February 18, 2010

Easy Parmesan Chicken

1 jar (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1/2 Grated Parmesan Cheese,
6 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 cup  Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Freezing: Pour 1/3 of sauce into 9x13 disposable pan. Stir in Parmesan cheese. Lay chicken breasts on top. Coat both sides with sauce. Cover with plastic wrap and then foil. Freeze. Include Mozzarella cheese.
To Cook: Remove plastic wrap but replace foil. Bake 375°F for 30 min (425 for 60 min if frozen). Top with cheese; bake 5 min. or until chicken is done (165ºF) and cheese is melted.
Crystal Howarth

Chicken Salsa Skillet

1 lb. chicken breasts, cubed
1-1/4 cups Salsa
1 cup frozen corn,
1 large green pepper, sliced

Freezing: Cook chicken in skillet. Let cool. Combine all ingredients into gallon size freezer bag. Include package of pasta and cheese with each meal.
To Cook: Pour contents into skillet. Cover. Simmer on medium heat for 15 min (or until heated through). Stir occasionally. Cook Pasta as directed on package. Pour pasta into skillet. Mix and top with cheese. Remove from heat; cover. Let stand 1 min. or until cheese is melted.
Crystal Howarth

Cheesy Manicotti

10 uncooked manicotti shells
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce

Freezing: Slightly undercook manicotti. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs and seasonings. Spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce each in a disposable 13x9 pan. Stuff manicotti shells with cheese mixture; arrange over sauce. Top with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and then foil.
To Cook: Remove plastic wrap and re-cover with foil bake at 375 degrees F for 35-40 minutes (if frozen 425 for 75-90 min.  Uncover and bake 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted and manicotti is heated through.
Crystal Howarth

Apricot Chicken

 4-6 chicken breasts
1 cup apricot jam
1 cup Russian dressing
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup

Freezing: Place the chicken breasts in disposable pan. Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour over chicken. Cover tightly and freeze.
To Cook: Bake at 350 for 30 min. (425 for 60 min if frozen)
Crystal Howarth

Chicken Broccoli Rice Bake

4 chicken breasts -cooked and cubed
1 pkg. Rice-Roni chicken-flavored rice mix (prepared according to pkg. directions)
1 16oz package of frozen broccoli
2-3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 sleeve crushed saltine crackers
2 Tbsp butter

2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp curry powder (optional)
1/4 cup milk

Freezing: Spread prepared rice (slightly undercooked) in the bottom of a 9x13 disposable pan. Mix sauce ingredients together. Spread 1/3 of the sauce over rice. Layer the broccoli and spread 1/3 of the sauce on top. Spread chicken on top of the sauce and add remaining sauce on top. Top with cheese. Freeze. Include crackers with meal.
To Cook: Top with crushed crackers and dabs of butter. Bake at 350 for 45 min (if frozen cook at 425 for 90 min).
Suzie Roberts

French Dip Sandwiches

1 rump roast
1 envelopes dry onion soup mix
1  1/2 cup water
1 pkg rolls

Freezing: Place roast, water, and onion soup mix in slow cooker and cook on low for 3-6 hours. Shred meat and put meat and au jus in freezer bag. Include a bag of rolls with this meal.
To Cook: Put in crockpot 3 hours on low or until hot or on the stove until meat is hot. Serve on rolls and dip in au jus.

Beef Stroganoff

1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 tsp beef bouillon granules
1-1 1/2 lbs lean stew meat
1/2 packet dry onion soup mix
1 bay leaf
1 small can sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup water
2 cups sour cream
1 pkg egg noodles (6-8 oz)

Freezing: Warm about 1 1/2 cups of the milk in saucepan. In separate bowl whisk flour, beef granules, and 1/2 cup milk until no lumps remain. Add it to the warm milk in the saucepan. Stirring constantly over medium heat, bring the sauce to a gentle boil for 1 min. Remove from heat. Add the rest of the ingredients except for sour cream and noodle. Cool and place in a freezer bag. Include a pint of sour cream and noodles with meal.
To Cook: Pour sauce in slow cooker and cook for 6 hours on low until meat is tender. Add sour cream just before serving. Serve over noodles.
Suzie Roberts

