My 5 Favorite Freezer Meals

My 5 Favorite Freezer Meals

It’s so lovely to have a freezer full of meals for those nights when you don’t feel like cooking. Since I’m at home on maternity leave with the baby, it’s been especially nice to rely on frozen meals so I can focus on the baby without worrying about what’s for dinner. I’m such a believer in freezer cooking that I spent an entire month focusing on 31 Days of Freezer Cooking where I shared some of my favorites. Today, I want to revisit that series and share my five favorite freezer meals with you.

Baked Oatmeal

For breakfast, I love having baked oatmeal in the freezer. This recipe can be cooked in a pan but I prefer to make it muffin tins so I can remove one or two for breakfast. I microwave them for 30 seconds and I have a filling breakfast almost faster than I can pour a bowl of cereal.

Best Ever Homemade Crescent Rolls - Joyfully Thriving

These homemade crescent rolls are simple to make and a great bread to serve at any meal. I like to make a double batch before storing them in the freezer. Once again, you can remove as many as you like and reheat them in the oven. If you’re intimidated by the thought of baking bread, don’t be! This is a simple recipe with which to start.

Poppy Seed Chicken - Joyfully Thriving

Poppy seed chicken is a delicious recipe to serve for your family or for company. I dice the chicken ahead of time which makes it even easier to prepare. Then, I can quickly pull a pan of poppy seed chicken out of the freezer and bake it while the rice is cooking. Yum! I do love poppy seed chicken.

A basic meatball recipe for your freezer cooking - Lots of flexibility for future recipes with this one!

This recipe for basic freezer meatballs is adaptable to so many different recipes which is why I like to keep a batch of cooked meatballs in my freezer. If the meatballs are already cooked, two of my favorite meals to use them in are meatball sandwiches or sweet and sour meatballs. You can add the meatballs to spaghetti or make appetizers out of them, too. There are so many uses for a basic meatball!

Apple Pie Kits for the Freezer - Joyfully Thriving

Finally, every Fall I stock my freezer with apple pie kits. I make the crusts ahead of time as well as diced, seasoned apple filling and the crumb topping. When we have the craving for an apple pie, I can have one in the oven within 5 minutes. I love making a homemade pie so quickly!

Those are my top 5 favorite freezer meals…so far! I’m always adding new ones to my freezer and list. Do you have a favorite freezer meal?

Green Themed Food Ideas for St. Patrick’s Day

Green Themed Foods for Saint Patrick's Day

Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Growing up, we did – because it is also my Mom’s birthday. When I took over cooking for her on that day, I tried to serve some green foods. Like I shared with the red and pink foods for Valentine’s Day, serving green foods for St. Patrick’s Day is a simple way to make an ordinary meal special.

Here are some ideas for basic foods that you could serve for green meals on St. Patrick’s Day. There are lots of healthy choices for this holiday!

  • Celery
  • Green peppers
  • Lettuce salad
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Cucumbers
  • Kiwi
  • Granny Smith apples
  • Avocado
  • Guacamole
  • Green grapes
  • Pesto
  • Pistachio pudding
  • Mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • Lime sherbet
  • Key lime pie
  • Lime jello
  • Limeade

Finally, don’t forget the power of green food coloring! You add food dye to scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs or almost anything you can think of to create a festive meal. Do you have any ideas to add to this list of green foods for St. Patrick’s Day? Oh, and happy birthday Mom!

Easy Enchilada Casserole

The first time I drove up to Fort Wayne for an official date with Andy, he cooked for me. He cooked this tasty enchilada casserole for me. He did a great job of cooking but I was most impressed with the fact that he took the time to cook for me. It was one of the many things that I liked about Andy. Obviously I found many more since I married the man!

Since we’ve been married, I’ve learned to make this family favorite recipe of his. It really is an easy recipe – that reheats wonderfully. Often, we’ll eat enchilada casserole for dinner and take the leftovers to school for lunch the rest of the week. I hope you enjoy this easy and delicious recipe as much as we do!

