Assemble and Freeze Meal Plan for August 1-7, 2016

freezer meals

Long time no post!  I have been busy, what can I say?  So busy that I have changed how I cook now.  There is only the two of us now.  Most recipes serve 4 or more, so I have been using the freezer more to freeze the extra servings.  I have finally cleaned out all the freezers and defrosted them.  It was a dreaded chore but I got it done.  Now I have more room to freeze the servings we can’t eat so we can eat it at a later time.

I am also gluten free now. I use all gluten free products in the recipes below. It is easy to find gluten free pasta now. I do use more rice in recipes than pasta however, just because it is easier and cheaper. For the garlic bread I use gluten free bread and spread butter and diced garlic or garlic powder on top and toast it in the oven on the broiler setting.

I have been doing the grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday. (Or if I want to avoid crowds I will grocery shop early Friday morning.)  I try to have everything ready to go by Monday.  Monday is my meal prep day.  I basically assemble all the meals for the week on Monday.  If you work, this could be done on Sunday afternoon.  I assemble all the meals for the week and freeze them.  So nice to have ready to go.  I don’t like cooking in the kitchen very long this time of year because it is so hot.  This is one way I spend the least amount of time in the kitchen and can work on other projects. All of these recipes except for the breakfast, make more than one meal for us to be eaten at a later time. This is also a great way to stock the freezer before school starts.  It seems I am always needing a dish to bring somewhere or have ready quickly if my children decide to visit at the last minute.  This menu plan made 12 meals for 2 people with leftovers.  This will last us about 2 weeks.

Menu
Monday-Tater Tot Casserole, salad
Tater Tot Casserole
Tuesday-Garlic Tomato Butter Chicken, Rice, Broccoli
Tomato Garlic Butter Chicken
Wednesday-Breakfast for Dinner
Thursday-Cavatini, Salad, Garlic Bread
Cavatini
Friday-Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff, rice, salad
Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff
Saturday-Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice
Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice
Sunday-Creamy Cheesy Chicken with Noodles, Peas, Salad
Creamy Cheesy Chicken with Noodles

Grocery List: (side dishes and breakfast meal not included here)
Meat:
3 lbs (5-6 pieces) of chicken breasts plus 4 Boneless, Skinless, Chicken Breasts
½ cups dice Ham, Fully Cooked
1 pound cubed beef stew meat
2 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. pepperoni

Can goods:
2 cans of cream of chicken soup
1 can of cheesy soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can condensed golden mushroom soup
1 can crushed pineapple
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 can pizza sauce
1 small can of mushrooms
1 cup of tomato sauce

Frozen goods:
1 cup Mixed Vegetables
16 oz. mixed vegetables
28 oz. package frozen tater tots

Produce:
5 cloves garlic
2 onions

Dairy:
3 sticks of butter
2 eggs
4 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. mozzarella
1/4 cup milk

Pasta and rice:
1 bag of egg noodles
1 cup rice
16 oz. rotini

Seasonings/Oils:
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbs dried minced onion
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Teriyaki Sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha Sauce
2 teaspoons Sesame Oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Cooking spray

Equipment: Be sure to have plenty of gallon and quart freezer bags on hand, materials for labels, two 9×13 pans (I use 8×8 pans to freeze smaller portions so that would equal out to four 8×8 pans) and foil.

