Tag Archives: Make-a-head meals

Spring and Summer Freezer Meals

I have never been able to decide which season is my favourite. As each new season approaches I think to myself, “Ah, now THIS is my favourite season!” Spring is definitely in my top four. Flowers are pushing through, the air is clean and crisp and the birds are out looking for snacks. What better time for a new freezer meal post that has meals that fit this spectacular season.

Spring Heart of a Farm Girl

If you are new to freezer meals check out my previous freezer meal posts:

10 Freezer meal tips
and recipes One hour, Six meals!

I chose these meals for many reasons. First, I’m done with casseroles for a few months, they were so last season, and second the meals go together well. A few need broth, onions, tomato sauce… so you can chop onions for multiple recipes at once as well as open a can of tomato sauce and have it all used up. Not half used and found mouldy in the fridge next month. Or maybe that’s just me…
7 Spring and Summer Freezer Meals Heart of a Farm Girl  Blog spring freezer meals

As a side note, we were low on time this weekend and realized this after the meat was bought. My husband said, “Just put the meat in the freezer!” I puked in my mouth a little.

For this batch of freezer meals, we will be making

  • 2 sloppy Joe meals
  • 2 meatloaves
  • 2 chicken kabob meals
  • 1 chicken fajita meal

Let’s get started! You will need a big pack of chicken breasts and ground beef, about 5 lbs of each, and 7 freezer Ziploc bags.  I had everything else on hand, but we are a little over the top with stocking our cupboards.

**First chop four onions to split between the next two recipes**

Sloppy Joes

I don’t like sweet sloppy joes, feel free to add 1 tbs of brown sugar if preferred.

  • 2.5 pounds of ground beef
  • Two chopped onions
  • 2-4 garlic cloves
  • 2 diced celery stocks
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 can diced tomato
  • ½ cup tomato sauce (or whatever is left after adding ½ cup to meatloaf)
  • 1/2cup ketchup
  • 1/2cup chicken/ beef broth
  • 1 tbs worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • ½ tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper

Sloppy Joe Frezzer Meal

  1. Chop onions and sauté 3 minutes. These will be divided between the sloppy joes and the meatloaf. After 3 minutes add diced garlic and continue sautéing until just tender.
  2. Add chopped celery and carrots to the pan, with half the onions and garlic. Saute them until softened.
  3. Add ground beef and sauté until browned. Drain grease.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and bubble for about 45 minutes until liquid is reduced.
  5. Let cool and divide between two labeled freezer bags.

Serving day: Thaw a bag of slop (so much more delicious than it sounds…) in the fridge one day before. Heat in frying pan. Serve on buns with pickles and melted cheese.

Meatloaf

While the sloppy joe mixture is bubbling away, start on the meatloaf. Add all ingredients to large mixing bowl. Mix with hands.

  • Two chopped onions
  • 2-4 diced garlic cloves
  • 3 lbs of ground beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tsp dried rosemary (or 2 tbs fresh)
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup tomato sauce (add the rest of the can to the sloppy joe mixture that is simmering)
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (I have these on hand in the freezer. I food process the heels of my bread once in a while)

Line two loaf pans with tin foil (enough so that you can wrap it around the whole loaf) then cling wrap. Divide mixture between two tins and wrap cling wrap, then foil around the loaf. These will go in the freezer in the pan so that the loaf shape is kept. If the pan is needed, the loaf can be removed after it is frozen.

Meatloaf freezer meal

Meatloaf freezer meal

Serving day:  Remove meatloaf from freezer and thaw in fridge, on plate for 1-2 days. Flip loaf onto greased cookie sheet. Reform it into loaf if needed. Cooking it on a sheet allows the grease to flow away from loaf. Cook for 1hour and 15 minutes at 350 degrees or until internal temperature is 70 degrees.

Chicken Fajitas

Label one freezer bag. Add all ingredients to bag and squeeze to mix.

