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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Slow Cooker Veggie Lasagna

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Oh my goodness! This is so good and so easy. We didn’t even miss the meat! It did make a lot of lasagna but it does freeze well. And of course it is even better the next day!

Slow Cooker Veggie Lasagna

1 (12 oz.) bag Bird’s Eye Recipe Ready Primavera Blend frozen veggies, defrosted
1 (10 oz.) bag frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and extra liquid squeezed out
2 (24 oz.) jars marinara sauce
1 (24 oz.) container cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups Italian blend cheese, shredded
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 (16 oz.) pkg. regular lasagna noodles, uncooked
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the veggies, cottage cheese, water, garlic powder, salt, pepper, eggs and 3/4 cup each of the cheeses and mix well. Cover the bottom of a 6 or 7 quart slow cooker with 1 1/2 cups or so of marinara sauce. Top with lasagna noodles. Add cheese and veggie mixture. Cover with sauce again. Add a layer of lasagna noodles. Then a layer of cheese and veggie mixture and repeat until ingredients are gone ending with sauce over the noodles. Cover with lid. Cook on low 5-6 hours or until liquid is absorbed. Shut off slow cooker and top with the remaining Mozzarella and Italian blend cheeses and cover to melt, maybe 15 minutes. Cut and serve with a fresh salad and garlic bread.

Slow Cooker Sochi (Russian) Chicken

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The television seems filled with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi this year.  I am not a big fan of watching but I have tuned in a few times this year which is unusual for me.  As I was doing the menu planning this week I came across Russian Chicken.  It has been a long time since I have had Russian Chicken and since the Winter Olympics are in Russia this year I thought it would be an appropriate dish to make this week.

The dish has chopped onions in it and my family doesn’t like onions, at all.  So I sliced the onions in big slices so the onions can be easily picked out for the picky eaters.  If your family likes onions then chop them.

Slow Cooker Russian Chicken

4-6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 small onion, chopped (or sliced)
1/2 cup chunky apricot preserves
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used Hellmann’s mayonnaise)
1/3 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken in slow cooker. Spread chopped or sliced onion on top. Combine mayonnaise, ketchup, and red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the apricot preserves to the mayonnaise mixture. Stir to combine and pour over the chicken. Cover and cook on Low for 3 or 4 hours. Serve over rice.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dressing

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4 chicken breasts (thawed)

1 box of Stove Top Stuffing mix
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1/4 cup water

Put chicken in slow cooker. Pour in stuffing. Mix sour cream, soup and water. Pour in and cook on low for 4 hours.
Note: The dressing turned out somewhat dry. I might try making the dressing instead of pouring it in dry.

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.

Slow Cooker Mexican Red Beans

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I have been quite remiss in posting lately.  Let me just say that the holiday season left me very very busy.  I should have posted this recipe long before now.  This is one of the family’s favorites and a recipe I make quite frequently.  On Christmas Eve in West Texas especially along the border, it is traditional to have tamales and beans.    After we ate we would go for a drive to look at all the luminarias.  Entire neighborhoods were lined in luminarias and they were so beautiful.  This year we had tamales and beans but I unfortunately did not see any luminarias as they are not a common thing to see in this area.

Mexican Red Beans

1 pound dried pinto beans (soak overnight)
4 cups cold water
1 large onion, chopped
1 14.5 oz can tomatoes (I get the diced)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or 2 teaspoons chili powder (I use the chili powder)
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 pound salt pork or bacon, chopped (I use bacon)

Put soaked and drained beans into slow cookers. Add water and all remaining ingredients. Cook and cover on High 2 hours, then turn to Low for 8 hours.

I also like to serve this with cornbread.

What to do with Thanksgiving Leftovers: Slow Cooker Turkey and Dumplings

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I usually make Turkey Soup the day after Thanksgiving but I changed my mind.  I have been having a craving for Chicken and Dumplings so I thought, why not?  I will just make it into Turkey and Dumplings.  This was a winner with the family.  I think I will be making this every year instead of the Turkey soup.  It was soooo good on a cold Fall night.

Here is the recipe:

I put the turkey carcass in the slow cooker and filled it up with water until the carcass was covered.  I didn’t add anything else to it.  The turkey was flavoring enough.  I cooked it on LOW for 8 hours.  At the end of the 8 hours I removed the carcass and all bones.  Set the carcass out to cool off.  Skim the fat off the top of the broth and discard.  Then pick off all the meat and put it back in the slow cooker.  Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk and stir.  Turn slow cooker to HI.  While the slow cooker is heating up, make the dumplings.

