Power Cooking: Three Make-Ahead Recipes

Happy Monday, mamas! I hope you had a restful weekend and didn’t have to do too much of anything that you really didn’t love. I finally dug out the fossilized mums from last fall and got some pretty pink flowers planted in the front yard. I also carved out time to go eat dinner with my husband and it was heavenly to sit still and chat with no interruptions except for the occasional “more bread?” or “more iced tea?” questions.

But now it’s Monday morning and time for Let the Routines Begin! And part of the mama routine is cooking dinner. That’s something we want to help with at MotherLode. Every Monday we’ll serve up some dinner ideas to help expand your culinary horizons. I wanted to share one of the best things I’ve done lately to help make dinner-making fast and easy. You just follow a recipe for make-ahead ground beef and freeze it for later. Here’s how you do it: cook three medium, chopped onions and three pressed garlic cloves together with three pounds of lean ground beef (or lean ground turkey) over medium high heat for about 15 to 18 minutes. After cooking the ground beef, onion and garlic together, separate the mixture into one-pound portions and put them into gallon freezer bags (or save out a pound of the mixture for a meal you’re about to make).

I snagged this idea at a Pampered Chef “power cooking” seminar by independent consultant and mama to three, Angela Mueller. Angela has been a Pampered Chef consultant for seven years and has all kinds of cooking tricks up her sleeve. She’s very impressive when she uses all those cool gadgets!

But back to the make-ahead beef: Angela said it’s best to flatten the ground beef mixture in the baggies so you can stack them on top of each other in the freezer. I thought this was great advice and it worked like a charm.

If you’ve ever been to a Pampered Chef party, you know that they always make something tasty as part of the demonstration. Angela made Easy Beef Stroganoff and Italian Beef Hoagies so we could try some of the tasty Pampered Chef recipes you can make with the frozen make-ahead beef mixture.

Once you have the basic mixture, you can add some other ingredients before you freeze to make three delicious recipes: Easy Beef Stroganoff, Saucy Beef Chili and Zesty Beef Tacos (Pampered Chef gives a few more recipes, but I’m sticking with these three.) You can freeze these up to three months.

EASY BEEF STROGANOFF — Add the following ingredients to one portion of the make-ahead beef: an 8-ounce package of sliced mushrooms; 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup; ¼ cup water; 1 teaspoon ground paprika; ½ teaspoon salt; ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper. Put it all in a baggie and freeze. When you’re in the mood for some stroganoff, just pull the mixture out of the freezer and put it in a skillet. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Next, add an 8-ounce container of sour cream to the mix. Meanwhile, cook one pound of egg noodles and drain. Add ¼ cup snipped fresh parsley and two tablespoons melted butter to the noodles. Spoon stroganoff over noodles and sprinkle with additional paprika and parsley if you like.

SAUCY BEEF CHILI – Add the following ingredients to one portion of the make-ahead beef: 1 can (16 ounce) chili beans in sauce, undrained; 1 can (14.5 ounce) petite diced tomatoes, undrained; 1 ½ cups water; 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste; 1 packet chili seasoning mix. Freeze. When it’s a chili night, just put the frozen mixture into a skillet over medium heat and cook until heated through. Once it’s hot, the chili’s ready for bowls and you can add your favorite toppings like shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onions or sour cream.

ZESTY BEEF TACOS – Add the following ingredients to one portion of the make-ahead beef: 1 cup chunky salsa; 1 can (6 ounce) tomato paste; ¾ cup water; 1 package taco seasoning. Freeze until you’re ready to heat up the meat for some quick tacos. Add cheese, tomatoes or anything else your heart desires.

Angela Mueller is an independent Pampered Chef consultant. Her e-mail is achef@cox.net.