She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy. When it snows, she has no fear for her household... Proverbs 31:20-21
I normally like to dig deep into Scripture and write what I hope are profound spiritual insights, but today I just want to write about living where the practical meets the spiritual. Specifically, what I call Bake Fest.
I know the bake-30-meals-and-freeze-them-for-the-month trend has come and gone, but a lot of you have asked me in real life about my Bake Fest tradition. Here are the details: Every Labor Day weekend, I spend the time making baked goods, soups, and sauces to freeze for the school year. Why Labor Day? Because it’s the perfect sweet spot between summer and fall. The summer vegetables are at their nutritional peak, so anything I use will have prime nutrients. Plus, while the kids have started back to school, new rhythms and commitments usually are not in full swing, so I can spend an entire weekend in the kitchen without missing a game or concert. Plus, where I live the weather usually has cooled off a bit, so spending a few days in the kitchen with the oven continuously at 350º doesn’t feel like Dante’s Inferno.
So why should you try a Bake Fest, or at least set aside a few frozen meals? When you have several people sharing one calendar, nights where everyone has to be somewhere different are a common occurrence. Some days, Door Dash and drive through aren’t fast enough, and we won’t even talk about the lack of nutrition. Popping a soup ice cube into the crock pot in the morning for a warm meal that’s ready whenever you are is a gift you give yourself.
But there are also those days when you need to catch yourself. Whether you have kids in the house or you live alone, life falls apart at the most inconvenient times. You wake up with the flu, but the world still needs to needs you to keep going. And even if you live in a household of one, you still live in community. Someone around you will get sick, loose a loved one, or lose her job. And after more than 20 years of ministry experience, I can promise you that the chance to help someone else in need will always come when it’s least convenient for you. Your frozen cache will comfort others too.
So, how to make it a success? Here are some essentials I’ve learned in my 10 years of Bake Fest:
Only freeze recipes you have tried already in single batch form. One Fall I made four batches of a butternut squash soup that all of my friends raved about. We hated it. Long story short, anyone who got sick or had a baby within my reach in the winter of 2012 got that soup, and they all loved it. My family, however, had to choke down the last serving of it.
Never freeze pasta, unless it’s a lasagna surrounded by a ton of sauce.
Label everything. After two months of deep freeze, chili looks just like marinara sauce and you don’t want to have to play dinner bingo.
Two words: Food Saver. Even if you only use it this one time of the year, that time alone earns its keep. (And no, that’s not a paid recommendation.)
I recommend finding a fun show you’ve missed out on to binge watch while you bake.
Have a plan for the kids. This is why Labor Day weekend works well for me. Usually the community pool is hosting an end of the summer bash and my husband and kids can go and enjoy. Lately they have been taking on big household projects.
So what does this have to do with crawling out of the sand and into the ocean of abundant life Jesus promised? The truth is during particularly stressful times, we don’t rise to to occasion, more often we fall back on our habits. We can’t prevent every wave that comes our way, but when those trying times do come, if we’ve got a few extra helps stashed away like a meal in the freezer or some comforting Bible verses memorized, we are more likely to stay on the path to meaningful life.
Remember, love God, serve others and take care of yourself.
And here’s a 50 year old recipe from some wise Christian women to get you started.
Chicken Pot Pie
(makes 2 pies)
2 cups diced peeled potatoes
2 cups chopped carrots
1 large chopped onion
1 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
Pastry for two double-crust pies
Warm milk and chicken broth in a pot. In a large Dutch oven, melt butter. Add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and carrots and sauté until crisp tender. Stir in flour, salt, thyme and pepper. Gradually whisk in milk and broth. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes until thickened. Add chicken, peas and corn. Remove from heat.
Pour filling between two pie crusts. I always have leftover filling, so I freeze the extra. That way, all I have to do is buy a pie crust and unthaw my filling. Place the remaining pie crusts over the tops of the pies. Cut 4 slits in the tops and wrap in plastic wrap and then foil. Label.
To us frozen pot pie: Unwrap plastic but keep pie tented in foil. Bake at 425º for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350º and bake 70-80 minutes, removing foil for the last 5-10 minutes.
To use unthawed pot pie: Bake tented in foil at 425º for 35-40 minutes. Remove foil for the last 5-10 minutes to allow top to brown.