i have been wanting to jump on the freezer meal bandwagon for a while now. but like many projects, i just had not gotten to it. when a dear friend of mine had shoulder surgery, i thought what better way to give a hand than with freezer meals for her and her family. then my mother-in-law had a terrible fall while hiking and shattered her wrist, requiring surgery. i added a couple more recipes and i set out on a two day cooking fiesta. i know when i am sick, meal planning and preparation is a major stressor. on top of that, we eat out so often because i am unmotivated to put a meal together. freezer meals to the rescue.
the first two went to my mexican food loving friend. bean burritos individually wrapped. a perfect lunch or light dinner. these are not gluten free, i have yet to find a gluten free burrito that i like. but these are perfect for nights when i am out and the husband is on his own for dinner or even to throw in his lunch box for work lunches.
the recipe came from martha stewart and can be found here:
3/4 cup rice (brown or white)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, chopped (ribs and seeds removed, for less heat)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 bag frozen corn kernels (10 ounces)
6 scallions, thinly sliced
8 burrito-size flour tortillas, 10 inches each
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Salsa and sour cream, optional
- cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.
- meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. add onions, garlic, jalapeno, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
- add beans and 1 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. add corn; cook to heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. remove from heat; stir in scallions.
- heat tortillas according to package instructions; fill with rice, bean mixture, and cheese.
- assemble: mound 1/4 cup rice, 3/4 cup bean mixture, and 1/4 cup cheese on one side of tortilla. fold sides, and hold them in. starting from filled end, holding sides in as you work, tightly roll into a bundle. place on a baking sheet, seam side down, and prepare remaining burritos.
- serve immediately, with salsa and sour cream, if using, or wrap per freezing instructions.
- wrap individually in plastic and then aluminum foil and freeze up to 3 months.
to reheat from frozen:
- remove frozen burritos from plastic wrap. Place on a microwave-safe plate; microwave on high for 3 minutes. transfer to baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees until crispy, about 10 minutes.
- if only using a microwave, remove from plastic wrap, and place on a microwave-safe plate, covered with a microwave safe bowl. Defrost at high power for 3 to 4 minutes; uncover, and microwave on high 3 to 4 minutes longer.
- if only using oven, remove burritos from plastic wrap; rewrap individually in aluminum foil. place on a baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees for 40 minutes. remove foil, and bake to crisp, 5 to 10 minutes.
next up was chicken enchiladas.
for ourselves, i have learned portion controlling is key. with freezer meals it is simple to portion and freeze exactly the amount you want to eat for your meals. in the long run, i think this is going to help portion control meals. it is so difficult to cook for just two and even more difficult to not eat the larger portions.
- 4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
- 2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
- 16 oz. cheddar or jack cheese, shredded
- 2 (4 oz.) cans Ortega diced chilis
- 6 (10 oz.) cans green enchilada sauce
- 32 fajita sized flour tortillas
- with a mixer, beat the cream cheese with the green chilis and 1 can of enchilada sauce.
- pour cream sauce over shredded chicken in a bowl and stir to combine.
- in the bottom of 4 foil baking pans pour 1 can of green enchilada sauce and spread evenly to cover bottom of pan.
- take your tortillas and fill generously with the creamy chicken mixture and roll up.
- place rolled enchiladas in pan seam side down and cover each pan of enchiladas with sauce.
- sprinkle top of enchiladas with cheese.
- cover each pan with a double layer of aluminum foil.
- to bake – preheat oven to 355° and bake unfrozen for 45 minutes or 70-90 minutes if frozen.
frozen enchiladas will hold in freezer for 4-6 month.
i found gluten large pasta shells and i literally did a happy dance in the grocery aisle. i found small aluminum pans and thought it would be a perfect meal to pair with a side salad. i wanted to use my homemade pesto sauce and came up with pesto chicken pasta shells. they are delicious.
12-16 jumbo pasta shells
water for boiling pasta
4oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup freshly grated parmesan or asiago cheese + 1/4 cup for topping
3 tablespoons prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
- in a large pot over high heat, boil water and prepare pasta shells as directed on package. cook pasta shells only until al dente. the pasta will finish cooking when the dish is baked. drain the pasta shells and set aside.
