From Freezer to Table: Tips for Great Freezer Dinners

When it comes to tricks to help you save time, money and stress, freezer cooking is at the top of my list. Freezer cooking can fully change the way your family does things day to day. By planning ahead you can have have delicious, healthy meals for your family from the freezer instead of taking a spin through the drive through… again.

When it comes to tricks to help you save time, money and stress, freezer cooking is at the top of my list. Freezer cooking can fully change the way your family does things day to day. By planning ahead you can have have delicious, healthy meals for your family from the freezer instead of taking a spin through the drive through... again.

This time of year kids activities start back up and you may find yourself a little overwhelmed. But you can help tame the dinner time madness with these tips.

Make a menu.

You hear it all the time because it works. A menu means you can shop once and do prep work as you put the food away. You’ll probably find that you don’t have to look inside the fridge multiple times a day only to decide that thinking about what will be for dinner is just too much again. While I like to plan a week’s worth of meals, you may want to just plan enough meals to get you until your next shopping day. I recommend planning 2-3 days extra for the freezer because life happens and you may not be able to shop when you want to.

Prep before putting food away.

The fastest way to create many meals for the freezer at once is to go shopping in the morning and spend the afternoon completing the prep work. This is great for working mothers or moms with a lot of activities during the week. Chop all of the ingredients for one meal and load right into freezer bags for a complete recipe. Leave out any liquids, you can add that later. Now you can pull out a bag and toss right into the slow cooker, Instant Pot, or oven. Add any liquids needed and you’re good to go.

Cook double.

When you are cooking and baking, double your recipes and cook once but eat twice! This is a great way to reduce your workload because you can cook once and clean once. That means that on busy days you do not have to worry about cooking a meal or cleaning up from cooking. This works really well for casseroles, cookies and muffins, and soups. This is the least stressful way to build a large stash for your freezer with very little stress on you. No all day cooking or menu planning but you will be building a stash of meals for busy nights.

Protect from freezer burn.

While this freezer cooking is amazing for saving you time and money you will find that things can get freezer burnt causing unnecessary waste. To prevent freezer burn, remove air from packaging and use multiple layers around your food to keep it fresh longer. Never let air get into your packaging. Label your meals well so you do not need to open anything to find the meal you want.

Want more great meal time tips? Check out The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle! This fantastic resource includes three ebooks about freezer cooking and so much more! Only available through May 2, 2016.

5 Easy and Healthy Breakfasts for Hectic Mornings

On hectic, busy mornings, breakfast doesn’t have to be unhealthy. Here are five quick, easy and healthy alternatives to cereal or toast.

Mornings can be such a crazy, hectic time.

Especially if you’ve got kids that go to school, you have to be at work or any of you have an early morning appointment or activity.  It can be a real struggle to get everyone dressed, fed, packed and out the door to your event/school/work in a timely fashion.

Even on days when we don’t have to be out early, I know it can be SO tempting to pull out the cereal, or make a piece of toast and call it good. Plus, who has time to get creative in the kitchen for breakfast? We want quick, easy AND healthy, but usually compromise on the healthy end of things…

But it’s honestly easier than you think to make healthy breakfasts that are delicious and nutrient rich, keeping tummies fuller, longer.

On hectic, busy mornings, breakfast doesn't have to be unhealthy. Here are five quick, easy and healthy alternatives to cereal or toast.

Here are five easy and healthy breakfasts that are perfect for hectic mornings:

OATMEAL

I used to despise oatmeal. But as I’ve grown older and found recipes I like, oatmeal is one of my favourite things to make for breakfast. I’ve got two recipes that I like to switch up.

homemade instant oatmeal packets

The first being Homemade Instant Oatmeal packets. I love the fact that I can whip up a whole bunch of packets (just like buying them from the store!) in no time and have breakfast on hand for quite a few weeks. My second favourite oatmeal is this Overnight Refrigerator oatmeal.

Both of these oatmeal recipes are very versatile when it comes to adding toppings that you like. I’m a big fan of adding raspberries or strawberries. Nut butters, nuts and seeds would also be great additions.

LOOKING FOR A RESOURCE TO HELP YOU MAKE HEALTHY BREAKFASTS?

This year’s Ultimate Homemaking Bundle has two sections of resources: one on kitchen and another on recipes. These aren’t just good ideas, either: they’re actionable tools that can change the way you look at cooking for your family.


