Freeze the fear! By Contributor Nicole K Taylor
- My 3 year old called the grey haired lady checking us out at Target “Mother Gothel”…to her face! (for those that aren’t familiar – it’s the mean old lady in Rapunzel) .
- The same 3 year old wakes up every time she pees in her pull up throughout the night. It’s kind of like Chinese water torture for me.
- My 5 year old son still can’t get used to the long days of kindergarten and becomes an angry beast when he is tired, so we left the store the other day with him biting and kicking me.
Do you know what I hate more than the aforementioned real events?? Preparing dinner nightly. Literally, I cringe at the thought of dinner and the funny thing is I LOVE to cook. I love to cook when I have time and can plan it out and think about a fun new recipe to try. Those cooking extravaganzas are few and far between – it usually is me trying to figure out at the last possible second what I can throw together to make my family think I’ve got it together. Oh and by the way, make it healthy, non-GMO, organic, green-loving goodness. Yeah, the hardest task of my life – it’s a reoccurring nightmare that I know us mom’s live out daily.
If you are like me, taking the time out – even 5 minutes – to do something like “planning” is a challenge in and of its self but I’ve got a deal for you here. Trust me when I tell you, your sanity and wallet will thank you! It’s called a freezer party – you can do this by yourself if you want but it’s fun to get some other moms together and make a party out of it. The concept is simple: pick 5-7 recipes (bonus: I have 10 tried and true recipes for you below) that your family would like. Everyone gets their own meat, brings it to the party prepared and the host designates each person to bring the ingredients that are “Shareable”. This cuts down on spending, wasting and just makes sense. Everyone is responsible for bringing plastic bags to package up their meals and labels to remind them how to store, cook and/or reheat. This may sound like a lot of work but I have step-by-step instructions below. Simply print it out, grab some wine and set a date to freeze that dinner fear and look forward to weeks of stress free dining.
*Note, you can do this with your kids if you are feeling adventurous (vs. having a freezer party with girlfriends) – kids love to be a part of the process. I throw mine up on the counter, give them a few measuring cups and spoons and we go to town.
- You can make any of these recipes Gluten-free and/or vegetarian.
- Some of these recipes I adapted from a Wild Tree Freezer Party I was invited to earlier this year
- I’ve personally tried all of these recipes and they’ve been a hit for our family (and at least 10 other friends of mine)
- Each recipe serves about 6 so you can actually split it in half and make two freezer meals from one recipe if you have a smaller family.
- Buy some mailing label stickers or post-it’s and print out or write down the cooking directions for each recipe below – stick it onto your bag once the meal is prepared that way when you pull it out – you know exactly what to do with it.
- You can substitute coconut oil for the EVOO (Extra virgin olive oil)
- You will have to make sides with some of these meals so I’ve also included some bonus side recipes
- * = shared item (meaning one person can bring this for everyone to use b/c you don’t need that much depending on how many people you have at your freezer party)
Jambalaya in the Skillet
-1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3 breasts), cut into bite size pieces
-1 lb. Andouille or chicken sausage, you want something with a little kick but not too hot for the kiddos
-Sliced 1⁄2 a medium white onion
-Chopped 2 stalks celery chopped*
-1 bag frozen tri-color peppers – or 1⁄2 cup each chopped red, green, and yellow bell pepper (trader Joes has some great ones in the freezer already seasoned)
-3 Chicken or Veggie Bouillon cubes
-1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice (option: use a 10 oz. can of Rotel)
-2 Tablespoons Cajun seasoning (3 for extra spicy!)*
-1 Tablespoon EVOO Oil
-In a separate bag: 3⁄4 cup white or brown rice
*Place all ingredients EXCEPT RICE in a large Ziploc freezer bag and ‘smush’ to combine. Double bag with small bag of rice, and freeze. When ready to cook, defrost bag in fridge. When thawed, empty into a large/deep skillet, then add bag of rice, along with 1 1⁄2 cups water and stir. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and COVER. Simmer 25-30 minutes, until rice is tender. Stir. Let stand 5 min. covered before serving. Fluff with fork, serve. Serves 8.
Crock Pot Chicken Quesadillas
*This recipe is so versatile. You don’t have to make Quesadillas with it. You can use it for enchiladas, tacos – whatever. Also, if you can’t get your chicken to shred like they have it in the Mexican Restaurants – put it in a bowl (kitchen Aid mixer is best) and hand mix it for a couple minutes – it’s an amazing trick! **This makes a lot so it’s best if you are going to make this into two meals to make the whole thing, then freeze the cooked chicken mixture separately. So you wouldn’t freeze this to begin with – just make, then freeze.