- in a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, except the 1/4 cup of cheese for the topping. fill the pasta shells with the filling and place in a baking dish. sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over filled shells.
- preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 30 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.
to make ahead/freezer meals -
- prepare as directed but place filled shells in an oven- and freezer-proof baking dish. top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese over filled shells, cover and freeze.
- when ready to prepare, defrost. preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese
along the lines of using my homemade sauces, i made a baked ziti using our homemade tomato sauce from last summer.
1 lb. whole milk or 1% cottage cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 cups), divided
1 lb. ziti
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
20 oz. turkey italian sausage
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
5 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 (28 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves, divided
1 tsp. sugar
ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream (or whole milk)
8 oz. low-moisture mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Whisk cottage cheese, eggs, and 1 cup parmesan together in a medium bowl; set aside. bring a large pot of water to boil. stir in 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta; cook until pasta begins to soften but is not yet cooked through, 5-7 minutes. drain the pasta and leave in colander.
- meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. crumble in the turkey sausage and cook until nearly browned. add in the onion and garlic and continue to cook until the onion is softened and the sausage is completely browned. stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and oregano; simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Off the heat, stir in 1/2 cup basil and the sugar, and season with salt and pepper.
- in a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and heavy cream. transfer the mixture to the now-empty stockpot over medium heat. bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-4 minutes. remove the pot from the heat and add the cottage cheese mixture, 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce and 3/4 cup mozzarella. stir to combine. add the pasta and toss to coat thoroughly with the sauce.
- transfer the pasta to a 9×13″ baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top. sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmesan over the top. cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
- remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. cool for 20 minutes. sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.
if to the freezer:
- transfer the pasta to a 9×13″ freezer safe baking dish and spread the remaining tomato sauce evenly over the top. sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and parmesan over the top. cover the baking dish tightly with foil and freeze.
- to reheat: bake for 30 minutes. remove the foil from the pan and continue to cook until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes longer. cool for 20 minutes. sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.
when you think about healing foods, i think of soups and chowders. chicken and dumpling stew seemed like the perfect meal to take to my mother-in-law.
ingredients for the soup:
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1″ cubes
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 cup celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
10 cups chicken broth (seems like a lot, but trust me….its ok)
2 cups carrots, sliced
1/2 tsp ground thyme
2 cups all purpose flour (use gluten free if you are a fellow celiac girl)
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, put 1 tsp vinegar in measuring cup and fill with milk to make 3/4 cup. Let it set to get thick)
- in large soup pot, sauté chicken and onion over medium heat until chicken is browned, about 6-8 minutes.
- add celery and sauté.
- add 1/4 cup flour, then slowly add chicken broth, carrots and thyme, stirring well. bring mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce heat, simmering for 20 minutes or until chicken is tender. stir occasionally.
- while simmering, prepare dumplings by mixing together flour and baking powder. slowly add buttermilk, stirring well to combine. add salt and pepper to taste if desired.
- once it is finished simmering, drop dough by the tablespoon-full into chicken stew mixture. cover again and finish cooking over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or until dumplings are fully cooked.
to freeze, just cool and freeze in freezer bags or freezer containers. on cooking day, just thaw and reheat. this will keep 3-4 months in the freezer.
this vegetable chowder is another martha stewart recipe found here:
3 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
2 medium red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced (2 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups milk
4 medium baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
8 ears corn, kernels removed (about 4 cups)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed, broken into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
Hot pepper sauce, for serving (optional)
- In a dutch oven or 5-quart pot, melt butter over medium heat. add onion, bell peppers, and thyme; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.
- add milk, potatoes, and 5 cups water. bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until potatoes are almost tender, about 8 minutes.
- stir in corn, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. simmer until corn is tender, about 3 minutes.
- with a slotted spoon, transfer 3 cups of the solids to a blender; puree until smooth. return to pot; add green beans. bring to a simmer; cook until beans are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. season again with salt; serve with hot pepper sauce, if desired.
if you plan to freeze the soup, cook the green beans for a few minutes less that called for in step 4 to they will retain some crunch when the soup is reheated.
going into my freeze makes my heart so happy. it is filled with meals and organized with labels. i am a happy girl.