Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Family Friendly Freezer Cooking!

When I had my sweet boy 4 and half months ago, I stocked my freezer full of casseroles, crockpot ready meals and baked goods.  With a 3 year old at home, I knew there would be zero time to cook after the baby arrived.  However, until I tried freezer cooking, I had no idea how much I would love it!  

In fact I plan to do some freezer cooking sessions to stock up on food for the new year.  With all of the time I'll be saving, I can work on my New Year's resolutions.  Yeah, I laughed too.

In the past I've always been intimidated by freezing foods.  I've thrown a lot of stuff out with freezer burn because either I had no idea how long it could be stored or I didn't package it properly.

This time I did some research and was much more successful.  You can find great tips for freezing foods here and here.   

One thing I would recommend is to try a recipe before making 3 of them for your freezer, especially if you are looking forward to eating the meals after having a baby.  ;) 

There are 3 ways to stash food away in your freezer and I do combination of them.

The first is to double or triple whatever you are making for dinner.  This works especially well with meats, soups and chili.   I love being able to thaw out some homemade soup on a cold night without having to chop up a bunch of veggies. 

Pasta Fagioli can be frozen easily  It's best to add pasta just before serving.
Another way is to have a big freezer cooking day.  This would be good to do with a group of friends to help chop up all of those veggies.  This isn't that practical for me with 2 little ones at home, but someday I would love to try this.

The third way is to prep crockpot meals.  This is super easy and takes very little time.  I'm not a big fan of veggies in the crockpot unless I'm making soup so there really isn't a whole lot of prep work involved. 

I'm going to post some of my favorite tried and true freezer recipes below.  These are all recipes my family really enjoyed and were easy to freeze.

Cranberry Chicken - I fill two baggies with this and freeze.  To cook, thaw overnight, pour into pan and bake as directed.

General Tso's Chicken - Prep ingredients and store in baggies.  Thaw over night and dump into crockpot, cooking as directed.  I double this too because I really love it. 

Chicken Broccoli Rice - Freeze in baggies.  Thaw overnight, pour into pan and bake as directed.  I jazz this up a big with garlic, celery, onion, etc... and then crush Ritz crackers on top prior to baking.

Chicken Tacos - Cook as directed.  Shred, cool and place in baggies.  Thaw and reheat.  This is wonderful for tacos, but also makes delicious nachos, enchiladas, chimichangas, or rice bowls.

Baked Cream Cheese Spaghetti - Prepare casseroles, but do not bake.  Cover in foil and freeze.  Thaw completely before baking.  I used Italian sausage and extra sauce. 

Vegetable Beef Soup- Cook as directed and then freeze in baggies.  Thaw and reheat.

Baked Ravioli- Assemble casserole(s), cover tightly with foil and freeze.  Thaw completely before baking.  This may actually cook faster since the original recipe uses ravioli that is still frozen.

Pizza Bites- Bake as directed.  Flash freeze these by putting them on baking sheet and freezing.  Then place them in a plastic bag. You can reheat them in a 400 degree oven. 

These are just a few of my favorites to get you started.  I'll be adding more and you can follow my Freezer Meal Pinterest board for more ideas.

I'd love to hear about your favorite freezer meals!


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