Friday, 16 May 2014

Freezer Meals

Have you noticed how "in" freezer meals are right now?  It seems like everyone is creating Pinterest boards chalk full of recipes that claim to be "The best freezer meals ever!".  Or they explain "How to make 50 freezer meals in one afternoon!"  Blah blah blah...  I don't have time to take an entire afternoon and cook, so I don't have to do any cooking later.  But I was curious about many of the freezer meal recipes that I found, so decided to give them a try.  

Before my little guy arrived, I wanted to jump on this little freezer-meal-band-wagon and give it a go.  But how was I supposed to find recipes that would be easy and that my family would actually like?  After lots of looking I found 3 "freezer meal" recipes that sounded good, and seemed really easy to make, but honestly I was a little skeptical about.  But I also included 5 recipes of my own that I thought might work as freezer meals.  The recipes that I created actually turned out to be our favorite :).  That's probably because I was able to cater to our pasta and cheese loving family.  Who doesn't love their carbs and gooey cheese, right?  So, if you're running out of ideas for freezer meals, think of some of your favorite regular meals and do what you can to turn them into "freezer meals".  It worked for us!

I grew up in a big family (8 kids, 5 of them being boys), so my mom taught me how to cook for the masses.  This is a habit that I have had a hard time getting out of my system.  I don't know how to cook for a family of just 2 adults and 1 toddler, so inevitably we always have leftovers.  Each of these recipes could easily feed a family of 4, so you can adjust the ingredients accordingly.  Or, you can do what I did: follow the entire recipe as listed, eat half for dinner that night, then freeze the other half.  Not only does it save you on the cooking time (you only have to cook once...), but you also already know that you like the meal, and will look forward to eating the rest later.

These recipes are listed in order from our favorite to our least favorite.  (sorry I didn't get pictures of all the completed dishes...)

Here's a quick tip before you get started:
- write the cooking directions on the tinfoil or plastic bag before you put the food inside.    

Ok, let's get to those recipes!

Pizza Pasta
olive oil
1/2 onion - diced
1 package pepperoni - diced
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 regular can tomato sauce
1 can black olives - sliced
2 Roma Tomatoes - diced
1 tsp Italian seasoning 
salt and pepper to taste
16 oz box pasta (we like Rigatoni the best) 
1/2 bunch chopped fresh basil (can substitute dried basil, but fresh is MUCH better) 
1-2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

1.  In a large pot/pan brown onions in olive oil
2.  Add pepperoni and cook until almost crispy
3.  Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water and cook pasta until al dente, making sure to reserve about 1 cup of the starchy water.
4.  Add vinegar to pepperoni to scrape off all the yummy stuff from the bottom of the pan
5.  Add tomato sauce, tomatoes, olives, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and 1 cup of reserved pasta water
6.  Simmer 2-3 minutes
7.  Add cooked pasta to sauce
8.  Add basil
9.  Add as much cheese as you want to make it extra cheesy and delicious 
10.  Eat immediately or pour pasta in a 13"x 9" foil pan, cool, cover with foil, and freeze.

When ready to eat: thaw and cook at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.   

Baked Chicken Chimichangas
2/3 cup picante sauce or your favorite salsa
1 tsp ground cumin 
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 cup cooked chicken - chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 green onions - chopped
8 inch flour tortillas
2 tbsp butter - melted

1.  Mix together chicken, salsa, cumin, oregano, cheese and onions.
2.  Place about 1/4 cup of the chicken mixture in the center of each torilla
3.  Fold opposite sides over filling.
4.  Roll up from bottom and place seam side down on a baking sheet.  If wanting to eat immediately, brush with butter and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.


Roll up from bottom and place seam side down on a baking sheet.  Freeze for about 30 minutes, then place chimichangas into a gallon size freezer bag.