Beef and Bean Burritos

1- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef - browned
1/4  cup onion - chopped
1 garlic clove - minced
1/2 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1  8oz can tomato sauce
8 large flour tortillas
1  16oz can refried beans
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 cup shredded cheese

Freezing: In a saucepan cook ground beef, onion and garlic. Add seasonings, Stir in tomato sauce and simmer for 10 min. Add refried beans; cook and stir until well blended. Cool completely.
Warm tortillas in microwave for 30 seconds, place 1/2-3/4 cup of meat mixture on each tortilla. Fold sides in and roll up tortilla. Flash Freeze the burritos and then wrap individually and freeze.
To Cook: You can just heat burritos in the microwave and eat separately with salsa and sour cream or put in a casserole dish with spaghetti sauce and cheese - bake 350 for 25 min covered, then uncovered for 5 min -or until bubbly.
*Do not freeze with the sauce on them because the tortillas will get mushy. Include spaghetti sauce and cheese on the side for this meal.
Suzie Roberts

Taco Soup

1 lb ground beef - browned
1/2 cup onions - chopped
1  15oz can stewed tomatoes
1  15oz can chili
1  15oz can corn - drained
1  15oz can tomato sauce
1/2 pkg taco seasoning
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Freezing: Brown beef with onions, Add remaining ingredients. Pour into a gallon size freezer bag and freeze.
To Cook: Simmer 20 min (or until hot) or put in Crock Pot on low for 3 hours.
Serve with corn chips, sour cream, and grated cheese.
Teri Cook

Minestrone Soup

1 lb pork sausage (or hamburger) - browned
4 cups water
2 stalks celery - sliced
2-3 large carrots
1   10oz can beef broth
1   quart stewed tomatoes (2- 15oz cans)
2  cloves garlic - minced
1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup Macaroni
1  15oz can garbanzo beans (drained)
1  15oz can French green beans

Freezing: Combine all ingredients, simmer 10 min, let cool, put in gallon size freezer bag. Seal and freeze.
To cook: Crockpot - 3-4 hours on low or Simmer 30-60 min.

Julie McKay

February 1, 2010

Freezing Tips

Compiled by Crystal Howarth, Some ideas taken from Girlfriends on the Go Cookbook by Suzie Roberts.
What to freeze your meals in:
  • Freezer Bags: when possible i.e. for Soups, Sauces, and non-layered casseroles. Squeeze as much air out, label it, then lay the bag flat in the freezer to provide quick freezing and take up less room.
  • Disposable Pans: Make sure to cover dish tightly with foil (if there's tomato sauce, cover in plastic wrap and then foil). These can be bought for about 25 cents each at dollar stores or in bulk.
Cooking Meat in Bulk
  • Ground Beef: Crumble 3-4 lbs on large cookie sheet with sides. Preheat oven to 425 and bake for 20 min or no longer pink. Put meat in colander under hot water to rinse of extra grease. Another way is to place ground beef in boiling water and boil until no longer pink, then rinse in a colander as well.
  • Chicken: A large slow cooker will do 10-12 breasts at a time. Put them in with 1 cup of water and cook on medium for 2-3 hours.
  • Roasts: Use a large slowcooker for 1-2 roasts. Cook on medium overnight.
Flash Freezing:
Sometimes you need to flash freeze items such as meatballs or chicken - anything where you don't want the individual items to stick together. To Flash freese - place items spread out on a cookie sheet, put in  freezer. As soon as they are no longer soft, they can be placed in a bag together to go into the freezer.

