Amber Butler and Ashley Peebles
Amber Butler and Ashley Peebles
Amber Butler and Ashley Peebles are not only friends and neighbors, they are cooking partners as well.

The two team up once a month to spend the day cooking meals that their families will enjoy over the next three or four weeks depending on their schedules.

Amber and Ashley like to search for new recipes on the website Pinterest, often posting their findings to each other's freezer boards on the site.

The friends usually get together on a Friday night to plan their menus and shopping lists. They hit the grocery store early on Saturday morning, split the tab and then spend most of the day cooking.

They divide their creations in half, storing them into family serving sizes in their freezers.

"We stay so busy," Ashley said. "When we come home at night, there is no time to cook. We usually ended up eating out and spending more money. This is a lot cheaper. Now we pull out one container from the freezer and only dirty up one dish to reheat."

She and Amber have been cooking together for about five months. This time of year, soups are a really big hit along with chili and gumbo.

Others favorites are manicotti, quesadillas and roasts.

"Everybody thinks we make casseroles!" Ashley said. "We've talked about it but we just haven't done it yet."

No matter what their main dishes might be, the two young mothers always prepare seasoned meat for taco nights. They also cook chicken in the crockpot each month to store in the freezer.

Both of those can be pulled from the freezer and made into a meal in just a few minutes.

Spaghetti sauce is another favorite.

"We don't cook complicated things," Ashley said. "Simple is best for us."

Amber said they particularly enjoy trying new recipes on their families.

While most have proven successful, their marinated pork chops were a flop as no one really liked them.

There was also the pecan stuffed chicken that was "edible" but not good.

In addition, there was also the time they burned half of their meat loaves which they like to make in muffin tins.

But despite those few issues, the friends say their teamwork has been a big success for their families.

Ashley is a customer service manager at The Citizens Bank. Her husband, Ben, is an accountant at Prince Oil Co.

They live on Tommy Drive with son, Pete, 7.

Amber and her husband, Chris, also live on Tommy Drive with their children, Jack, 7, and Analynn, 3.

She is a stay-at-home mom while Chris is the preacher at the Church of Christ on east Main Street.

Ashley and Amber have shared many of their recipes which can easily be doubled.

Red Beans and Rice

1 package smoked sausage, sliced

2 cans red beans

1 can Rotel

1 package dry onion soup mix

Brown sausage. Add all ingredients to a crockpot and cook on low for four hours. Serve over rice.

Ranch Pork Chops

4-6 pork chops

1 package dry ranch dressing mix

2 cans cream of chicken soup

To prepare right away: Put all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 4-6 hours. To freeze: Put all ingredients in a gallon size freezer bag. Freeze. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Pour everything into crockpot and cook on low 4-6 hours.

Spaghetti Sauce

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound lean ground beef

28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Heat oil in skillet. Add onion and garlic. Cook; stirring frequently until onion is translucent.

Brown ground beef in skillet. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer five minutes for flavors to blend and sauce to thicken. Add additional seasoning as desired by tasting.

Buffalo Shrimp

1/4 cup oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons hot sauce (optional)

1 large bag of frozen shrimp

To freeze: combine ingredients from oil through hot sauce (if using) to make marinade. Place shrimp in labeled freezer bag or container. Pour marinade over shrimp, seal and freeze. To cook: Thaw in refrigerator. You have several options. You can skewer shrimp and broil or grill or panfry. They are good served over noodles with some extra olive oil and butter.

Italian Roast

Large chuck roast

1 package zesty Italian seasoning

1 package onion soup mix

1/2 jar of pepperoncini peppers

1 can of cream of mushroom soup

Place roast in crock pot and pour remaining ingredients over it. When using the pepperoncinis, only pour the juice in crockpot before cooking. When there is 30 minutes remaining in cook time, add the actual whole peppers the remainder of the time. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6 hours. To freeze: shred the cooked roast, cool and place in freezer bag. To serve: thaw and warm in oven.

Amber's Vegetable Soup

2 pounds of cooked ground beef

4 cans of green beans

1 can of sliced carrots

1 can of white shoe peg corn

1 can of diced potatoes

1 can of English peas

2 cans of petite diced tomatoes

1 can of Rotel tomatoes

5 or 6 beef bouillon cubes

2 cups of water

Combine all ingredients in large stock pot. Simmer for one hour. To freeze, cool and place into freezer bags. To reheat, thaw and warm in stove. Water may need to be added when you reheat if it is too thick. You can mix and match vegetables to your taste. I have used lima beans and black eyed peas as well.

Italian Meatloaf

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork sausage

1 bell pepper, finely diced (either green, red or yellow)

1 onion, finely diced

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup bread crumbs

2 eggs

2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Marinara sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and spread in loaf pan. Top with marinara sauce and bake for one hour. Cool. Store in freezer safe bag or container and freeze. If preferred, these can be baked in muffin tins for mini meat loaves and you may pull them out as needed. This method is very convenient if cooking for a few people as opposed to a large family. To serve, thaw and bake to warm.