Freezer Meals {1}

For some time now, I've thought about venturing into the world of freezer meals. I must admit, I was initially super intimated. It seemed like a lot of work, our freezer is the size of a shoebox and Gary isn't a huge fan of "leftovers". Any meal that is made and then frozen qualifies as leftovers. Regardless of my fears, I decided to venture on.

After taking an entire week to compile tons of recipes and then to choose which four I wanted to make, I spent a total of five hours last Saturday shopping for and making a whopping 37 servings of recipes. I ended up using four recipes and added one bonus recipe with the leftover chicken. I'll explain later.

37 servings  |  $1.90 each  |  WORTH IT

Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Chicken
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup prepared mustard
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

Combine all ingredients in freezer bag and freeze.

Place ingredients in slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Makes 6 servings.

Parmesan Garlic Chicken
6 chicken breasts (we had one extra)
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 envelope Italian salad dressing mix
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil

Mix together cheese, garlic, and dressing mix. Dip chicken breasts into olive oil, then coat with cheese mixture. Place in freezer bag and store.

To serve, thaw completely. Bake at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes. Makes 7 servings.

Mediterranean Pork Chops
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chick broth
4 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
8 thick cut pork chops

Split all ingredients into two bags. 

To serve, cook on low for 8 hours.  Serve with salad and rice or noodles. Makes 8 servings.

Baked Ziti
1 pound dry ziti pasta (or really any kind of pasta would work- I actually used Penne pasta)
1 onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef (season with pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and minced garlic)
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce (I added a zucchini to my sauce just for more veggies!)
8 slices provolone cheese
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 7-8 minutes; drain.

In a large skillet, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer 15 minutes. When pasta is ready, mix in to the sauce.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray 2 8x8 inch pans with non-stick cooking spray. Layer as follows in each pan: 1/4 of the pasta/sauce mixture, 4 slices of Provolone cheese, 1/2 of sour cream,  1/4 of pasta/sauce mixture,  1/4 mozzarella cheese. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake covered for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted.

To freeze this meal: Follow the instructions above, except for the last step of cooking it. Cover the assembled ziti with foil and stick in the freezer (I usually use 2-3 layers of foil just to keep out the freezer burn). It will last in the freezer for about 30 days. When you are ready to eat it, remove from the freezer and place in the fridge to thaw 24 hours in advance. By allowing it to thaw in the fridge, you can cook it at the regular time and temperature (350 degrees for about 30 minutes). If you do not thaw it in advance, it will take much longer to cook. If you cook it completely frozen, it will take anywhere from 90 minutes - 2 hours to cook all the way through.

You can eat one for dinner now and freeze the other for dinner another day! This is precisely what we did!

If you happen to cut chicken like I do, you'll end up with a heaping pile of extra pieces of chicken that are better cut into smaller pieces. We tend to use these as ingredients for paninis or tacos. In this instance, it created 8 bonus servings! WOAH. For those that don't know, I have to cut every piece of fat I can find from each piece before eating it. That tends to mean I have one more appropriately-sized serving and another thin strip as extra. And here is what we made with the bonus servings!
Stubbs Marinated Chicken
extra chicken, cut into smaller pieces (I had enough for 8 servings)
your favorite Stubbs Marinade (whole bottle)

Combine ingredients into two bags. We had enough for four sandwiches or tacos in each bag.

To serve, thaw completed overnight. Cook and then make paninis or tacos.

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