  • 1.5 lbs of chicken breasts cut into strips (about 2.5 large breasts)
  • Juice of two-three limes (about ¼- 1/2 cup)
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 diced garlic cloves
  • 1tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1tsp smoked paprika

To another freezer bag I added an onion, red pepper and green pepper chopped into strips. I will freeze these veggies to use on serving day, but no promises this will turn out, I have never done this before! May be a better idea to just slice them the day they are needed? I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Serving day: Sauté thawed chicken marinated strips in pan of heated oil, with liquid from the bag (It will cook off) for five minutes. Add thawed onion, red pepper and green peppers that have been cut into strips. Sauté until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender. Add mixture to warmed tortilla shells with favourite fajita ingredients. I like it simple and only add sour cream and hot sauce. Serve with rice of salad. Enjoy!

Soy Honey Chicken Kabobs

Label two freezer bags. Add all ingredients to EACH bag, seal and squeeze to mix.

  • 3-4 chicken breast,
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 3 tbs honey
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • Salt and pepper

(From http://shewearsmanyhats.com/2010/04/on-the-dark-side/)

Serving day: Soak wooden skewers for 10 minutes. Skewer the marinated chicken alone or with onions, mushrooms, peppers or tomato. Brush veggies with marinate from the bag. Grill kabobs 9-10 minutes a side of until chicken is 165 degrees. Or if your husband loves his Weber and it takes 45 minutes to prepare, you will likely be broiling your skewers! Broil for 2-3 minutes each side, watching very closely, to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve with salad.

Chicken Kabob freezer meals

Hope these freezer meals give you a little extra time this season to go outside and play before dinner! Have you tried any other freezer meals!?

~ Kristin

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10+Tips for Preparing Freezer Meals!

10+ Tips for Preparing Freezer Meals!

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Oh, freezer meals are the love of my life. They’ve made cooking a decent dinner possible when I was so busy I thought we’d surely be reduced to canned soup five nights a week. I have ironed out a few kinks over the past year and would love to pass on what has worked for me.

For me, the idea of ’freezer meals’ is preparing a batch of meals, putting all the raw ingredients needed for one meal into a Ziploc and freezing it. It is also typically only the main portion of the meal (example: marinated chicken), meaning you will likely have to add simple, freshly cooked sides such as rice and roasted veggies the night it will be eaten. This concept of not precooking or preparing full meals ahead of time has many benefits (fast and tasty), which I have raved about in another post.

To get you started, I have written a post for preparing a batch of six meals in one hour:

One hour, Six meals!

Here are my tips:

!0+ Freezer Meal Tips! www.heartofafarmgirl.wordpress.com

  1. Stick with your tried and true recipes.  When you get more familiar with what freezes well, look at what you already regularly cook and convert them to freezer meals.  Ask yourself what portion of it are you able to prepare ahead and freeze. I have experimented in past and ended up with four of the same meals in the freezer that were gross. Fail.
  2.  Collect a list of your favourite freezer meals. Keep the list in your recipe book.  I really only rotate the same 10 recipes and stick with them. This makes planning much easier and eliminates the need to have to pull out all of your recipe books and start all over each time you plan to stock your freezer.
  3. Keep it simple! I fight the urge to add chopped onion and garlic to my spaghetti sauce every time I make it. The purpose of these meals is to bang out as many as you can in the shortest time possible.  I also only make about 5-10 meals at once. Once a Month cooking just doesn’t work for me, I can’t spend a WHOLE day cooking.
  4. Don’t precook the meat. (I precook the ground meat). It takes way too long to stock the freezer with fully cooked meals and let’s face it… If it takes too long we will never get around to doing it. Unless that’s just me… And reheated previously cooked meats tastes like, well… eating reheated cooked meat. Ick. Freezing meals before cooking the meat helps maintains its texture. It’s easier and tastes better. Win-Win.
  5. Put your meals together the day you buy your meat. Ground meat is especially vulnerable to growing bacteria in a very quick time.
  6. Do not put meat into the freezer before it is prepared into a meal. I only buy meat I have a freezer meal plan for. Chicken gets marinated, ground meat gets cooked, vegetables and sauces get added to the bag.
  7. Use Ziploc bags to store the saucy stuff and disposable tins to store the casseroles (if you make any… I usually don`t). I know storing food in plastic isn’t the best for our health but I focus on ‘reducing my exposure`  and to me eating a home cooked meal that was stored in plastic is much healthier than eating take out. It takes up much less space in the freezer and using tins makes clean up a breeze. Just throw it out.
  8. When getting your ingredients into the Ziploc put the bag in a container, with the bag opening curled over the edge of the container to help hold the bag open while you dump the ingredients in. I use my blender, with a cloth over the mixing blades. I have used a little bucket in the past. DSC_0233
  9. Fully cool the meal before freezing it to reduce frost bite. If I have precooked anything, I pack it in the Ziploc and put it in the fridge for an hour or two.
  10. Have dinner already made the night you will be putting together your meals. Either a can of organic soup (focus on keeping it simple!) or use your last freezer meal. Do not plan to cook dinner for that night AND make 6 meals for another night. You will be a mess and never do it again.
  11. Pawn off the kids. I usually let my husband know ahead of time he is going to be on his own for bath and getting everyone ready for bed that night. All I usually need is about an hour. I’ve worked out a fast system.
  12. Have machines do work for you while you are busy. I always have the bread maker working on pizza dough while I am putting everything together. I can use the dough for, well pizza, or little pizza pocket type things for lunches at the later date. (Freeze the dough and an idea will come to you later) I also bake a few chicken breasts or thighs to dice up and use on the pizza in the next few days.