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There are 11 recipe ebooks with a ton of recipes: emergency meals, make-ahead meals, sweets for summer, smoothies, slow cooker, quick meals, frugal meals and meal planning. The kitchen section includes resources to help you with meal planning and hospitality, two areas I know I can always use a hand!

If you want to get your mornings organized, check it out now.

SMOOTHIES

Smoothies are delicious and so satisfying! Not to mention a breeze to put together. Currently our favourite combination is frozen strawberries, banana, yogurt, protein powder, and either juice or water. Sometims I like to add spinach or kale, or frozen berries, or frozen peaches.

This Tropical Pineapple Peach Slushie might also be a great dairy-free option:

Pineapple and Peach Slushie

What’s your favourite smoothie combination?

EGG TOAST

My husband’s most common breakfast request is egg toast. It’s a notch up from plain scrambled eggs or plain toast. 🙂 To make it, I simply scramble up some eggs with some milk and a touch of salt and pepper. Then I divide the eggs between some whole grain toast, then top it all with some shredded cheese.

On hectic, busy mornings, breakfast doesn't have to be unhealthy. Here are five quick, easy and healthy alternatives to cereal or toast.

FRENCH TOAST

Not the quickest breakfast on the list, but it’s still quite easy to put together! Plus, this french toast is perfect for freezing leftovers, then popping in the toaster. We like to top ours with butter, real maple syrup and sometimes fruit and whipping cream. French toast is also a hit with me because of the egg mixture it’s coated in, giving it more protein than pancakes or waffles.

Easy French Toast

FRUIT SALAD WITH GREEK YOGURT

If I could just eat fruit for breakfast, I would! I love, love a big bowl of fruit salad. But to give it more protein, thus making us fuller for longer, I serve it with some Greek yogurt. I can’t quite do plain Greek yogurt yet, so I usually buy vanilla flavoured yogurt.  As for the fruit salad, I just cut up what fruit we have on hand. Which is usually apples, strawberries, bananas, oranges and sometimes berries or mango.

What are your quick and easy healthy breakfast ideas?

Peanut Chicken Pasta

This Peanut Chicken Pasta is a favourite of ours for a quick and tasty weeknight dinner. It’s a hit with everyone!

Peanut Chicken Pasta

I realized the other day that I haven’t made one of our favourite dinners in a while so I thought I’d do it up, then give you the recipe! It’s perfect for my peanut butter loving husband and daughter. I happen to love it too because it’s tasty and I feel like it’s fairly healthy. Plus, it’s easy, that’s my motto in life I think. Especially when it comes to cooking. 😉

I hope you enjoy one of our family’s favourite dinners, Peanut Chicken Pasta:

Peanut Chicken Pasta
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Chicken Breasts, diced
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Cup chicken bouillon or broth
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 1Tbsp cornstarch
  • ½ tsp ginger powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 green or red pepper
  • Pasta of your choice (or rice)
Instructions
  1. Prepare pasta or rice.
  2. Cook chicken in a skillet.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, honey, soy sauce, peanut butter, cornstarch, ginger, garlic and optional hot pepper flakes.
  4. Pour mixture into skillet with chicken, stirring constantly until thickened.
  5. Add green pepper until heated.
  6. Serve over hot pasta or rice.

 

I’m Wondering: What Are Your Menu Planning Challenges?

Having a planned menu each week is a lifesaver for me. I find that on the weeks I fail to plan, we eat out more often or I’m grabbing something super simple from the freezer (Pizza? Premade appies?). This results in higher than normal spending and not so healthy eating. (Though, I’m all about giving myself grace and being mostly okay with weeks like that when it’s not our normal.) So, this week:

I’m Wondering:  What are your menu planning challenges?  What keeps you from implementing or succeeding at menu planning in your home?

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

These Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins are packed with healthful ingredients like zucchini, whole wheat flour, apple sauce and make a great on-the-go snack.

These Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins are packed with healthful ingredients like zucchini, whole wheat flour, apple sauce and make a great on-the-go snack.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

The best zucchini chocolate chip muffins ever! Moist, sweet, packed with shredded zucchini, perfect spices, chocolate chips and all sorts of healthful ingredients!  I like to make these into mini muffins because I find my daughter enjoys them more that way. 🙂 Plus, you can’t actually taste the zucchini so she’s getting a vegetable that she wouldn’t normally eat.