Procedure (I do all of this on Monday morning or this could be done Sunday afternoon)
1. Grease four 8×8 pans (or two 9×13 pans for larger portions)
2. Chop one onion plus chop 1/2 cup.
3. Dice 5 cloves of garlic. (save 1 teaspoon for fried rice)
4. Brown 1 pound of beef with 1 chopped onion and drain. Set aside. Brown another pound (no onion) and drain. Set aside. (Side note on this: I use my frozen ground beef mix for this so this is already to go for me in the freezer. All I have to do is thaw it. I buy ground beef in bulk. If you don’t have cooked ground beef in the freezer then you will need to cook 2 pounds for the recipes.)
5. Cook 1 pound of rotini pasta and drain. (Can keep pasta in pan so can mix other ingredients in with it.)
6. Shred 8 ounces mozzarella.
7. Cook 1 cup uncooked rice.
8. (Tater Tot Casserole) Mix 1 pound beef/onion mixture with 1 can chicken soup, 1 can of mushroom soup, 1/4 cup milk, 16 ounces frozen mixed veggies. Pour into two greased 8×8 pans or one greased 9×13 pan. Top with 28 ounces package of tater tots. Label and freeze. Use within 3 months.
9. (Garlic Tomato Butter Chicken) Place 4 chicken breasts in two ziplock freezer bags or for a larger portion place all 4 breast in one large ziplock freezer bag. Melt 2 sticks of butter in a saucepan. Saute 4 cloves of garlic in butter. Add 1 cup of tomato sauce to the butter/garlic mixture. Heat to boiling and stir to combine. Pour over chicken in bags, dividing mixture if have two freezer bags. (May need to let liquid sauce cool some before adding sauce to freezer bags especially if using frozen chicken.) Label and freeze. Use within 3 months.
10. (Creamy Chicken with Noodles) Place 6 chicken breasts in a large ziplock freezer bag or put 2 chicken breasts in 3 ziplock freezer bags. In a large bowl add the following: 1 cut up stick of butter, 1 can of cream of chicken soup, 1 can of cheddar cheese condensed soup, 4 chicken bouillon cubes, 4 cups of hot water, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder and 1 tablespoon dried minced onion. Stir until butter and bouillon cubes are dissolved. Pour over chicken in ziplock bags, dividing mixture among the number of bags evenly, if necessary. Label and freeze. Use within 3 months.
11. (Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice) Cook 2 eggs in 2 teaspoons of sesame oil. Add the following to the eggs: 1 teaspoon diced garlic, 1/2 cup diced ham, 1 cup frozen mixed veggies, 1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce. Add the cooked rice. Stir. Label and freeze. Use within 3 months.
12. (Cavatini) Mix in a large bowl: 1 pound cooked ground beef, 16 ounces cooked rotini, 1 jar spaghetti sauce, 1 can pizza sauce, 1 package pepperoni, and 1 can sliced drained mushrooms. Pour into two greased 8×8 pans or one greased 13×9 pan. Top with 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella. Label and freeze.
13. (Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff) In a freezer bag combine 1 pound stew meat, 1 can golden mushroom soup, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire, 1/4 cup water. Squish bag to mix ingredients.  (I love this part!)  Label and freeze. Use within 3 months.

On serving day:
1. Tater Tot Casserole-Thaw in fridge. Bake at 375 for 1 hour or until potatoes are golden brown and filling is heated through. To crisp up tots, broil for 5 minutes.
2. Garlic Tomato Butter Chicken-Thaw overnight in refrigerator. Pour into crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours or bake in oven at 400 for 45 minutes. Serve over rice.
3. Cavatini-Completely thaw in refrigerator. Cover loosely with tented foil (if using foil lid, bend lid so that melted cheese will not stick to lid). Bake at 375 for 1 hour, or until heated through. Remove cover and broil for 3-4 min. or until cheese is slightly browned.
4. Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff-Thaw completely and cook in slow cooker on Low for 8 hours or on High for 5 hours . Stir in 4 oz. cream cheese just before serving. Serve over pasta or rice.
5. Ham and Pineapple Fried Rice-No need to thaw this ahead of time. I just pour this in a microwaveable dish and zap it until it is warmed up. I am not posting how long because each microwave varies. Just check on it as it is warming up and stir it once in a while. Can also warm this up in the oven.
6. Creamy Cheesy Chicken with Noodles-No need to thaw this ahead of time. Empty items into the crock pot set on low and come back 6.5-7 hours later. Stir in a bag of egg noodles (if cooking all 6 chicken breasts at once or one handful of egg noodles if cooking 2 chicken breasts) for the last 30 minutes.

You can find more menus and ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

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Ground Beef Mix

I buy ground beef in bulk, 5 pounds at a time.  If I decide to buy some Zaycon beef, of course I have a lot more.  Usually with Zaycon beef I freeze it in 1 pound ziplock bags.  However, I cook 5 pounds at a time in the slow cooker.  I put 3 chopped onions, 3 chopped green peppers and 5 pounds of raw ground beef in the slow cooker.  I cook it for 4 hours on high, stirring every hour to break the beef up.  At the end of the 4 hours, I put the beef in a large sieve and rinse it with cold water.  This cools the beef mixture down and it also rinses the grease out.  I put about 3 cups of the mixture in each quart ziplock freezer bag.  There should end up being 5 quart bags.  Then I label and freeze the bags.  They are ready to go for dinner quickly.  This cuts the time I have to spend in the kitchen on Meal Prep Mondays!

For those of you who are interested, I do buy a lot of meat from Zaycon Fresh.  They offer bulk meat for less then what can usually be bought in the stores.  If you are interested, I have a referral link if you would like to try it out.  I have been very impressed with the beef and chicken.  I haven’t tried anything else but I probably will be ordering some other things soon!

Here is the referral:  Zaycon Fresh

I will be starting “assemble and freeze” weekly menus soon!  First one will be posted this week!  I used this ground beef mix a lot in those recipes and thought I would post this ahead of time.