Foods that May Not Freeze Well:
  • If making enchiladas, freeze them seperate from the top sauce or else they will get mushy. Put the sauce that tops the enchiladas in a small freezer bag and freeze along with the meal.
  • Need cooked rice or pasta for your recipe? undercook it or else it will get mushy from freezing then thawing.
  • Use frozen hashbrowns instead of fresh potatoes.
  • Sauces with sour cream, cream cheese, and cream will freeze fine but you will need to whisk sauce when it is thawed because it might separate.

Frequently Asked Questions

For more information, see Girlfriends on the Go Cookbook by Suzie Roberts, some of the following are from that book, along with my own ideas.

How long does it take to prepare 10 meals?
Anywhere from 1-2 hours, it really depends on the meal! If you don't have that time in a run, do it in shifts! For example, one day cook all the meat, the next, assemble all the rest. It sounds like alot of time - but really you have 6 days off of cooking and the mess of preparing!

How does it save you money?
1) Plan your meals around sales (check out Grocery Smarts for sales).
2)Your shopping list is simple, you don't need a bunch of stuff for 6 different meals, instead you buy 6 of the same thing.
3) You'll eat out less. It's hard for me to cook on Fridays and Saturdays, so we usually end up grabbing take out, this way I can have a Make-Ahead Meal.
4) You have less waste. I always end up buying something, using a little bit for a meal, and then wasting the rest (like cilantro, green onions, basil, etc).
5)You can get ingredients in bulk.

What are the benefits besides saving time and money?
Add variety. It's someone else's cooking - which sometimes tastes better when you don't have to prepare it. when sick days come - we don't get the day off, we still have to get dinner ready. Also it can help serve others by taking a meal to them  like sickness, just had a baby, etc.

What is the best way to thaw the Make-Ahead Meals since the directions are for when it's thawed?
For best results, let frozen meals thaw in the fridge for 24 hours, but I never think that far ahead! According to Suzie Roberts, "If [you're] cooking directly from frozen, bump up the temperature 50 degrees higher than the recipe states, and double the time. Check it periodically to make sure you are on target." Also you can use a crock-pot for some meals to let it cook all day.

What about picky eaters?
Let us know if there are any allergies so we can let the rest of the group know. Also if you have any preferences (ex: boneless chicken) we'll let everyone know. Sometimes kids like other's cooking because it's different (sometimes they don't!) This will introduce your kids to new foods you may not have cooked otherwise. It's important for people to try new things, an acceptance for food comes from having a variety of meals at a young age.

Freezer Meal Rules

To make this a successful group and a rewarding experience (ie. to make all our lives easier), there are some rules:

* You will be required to make and freeze 6 (this number will depend on who signs up) meals to exchange with the group.

* Each meal should feed about four-six adults (ex. Casserole would be 9x13 pan) I know some of us have smaller families, but this will provide leftovers.

* Try to spend around $30-40 for all costs. It sounds like a lot but that would make each meal you get $5-6 to feed your whole family – not bad, especially since you can just throw it in the oven! It is possible to spend less if you watch the sales but please don’t go over this amount.

* Your meal is designed to be the main dish. You do not need to provide any other sides, but please provide any uncooked rice, pasta, or buns that are needed to complete the main dish.

* Only make meals that you and your family have tried and enjoy. Please don’t experiment on the group!

* Package the meal in a disposable container, such as a Frozen Ziploc Bag or Aluminum Casserole Pan covered with Aluminum Foil.

* Write on the packaging the Meal Title, Directions to cook from thawed, and the Month/Year.
* Because these meals should arrive FROZEN, please prepare the meal accordingly, See Freezing Tips.

* Bring Frozen Meals in a basket, cooler, or large box to exchange then leave with 6 DIFFERENT Frozen Meals to serve throughout the month

* If you cannot meet on the specified meeting date, you can make arrangement beforehand to hand-deliver the meals or provide you own substitute. Your substitute needs to be fully aware of all the directions and rules. (please notify Kara of any problems/concerns/changes).

* E-mail the recipe the day we exchange. Include all ingredients and directions, any sides that will go well with the meal, and your name and phone number. The recipe will also be included on the blog.