-1 1⁄2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 4 breasts)
-1 (10 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes
-1 (4.5 ounce) can diced green chilies
-1 Chicken Bouillon cube
-½ packet of taco seasoning (or more if you like spice)
*At cooking time: add 1⁄2 cup water to the crock pot *AT DINNERTIME: add 1⁄2 cup sour cream Needed for meal prep:1 (8 ounce) bag grated or shredded cheddar/jack cheese 1 bag (10 count, 8-inch) flour tortillas.
Combine all ingredients in a large Ziploc freezer bag. When ready to cook, empty thawed bag into crockpot, add 1⁄2 cup water, cover, and cook on low for 8 hours. At serving time, shred the chicken with a fork, add 1⁄2 cup sour cream, and stir. Let simmer an add’l 5-10 min. To prep quesadillas, heat a skillet over medium heat and add 1 Tbsp. EVOO. Place one tortilla in the skillet, top with shredded cheese, and 3 spoonfuls of the chicken mixture. Spread evenly, then top with a 2nd tortilla. Cook for 3 to 4 min per side until golden. Serve with salsa. Serving size: half of a prepared quesadilla. Serves 10.
Crock Pot Shredded Beef Burritos
-2 lbs. chuck roast
-1 (4.5 ounce) can green chilies – diced
-1 (10 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes
-1⁄4 cup taco mix
AT DINNERTIME: 1 (16 ounce) can refried beans – any variety 1 (8 ounce) bag shredded cheddar cheese 1bag (10, 8-inch) burrito size flour tortillas 1 (10 ounce) can green Chile enchilada sauce. Place all ingredients in freezer bag. For meal prep, empty freezer bag contents into a crock pot and add 1⁄2 cup water. Cook on low for 6 – 8 hours. Shred with a fork to prep for burritos.
For serving – Preheat the oven to 375. Heat the refried beans for 2 min. in the microwave. Place a spoonful of beans into each large tortilla, then 2-3 spoonfuls of the beef mixture, and a little cheese. Roll and place in a large pyrex dish. Pour green chile sauce over the burritos, and top with more cheese. Cover the dish with foil and heat for about 10 minutes to melt the cheese and heat the sauce. Uncover and bake 5 min more. Serves 10.
Lemon Rosemary Chicken & Sundried Tomato Orzo
-1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 3 breasts) cut into bite size pieces
-2 Tablespoons EVOO Oil
-1 heaping Tablespoon Lemon and/or Rosemary spice Blend*
-1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt *
-1 cup sliced mushrooms
-1 (3 ounce) bag sun dried tomatoes (**note, when sundried tomatoes are frozen, then thawed, they will slightly discolor your entrée upon cooking due to their dark pigment**)
AT DINNERTIME: 1 1⁄2 cups orzo pasta, 4 cups Chicken or Vegetable stock, prepared according to package directions (for boiling the orzo) 1⁄2 cup reserved pasta broth (from boiling the pasta) Shaved Parmesan Cheese for topping Salt & pepper if desired Combine all ingredients in a large Ziploc freezer bag and smush to combine.
To serve: Boil the pasta first in the Chicken Bouillon for 7-10 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, sauté the bag ingredients in a large skillet over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, adding a little salt and pepper if desired. Drain pasta, reserving 1⁄2 cup pasta broth. Add pasta and1⁄2 cup reserved pasta water to the skillet and toss to combine. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serves 5.
Cajun Shrimp & Red Pepper Fettuccine
-2 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined – UNCOOKED
-2 Tablespoons EVOO
-1 Tablespoon Cajun Seasoning (or less if you don’t want it too Cajun)*
-1 red bell pepper finely diced
AT DINNERTIME:1 lb. fettuccine noodles, boiled & drained 1 cup half & half shaved Parmesan cheese Combine all ingredients in a large Ziploc freezer bag and smush to combine. To serve: Boil and cook the fettuccine first. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Empty bag into skillet and cover. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes. Uncover and stir. Add the half & half and stir, reducing heat to medium. Add the fettuccine noodles and toss to coat. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serves 8.
Healthy Tip: have a small portion and serve with either veggies or a salad on the side.
Hearty Italian Meatloaf w/ Marinara Sauce
-2 lbs. ground beef or ground turkey
-3⁄4 cup oats*
-2 Tablespoons Spaghetti Sauce (any store bought kind is fine)
-1 1⁄2 Tablespoons Steak Seasoning (any kind)*
-2 eggs, beaten
Mix all ingredients in a Ziploc bag, seal, and smush to combine. Preheat oven to 350. Shape into a loaf and bake for 50-55 min on a foil lined baking sheet LIGHTLY GREASED. During the last 10 minutes of baking, add the sauce below to the top of the loaf. *When I defrosted mine, I put into mini loaf pans and it was the perfect size for everyone in our family. I liked this a lot better than doing a big ole’ meatloaf.