Pressure Cooker Round Steak with Veggies and Gravy

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It was one of those days and I needed to get dinner on the table fast.  I didn’t want to have to go out in this cold to the grocery store so I used what I had on hand.  This recipe turned out wonderful and I am going to have to cook this one again!  The recipe below serves 2 people so if you need it to serve more then increase it accordingly.

1 pound of round steak, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 slices of turkey bacon
1 onion, sliced
1 package of baby carrots
4 small russet potatoes cut into fourths
1/2 cup cooking sherry (or dry red wine if you have it)
1 tablespoon dry parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Press the Brown button on your pressure cooker. If you don’t have a brown function then do this part in a skillet. Put 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in bottom of pressure cooker. When the oil melts put the round steak in. Brown the round steak and then place it on a plate. Put bacon in pressure cooker and brown the bacon. Add the cooking sherry and deglaze the pot. Turn the brown function off. Return the steak and collected juices to the cooker. Add the remaining ingredients except for the cornstarch. I added some a little extra water too, maybe 1/4 cup. Lock the lid in place and set to high pressure for 20 minutes. Let pressure release. Remove the lid. In a pyrex measuring cup place 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and some of the hot gravy in and stir it up. Pour it in the cooker and stir until the gravy gets thick.

Not Your Mama’s Meatloaf

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This is a basic recipe for meatloaf.    I dressed it up a little though.  I didn’t have 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef in the freezer but I did have 1 pound and I found 1/2 pound of ground veal.  Mixing two different meats together was really good.  A 1/2 pound of ground pork would be good too!  The thought of adding 1/2 pound of venison crossed my mind but I decided not to since I like to eat venison with spicier ingredients to hide that wild taste.  Some people probably wouldn’t mind it though.  I put everything else in the meatloaf as the recipe calls for except I had 1/2 of a green and red bell pepper leftover in the refrigerator that just seemed to be crying out to me.  So I chopped those up and put them in the meatloaf.  Most leftover veggies go well in meatloaf.  This recipe was enough for supper for hubby and I and then sandwiches for lunch the next day.  Half of the meatloaf was still leftover so I put that in the slow cooker spaghetti the following morning.  This meatloaf could easily feed a family of 4 with enough leftovers to make spaghetti the next day minus the sandwiches.  I served the meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy and peas.  Yummy!

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 egg
1 onion, chopped
1 cup milk
1 cup dried bread crumbs or cracker crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoon prepared mustard
1/3 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the beef, egg, onion, milk, and bread or cracker crumbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste and place in a lightly greased 5×9 inch loaf pan, or form into a loaf and place in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking dish. In a separate small bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard and ketchup. Mix well and pour over the meatloaf. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.

Easy Does It Spaghetti

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I must admit, this is one of the best recipes for spaghetti that I have had. It is quick and easy and is ready when I get home from work.  It is the best ever.  Serve with some parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and some garlic bread.  This is so good to come home to after a long day at work!!

1 pound ground beef (I use leftover meatloaf in this so I don’t have to cook it.  I serve meatloaf the day before.)
1 tablespoon dry minced onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1/4 teaspoon each mace, allspice and pepper
1 (4 oz) can sliced mushrooms, drained
3 cups tomato juice
4 oz. dry spaghetti broken in 4 inch pieces

Brown ground beef well in skillet and place in slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients except dry spaghetti and stir well. Cover and cook on Low for 6-8 hours. (High for 3 1/2 hours) Turn to High the last hour and stir in dry spaghetti.

Creamy Spinach & Sausage Pasta

This is a good quick skillet dinner to cook on those busy weeknights.  I have been coming home late from work and I can get this on the table pretty quick after I get home from a long day’s work.

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Creamy Spinach and Sausage Pasta

Serves 4

6 oz. smoked sausage, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with chilies
2 cups chicken broth
8 oz. pasta (any pasta, I used elbow macaroni)
3 cups fresh spinach
1 cup (4 oz) shredded monterey jack
1 whole green onion, sliced (optional)

Thinly slice smoked sausage and add to skillet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Saute sausage until brown. Drain fat. Dice onion and add to skillet. Saute until onion is soft. Add can of tomatoes with chilies and the chicken broth. Stir to combine and dissolve any brown bits off bottom of skillet. Add uncooked pasta and make sure it is submerged in liquid. Place lid on skillet. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Stir once or twice while cooking to prevent pasta from sticking. Stir in spinach, one cup at a time, until wilted. Keep heat on low. Sprinkle cheese on top. Heat until melted. Top with sliced green onion.

