Monday, January 26, 2015

Make-Ahead Freezer Meals

While we plan to cook dinner most nights, occasionally we hit a snag. Late meetings, traffic or just a lack of planning can mean we reach for the phone or worse - a bag of chips - for supper. To avoid last minute bad decisions, I try to have a few dinners ready to go on the freezer. These recipes also come in handy for friends who are recuperating or welcoming a new baby.


Who doesn't love a meatball sub? For an extra kick we top with pickled banana peppers.
These meatballs come together fast and freeze beautifully. I usually freeze without sauce, but a homemade red sauce would freeze well. While the meatballs make a great topper for pasta, we eat most of them stuffed into sub buns and topped with mozzarella. This recipe makes about 30 meatballs.

1 lb ground beef
1 lb bulk Italian sausage
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 eggs
1/3 cup dried breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp each dried basil and oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl combine all ingredients using your hands to mix well. Shape meat into 1 1/2 inch balls, placing on a cookie sheet. Bake meatballs for 20 minutes. To freeze, place cooled meatballs in a freezer bag or container and freeze. Consume within six months.

To serve: Heat red sauce, place frozen or thawed meatballs in hot sauce, simmering until hot.

Cream Chicken over Biscuits

Tasty and satisfying, this dish pairs well with our home canned peaches.
This is a comforting meal that comes together quick with a ready-made chicken base in the freezer. I roast whole chickens. If you prefer, you can use the meat from a grocery store rotisserie roasted chicken. For an extra creamy gravy, stir in 1/2 cup whipping cream just before serving.

2 Tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
3 cups shredded chicken
1 quart chicken stock, homemade or commercial
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup water
Salt & pepper to taste
Biscuits for serving

In a large saucepot, combine butter, onions, carrots and celery. Saute until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken, stock and poultry seasoning. Simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, place in container and freeze for up to three months

To serve: Heat chicken mixture to boiling. Make a slurry by combining 1/2 cup flour with 1/2 cup water, whisking until smooth with no lumps. As broth boils, add a small amount of slurry while whisking broth. Return to a boil before adding more slurry. Continue adding slurry until you reach desired thickness. You may not use all of the slurry. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over split biscuits.

Pot Pies

Roast off a couple of birds and fill your freezer with homemade pot pies!
Pot pies are a favorite freezer meal because they can go directly from freezer to oven without thawing. I usually make them with Thanksgiving leftovers or anytime we have extra chicken, but they can be made with beef, roast pork or ham.  Feel free to change up the vegetables to suit your tastes.

2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrot
2/3 cup butter
1 cup flour
4 cups chicken or beef stock, depending on your meat choice, homemade or commercial
2 cups half and half
8 cups chopped cooked turkey, chicken or beef
2 cups frozen English peas
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
pepper to taste
Crust (recipe follows)

Saute onion, celery and carrot in butter until tender and the onion is translucent. Add flour, stirring for 1 minute. Add stock and half and half. Cook, stirring until mixture boils. Remove from heat and stir in turkey and peas. Divide among pans, top with crust, wrap tightly and freeze for up to six months.

Note: This recipe makes enough for top crust. Double if you prefer a top and bottom crust. 
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shortening plus 2 Tbs lard or shortening
1/4 cup water (more or less)

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut in fat until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add enough water, mixing with a fork, until crust comes together in a ball. Roll on a lightly floured surface about 1/8 inch thick. Top pot pies with dough. For best results, refrigerate dough for 1 hour before rolling.

To serve: preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place frozen pot pie on a baking sheet and bake, uncovered for one hour. Let cool for five minutes before serving.


Cheesy saucy goodness. Top cooked enchiladas with chopped lettuce,
guacamole, fresh tomatoes and sour cream.
Enchiladas are a great use for leftover roast meats. Our favorite is stuffed with slow roasted shredded pork shoulder and black beans. However I also use shredded chicken and beef. I top with home canned tomatillo salsa. If you prefer red sauce, feel free to make your own or use a commercial sauce.
If you don't want to tie up a baking pan, freeze in a disposable foil pan.

2 cups red or green enchilada sauce, divided
2 cups pulled beef, pork or chicken
3/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed
3 cups cheddar, divided
2 Tbsp taco seasoning mix, commercial or homemade
4 oz can sliced black olives
2 Tbsp chopped pickled jalapeno peppers (optional)
Six 8 inch tortilla (I use whole grain)
Optional chopped lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and guacamole for serving

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1/4 cup enchilada sauce over the bottom. In a bowl, combine meat, beans, 1 cup of cheese, taco seasoning, black olives and jalapenos. Place a rounded 1/2 cup of mixture in the center of a tortilla and roll up. Place seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Spread remaining enchilada sauce over rolls and top with remaining cheese. Wrap dish tightly with foil and freeze for up to six months.

To serve: allow dish to thaw in refrigerator (place in fridge one day prior to baking). Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake thawed dish, uncovered for 25 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Sloppy Joes

From freezer to the saucepan, homemade sloppy joes are a family favorite.
While not fancy, sloppy joes make a fast, tasty weeknight meal. Way better than using the canned sauce, this homemade version can also be used to top hot dogs for a fun coney night. This recipe uses 3 lbs of ground beef which makes 15 sandwiches. I split the batch between three freezer containers.

3 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 12 oz can tomato paste
3 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste

In a large pan, brown ground beef. Add onion, celery and green pepper, continuing to cook until vegetable are softened, 5-6 minutes. Pour off fat. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. To freeze, divide among freezer containers and place in freezer. Consume within three months.

To serve: Place in a pan and heat on stovetop or place in a microwave safe bowl and microwave until hot.

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