This week we talk with the guru of freezer to table meals – Polly Conner. Polly will be walking us through how to easily make freezer meals ahead of time and serve them up to your table like a pro. She’ll also tell us about how to start your own “freezer clubs” where you and your neighbors can cook together to provide a week of meals for you and your families while creating community in the kitchen. Polly and her business partner Rachel have written about this great way to plan meals in their book “From Freezer to Table.” They also head up the Thriving Home Blog which has incredible resources for busy moms. This episode will revolutionize the way you look at meal prep and give you time to actually enjoy dinners with your family.
Narrator: Desperate for a way to slow down and connect, Kristin Schell put an ordinary picnic table in her front yard, painted it turquoise. That first turquoise table became a meeting place for friends and neighbors, a place to connect and a symbol of hospitality. Now, Kristin invites you and her special guests to join her here at The Turquoise Table Podcast. Welcome.
Kristin Schell: Hello and welcome to The Turquoise Table Podcast. I’m Kristin Schell your host, and I am so excited about today’s episode. We are going to be talking about freezer meals and how to easily make freezer meals and get them straight onto your table. We have our special guest today Polly Conner. Now Polly and her business partner Rachel have written this book “From Freezer to Table.” They were friends. They both had blogs about healthy lifestyles and raising children. They decided about six years ago to combine forces and they created Thriving Home Blog. If you don’t know, Thriving Home Blog, you are going to love everything about it.
From Freezer to Table
They offer the most practical and wise solutions for the dinnertime craze. Polly is on the show today, and she’s going to walk us through how easy it is to get dinner on the table when that is just not an easy feat most of the days. Polly and Rachel are self-proclaimed freezer cooking evangelists and you will be too after you hear this episode. They’ve written the book called “Freezer to Table.” It’s got all kinds of practical tips for planning a freezer cooking party or starting a freezer club or just taking it slow and simple and keeping your own freezer stocked for those crazy mornings, those ridiculous crunch times in the evening when you’re trying to get dinner on the table.
I have become a freezer cooking evangelist as well. We talk a little bit about what worked in my neighborhood, and then Polly shares really some behind the scenes tips so that you can then adopt this lifestyle too. I’m so excited and it’s a great way for you to connect and sort of bring maybe neighbors or friends together for a common purpose. I mean we all got to feed our families, right? No matter your age or stage in life you are going to gain something from the conversation with Polly. Without further ado, my friend Polly.
Polly, welcome to the show. I am so excited to have you here today at The Turquoise Table.
Polly Conner: Well, thank you. We’re excited to be here. I was really delighted to get your email as an invitation.
Kristin Schell: Well, I am such a fan of you and Rachel and Thriving Home, and I cannot wait for all of our listeners to learn about freezer cooking because can I just say it’s been a lifesaver for me.
Polly: It’s a game changer.
Kristin: It is. Totally.
Polly: It really is.
Kristin: Before we dive in because I get so excited, I want everyone to kind of know a little bit about you. If you’ll just introduce yourself and tell us where you live and about your kids and family, I’d love that.
The Beginnings of The ThrivingHomeBlog.com
Polly: Well, I must say I am 50% of team Thriving Home. Rachel cannot be here. We kind of divide and conquer when it comes to podcasts to be honest. It’s a little hard to do it with two people in one room and figure out who’s going to talk. We have found that we just do better when we kind of take one-on-one podcast.
Polly: Rachel and I started Thriving Home, which is ThrivingHomeBlog.com, about six years ago. It has just kind of morphed into this fun business for both of us, and we’ve really cornered kind of the web on freezer cooking. We’ve carved ourselves out a niche in the freezer cooking word. I’m sure we’ll talk more about that, but specifically about me. We are both from Columbia, Missouri. I am married to my husband Austin. I have three kiddos. They are six, four and one, which sounds super intimidating just saying that because they’re just so little. Yeah, lots of little kids around here.
I work part-time on Thriving Home and we have a cookbook that was published this September, which has been so fun to just ride that wave and just see where that has taken us and the people it has introduced us to. You being one of them I think from just the cookbook. Our cookbook is called “From Freezer to Table.” We have another one coming out in 2019.
Kristin: So excited.
Polly: In a nutshell.
Kristin: Yes. In a nutshell. Okay. Here’s what I want to know first, so you started Thriving Home six years ago, but that’s also when you had your first baby, right? Walk us through because I think there’s just so … I mean for whoever’s listening that has young children and life is crazy, getting meals on the table is … I mean it can feel like climbing Mount Everest, right? Take us back six years ago. Where were you? Who was Polly then?
Thriving Inside and Outside the Home
Polly: I was a hot mess of a mom. Serious. I was not the one that like slid into motherhood easily. I fumbled and failed and stressed a lot more than the average mom I think. Let’s see. Yes, Thriving Home started, yeah, in those very, very little years when my daughter was at home. You know, I had always been a blogger. Not always, but I had been blogging as a hobby before that and so had Rachel. We had these separate blogs going just for fun. It really was something I just thoroughly enjoyed. We had met through our church. I actually had taken Rachel’s job for a couple of years after she stayed home with kids. That’s how we started crossing paths. We just realized we had a lot in common.
We really clicked and just had fun together. We both had these blogs going. We were kind of guest posting. We’re like, “What if we just started one? Just combine the forces here and let’s just … Maybe it’ll turn into something. Maybe it won’t. If it doesn’t, it was a fun ride. Whatever.” We started Thriving Home. I mean for the first year we had like 50 page views a day. That’s just how the blog stuff just starts slow. Luckily it was something we really enjoyed. Honestly I’m the type of person that I just need an outlet outside the home. At that point, I really was like …
I was working a few hours for the church just with the admin stuff that I’m learning more about myself that I just need something outside. I had to thrive outside the home if I’m going to thrive in the home.
