Freezer Meals That Don’t Taste Frozen

I bet I have 10 cookbooks devoted to “once a month cooking.”

You know what that is, right? It’s where you spend a day chopping, baking, deglazing and packing up food to fill your freezer for a month. I love the idea, which explains the 10 cookbooks, but I can’t get myself past the conceptual stage.

I’ve dog-eared the cookbooks, made grocery lists, plotted with my sister and marked dates on the calendar for our day of cooking. But, something always comes up. I end up with a few hours of free time instead of a whole day, and then I throw in the towel – and the freezer bag.

I’m no busier than a lot of these wondrous people who dedicate a day to taco soup, chicken and rice and ham and potato casseroles. I’ve stood in the small kitchen of a woman who did her monthly cooking with 1-year-old triplets just beyond the kitchen’s baby gate. I was amazed. I wouldn’t even attempt such a feat. It takes a special person to have the patience to stir a roux, change a diaper, search for a lost pacifier and listen for the beeps of a kitchen timer – all within a 10-minute span.

So, I’ve come to terms that I’m not a “once-a-month cook.” But I still love having a homemade dinner or two stashed in the freezer for busy nights. Instead of wasting time planning full days of cooking, I try to make a freezer meal a couple of times a month. When I think of it, I double the recipe, giving the other portion to someone who needs it, like a friend who just had a baby.

My favorite freezer meals are the ones that don’t taste like freezer meals. That means skipping most pasta dishes, delicate vegetables and fish. Sturdier foods that can take a hit are better suited for the freezer. My husband’s favorite burritos, for instance, are a freezer staple at our house, and warm up easily for packed lunches or quick dinners. If you’ve never made a freezer meal, that’s a good one to start with.

I found this recipe on The Sisters Café website about a year ago, and have been making my version ever since. The burritos last a couple of months in the freezer at my house.

Frozen Burritos

• 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
• 1/2 onion, chopped
• 1 teaspoon garlic salt
• A few grinds of fresh-cracked pepper
• 1 (31-ounce) can refried beans
• 1 (7-ounce) can chopped green chilies
• 1 (about 10-ounce) bottle mild red taco sauce
• Half of a 10-ounce can green enchilada sauce (or you can use about 5 ounces from a bottle of green taco sauce)
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 1/4 cup salsa
• 24 large flour tortillas
• 1 1/2 pounds shredded cheddar cheese
Brown ground beef with onion, then drain. Add remaining ingredients, except tortillas, and cheese, and heat through.
Lay out tortillas, and divide meat mixture and cheese among them. Roll up in plastic wrap, place in gallon-sized freezer bags, and freeze.
To serve, place one wrapped frozen burrito on a plate and microwave for 1 ½ minutes or so. Using kitchen shears, slice through the plastic wrap along the length of the burrito and discard. (If you discover the middle is still cold, heat it up a little more in the microwave.)

My Aunt Jeannie’s drip beef sandwiches end up being a two-for-one meal. I make them in the Crock-Pot, serve it once for dinner and then freeze the leftovers for dinner the next week.

Drip Beef Sandwiches

• 3-pound beef chuck roast, with fat trimmed
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
• 2 teaspoons seasoned salt
• 3 cubes beef bouillon, 3 teaspoons beef base or 2 (14.5-ounce) cans beef consommé
Place roast in a Crock-Pot. Add all ingredients. Add water until roast is almost covered. Cook on high for 8 hours. Remove roast, and shred with forks.
Place half of the shredded roast and some of the au jus in a gallon-size freezer bag. Once cool, place the bag in the freezer. When ready to use, set in the refrigerator to defrost. Warm the shredded roast and au jus. Serve on French rolls. It’s also good with melted Provolone.

Serve this chicken with angel hair pasta or rice.

Chicken and Artichoke Bake

• 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 1/4 cup unsalted butter
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 cup dry white wine
• 1 cup chicken broth
• Half of an 8-ounce package reduced-fat cream cheese
• 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and cut up (not the marinated artichoke hearts)
• 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Cook chicken breasts until fully cooked, either in a sauté pan or on the grill. Set aside.
Melt butter in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Sauté onion and garlic until tender. Stir in flour and salt until smooth. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add wine and broth, cook over medium heat, and continue to stir until the mixture is thickened and bubbly. Add cream cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Remove from heat, and set aside.
Place cooked chicken breasts in a 2-quart casserole dish. Arrange artichoke hearts over chicken. Pour cream cheese mixture over chicken and artichokes. Spread to cover. Cover, label and freeze.
To serve: Thaw. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through and bubbly. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Return to the oven and turn to broil until Parmesan is golden brown.

5 Tips for Freezer Meals

  1. Gather all your ingredients and supplies before you get started. That includes large freezer bags and a sharpie.
  2. After you fill your bags, lay them flat on a cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator. Once cool, move the cookie sheet to the freezer. Once frozen, the bags can be stacked on top of each other.
  3. Write notes, including cooking time and temperature and side dish suggestions, on the freezer bag.
  4. If you’re really strapped for time, try a Crock-Pot freezer meal. These are great for days when you’re busy with ballet, soccer practice and homework.
  5. You don’t have to make an entire meal to take advantage of your freezer. Fill a bag with cooked taco meat, spaghetti sauce or shredded chicken for dinner time-savers.

Categories: Food