Freezer Friendly

Chicken Enchiladas for the freezer

With Foodie Baby’s impending arrival, I started thinking about ramping up our deep freezer inventory. As soon-to-be first-time parents, we’ve been told countless times over the last several months that we’re going to be too tired to cook so we should make sure that we have a freezer full of food or delivery on speed-dial. We’ve also been told that we’re going to be too tired to eat… possibly by people who don’t know us very well :)

And then I discovered the great “freezer meal” debate among expecting mothers. Freezer meals are full of processed crap. There’s no way you can eat healthy. I’ll never be so tired that I can’t manage dinner. Good luck getting rid of the baby weight! I get why “freezer meals” come with a negative connotation. I really do. The first things that I used to think of when I heard “freezer meals” were lasagna, sodium-bomb frozen dinners, and “cream of” casseroles.

The idea of the two of us living off the mushy contents of a 13×9 for 4 days straight? No thanks. And the Foodie Groom? Riiiiiight. The dish has to be spectacular – or pizza – for him even touch a leftover. Don’t get me wrong, we do love us some lasagna. But there’s way more to freezer-friendly meals than a vat of lasagna.

Chicken Enchiladas for the freezer

Our deep freezer is now pretty well stocked. We’ve found keeping a variety of our freezer-friendly “greatest hits” on hand has been super helpful, baby or not. We’re not casserole fans. There’s nothing special about the food that goes in there, either – it’s all “normal” food. Prep work is usually limited to moving something from the freezer to the fridge the night before, roasting a veggie, boiling some pasta, or whipping up a salad. And clean-up? Far easier when it’s limited to side-dish prep which is something I can really appreciate since I can turn my kitchen into an OSHA hazard just by making sandwiches!

Not everything can be frozen. Not everything should be frozen. I’ve gone back and added the Freezer Friendly tag to recipes that I’ve made specifically to be frozen and included To freeze instructions, where necessary.

The biggest thing for me was understanding that size does matter. I take advantage of cooking large-batch dishes in portion-friendly containers for the freezer. The throwdown containers that they sell in the baking aisle of my grocery store are cheap and recyclable. And bonus – you don’t deplete your baking dish supply. Soups, pulled pork, and sliced brisket freeze flat in quart-sized zipper baggies. Meatballs get double-batched and divided into two gallon-sized zipper bags for meatball subs or a quick appetizer.

Muffins and bagels (pre-sliced) also get the gallon bag treatment. Enchiladas (recipe below) and manicotti go into 8×8 containers in two-people servings and stuffed shells go into mini-loaf pans in single-servings (7-8 shells each). Chicken pot pie also gets the individual-serving treatment. Lasagna does get baked in the 13×9 vat but the leftovers are wrapped and frozen into individual squares.

Also, another helpful element is letting the freezer do some of my prep work. Nothing is more frustrating than deciding that you want fajitas at 5pm and realizing that you need 2 hours to marinate the meat. It takes less than 5 minutes for me to whip up a batch of fajita marinade and pour it over a flank steak in a freezer bag. The marinade in the bag does double-duty as the meat thaws.

There are also the obvious safety concerns in for-the-freezer food prep, like following appropriate cooling techniques (if I’m making something specifically for the freezer, I’ll use an ice bath to cool it quickly). Check out the USDA’s freezer safety tips for more information. Happy freezing!

Chicken Enchiladas for the freezer

Green Chile-Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
4 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Serranos, diced (seeds-in if you like the heat; reduce to 1 if you’re not a fan of spicy food)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups sour cream
16 oz jar of your favorite tomatillo-based/green salsa
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
12 tortillas, small fajita size
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack
1/2 medium onion, diced

Preheat the oven to 350. Melt butter over medium-high heat. Saute Serranos until soft and then add the garlic, cooking for 1 minute. Stir in the flour and let cook 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the chicken broth until smooth and let cook until bubbly. Stir in the sour cream, salsa, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, and cilantro until the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat.

Spray/grease a 9×13 baking dish. Add 1 cup of sauce to the bottom of the pan. Add chicken, cheese, and chopped onion to the center of each tortilla and roll, placing seam-side down in the dish. Pour the sauce over the enchiladas, top with leftover cheese, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until top is brown and bubbling.

To freeze: Cook the sauce and cool completely (I do it quickly using an ice water bath). Assemble the enchiladas in portion-friendly dishes and wrap well with plastic wrap or foil. To cook thawed, bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes (or to an internal temperature of 165). To cook straight from the freezer, increase the baking time to 45-55 minutes.

