Monday, September 2, 2013

My Favorite Freezer Meals - Recipes

Dan and I had a kitchen date night last week, prepping, cooking and assembling bags of dinners for our freezer. I've actually never done this before and was surprised at how easy it was, once I figured out what I wanted to make. Many of the freezer meals out there are not quite what my family eats. Lots of "cream of processed soup" this and "not enough vegetables/too much ketchup" that. I was really looking for slow cooker meals that I would actually make in a pot or in the oven for my family on any given day. The recipes I picked were ones that used similar ingredients (much cheaper this way!) and ones I could easily substitute things.

For our family of four, a square baking dish (8x8) feeds us perfectly, usually with a corner of leftovers for Dan's lunch the next day. Each meal will have salad, bread or rice added to it on the night of. One of my favorite tricks to cooking for our family : When I make lasagna, I double the sauce (filled with veggies and organic grass fed beef) and freeze dinner's worth. The other trick is to make sure I always have a handful of lasagna noodles :) I do the same with my enchiladas. I find that these two meals freeze very well in their baking dishes.

Our freezer is small, but I was able to fit two breakfast casseroles, enchiladas, 4 other slow cooker meals (in bags), one bag of lasagna sauce/filling, two dinner portions of Asian sauce and the chopped up leftovers. Oh, and I froze the extra chicken broth in a small bag and some in ice cube trays for later. It took us 2 1/2 hours to prep. Not too shabby!

So, after lots of researching blog posts and Pinterest, these are the recipes I currently have in my freezer:

Salsa Verde Enchiladas 
(can be made with chicken or just vegies! Sweet potatoes are SO good in this!)

I throw 3-4 chicken breasts and some broth in the crock pot for 3-4 hours.
Shred the chicken and mix with:
Mexican spices
1 can black beans
1 can corn, cilantro
1/3 C salsa verde
1-2 sweet potatoes
bit of shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
I then stuff about 8 corn tortillas with the mixture, roll up and lay in a 8x8 baking dish. I pour half a jar of Salsa Verde over the dish, sprinkle cheese on top, and we're ready to go! It should make enough for 2 8x8 dishes, so long as you have enough tortillas. One gets baked for dinner that night and the other one goes to the freezer for 7-10 days later.

California Breakfast Casserole  (source)
California Breakfast CasseroleIngredients
Pre-cooked (frozen) breakfast sausage patties (or ground sausage)
2-3 sliced tomatoes
2-3 sliced avocados
14 eggs
1 C milk
1 lb frozen hash browns
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Layer the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan with sausage (I divide into to 8x8 dishes). Top with tomatoes and avocado. Beat together eggs and milk then stir in all other ingredients. Pour hash and egg mixture over sausage, tomatoes and avocados. Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes or until well set.
*Tip : Thaw your extra frozen one in the fridge the night before you want it for breakfast :)


6 Pieces of Chicken (I used boneless skinless breasts)
6 Slices of Bacon
Olive Oil
Minced Garlic
Black Pepper
-Brush chicken with oil, season with pepper and a generous amount of rosemary and minced garlic. Wrap with bacon. Put into a gallon zip lock bag and freeze. Thaw. Cook in oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (or until done), or cook in crock pot on low for 5-6 hours or high for 3-4 hours (or until done).
*Tip : I only did 3 breasts and 3 pieces of bacon so we could have bacon for breakfast in the morning. Plus, 3 breasts are enough for our family and I'll add salad to this dinner when we're ready to eat it. This is so easy though, you could do 8-10 breasts in one gallon zip lock bag and have dinner prepped for unexpected or last minute visitors!

Thai Chicken Thighs (source)
In a large Hefty Slider Bag, place 8 skinless chicken thighs, 1 cup salsa, 1/4-1/2 cup peanut butter, 2 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. lime juice and 2 tsp. grated ginger. Seal and freeze. To cook, empty into a slow cooker (while frozen), cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Serve over steamed rice, with chopped peanuts on top.