Easy Enchilada Casserole - A quick, delicious meal made in easy casserole form.

Ingredients:

1.5 pounds of hamburger
1 onion, diced
1 can (10 ounces) mild enchilada sauce
1 can (15 ounces) refried beans
16 ounces shredded Colby cheese
1 bag tortilla chips

Directions:

Brown hamburger and onion in a large skillet. Drain grease off the meat. Add enchilada sauce and refried beans. Simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, crush tortilla chips and grate cheese.

Assemble casserole in a 9 by 13 pan. Start by layering half the bag of chips, followed by half the meat mixture and half the shredded cheese. Repeat the layers, ending with cheese on the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Additional Notes:

I tend to use a little less hamburger (closer to a pound) in an effort to be more frugal with this recipe. You can also use less cheese (closer to 12 ounces) but my husband insists that the more cheese, the better! Also, you can use Doritos instead of tortilla chips for some extra spice.

Serve the casserole hot with sour cream and lettuce, or serve as is. Like I mentioned earlier, any leftovers that you may have will reheat nicely in the microwave.

Red & Pink Themed Food Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Red and Pink Themed Foods for Valentine's Day - A list of themed ideas for Valentine's Day!

I have found memories of Valentine’s Days when my Mom would pull out her metal jello molds and make us individual heart shaped red jello. We didn’t eat jello much, but having it in a heart shaped mold made it even more special. I look forward to planning heart themed and colored Valentine’s meals for my children someday!

As I was planning my preschool party for school, I started thinking of what foods I wanted to serve my preschoolers. I decided to follow a red and pink theme with heart shaped foods thrown in for good measure. After pondering this for over a week, here is a list of themed possibilities for Valentine’s Day. I’m sharing the list with you so you don’t have to think as hard as I did!

  • Cherries
  • Cranberries (or Craisins)
  • Radishes
  • Red Apples
  • Red Peppers
  • Red Grapes
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Plums
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Watermelon
  • Salsa
  • Cherry or Strawberry Yogurt
  • Strawberry Cream Cheese on Heart Shaped Toast
  • Spaghetti with Red Marinara Sauce
  • Ravioli with Red Marinara Sauce
  • Mini Heart Shaped Pizzas with Heart Shaped Pepperoni
  • Red Jello (Strawberry, Cherry or Mixed Berry)
  • Pink Marshmallows (Strawberry Flavored)
  • Hi-C or Red Kool-Aid
  • Strawberry Milk
  • Strawberry Smoothie
  • Shirley Temples
  • Cherry Limeade
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Pink Wafer Cookies

You can make lots of foods into Valentine themed foods just by using cookie cutters of various sizes. You could make heart shaped toast or heart shaped pancakes for breakfast. You could even fry an egg in that heart shaped hole in your toast. You can cut sandwiches into hearts for lunch and cut cheese into mini hearts for a snack. You can make heart shaped cookies for dessert. You can frost the cookies with red or pink icing and add red or pink sprinkles to really fit your color theme.

Remember that for young children, it doesn’t need to be elaborate! You can easily add red (or pink) food coloring to a variety of foods. You can stir in Valentine colored M&Ms to different desserts. You can cut raw fruits and vegetables into heart shapes. Mix and match from the list above to create a themed meal (or day of meals!) for Valentine’s Day that is sure to delight. Do you have any other red foods that I missed in my list?

A Single Serving Recipe for Wassail

A while ago, I shared my recipe for wassail. While I love the taste of this delicious warm drink, I don’t often prepare a big batch of wassail. When I was getting ready for school the other morning, I wanted a glass of wassail – and decided to adjust the recipe for an individual cup of wassail.

It’s very simple and retains the full flavor of wassail – without lots of leftovers. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner! Sometimes, I simmer two servings on the stove and pour it into two mugs for two days. Other times, I mix it all together quickly in the microwave and drink my wassail on the go. I like having the flexibility now for a big batch or single serving of wassail. It has made my winter quite cozy!

