Freezer Cooking: Meatloaf & Precooked Chicken

I did a little freezer “cooking” a few weeks ago.  I made up a few meatloaves for the freezer, as well as one for dinner.  It really is easy to make extra (double, triple, etc.) of something that you’re already going to make anyway.  It takes very little extra time, and the bonus is that you have meals already prepped & ready to go in the freezer.  All that really needs to be done is to pull it out the evening/night before & let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and then it’s ready to go the next day.  This goes for any meal, whether you need to cook in the slow cooker, bake in the over, cook on the stove top, or grill.  This particular day, I was planning meatloaf, so I planned to make extra.  Here’s what I bought/used:

  • 5 lb ground beef
  • 5 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, shredded
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 10 slices bacon, cooked crisp
  • 2 packets onion soup mix
  • seasonings to taste ( this time, I used smoked paprika, roasted garlic powder, onion powder, salt, & pepper)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups BBQ sauce

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Mix everything together very well & divide into gallon freezer bags.

At this point, you can either shape it into a loaf or you can flatten it in the bag & freeze.  I like to flatten it out when I’m freezing it for a couple of reasons:  (1) It takes up less space in my freezer & (2) it takes a lot less time to thaw out because it’s not a large mass.   I use my rolling pill to lightly press it flat in the freezer bag, which also helps me to get out as much air as possible.

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The above ingredients netted me 4 meatloaves at 2.22 lbs each with 3 cups of extra veggies that I will use to make some more meatloaves.  The veggies were divided into 2 quart bags & placed in the freezer along with 3 of the meatloaves.

I also wrote the cooking instructions on the bag so that anyone in my family can prepare this meal.  To cook your meatloaf in the slow cooker:  Shape & place your meatloaf in a foil-lined slow cooker & cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours, depending on your slow cooker.  Top with BBQ sauce in the last 30 minutes or so.

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This meatloaf is enough to feed my family of 5 for 1 meal.  There may or may not be leftovers.  It will depend on what sides we have & how hungry everyone is.

 

 

 

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I had also purchased a whole cut up chicken & 2 packages of split chicken breasts that were marked down, so I placed all of that in the slow cooker the night before with about 1 cup of water.  I deboned & shredded all of this meat & will divide it up into meal-size portions for the freezer to help make last minute meals go much quicker.  This really helps to cut down my cooking/baking time since the meat is already cooked & ready to go.  I leave out any seasonings so that I can season it up as I go, depending on what dishes I am making.

I also try to keep precooked ground beef on hand, but that’s a post for another day!

I hope you have enjoyed this post, & that it helps you make your meal planning, dinner preparations go a little more quickly & smoothly!

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Homemade Beef Stew

IMG_2024I love beef stew and have been making it in my Crock Pot for many years because it was so easy to throw everything together in the morning and let it do it’s thing all day. But, I recently made it in my Lodge Dutch Oven and all I can say is, “Why haven’t I been doing this all along?!”  It was so much better!  It has a nice, thick gravy, and the flavors really do meld better.  I’m pretty sure that I will be making it this way from now on.  In fact, I made it again and decided to share my recipe with you. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take pictures throughout the process.  But, beef stew is super easy and can be ready in about an hour for dinner.  Especially, if  you keep all the ingredients on hand in your pantry.

Beef Stew (made in a cast iron dutch oven)

1 lb stew beef

4 medium-sized Russet potatoes, peeled & cubed (can also use red or gold potatoes – leave peel on, if you do)

2-3 medium-sized carrots, washed & sliced (I do not peel my carrots since most of the nutrients lie just beneath the surface of the carrot.)

1/2 cup each of dehydrated peas & corn (I have used frozen, too)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 Tbs.garlic – minced, optional

approx. 1 cup flour

salt & pepper to taste

1 tsp. garlic powder, optional

1 Tbs. smoked paprika, optional

Place flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, & smoked paprika in a bowl – mix well.

Next, I cut my stew beef into smaller pieces (mostly just cut the pieces in half).  This lets the meat distribute better in the stew, and it makes it feel like you have more meat. Place meat into the flour mixture and coat meat thoroughly.

Add enough oil to cover the bottom of the dutch oven.  I used lard, but you can use a combination of olive oil and butter, too.  Once hot, add meat and brown.

Once your meat has browned, add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add enough hot water to fill dutch oven about half way. Add remaining ingredients, including a bit more salt and pepper.  Finish filling dutch oven with water.  Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Cover and continue cooking until potatoes are fork tender.  Serve with fresh, hot, homemade biscuits & enjoy!

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Homemade Frappuccino

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(pictured: Chocolate Dulce de Leche Frappuccino)
After reading about all the “wonderful” ingredients that Starbucks so lovingly puts into their drinks, I thought that I would share my recipe for a homemade Frappuccino, which is wonderful to whip up on a hot summer day, but could easily be enjoyed year round.  This could probably be easily adapted to create any number of flavors that you can dream up!  Please note that, since we are eating whole/real foods, the ingredients we use are as natural as we can get, which is why I’ve used whole milk & heavy whipping cream.  I also make my own sweetened condensed milk from whole milk & sugar.  (Be sure to check out Kitchen Stewardship for lots of great recipes!)

Homemade Dulce de Leche Frappuccino

  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 2 cup ice
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 Tbs Turbinado sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 Tbs Dulce de Leche (caramel can be substituted)

Place all ingredients in blender & blend on medium speed until mixed well.   Pour into glass, topping with whipped cream & drizzled Dulce de Leche if desired, & enjoy! 

Makes approx. 4 (8 oz.) servings

*Chocolate is a nice addition to this drink – just add a little to the mix prior to blending & continue as instructed.
*Milks & sugar can be adjusted to taste.

