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.

Sausage Alfredo

Long time no blog!  I am still here.  I haven’t been blogging because my computer crashed and I did not go out and buy a new computer for over a year.  I couldn’t decide if I wanted a laptop or a desktop.  I finally decided to get another laptop.  I like the portability of it.  Since I am back online I will be blogging more often now.  I also decided to give the blog a new look and changed the format.  I like the new simple look that it has.

Now that we are empty nesters my cooking has changed a lot.  I no longer cook large amounts of food.  I generally cook recipes that are freezable and quick.  If a recipe says it serves 4 people, I will serve half and freeze the other half.  This method has helped with portions and stocked my freezer for more busier nights.  I have been getting into dehydrating, canning and making my own quick mixes in order to make things easier too.  Below is a good quick skillet meal that we both like and is one of the recipes I go to when I have to get something on the table fast.  It is freezable and can be warmed up in the microwave.  I serve this with a nice big dinner salad.

Sausage Alfredo

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 15 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 package smoked sausage, sliced (I use Hillshire Farm)
  • 8 ounces pasta, cooked and drained (I use elbow macaroni)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun seasonings (I use Tony Chachere’s)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (fresh is always best!)

Prepare pasta. Cook and drain. Saute sausage for 5 minutes. Add cream and Cajun seasoning and boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture thickens. Stir in Parmesan. Add pasta and toss.

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.

Homemade Pizza-Best Pizza Ever!!!

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I make the bread dough in the bread machine.  If I am cooking pizza on a day that I am at work then I set the bread machine to delay start so the dough will be ready when I get home.  Eat one, freeze one!!!

Pizza Dough for 2 pizzas or 1-13×9 inch pizza
In the bread machine place:
1 cup water
3 cups flour
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons yeast
Put on Dough setting.

Here is an easy no cook recipe for the Pizza Sauce. This is enough sauce for 2 pizzas or 1-13×9 inch pizza.
15 oz. tomato sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
4 tablespoons tomato paste
Mix and spread over pizza. Top with cheese, pepperoni and mushrooms (or your favorite toppings). Cook at 425 for 25 minutes.

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is, by far our family’s favorite. I cook a pecan pie every Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup Karo corn syrup
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 unbaked 9 inch pastry shell

In a large bowl, stir eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla until well blended. Stir in pecans. Pour into pastry shell. Bake in 350F degree oven for 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean. Cool.

What to do with leftover cranberry sauce……

Love, love, love cranberry sauce.  I can’t eat turkey without cranberry sauce.  Just have to have it.  This year we had quite a bit of leftover cranberry sauce and I decided to do something with it.  I also had 3 very very ripe bananas that I needed to do something with very quickly.  I made Banana Cranberry Bread to use up both ingredients.  This bread is excellent for breakfast and freezes well.

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Banana Cranberry Bread

2 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup shortening
3 eggs
3 mashed bananas
1 cup cranberry sauce (I only had about 1/2 cup but it worked out fine)
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, and mix in bananas, cranberry sauce, milk, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Gradually blend flour mixture into the banana mixture. Fold in walnuts. Pour into the prepared loaf pans. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack, and cool completely.

What to do with leftover Sweet Potatoes……

I love sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving.  I just have to have sweet potatoes along with my turkey on Thanksgiving but for some reason the rest of my family isn’t too wild about eating it so I have lots of leftovers.  Here is my recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole.  It is a wonderful recipe.  I had lots of leftovers this year and I couldn’t eat it all by myself.  I decided to make it into something different.  I decided to make Sweet Potato Bread.  This bread will be perfect for breakfast on a rushed morning.  This is also a freezable bread.

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Sweet Potato Bread

1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup water
1 cup cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (or use leftover Sweet Potato Casserole)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (I didn’t add any because I added pecans to the casserole)

Combine sugar and oil; beat well. Add eggs and beat. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture alternately with water. Stir in sweet potatoes and chopped nuts. Pour batter into greased 9×5 inch loaf pan (or 2 small loaf pans). Bake at 350 degrees F for about one hour.

Coming up tomorrow: what to do with leftover cranberry sauce!

Baked Ravioli

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Oh my this turned out so good.  The family loved it.  Simmering the sauce can take some extra time but if that can be done ahead of time, this would be a quick dish to assemble on a busy weeknight.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
2 pounds store-bought frozen ravioli
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add oregano, basil and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, breaking up tomatoes with spoon, until sauce is thickened and reduced to about 5 1/2 cups, 20 to 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook ravioli in a large pot of boiling salted water just until they float to the top (pasta will continue to cook in oven). Drain pasta; return to pot.
Toss sauce with pasta. Pour pasta into a large gratin dish or 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and sprinkle with cheeses. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Banana Nut Bread

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I had a surplus of bananas and instead of letting them go to waste, I made Banana Nut Bread. It has got to be one of my all around favorites. I enjoy a slice of it in the morning along with my cup of tea. This recipe makes 1 loaf. If you want 2 loaves just double the recipe.

1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ripe large bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack in middle position. Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Set aside.

Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nuts. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients just until combined and the butter is thick and chunky. (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth. Over mixing the batter will yield tough, rubbery bread.) Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake until bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. This bread can be frozen.