Single Serving Recipe for Wassail - Joyfully Thriving

Here’s how I prepare a single serving of wassail. I’ve gotten to where I squirt in a bit of lemon juice and sprinkle on the cinnamon – without measuring. I have included measurements for your convenience. Feel free to adjust if you want more or less sweetness with the sugar and lemon juice proportions. Enjoy a glass of wassail today!

Ingredients:

1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Mix apple juice, orange juice and a squirt of lemon juice in a mug. Stir in 2 teaspoons of sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Heat in the microwave for a minute and a half or until warm. Stir again before drinking.

Snow Cherry Limeade

Snow Cherry Limeade - A perfect snow day recipe for a copycat Sonic drink.

The snow was blowing outside and the temperatures were bitterly cold but suddenly, I wanted a Cherry Limeade from Sonic. Some would say it was a pregnancy craving. Perhaps it was because I was 28 weeks pregnant at the time. So I decided to get creative and make my own version of the drink at home. It was delicious – and tasted just like Sonic’s classic drink. It was so good that I want to share it with you so you can make yourself a cherry limeade, too!

Now, to be fair, you could make this recipe without snow. Simply use ice in place of the snow. I like using snow because it reminds me of the little ice cubes that Sonic uses in their drinks. You could also crush some ice in the blender if you are so inclined and / or live down South without snow to flavor your drinks! I’ll be using this method in the summer.

4 Ingredient Cherry Limeade - An Easy and Delicious Recipe!

This recipe is very simple and requires only four ingredients. You need snow (or ice), the juice from maraschino cherries, lime juice (or lemon, if you are snowed in) and 7-up (or Sprite).

Fill a glass with snow. Pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of maraschino cherry juice over the snow. I started with 2 but liked it stronger with 3 tablespoons. Add 1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice. Pour 1 cup of 7-up over the snow. Stir with a spoon. Top with a cherry and enjoy your delicious snow cherry limeade!

I think it’s the perfect treat for a snow day. I hope you (and your kids) agree!

Homemade Wassail

Do you know this old English carol? “Here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green. Here we come a-wandering so fair to be seen. Love and joy come to you. And to you your wassail, too. May God bless you and send you a Happy New Year. And God send you a Happy New Year!”

It reminds me of the Boar’s Head Festival…and my Mom’s homemade wassail. Almost every year for our Epiphany Open House, Mom would mix a big pot of wassail and leave it to simmer on the stove. There is something special about this delicious spiced drink. It has a different flavor than apple cider. It’s a bit tangier. Perhaps that is why I like wassail so much.

I like to drink wassail on these cold winter mornings. It is also a delicious drink to serve for large gatherings. Plus, your house will smell lovely as the cinnamon and cloves simmer in the wassail on the stove! If you have never tried wassail, give it a try. And be sure to sing the wassail song as you make it!

Homemade Wassail

Ingredients:

1 stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 cups sugar
3 cups water
4 quarts (16 cups) apple juice
1 quart (4 cups) orange juice
1 cup lemon juice

Directions:

Boil cinnamon stick and cloves in water and sugar. Boil until sugar is dissolved. Cool. Mix juices into pan. Simmer. You can strain out the cloves and cinnamon before serving, or leave them in the pot to flavor the wassail that remains. Serve hot. This recipe makes about 2 gallons of wassail.

You can keep wassail hot by warming it on the stove in a large pan. If you are serving wassail for a party, a crock pot always works well to keep your wassail hot. That said, wassail is still tasty to drink when cold – and can easily be reheated in the microwave in individual mugs.

Wrapping Up a Month of Freezer Cooking

Whew! I did it. It’s been a busy month – and a busy month of freezer cooking. This was the first time I have ever attempted such an ambitious project. I practiced the “Bake Once – Eat Twice” philosophy so doubled my recipes this month. I cooked two of the same meals – one that we ate that night and one (or more) that made its way to the freezer. My freezer is brimming as a result! Take a look.