These muffins will be perfect when zucchini growing season is upon us. Use up that bounty!

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins
 
If you want to make mini muffins, fill about 36 mini muffin liners with batter. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 13 - 15 minutes.
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • ⅓ cup Sugar
  • ¼ cup Oil
  • ½ cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • ¼ cup Milk
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 cup Shredded Zucchini
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Grease 12 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, oil, apple sauce, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, egg, vanilla, milk and lemon juice in a large bowl.
  4. Stir until just moistened.
  5. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips..
  6. Fill prepared muffin cups ⅔ full.
  7. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

These Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins are packed with healthful ingredients like zucchini, whole wheat flour, apple sauce and make a great on-the-go snack.

Slow Cooker Chicken Broccoli Alfredo

For this Chicken Broccoli Alfredo meal, you take some chicken, broccoli, Alfredo sauce, and bacon bits, toss it all into a freezer bag. That’s it. Then to cook it, throw it in the slow cooker for a super simple, family pleasing dinner!

For this Chicken Broccoli Alfredo meal, you take some chicken, broccoli, Alfredo sauce, and bacon bits, toss it all into a freezer bag. That's it. Then to cook it, throw it in the slow cooker for a super simple, family pleasing dinner!

This Chicken Broccoli Alfredo is easy, easy, easy! Easy to put together, and easy to cook! My favourite kind of meal. 🙂 It’s a family-friendly meal that goes from the freezer to the slow cooker, making dinnertime a breeze. The recipe calls for a bag of frozen broccoli, but I find a bag of broccoli and cauliflower is just as good! It’s delicious served over pasta or rice.

Here’s how to make Slow Cooker Chicken Broccoli Alfredo:

Slow Cooker Chicken Broccoli Alfredo
 
These ingredients make enough for one meal that feeds about 4 people.
Ingredients
  • 1lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 jars of Alfredo sauce
  • 1 bag of Frozen broccoli florets
  • 1 Green Pepper, diced (optional)
  • ½ cup real bacon
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a large freezer bag.
Freezing and Serving Directions:
  1. Freeze in a freezer bag for 3 months in a refrigerator freezer or 6 months in a deep freezer.
  2. To serve, defrost in fridge then place contents into slow cooker.
  3. Cook on Low for 6-8 hours or on high 4-6 hours.
  4. Serve over pasta (with parmesan cheese if you like), with a salad and/or veggies.

 

Easy Freezer-Friendly Shepherd’s Pie

This recipe for the ultimate comfort food, Easy Freezer-Friendly Shepherd’s Pie is one of our family’s favourite. Ground beef and veggies smothered in a tasty gravy, topped with delicious mashed potatoes. Yum yum!

This recipe for the ultimate comfort food, Easy Freezer-Friendly Shepherd’s Pie is one of our family's favourite. Ground beef and veggies smothered in a tasty gravy, topped with delicious mashed potatoes. Yum yum!

This freezer-friendly Shepherd’s Pie is one of those easy to prepare comfort foods. It’s a simple meal that uses ingredients that you usually have on hand. It’s perfect for the freezer to cook another day, or you can make it ahead and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook it for dinner. This recipe includes the use of beef gravy or Shepherd’s Pie gravy, which adds a delicious touch of flavour to the Shepherd’s Pie and keeps it moist and tender.

Here’s how to make Easy Freezer-Friendly Shepherd’s Pie:

Easy Freezer-Friendly Shepherd's Pie
 
These ingredients make enough for two 8x8 baking pans that will feed about 4 people each.
Ingredients
  • 1 ½ lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 bag mixed frozen vegetables
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • About 10 medium potatoes
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 package Shepherd's Pie gravy mix, prepared as per instructions
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded
Instructions
  1. Peel and cut potatoes.
  2. Cook in salted water until tender, about 20 minutes, drain.
  3. Add butter, milk and mash then set aside.
  4. In a large pan, add ground beef, onion, and garlic and cook until browned.
  5. Add bag of frozen mixed vegetables, heat through.
  6. In the meantime prepare gravy mix as per instructions.
  7. Stir gravy into meat and vegetable mix.
  8. Transfer to freezer safe baking dish.
  9. Top with mashed potato mix and sprinkle with cheddar cheese, if desired.
Freezing and Serving Directions
  1. Once assembled, cover freezer safe baking dish really well. Place in freezer.
  2. To serve, defrost, then preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes covered. Then bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

 

Freezer Mashed Potatoes

These Freezer Mashed Potatoes with added cream cheese, sour cream, and butter make it really hard to get into the freezer. You'll want to eat them right away they're so delicious!

