This week I'm back in Seattle in what I call a DETOUR. As I travel across the country, I have the distinct pleasure of seeing all kinds of interesting places and meeting some incredible people. Some of these experiences don't quite fit in the traditional format but still need to be seen and heard. This week I'm back in Seattle with eight Allrecipes cooks who call themselves the "Make-Ahead Mamas". Getting together every couple of months, these Puget Sound moms get some serious cook on, making and freezing enough food to feed their families 8-10 meals. Who says saving money can't be fun?!
Beef Bulgogi This is a hit with the Make-Ahead Mamas and their families. Not only does this dish freeze well, but it can be transformed into a variety of dishes—delicious lettuce wraps one day and beef stir fry or yakisoba the next.
Connie's Zucchini Crab Cakes Connie's original vegetarian version is incredible, but we added some real crab and it was a big hit! If you freeze these, you will have to squeeze out excess liquid and reform the patties upon thawing, but then they taste as good as the day you made them!
Mediterranean Lamb Burgers These lamb burgers are the perfect combination of easy-with-wow factor. It's worth the time to make the simple yogurt sauce to go with it and topping them with grilled green tomatoes and onions adds a gourmet touch to your summer barbecue.
Make Ahead Slow Cooker Beef Stew Served with fresh bread and a salad, this hearty beef stew is a family favorite and can be made fresh or ahead-of-time and frozen. Some Make-Ahead Mamas like to make it fresh, but double the ingredients and freeze the second portion for a quick dose of comfort food mid-week.
Halibut Cheeks with Ginger Orange Sauce The unique combination of citrus, cilantro and ginger makes this fish dish taste bright and fresh. If you want a less-expensive alternative to halibut, you can substitute any firm, white fish in this recipe (the Make-Ahead Mamas chose Ahi)!
Spanakopita Have this delicious Greek savory pastry anytime you want—straight from the freezer to the oven, and on your plate in under 30 minutes. They’re wonderful as a light lunch, an impressive appetizer, and are a healthy spinach-filled snack kids will love!
Keen Green Veggie Puree A vitamin-packed green vegetable puree made from whole steamed veggies. Add it to meatloaf, spaghetti sauces, and pizza sauces for an extra vitamin boost, and your family will be none-the-wiser!
An easy how-to guide on "stirring up easy family meals! Find out how!
Creative packaging can overcome lack of freezer space. By storing entrees flat in zipper food storage bags, even small freezers can hold at least two weeks' worth of entrees.
With freezer essentials like heavy-duty freezer bags and foil, you can easily store your meals until you're ready to reheat. And just to be on the safe side, double the bags for chowders and soups.
A food processor is a timesaver when you have large amounts of ingredients to chop, shred, or mince.
My Crab Cakes
Great crab cakes with lots of flavor and spice. Serve with homemade aioli and a crisp white wine!"
Slow Cooker Beef Stew I
"A hearty, savory slow cooker stew with potatoes, carrots, celery, broth, herbs and spices.
Mexican Baked Fish
Serve with rice, black beans, warm tortillas and lime Margaritas for a festive meal!
"Bear in mind that you should conduct yourself in life as at a feast." ~ Epictetus
Detour: vb 2. to deviate or cause to deviate from a direct route or course of action. (from French détour, from Old French destorner to divert, turn away, from des- de- + torner to turn).
This week, we take our first detour, leaving behind the typical "one cook, one recipe" format. We find ourselves back in Seattle with the "Make-Ahead Mamas", but before I go any further, I should let you know exactly what the Make-Ahead Mamas are.
Deb Kapsner, Karina Kunins, Cindy Wright, Kari Larson, Sue Bae, Claudia Pettis, Maia Kelley and Bethany Febus met for the first time at Wedgwood Co-op Preschool. They shared stories about the joys and challenges of parenting, working and cooking healthy meals. At one point, the conversation led to considering using a commercial make-and-freeze meal business for family meals, but as 8 smart women will inevitably do, they decided they could do it on their own less money. .
Now, every 2 or 3 months, these 8 women get together in one of their kitchens and "get their cook on", preparing meals in advance for all of their families. Preparing, bagging, labeling, and packing up the food in waiting coolers like limousines at a movie premier, this is a well-oiled machine.
"I used to love to go out, but if you go out to dinner with three kids, it is no fun. You have to get all the kids in the car and then there's a meltdown," says Kelley. "And going to the grocery store with three kids? I never know who's going to freak out or when my patience will end. Honestly, I think I'd rather not eat!" Kelley adds with a laugh.
After a walk around Green Lake, getting to know the Mamas as well as shoot our Reservoir Dogs into scene, we head back to one of their spacious kitchens to start the day's work. A couple of us get started right away with the Beef Bulgogi, while the rest of the Mamas make a beeline to the wine and cheese in the adjoining room. While preparing meals in advance to pull out of their freezers on any given day is the primary reason for this bi-monthly gathering, the social aspect of getting together with good friends sharing wine, common experiences, and good conversation is a close second.
As the evening rolls on, different members and sometimes the whole Make-Ahead Mamas group gather at the counter to work on a single dish made in a large enough batch to be divided up into eight family meals. The group of North Seattle moms has gathered every two months since 2007 to mass-prepare ready-to-go meals. In the beginning, the effort was quite chaotic but over the years, it has become a well-oiled machine. To learn more about how the entire affair is executed, click here.
When all is said and done, each mom hauls home a cooler full of meals ready to pop in the oven. We even made a few of the dishes for sampling since I must eat. With food this good, these moms have some very lucky families. Whether they stay at home or work out of the house, these Mamas say the meals are time, sanity, and budget savers – a fact that is confirmed when treasurer Kari Larson tallies the receipts and divides by 8. The cost of eight meals for each family? About $100, less than $13 per meal for an entire family.
Now that's good food and good sense!
Looking to punch up the flavor of steaks, chops or chicken before quickly cooking them on the grill? Then stir up a marinade!
Freezing Foods: A Real Time-Saver
When the work week gets a little crazy, meals made in advance are a real life saver!