I hope these tips help! ~ Kristin

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Freezer Meals: One hour, Six Meals.

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If you know me, you know I love to cook. Fresh, from scratch is a priority. So it made sense that I would write my FIRST post (Welcome!) about cooking and more specifically Freezer Meals.  This style of stocking the freezer is possibly the one thing that saved me when I was at the edge of sanity after having my second baby. It makes it possible for me to continue cooking for my family because dinner comes together very quickly the night it will be eaten and there is much less cleaning, prepping and organizing!

This technique is MUCH different than reheating a precooked, mushy meal from the freezer. The idea of totally cooking a meal, then freezing it is way too time consuming and the results taste, well, like a meal that had been reheated. This is freezing a nearly complete meal with mostly raw ingredients (I precook ground meat) and cooking it for the first time the night of dinner. Typically, I have to prepare a simple vegetable and, if I feel fancy, a starch to go with it.  It’s a much less labour intensive way to prepare a batch of meals at once and much, MUCH tastier!

If ‘Freezer Meals’ are new to you, read my tips and may as well read me rave about the idea here.

Please, try making a batch of freezer meals soon.  I hope it brings you some peace at a normally chaotic time of the day.

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Here is what I do for one of my basic evenings of preparation. Before you start, read my tips …

What you will need:

  • Nap-time, or someone to watch your kids for an hour
  • 6-7 Large freezer bags
  • 6 lbs of ground beef (to be divided)
  • 2 onions (to be divided)
  • Jar of tomato sauce
  • Jar of diced tomatoes
  • Jar of spaghetti sauce
  • Garlic powder
  • Italian seasoning
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Ketchup
  • 4c of beef broth
  • 1/2 package of taco mix (more if you like it spicy)
  • Paprika
  • 20 Chicken thighs, or enough for three meals
  • 1/4 Olive oil
  • 1/4 Plain yogurt
  • Lemon
  • Hot sauce
  • tsp. Honey
  • Dried Thyme
  • Dried rosemary
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic

(It seems a little overwhelming from looking at the list, but you will get a rhythm in no time!)

Are you Ready?

First, I turn on three frying pans of ground beef (about 5-6lbs of beef divided into three pans) and brown the meat.  Each pan will have different ingredients added to it. One is the base for a spaghetti or lasagna dinner, one is the base for a taco dinner, and the last is the base for a slow cooker beef stroganoff dinner.

Six Meals on One Hour!  Heart of a Farm Girl Blog

Pan one: Spaghetti dinner

Dice both the onions, this will be divided into the three pans.

After beef is browned and fat is drained, add:

  • Third of the diced onion
  • Can of tomato sauce
  • Can of diced tomato
  • Jar of pasta sauce
  • 1-2 tsp garlic powder (resist taking the time to grate fresh and get one with your cooking!)
  • 2-3 tsp of Italian seasoning

Simmer meat while you add ingredients to the second pan of browned and drained ground beef.