These Freezer Mashed Potatoes are one of my husband’s specialties. After I made them one time, he decided we needed to eat them more often, so he takes it upon himself to make up a fresh batch every once in a while. Makes me happy, because I happen to think they’re delicious too!

Normally, potatoes don’t freezer well, but because there’s all sorts of yummy additions, these freeze very well! They also pair very nicely with the Maple Pineapple Slow Cooker Ham I have here.

The added sour cream, cream cheese, butter and salt & pepper make for a really delicious combination of flavours. Sometimes, they don’t even make it to the freezer before we eat them 😉

Here’s how to make Freezer Mashed Potatoes:

Freezer Mashed Potatoes
Serves: two 8x8 pans
 
Ingredients
  • 10 medium russet potatoes, diced
  • 4 ounces Cream Cheese
  • 4 ounces Sour Cream
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Butter
  • Shredded cheddar cheese to cover top, optional
Instructions
  1. Boil potatoes until cooked through.
  2. Drain water and smash potatoes until smooth.
  3. Add in cream cheese, sour cream, salt, black pepper and butter.
  4. Mash and combine until fluffy.
  5. Divide among two 8x8 aluminum freezer pans.
  6. Sprinkled cheddar cheese over top, if desired.
  7. Cover, label and freeze.
To Serve:
  1. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

 

Maple Pineapple Slow Cooker Ham

Maple Pineapple Slow Cooker Ham

I’ve got another Fill the Freezer February recipe post for you! This time it’s for a delicious maple pineapple ham that can be made in the slow cooker. I actually changed this recipe up a bit from the one available in the Fill the Freezer February pack. I wanted to use what I had on hand and so I omitted the brown sugar (mine was rock hard) and used some canned pineapple instead. This actually makes me happier, because I feel like there’s less sugar that way!

I’ve made a very similar version to this several times in the past and it’s always a hit with everyone. I whipped up two batches of freezer mashed potatoes to serve with this.

Here’s how to make Maple Pineapple Slow Cooker Ham:

Maple Pineapple Slow Cooker Ham
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • ⅓ Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 Small can of Pineapple with Juice
  • 1 Pre-Cooked ham
Instructions
  1. Place Dijon mustard, maple syrup and pineapple and juice into a bowl and mix well.
  2. Place ham into a large freezer bag.
  3. Pour sauce over top of the ham.
  4. Seal Bag. Freeze.
To Serve:
  1. Place ham and sauce in a slow cooker. (Can still be frozen)
  2. Cook on low for 6 hours.

 

Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells (Fill the Freezer February)

These Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells are freezer-friendly, delicious and simple to put together!

First up in my Fill The Freezer February task, is these delicious Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells! (I sincerely hope my photography skills only improve with each meal I make…my apologies.) These are so delicious and are actually quite simple to put together! They were a hit with everyone in my family and I need to make another batch because I planned to make two for the freezer, but only one made it there! I served these with a caesar salad and some carrot sticks.

I also love my KitchenAid mixer so I try to do as much as I can with it in the kitchen and these proved that I can create the whole “stuffing” part with the mixer. Including shredding the chicken! That is a win in my books, especially when I’m working with a stiffer food thing. (Saves my wrists.)

These Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells could be quite versatile. I think they’d be great with spinach added, as much pesto as you’d like and I’m sure most variety of cheeses would be wonderful. You could even try adding a bit of tomato sauce.

Here’s how to make freezer friendly Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells:

Chicken Pesto Stuffed Shells
 
This recipe makes enough for two pans of stuffed shells that will feed about four people each.
Ingredients
  • 1 box of jumbo pasta shells
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups fresh grated Parmesan and/or mozzarella cheese + extra for topping
  • 6 Tbsp prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
  • 4 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta shells only until al dente. (The pasta will finish cooking when the dish is baked.)
  2. Drain the pasta shells and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, except the extra cheese for the topping.
  4. Fill the pasta shells with the filling.
  5. Freezing and Serving Directions
  6. Place stuffed shells in an aluminum baking dish.
  7. Sprinkle the extra cheese over shells.
  8. Cover well.
  9. To serve, defrost, then preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake shells uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!