Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Chicken and Rice Casserole - freezer meal

This is super easy and cheap to prepare.
This makes a QUADRUPLE batch!
I also have a fun and easy method for using up any leftovers, what I like to call "RISOTTO" CAKES... Just take leftovers and form into small hamburger shaped patties.  Pan fry in butter until nicely browned. Makes a nice crispy outside...yum.
Chicken and Rice Casserole - quadruple batch
Each batch serves 4-6
10 cups Cooked Rice
4 cups cooked chicken, chopped
4 cups chopped broccoli, lightly steamed
2 cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup
4 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Salt and pepper to taste. 
Combine all ingredients in huge bowl (I used my biggest stock pot)
Divide among four gallon-size freezer bags, label, and freeze.
When ready to prepare, thaw overnight. Please in greased 8x8 dish or similar-sized pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Italian Bolognese Sauce. (Freezer and crock-pot)

Again...bad pictures...
I was sooo excited about how this came out! 
I am not a huge pasta fan these days.  I usually consider pasta nights to be those when you don't have time to cook something decent or else you're trying to save money or stretch your grocery budget. I very rarely make my own spaghetti sauce because it seems like an awful lot of work when you can just buy some premade stuff, pop open the jar and dump it into a saucepan.  But this was SOOO good and definitely worth the small bit of effort.  I am not one to boast about my own cooking, but if I didn't know any better, I would have thought I was a little Italian lady who had been slaving over her stove all day on this sauce!
With regard to the herbs, I did not have Italian seasoning or Herbs de Provence.  I just tossed in whatever herbs I had on hand that sound Italian-ish, and I had a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme that I tossed into the bag.
Italian Bolognese Sauce
1 Pound Italian Sausage, removed from casings
1/2 Cup Chopped Onion
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
28 Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
6 Ounces Tomato Paste
1 Cup Water
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
1 Tablespoon Herbs De Provence
1 teaspoon Fennel Seeds
1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (more or less to taste...1 teaspoon gives it a good amount of bite!)
Bay Leaf
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper
Brown Sausage, breaking into medium-ish and small-ish chunks
Add sausage to Ziploc bag along with remaining ingredients.  Label bag with your sharpie and freeze.
To cook, thaw in refrigerator overnight or 24 hours.
Dump contents of bag into crockpot. Cook on low approximately 6-8 hours (may be less depending on your crockpot)

Hamburger Noodle Bake (Freezer meal)

This is what I like to call a filler recipe.  Really simple and inexpensive.  You can make a triple or quadruple batch in no time and get your freezer filled up! One 8x8 pan lasted us for two meals, and there was no waste - we ate up all of it!
Yes, I know my pictures are awful.  It doesn't look tasty, but it tasted much better than it looks in this picture!

Hamburger Noodle Bake
NOTE: This recipe is doubled - it makes two 8x8 pans. I buy the cheap aluminum pans when they go on sale. You could also probably find good deals on them at a wholesale store. You can also find them at the dollar store, usually two for a dollar. They work fine, but just beware that the cheaper ones are flimsy, so make sure you hold from the bottom when placing or removing from the oven. Sometimes I will toss them in the dishwasher and reuse them once...sometimes I just toss them when I'm done.
5 Cups uncooked egg noodles
2 pounds Ground Beef
1 Cup Chopped Onion
1/2 Cup Green Pepper, Chopped
2 Cans Condensed Tomato Soup (Next time I might experiment with using tomato sauce instead)
2 Cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1.5 Cups Water
1/2 Cup Ketchup or Chili Sauce
Cook noodles until just tender; drain.
Brown beef, onion, and green pepper in large pot until no longer pink.
Stir in remaining ingredients; stir to combine.
Divide amongst two 8x8 or similar-sized aluminum pans.
Allow to cool, then cover securely with aluminum foil. Use your trusty Sharpie to label write baking directions to the foil.
Place in Freezer.
When ready to cook, thaw in refrigerator overnight to 24 hours. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Mine was still partially frozen when I put it in the oven. It took about an hour to cook.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Honey Rosemary Chicken (freezer recipe)

Honey Rosemary Chicken (Freezer Recipe)

I thought this recipe was pretty good. Not one of the best, but definitely a keeper.
2 pounds boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/3 Cup Honey
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil (Optional)
1 Sprig of Fresh Rosemary

Add all ingredients to freezer bag. When you label the bag, be sure to put on a note that says add to crockpot along with one cup of water (of course you could add the cup of water before freezing, but I don't because it just takes up more space in my freezer.)

