I wanted to share with y'all a little two day project I took on a couple of weeks ago. As you can tell from my opening, things are getting a bit busy in the little casita, as they always do in the fall! Even with me getting out a bit earlier from school, my afternoons/evenings are usually consumed with a house project and training, so I have little time left for cooking. The Mr. and I really do love eating home cooked meals, so I needed to find a way to still provide nightly home cooked meals despite our ridiculous schedules. Enter healthy freezer cooking.
I feel like the majority of freezer meals are chalk full of cheese, pasta, cream of disgusting, and who knows what else, so I really wanted to find healthy soups, sauces, etc. that I could make, freeze, and then bake when we were ready.
So, I took an afternoon and headed to SAMs, where I felt like a restaurant owner for coming home with this stash:
I mean, seriously. But with just one afternoon of shopping and about $150, I was going to be able to prep enough meals to last us for a couple of months, at least! So here's what I did.
I started by having the Mr. grill a 10 pound bag of chicken which I then froze and threw in a foil container for a quick and easy addition to salads, sandwiches, or just a protein with vegetables.
I then made several pounds of "taco meat" using ground turkey and taco seasoning for a quick taco salad.
I also made a quadruple (yes, quadruple) batch of my grandmother's spaghetti sauce. This stuff is so ridiculously easy and ridiculously divine! I bagged some in Ziploc bags for a traditional spaghetti dinner (over spaghetti squash instead of pasta) and reserved some for vegetable lasagna (more on that in a minute).
My grandmother's recipe for spaghetti sauce is:
2 lbs. ground beef (I actually prefer to use ground turkey - less greasy and tastes fabulous!)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
3, 16 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
2, 6 oz. cans of tomato paste
2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 cup parsley
1 tsp. oregano
- Brown beef/turkey and onion in oil in large pot, drain fat.
- Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 4-6 hours on low heat, stirring occasionally. (The longer it simmers, the better!)
After making a few bags of spaghetti sauce, I used the rest to make vegetable lasagna. For vegetable lasagna, I simply replace the noodles with thinly sliced squash and zucchini to make it a bit more tummy friendly! As it's just the Mr. and me, I decided to make 2 lasagnas per foil pan:
Inside each foil packet, I simply layered my grandmother's spaghetti sauce, squash/zucchini (I alternated layers with each veggie), and a bit of ricotta. Easy peesy!
When we are ready to eat it, I will remove one foil packet from the pan and bake it!
I hope I don't gross y'all out with this next bit, but the Mr. and I love us some meatloaf! I know a ton of y'all have nightmares about this stuff, but my recipe is pretty mild, not too weird, and goes great with mashed cauliflower and roasted broccoli! My recipe for meatloaf is:
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef (again, I use ground turkey)
1 onion, diced
1/2 can tomato sauce
1 egg beaten
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Form into a loaf and bake at 350 for 1 hour.
- **After about 30 minutes of baking, I typically add a bit of ketchup and siracha chili sauce to the top of the meatloaf to keep it moist and add a bit of flavor!
After quadrupling this recipe, I made 4 meatloafs as well as two pans of meatballs (rather than forming the meat mixture into a loaf, I simply made small balls). We love to have baked meatballs over spaghetti squash and this marinara sauce:
In the crockpot, I made a double batch of Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin:
I then moved on to making four soups/stews that won't make all of our hard work in training go out the window.
I made a red lentil soup...
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
1 turnip, peeled and diced 1/2 cup chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
- In a pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and celery; cook, stirring until tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Increase heat to high and add tomatoes, cook for 1 minute.
- Add lentils, turnip, and 6 cups water.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender, 20-25 minutes.
- Stir in parsley and vinegar, season with salt and pepper.
...the Pioneer Woman's beef stew...
...white bean and kale soup...
...and taco soup of my own design.
I don't exactly have a recipe for the taco soup. What I usually do is saute an onion, then add chicken stock, canned tomatoes, Rotel, corn, black beans, and a rotisserie chicken. I then add chili powder, cumin, and salt to taste.
So that's it for cooking! But after just 2 days of cooking (AKA: one weekend), this is the result:
A whole freezer full of healthy, fully prepared meals! As far as storage goes, all soups, sauces, etc. were stored in Ziploc bags and frozen flat. The meatloafs, meatballs, grilled chicken, and vegetable lasagnas are stored in disposable foil pans (hooray for easy clean up!).
Yes, I probably could have added adorable hanging labels to my freezer, but for this project, simply labeling the pan or Ziploc was good enough for me!
Tonight's menu, you ask? Meatloaf, roasted broccoli, and cauliflower mash, oh my! Stop gagging, you meatloaf haters, you! Try my recipe and you will be transformed!