Last fall, my sister and her husband both got jobs in this area. Visiting them went from a 2 hour drive, to just a drive across town. They searched for a few months until finally their realtor (and brother-in-law) found them the perfect house.

Both my sister and niece love cooking, so they quickly fell in love with the huge kitchen. The previous owner is a professional chef, and remodeled the room accordingly.

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We started talking about doing a batch cooking session before the closing paperwork had been finalized. They both enjoy cooking, I enjoy drinking wine and hanging out with them, so why not turn a chore into social gathering?

After Papaw got sick, we made concrete plans, rather than just talking about them. Instead of making 2 rounds of each meal, we would make 3, and help them out in a small way. Papaw has been a huge help to Mamaw around the house, and him being out of commission would put extra work on her, beyond the things she might have to help him with.

As acting head chef, I let my sister pick the menu. We kept it to 3 different meals (totaling 9 once we made the item for each family), and used tried and true recipes we knew everyone would like – Santa Fe Soup, Chicken Pot Pie, and Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes.

The chicken pie recipe is one my sister has used for years (over a decade)? And I’m not sure where she came across it, or perhaps she made it up herself? It’s easy, delicious, and I’m happy to share the recipe if anything is interested.

washing-dishesMy sister and niece make standard mashed potatoes with butter and milk, while I prefer more of a casserole with sour cream and cream cheese. I’d successfully frozen my version of potatoes before, so my sister decided we’d go that route. My niece, however, didn’t have the recipe in front of her and created a freestyle hybrid of the two.

Of that round, I’m only disappointed in the meatloaf. My sister says her meatloaf usually slays (pretty sure these were her exact words), and this batch was just “meh.” I’m not sure if it was the freezing, or if she altered her recipe for the spice wimps amongst us. Her family loves generous dashes of curry powder in most anything, and the rest of us are a hard pass.

Overall, I consider the first round of batch cooking successful. While Mamaw insisted we didn’t have to cook for her, we decided to do another round just a few weeks later. This time, my sister went a bit rogue with the recipes, and chose a couple none of us had made before.

My mom added herself to the mix, so we made 3 recipes for 4 families. Either the chosen dishes were more difficult, adding the extra family made for a significant increase in the workload, or else the AC not working on a hot May Day made me cranky. This round seemed less fun and more work.

I get the fool proof tasks – like browning the meat – so perhaps the heat of standing over a skillet working on a dozen pounds of carcass wilted me. During that batch session, we made Shepherds Pie, Chicken Pie, and some fancy-pants lasagna roll-up. I’ve yet to eat from that round, so the jury is still out on the recipes.

Have you ever done freezer/batch cooking? Do you have any fool-proof recipes you’d recommend? I’m sure this summer we’ll have another cooking party or two, and I’d love to try something new.

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