“I had to thrive outside the home if I’m going to thrive in the home.” – Polly Conner
Kristin: I love that. That’s so awesome you learned that.
Polly: It took me a while, Kristin. I felt guilty about that, but I really have learned to embrace that. That’s how God made me. Thriving Home started very low-key. We hadn’t invested much money in it. It was more of just a hobby, kind of an experiment. As we saw it begin to grow, then we began to invest more in it, more of our time, more finances. Then we just started seeing more and more traffic coming to our freezer meals. At the time Rachel had this freezer club going, so she was just kind of sharing the recipes that they really liked and we noticed we’re getting a lot of traffic to this. Let’s just start doing more of these and start sharing more about freezer cooking.
Again, it was just kind of a snowball effect. The more we share, the more people came to our site. Then a couple years ago was when our first publisher reached out to us and was like, “Hey, are you interested in writing a cookbook?” That was a really small publisher. We didn’t know anything about the publishing world. We were like, “Do we want to do this? I don’t know. We’re bloggers. We’re not authors.” Long story short, we got in touch with a literary agent, which we didn’t even know it existed before this whole process, right? Maria Ribas. I might say her last name wrong. She’s been wonderful.
She’s our literary agent, and she was the one that really got us mobilized to pitch this freezer cooking idea, cookbook idea, to the big publishers. We ended up getting the cookbook deal with Rodale, which has actually recently been acquired by Penguin Random House.
Polly: Our next cookbook is going to be through Penguin Random House.
Kristin: I mean it’s like a wave.
Polly: It was. Yeah, it really has been …
Kristin: I mean here you are with … The two of you with young children, and even pregnant and having more children during all of this. Life is crazy in and of itself and you all are just trying to get dinner on the table, right?
Kristin: Then how awesome of you all to share that because let me tell you what, I know you call yourself, you all call yourselves the freezer evangelists, but I think I’m now like on … I’m on team Thriving Home because it is such a lifesaver. We’re going to dive in a little bit, but just so you all know too, my kids are a little bit of a click ahead of yours, if you will. We’ve got three in high school and one headed into middle school. When I was kind of with all the littles around my apron strings, I was invited to one freezer party. It was this organized thing–I can’t even remember the name of what it was at the time.
I went once and then I don’t know if I just didn’t get invited back, or if it felt hard, or what happened, but I lost it on my radar. Then when I found you all I was like, “Oh my goodness. Where have you all been in my life for the last 10 years?” Because I felt like I had all of this wasted time. I am a cook. I love to cook. Intuitively like you’d think, well, “why would I want to do a freezer party?” I’m so smitten with all of this that I can’t wait to dive in. I’ve done everything just as you said by the book. I have invited and hosted our first freezer meal party with our neighbors in January.
Polly: I love it. I love it. Yes.
Kristin: We have our next one coming up and I’m not going to give away all of the tips, but basically I did everything you said. Like everything.
Polly: Oh my gosh. That is so cool to hear.
Kristin: Just for you all listening, we’ll have all of this information about where you can get Polly and Rachel’s book in the show notes, but they make it so simple. I need in my life right now just instructions to follow. I need to be a soldier in some areas of my life, and you all have done that. You’ve even given us the email that we’re supposed to send to our friends to invite them. All I had to do was copy and paste it, put it in my email.
Polly: You know, Kristin, I think we know our people. Our people are like these busy moms who don’t have time to think about how to formulate an email to their friends. We spell it out pretty easily. Again, in this stage of life when you have little kids at home, you just don’t have time to like dabble with a new concept. It’s like someone needs to like walk you step one, step two, step three. We really wrote the book for people like us who really wanted simple, easy, delicious meals that can be made in bulk, frozen ahead or made fresh too, right? We need recipes that our family’s going to eat not just us.
“We really wrote the book for people like us who really wanted simple, easy, delicious meals that can be made in bulk, frozen ahead or made fresh too.” – Polly Conner
I mean we tested these out on all ages ranging from like one until I guess probably about seven or eight on Rachel’s family for kid wise and of course, the husband test too, which they are brutal taste testers I’ll tell you.
Kristin: Yes. Husbands were the hardest. If you can get two thumbs up from a husband, that’s where I knew we had a winner with all the recipes that we tried because they were so good. The other thing too is, and this is important to me and where I think that you all have succeeded, they are healthy. I mean I do pay attention to ingredients and to technique. You have done them in such a simple way, but these aren’t like my great grandmother’s casseroles all of them, but they taste as good as that, but they’re so simple and yet they are healthy because that is important to all of us.
Making Dinner Times Count
Polly: We should define health. Health to us is real foods, real whole ingredients, right? We don’t count calories. We don’t have the breakdown nutrition information on each recipe just because we value and prioritize using real food ingredients. No, we don’t have the Velveeta cheese. We don’t have the cream of chicken that you dump in, which that’s a lot of people when they think freezer meals, they think boring, beige, lots of canned foods. We really are trying to break the mold of no, these can be fresh ingredients. These recipes can have lots of texture and taste, and it’s not just a beige casserole, right?
Kristin: Right. No. They’re beautiful.
Polly: Just teaching people how to freeze something in the right way. Most of our meals are frozen before you cook them and people don’t quite realize that. I think a lot of people think freezer meals are precooked and you just thaw them out. We have some recipes like that like soups and stuff, but yeah, most recipes if they’ve been cooked and frozen and thawed, they are going to lose texture and they are going to lose taste. That’s not our method. Our method is prepping ahead so all you have to do is pop it into your oven and then you have that meal, a fresh meal, that night. Again I have little kids right now, so the dinnertime hour is not our strong suit.
