Thursday, August 7, 2014

Freezer meals - back in the saddle!!

So rather than individually sending messages to everyone that wanted the info, I am just going to put it all together here – on this blog I rarely remember to useJ If you do a search here, you will find a few other posts about freezer meals/once a month cooking that will also include info and different recipes.
Basically, my reason for doing once a month cooking started because that hour before dinner had been witching hour at our house – dad isn’t home yet and the kids are cranky and who wants to fight the toddler off your leg while slaving over the hot stove. Also, I HATE having to make 100 trips to the grocery store during the month because there isn’t a plan or being stuck at witching hour without a clue about what’s for dinner much less running to the store during that time to get ingredients. And oh my goodness, my grocery budget! This month I filled our freezer for under $200 – no joke. So aside from weekly funds allotted for fresh fruits or veggies, we are done for the month. Yikes.
Enter freezer meals! The idea is that you would do all of your cooking in one day. Sometimes we do it this way – a grocery store trip the night before, and marathon cooking with my hubs and I (or sometimes a friend and I) all in one day. Sometimes it doesn’t end up working this way. This week I took the girls to the grocery store and spent the day cooking/reffing/letting them “help”, so it spread into a day and a half. 
What works very well for me is to collect the recipes I want to use all in one word document. I do have some on actual recipe cards, and eventually might get in gear and switch everything over, but alas, I haven’t had the time or gumption yet. SO – I compile a word doc with all of the recipes – from pinterest, from previous months, etc. I waste my time getting it all in the same font because I can’t handle it otherwiseJ I will often start with a calendar document and map out the month – many times I will do this with themed days because it makes it easier to think of meals for whichever night (ie “Mexican Mondays”).  So map out the month, compile the recipes – and then comes the grocery list. I go through each recipe and pick out the various grocery categories and get it all organized.. It sounds OCD but it isn’t that big of a deal, I promise. (There are some great (free) printables to help you do these steps too – check out my pins on the OAMC board.) And of course, part of that grocery trip needs to be getting freezer bags (gallon sized) and tinfoil pans (SUPER cheap at the dollar store!).
It will be a big help to prep everything ahead of time – or start there. For example, if three recipes call for cooked ground beef, get that cooking while you get something else prepped. I will try to always have the oven full – so if you get something baking while you then prep veggies and meats, etc. – it saves time. Chop all of the veggies and just keep them in separate bowls so you can grab when you need them. I made a triple batch of waffles that night and served fresh ones for dinner and then just kept making them while they cleaned up. Waffles take forever – but its worth it, I promise!
Here is what I ended up with this month:
1          Honey-lime chicken skewers
1          Honey Dijon grilled chicken
1          Slow-cooker parmesan honey pork roast
3          Burritos
1          Enchiladas (I used an extra pound of beef to use the rest of the homemade enchilada sauce. Mixed in a little bit of beans and cheese, wrapped and then smothered in sauce).
4          Pizza pockets
2          Ham&cheese pockets
2          Energy balls
2          Chipotle meatballs
2          Baked oatmeal
4          bags Eggo waffles
1          Mexican chicken
2          Granola bars/bites
Homemade enchilada sauce
2          Stroganoff (I just prepped the meat for this and have the other parts in the fridge)
3          Bags French toast sticks
24       omelets
(and somehow 2 pounds of ground beef leftover so I will mix up some burgers)

Below all of this are the recipes. There are a couple of extra in here that I didn’t end up making because I had enough – but we’ve had them before and they are good, so I left them in.

Anything that is going into a bag after being cooked should be flash frozen first – laid on a sheet pan and frozen for 30min-1hour. This prevents things from getting smashed together or sticking. It is also SO important to suck all of the air out. My method is for Steve to stick a straw in all of the bags and suck it out – but if you have a vacuum sealer thing, that will work tooJ

I have done this with a friend a couple of times and it makes things more fun – but it is helpful if you are all doing the same recipes, because space is limited and things get confusing. I bring 1-2 folding tables into the kitchen for more work space (and space I can sit down to work)… AND wear good shoes! Otherwise your feet and back will be upset with you. Finally – have a good bath waiting for you at the end of the day. Hello, infused Epsom salts!

