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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Freezer Cooking with Friends, Round Two

Freezer Meals are wonderful to have on hand, but cooking in the kitchen for hours by myself is not my idea of a fun day.  If you are new to freezer cooking, or if the idea of being in a  kitchen for 2 to 3 hours overwhelms you, pick a cooking buddy! Cooking with a friend gives me motivation to plan, we share the work load of prep and dishes, and I get to spend time with a person  I love! What could be better?!  
We cook better than we take selfies,
it was quite an effort  to get this picture. :)

Thankfully I have a great friend with a big kitchen, and we had such a fun time  during our Freezer Prep Party, round one that we did a Round Two!

  Pick a friend who has similar foods needs. We both have families of four. Even though she has teens and I have seven year old boys, the meal sizes needed are about the same. I would say picking just one freezer friend, maybe two. Anymore than that will be "too many cooks in the kitchen", with just too much food to prep.

Divide up responsibilities before shopping, like who will host and how to divide up costs and shopping. She hosts in her bigger kitchen, and I do all the shopping.

 If you want divide up shopping, you can each print the grocery list and buy your own share of the ingredients. Another option would be dividing up the groceries by type,with one friend buying produce and frozen, and the other buying meat and dry ingredients, etc. If either of you have a membership to Sam's or Costco, I highly recommend that friend buying the meat.

  • Baked Ziti
  • Ground Turkey Meatloaf
  • Crock-pot Cilantro Lime Chicken with corn and black beans
  • Crock-pot Chicken Taco Soup 
  • Crock-pot Sweet and Sour Meatballs
  • Crock-pot Bean Stew

Below are the six recipes we used. We made four of each of the recipes listed below, giving us both with two of each recipes, 12 meals total to take home.  The total for all 22 meals was about $150, which is $6.25 a meal (each of paid $75 for 12 meals). Many of the meals are very large, and can be counted as two meals when you include the leftovers.

During Round Two, we were able to get better rhythm and get through the meals faster.  Tips we learned from round one that helped us cut down on prep time during round two:

1. Cut ALL meat and vegetables first, store in bowls in fridge for quicker assembly later on.
2. Write labels on all bags before beginning.
3. Assemble the recipes that involve cooking first. We did Baked Ziti first, it definitely takes the longest by far. It would have been discouraging to do that one last when we were all out of steam.
4. Assemble recipes one at a time.

Printables: Each printable includes two lists for  single and double batches. 

Baked Ziti

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1/2 pound Italian Sausage
  • 2 Jars Spaghetti Sauce
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  •  Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 16 oz Ziti, Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente
  • 1 tub (15 Oz.) Skim Milk Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Egg

1.      Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for several minutes, or until starting to soften.
2.      Add Italian sausage and cook until browned. Drain off fat if any, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.
3.      Add Spaghetti Sauce, stewed tomatoes. salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to pan with Italian Sausage. Stir and simmer for 5 to 10  minutes. After that time, remove 2 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down.
4.      In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, and salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).
5.      Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour pasta into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps.)
6.      Add the cooled meat sauce to past/cheese mixture and toss to combine.
7.      Add half the pasta mixture to a 9x13 disposable dish. Spoon half of the remaining tomato sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, the sauce, and the mozzarella cheese.

To Freeze: Cover with two layers of foil (to avoid freezer burn), label, and freeze.  Used within 3 months.

To serve-Bake for 20 minutes, 375 degree, or until bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Adapted from Pioneer Woman

Crockpot Cilantro Lime Chicken with corn and black beans
·         2 chicken breasts                          
·         4 TBSP of lime juice                    
·         1 cups fresh cilantro, chopped      
·         1 bags (16 oz) bag frozen corn     
·         2 minced garlic cloves                  
·          1 TBSP dried minced onion        
·         1 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
·         3 tsp cumin                                   
·         salt and pepper to taste
·         2 tbsp olive  oil (used day of cooking)      

1.      Label your bags with cooking the directions
2.      Trim chicken breasts and cut in half to have a total of four pieces of chicken per bag
3.      Place ingredients in a resalable gallon-sized freezer bag. Mix together and zip bag closed. Lay flat to freeze

To Serve
1.      When ready to eat, remove from freezer and thaw in fridge for 24 hours.
2.      Put contents of bag in Crockpot, and stir in 2 Tbsp of Olive oil.
3.      Cook on LOW for 8 hours (or HIGH for 4 hours).  Shred Chicken with Fork.
4.      Serve with tortillas and toppings such as with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, and cheese.

Adapted from Over the Moon

Chicken Taco Soup
Served approx. 5-6 people.

·         1  tbsp dried minced onion
·         1 (16 ounce) can chili beans (drained and rinsed)
·         1 (15 ounce) can black beans (drained and rinsed)
·         1 (15 ounce) bag of frozen corn
·         1 (10 ounce) cans rotel with green chilies, undrained (optional for more spice)
·         1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
·         1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning (use half for less spicy soup)
·         2  boneless chicken breasts, fat trimmed

Day of cooking
·         2 cups chicken broth

To freeze:
1.      Label Bag with instructions.
2.      Combine all ingredients into a Ziploc bag and freeze flat.