Pan two: Taco dinner

Add:

  • Half a package of taco seasoning mix (look for one with no MSG or preservatives. If you can’t find one that isn’t loaded with questionable ingredients just add a tsp of each cumin, and chili powder. You’re not going to win any blue ribbons with that recipe but you’re keeping it simple!)
  • Jar of tomato sauce
  • 1-2 tsp of garlic powder
  • 2 tsp of paprika
  • Third of the diced onion

Pan three: Slow cooker Beef Stroganoff Dinner (original recipe from www.fivelittlepeaches.blogspot.ca)

Add:

  • 1tbs Worcestershire  sauce
  • Last third of the diced onion
  • 1-2 tbs ketchup
  • 4c beef broth
  • Salt and pepper

(Other ingredients and instructions will be added later)

Keep them simmering while you dump some chicken meals together!

Bag one and two: Honey Garlic Thighs (Original recipe from http://www.livinglou.com)

Label 2 large Ziploc bags “Honey Garlic Thighs. Bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees”

Put all ingredients into a Ziploc bag RAW. Trust me and use thighs. I don’t know where all the hype about chicken breasts came from but if you want to have a dinner failure, then use breasts. If you want a moist and succulent dinner you can basically never overcook, use thighs. Yum.

Add to EACH bag:

  • 8-9 Thighs (or more, depending on how much meat your family needs)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4c. plain yogurt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1tsp honey (aim to get local honey)
  • 2-3 Peeled garlic cloves roughly chopped
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp dried rosemary

Seal bag and smoosh around to mix ingredients. Get as much air out of the bag as possible. Trust me with adding yogurt. It will be fine in the freezer, I’ve done it a million times.

Bag Three: Plain Chicken thighs

This is me cheating. If I feel particularly ambitious, I make three different chicken thigh dump recipes (more to come in future posts)

Label Ziploc bag “Plain chicken thighs, bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees”

Add to bag:

  •  8-9 thighs
  •  Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 tbs olive oil
  • ½ tsp rosemary

This is my absolute basic evening of preparing the main portion of meals for the freezers. In the past (and will be in future posts I am sure) I have put all ingredients needed for complete slow cooker meals. I also typically have the bread maker on mixing me up for pizza dough while I work and clean. All recipes will come in time.

~~Putting The Meals Together ~~

~~After it has cooled, the spaghetti meat is ready to be added to LABELED Ziploc bags and frozen. This can be used for lasagna or spaghetti. I have recently seen muffin-tin appetizers using this filling, which would be interesting. One/two nights before you plan to use it, take the bag of frozen meat out of the freezer and place it into the fridge. Place it in a container in case it leaks.  Heat it, boil noodles and dinner is served!

DSC_03562

~~The taco meat can be used for tacos, taco salad, or quesadillas. I have also put taco salad on half of a baked potato. I love that dinner! These take a little more preparation and clean up on the night you will be eating. Rub potato with oil, put in oven proof dish, poke several holes in them with a knife and bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes. Dice vegetables (tomato, lettuce, and cilantro) but really do your best to stick to keeping it simple. Add salsa, sour cream and grated cheese.

~~The stroganoff meat is meant for the slow cooker, but can easily be finished on the stove-top.  It’s one of those annoying meals that you cannot put on in the cooker if you are out of the house ALL DAY. It is best for a Sunday night when you can put the slow cooker on in the afternoon. Add Meat mixture to labelled Ziploc bag. Write instructions from below in your own shorthand so you know what to do with it when you thaw it. You will need sour cream and mushrooms the night you cook it. As well as fresh parsley if you have it on hand.

