Category Archives: Freezer Meals

The Nesting…

Sometime in the next 27 days we will be meeting our daughter. I kept thinking that as it got closer I would get more concerned about the ways our life is going to change once she arrives or even being fearful of delivery and recovery. But truth be told, I’m not.

I think part of it is that we have known for so long that she might be super early that we were prepared for her to come long before now. And part of it is that I have very little control over what delivery will look like. For example, I’m not currently a candidate for an epidural so I’ve known from the beginning that I may have to deliver without one. And I also have no control over whether or not she may need to come by C-Section. So since I have no idea what direction it will go, I just don’t dwell on it. And honestly, the pain will be temporary and I just want her to be safe more than anything. I mean, I survived a kidney stone without pain relief – surely I can do this. {Someone remind me of this if I’m laboring without pain relief and feel like I’m dying, haha!}

The fact that she is still in there safe and sound at 35 weeks is just such an answered prayer. Because we knew that she might be really early we made a huge effort to get things done ahead of time. Which means that my nesting urge has been nicely spread out over the past couple of months. But this week is go-week. You see, had she come BEFORE now, she would have been guaranteed a NICU stay past when we would have gone home. Meaning that we would have had time to come home and finish up any last minute things. But now she’s at a point where she might actually get to come home with us from the hospital if she were to be born today. Which means we want everything to be ready! So this means…

parenting class

We took our Expectant Parents class this past weekend. Several people saw this photo on Instagram and thought that Baby Girl had arrived. Those are definitely some pretty realistic looking babies! Earlier this month we took a Childbirth class so between the two classes (and a couple of books we’ve read) we feel pretty prepared for delivery, recovery, and life with a newborn. Or at least as prepared as anyone can feel. 😉

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I spent all day yesterday making freezer meals. Our church is awesome about bringing dinner to families for the first 4-6 weeks after a new child arrives, but I wanted to have some simple lunch options too. I may have gotten slightly carried away. 😉 Pictured you see: Taco Soup, Chili, Lasagna Soup, Enchilada Soup, Vegetable and Beef Soup, Buffalo Chicken, English Muffin PizzasJambalayaBreakfast Sandwiches, Spaghetti Sauce, Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Balls (I just realized I haven’t shared this recipe here – I need to do that!), White Chicken EnchiladasPot Roast with Veggies (this recipe, but with chicken thighs instead of roast), Beef Burritos, and Chicken Burritos. Most of the meals I made into individual sized portions for easy lunches so I’m hoping that will be a huge help during those early weeks.

gym.jpg

Some people say that you get really motivated to start moving in the last few weeks because you are ready for the baby to come. But to be honest, I never actually stopped going to the gym throughout this pregnancy (other than the kidney stone episode when I took off a week). My doctors continued to clear me for exercise so while my workouts are less intense than they used to be, I still lift weights, do cardio, and yoga. It’s not always easy, but I know it’s good for both me and Baby and I hear it helps with delivery and recovery if I am able to stay active throughout the pregnancy. So here’s to hoping that’s true!

Us

We’ve been making an effort to do all the things people say are much more difficult to do after kids. So this past weekend we saw a movie (Wonder Woman) and ate out at a nice restaurant. This coming weekend we’re planning to head downtown for another nice dinner out. This August we will celebrate 9 years of marriage and these years have been such a sweet phase of life for just the two of us. We are so grateful for the time we’ve had, but we are also excited about this next stage of life that is about to begin for us as a family of three. 🙂

Love Rach

Batch Making Breakfast Sandwiches for the Freezer

Did you know that you can bake bacon in the oven?

Did you know that you can cook perfectly circular eggs in the microwave?

Did you know that you can pre-make breakfast sandwiches and freeze them to heat up later?

Let me fill you in!

So first up, bacon! I discovered this a few years ago and it has been my go-to way of making bacon any time I want to make more than a couple of slices at a time.

Baking Bacon in the Oven (1)

Baking Bacon in the Oven (2)

Line a cookie sheet with foil and then lay bacon out. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes (depending on thickness of bacon). No more hot grease splatters while standing over the stove!