“Our method is prepping ahead so all you have to do is pop it into your oven and then you have that meal, a fresh meal, that night.” – Polly Conner
Polly: Like oh my gosh. I don’t think it is for anyone.
Kristin: It isn’t.
Polly: For little kids, it’s like they’re fuzzy, they’re hungry, they’re cranky. Then when you get in kind of the elementary, high school age, all of a sudden everyone’s doing activities and you’re like playing carpool, right? You’re just not at home to like prep stuff. The dinnertime hour is just a challenge for families. Our heart was just to create a lifestyle that just makes getting around the table with your people a little bit easier. Just helps you have one step closer to having just more quality time to catch with your people rather than stressing about what are we going to have for dinner, I have to run to the store, I have to prep this, now we have to clean up.
“Our heart was just to create a lifestyle that just makes getting around the table with your people a little bit easier.” – Polly Conner
It’s not going to solve every family issue around the dinnertime hour. Like the toddlers are still going to be fussy, but it frees you up to be more hands-on and a little more eye contact and a little more present with your people in that dinnertime hour.
Bringing People Together With Food Prep
Kristin: Amen, sister. Amen. I want to share with our listeners a little bit about what happened when I had our freezer party because it was so awesome. Like I said, I just followed your instructions. My heart right now is for obviously my neighbors. I mean this is where I am investing in our community and in our neighbors. I am just a little bit of a click ahead age wise from the moms in my neighborhood. We were talking around Christmas time like what struggles, what could we do for each other and with each other to come alongside and help each other out. Every single friend rolled their eyes and was like, “Oh my gosh, dinner. Dinner. Dinner. Dinner. Dinner.”
I thought well, gosh, I remember that my kids are a little older so I do have a smidgen more margin, not much, but a smidgen more margin in my life. That’s when I was like I’m just going to do this. I’m going to toss it out there. We had to divide it into two because I invited 12 of our friends and neighbors and every single one said yes. I kind of thought only maybe … I didn’t know. It’s like you throw a party. We ended up having to do it twice. We met at my house. I did it the first time. I went through and just like I said, you even give like the menu planning in there. I followed it to a T mostly because like you said, I didn’t have the brain power.
Oh my goodness. We did ours during the day and that was because all the kids were in preschool or in school. We met. I assigned everyone their shopping lists. I did a few extra things. I made you all’s marinara sauce the night before. I made two batches of it in my crockpot so I had double so that I could give extra to everyone.
Polly: That was nice.
Kristin: We were fast and furious. It was so much fun. We laughed. There were tears I have to say. There was fellowship and community. That was in January. All of our meals are kind of gone now and so we have our next one coming up.
Polly: Oh my gosh. It just makes my heart so happy.
Kristin: It has met such a felt need in our neighborhood. Now we’ll text each other like, “Oh, I’m having the turkey pesto panini tonight. Have you had Polly’s taco soup yet or the chicken Parmesan casserole?” We inhaled it. It was amazing. Amazing.
Polly: I love hearing that. That is just like the heartbeat of our book is that we just wanted to find a way for food to bring people together. I think I saw in your Instagram. I don’t think we were like really had acknowledged we were following each other.
“We just wanted to find a way for food to bring people together.” – Polly Conner
Kristin Schell: We were still fangirling each other.
Polly: Right. Right. We were just like eyeing each other out a little bit. I remember seeing that you were doing it with your neighbors and that was the first time … Maybe someone had done it out there with their neighbors, but that was the first time someone had really told us via social media what they’re doing. I was like that it awesome and it made me want to go do that. I’m like, “Why haven’t I done this with my neighbors yet,” because I mean talk about a way to bring everyone together for a common purpose and just create more community. I myself, I’m part of a freezer club. What you have referred to is a freezer party, right?
Freezer Meal Clubs
Polly: We kind of spell this out in the book, but there’s kind of difference. You’re just kind of a one-time freezer party, which is a great place to start. That’s kind of like the gateway drug into this. It is like the first time you have a stocked freezer.
Kristin: It’s this amazing addiction because it is an amazing addiction. You have to have this.
Polly : Right. Right. That’s the first step for someone who’s never done the freezer cooking thing or just wants to try it out, doing it with your friends kind of a one-time cooking party. It does. It’s kind of that social atmosphere. It’s like the two birds with one stone. I am in a freezer club, which Rachel was too when she was in my stage of life. What we do is that every five or six weeks we are on our own making or scaling up a meal time six, and then we get together every six weeks or so and exchange those there. We aren’t necessarily cooking together, but we’re coming together on a weeknight.
We usually have a glass of wine, a little snack and just get to chat for about 45 minutes to an hour and just kind of catch up as moms and life. There’s a combination. Some are full-time working moms. Some are full-time stay at home. Some are part-time. We’re kind of all across the board, but it doesn’t really matter whether you’re working, not working or working outside the home, working inside the home. You all need dinner.
Polly: Our freezer club has brought community in that way that we just come together and get to kind of connect and not be cooking in the moment, but it’s fun in a different way.
Kristin: I’m glad you brought up that distinction because I have that actually written out in the side what’s the difference between a freezer party and a freezer club because we did start as a freezer party and we have our next one planned, but I can totally see how this would evolve into the club. Like you just described, on the night or whenever you get together to share all that you’ve cooked and divi it up for the month or two. That’s when you could have your fellowship and community. I think it’s not either or. It’s both and. We even talked about that. We were like, “Well, we can do both.”
Polly: Right. Yeah, you could try both. Not everyone has the two or three hours to get together to cook together. If someone’s working full-time outside the home, they probably don’t want to give up those evening hours to go cook with friends. That’s why the club has worked well for our combination of people, but it really just depends. Like some people if they’re at home with preschoolers, they’re like yes, evening out with my friends. I’m there. You need that, right? It just really depends on the people in your group and who wants to do it and what their needs are.