Halloween Casserole

Hello peeps!!  Long time, no write.  I have been continuing my dieting.  Got a long ways to go but I will get there.  Since it is Halloween I thought I would cook a Halloween Casserole.  I found some of the cutest pasta shapes so I decided to use it in a casserole.

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I measured 2 cups of pasta into a pan of boiling water.  I boiled it for 10 minutes, drained it and poured it into a greased baking dish.  Then I cooked 1 pound of ground beef, drained it and added it to the pasta.  You could add Italian sausage instead of ground beef.   Then I mixed in 2 cups of marinara sauce.  I had some homemade sauce in the freezer but the canned marinara sauce would work just as well.  I mixed everything up and put the baking dish in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes.  Then I put grated cheddar cheese on top and put it back in the oven for 5 minutes.  You could also use mozzarella cheese.

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It turned out really good.  Everyone seemed to like it.

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I served it up with a nice fresh green salad.  Oh and don’t forget to sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top too!  Happy Halloween!!

Just a short update

4th of July

I have been doing well on my diet.  I have lost almost 11 pounds.  I have been eating Special K Chocolately Strawberry Cereal for breakfast.  It is so good and it satisfies my chocolate cravings.  I also enjoy a cup of Teavana tea in the mornings while sitting out on the patio.  My favorite teas right now are Youthberry and Wild Orange Blossom Herbal Tea.  For lunch I have been eating a Lean Cuisine frozen dinner.  They are low in calories and they are tasty too.   On this diet I can snack around on just about any fruit or vegetable.  I can eat as much as I want of them.  Luckily it is summertime and there is plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from.  Lately I have been eating watermelon.  I have been fixing about the same main dishes for my family for dinner.  I eat a very small portion of meat.  Then I add a salad with low fat dressing or I stir fry up some vegetables to go along with it.  I stay away from the potato salads, mashed potatoes, baked beans etc. that my family generally loves.  I cook it for them but I just don’t eat it.

Tonight I am cooking my Chicken Fried Steak and I am going to try not to put much gravy on it.  Then I will fix myself a salad.  Everyone will eat some corn on the cob and the others will enjoy some baked beans.  On the 4th of July I am cooking Slow Cooker Texas Pulled Pork and Gourmet Potato Salad.  Yumm-O  I will have to be careful about my portions here though.  I am also baking Patriotic Jello Cookies.  I just might try one of those just to see how they taste.  Friday night we will probably have leftovers as we are having company coming in on Friday night.  Saturday night I am cooking Baked Spaghetti, tossed salad and garlic bread for our company.  I am going to make the Baked Spaghetti ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator.  I will bake it an hour before we want to eat.  This way I won’t be spending all my time in the kitchen when our company is here and I can visit.  Sunday they are leaving so Sunday evening we will probably be eating leftovers again.  Actually the Baked Spaghetti tastes better the next day.  All those wonderful flavors seem to be even more enhanced.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe 4th of July.  I will post a few updates here and there of my weight loss progress.  I have come across some good family meals that are diet friendly and I will post those later.

Bangers and Mash

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8 Russett potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds beef sausage
1/2 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 (.75 oz) packet dry brown gravy mix
1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350F. Place potatoes in a saucepan with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook potatoes until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain, then mash with 4 teaspoons of the butter and enough milk to reach a creamy consistency. Continue mashing until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage until heated through, about 3-5 minutes. Remove sausage from skillet and set aside. Add remaining butter to skillet, and add onion, rosemary, oregano, garlic, and mushrooms. Stir until tender. Whisk together gravy mix and water as directed on packet, then add to skillet with onion and mushrooms. Simmer, stirring constantly, to form a thick gravy.

Pour half of the gravy mix into a medium sized casserole dish so that the bottom is coated. Place sausages in a layer over the gravy, then cover with remaining gravy. Top with mashed potatoes.

Bake bangers and mash uncovered in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until potatoes are evenly browned.

Hobo Casserole

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This dish is a family keeper. It is so quick and easy on busy weeknights. The ground beef isn’t even pre-cooked in this dish. It cooks right along with the casserole!

1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, sliced (if your family doesn’t like onions then leave it out)
2 medium potatoes, sliced (don’t peel them)
1 1/2 cups shredded Velveeta
1 (10 3/4 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
1/8 cup milk
1 1/2 cups French-fried onions
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat ground beef into 8×8 pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If using, slice onion on top of beef. Slice potatoes onto onion layer, salt and pepper. Layer with shredded Velveeta cheese. Mix soup and milk together and spread over the cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until potatoes are tender. Remove foil and top with french fried onions and brown for about 5 minutes.