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Another successful Meal Swap…and now our freezers are very full again! I only have one picture of my table full of food, because my husband was too busy taking pictures of Selah walking to let me use the camera!

(and, you can see a tiny bit of my cute little niece in the picture, too!)

Here is what we swapped this month:

  • Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomato Cream Sauce over Pasta
  • French Toast Strata
  • Chicken, Bean, and Rice Burritos
  • Chicken and Broccoli Stir-fry
  • Meatloaf
  • Beef Enchiladas
  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • Chicken and Veggie Stir-fry
  • Ham and Macaroni Casserole
  • Chicken Penne Casserole

There are a few recipes that we all like a lot, and don’t mind repeating almost every month.  We always like to have some enchiladas, stir-fry’s, and pizza kits!

Now we are beginning to plan June’s swap, and we are discovering that it is a bit of a challenge to find summer-friendly recipes that also freeze well. We don’t especially feel like turning on the oven for beef stew or lasagna in the summer. So, we started to put together a list of hot weather Meal Swap meals.  

Here are some ideas we have for cooking ahead in the summer:

  • Enchiladas 
  • Pizza Kit (these two recipes are the only ones that do require turning on the oven)
  • Stir-Fry Kit
  • Greek Chicken Gyro Kit
  • Taco Salad Kit
  • Burgers
  • Sweet&Sour Pork (for sandwiches, burritos, etc.)
  • Chicken and Cream Sauce for Pasta
  • Fajita Kit (Pork, Chicken, or Beef)
  • Lentil Sloppy Joes
  • Chicken Curry
  • Tamales
  • Burritos

What other summer-friendly meals can be frozen?? If we can get a huge list going, it would make a great cookbook!  Check back at the end of June, and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Once a month, I host a meal swap with several other ladies. Yesterday was the day for the April meeting! We met at my home to talk, share feedback, and swap our meals.  It is always so beautiful to see a table full of meals, ready to fill our freezers and to serve our families.  It really is fun to try meals made by other people – it is almost like eating at a restaurant, especially if you have a group of great cooks like I do!

We have a consistent group of five ladies, and next month we may be adding one more!  Each person prepares two recipes, so usually we have 10 meals for our freezer (if you count the meals you make yourself).  The meals are supposed to serve 4 people, but we always tend to have leftovers.  So, 10 meals may really last for a while.  

Here is the menu for our April swap:

  • Hearty Lasagna
  • Ham, Brocolli, and Cheese Calzones (with spaghetti sauce)
  • Margarita Chicken (with rice and tortillas)
  • Chicken Nacho Kit (with chips and cheese)
  • Kilbesa Sausage and Bowtie Pasta 
  • Shredded Pork and Beans
  • Beef Chili
  • Beef Stew
  • Pizza Kits
  • Quiche
Quite a variety, huh?  It is so neat to see how creative you can get with freezer meals.  I’ll be posting several freezer-friendly recipes from time to time.  Also, we continue to use the book Cooking Among Friends as a guide.  It has some great tips!
Here are pictures of the swap:

 

recipe-swap-08-littlethumbnail.jpgIt is time for The Natural Mommy’s Recipe Swap, and today’s theme is “Crock Pot Lifesavers”. I really like cooking with my crock pot – they are just so handy!  One of my favorite recipes is this Spaghetti Sauce, because it smells and tastes so good, and is great for leftovers.

Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce

1 lb. ground beef (I almost always use ground turkey instead)
1 chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (8oz) cans tomato sauce
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1 t. dried basil
1/2 T. oregano
1/2 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 carrot and 1 stalk celery

Cook meat, onions, and garlic in skillet until meat is done; drain fat.  Spoon into crock pot and add other ingredients.  Cover and cook on  low heat 8-9 hours. Remove the carrot and celery (they just add great flavor).

Serve over pasta, or use in your favorite lasagna recipe!

And, because my girls are still napping…here is my favorite lasagna recipe:

My Favorite Lasagna

Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce
12 oz lasagna noodles, uncooked (I don’t cook them, and it turns out great!)
1 (15oz) carton ricotta cheese
2 c. shredded mozzarella
1/2 c. shredded parmesan

In greased baking dish, layer 3 lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce, 1/3 of the ricotta, 1/3 of the mozzarella, and 1/3 of the parmesan.  Repeat two more times.