When ready to cook, thaw in refrigerator. Add contents of bag to Crock Pot, along with one cup of water. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

*Note: My crockpot always seems to cook hot and fast. Mine was done in about 4-5 hours.

Introduction to Freezer Cooking

So I am finally getting around to doing this freezer cooking blog, which I have been wanting to do for awhile now.  Instead of starting an all-new blog, I've just brought back my old one from the dead, and added a new tab for freezer recipes.

I apologize ahead of time for my horrible photos.  Most of these are done on my iPhone. I'm working on it. But I'm lucky if I even remember to take a photo of a meal :-)

Anyone who has spent any time with me in the past few months had to listen to me prattle on endlessly about freezer cooking, and probably knows how passionate I am about it. So now instead of having to listen to me drone on about it in person, you can just read my blog to get updates and share recipes!

Freezer cooking in a nutshell:
  • Buy foods in bulk or when it's on sale = Cost savings
  • Prepare and freeze multiple batches of one recipe = Time savings
  • Thaw and either bake or toss into the crockpot = Saves you time and lots of stress in the evenings!

I was first introduced to freezer cooking from a magazine article.  I committed to making a months' worth of dinners and seeing how it worked out. During that trial month, I was completely amazed at how much easier and less stressful it made evenings for me, and how much money it was saving our family. In addition, the fact that weekly grocery store trips were now fun and no longer the lowlight of my week.

I am a mom with a pretty busy evening schedule. Meal planning was my least-favorite chore. There were so many things I disliked about meal planning and cooking dinner. Here are my top ten:

  1. Difficulty finding dinner recipes that are easy, inexpensive, and well-liked by everyone.
  2. Making weekly shopping lists...and then inevitably forgetting to bring my shopping list to the store with me
  3. Trying to cram the shopping cart full of everything I needed for weekly meals.
  4. $$ The price of my weekly groceries..yikes! $$
  5. Upon getting home from the store, realizing that I forgot to get at least one neceeesary item on my list, and having to head back to the grocery store later in the week.
  6. Rushing home from dance class or a sports event and having to turn into what my husband calls the "kitchen tornado" in order to get dinner ready on time.
  7. When dinner is finally ready, trying to enjoy it with your family, but always looking over your shoulder and knowing that that huge pile of dishes you just dirtied while making the meal is waiting...
  8. Those nights when you JUST  DON'T FEEL LIKE COOKING, or you run out of time, and end up going out for an unhealthy (and expensive) meal at an Applebee's or Friendly's.
  9. Additionally then ending up throwing food out at the end of the week because it's gone bad before you had a chance to use it. I absolutely hate throwing food away.
  10. Not having time in the evenings to spend doing things I want and need to do with my husband and the kids; reading, writing, playing, LIVING!

Here are the positives that have come about since starting freezer cooking:

  1. We are saving a lot of money each week on groceries, and hardly anything gets thrown away.
  2. I do not have to turn into the "kitchen tornado" anymore, as all I have to do is either dump a bag into a crockpot or throw a pre-made casserole or dish in the oven. All that's left is to prepare a quick and healthy side.
  3. I have more time in the evenings to spend with my family.
  4. I don't need to fill my grocery cart to overflowing every week. I can focus on fresh, healthy foods since I don't have a mile-long list of ingredients to purchase for main dishes.
  5. Far less mess and dirty dishes to clean up after dinner.
I am not going to lie and say that all of the meals I've made are absolutely wonderful. Some of them were just  so-so, and a couple of them have turned out pretty bad. But I'm excited to tweak and work the recipes to make them better and more adaptable to freezing. And for the most part the meals have been really, really good! I am excited to share my successes (and failures) with you and hope my freezer cooking adventure can help some other busy folks out there who are tired and frustrated with being trapped in the kitchen and not feeling like you don't have the time to do the things you need and want to do in the evenings :-)

I also plan to post other quick and easy recipes that aren't necessarily specific to freezer cooking, and maybe some other recipes or ideas I come across that I think are worth sharing