And now for perfect circular eggs! I only cook them this way if I’m making breakfast sandwiches, but they sure do come out in perfect circles every time.

Perfect Eggs in the Microwave (2)

I spray the bottom of a large mug with nonstick cooking spray. Then I either use 1/4 cup of egg beaters (if I’m making these for Christopher thinking about less cholesterol) or 1 whisked egg. I cook on high for 1 minute and badaboom badabing… it’s a perfect circle every time. The exact right size for a breakfast sandwich on an English muffin.

And now breakfast sandwiches! Our two favorites are the Sausage, Egg, & Cheddar and the Bacon, Egg, & Gouda.

Breakfast Sandwiches (1)

For the Sausage, Egg, and Cheddar sandwiches I use pre-cooked turkey sausages (again lower cholesterol for Christopher).

Breakfast Sandwiches (2).JPG

The Bacon, Egg, and Gouda sandwiches are inspired by the breakfast sandwich that Starbucks serves which is another favorite of ours.

Breakfast Sandwich
(per 1 sandwich – multiple recipe by number you desire to make)

Ingredients:

1 English Muffin, split and lightly toasted
1 tsp butter
1 turkey sausage patty, cooked OR 2 slices of bacon, cooked
1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg beaters)
1 slice Cheddar OR Gouda

Directions:

1. Slice English muffins in half and lightly toast. Spread a thin layer of butter inside each half.

2. Spray microwave safe bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Crack egg into bowl and whisk for 20 seconds until bubbles appear on surface. Microwave 1 minute or until done {can also substitute Egg Beaters}.

3. Top toasted English muffin with slice of cheese, egg, and choice of meat (pre-cooked turkey sausage or pre-cooked bacon) and then other half of English muffin.

4. Either enjoy immediately or wrap in Cling Wrap to store in freezer. To reheat from freezer, simply unwrap the sandwich, wrap in a paper towel and cook 1 1/2 minutes in microwave on high heat. No need to de-thaw.

Breakfast Sandwiches (3).JPG

Ready to go in the freezer!

Breakfast Sandwiches (4)

Sausage, egg, and cheddar after being reheated from frozen.

Breakfast Sandwiches (5)

Bacon, egg, and Gouda after being reheated from frozen.

While these are traditionally breakfast sandwiches, I actually have them for lunch more often than breakfast because I love my shakes at breakfast time so much. But they are great for a quick meal on the go!

What is your favorite breakfast sandwich combination? 

Did you know you could bake bacon in the oven?
That was such an awesome discovery for me!
Love Rach

13 of the Best Freezer Meals

Long time readers might remember when I used to talk about making freezer meals way back in the day. I never stopped making freezer meals, but I guess I didn’t really think to blog about it again. Last year a friend who was about to have her first baby was asking for freezer meal ideas and I found myself a wealth of information I didn’t even realize I had. I thought to myself “hey self, you should blog about this…” but then I forgot about it. Until a couple of weeks ago when my sister asked me for advice on freezer meals and it reminded me that I never shared with you guys. So, I have decided that it’s finally time. 🙂

13 of the best freezer meals

Why Freezer Meals Are the Bomb dot Com

The biggest thing I love about freezer meals is the convenience. It’s a dinner that I don’t have to plan and I don’t have to worry about the ingredients. No crazy amounts of sodium or ingredients I can’t pronounce. Just real foods. I know what’s in it because I made it. So it’s a healthy, quick option that I don’t have to think much about for busy days.

Making Freezer Meals With Friends vs. On My Own

I’ve made freezer meals with friends and I’ve done them on my own and it’s a winner both ways. It’s definitely even cheaper to do freezer meals with other people (we usually do 4-5 people) because you can buy each item in bulk at Costco or Sam’s which saves some pennies, but it’s still a manageable number of people in one kitchen working together. But doing them on my own means I get to pick all my favorite meals to make. 😉 Plus it’s easier to portion the meals out how I’d like them (x number of lunches, x number of dinners, etc).

