Friday, February 28, 2014

60 meals in the Freezer-Week 6

Be sure and check out -Week 1-Bacon Ranch Chicken
                                   -Week 2-Baked Sandwiches
                                   -Week 3-Tex Mex Chicken
                                   -Week 4/5  Beer Bread and Lasagna

I have so many recipes I want to get into the freezer before Abby's arrival but life has been BUSY these last couple of weeks so I've had to cheat a little.

My mom has been a huge blessing and cooked up a bunch of ground meat for me. She seasoned and vacuum sealed in 1 lb packages so I can pull it out for fast cooking. It may not be a whole meal in the freezer, but it takes up very little freezer space and makes dinner prep so much faster. She made a variety of beef, chicken, turkey and sausage seasoned different ways. Here are a some ideas for quick meals if you already have the meat cooked.

Ground meat seasoned with Italian

*Throw in a pot with a jar of spaghetti sauce and let heat/thaw while your noodles cook and you've got spaghetti with meat sauce in about 10 minutes.

*Cook a box of pasta (rotini, ziti, shells...) a couple minutes short of suggested time and place In a 9x13 pan. Stir in a pound of meat and a jar of spaghetti sauce. Top with mozzarella and parmesan and bake until heated through and cheese is golden. Delicious and easy baked pasta.

Ground meat seasoned with taco seasoning

*Obviously you can make...Tacos

*We also have what we call taco dip. I just mix the meat with a can of refried black beans and some cheese, heat and the kids love to eat it with chips.

*I like to stuff the meat into a bell pepper with some cheese, sour cream...whatever is in the fridge and bake until the meat is hot and the pepper is soft.

Ground breakfast sausage

*I love having this already cooked on hand for breakfast casseroles. I usually just pull up All Reciepes and find one that I have the ingredients for already. Having the sausage cooked already means I can just mix everything together and throw in the oven.

*It's also nice to be able to make quick omelets or burritos.

I am sure you all can come up with dozens of other quick ideas. These are just my go-tos

I also managed to cooked up several dozen breakfast sausage links this week. I cannot stand the mess, smell and dishes from  making sausage! So glad it reheats well. I just divide into bags with enough to feed our family one meal and freeze. You can thaw over night or microwave in the morning while the eggs are cooking.

The last easy thing I froze up this week is a new favorite of ours...mostly because it's so easy.

Just slice up a half of an onion and a bell pepper. Throw in a bag with about 5 chicken breasts and a tablespoon of taco seasoning and freeze. It can go straight into the crock pot when you are ready for 6-8 hrs and is delicious on a tortilla/wrap or served over rice. I made several bags of these this week and have already eaten a couple.

This probably wasn't my best week getting the freezer stocked but it at least beat my attempted beer bread week. Hoping I can skip making freezer meals next week and have a baby instead!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

60+ Meals in the Freezer- Week 4/5

Be sure and check out -Week 1-Bacon Ranch Chicken
                                   -Week 2-Baked Sandwiches
                                   -Week 3-Tex Mex Chicken Casserole

Last weeks freezer cooking attempt failed...bad. I was planning to cook up beer bread for the freezer. It makes a great side for any meal (ok we just make a whole meal of it) and the best toast! Unfortunately I only have 3 loaf pans and we kept eating 2.5 of the 3 loaves before they made it to the freezer...oops.
So here's the recipe. Maybe you'll have more self control!

This really is the easiest recipe ever!

Beer Bread

3 cups self rising four
3 tbs sugar
12 oz dark beer (room temperature)

Grease loaf pan
Mix sugar and flour
Slowly add beer while stirring
Pour into pan and bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes
Around 35-40 minutes I like to brush the top with honey or honey butter
Serve with honey butter

Remove from pan and cool completely. Then wrap in wax paper (to keep from sticking) and then plastic wrap. If its gonna be in the freezer more than a couple of weeks go ahead and put it in a ziplock bag with as little air as possible.

Tomato Sausage Lasagna

This is easily the best lasagna ever. If you like traditional lasagna with ricotta or cream cheese, this might not be for you. If you love pizza...this is your dish! It is packed full of sausage, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. It is a little time consuming but completely worth it, especially if you make up several for the freezer. The recipe came from Martha Stewart. You can find the original here. Below are the ingredients and directions for 10 half pans with some minor modifications. A half pan is plenty for our family of 6. We usually serve with salad and even have a little left over.

If you are using foil pans, spend the extra money (it's a very small difference) and buy HEAVY DUTY...or learn the hard way like I did when a pan split down the bottom spilling hot lasagna on the floor

About 60 lasagna noodles
10 tbs olive oil
5 large onions, chopped 
20 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbs Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tbs red pepper flakes
5-6 lbs mild Italian sausage (casings removed)
10 (28 oz) cans tomatoes in puree (I like to run them through the blender a bit so there are no large chunks)
30 cups shredded mozzarella
5 cups shredded parmesan

Fill a couple (2-3) 9-by-13-inch baking dishes two-thirds of the way with hot tap water. Add noodles, and arrange them in alternating directions to prevent sticking. Let soak while preparing sauce.

Make sauce: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion,garlic, Italian seasoning, and red-pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add sausage, and cook, stirring and breaking it up, until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain grease and return to pan.  Add tomatoes and their puree, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon (unless you put in blender first); bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. (You should have about 40 cups of sauce....yes, I make it in 2 huge pots) 

Drain noodles, transfer to a baking sheet. I usually just lay them flat on a clean beach towel. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of each pan. Fit 2(3 if using 8x8 pan) noodles in pan, overlapping slightly. Cover with 1 cup sauce, 1 cup mozzarella, and 1/6 cup Parmesan. Repeat with another layer, then top with another layer of noodles, 1 1/2 cups sauce, and the rest of mozzarella and Parmesan. (If using the 8x8 pans you will just have 2 layers and need to divide the ingredients accordingly) 

Cover pans tightly with aluminum foil, and place in an air tight ziplock freezer bag. This is another good one to double bag. I can usually fit 2 in a bag if I get the big 2 gallon freezer bags.

When you remove from freezer bake for 1 1/2 hrs with foil on. Then remove foil and bake until cheese is golden and center is hot (about 20-30 more minutes).

Go check out this awesome puzzle fundraiser our friends 

have put together to help us bring our kids home.