Kristin: Well, yeah, it’ll evolve because I can already see how ours may take shape in our neighborhood. For example, tell me because this is one of … It’s my passion. It’s your passion. Tell me about Freeze It Forward because I love this concept and idea. Tell us in your words what you’re so passionate about Freeze It Forward.
Polly: Yeah. When you have a freezer stocked with meals, it just makes it that much easier to give them to people in need. I know Rachel’s freezer club wants … They worked with the prison administrator at church and a guy had just gotten out of prison and moved into his own home. That month they each made an extra meal to stock his freezer just so he would just kind of be that much more equipped to just kind of handle life, right? Another thing you could do like in a freezer club, if someone is having a baby or a kid’s in the hospital or just for whatever reason like someone’s really struggling that season of life, the freezer club a lot of times will just like make an extra meal for them.
You know what I mean? Just to ease the burden. You can use food as ministry. There’s so many people out there who just need the blessing of a meal. If you can kind of start thinking this way about making food, like just doubling a meal when you’re making it and freezing a portion, you not only could have it for yourself on a busy night, but you also now have the ability to just take it to someone who might need a meal last minute who has three puking kids that day or something. You know what I mean? It’s just one extra way to love someone well. The cool thing is is like food is love whether you’re a Christian or not, right?
This is like a great way to minister even to non-Christians. It’s just like no one’s going to refuse a meal that’s made for you. It’s just a great way to care for all people no matter where they’re at or who they are.
Kristin: Absolutely. The day that we had in our neighborhood, our neighbors were all gathering. We or I actually got a text the night before from one of our neighbors. A dear friend who lives four doors down and she had to cancel coming to the freezer party at the very last minute. They had just had shocking, like terrifying news of a diagnosis. They were literally in crisis. It allowed us that morning to continue to make all the meals of course for her. We weren’t even thinking Freeze It Forward. We were just thinking of course, we’re doing this for her. It allowed us time to pray for her and just to have that space as neighbors and as friends. You’re right.
I mean, it was so beautiful and she wasn’t expecting it. She wasn’t thinking that she would be the recipient of that. Over the course of those few meals, she will text us all and just be like, “I’m still savoring the beautiful night.” We decided then that every time we meet that we will. We will each make the extra meals and save them for whatever that comes up. Because like you just said, I mean when you live in community as our neighbors now do, living as front yard people, I mean there is an abundance of need. It’s going to be such a joy to sort of see where those meals go. I love that.
Polly: That’s really cool.
Kristin: It’s just easy to divide them up. If everybody takes one home, it’s no extra space in the freezer, right?
Polly: Right. Yeah. It’s never going to hurt to make an extra meal.
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Starting Small For Big Results
Kristin: Okay. Let’s talk logistics just a little bit. Everything is in your book. I love that. For the person who’s listening, “Okay, I love this. I’m in, but I’m nervous. What are they talking about? What do I need? Do I have to go buy stuff? How do I even get it started?”
Kristin: Just help us out.
Polly: Yeah. I see these things like on Pinterest that are like “make 50 meals in two hours.” You know all those things. I’m just like oh, don’t start there. Just don’t. You’re just going to be up to your eyeballs in chicken breast. You just don’t do that. If you’re not accustomed to kind of the freezer cooking lifestyle, I will just tell people just to start small. Start with something easy and small. For example, like double a batch of soup because it’s all still in the same pot. You’re using the amount of dishes and you’re just putting twice the amount of ingredients in there.
Then just freeze half of it after cooking and then you can kind of start getting in that habit of like, “Oh, I could start thawing that out for tomorrow night.” I mean once you kind of experience that hands-free dinner, you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to do that again.” The next time you make a meal, you’re thinking like, “Oh, I should double those ingredients.” I always tell people to start like one meal at a time and just kind of get that habit. You learn recipe by recipe like how things freeze. Again in our book, we give instructions for every recipe, the best way to freeze it, but we learn that recipe by recipe.
It wasn’t like you just know it all of a sudden. We’ve had to experiment and have fails. It’s just kind of a learning process. Practically for me what it looks like is I see menu planning and freezer cooking kind of go hand-in-hand. Okay? I’m a big fan of the menu planning just because I just like that structure of just knowing what groceries you need to get, what’s in the fridge, what’s coming up tomorrow night, what do I need to start thawing out. I like that. I’m not like dying hard by it. I’ll buy the stuff, but we mix the meals around throughout the week that I’ve planned for. It’s not like it has to be black and white. I go through and I menu plan.
Then I look at the meals I’m going to do that week and I’m like, “Which ones could I double? Which ones can I just double the ingredients for and just make it two batches instead of one?” Eat one fresh and then freeze one for later. I just always have kind of like input and output of my freezer. Again that kind of just takes practice. Just starting one meal at a time and just getting that flow of just remembering like, “Oh, I have something in the freezer I can use for next week on that night when we have gymnastics and I don’t have time to cook. Instead of grabbing Jimmy John’s on the way home, let’s have this chicken Parmesan casserole.”
Start small. If you don’t have a group of people that’s like onboard with this, just doubling your own meals or like you. If you have some friends who are kind of all like in the thick of it, I mean I think almost everyone can identify with the dinnertime struggle. It’s not going to be hard to find people who want to find a way to make dinnertime easier. It’s a matter of just kind of reaching out to your friends. You know Kristin, this doesn’t have to be six people. You can do this with just one neighbor. What if you both just got together and made just two or three recipes together? You can do this with like two or three people. It doesn’t have to be this big group party.
You can just do it with someone next door or just someone in your life that you know would like this type of thing.