My 13 Favorites Broken Up Into “How-to-Reheat” Categories:

So today, after many years of trying different recipes and knowing which ones don’t reheat well after being frozen and which ones taste just as good from the freezer as they did the day it was made… I’m ready to fill you guys in on my absolute favorites. 😀

Freezer Meals #1 – #9: Dump Frozen Contents Directly in Your Slow Cooker:

Dump frozen contents directly into slow cooker in the morning. Cook on low all day (approximately 8 hours) and enjoy dinner that night. You can do high for 4-5 hours if you need to, but personally I think freezer meals taste better when they’ve been reheated slowly. But if you’re in a rush, you can definitely reheat them on high.

bolognese (5)Bolognese SauceJust cook your pasta on the day of and serve your piping hot bolognese sauce from the slow cooker on top of it!

Chicken Enchilada Soup (3)Chicken Enchilada Soup When you have this soup in your freezer all you need on hand are your garnishes! An avocado, a handful of cilantro, and a dollop of sour cream. Your basic soup just got awesome. 😉

our chiliChiliOne of our most popular recipes. It is a huge hit every time we take it anywhere. And it’s way crazy simple to make. It’s a favorite of mine to freeze in individual portions for lunches as well! I tend not to top my chili with anything, but if we’re having guests over then I serve this with cheese, fritos, jalapenos, crackers, and sour cream. And if you need to stretch it, serve it over rice or pasta. Trust me, it’s so good! {Side note: you can use pretty much any meat in this and it tastes great. We’ve used beef, turkey, bison, deer, and elk}

Lasagna SoupLasagna Soup*~ Another of our most popular recipes as well as another favorite of mine to freeze in individual lunch portions. See * note below on instructions dealing with freezing pasta.

pioneer woman's meatballsMeatballs Can be frozen cooked or raw!

minestrone soup

Minestrone SoupSee note below on instructions regarding freezing pasta.

pioneer woman's spaghettiSpaghetti SauceLike the bolognese sauce, just cook your pasta on the day off and serve! We usually toss a little fresh parsley and freshly grated Parmesan on top as well.

taco soupTaco SoupI don’t personally add “extras” to my taco soup, but you might like to have cheese, sour cream, jalapenos, and chips on hand for the day you reheat your taco soup!

veggie soupVegetable & Beef Soup*~ Another favorite that I like to freeze in lunch size portions. See * note below about freezing pasta.

~Recipes marked with a “~” indicate that you should cook the meat before freezing.

*Any soup with pasta will not last in the freezer for a long time. I’ve noticed that after about a month, the pasta will disintegrate when it is reheated. So I either dethaw the soup in the fridge before heating it (only heating it long enough for it to become hot – usually over the stove – this is what I typically do when I make soup in individual portions for lunches). OR I leave the pasta out of the recipe entirely and add it to the slow cooker during the last hour of cook time.

Freezer Meal #10: From Freezer to Oven: 

english muffin pizzasEnglish Muffin Pizzas: Put frozen pizzas on a cookie sheet and cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Put on broil for the last 30 seconds to toast up the cheese on top.

Freezer Meals #11 – #13: Dethaw Overnight Before Cooking:

I pull these out of the freezer the night before I plan to eat them. They dethaw over night and I cook per usual instructions the next day. Occasionally I’ve just pulled them straight from the freezer and put them directly in the oven and added 15-20 minutes of cook time and that works as well.

baked ziti (3)Baked Ziti

lasagnaLasagna~

white chicken enchiladasWhite Chicken Enchiladas~

~Recipes marked with a “~” indicate that you should cook the meat before freezing.

Bonus Tip (Individual Lunch Size Portions): 

freezer meals lunch portions

I often freeze soups and chili into individual portions so I have ready made lunches. I just put them in the fridge overnight and the next day at lunch they are dethawed and ready to be heated in the microwave.

Pro Tip: Always be sure these little baggies are in a bowl of some sort as they dethaw in the fridge. Every now and then one of the bags will have a little tear in it and it can make a big ol’ mess if you aren’t prepared.