*Tip : I did less salsa and added more lime juice, toasted sesame oil and more ginger. Haven't tasted this one yet, so not sure how the peanut butter/salsa thing works out. I'm thinking this will be a big success with our African friend coming to live with us. I'll test it out on him and let you know how it goes!

Creamy Farmhouse Chicken and Garden Soup (source)
1/2 package (16 ounces) frozen pepper stir-fry vegetable mix
1 cup frozen corn
1 medium zucchini, sliced
2 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup half-and-half (or non-dairy milk for dairy allergies)
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 can (14 ounces) fat-free chicken broth

- Put all ingredients in a Ziploc bag except chicken broth and milk. Freeze. Thaw and put in slow cooker and add chicken broth and milk. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Stir in 3 cups prepared noodles.

Sweet Potato Chili (source)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder, or more to taste
1-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
One 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
One 15.5-ounce can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1-1/2 cups water
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add the sweet potatoes and stir to coat with the spices. Transfer the mixture to a 4 to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, beans and water, season with salt, cover, and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

*Tip : Trader Joes has a great cheap bag of chopped multi-color peppers. I used 1/3 bag for this recipe and 1/3 bag for the Farmhouse soup recipe. I also added 1/2 can of corn and a zucchini (leftover from Farmhouse soup!) as well as 6 Italian pork sausage to this dish. I cooked it while prepping other veggies, cut into pieces and added it to a separate bag along with the zucchini and bell peppers. On cooking day, I'll add the bag with everything else in the slow cooker for 4 hours, then add the sausage/zucchini/pepper bag for the last bit of cooking time. With the additions, this dish is definitely one to share with others on a cold rainy day!!! Lots of left overs!

Everything Sauce (aka Asian cooking sauce for chicken or tofu) (source)
2 TB dark sesame oil
1 TB fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
1 TB garlic, grated or finely minced

2/3 cup or broth
2 TB soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 TB brown sugar or raw agave syrup
1-2 fresh thai chilis, sliced or sriracha or red pepper flakes (optional)

-Heat the sesame oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the ginger and garlic into the oil and stir. Allow to soften and slightly mellow for a few minutes, but don't allow it to brown.
Turn the heat up to medium, then add in the mirin, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar or agave. Allow the mixture to come to a very small simmer for a minute or two. If using brown sugar, allow it to dissolve completely.
Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool. Add in the thai chilis or sriracha if you want it spicy.
Store in a glass container for up to a week in the refrigerator.

-To thicken the sauce, dissolve 1 rounded teaspoon of cornstarch in 1 tablespoon of cold water.  Place half of sauce into a small saucepan and bring to a very small simmer. Pour the cornstarch/water mixture into the sauce and stir with a rubber spatula or whisk until thick. Remove from the heat and pour over sauteed or grilled tofu.

* Tip : I combined all the ingredients (no hot spicy stuff!) into small ziplock bags. When I need it, I'll throw it in a pot, maybe thicken it a bit and pour over tofu and noodles like this recipe. Done :)

Last tip : Be creative! Use what you have in your pantry and improvise. Find recipes that use similar ingredients to cut down cost and don't forget to write cooking instructions on the bags. You want it to be so simple, even your 5 yr old could cook it! Ha! I wish!

I HATE HATE HATE chopping onions. As in, I will not do it. So, I enlisted hubby's help. He chopped enough for the meals and then some. I split the remaining into 1 Cup portions, labeled and froze them. Now, I'm ready for the next time I need some chopped onions! I also divided the remaining peppers and peas into smaller portions. It's all in the door :)

And there ya have it! A few of these meals are definitely enough for dinner guests or leftovers throughout the week. I'm hoping this helps me in the dinner department, because I've not been on top of things lately. No planning + hungry family = lots of make shift dinners and multiple trips to the grocery store every week. Not good people. Not good.


  1. Looks great! I stopped chopping onions years ago. :) I buy them prechopped in bags in the frozen section at Safeway or Albertsons. For me, it is worth the money!

  2. Oh, let us know if you like the meals you made!