Kristin: Absolutely. I think that’s …
Polly: Sorry. One more thing to add to is that we have found that if you have like dietary restrictions, like some people … A lot of people are dairy-free or gluten-free. That can be a little tricky. We do say like if you’re forming this group, it does have to be with people that are of similar values. It doesn’t mean you like all the exact same things, but you do have to have similar values across the board as far as like are we valuing whole foods or are we valuing the cost of the food. If you do know two or three people that have to eat dairy-free, you should get together and make dairy-free meals together. Find your people and link arms with them.
Use these recipes or recipes online that work for you. Yeah, you don’t want to get in a freezer club with people that have … You don’t want a freezer club with someone who has a family of six and then someone who don’t have any kids. Your meals just aren’t going to match up well. You do have to be really thoughtful and a little give and take. I mean there’s for sure times there’s been meals that come from my freezer club that we weren’t crazy about. It’s like okay. Well, no harm done. It’s not like always 100% “oh, every meal that comes from my freezer club is wonderful. My family loved it,” but that’s just kind of the give and take of when other people are cooking for you.
They’re going to like things that are different than you, but it’s also helped us branch out. We tried these Asian turkey meatballs that I never would like choose to make for my family. I’m like, “They’re not going to eat that.” Oh my gosh, they were so good. It caused me to branch out because they’re in my freezer. I’m like, “Well, we need to make these,” and so I just gave them a whirl. It really helps your family branch out a different taste that are out of your comfort zone and you realize you like things you didn’t know.
Kristin: I agree. Got me out of my rut.
Polly: Yeah. Yeah.
Kristin: I thought, “Oh my gracious.” Then I think too there’s just something so beautiful about even though we’re not at the same table, I know that these friends we’re still sharing a common meal. I loved how it connects us.
“There’s just something so beautiful about even though we’re not at the same table, I know that these friends we’re still sharing a common meal. I loved how it connects us. – Kristin Schell
Polly: That’s a cool perspective. That is really cool. I like that.
Kristin: It was neat for us. Yes, it was easy for me because I’m a cook and so I wasn’t intimidated by starting with six friends and just using my kitchen because that’s what I do, but you’re so wise. For example, one of the things I did the second, I mean like the second I got your book, I immediately made the blueberry avocado muffin. If anybody is sitting there thinking, “Blueberry avocado,” like you can’t figure that out, avocado is the most amazing secret ingredient because it’s got all the fat, it’s got all the binding. It is like my favorite thing ever, and I knew we were going to be kindreds when I saw that recipe. I just made that. Like you just said, keep it simple. Start.
That’s going to give you plenty to freeze or to take to a neighbor and say, “Hey, I heard about this idea. Would you be interested in coming to cook? Maybe we can help each other out with meals this month,” and see where it goes. I’m just going to share which meals we picked because I mean they were so good.
Polly: I would love to know. Yeah. I would love to know.
Kristin: Okay. Your taco soup, Polly’s famous taco soup, because that’s just such a great crowd pleaser and it’s so easy. I wanted to throw in a breakfast option because I think sometimes it’s not just dinners. It’s early mornings that are heavy, and so we made the apple maple sausage bites. We have had those for breakfast, but let me tell you what, we’ve also put them in slider buns and my 18 year old son and his friends … Like they didn’t last very long. I’m not a good person to judge on how long these meals can last because I have high schoolers and so it’s like okay, everybody else got a full month, but I got like a full day.
Polly: Yeah. Yeah. They’re gone.
Kristin: I know they’re not lingering. We made the turkey pesto paninis and oh my goodness. That was an afternoon snack for my son and one his buddies from school. It was hilarious. They inhaled it and they were like, “Mom, this is like your best ever.” I’m not sure if I confided and shared that it wasn’t my recipe. I may need to atone for that. Full confession. I may have smugly said, “Oh well, I can make another. No problem.”
Polly: There’s no shame in that. That is fine. You bought the cookbook. You could take credit.
Kristin: There’s no shame. Aunt Polly recipe. He’s like, “Aunt Polly?” I’m like, “Oh, you know, Aunt Polly.”
Polly: Oh my gosh. That’s so funny.
Kristin: Then we did the meatballs and that’s one we doubled down on. We did double the recipe on meatballs because we figured if you’re already rolling meatballs and you’re already freezing them, like just keep going. Put some more music on and hang out a little longer in the kitchen. Those are lifesavers. Having meatballs around was amazing. Let’s see what else we did. We did the carnitas, and we did the chicken Parmesan casserole. I think the chicken Parmesan casserole, correct me if I’m wrong, that may not be in your book. That maybe like a freebie if they subscribed on your website. Is that correct?
Polly: Right. You do know us inside and out. My goodness.
Kristin: I’m telling you, I am now an evangelist.
Polly: Oh my gosh. Yes. The chicken Parmesan casserole is both on the blog and in the book. We took five recipes from the blog and put it in the book. That was as much as like our publishers was like, “We want less than 10%. The rest have to be original.” We really kind of just took a queue from our fans. We’re like which ones are they loving. I mean that chicken Parmesan casserole is by far our most popular recipe on Thriving Home. I mean by far. It brings in like the most traffic of any page on our site. It’s crazy.
Kristin: It is so good. It is so good.
Polly: It’s approachable. It’s easy.
Kristin: It’s so easy.
Polly: Oh yeah. It’s easy to scale up again. Kids like it. Adults like it. There’s good reason that it’s popular. On ThrivingHomeBlog.com, we do giveaway our top 10 freezer meals if you sign up for our email list and that’s really easy to find. Just at the top of our website. That’s a good starting point for a lot of people too. It’s like okay, what are some easy freezer meals that we know are wins. We put those together because we know that’s what people are looking for. They just want like give me the starters. Where do I start with this? What are the easy ones that are good? We have put those together and a little free eBook that we giveaway on our site.
