Thursday, November 15, 2012

Freezer Meals 101: Pulled Pork and Green Enchilada Soup

To save money, I have decided to start freezing meals.  I am definitely not as organized or gung-ho as other people, so I like to think of this post as the "freezer meals 101 for people who aren't that organized."  Here are a few tips and steps to get you started:

1. Before you start, figure out what freezes well and what doesn't.  A great site to check out is Stockpiling Moms (for example, did you know that you can freeze milk and eggs?).  In my experience here are some things and freeze well (and some things that don't):

Freezes well!
  • Any cream-based soup (think broccoli cheese soup, baked potato soup)
  • Most stews and broth based soups (beef stew, tortilla soup)
  • Rice-based casseroles (I will be posting my recipe for gluten-free chicken, rice and artichoke casserole soon!)
  • Meat! (pulled pork freezes wonderfully)
Things don't freeze as well...

  • Pasta!  (Maybe there is a secret to this, but I cannot get pasta to freeze well.  It ends up too mushy or not cooked enough.  The other issue is I use gluten-free pasta which is hard enough to cook, much less reheat without getting mushy.)
  • Corn Tortillas (same problem, they get really mushy if they are sitting in a casserole for a while)
  • Sour cream (difficult to reheat)

2. I am not one of those awesome moms who can make a month's worth of food at once.  I LOVE cooking, but spending 8 hours in a kitchen cooking tons and tons of meals is not fun for me.  So there are a few ways to simplify freezer meals so you aren't chained to the kitchen for hours on end.  If I am going to make multiple meals, I try to use only one type of meat.  Instead of turkey casserole, beef stew and pork and hominy soup (which means you have to cook three types of meats at once!), I will make multiple chicken-based meals or pork-based meals.

To get you started, here's an example of five meals from one package of meat.

One pork shoulder (I got a 4.24 pound chunk for $7.82) becomes:

3 meals of green enchilada soup
1 meal of pork chop (you can make frozen mashed potatoes on the side, grab some applesauce, voila! complete meal!)
1 meal of pulled pork tostadas

Here's how to do this in one afternoon.

First, I chop off four thick pork chops off the end of the pork shoulder and put them in a bag in the freezer.

how to make pulled pork

Second, I use the rest of the pork and make pulled pork.  This does take a while, so you can start in the morning, cook it for three hours, then come back later and make the soup.  Here's the pulled pork recipe:

Pulled Pork
The remainder of the pork
8 cloves of garlic, minced or chopped up
3 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp onion salt
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp of vegetable oil
about 4 cups of beef broth

1. Mix garlic, coriander, cumin, oregano, onion salt, salt, pepper, and ground red pepper in a small bowl.  Chop the pork shoulder into three big pieces.  Roll the pieces in the spice mixture and rub into the meat.
2. Put a large stockpot over medium-heat.  Once the pot is warm, put a tiny bit of vegetable oil in the bottom of the pot and put the shoulder on it.  While its searing on the one side, gently pour 4 cups of beef broth over the meat until its covered.
3. Put a lid on the pot and bring it to a boil.  Boil for about 30 minutes on medium-high.  Then turn it down to medium-low and let it simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

how to make pulled pork

4. Once its done, pull the pork out and put it into a bowl.   Ladle a small amount of the broth over the pork and shred with two forks (use the two forks to separate the meat).

how to make pulled pork

Now that the pulled pork is done, I put about 2 cups of the pork into a freezer bag (I will use this on tostadas, but you can use it for pulled pork sandwiches, just add barbecue sauce and put it on buns).

how to make pulled pork

With the remaining pork, you will make green enchilada soup.

Green Enchilada Soup
The remaining broth from the pulled pork
The remaining pulled pork
2 large cans of green enchilada sauce
3 cans of beans (black or white) - don't drain them
1-2 cans of olives, sliced
2-3 cups of frozen corn
1-2 cans of diced tomatoes or a sauteed onion
1 small package of 2% milk Velveeta (lower calorie than normal Velveeta and cheddar cheese)

1. Leave the beef broth in the pot (its a little less than 4 cups left).  Pour in the two cans of enchilada sauce.  Pour in the three cans of beans with the liquid. 
2. Slice up the olives (I have my daughter do this with an egg slicer).  Add them in the soup.  Put the corn in the pot and tomatoes and/or onions.  Add the pulled pork.  Cube the Velveeta and put it the pot.  Bring to a low rolling boil for a few moments to heat everything, cook the frozen corn and melt the cheese.

green enchilada pork soup to freeze

green enchilada pork soup to freeze

3. Pour two meals worth of soup into bags and/or containers.  Serve the remaining third for dinner that night!  We normally add sour cream and crumbled chips on the top when we serve it.

We're going to do a freezer meal the week of November 26-30 and will give you lots of great recipes and ideas to fill your freezer when things get busy in December!

Do you have any great tips for freezing meals or good recipes?

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