Bonus Tip (Pizza Dough): 

freezer meals pizza dough

This isn’t an entire meal idea, but making your pizza dough ahead of time and freezing it, saves lots of time when it comes to pizza night. This Whole Wheat DoughThis Traditional Dough, or Focaccia Bread as a pizza dough are all winners and have frozen well for us. Put it in an oiled Ziplock bag in the freezer after it has risen, you’ve punched it down, and formed it into a ball. Pull it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge the night before you plan to use it to allow it to fully dethaw. Prepare as normal.

If you have questions about how a specific recipe should be converted to a freezer meal, let me know! I’m glad to help out! 🙂

Have you made freezer meals before? If so, what are your favorite meals to freeze?

Love Rach

Baked Ziti (Freezer Meal!)

Let’s discuss baked ziti. Well, really, when I make it, it’s baked rigatoni. Because ziti pasta isn’t my favorite. And I love how the sauce can easily get inside the big rigatoni noodles. 🙂 But if I say that I’m making “Baked Rigatoni” no one knows what I’m talking about. So I just go ahead and call this “Baked Ziti” even though it’s not made with actual ziti pasta. Over explaining much? Yeah probably. Let’s move on…

baked ziti (4)

Baked “Ziti”

Ingredients:

8 oz rigatoni pasta
1 jar pasta sauce (Aldi has our current favorite)
15 large fresh basil leaves, chopped or hand torn
2 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Freshly cracked salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Cook rigatoni to al dente. Be sure you don’t over cook it since it will cook more in the oven. In fact, you can even under cook the pasta by a minute if you are concerned about overcooking the pasta.

3. Put cooked rigatoni into 13 x 9″ pan and top with pasta sauce. Mix in fresh basil and half of the Parmesan.

4. Dollop the ricotta cheese on top of the pasta and then place slices of fresh mozzarella on the pasta as well. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan. And add some freshly cracked pepper & salt on top as well.

5. Bake 5-7 minutes (unless you made this as a freezer meal, in which case bake for 15) and then turn on the broiler and let broil for 1 minute or until cheese is bubbling.

Recipe based on Rocco DiSpirito’s 

So I actually made this as a freezer meal this past Monday because it’s SUCH an easy one to double and cook one that night and freeze the other for later. Or to freeze both (like I did with these). Either way, it’s awesome.

baked ziti (1)

Prepped and ready to either go directly in the oven or to be covered with foil and to go in the freezer.

baked ziti (2)

I always write the name of the meal and the day I prepped it (I try not to keep meals in the freezer more than 3 months because I think they taste best in those first 3 months). If I’m taking this to someone else then I write the freezing & cooking directions on the foil as well. When you’re ready to eat your freezer meal, just pull it out of the freezer the night before you plan to eat it so it can dethaw entirely. Spritz with a little water on top to keep the noodles from drying out. Then cook as per directions.

baked ziti (3)

We use fresh mozzarella and fresh basil because we think it really amps up the flavor. You definitely don’t have to do this. If you like your cheese to be a little more evenly distributed then you might try regular shredded mozzarella. 🙂

Happy Friday, friends!

Love Rach

Freezer Meals (with recipes)!

EDIT: After years of trying out different freezer meals, I put together my absolute favorites and some tips in an updated post here: 13 of the Best Freezer Meals. Be sure to check it out! 🙂

On Tuesday we did Freezer Meals again! It is so helpful to have these in my freezer for those days when I want to just toss something in the slower cooker and have dinner ready by the time I get home. 🙂

All the supplies!

Whitney, Courtney, Mandy and I were busy in the kitchen! And Hadley kept an eye on us to make sure we did everything right. 😉

The goods!

Cheesy Broccoli Chicken
Minestrone Soup
Balsamic Pork Chops
Spaghetti & Meatballs
Honey Garlic Chicken
Lemon & Rosemary Chicken
Chicken Enchilada Soup
Sweet & Spicy Asian Chicken
Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Muffins

As always, all of that for $50! And again, we just throw it in the slow cooker and come home to dinner ready! Well, except for the muffins – those weren’t really for the slow cooker, ha! Though it wouldn’t surprise me if someone has made muffins in the crock pot. I’ve seen bread, cakes, and banana bread made in there! 😉 But yeah, they definitely did not last long enough to go into the freezer at our house. 😉

Happy Friday, friends! 🙂