones. I get the beef mixed up, minus the cheese, and leave that to cool while I take a quick break for food at 12:15. After all, I couldn’t have my second breakfast. And therefore, I’m hungry.
12:35. Back to work. It only takes me about 15 minutes to get the eggrolls wrapped up and into the freezer so they can “flash freeze”, as the directions call it. I only got 8 rolls out of the batch of meat, though. I’m not sure how the size of the fillo dough sheets compare to egg roll wrappers, as I’ve never used those before, but I’m guessing the wrappers are smaller since the single batch was supposed to make 8. Oh well. So I guess I’ll package these up 2 to a bag for meal purposes. I also have 3 entire rolls of dough left, because I really wasn’t sure how much I’d need–I thought the meat would go further. So I guess I’ll have to start looking on Pinterest for meal ideas that take fillo dough.
1:00 pm: Bags are labeled for the eggrolls, so I decide to mix up the alfredo sauce next. (The recipe had a link to that, so I figured I’d get the right amount that way.) It only takes about 15 minutes to mix up, but it kind of looks like a mess. Granted, I did add another half-recipe’s worth of ingredients, more or less, because of the extra chicken. But I decide to just take that off the heat and hope it thickens up. It’s very watery so far, and the cream cheese hasn’t mixed in as well as I’d hoped.
1:20: I consult the two pizza dough recipes, and decide that thankfully, it makes sense to do the pizza spirals next since they bake at a lower temperature. The beef was apparently supposed to be browned beforehand, but I didn’t, so I take care of that as quickly as I can. I get the canned tomato sauce doctored up while I finish that and saute the vegetables, then roll out the dough. I try to make as large a rectangle as I can with the counter space I have available, but it still ends up as a rather thick, misshapen stromboli. This also doesn’t hold together in the spirals very well when I cut them apart, but the good news is that most of these “spirals” are large enough that one will probably be sufficient for my lunch. I cut these up and get them in the oven.
2:00: After cleaning off the countertop, I have just enough time to get the remaining dough divided up and start the dishwasher before I have to switch the pans around. Then I have not quite enough time to mix together the bulk of the filling ingredients, minus the cheese and alfredo sauce (which, thankfully, is thickening some.) The eggrolls seem pretty solid by this point, so I take a few minutes to bag those up and transfer them to the larger freezer downstairs, then get the pizza rolls into the freezer so they can start freezing and I can free up the baking sheets for the calzones. Admittedly, the pizza rolls look pretty messy. Hopefully they’ll be easier to deal with when they’ve cooled down some.
2:45: It’s finally calzone assembly time! And none too soon, since my dough is beginning to dry out. I initially divide the dough into 12 pieces, but the first one ends up huge, so then I re-divide everything into smaller balls. And then end up baking them one sheet at a time, because the prepwork is taking awhile. There is a little leaking out of the sides, despite my best efforts to seal them up with a fork, but aside from that, they look pretty good.
3:40: The last batch has just gone into the oven, and I still have leftover fillings. Particularly the chicken. Oops. I don’t want to waste the meat in particular, so I pull out my muffin tin and the second roll of fillo dough, make some little cups with the dough, and use up the rest of the chicken mix filling them, more or less. Then I top them with a little mozzarella, a dollop of alfredo sauce, and a sprinkling of basil, drop the oven temperature, and bake them for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I try to clean up the kitchen as best as I can, considering the stuff I filled the dishwasher with earlier is still pretty wet and the sink is completely loaded.
4:00: The baking part is finally done. And some of the calzones have cooled enough that I can start wrapping them for the freezer. Most of them are still too warm, though. So I bag and tag what I can, put those in the freezer, get the fillo cups out of the muffin tin (yay, it looks like my experiment turned out ok), and let the dogs out and feed them. They’ve been more or less patient through this whole process, though it probably helps that they’ve been chowing down on every crumb that’s fallen off my workspace! I still have the turkey wraps to go, but I’m hungry, and my feet and back are pretty sore by this point, considering I’ve had a whopping 15 minute break since I started. So I decide to give myself a little time off while the food cools down, to snack on some popcorn and watch an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (It’s adorable. Don’t judge me.)
5:00 Back to work, again. I wrap up the rest of the calzones, the fillo cups, and the pizza spirals. But this takes awhile, and my feet are still really sore, and the kitchen is a disaster. So I decide to save the turkey wraps for tomorrow, and crash on the couch to watch more MLP until D gets home and can help me put away things in the dishwasher that are positioned more awkwardly.
The grand total for today: 15 calzones (though one of them is probably big enough for 2 lunches), 3 bags of fillo cups, 4 bags of cheeseburger egg rolls, and 13 bags of pizza rolls. So that should cover about a month’s worth of lunches, but I’m going to go ahead and do the other recipes anyway–it’ll be good to have extras, since D gets a little paternity leave and is planning on using some vacation days after, and will therefore be around for lunch more than usual for awhile. Not bad at all for a day’s work, but I think I may have overdone it a little– it’s still hard to move a couple of hours later!