(You can stop, cover with foil, and freeze at this time.  Then, thaw overnight in the fridge, and bake as directed.  What a great meal swap meal!)

Cover with foil, bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Remove foil, bake 15 minutes more.  Let sit about 5  minutes before serving.  Enjoy!!

One challenge of swapping meals can be finding great freezer-friendly recipes. All of the ladies in my group love eating healthy, fresh foods. We try not to prepare typical freezer meals (that are often very cheesy and heavy) like enchiladas and lasagna every month. Thanks to creative cooks, and ideas from books like Cooking Among Friends, we have come up with some great meals.

Here is an example of another Meal Swap menu:

  • Turkey & Lentil Sloppy Joe’s
  • Sweet & Tangy Shredded Pork
  • Chicken and Dumplings
  • Black Bean and Rice Burritos
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Biscuit-topped Chicken Curry Casserole
  • Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes Cream Sauce
  • Make-your-own-Pizza Kits
  • Meatloaf
  • Pizza Burger Kits

Coming this week…
I’ll share some of my favorite meal swap recipes and pictures!

I’ve been organizing a meal swap with several other ladies for a few months now. Originally, the idea started after Selah was born and I had a very difficult time making dinner each night. I found that it is best for me to do a big chunk of cooking during naptime or after the girls have gone to bed. The meal swap is such an amazing way to save time and money, and to get a lot of variety and fun out of dinner preparation.

The swap usually includes four or five families, and we each pick two recipes every month. We make those recipes for every family, and then meet once a month to trade food and stock our freezers up again! The wonderful thing is that you only have to buy all the ingredients and think about two recipes. You make a ton of those two things, and then when you come away from the swap, you have an incredible variety of food.

When I started this group, I didn’t know anything about meal swaps and the various issues that could come up. One of the ladies had participated in another meal exchange, and used the book Cooking Among Friends, which is designed specifically for a group like this. That books gives some great ideas, and includes numerous recipes for meals that are meant to be multiplied and frozen. We don’t follow the exact instructions in this book, but often we use their recipes as guidelines.

We have learned so much about the organizational methods and “rules” that need to be made in order to keep this group working well. This is what we do:

  • Use disposable containers, such as aluminum tin pans and gallon ziplock bags (I do try to wash and re-use my tin pans, whenever possible)
  • Make a main dish that will provide about 4 servings of food
  • Write or print out a label with instructions for the food, and tape it to the container (instead of writing on the foil or plastic with a marker) – I just now figured this one out
  • Provide a main dish entree (such as lasagna, enchiladas, etc.) If the recipe is a sauce, stir-fry, or other dish that should be served over rice or pasta, provide that dry ingredient in a bag. (This is something we just now figured out. It really helps to keep everything consistent.)
  • Schedule the meal swap date at approximately the same time each month (for us, the last Thursday) Require that families commit to several months of swapping, and determine if anyone is not going to participate 3-4 weeks before the meals are due.
  • We take turns, so that one woman each month makes 2 beef dishes. All of the other meals can be chicken, pork, or vegetarian.

I know that meal swaps cannot work for everyone. We are very fortunate to have a group of amazing cooks who are not at all picky about eating other peoples’ food. Our husbands and children are also very flexible and are willing to eat different food. We do share feedback about specific ingredients, recipes, amount of servings, and spiciness of foods. If you can find several other women who are interested in this, it is amazing fun! Sometimes, we even get together and help each other cook.

Here is a look at our March menu:

  • Chicken and Rice Curry
  • Chicken Cacciatore Sauce (with a package of spaghetti)
  • Moroccan Beef (with a bag of brown rice)
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Red Beans and Rice
  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • Pork Tamales
  • Chicken and Spinach Frittata
  • Tater Tot Casserole
  • Chicken Tortellini Casserole

And…here are pictures from our swap today! We met at my house, let the kids run around, and talked about food. Then, we piled meals onto my table and divided them up into our ice chests. Now, we all have nice, full freezers! (By the way, a small chest freezer in the garage is very important!)

That’s Selah sitting there, in the middle of the ice chests!

So, that’s our meal swap! Does anyone out there do anything like this? If so, please share tips, ideas, and recipes!