Going big – fun, friends and freezer-ready meals.

What is it about winter weekends that make simmering a big pot of soup or stew such a great idea? Obviously, large batch cooking has merits in any season — armloads from the farmers market in spring, heavily laden grills in summer, harvest parties in autumn — but winter is the prime season for turning up the heat on cooking in quantity. The coldest season also inspires an additional thought. Why not freeze individual portions for fast, healthy meals later on?

Plan accordingly.

Certain meals lend themselves better than others for freezing and reheating, and savory broth-based soups and stews are among the best. The recipe featured here, Sonoran Chicken Chili, is a cold weather favorite and freezes well, retaining its flavor and consistency. Two other options are Chicken & Mini Pasta Soup and Hearty Chicken Ribollita Soup

Note, too, that part of your planning might include who to invite over to join the fun. Cooking in large quantities is even more enjoyable when you’re sharing the experience with friends and family. Think of it as a dinner party that repeats itself. Multiply, divide and conquer. The more cooks in the kitchen, the more new recipes you’ll learn and enjoy in the coming weeks.

Pro tips for the path to the plate.

Large batch cooking doesn’t necessarily require enormous stock pots or kettles. They’re handy, but two medium-size pots work just as well and are easier to stir. For dividing into portions and preparing, airtight glass containers are ideal because you can use the same container to safely thaw the food in the refrigerator and reheat it in the microwave. Just let the soup or stew completely cool before placing individual portions in the freezer, and leave some room for freezer expansion. A half inch of headspace under the lid should be enough.

We meet again.

In the perfect world, meals rotate out of the freezer for thawing and reheating in 90 days. Even in that amount of time, though, it’s easy to forget key details. If you’re using glass containers, a practical solution is to user freezer tape to record the name of the meal, the date you made it and specific reheating instructions. Most reclosable freezer bags include a labeling area.

Got a lazy winter weekend coming up? Snow day in the forecast? Quiet evening at home? Large batch cooking looks ahead to times when life isn’t quite so leisurely. What’s for dinner when time is short? It’s already in the freezer.

Featured Recipes

Sonoran Chicken Chili

Chicken & Mini Pasta Soup

Hearty Chicken Ribollita Soup