Are you familiar with the carpenters adage “Measure twice, cut once” – meaning you double check your measurements to avoid making a mistake. I’ve got a twist in my kitchen on that – measure twice, but cook twice too!
When I can I cook in doubles. Today it happens to be lasagna. It could also be meatloaf, bread, cookies, or a frozen dessert. Basically I am doubling a recipe, making two of whatever, and while one may be dinner tonight, he second goes in the freezer for a future meal when I need something quick, or don’t feel like cooking.
In preparation, you do need some aluminum pans, or, with some casseroles, you can freeze it in a casserole dish well lined with aluminum foil, freezer, then lift it out, wrap up well in oil and plastic wrap, and leave in the freezer. To cook, put back in the same casserole dish minus the wrapping.
I usually have a couple aluminum pans around, so I use those. They can be washed and reused multiple times (I don’t subscribe to the “use once and throw away, disposable” mentality. Same for plastic bags).
My lasagna is pretty classic. My husbands believes there is only one way to make lasagna: with ground beef, ricotta cheese, and mozzarella, along with the pasta and tomato sauce. I have never convinced him to try any other variation, though I do make a mean southwestern Chicken version too. He’s never even tried it….his loss.
So for the double dish, cooking day I have two aluminum pans about 7 x 10″. Since there is only two of us, this is plenty for a dinner and a couple lunches from leftovers from each pan.
Today I happen to have sheet lasagna noodles in the pantry, rather than long individual lasagna noodles. I have a part package of plain noodles, and one of tomato pasta noodles. Mix and match! I also need two 26 oz jars of marinara sauce (I’m just not up to making my own today), 1 2lb container of ricotta cheese, some grated Parmesan cheese, 2 lb of ground beef, and a package of pre-grated mozzarella from the freezer. When I get to a big box store I buy grated cheeses in bulk and store in the freezer. Thy can keep for months. And though maybe not the best cheese, really convenient & helpful in a hurry.
Normally I would start with sauteed onions before browning the ground beef, but today my husband has some dietary restrictions, and onions are on the list. So I brown the beef alone, seasoning with salt and pepper and my house seasoning mix . Drain the beef on paper towels to remove excess grease. The pasta noodles go into some boiling water until just flexible, and are not all the way cooked.
The ricotta cheese goes into a bowl, along with a couple eggs, some nutmeg, salt, pepper, fresh or dried parsley and /or basil. Mix it all together.
To assemble: put some sauce in the bottom of each of the two pans. Lay in the pasta (for me today, about 2 sheets). On top of the pasta, place 1/4 of the ricotta cheese,and spread out. Add in 1/4 of the ground beef to each pan. Top with some mozzarella, and I grate in some of the Parmesan too. Next layer – exactly the same, using up the other half of the ground beef and ricotta cheese mix between the two pans. At this point I do pour in a bit of the marinara sauce, to help book the middle layer of noodles.
Lay on another top layer of noodles, cover with all the remaining marinara sauce, and cover generously with mozzarella. Grate on some more Parmesan on top. The pans are pretty full at this point!
Two meals, one time in the kitchen. Cover the one for the freezer with foil, and seal around the edges. My pans today have a plastic over, so I snap that on top.
I’m in the kitchen cooking today anyway, so making two pans is just as easy as one pan. So after a long day, with either no time to cook, or no energy to do so, I can pull the frozen lasagna out of the freezer, put it in the over and sit down while it bakes.
What is your favorite freezer meal? Or what do you make than could be “measure once, eat twice” meal?