Instructions for cooking:

Add meat mixture as well as 4-5 cups of diced mushrooms to slow cooker (or pan). Cook on low for 4 hours, (or simmer in pan for 20 minutes until mushrooms soften). 10 minutes before serving, whisk together 1/3 cup flour with 1/2cup water. Add mixture. Just before eating, mix with ½ cup of sour cream or Greek yogurt and fresh parsley. Serve over broad noodles

~~ The night you plan to eat the Honey Garlic Chicken Thighs, place them on a greased baking sheet. I use tongs to pull them out of the bag and discard the extra sauce. Put them on half the baking sheet and put vegetables of choice of the other half of the sheet. In a pinch I toss some baby carrots in olive oil and salt and pepper. You could bake any vegetables like this. Our favourites are cauliflower or broccoli. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. Turn chicken and vegetables after 15 minutes of baking. Broil for 2 minutes if you would like a little crispness. The vegetables usually take the same amount of time as the chicken to cook. Use a thermometer to test chicken for doneness (165 Fahrenheit).  If the kids are not hanging off your legs, take a few minutes to boil some rice when you put the chicken in the oven. Enjoy!

Six Meals in One Hour!  Heart of a Farm Girl Blog

So there you have it. Six/seven dinners put together in less than an hour, then frozen. (There are seven dinners in the picture. I often am able to split the spaghetti dinner into two!) Making dinner night preparations take less than TEN MINUTES for fresh, home cooking.DSC_02712

It’s a game changer.

I look forward to sharing more make-ahead meals with you in the future. Please let me know about your adventures in stocking your freezer and making home cooked meals possible in your crazy life!

Now go relax,

Kristin.

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How Freezer Meals Keep Me Sane!

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As a working mom, preparing Freezer Meals has been a serious game changer for me, so I push the idea on anyone who will listen. I hope you will read my Freezer Meal Recipes and give it a try.

DSC_02692

After returning to work, following my first maternity leave, cooking became nearly impossible. I began to feel like I was unraveling. After picking up a very cranky Little Lady from daycare, I had about ten minutes to prepare a meal before total chaos. I began preparing A LOT the night before. Each night, I stayed up late making lasagna (Along with lesson planning, making lunches and showering…) to be baked the next day, or slicing and dicing veggies so that meals could come together quickly. This method couldn’t last long.  I was completely exhausted.

I came across the idea of freezers meals and the idea of putting several meals of mostly raw ingredients together into separate bags and then into the freezer. It absolutely changed my life. Yes, that sounds dramatic, but if you have young kids, then you know about 4:30pm, the most horrific time of the day. Not for me. On most nights, I literally come home and put my thawed meal in the oven, and maybe add some veggies if needed. Then go play.

Or drink a cup of tea.

Usually I go for the tea.

Here’s how having meals in the freezer has kept me sane:

  1. Much less preparation the evening I cook dinner.  I often just have to boil noodles or prepare a veggie. When I am in a SERIOUS hurry, preparing veggies means warming up frozen peas. Yes, it does.
  2. Less clean up each day. The messy tasks like cutting meat, or mixing sauces is already done! I do not have to clean the food processor, deal with scraps from cutting vegetables or take out five cans to the recycling on chili night!
  3. Dinner typically takes less than ten minutes to prepare on the night we will be eating it.
  4. Meal planning is already done! I look in my freezer and pull out what meal I will cook the next day. No more thinking “What will I do with this frost-bitten pork chop?”
  5. So much less food waste! I throw out MUCH LESS old meat and rotten veggies. Every meat bought with a freezer meal plan in mind.
  6. It saves money! We order out much less frequently because I am not in a pinch to come up with something on the way home from work.
  7. It has improved our health. I was getting in a nasty habit of picking up a frozen pizza on the way home from work because I had no idea what I was going to make that night. Yikes.
  8. It’s great having emergency meals on hand. With kids, I never know when I will not be able to cook or grocery shop. There is always something in the freezer my husband can pull out!
  9. They are delicious. This technique is MUCH different from reheating a precooked, mushy meal from the freezer. This is freezing a meal with mostly raw ingredients (I precook ground meat) and cooking it for the first time the night of dinner. Much, much tastier!
  10. It’s easy to fill the freezer. Preparing many meals at once, with the ‘technique’ of freezing all meat RAW is so much faster than traditional freezer cooking. In the past I completely cooked meals, then froze them. I never kept up with it because it was simply too time consuming to fill the freezer.

Take a look at my Freezer Meals Recipes, give it a try, and let me know how you like it!

~Kristin

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