The invitations have been sent, the recipes chosen, the assignment list distributed and the shopping and preparations complete. Now the fun begins. It's cooking night!
The first time that I held one of these events, there were 9 recipes to be assembled and it took us three and a half hours! We got started a little late. A few of the recipes required extensive assembly (egg rolls, stuffed shells and pizza pockets). By the time we ended I wasn't sure that anyone would want to participate again. We were spent!
Since that time I have done my best to streamline the process and this past Friday with six ladies present we completed the work in one hour and fifteen minutes. Choosing on one labor intensive recipe (chicken burritos) was really where the time is saved.
Here is a rough outline of how a cooking party is conducted and some short cuts to make everyone's night more enjoyable.
1. Set the time and stick to it. It usually takes 15 minutes for everyone to set up their tables and unload their cars. If a person is running late, go ahead and get started. Someone can go ahead with the assembly for the late comer and then they can add their cooked meat when they arrive.
2. Each lady should open/prepare her ingredients at her station before we begin. It works best if everyone goes to one station at once with the bag or bowl to retrieve the ingredients rather than having one person walk around to each person. There is more time spent working than waiting and there is less chance for a big spill.
2. Don't be afraid to make a mess. Have a big trash can open in the middle of the room and a sink filled with hot dish soap so that people can was their mixing bowl as needed. Trust me, there will be a BIG mess, but there are also half a dozen other moms there to help you clean up:)
3. Assemble the recipe right in the freezer bag. Most soups, stews and casseroles can be mixed right in the bag. Save yourself a step of cleaning a bowl and spoon.
4. Have a printed copy of each recipe to be assembled. Each lady should have received an email of these previously, but just in case someone forgot theirs, it's nice to have it handy.
5. The final step is the best- clean up, load up cars and sit down for some chocolate and coffee.
I hope that this series has inspired you in some way to consider integrating cooking in community into your kitchen. There are many ways to participate in a freezer cooking co-op and recipe books devoted to this sort of thing. I would love to hear about any freezer cooking co-ops you may be planning. And please do come back again and visit The Full Table.