Polly’s Favorite Freezer Recipes
Kristin: I will absolutely link to that because that I mean seriously … I’ve made that one on my own like multiple times since, and it’s such a perfect one for your own freezer. The chicken Parmesan casserole is the one … I mean it travels well. You’re right. I mean I can see why it’s like one of your top ones. It’s just incredible. Well, I want to know a little bit like what your favorite recipes are and are there any stories because we’ve talked about how food is just such a great connector and really means love. It’s the great unifier, but tell us if there’s any one or two that stand out as your favorite.
Polly: Oh my gosh. That’s really hard for me to answer.
Kristin: I know. It’s like, do you have a favorite child?
Polly: Right. Yeah. Here’s the deal, it’s like I like different ones depending on the season too. In the fall, I’m like totally loving our pumpkin muffins. That’s another crossover between the blog and the book is our pumpkin muffins with the crumble topping. They’re so good. They use a whole can of pumpkins. It kind of drives me nuts when a recipe just uses a half can of something. I’m like, “What am I supposed to do with this now?”
Kristin: Can we talk about that? Seriously thank you for using a whole can of pumpkins. Thank you. On behalf of cooks everywhere, that is huge because what do you do with the fourth cup left?
Polly: I know.
Kristin: Thank you.
Polly: I know. I love recipes that just utilize all the ingredients very well. Gosh. A breakfast one. I’ll just stick with that right now because that’s just been such like a staple in our home. My kids like it. It’s one we give away a lot. It’s one I usually have in my freezer because breakfast is hard too. If you have kids run off the door, like you need some grab and go meals. Muffins, like a healthy muffin, that actually has good ingredients that’s going to keep their bellies full. That’s one of those. The blueberry avocado muffins are, oh my gosh, they’re so good and so healthy too. They just have like Greek yogurt in them.
Then we got the blueberry, avocado. That’s a good grab and go breakfast as well. Oh my gosh. It’s so hard to pick.
Kristin: No. I was going to give you a sixth endorsement from the Schell family. All six of us love the blueberry avocado muffins.
Polly: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. I was wondering how people would receive that to be honest because I’m not like a super adventurous eater. I’m a kind of down the pipe like I like good food. I’m just not super experimental. Maybe I will be a little later in life when I have like older people that will be experimental with me, but if I put something mysterious in front of my kids, it’s getting thrown away. I’m just like … You know what? I need to cook like we’re going to eat. What I was going to say is I wondering how people would receive the idea of an avocado and a muffin because there is a hint of green if you don’t put the crumble topping on top.
I was afraid kids would be like, “Oh.” We actually have a recipe testing team. We had one for that cookbook and we have a current one, which we can talk our about cookbook coming out in 2019. We have a current recipe testing team too.
Polly: Are you on that by the way?
Kristin: I don’t think I am. Did I miss that? Oh my gosh.
Polly: You need to get on that. Okay. We did throw out the blueberry avocado muffin recipe to our recipe testing team for that first cookbook just to see. We’re like, “Are people going to for this,” and it was like rave reviews. We were like, “Yup. That’s a win. We’re doing it.” Yeah, that one’s a tried and true recipe. My husband’s birthday is on Wednesday and I asked him. His food’s a big deal to him. He feels loved when I make him good food. Like comfort food. I asked him, “What do you want me to make on your birthday?” He like really takes his food seriously. He’s like, “Oh gosh. I got to think about this.” He picked out easy beefy quesadillas from the cookbook. Have you had those yet?
Kristin: Yum. No, I haven’t tried. There’s like one. I guess that’s the one I haven’t tried.
Polly : Easily beefy quesadillas. It’s really like they sound. They’re easy to whip up. I mean they’re just a win with our whole family. It’s just ground beef with just some good flavoring in there and then you just turn that ground beef into quesadillas. He asked for that. Out of all the things I’ve made for him, he wants the easy beefy quesadillas, and then he wants my cinnamon rolls for breakfast, so I’m going to make those too and those are our blog recipe. Easy beefy quesadillas are probably a family favorite. I really like that recipe. I can’t say like that’s my absolute favorite. It’s for sure one that I like. And exciting to make and eat the leftovers.
I feel like that’s like the pinnacle of like a good recipe for me. I’m like if I want the leftovers, that means it was good.
Kristin: Right? Oh my gosh. I am looking at this. When everybody buys the book, it is on page 103. Oh my goodness. We’re in Texas, in Austin. We take our Mexican food really easy. This is going to fly. I may make this on Wednesday night for your husband’s birthday at my family.
Polly: Yay. Celebrate with us. That’s so funny.
Kristin: It looks really, really delicious. I love the black beans in it and the salsa. Oh my gosh. It’s delicious.
Polly : It’s really good.
Kristin: The corn too. Is the corn in the salsa, the avocado lime salsa? No. The corn’s actually in the …
Polly : No. It actually is like mixed in with the meat.
Kristin: Oh, I love that.
Polly : Yeah. It’s a winner for sure.
Kristin: Okay. Good.
Polly: That’s a husband favorite if you can do that.
Kristin: Yes, it is.
Polly: You did say you had made carnitas. I’ve probably made that one more than most
of the other recipes in the book it makes a huge batch, which is great. It’s a slow cooker recipe, which I love those, and just makes great leftovers. The leftovers just last all week long. We like to put them in wraps. Even scrambled eggs. I think we used the very, very, very last, the teeny tiny little bit that was like four bites left that we were all so stuffed. We put them in scrambled eggs the next morning and it was delicious.
Polly: I’d say if you really had to pin me down right now, that’s what comes to mind probably.
Kristin : Oh my gosh. Those are all so delicious, so good. I’m going to point everybody back to your website, but just in terms of logistics, so maybe step one if you’re thinking about this today, like right this second, maybe just start with cleaning out your freezer.
