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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Saturday, May 05, 2012

A Mini Bulk Cooking Session

Years ago I came across an idea called once a month cooking (OAMC).  The premise was that you took a weekend to prepare enough meals for the freezer to last the entire month.  Well, the concept was not new to me as I had been doing mini bulk cooking sessions for years.  An actual OAMC session can be quite over whelming. It is hectic with the extensive shopping, prep work, cooking and packaging for freezing.  My modified method fills the freezer without using an extensive cooking session.  The day following picking up our bulk meat purchase I did a mini bulk cooking session.

taco salad
We had been out of ground beef for about five weeks before I picked up our bulk beef purchase.  Oh sure, I could have ground up one of the roasts but I didn't.  The thing is we really really were missing our ground beef.

I took 4 lbs of ground beef from the freezer to do a bit of bulk cooking.  One pound went to make to plain browned ground beef.  My husband loves it just like that on bread.  The second pound went towards taco salad, one of our absolutely favourite summer meals.  The next two pounds were used to make a couple of ground beef casseroles for the weekend.

browning ground beef
The beauty of ground beef is you really can brown up several pounds then divide it down into what you want to use.  Once browned you can add whatever seasonings or sauce you want.  I browned up two pounds of the ground beef.  When the ground beef was browned, I divided it into two portion - on for the base of the hamburg casserole and the other for the base of a cottage pie.  It ended up being a pound of browned ground beef being used for each casserole.  I used about 2 cups of homemade gravy with the browned ground beef to from the base for the cottage pie.  Really, using homemade gravy is best if at all possible.

some of the ingredients for mini bulk cooking session
The other ingredients were fairly simple and while there was a bit of overlap in the ingredients something that is desirable when bulk cooking, there was enough of a difference to delineate the two casseroles.  I like using a lot of fresh ingredients as you can see and while some of the ingredients do overlap for both of the casseroles the end result is two very different casseroles.  The ingredients were those that are on hand in the pantry and freezers.

casseroles ready for the oven
I made a hamburg casserole (left) and a cottage pie (right).  I will say that I very seldom use just a plain potato topping for cottage pie.  I like using unpeeled steamed potatoes with one or more vegetables, cream cheese, sour cream or plain yogurt as the topping for cottage pie.  It adds a bit of rustic texture while adding a lot of flavour.  I always use homemade gravy to form the base of the cottage pie as well.

There was leftover elbow macaroni from the hamburger casserole so I decided to make a small mac and cheese.  I used one of the new KitchenAid ceramic baking dishes.  I seriously love these new baking dishes!  In the end I had one hamburg casserole, one rustic cottage pie, one mac and cheese with leftover cheddar cheese sauce.

homemade mac and cheese
My husband took one look at the casseroles then declared the mac and cheese for dinner.  Doesn't it look scrumptious?  The beauty of doing a mini bulk cooking session, is not only do you have the food in the freezer you have several meals for the rest of the month.

The casseroles I made all would freeze nicely and they were more than enough for easy eating for the weekend without being froze.  The nice thing is I really didn't spend a lot of time putting the casseroles together.  What is important when doing these types of canning sessions is flexibility.  In this case I had extra elbow macaroni so immediately made a tray of mac and cheese but had there been extra of another ingredient I would have used it in some way.

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