When ready to eat: thaw, place chimichangas on baking sheet, brush with butter, bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  

Buffalo Chicken Chile Mac and Cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into small bits
1 large carrot - chopped
1 large onion - chopped
3 ribs celery - finely chopped
4 garlic cloves - finely chopped
1 tbsp paprika
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 to 1/2 cups hot sauce (depending on how hot you like it)
1 15 oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni 
1-2 cups of your favorite cheese
2 scallions - thinly sliced

1.  Place a large pot over medium/high heat, add olive oil, once pot is warm add chicken and brown them.
2.  Add carrot, onion, celery, garlic, paprika, bay leaf, and salt and pepper.  Cook veggies, stirring frequently until tender.  
3.  Add chicken stock and scrape up any brown bits from the pot.  Add hot sauce and tomatoes, and bring to a bubble.  Simmer for 8-10 minutes.  
4.  While simmering, cook pasta until al dente.  Once cooked, drain the pasta and toss into the chicken mixture.  
5.  Transfer everything to 13"x 9" casserole dish.  Sprinkle with cheese and place under broiler for 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle the chopped scallions over the top, serve and Enjoy!


* If wanting to freeze: place the mixture in foil casserole dish, allow to cool, cover with cheese, cover with foil and freeze.  When ready to eat: thaw, and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.  Sprinkle chopped scallions over the top of the cooked casserole, and enjoy!

Chicken Enchilada Casserole 
2 (12 oz.) cans cooked chicken chunks 
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 small can green enchilada sauce
2 cans diced green chilies 
1 small onion - diced
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 lbs. grated cheddar cheese (or any cheese mixture of your choice)
24-30 corn tortillas

1.  In a large bowl, mix together everything but the cheese and tortillas.  
2.  Layer in a 13"x 9" casserole dish starting with the chicken mixture, then cheese, then tortillas, chicken, cheese, etc. ending with chicken mixture.  
3.  Cover with remaining cheese and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until bubbly and brown 


* If freezing, cover with foil and freeze unbaked casserole.  When ready to eat: thaw, remove foil, bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. 

Cheesy Potatoes and Ham
1 26 oz bag of hashbrowns
1 10.5 oz. can cream of chicken soup
1 10.5 oz. can cream of celery soup
1 cup sour cream
1 cup milk
2 cups cheddar cheese
4 green onions
2 cups cooked cubed ham
Salt and Pepper
Corn Flakes crushed

1.  Mix together all the ingredients except the corn flakes.  
2.  Pour into a 13"x 9" casserole dish, sprinkle with cornflakes and bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes.  


* If freezing, pour into foil casserole dish, cover with foil, and freeze.  When ready to eat: thaw casserole, sprinkle corn flakes over casserole, bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, remove foil and bake 15 more minutes.   

Cheesy Garlic Chicken
2 large chicken breasts
2 Cans cream of chicken soup
1 Can cheddar cheese soup
1-2 tsp garlic powder
2 T butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients in gallon freezer bag and freeze.  

Day of cooking: grab from freezer, pour all contents into crock pot and cook on high 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours. Can be served with angel hair pasta or mashed potatoes. 

Chicken w/ Pineapple and Rice
4 boneless chicken breast halves
1 can (14 oz.) pineapple tidbits in juice, undrained
3/4 cups finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup each chopped sweet red peppers and green peppers
1/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cups chopped green onions
2 cups of chicken broth

Combine all ingredients in gallon freezer bag and freeze. 

Day of cooking: grab from freezer, pour all contents into crock pot and cook on high 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours.  Serve over rice. Sprinkle with sliced green onions.  

Cilantro Lime Chicken
1 ½ lb diced chicken
2 juiced limes
1 bunch fresh cilantro chopped
1 16oz bag frozen corn
2 minced cloves
½ red onion chopped
1 t. cumin
Salt & pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a gallon sized freezer bag. Freeze.
Cooking day: Thaw. Cook on low in crockpot 8 hrs or on high 4 hrs. Serve w/tortillas & your favorite toppings (sour cream guacamole cheese)

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