Submitted by Erin ~ www.thesisterscafe.com
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A few friends have asked me about the meals that I made and put in the freezer in preparation for when I had my baby a couple months ago. I decided to post about how I stocked up my freezer with meals. This might be handy for anyone who has a big event coming up and won’t have time to cook, or if you have family coming in town and don’t want to use up time preparing meals, or if you prefer not to have to cook every day.
What I did is I made a meal plan of the following recipes below; every day I planned on serving one of these meals for our family dinner. When I went to the grocery store I bought double of the ingredients. Then, while I was making dinner each evening, I made double the amount and saved the extra for a freezer meal. So for the enchiladas, one day I made four 8x8 pans of it (it usually makes 2 8x8 pans or just one 9x13) and then I served one for dinner and froze the other three. This way, I was making dinner at the same time as preparing freezer meals, with only a nominal increase in time and mess. I did that with all these meals.
For the pans that I was putting in the freezer, I used square disposable foil pans (I purchased them at the grocery store). If you want to pay a little more, you can buy disposable pans that come with lids, making it easier to stack them in the freezer when they are still fresh and unfrozen. To save freezer space and money, I decided to forgo the lids and just put a few layers of foil on top my meals, and froze them solid before stacking them on top of each other. I also printed out labels and instructions and taped them to the top of the foil.
By the way, I don't ever thaw out freezer meals before placing them in the oven to bake. I know some people do, but for me, using a frozen meal for dinner is a last minute decision, so I don't have time to thaw it out. I just bake them until they are hot in the middle, and it always works out great!
Okay, here are the recipes:
Lasagna - this freezer meal takes about 1 1/2 hours to bake, if it goes from freezer to oven. I usually check it just after one hour; if it is still frozen in the middle, I bake it for another half hour. At that point, if it is still slightly cold in the middle, I'll bake it for a little while longer, etc.
Chicken & Spinach Stuffed Shells - This recipe already makes 2 9x13 pans, so I don't double this one - I just make four 8x8 pans, serve one for dinner and freeze three for later. I taped these instructions to the outside of the pans: Chicken & Spinach Stuffed Shells (March 2010) •Take directly out of freezer and put in 350° oven (doesn’t necessarily have to be preheated), leaving one layer of foil on top. •Bake ~50 minutes; check to be sure middle is hot. •Take off foil and sprinkle with ½ c. shredded mozzarella and bake an additional 5-10 minutes. •Serve with a green salad, breadsticks, and frozen veggies.
Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage - This recipe makes 2 8x8 pans. Put the frozen pan into the oven, turn it to 400 degrees and bake for about 45 minutes or until browned and hot throughout.
Chicken Enchiladas - I haven't posted my favorite regular chicken enchiladas yet, which is what I used when I made my freezer meals, but I'm sure either of these enchilada recipes will work perfectly:
I taped these instructions to the outside of the pans:
Chicken Enchiladas (2/19/10) •Take directly out of freezer and put in 350° oven (doesn’t necessarily have to be preheated), leaving one layer of foil on top. •Bake 30-40 minutes, until middle is hot. •Take off foil and sprinkle with ½ c. shredded cheese (monterrey jack / cheddar) and bake an additional 5 minutes. •Serve with a green salad, spanish rice, and frozen veggies.
Beef Enchiladas - This makes about 15 enchiladas. When I make dinner I take five out of the bag and place them in a 8x8 pan. Then I pour half a can of red enchilada sauce over them and bake. (See the instructions.)
The BEST dinner of all to freeze are hamburger patties. The problem with the above meals is you have to decide 1 to 1 1/2 hours before dinnertime that you will not have time or energy to make dinner, and then put the frozen meal in the oven right then. My problem is some days I'm too busy to think of dinner until dinnertime when we are all hungry. At that point, even if I had a million dinners in the freezer, none of them will help me. So hamburger patties are AWESOME. You just layer the raw patties between squares of plastic wrap, and then put the stack in a freezer ziploc bag. When I need dinner ASAP, I take out a stack of five, defrost them for two minutes in the microwave, and then put them on the indoor electric grill (like a george foreman) while I slice tomatoes and cheese and defrost and toast the buns. Then we have a wonderful, fulfilling dinner in 10 minutes. My favorite recipes are these two, and I just buy bakery hamburger buns and freeze them too (placed in freezer ziplocs). Like I said, these burgers are my favorite 'freezer meal' because they can go from freezer to dinner table in 10 minutes.
For a quick on-the-go snack, I like to have a large tupperware in the freezer full of muffins
. This is also convenient for when my kids are hungry for lunch and I have a darling crying baby to attend to. :) Almost any muffin recipe will freeze well. We have posted oodles of muffin recipes on this site - I love muffins! Some of my favorites are these Cape Cod Muffins
, as well as South Beach Muffins
and Apple Muffins
I also bake bread
, slice it, and put it in freezer ziploc bags. When I need a few slices of bread, I take them out, defrost them for a few seconds and viola.
Another quick type of frozen meal is to use homemade frozen pizza crusts
. My favorite pizza crust (found here
) recipe makes enough for two pizza crusts. I only need to make one pizza for my family, so sometimes I will roll out the extra crust and bake it (devoid of toppings) for about 10 or 12 minutes, until it is firm and only mostly
cooked, but not browned. I let it cool and then wrap it up in seran wrap and tin foil and place it in the freezer. When I need a quick dinner, I preheat the oven, pull out the frozen crust, put toppings on it, and then place it in the oven. I bake it as usual, about 20 minutes. It has a thinner and crunchier aspect than fresh, but I like it for a change, and the convenience can't be beat! Try this Ham & Veggie Pizza
recipe on a frozen crust.
I'm sure there are more recipes on this site that work great as freezer meals as well, but these are the ones I usually use. (If any of my sisters want to add more ideas, please do! :) )
I hope this post is helpful for a few of you!