AT DINNERTIME: 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes 1 Tbsp. minced garlic 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt (optional) Heat these ingredients in a medium saucepan while the meatloaf is baking . Simmer for at least 15 minutes. Then pour 1⁄2 over the meatloaf just before serving. Serve the remaining sauce on the side for dipping. Serves 6.
**Variation**: This meatloaf can easily be done as “mini-meatloaves” by baking in greased muffin tins @350 degrees for 20 minutes. Top each “mini meatloaf muffin” just before serving.
Oven Roasted Lemon Rosemary Salmon – (you can substitute any kind of fish here)
-4 (5 ounce) salmon filets
-2 Tablespoons EVOO
-2 Tablespoons Lemon and/or Rosemary Blend*
Optional: 1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt (use less if using table salt)
Combine all ingredients in a Ziploc Freezer Bag. Smush to coat and freeze. When ready to serve, thaw bag in fridge. Then heat oven to 400 degrees. Place salmon filets on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake uncovered for about 11-15 minutes. Serve with wild rice and asparagus. (Asparagus can be easily prepared using the same blend and oil as the salmon, and roasted alongside the salmon in the oven) Serves 4.
Southwest Chicken or Turkey Burgers
-1 lb. Ground Chicken or healthier option: ground turkey
-1 Tablespoon EVOO
-2 Tablespoons Salsa*
-1 Tablespoon Steak Rub and/or spice*
Combine all ingredients in a freezer Ziploc and smush to blend. *Before freezing, you can shape meat into 4 patties, wrap in parchment and then freeze. Otherwise, the chicken is a little difficult to form into patties once thawed. Freeze. When ready to serve, thaw bag in fridge. Heat 1 Tablespoon of EVOO in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. If using chicken where you didn’t pre-form the patties, spoon into the hot pan as the meat will be difficult to form into patties and pan fry or grill for about 5 min per side. If using turkey, form into patties and cook 5-6 min per side. Serve on buns with mayo, avocado, and green leaf lettuce.
OPTIONAL: add provolone cheese slices during the last 3 min of cooking, and melt by making an “aluminum foil tent” over the skillet. Serves 4.
Southwestern Chicken Chili –*(this one is done in 2 separate bags, then double
In ONE BAG:
-1 lb. ground chicken (extra lean 95/5 if avail)
-1 Tbsp. EVOO
-2 tsp. Steak Rub*
Smush this all together, and seal the bag. In the 2nd Bag:
-15oz can diced tomatoes
-1 can black beans, RINSED AND DRAINED
-1- 15 oz. can tomato sauce
-1⁄2 of a medium onion, chopped
-2 cups frozen corn
-1 can diced green chiles
-1⁄4 cup Salsa*
-4 tsp. Chicken stock*
-2 cups water
Smush to blend this bag. Place both bags sealed into a large Ziploc freezer bag.
When ready to cook: Empty the chicken ONLY into a large stockpot over medium high heat and sauté for 5 minutes – stirring to cook through. Add the 2nd bag of sauce/beans/vegetables etc. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Optional: top with sour cream and grated cheese
-1 Pound of crab meat – should be chunky and white in a can(buy the good stuff, Costco has great quality and price)
-1/3 cup of crushed crackers*
-3 green onions*
-½ cup green bell pepper (optional)
-¼ cup mayo
-1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce*
-1 tsp. dry mustard*
-½ lemon, juiced
-¼ tsp. garlic powder*
-1 tsp. salt
-dash of cayenne pepper*
In large bowl, mix together all ingredients. IT works best when you mix all ingredients together and add crab last. Make sure to drain crab meat (take paper towel or dish towel and squeeze all liquid from crab meat). Shape into patties. Once shaped, coat with breadcrumbs or flour. Wrap patties in plastic wrap and then store in zip lock bag for freezing. When ready to cook: Defrost in fridge. Coat again with flour or breadcrumbs. Put skillet on medium-high with two tablespoons of EVOO – Fry in pan until browned (4-5 minutes on each side).
Easy Side dish Recipes
Easy Oven Roasted Potatoes
-Bag of small multi-colored potatoes
-Packet of Dry Ranch Salad Dressing
-2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a shallow baking dish and toss to coat. Bake for 35-55 min or until tender. Serve. *You can also add bacon bits and cheese towards end for a tastier treat.
Oven Roasted Asparagus
-1 bunch asparagus
-2 Tbsp. EVOO
- Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder (as much or as little depending on your liking)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread the coated asparagus spears evenly in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until tender. Serve.
Have fun cooking! Until next time!