Honey-Lime Chicken Skewers
If you're using bamboo skewers, soak your sticks in water for at least 5 minutes. Cut chicken into large chunks, and skewer. Allow to marinate for at least 1 hour.
   3 tablespoons soy sauce
   2 tablespoons honey
   1 tablespoon vegetable oil
   juice of one lime
   2 garlic cloves, minced
   1-2 teaspoon Siracha
   red pepper flakes, to taste
   2 tablespoon cilantro
   1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1. In a small bowl, combine your ingredients, through the cilantro. Mix thoroughly.
2. Pour marinade over chicken breasts and turn to coat. Cover and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour.
3. Grill on medium high heat for 6 to 8 minutes per side, until juices run clear.

Honey Dijon Grilled Chicken
     3-4 chicken breasts
     2 cloves garlic, minced
     2 T olive oil
     4 T dijon mustard
     2 T honey
     2 tsp salt
     1/2 T dried rosemary
     juice from 1 lemon
Combine garlic, oil, dijon, honey, salt and rosemary.
Add chicken and marinate for at least 4 hours (if you are going to make ahead and freeze, you can mix up all the ingredients, place in a freezer bag and freeze together)                               
Heat grill to 400-450 degrees
Cook for 7-9 minutes per side
One cooked, place in tin foil and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over top of chicken.
Wrap in tin foil and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Clean Eating Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers
   3 large red bell pepper
   1 lb. lean, ground turkey
   1 tbsp. coconut oil
   1 small red onion, chopped
   1 tbsp. garlic powder
   1 tbsp. onion powder
   1 tbsp. ground cumin
   2 tsp. chili powder
   1 cup frozen corn
   1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce OR 12 oz. jar of your favorite clean salsa
   3 tbsp. freshly grated cheddar cheese (any cheese will work)
   Fresh cilantro for garnish
1.     Cut the tops off your bell peppers, remove the stems and chop up the lids. Set aside.
2.     Cook the turkey in a skillet with the coconut oil until browned. Add the spices, chopped pepper tops and corn and continue cooking until the meat is finished. Don’t overcook it as it still needs to bake in the oven.
3.     Stuff the peppers tightly with the meat filling.
4.     In a small casserole dish, pour the tomato sauce into the bottom of the dish, then place your peppers upright. The casserole dish should be small enough to fit the peppers tightly so they stand upright for baking.
5.     Sprinkle 1 tbsp. cheese onto of each pepper, then place the baking dish in the oven.
6.     Bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes. These taste best if the peppers are not overcooked. They should still be slightly firm when done.
7.     Cut pepper in half, sprinkle with fresh, chopped cilantro and serve.

Slow Cooker Parmesan Honey Pork Roast

1 (2-3 pound) boneless pork roast

2 /3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup honey

3 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp dried basil

2 Tbsp minced garlic

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

Spray slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Place roast in slow cooker. In a small bowl, combine the cheese, honey, soy sauce, basil, garlic, oil and salt; pour over pork. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours or until a meat thermometer reads 160°.
Remove meat to a serving platter; keep warm. Skim fat from cooking juices; transfer to a small saucepan. Bring liquid to a boil. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth. Gradually stir into pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Slice roast; serve with gravy.
Pesto Chicken Alfredo
1 package (16oz) penne pasta- cooked and drained
4 cups cooked chicken, cubed
4 cups (16 ounces) shredded Italian cheese blend
3 cups fresh baby spinach 
1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes 
1 jar (15 ounces) Alfredo sauce 
1 1/2 cups milk
1 container (5-8 ounces) prepared basil pesto 
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs 
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

Step 1
In a bowl, combine the cooked pasta, cooked chicken, cheese blend, baby spinach, crushed tomatoes, Alfredo sauce, milk, and pesto.
Step 2
In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs.
Step 3
Pour pasta mixture into two 8X8 pans. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta.
Step 4
Cover pasta with tinfoil and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes (or freeze before baking). This makes a HUGE batch and usually is split into 2-3 pans for us.