Polly : Yes. Yeah. A lot of people rule this out because they think that they can’t fit all these freezer meals in their freezer or that they don’t have a secondary freezer so they don’t have room for it. The truth is a lot of meals freeze up really easily in plastic freezer bags. Just a quality Ziploc freezer bag. If you freeze them flat, then you could stack quite a few meals on top of each other. You don’t have to have that much space to store freezer meals.
Kristin : No. I mean that’s what I was so surprised. When we did ours and when I freeze things at home too, I don’t have fancy stuff. I do have a few little containers for like the marinara sauce and things like that, but basically yes, laying them flat or laying them, laying, laying, whatever, but placing them flat in your freezer. The only tip I will give on that if that your freezer bags have any moisture or wetness outside, I always put a paper towel between, so when I stack it, they don’t get stuck together. It doesn’t take up that much space and quite frankly, that’s what our freezers are designed for.
Anyway, once I cleaned out a few of the things that had expired, I was surprised at how much room I had.
Polly : Yeah. Yup. You’d be surprised.
From Freezer to Cooker
Kristin : Oh goodness. Okay. Well, before we end, I want to hear just a sneak peak of the new book. I mean once they get your current book, they’re just going to go ahead and pre-order.
Polly : Right. That would be awesome. It’s not available for pre-order yet. Our next cookbook is going to be called “From Freezer to Cooker.” We hear our people loud and clear. They’re like, “We want more slow cooker recipes.” We have taken on what we didn’t know was a huge challenge. When we signed up for this, we’re like, “Yeah. Slow cooker meals. That sounds awesome,” and then our publisher was like, “Well, we want some more … Can you do something with instant pot too? Like all these people are wanting instant pot recipes.” We’re like, “Sure. We can come up with those too.” We’re quite ambitious on the front side of things, and then we get into the testing these recipes.
We’re like, “These are hard.” It’s really hard to make a good slow cooker meal and to make 75 of them that don’t all taste the same. I mean it’s a challenge. We just had a meeting a couple days ago where we just went through all the recipes. We have about 45 that we feel really good about so far. We have a few more months to finish up, but basically the concept is all these meals can be made in bulk frozen and then you use for the slow cooker. Then we also are going to include instant pot conversions. We’re going to have the slow cooker recipe and then if it can convert to the instant pot, which most of them can, we’re going to give instructions for how to do that.
These again will be great for kind of the cooking in bulk with friends. Really easy to take to someone because almost all of them, I think every single one of them, can be put in a bag at this point. It’s a challenge because we really do have a high standard for our recipes. We don’t want to waste people’s time. We don’t want to put yucky recipes out there that no one’s going to eat. If one’s not right, we go back and do it again. We are just testing and testing and testing recipes.
We do have, like I mentioned, a recipe testing team that we’ve been sending recipes out to weekly, which has been very helpful just to get their feedback on what they want and what’s been receptive in their family, what hasn’t. That’s been a fun process too, bringing those people in with us. “From Freezer to Cooker.”
Testers & Tasters
Kristin : Do you still need testers or are you all full-up on that?
Polly : You know what? We decided not to put a limit on it just because we’re like what’s the point? Why not just keep this open? If people want to join, then they can join up at any point. What we do is just usually on Mondays … I shouldn’t put a date on it. Once a week we send out a recipe. If you joined it now, you wouldn’t get the previous five or six we’ve sent, but you would just be like caught onboard where we’re at. We have a private Facebook group where we’re just chatting up about the recipes, what would make it better. Everyone’s sharing pictures of what they’re making in their home.
It’s been really, really fun to kind of build that community of people who just love food and love experimenting with food even knowing it may not be absolutely perfect when we send it to them. There’s times too when we’re like, “We haven’t tested this in the instant pot yet. Anyone want to give it a whirl? Let us know what you find out.” We try to give people guidance on like the instant pot time stuff, but that’s still … What we’re doing right now is we’re really working hard to get our 75 recipes figured out and then we’ll kind of go back through and work through them for the instant pot. Just been focused on the slow cooker for now.
Kristin : I love that. I love that. I love that you are so generous with including everyone in the tasting because that’s just another layer of community. Many hands make light work.
Polly : It is. It’s been fun.
Kristin : I do love that it’s going to be that. Yeah. I may have to sign up for that. I am a slow cooker. I love, love, love my slow cooker. I even have a turquoise one. I’ve a turquoise slow cooker.
Polly : That’s awesome.
Kristin : That was part of The Tuesday Morning Collection. I’ll have to try those out if I can because I can’t wait until 2019. 2019 is when you think that will …
Polly : Yes. It is contracted to come out in the fall of 2019. We don’t know exactly what date yet. It’s in the book writing process. We’re just in the very beginning with this one. We haven’t quite sat down with … Especially since we had a publisher switch, I think things might be a little bit different. We found the fall is the time that people are more interested in the freezer cooking stuff because they want to prepare ahead for school. Everyone’s getting a little more organized. We just found that fall is a really good launch time for this type of cookbook.
Kristin : Absolutely. In the meantime, “From Freezer to Table.” I mean it is literally … Mine is already so worn. Our youngest daughter Sarah has put her … I’ll put a picture of this on social media where she’s like gone through and put sticky tabs for all her favorite recipes. We will definitely get a link to that. We’ll have everything in the show notes, but just so people can find you, your blog URL and social media handles.
Polly : Our blog is ThrivingHomeBlog.com. If you want to know about just about the cookbook, we do have a site just for that. It’s FromFreezertoTable.com. That’s easy to remember for people if you’re just listening and driving and can’t write something down right now. It’s the title of the book FromFreezertoTable.com, so you can learn all about the book there. I’m sure you can link to all of our social media handles, but we do love … We interact a lot on social media. We love seeing pictures of these meals in your homes. It’s just come to life when we started seeing these meals in people’s homes. It’s pretty cool.