To Serve:
1.      Thaw overnight in fridge.
2.      In Crockpot, add chicken broth, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
3.      Shred chicken in crock pot once cooking is done. Top with sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and/or tortilla chips.
It was a bit too spicy for my kids, so when I made it again I subbed another can of tomatoes for the rotel, and only used HALF a package of taco seasoning.

Adapted from New Life Wellness

Ground Turkey Meatloaf Recipe
This recipe makes one 2 pound loaf- the picture has two loaves, because doubled the recipe. 

·         2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey
·         1 cup 2% milk
·         2 large eggs
·         1 packages onion soup mix
·         1/2 tbsp dried minced onion
·         3/4  cup breadcrumbs
·         4 TBSP parsley
·         1/2 cup shredded carrots
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         1/2 teaspoon pepper
Materials needed;
·         Cooking spray
·         Loaf pan to help shape loaves
·         Aluminum foil

1.      Prepare 9×5″ loaf pan by placing one piece  aluminum foil in bottom and sides, then coating with cooking spray
2.      In a large mixing bowl, combine turkey, milk, eggs, onion soup mix, shredded carrots, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and dried parsley.  Spoon half into prepared pan.
3.      Fold foil over loaf.  Take loaf out of pan, cover with another layer of foil. Label and store in freezer for up to 3 months.

To serve
1.      Thaw in fridge for at least 24 hours.
2.      Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 80 min, or until cooked through. 
3.      Add topping of your choice half way through cooking (ketchup or BBQ sauce).

Sweet and Sour Meatballs
·         28 oz package frozen meatballs
·         15 oz can pineapple tidbits
·         1 green pepper, diced
·         1/2 cup shredded carrot
·         8 oz can water chopped chestnuts (drained)
·         3/4 to 1 cup white vinegar
·         3 tbsp cornstarch
·         2 tbsp soy sauce
·         ½  cup brown sugar

To freeze

1.      Label Gallon sized Freezer Bag.

2.      Drain Pineapples, set juice aside.

3.      Place meatballs, pineapples, carrots, pepper, and water chestnuts in bag.

4.      Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over meatballs.

5.       Remove as much air as possible, freeze flat for up to 3 months.


To serve:  
1.      Thaw in fridge overnight.  
2.      Place contents of bag in crockpot.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
3.      Serve over rice.

adapted from

I forgot to get a picture of the Bean Stew, 
but you can see the side of it in the meatloaf picture. :)

Bean Stew (vegetarian)
Serves 4-5 people. 
·         1 cup dry white beans, picked over and rinsed
·         2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
·         1 tbsp dried minced onion
·         2 celery stalks, finely diced
·         3 tablespoons uncooked white rice
·         2 cloves minced garlic
·         1 teaspoon dried thyme
·         ½ teaspoon salt
·         1/8teaspoon pepper

·         Day of prep-6 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth

To Freeze
Combine ingredients in a gallon zip lock bag (minus the broth).
To serve:
1.     Thaw in fridge overnight
2.      Add broth and bag to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.

 Adapted from New Life Wellness

Makes one of each recipe (see printables above for doubled grocery list).

Tools Needs
·         Colanders
·         Knives and cutting boards
·         Can opener
·         Permanent marker
·         Dry and liquid measurers
·         Grater (for carrots)
·         Mixing bowls
·         Pots and pans

Paper and Storage
·         Aluminum foil
·         4 Freezer grade Gallon sized Ziploc bags-
·         9x13 disposable casserole pans

·         Olive Oil
·         8 oz can water chopped chestnuts
·         can (14 Oz. Size) Stewed Tomatoes
·         2 jars Spaghetti Sauce  
·         1 (10 ounce) cans rotel with green chilies,
·         1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
·         1 cup dry beans, picked over and rinsed
·         1 (16 ounce) can chili beans
·         2 -15 ounce) can black beans
·         2 tbsp soy sauce
·         4 TBSP of lime juice
·         1/2 cup brown sugar
·         2 tbsp cornstarch
·         1/2 cup white vinegar
·         15 oz can pineapple tidbits
·         1-(1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning
·         1 packages onion soup mix
·         ¾  cup breadcrumbs
·         8 cups chicken broth (all used for day of cooking)

·         dried thyme                      
·         dried mince onion (6 tbsp)
·         Italian Seasoning
·         Salt And Pepper
·         cumin                                           
·         parsley

·         3 tablespoons uncooked white rice
·         1 package-(16 oz) Ziti

·         1/2 cup milk 
·         1 tubs (15 Oz.) Ricotta Cheese
·         1.5 pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated
·         Parmesan Cheese
·         3 large eggs

·         1/2 pound Italian Sausage
·         4 boneless skinless chicken breasts          
·         2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey

·         7 cloves Garlic, Minced
·         1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped                   
·         1 cups shredded carrot
·         1 green pepper
·         2 celery stalks

·         2 bags (16 oz) bag frozen corn                 
·         1- 28 oz package frozen meatballs

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