Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Freezer Cooking

I usually do a menu plan for two weeks and do the bulk of the shopping at once. It is so helpful for me to have a plan and know what's for dinner so I am not left trying to figure it out at 4:00 in the afternoon! Several days of the week I actually cook our main meal at noon because I am not home in the evening. Our current plan included several meals with ground meat so I bought a bunch and hadn't put it in the freezer yet. Yesterday's menu was meatloaf, green beans and loaded mashed potatoes. When I make meatloaf, I always make an extra to freeze - it's too easy not to. Well, I decided that if I was going to chop onion and bell pepper for meatloaf, why not go ahead and make all the meals I had planned for these two weeks that call for ground beef, onion and bell pepper?? So, here's what I ended up with: One meatloaf to bake, one to freeze, two meals of Dirty Rice, big batch of taco meat, two meals of Jones Burgers (sloppy joes), and one bag of seasoned ground beef that can be used in any casserole. Today I have two cut up chickens cooking in the crock pot and plans to make Spicy Chicken Spaghetti and Chicken Pot Pie this evening. I should get at least 4 meals from these. I'll share our 2 week menu plan below as well as a few of the recipes.

Meatloaf, loaded mashed potatoes, green beans
Spicy Chicken Spaghetti, salad, garlic bread
Steak & Mushrooms, salad, corn
Chicken Pot Pie, salad
Tacos (and maybe enchiladas)
Grilled Chicken and squash casserole (from the freezer) - Grill extra chicken for fajitas later
Dirty Rice, salad, rolls
Chicken Fajitas (from chicken cooked earlier) and beans
Jones Burgers
Hot Tamale Casserole

Spicy Chicken Spaghetti

8 oz. package of spaghetti
1/4 cup butter
1/2 large onion chopped
8 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed
10 oz. can Rotel tomatoes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (I use whatever kind of chicken I have)
1 can cream of chicken soup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook Spaghetti and drain. Place in a 13" x 9" baking dish coated with cooking spray. Melt butter in a large skillet; add onion and saute for 3 to 5 minutes. Add cheese and rotel, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in chicken and soup, blending well. Pour over spaghetti in baking dish. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

NOTE: For freezing - I just mix all the ingredients together and freeze in a gallon size ziploc bag. Thaw overnight, then pour into a greased casserole dish and bake as directed.

Dirty Rice

1 lb. ground chuck
chopped onion
chopped bell pepper
salt to taste
1 can French onion soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup uncooked long grain rice

Brown beef, onions, and bell pepper. Drain. Add the soups and rice. You can add a little water if needed to thin the mixture. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees in a 9" x 13" pan for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.

FOR FREEZER - After mixing all ingredients, pour into a gallon ziploc bag and freeze. Thaw, pour into casserole dish and bake as directed.

Chicken Pot Pie

4 Chicken breasts, cooked and deboned
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cans mixed vegetables
1 box Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust

Cook and debone the chicken. Mix with the soups and the drained vegetables. Pour into a 9" x 13" casserole and top with the pie crusts. Bake at 400 degrees until the crust is nicely browned and the filling is bubbly (about 45 minutes).

For Freezer: Mix the chicken, soups and vegetables. Pour into a gallon ziploc bag and freeze. Thaw, pour into casserole dish, top with crust and bake as directed.

These are all three recipes our family likes and they freeze well. Because we have a small family, I usually mix the recipe and divide into two meals (cooking in a 9" square pan) - one to eat and one to freeze. However, they are really easy to double if you want to make larger portions.

I was introduced to freezer cooking by some moms in our home school support group several years ago. I hadn't done a lot of freezer cooking but tried to double recipes when I could and freeze them. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, I had several friends who literally filled our freezer with freezer meals. I cannot tell you what a blessing it was during those 7 months of weekly chemotherapy treatments to be able to pull a meal from the freezer when I was unable to prepare a meal for my family myself. After that, I determined that I wanted to do more freezer meals and then I realized how nice it is to have at least several meals in the freezer at a time!


Jennifer said...

I have been thinking that I *really* need to get back to freezer cooking, and now you have helped motivate me! Thanks for posting this...I'm looking forward to trying your recipes!

Life at the Lake said...

Hope you like them : ) I don't do much during the summer because we tend to not eat many casseroles in summer - we want something fast and hopefully from the grill - not the oven! Now that it's not quite so hot, it's easier to think about freezer cooking.