*How to make Dulce de Leche:  You need 1 can of sweetened condensed milk.  Open can & pour into glass jar, cover with lid.  Place jar is saucepan with just enough water to cover the contents of the jar + about 1/2-inch.  The whole jar does not need to be submerged.  Place over medium high heat until the water begins to boil.  Loosely cover & turn heat down to maintain a good simmer. (Lid can sit on top of jar without touching pan.)   Cook until condensed milk becomes a medium caramel color. 

**The darker the color, the thicker, more caramel-like it will be. 

I haven’t done a lot of experimenting yet, but I can foresee many different flavor possibilities in the future! 

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French Toast

This recipe comes from Frugal Families and is a family favorite in our home.  I’ve been known to add a little nutmeg or chocolate chips from time to time.  But, the best part about this recipe is that it can easily be halved, if needed, or doubled & frozen to provide many quick breakfasts for the future.   I really love using thick cut homemade bread for this, but have used store bought in a pinch.

 

French Toast

French toast is great for freezing ahead of time, and reheating for quick and easy breakfasts. This recipe calls for homemade bread but store bought is fine. I always make French toast when I have some stale bread because it’s dried out a bit and absorbs the flavored egg/milk mixture beautifully.

2 loaves homemade Bread
2 dozen eggs
2 Cups Milk
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 tablespoon Cinnamon

Slice bread and allow to sit for an hour or two, combine all ingredients except bread, and mix till frothy. Heat up a skillet on medium and spray lightly with cooking spray. Dip bread into mixture, letting it soak up some of the egg mixture, turn over & repeat.  Cook on both sides till golden brown. Place on a paper towel to cool, the paper towel will absorb the the extra moisture. Place single layer on cookie sheet and place in freezer till frozen. Transfer to an airtight container, or Ziploc baggy. To reheat, either place in microwave for approximately 1 minute or in a toaster or toaster oven. Serve with butter and syrup, or Jam.

Make Your Own: Instant Oatmeal Packets

 

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These are so simple & quick to make & they can save you quite a bit of money, depending on what all you add to them.  If you’re like my family, we like all kinds of varieties.  These can be customized to your family’s tastes and preferences, AND you won’t have all of the additives and preservatives in yours that you find in the ones that you would buy prepackaged in the stores. 

My 8-year-old (very soon to be 9) son loves oatmeal but has trouble remembering what all the measurements are, so these are easy for him to grab and fix himself with a little supervision with the hot liquid (usually milk).

The ones that I mixed up today are just brown sugar and cinnamon because that I what I have on hand right now.  But you could add chopped dried fruit, or even fresh fruit after it’s been mixed up, plus any other spices or flavors that you love. 

I got the original recipe from Frugal Families, but I almost always customize it to our tastes & what I have on hand at the time.

Instant Oatmeal Packets

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  • 1/4 cup quick cooking oats
  • 2 Tbs ground oatmeal
  • pinch of salt

For the ground oatmeal, I place 2 heaping tablespoons of oats in my mini food chopper and process:

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Mix all ingredients together and store in an air tight container, label, & store until ready to use.

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A few variations:

Dried fruit & cream:  1 Tbs. dry milk or nondairy creamer & 2 Tbs. chopped fruit of choice.

Raisins/Craisins & Brown Sugar:  1tsp. packed brown sugar & 1 Tbs. raisins/craisins. 

Spiced Oatmeal:  1 Tbs. Sugar, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and scant 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Brown Sugar & Cinnamon:  1 Tbs. packed brown sugar and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Possible Additional Toppings: Fresh fruits, peanut butter, maple syrup, butter, jam/jelly, apple butter, etc.   The possibilities are endless! 

The cost?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  For me, the cost is  about $0.09/packet vs. $0.18-$0.20/store bought packets.   Again, with dried fruits and other toppings, the price could increase to about $0.12/packet, but it’s still cheaper than buying store bought & adding additional toppings to that, which we usually ended up doing.   This time, I mixed up 26 packets (ran out of baggies) in about 10 minutes time.  It really takes very little time to do this. 

I hope this inspires you to MYO oatmeal packets.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you do. 

 

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Recipe: Grilled Pizza

 

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If you’re looking for something new or just a new way to have an old favorite, try grilling your homemade pizza.  All you need is your favorite pizza crust, sauce, and toppings. 

Spray a piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray and lay pizza crust on top.  Place on grill and grill until very lightly brown (medium to medium-low heat) on bottom.  Pull off grill and top with your favorite toppings.

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Return to grill and remove once cheese is melted. We ended up finishing ours off in the oven on broil due to severe weather. 

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Cut into desired amount of slices and enjoy!

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(My son – making one of his many silly faces.)

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Recipe: 6-Layer Country Casserole

I guess I should say that Grandma’s Kitchen is just about my favorite Gooseberry Patch cookbook that I own right now.   Here’s another recipe from that cookbook.

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6-Layer Country Casserole

3 potatoes, sliced 14-1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 stalks celery, chopped 1 green pepper, sliced
1 lb ground beef, browned Granish: bread crumbs
1 onion, chopped  

 

Layer all ingredients, in order, in a lightly greased 13” x 9” pan.  Cover and bake at 325* for 1 hour.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs; return to oven for additional 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown.  Serves 6 to 8. 

This is what we’re having for dinner tonight.

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It smelled a lot better than it tasted.  It wasn’t bad, but it could use a little something else.  I’m thinking maybe mozzarella cheese and a little seasoning (maybe rosemary and thyme)?  It’s a recipe that I will definitely be trying again.  A little tweeking and it could be a really good recipe.

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