Send them our way. We love it when people are out there especially if you’re doing something community oriented. Oh my gosh. We love to see that. We will reshare it. We just love seeing what you’ve done. Just bringing people in using this concept. We’d love to see what people are doing out there.
Kristin : Okay. Do you have Freeze It Forward? Is that like the hashtag because I think that is going to be so much fun and I know that my folks listening are going to love the Freeze It Forward concept.
Polly : Yeah. I mean yeah. I can’t say we own that hashtag. We’re going to claim it.
Kristin : There we go. We’ll start it now.
Polly : Right now right here we just claimed it. There you go. Freeze It Forward–hashtag if you’re doing it.
Kristin : Well, thank you, Polly, and please give Rachel a big, big Texas size hug from me. I love the way you bring people to the table. I love how easy and simple that you make it. I love how resourceful you are. It’s just such an important thing for anybody, for moms, for all generations to really take this concept and keep it … Stock your freezers. Stock your freezers.
Polly : Thanks. Thanks. We feel the same way and I love just hearing from true fans. Thanks for being a cheerleader for us.
Kristin : Absolutely. Well, I’m not going to stop anytime soon. Thank you for your time. I’m going to go make something yummy. Probably order all of the ingredients for the easy beefy quesadillas. Happy birthday to your husband. Thank you. Thank you so much, Polly.
Polly : No problem.
Freezer Cooking From Kristin’s Kitchen
Narrator: Welcome to Kristin’s Kitchen, sponsored by Shipt.
Kristin : Welcome to the kitchen. Okay. I have to say after talking to Polly, I’m even more obsessed with freezer cooking meals than I was before. I’ve become now this freezer evangelist. You know what I needed was a way to get out of my rut. I find that I am often in a dinnertime rut and you all, I’m a cook. I love being in the kitchen. It just sometimes gets overwhelming thinking about what I’m going to make and when I’m going to make it. Let’s be honest. I love knowing that I can have good healthy meals in the freezer. I’ve been in the kitchen all day today making meals to stock our freezer.
What I’m cooking right now is I’m going to try their chicken fried rice with maple soy sauce and here’s why. First of all, like I said, I feel like our family gets in a rut a whole lot of the time. Okay. Now I have a hot wok going and you’re going to hear the chicken sizzle. I feel like we get in a rut with flavors. I have never tried to freeze chicken fried rice. I make dishes like this, but I’ve never frozen them. I’m super intrigued by it. I’m also intrigued by the fact that when Polly and Rachel wrote this recipe, here is Rachel’s quote to Polly, “I texted Polly and said, ‘I want to face plant into this pan of fried rice.'” Okay? There you go.
I mean if you what to face plant into a bowl of fried rice, it’s got to be good. It’s super simple. I’m actually doubling this recipe as we speak because I’m going to freeze two batches of it. One for our family and then I’m going to have another frozen bag of it to Freeze It Forward like Polly was saying. That way in the next few weeks if anyone in our neighborhood needs a meal, I’m going to have this ready to go. Essentially you just take some chicken, you cube it up and then you have eggs, broccoli, carrots, garlic, frozen peas and scallions and then some brown rice. I mean how simple is that.
While my chicken is in the wok cooking, I’m going to chop up the veggies. I’m just raw chopping broccoli. Sarah needs something. What’s that, baby?
Kristin : Broccoli. That’s right.
Sarah: Can I have some?
Kristin : You may have some. Sarah joined me in the kitchen. Actually you know what? Here, take this.
Kristin : Sarah joined me in the kitchen. We got all kinds of people dropping by. What baby?
Sarah: Can I give Mojo some?
Kristin : No, don’t give the dog any of the raw broccoli. We’ll give him some of the cooked stuff. It’s so simple. I think from beginning to end this recipe to saute … You don’t have to have a wok to kind of get the chicken sauteed. Sorry. I think from beginning to end it’s going to take about 15 minutes. Maybe 20 because I’m having a lot of little distractions. I’m also trying to podcast while I am making chicken fried rice like okay. In 20 minutes, to think that I can have two meals, one for our family and then one to take to the neighbor, like I love that. My broccoli and carrots are all chopped up. I made brown rice yesterday, so that I already have.
I just pulled it out of the freezer, I mean out of the fridge, and then I’m just going to use frozen peas and some garlic. How easy is that? Okay. The final thing I want to tell you all is Polly and Rachel use a maple soy sauce. It’s a little different than anything I’ve ever made before, so I am so excited about this and it is delicious. All that you use on this is maple syrup soy sauce. I use tamari because it’s gluten-free and then red pepper flakes. Here’s what’s different, unsalted butter. I’ve never put butter in any of my Asian sauces or any of the Chinese sauces I’ve made. I always use like a peanut or a sesame oil, and so I’m super excited to try this. It’s actually really good.
I made it as well. I hope you all are encouraged. I hope you are encouraged to start small and maybe just try one of their recipes and freeze it. Try your favorite recipe at home that you already love and try to freeze it. I have gone back now and revisited some of our family favorites and thought about them in a new light like wow, this one really might freeze. Then on those days when dinner is just not going to happen, you have something in your freezer. I loved our conversation with Polly, and I can already tell just by the smell of my kitchen that we are going to love the chicken fried rice. I hope you will experiment a little bit and try a freezer meal and let us know.
Let us know which one you’re trying. Let us know how you are starting small and what victory you had just by having something in your freezer. Enjoy and thanks for being in the kitchen with me.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Thanks for listening. You’ll find a complete transcript of this episode at TheTurquoiseTable.com/podcast. Also, be sure to subscribe to the The Turquoise Table Podcast on iTunes and leave us a review. Until next time, gather small and love deep.