Mix 2 cups of flour, 1/3 cup of shortening, 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt until just combined. Slowly add up to 1 cup of milk until a soft dough forms. Sprinkle your work surface and rolling-pin with flour. Roll dough as thinly as possible, between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick. Cut into squares with a knife or pizza cutter.  Let the dough dry a little.  Then drop the dumplings into the broth and continue cooking on HI until the dumplings are done, about 15-20 minutes.  Season turkey and dumplings with salt and pepper.

I served fresh Bread Machine Challah Bread with it.

7 Meals in 2 hours including the shopping!!

I thought I would give this slow cooker recipes for the freezer a try.  You know the kind.  Dump some food in a freezer bag and freeze it.  Thaw it out and cook it in the slow cooker.  Sounded easy enough for me, so I thought I would give it a whirl.  First thing I did was surf the Internet for recipes and there sure are a lot of recipes.  I had to decided which recipes I would fix.  I decided to make 7 dinners.  It took me about 2 hours to put them together and that includes the shopping.

First meal was putting spare ribs and barbeque sauce in a freezer bag.  Squish it together and freeze it.  When you are ready to cook it, take it out of the freezer the night before and thaw it in the refrigerator.  The next morning put it in the slow cooker and cook it on Low for 8 hours.  Cheesy Hashbrown Potato Casserole would be good with the ribs.  It is a freezable dish.

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Second meal I cooked was Poppyseed Chicken.  I went ahead and started cooking that for dinner now and decided not to freeze it mainly because it has sour cream in it.  The recipe didn’t say this but lightly salt and pepper the chicken before placing in slow cooker.  I know the chicken isn’t salt and peppered in the picture but do as I say, not as I do.  Still this dish needs something else.  I think I might try a slice of bacon on top of the chicken next time and see if that adds to the flavor.  I don’t know maybe it’s just me but I thought this dish was a bit bland if cooked according to the recipe.

The third and fourth meals were Chicken Delicious.  I made two bags of that and put it in the freezer.

The last chicken meal I made was Dijon Chicken.

Then I made 2 more meals using ground beef, Casserole Spaghetti and Mexican Casserole.

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OK, so step 1:  I labeled all the freezer bags.

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Step 2:  I put all the meat in the bags.

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Step 3:  Poured barbeque sauce in with the spare ribs and froze the bag.  By the way, the Head Country Barbeque Sauce in the picture is the best sauce hands down, just sayin’.
Step 4:  Cut up all the green peppers and added it to the dishes.
Step 5:  Cut up all the onions and added it to the dishes.
Step 6:  Cut up the celery and added it to the dish.
Step 7:  Added any canned goods to the meals.
Step 8:  Added any seasoning to the meals.
Step 9:  Seal the bags, squish the bags and freeze!

And I was done, easy, easy, easy!  Now I hope my family likes them.  This will be great to have on hand for the busy holiday season that is coming up.

Here is a great article on 31 Things You Can Freeze.  I think I am going to get busy and start freezing!!  First thing may be making up a batch of waffles!  Yum!

Oh I forgot to add:  do not buy the frozen chicken breasts for slow cooker recipes.  Only buy fresh chicken breasts to use in the slow cooker recipes.  The frozen chicken usually has a layer of ice around it and it will produce too much liquid in your dish.  Your dishes will turn out too watery.

Scandinavian Dilled Pot Roast

1 (3 to 3 1/2 pound) beef rump or chuck roast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 cup sour cream

Sprinkle all sides of meat with salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon of the dill. Place in a slow cooker. Add water and vinegar. Cover and cook on LOW 7 to 9 hours or until tender. Place meat on a platter and keep warm. Turn control to HIGH. Dissolve cornstarch in water; stir into meat drippings. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon dill. Cook on HIGH about 10 to 15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Stir in sour cream. Slice meat; serve with sauce.

Note: may add 2-3 baking potatoes on top of the roast and remove before making gravy.

Turkey Noodle Soup

1 turkey carcass, broken into several pieces
2 quarts of water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 bay leaf
6 oz. noodles, cooked and drained

Combine turkey carcass and water in a slow cooker. Add salt, pepper, onion, celery, carrot, parsley, marjoram and bay leaf. Cover and cook on LOW 5 to 6 hours. Remove carcass and bay leaf from cooker. Take meat off bones; return meat to broth. Discard bones. Add cooked noodles to cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH 20 to 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Serve soup hot.

Variation: This recipe is designed for a 4 1/2 quart slow cooker. For a 3 1/2 quart or smaller slow cooker, use chunks of turkey meat cut off the bones or chicken parts.