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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Celebrate! National Freezer Food Day

After nearly a month-long hiatus, I am back. Our home got hit hard with the "yucks". Strep, acute bronchitis, lingering coughs, and no energy. Pretty much, our house was zero fun for most of the month of February.

When I am sick, there is nothing like having a warm, comforting, home-cooked meal to help me feel better. The problem was that while I was sick, there were nights that I did not feel like cooking. Solution: freezer fare!

I love having a variety of freezer friendly meals ready to heat up at a moment's notice. These freezer meals are excellent for the nights when I know I am too busy to prepare a good, well-balanced meal for my family. I also love having these readily available to be given to friends (ie. someone who is sick, who just had a baby). Last month our family really needed a little TLC that came in the form of our freezer fare.

You might ask, "What kinds of foods freeze well?" or "What types of meals do you like to freeze?" or even "Where do I even start when it comes to freezer meals?"
  1. Experiment with your favorite family meals. I have found some recipes freeze better than others. When I make something that our family loves, there are times I will just double it. I freeze these meals (usually in freezer bags) for future use. Frequently found in my freezer are: frozen bread doughs or rolls, pie crusts, soups (such as my favorite Chicken Rice Soup), Ham Balls, Enchiladas, Taco Shells, and Chicken Pot Pie.
  2. Check out some books with freezer friendly recipes: My favorites include Don't Panic: Dinner's in the Freezer, Frozen Assets, and Once a Month Cooking.
  3. There are excellent resources and websites available on-line that are focused on helping you be successful in preparation of freezer fare as well as cooking ahead. My favorite resource is Once A Month Mom. No matter what your cooking style, this website has something for you, with menus provided monthly with menu categories including: Traditional, Whole Foods, Gluten/Dairy Free, Diet, Baby Food, and Vegetarian.
So, how are you going to celebrate National Freezer Food Day? What are your favorite freezer recipes? A friend of mine asked me to share the official link to celebrate National Freezer Food Day. It is a Pinterest board designed to capture only the best freezer friendly recipes. I am looking forward to getting some new recipes to try. How about you?

To get you all started, I am going to share one of my favorite freezer recipes.

Taco Shells
jumbo pasta shells (I use about 16 to feed our family)
taco meat (see below)
green onions
cream cheese

To make the taco meat, brown the ground beef and then combine remaining ingredients:
1 to 1 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 pint of grape tomatoes, quartered

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tsp cumin
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup ketchup

To the taco meat mixture, add 8 oz of cream cheese and about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of salsa. Stir until it is well incorporated.

Cook the pasta shells until al dente (the cook time is usually listed on the pasta box). Drain and cool. Prepare a 9x13" casserole dish by spraying it with non-stick spray and adding about 1/2 cup or so of salsa. Fill each pasta shell with the meat. Place the filled shells into the casserole dish. If you are freezing this casserole, at this point you are done. Seal and freeze for up to 3 months.

If you are making this right now, bake at 350 degrees until bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with about 1 cup of cheese and sliced green onions. Return to oven and bake another 5 minutes until it is melted and the onions are fragrant.

If you are using the frozen casserole, you can either bake right out of the freezer or thaw in the fridge. Adjust the baking time accordingly. Bake until bubbly (for frozen casserole, it is usually about 55-65 minutes). Top with cheese and green onions and return to oven to continue to bake until melted.

We serve our "Taco Shells" on a bed of lettuce with sour cream, salsa, and crushed corn chips. You can really garnish this with any of your favorite taco toppings.

Well ... I am signing off to go "party" it up. Hope you all find some flavorful freezer recipes. I know I will!