Oh, back to school season. It's a transition for me as well as the kids. We're back to the rush of packing lunches, packing backpacks, finding shoes, a new school (for 2 of the 3), homework…
Afterschool to dinnertime is a busy time, even on nights with no extra-curriculars. We have our routine–the kids do their homework, then their chores, and I spend time with them at the table. Most days, dinner needs to be ready or already cooking (love my crockpot meals!).
So what can I do to make it easier? I'm doing freezer cooking to get through the back to school transition.
I had time last week to make Spinach Stuffed Shells for dinner, so I just boiled the whole box of shells (the recipe only calls for half) and doubled up the filling. I laid the second set out on a cookie sheet in the freezer until hard, then put them in a zipper bag. Next time we want shells, I can just layer them in a baking dish with sauce and mozzarella and bake. No work needs to be done!
This double-up concept works great for any type of casserole or meal with lots of prep–take the time now so you can save it later. My family's favorites are:
- Vegetarian Baked Ziti
- Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
- Green Chile Chicken Casserole
- Spinach Stuffed Shells
I use a four-pack of pork loin roasts ($1.99/lb at Costco, which is my price point for meat), and put each in a zipper freezer bag with sauce. Each of these can go straight into the crockpot right from the freezer. My favorite four freezer-to-crockpot recipes (you could substitute chicken thighs if you prefer) are:
Teriyaki Pork: Chop an onion and add to the pork in the bag along with 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp minced garlic and 1 tsp ginger. Cook on low 8-10 hours. Serve on rice with a veggie like broccoli or green beans.
BBQ Pork Sandwiches: Chop an onion and add to the pork in the bag along with a bottle of barbeque sauce (or make your own). Cook on low 6-8 hours. Shred and serve on whole wheat hamburger buns with a side salad and corn.
Shredded Pork Tacos: Chop an onion (see a pattern here?) and add to the pork in the bag along with a jar of salsa (red or green) or a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles. Cook on low 8-10 hours. Shred and serve with tortillas and taco fixings, or as a “taco bowl” with rice and beans.
Honey Parmesan Pork: To freezer bag, add 1/2 cup honey, 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce, 2 Tbsp basil, 2 Tbsp minced garlic and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix in bag, then add pork. On this recipe, it matters that you defrost the bag before putting in the slow cooker, since you want to be able to turn the roast to fully coat with the sauce. Cook on low 6-8 hours. I serve this over rice with a veggie on the side.
By doing this once a month, I have one pork meal a week ready to go, and if I forget to defrost, that's okay (except for that last one). They just cook all day in the slow cooker and dinner is ready when we are. Easy peasy.
What are some meals you like to freeze for later?
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