From Freezer to Table: Simpler Meals

Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.

Photo by armigeress

Cooking healthy meals for a family that is on the go can be challenging, if not downright difficult. Remembering to prep food ahead of time, to have the correct ingredients on hand, or even to start the cooking can all foil plans, and lead you to a bag of greasy hamburgers.

I rely on Freezer To Table meals for those nights when we are just pinched for time, or I don’t feel like cooking. Here are my favorites:

Make Two And Freeze One

Many of my favorite casseroles are suitable for freezing. So I double the recipe, put half in a disposable foil pan, cover it in foil, write the directions on the foil and freeze it. All I have to do is pull the dish out the night before, then cook as directed.

One of my favorite recipes is Sausage Rice Casserole:
2-7.2 ounce packages rice pilaf mix
2 pounds pork sausage
6 celery ribs, chopped
4 medium carrots,  chopped
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Prepare rice mixes according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the sausage, celery and carrots over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain. In a large bowl, combine the sausage mixture, rice mixture and remaining ingredients. Transfer to two greased 11 x 7 x 2 baking dishes.

Cover and bake one casserole at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Cover and freeze remaining casserole for up to 3 months.

To use frozen casserole: Thaw in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Batch Cooking

Another quick way to get food on the table is to rely on pre-made starters. These are basic recipes that are made in large-ish quantities and frozen, then used in a variety of dishes. My favorite is a tomato-beef mixture that can be used as a basis for soup, Shepherd’s pie, and a salad.

4 pounds lean ground beef
4 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 – 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes, drained
12 ounces tomato paste
4 cans mushroom pieces and stems, drained
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 teaspoon dried minced parsley
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon pepper

In a big pot, brown the meat with the onions and garlic until the beef is no longer pink. Drain. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 15 more minutes. Let cook, and freeze the mixture in 2-cup portions.

Dump Chicken Recipes

I’ve been a fan of Dump Chicken for years. You buy whatever chicken is on sale, dump it into a gallon freezer bag with the other ingredients, and freeze. When you want to use it, you dump the frozen concoction into your crockpot, turn it on low, and come back 8-10 hours later to a great meal.

Here are some of my favorites:

Dump Garlic Dijon Chicken
4-8 pieces of chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lime juice

Dump Herb Wine Chicken
1 cup red wine
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 lemon, sliced thin
2 teaspoons dried minced parsley
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4-8 pieces of chicken

You can also find more recipes by Googling “dump chicken crockpot recipes”.

Fast Fare

Of course, the previous solutions call for some prep work beforehand. In addition to the above, I always keep the fixings for two easy recipes in the freezer: chicken stir fry and fish and chips.

Stiry Fry: For this you just need to have a bag of stir-fry veggies, a single boneless skinless chicken breast that has been cut into chunks, and some stir fry sauce. Heat some oil in a pan, cook the chicken, then add the veggies and cover. Cook until everything is hot and add the sauce. Serve over rice.

Fish and Chips
This one just requires frozen bags of fish sticks and french fries. I usually serve cooked frozen peas along with this. It’s just a matter of following the directions on the bags.

These are some of my tricks for getting out of the fast-food cycle. What do you do to make meal preparation easier?

Photo by armigeress