Freezer-Friendly Pizza Pockets
   2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
   2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F.)
   2 teaspoons sugar
   2 teaspoons salt
   4 Tablespoons oil (I used olive oil.)
   5 cups flour (I used unbleached, but half white, half whole-wheat would also work well.)
Filling: Whatever you want in your pizza. I made pizza pockets first – with pepperoni, sauce and cheese, some for grown ups with peppers and mushrooms added in, and then I made ham and cheese pockets with a diced ham steak and the same mix of cheese – no sauce but more cheese. I doubled this dough recipe for that.
To make dough: Mix yeast into warm water until dissolved. Add sugar, salt, oil, and flour. Mix well and dump onto a floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes.
To make filling (I browned this while mixing up the dough): Brown ground beef with onion (and green pepper, if desired). Drain. Add pasta sauce and mix together. Add other optional filling ingredients, if desired.
To make Pizza Pockets: Divide dough into 15-20 pieces. Roll pieces into balls. Flatten balls into circles with rolling pin. Dollop a few tablespoons of filling onto dough circle and sprinkle with cheese. Fold over and seal tightly.
Bake on a greased cookie sheet at 500 degrees for 10-15 minutes until browned.
To freeze: Cool completely and store in an airtight ziptop freezer bag for up to 2-3 months.
To serve: Remove desired number of pizza pockets from the freezer and warm them individually in the microwave for about two minutes or until heated throw. Or, warm on a cookie sheet in a 350-degrees oven for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

Homemade Energy Bites
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup peanut butter or other nut butter
2/3 cup honey
2 cup coconut flakes, wheat germ, sesame seeds, or a mixture of all three (can also substitute oatmeal or protein powder, if you prefer)
1 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup mini chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla
Mix all ingredients together. Roll into balls.
To freeze: Place balls on a cookie sheet and freeze for one to two hours. Remove from cookie sheet and place in an airtight ziptop freezer bag (or other airtight container).
To serve: Remove desired number of balls and thaw at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes. Can also warm for 30 seconds or so in the microwave. Or, you can be impatient like me and eat them straight from the freezer.
Makes around 3 dozen energy bites. **I don’t do coconut, so again, I added cocoa, wheat germ, vanilla protein powder and some extra oats.

Chipotle Meatballs
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
2 tsp salt
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
2 egg yolks
Cilantro for garnish

Sauce: (I used roughly 1c of tomato sauce instead of 2, and just skipped the broth)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup beef broth
1/4 tsp chipotle powder
2 Tbsp Honey
1 tsp oregano
s & P
I flash freeze these – parchment lined baking sheets, with the sauce “dolloped” on top. Then put them into a tinfoil baking dish (I think I ended up with 14 in each pan). I like the taste better when they are frozen raw rather than after baking. Bake at about 400degrees for 10min or so depending on the size of your meatballs. Serve with rice. I put the extra sauce in snack sized bags and froze it – so when I go to bake these I can use that.

Freezer-Friendly Baked Oatmeal
   1/3 cup butter, melted
   2 large eggs
   3/4 cup raw sugar (or brown sugar)
   1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
   1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
   1 teaspoon cinnamon
   1/4 teaspoon salt
   1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons milk
   3 cups oats (regular or quick oats)
Beat eggs, sugar and butter together. Mix in baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.
Stir in milk and oats. Pour into a greased 9×13 foil pan or baking dish and cover well. (Can use a Ziploc freezer bag, if freezing). Freeze.
To serve: Thaw overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, until set in the middle. Serve warm with milk. (We like to sprinkle sugar on top before pouring the milk on.)
If you want to serve it without freezing it first, let it sit in the refrigerator overnight and then bake it at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes in the morning.

1 pound boneless chicken breasts 
1 teaspoon Seasoning for Tacos 
Salt, to taste 
1/2 cup enchilada sauce 
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded 
3 green onions, chopped
Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with taco seasoning; grill or sauté. Cut the chicken into cubes and place in a greased 8x8" baking dish; season with salt to taste. Add the enchilada sauce and toss to coat the chicken. Sprinkle the cheese over the chicken and bake at 350º for 10-20 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Scatter the green onions over the top.
**Freeze before baking. Thaw and then bake. Serve over rice or with quinoa or on shells/nachos. I use the homemade sauce for this too.