Yields: 12-15 enchiladas
Adapted from: Homesick Texan

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Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

There’s something about cold weather that makes me want a warm, full belly and food that I can eat with a spoon our sip from a mug. Hot chocolate, chicken pot pie, chili, and mashed potatoes go into heavy rotation when the temperature dips below 55. And so does soup. I can be wide awake but halfway through a steamy bowl (or mug!) of soup, I’ll develop an immediate need to put on a pair of fur-lined Christmas socks, grab a blanket, and take a nap. It’s the tastiest sleep medication ever.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

We didn’t have to fly to Colorado to see a perfect snow fall this year. We only had to look out the window. It almost never snows here in Houston. I say “almost never” because it snowed one day last December – and just in time for us to snap a picture of our temporarily-blanketed mailbox and order photo Christmas cards. And 3 or 4 years ago, we got snow flurries on Christmas Eve. White Christmas? Probably not by your standards, but I’ll take it!

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

I scored an HEB Mesquite Roasted chicken for under $4 – coupons rock – and followed recommendations to increase the simmer time and decrease the onion. Delicious, satisfying, and it even freezes well which is great because it needs to. We ended up with about 10 bowls of soup which meant I didn’t have to cook lunch all week :)

Chicken Noodle Soup

The ultimate comfort food: homemade chicken noodle soup.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 store-bought rotisserie chicken
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
  • 2 large stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 cups egg noodles
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Bring broth and water to a simmer over medium-high heat in a large pot.
  2. Debone the chicken and separate the meat from the skin and bones. Set the meat aside and add the skin and bones to the simmering broth.
  3. Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer for an hour.
  4. Strain broth through a colander into a large bowl; reserve broth and discard skin and bones.
  5. Set the pot over medium-high heat and add the oil.
  6. When hot, saute the onions, carrots, and celery until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Add chicken, broth and thyme. Bring to a simmer.
  7. Add the egg noodles and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in parsley, reserving some for garnish, and remove from heat. Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary.
  8. To freeze: You can freeze with or without the noodles. To freeze with the noodles, cool the finished soup and transfer to quart-size freezer bags and reheat on the stovetop. To freeze without the noodles, cool the soup and transfer to quart-size freezer bags. Reheat the soup on the stove top, adding about 1/3 cup uncooked egg noodles per reheated serving. Simmer for 20 minutes and serve.

Notes

Yields: 10 servings

Adapted from AllRecipes

Estimated time: 1 hour 45 minutes

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[Take a large, super unlady-like bite of muffin.]

[Lick fingers, wipe on jeans.]

[Enter a witty antedocte that somehow relates to food and marriage.]

[Or not.]

[Click Post.]

Another batch of savory muffins using the “master recipe” from 1 Mix, 100 Muffins. I loaded these muffins with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, and a mound of Parmesan.

There were 12. And now there are none. Sometimes things (and math!) really are that simple.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil, and Parmesan Muffins

The perfect savory muffins studded with sundried tomatoes, basil, and parmesan

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temp
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup "sun-ripened" tomatoes, chopped*
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus additional 1-2 Tbsp for garnish
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with paper liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper into mixer bowl.
  2. Lightly beat eggs and add to mixer bowl. Add buttermilk, melted butter, tomatoes, basil, and Parmesan cheese. Mix on medium speed until just combined - do not overmix.
  3. Scoop the batter into the muffin pan. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until well risen, golden brown, and firm to the touch.
  4. Let muffins cool 5 minutes in the pan before removing. Serve warm or cool completely and store covered for 3 days.
  5. * I always buy "sun-ripened" tomatoes. Moisture-wise, they're a happy medium between tomatoes packed in oil and the completely dehydrated tomatoes that you have to recharge with hot water. You can eat these straight from the package :) If you have oil-packed tomatoes, drain the oil (the original recipe called for the reserved oil to supplement or replace the butter). If you use completely dry tomatoes, I'd recharge them a bit to soften them.

Notes

Yields: 12 muffins

Adapted from 1 Mix, 100 Muffins

Estimated time: 35 minutes

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I put all new cookbooks go through an initiation process, of sorts. Maybe it’s more of an orientation. I read each book, cover to cover, once. Well-written books like those from The Pastry Queen find their way to my nightstand :) Then I sit next to my husband on the couch while he plays Gears 2 and flip through a second time armed with a stack of post-it stickies. Does it look good? Stickied! Does it sound good? Stickied! Will my husband eat it? No? Still stickied!
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