Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Freezer Meals: Take 1

So, my sister and I decided we wanted to make a bunch of freezer meals to have on hand and reduce our cooking time/cleanup throughout the month. I was expecting it to be easy peasy. Turns out it takes a long time and you are exhausted after cooking all day. But, after enjoying the fruits of my labor I can now say that it was totally worth it. And I am planning on doing it again! We tried to stick with "clean eating" recipes. Next time I want to venture out into some more gluten-free options. I already am planning my menu for the next big freezer meal cooking day! So without further ado, here are the recipes we used and some tips and tricks for along the way.

Super Bean Burritoes
(Vegetarian and super yummy, great for grab and go lunches or dinners when you are really rushed for time)

Baked Manicotti
(This one was excellent and also vegetarian, my only complaint was that I wish I would have made it into 2 smaller pans instead of 1 big pan because my family is smaller)
-For this one we didn't use the sauce recipe, instead we put a pre-made sugar-free marinara sauce in its place and it was excellent and cut down on prep time. I find mine at Costco (Kirkland brand or White Linen Collection)

Chicken Parm Casserole
(I haven't had this one yet, but it did smell delicious when making it. I plan to put it over rice or noodles)
-We used a rotisserie chicken from Costco as well as marinara from there as well for this and it was probably the easiest meal to put together!

Slow Cooker Quinoa Chili
(I haven't had this one yet but it was also super easy to put together and also a vegetarian option if you use vegetable stock)
-We didn't put the quinoa in with the other ingredients. We left that out and plan on adding it when we cook it in the slow cooker the day of.

Lara's Enchiladas
(This is my sister's recipe and a super easy, quick, yummy meal. I made this in 2 small batches)

-Rotisserie chicken
-Softened block of cream cheese
-Red mild enchilada sauce
-Black olives, chopped
-1 packet taco seasoning (We used my premade seasoning from previous post)
-1 small can of green chiles
-Shredded cheese of choice (monterey jack is great, mexican blend, cheddar, its up to you)

Place all ingredients in a bowl and use a hand mixer or stand mixer to mix everything together. It isn't precise because we have never measured. Pour enough enchilada sauce to give it taste but not too much so that the filling is a runny mess. Put the filling in tortillas, roll up, and put in a pan. Freeze. Save a small can of enchilada sauce to go on top and extra cheese as well. To bake: Thaw in fridge, pour sauce and cheese over top. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until the sauce and cheese is all bubbly and delicious.

Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos
(Um, SO good, I even forgot to add lime to mine and they still turned out amazing!)
-We used a rotisserie chicken for this one as well. I will for sure make this one again. Loved it.

Dressed Up Sloppy Joes
(I loved this one as well. It reminded me a lot of my mom's sloppy joe recipe, you could also use ground turkey if you like)

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches
(I lied, this one was probably the easiest to throw together!)
-Make the coleslaw they recommend the day you make this. I hate coleslaw and I couldn't get enough of their's!

(I have made these before and they are probably my favorite meatball recipe that I have ever tried. I will probably make these every time we have a big freezer meal day because they are so yummy!)

Okay, so it took us 5 hours to do all of this (it was our first time and I think next time will go much quicker...I hope). I was able to break these up into smaller portions for my family and got about 30 meals out of all of this! It has made this month SO easy when it comes to cooking and cleaning...I HATE cleaning...

My tips:
-If a recipe calls for chicken, get a rotisserie chicken from Costco. For reals. It tastes delicious and cuts down on prep time! Plus they are so cheap!
-For sauces, find clean pre-made ones! Don't take the time to make them from scratch. It isn't worth it. Seriously pre-made marinara is amazing, USE IT!
-Make sure you label bags before you put food in. Trust me! I labeled everything and put instructions on how to cook everything on the bag, plus extras I may need to eat (such as buns for the pulled pork, etc)
-Get disposable tinfoil pans for items that won't fit in a bag. I got a few smaller (8X8) and a few larger (9X13). Because my family is smaller than my sister's (she has 5 kids), we ended up with different portion sizes. Next time I will for sure make mine into smaller portion sizes and skip using the larger pans.
-My last suggestion: Find someone to do it with you! It makes it so much easier if you have someone working on it with you because you can break down jobs and each of you could focus on 1 recipe for the both of you. Highly reccommend this one!

Have you ever done a freezer meal cooking day before? We honestly were beat by the end of the day and our feet were killing us. I also was questioning whether it was worth it. After 1 week of enjoying freezer meals, I can happily report that it was totally worth it. Now I just need a bigger freezer because I am a bit obsessed...