Instant Oatmeal Packets
Into small bags:

1/3 cup quick oats
1 tsp milk powder
pinch of salt
2 tsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

to cook – 2/3c boiling water

1lb gr beef
15oz pinto beans
4.5oz green chiles chopped
15.5oz red enchilada sauce
1pkg taco seasoning
8oz Monterey jack cheese
8oz shredded cheddar
15+ tortillas

Brown beef. Add seasoning, simmer and then drain fat. Combine beans, chilis, beef and ½ can sauce, ¾ Monterey jack & cheddar in large pan. Cook over low heat until cheese is melted and mixture is thick. Let simmer a couple minutes. Fill tortillas and place in pan to freeze. Cover with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover with foil to bake and/or freeze. Thaw and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45min or from frozen just over an hour.
**This recipe makes a TON. I use the homemade enchilada sauce (recipe below). I like to freeze them uncovered for about 30min first so the stuff doesn’t stick to the tinfoil.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 tsp kosher salt
Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for a few minutes, until starting to brown on the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Cook for an additional minute to toast the spices.
Add in the tomato sauce, as well as the chicken broth. Stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, and pour the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Using a rubber spatula, push down on the onions, forcing as much sauce out as possible. I like to just toss the strained onion mixture into whatever enchilada filling I’m making, but you can discard it if you like.
Season sauce to taste with salt and black pepper before using. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Makes about 2 cups enchilada sauce.

Chewy Granola Energy Bars

2 1/2 cups quick rolled oats
1/2 cup Rice Krispies
1/4 cup coconut
1/2 cup mini M & M candies
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground flax
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
** I have never made these according to the recipe, but included the original here. I skip the cereal, coconut, peanuts and m&ms. I use wheat germ, oats and flax to make up the difference and add mini chocolate chips.
Preheat oven to 350. Use muffin papers or spray the pan. I have used mini muffin tins and square individual brownie pans as well.
In a large bowl, add all ingredients and mix together until well combined.
Press into prepared pan. Bake 8-12 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool completely before removing from the pan – this is important because they will totally fall apart otherwise.

Eggo Waffles
   2 eggs
   2 cups all purpose flour
   1.75 cups milk
   0.5 cups butter, melted
   1 Tablespoon sugar
   4 teaspoons baking powder
   0.25 teaspoons salt
   0.5 teaspoons vanilla
   0.5 cups mini chocolate chips, blueberries, or dried strawberries
Preheat waffle iron. Beat eggs in large bowl with a whisk until well beaten and fluffy. Using the whisk, mix in flour, milk, butter, sugar, baking powder, salt and vanilla, just until smooth. Add in chocolate chips, blueberries or dried strawberries. Pour mix onto hot waffle iron. Cook until golden brown.
Freezing Directions:
Flash freeze.  After freezing, place into gallon freezer bag.  Label and freeze.  To serve: reheat in microwave for 30 seconds.

Hot and Spicy Braised Peanut Chicken
IN THE BAG- 2 cups onions, 2 cups carrots, 2 cups zucchini, 1 red pepper, 1/2 t grated lime peel, 2 T lime juice, 2 T soy sauce, 2 T flour, 4 garlic cloves, 2 lbs. cubed boneless, skinless chicken breast.
TO COOK- Dump contents of bag in slow cooker. Cover with 3/4 cup chicken broth and 3 T peanut butter (whisked together). Cook on low for 5-6 hours. For the last five minutes, add in 1 can of coconut milk and 1 bag of frozen peas.
TO SERVE- To make it spicy, add 1/2 teaspoon of red curry paste before serving (I kept our unspicy for the kiddos). Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro. Serve over rice.

Omelets – I use 11-12 eggs per 12 hole muffin tin. I added seasoning and then chopped peppers and mushrooms and ham and cheese (all leftover from pizza pockets!). Be sure to grease the muffin pan well – pour in eggs and then add the extras. Baked these at 450 for about 10 min. Flash freeze on a sheet pan before putting into a bag.

French Toast Sticks
Loaf of texas toast bread (I used 2 loaves and had to triple this recipe plus added two eggs at the end)

1/4 cup butter, melted

4 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup milk

2 teaspoon vanilla
(or just pour like I do)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
(I add way more)
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350ºF.
Cut the thick bread slices into thirds so you have 3 sticks per slice of bread. I skim the two crusts off the side pieces because its fast and my kids fight about the ones with no crusts.
Combine remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl, beat well to combine.
Dip bread sticks into the egg mixture one at a time, and place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake in a 350º oven for about 30 minutes. Flip the sticks over halfway through baking time to crisp both sides.
**To freeze, allow to cool completely before wrapping well in a freezer bag. To reheat, pop in a 350 oven for about 8 minutes to refresh, or microwave.