When my daughter was small, I survived the dinner hour and those early days of motherhood by stocking my freezer and refrigerator with ingredients that could be thrown into our slow cooker in the morning, and forgotten about until the dinner hour rolled around. Our One Month of Slow Cooking article is the product of that time in my life, and was my best survival tactic for keeping us on budget and having dinner on the table each night.
Freezer cooking can also be a wonderful dinner hour survival tactic to keep your family supplied with meals and keep you out of the pick-up window at your local fast food joint. Today I wanted to share with you a few of my favorite recipes for creating freezer-worthy fare that your whole family will love. These dishes are always a hit in our house, and can easily be personalized to your family’s tastes. Double or triple these recipes to reap the benefits of your cooking day all month long!
Make sure that your freezer is running efficiently with these quick tips for energy-efficiency and easy freezer cooking guidelines!
Country Ham & Macaroni Casserole
- 1 lb country ham slices or regular smoked ham in one piece (I use turkey ham)
- 1 lb elbow macaroni
- 2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (8 oz)
- 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
- 1 can reduced sodium cream of chicken soup (or homemade using this recipe)
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs or 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- Fresh parsley (handful), chopped
Make Ahead: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bring 4 quarts water and ham to boiling in large pot. Once water begins to boil, remove ham to a plate. Add macaroni to pot. Return water to boiling; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Coarsely chop ham, discarding any fat.
Drain macaroni and return to pot. Add ham, cheese, sour cream, soup, and fresh parsley. Scrape into a 13x9x2 baking dish for freezing, or in two 8×8″ pans (for a smaller family), or freeze the casserole in a freezer bag.
To Prepare: Allow the casserole to thaw overnight. Pour the casserole into your baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and drizzle (optional) with two tablespoon of butter for a crunchy topping. Bake the casserole at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
Yield: 8 Servings
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
- 4 chicken breasts
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1/3 cup chopped tomatoes (you can use fresh or a can of diced tomatoes)
- 1/2 cup Italian Dressing
Make Ahead: Throw all of the ingredients in a freezer bag and label with cooking directions. To prepare, just thaw and follow directions for cooking.
To Prepare: Allow the chicken to thaw overnight in the refrigerator. For a slow cooker version, just place all ingredients in your slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for six hours. Serve over spaghetti or rice with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. To prepare this in the oven, bake at 375 for 1 hour (or longer if they are large chicken breasts).
Yield: 4 Servings
Cook Time: 1 Hour
- 3 cups shredded cooked chicken (1.5 pounds)
- 12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)
- 2 1/2 cups enchilada sauce (I make this homemade version)
- 1-2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chiles, drained
- 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
- 12 (6-inch) soft corn or flour tortillas
Make Ahead: Combine the chicken, 2 cups of the cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce, the chiles and cilantro. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Stack the tortillas on a microwave-safe plate, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high until warm & pliable (approximately 1 minute). Spread the warm tortillas out over a clean counter. Place 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each tortilla. Tightly roll the tortilla around the filling, then lay seam-side down in a 9×13″ baking dish lightly coated with vegetable oil spray. Spray the tops of the enchiladas lightly with cooking spray to help keep them moist. Cover your baking dish tightly and label for the freezer. Freeze the remaining sauce in a small container, and freeze your cup of cheese for topping later.
To Prepare: Allow the enchiladas to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Pour 1 cup of the remaining sauce over the enchiladas to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup cheddar down the center of the enchiladas. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake until the enchiladas are heated through, 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheddar browns, about five minutes longer. Serve, passing the remaining 1 cup of sauce.
Yield: 6 Servings
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Feel free to share your own freezer recipes and ideas for freezer cooking on a budget!