Before and After Freezer Pictures from my 31 Days of Freezer Cooking - JoyfullyThriving.com

What is in my freezer after a month of freezer cooking? Note that I made double meals of my recipes – without going over my monthly grocery budget! It is indeed possible. In addition to eating well this month, here’s what is still in my freezer.

I discovered some new tricks as I shared freezer recipes with you. I rediscovered some old favorites and found new favorites as well. I also discovered that Pinterest is hopping with those who are interested in crock pot applesauce! It’s one of my new favorite recipes, so I’m happy others are enjoying it as well.

I want to say thank you to everyone who joined me this month in freezer cooking. I hope you gained some new recipes and saw that anyone can stock their freezer with limited time and on a frugal budget. It takes a bit of planning but it can indeed be done!

For all my other freezer cooking recipes, click on the button below to view the rest of my recipes from 31 Days of Freezer Cooking.

JoyfullyThriving.com

Homemade Lasagna for the Freezer

Lasagna is another classic recipe for which there are many variations. Although it can be time consuming to make, it is a delicious meal and an ideal freezer food.

I will admit that I don’t make lasagna on a regular basis. In fact, I don’t know if I have made it for Andy since we’ve been married. Gasp! So I pulled out my Mom’s lasagna recipe and made a batch for dinner as well as a batch for the freezer. It was then that I remembered how much I enjoyed lasagna – and resolved to make this recipe more often. I especially liked it with sausage, but it is also tasty with hamburger.

Whatever recipe you chose, lasagna freezes well. If you are going through the trouble to make lasagna, it is worth the time to make a double batch for the freezer. It doesn’t take much more time and you’ll be glad to have another lasagna in the freezer.

Homemade Lasagna for the Freezer

Ingredients:

1/2 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 pound Italian sausage (or hamburger)
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
3 cups cottage cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 pound Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
10 ounces lasagna noodles

Directions:

Saute onion in oil under tender. Add sausage (or hamburger) and cook until brown. Drain excess fat. Add garlic salt, oregano, basil, pepper and tomato paste. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Combine cottage cheese with beaten eggs.

Place half the lasagna noodles in a 9×13 baking dish. Spread half the meat sauce over the lasagna. Add half the cottage cheese. Spread with half mozzarella cheese and sprinkle with half the parmesan cheese. Repeat layers.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. One pan of lasagna makes 12 servings. You can also also make one large pan or two smaller ones by following this same recipe.

For all my other freezer cooking recipes, click on the button below to view the rest of my recipes from 31 Days of Freezer Cooking.

JoyfullyThriving.com

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Growing up, my Mom always made homemade spaghetti sauce for our spaghetti. I might have taken it for granted back then. She’d make a big pot with lots of hamburger. We’d eat some for dinner and Mom would package the leftovers in various Tupperware containers for the freezer.

This spaghetti sauce is easy to double and wonderful to freeze. Plus, spaghetti sauce really is simple to make – and without any artificial ingredients! You can make this sauce with or without the hamburger. This time around, I made the sauce without ground hamburger since I plan to add freezer meatballs when I serve it. Also, I always use water instead of tomato juice. Mom did and so I do as I learned.

Spaghetti sauce is something you can easily adjust to your own preference. If you want it spicier, add more chili powder. If you want it sweeter, add more brown sugar. If you want it chunkier, add diced tomatoes. The possibilities are endless!

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce for the Freezer - Joyfully Thriving

Ingredients:

2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (16 ounce) can water or tomato juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 clove garlic
2 pounds hamburger, browned, optional
1 medium onion, diced, optional

Directions:

Combine tomato products in a large saucepan. Add water (or tomato juice, if desired). Stir in seasonings. If desired, add meat browned with diced onions. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Allow spaghetti sauce to cool before storing it in the fridge and / or freezer.

For all my other freezer cooking recipes, click on the button below to view the rest of my recipes from 31 Days of Freezer Cooking.

JoyfullyThriving.com

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