The Week in Books 2008, No. 48

I have to say up front that doing the whole cook for 30 days all at once thing is a completely overwhelming concept for me. I much prefer the idea of just doubling a recipe I’m cooking anyway to have on hand for nights I don’t have time to cook an entire meal from scratch. However, if you’re up for the marathon cooking day thing, The Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet: A Month of Meals Made Easy will be helpful for you. I thought the best thing about the recipes was the fact that they have all the ingredients listed by the number of meals you plan to make – one through six, so you don’t have to figure out the changes in proportions as you go along. Some of the recipes looked better than others, and some frankly seemed kind of silly to make as freezer meals. I mean, if the whole recipe is putting a piece of meat in a crockpot with some onion soup, just put a piece of meat in your crockpot with onion soup the day of, you know? That said, there is a lot of useful information in the book, and I think it’s a helpful resource.

The Best Freezer Cookbook: 100 Freezer Friendly Recipes, Plus Tips and Techniques has some good insights on how to freeze fresh produce if you garden or have farmer’s market surplus on hand, including detailed charts on how to best freeze different fruits and vegetables. The recipes contained in the book are a little more gourmet than other freezer cookbooks I’ve read, but because I think it’s a tacit law, there IS a chili mac recipe (seriously, what is up with the plethora of chili mac recipes in this genre of cookbook???). Another good section is a set of suggestions for how you might prepare in advance for entertaining by making some of the dishes in advance and freezing them so you’re not too exhausted on the day of the party to actually enjoy it.

Frozen Assets Lite and Easy : How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month follows a plan of “mini sessions” of bulk cooking based around a given type of meat. So, for example, if you found chicken on sale somewhere, you could make 5 different meals out of chicken and freeze them to have later. The book contains a wide variety of recipes, going beyond regular chicken and ground beef to include mini sessions using crab, tofu, and other vegetarian options. Some of the recipes seemed a little repetitive but if your family likes to eat the same genre of food once a week but with different types of meat, you might not mind it. If I were to really use the book, I’d make up my own mini sessions just using the recipes I think we’d like. I did mark a few to try out, and it’s nice to know in advance that they will freeze well so I can make some extras for later.

Fix, Freeze, Feast: Prepare in Bulk and Enjoy by the Serving – More than 125 Recipes is a cook in advance and freeze meals cookbook based on the idea of buying those big tray packs of meat at a warehouse store and using one pack per recipe. If that is the way you buy meat, you might like the way these recipes are designed. I tend to buy meat in large quantities when I find a big sale, but the quantity of meat in the tray pack is given, so you could just as easily use this book if you don’t buy tray packs. Many of the recipes sounded good, although I thought several sounded like so much work once you thawed them that I didn’t see how you saved time by making part of it in advance. If you’re new to cooking in bulk, there is a helpful chapter on how to do prep work and assemble your meals for the freezer.

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