Salisbury Steak

I am finding my kids are at a very impressionable age.  I want to start eating more 'clean' in our house.  What do those have in common you ask, well, nothing I thought until yesterday.  My kids asked me what we were having for dinner.  I told them "Salisbury Steak" and my six-year old quickly said "That is GREAT Mommy, I loved that the last time...."  I was hesitant, 'last time' I made this dish I used the Stouffer's version (aka, TV dinner style, for those of you who know that lingo) c'mon hubby is deployed, at least it wasn't McDonald's right?!  ha......when I made it the last time I think I told them it was a TV dinner and my 4 year old was so excited to eat "a dinner in front of the TV" (God bless her..ha)!...I digress.....quick on my feet (in hopes of selling this new salisbury steak, that was homemade) I said "Oh gosh Jacob, I am trying a new recipe this time, this one is homemade, not out of that box."  My 4 year old said (in her saddest tone) "But Mommy we loved that salisbury steak you made last time" and my response was "Well, I am trying this one because it doesn't have chemicals in it" (aka, surely a frozen prepackaged meal has some chemicals in it right?) and she gasped and said "We ate chemicals Mommy?  GROSS!!!"  ...okay so I might be on to something with this clean eating idea...hmmmmm....in the meantime, made this as a freezer meal, whipped it out of the freezer, thawed, sauteed and whisked up some beef broth with cornstarch for a gravy, instant meal.  Enjoy!

I have taken two of my favorite recipes and merged to come up with this one.

2lbs ground beef (I used a lower fat content so I couldn't have to drain anything when I fried the patties)
1/2 c. of 'fake' cream of mushroom soup, I used this SOS mix and added a small can of mushroom pieces (we like mushrooms)  --but 1/2c. of canned cream of mushroom would work too, make two meals and you can use the whole can (see, planning!)
3/4c. dried breadcrumbs (I made from left over, getting old hamburger buns, those seem to be plentiful in my house)
2 egg, beaten
1 1/2 TBSP dried onion flakes, again no time for that grocery store, must use pantry
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

In a medium bowl mix together ground beef, 1/4 c. mushroom soup, bread crumbs, egg, onion, salt and pepper.  Shape into patties, I get about 8 out of this. 

From here I wrap each patty individually with saran wrap and place them in a freezer gallon bag.  That way I can thaw out as many as I want at a time.  I often near triple this recipe so I get several freezer meals out of it.  My kids (ages 7, 5, 3) can easily eat 2 patties each.

I thaw in the fridge overnight, who am I kidding, I use the counter thaw over several hours (sometimes I am good enough to plan ahead, the night before, but not always).  Day of cooking I cook patties in a skillet until browned.  Remove to serving plate when cooked all the way through.  Using drippings in pan I mix 2c. of beef broth (made from granules and following directions on the jar) with a tsp of cornstarch and whisk that into skillet to make a 'gravy' of sorts.  If I have another small can of mushrooms I throw that in too.  Pour gravy atop meat, viola!

Here is the frozen meal about to thaw....see planning, but it is on the counter-ha!

Mom's Meatloaf

Meatloaf is such a personal preference but have to say my Mom's ROCKS!  I made it for a freezer swap a few years ago and was repeatedly asked for the recipe!  I was shocked to learn you can buy meatloaf seasoning in a packet?!  WHAT?!  My mom's is great and ready to go in our oven for tonight and rarely requires any emergency trips to the store for the 'packet', unless I am out of say ketchup, which is a SIN in our house and usually have 2-4 bottles ready in waiting!

Mom's Meatloaf
1 1/2-2# ground beef
1/2 onion, diced fine (been known to use minced/dried onions if I am out too)
2 eggs, beaten
1 c. breadcrumbs
1/2 c. ketchup
salt and pepper to your taste, I have been known to throw in some garlic powder on occasion

Mix all the above in a bowl, put in a meatloaf/bread pan...we have a cool one my husband got off some QVC like show like this one:  https://www.perfectmeatloaf.com/?MID=1336564&gclid=CILuhZ3657ECFcqc7QodiSoA9Q and have to say while I laughed at the purchase it really has been remarkable!

Bake at 350 for 1- 1 1/2 hours...viola!

It is SO good!!!!!!!

Make two and freeze one mixed (flat) in a gallon size baggie for later!  I can honestly say I usually have 1-2 of these in the freezer for a quick thaw, dump and bake.




Where I come from we call these 'Pigs in a blanket.'  It was foreign to me the first time I saw 'pigs in the blanket' on a school menu board and was handed a hot dog in a croissant...what a disappointment!  Some folks call these 'stuffed cabbage leaves.'  Whatever you call them ...I encourage you to make them!  They are SO good and freeze so well!  I do make mine with sauerkraut, you could easily omit if you don't like it, but where I come from taking sauerkraut out of such a recipe is near sin!  Should you choose to omit it I would encourage you to use torn cabbage leaves as layer separators so that you have a better stacking effect.

So...let's get down to business on what I affectionally call 'rolling the pigs!'  Don't let the directions overwhelm you, once you do this once it's easy!  This whole process below took me about 30min total and I have a kettle of pigs on the stove right now!!!

These are approximate measurements, use your judgement to your tastes, this is an old German recipe, which often omitted exact measurements.

You will need
Package of ground pork
2 packages of ground beef---you can use all beef if you want, your call!
handful of rice
garlic powder
1-2 heads of cabbage
One container, or two of sauerkraut (if you love it like I do, and tend to eat too much out of the can while you are cooking) NOTE:  I have to say I used to be pretty partial to Frank's brand, green can, but have recently discovered this one http://www.hoganvillefamilyfarms.com/ and not sure I can look back!!  I do NOT use sauerkraut that contains caraway seeds, check your ingredient list, this is shocking if you aren't expecting it to say the least.
1-2 cans of kraut juice if you are lucky enough to have it in your store, we don't here in TN, so I opt for water (insert sad face, but it works).

Start a pot (big enough for your cabbage head) of boiling water on the stove.  I make it about 1/4 full of water.  While waiting for it to boil, cut off the bottom/stem of the cabbage.  You can core it if you want, that takes too much time for me.  I just plop it core side down into the boiling water.  Your goal is to loosen the leaves enough they don't tear when you remove them.  I will often be able to remove 2-3 leaves without tearing after about 4-5 minutes, replace lid, after I am done rolling (insturctions below) I retrieve a few more leaves and continue that cycle until all the meat is gone.

In a large mixing bowl, with your hands, mix the meat together.  Don't over work it, just until it's combined.  Pour in the rice, this is used as a binding agent, so if you have alot of meat you might want two handfuls, your call.  I use about 1 1/2 handfuls for 3-4lbs of meat.  Sprinkle some black pepper (about 1/2-3/4 tsp), add garlic powder (I would guesstimate I used about 1/2 tsp for my meat today, 3-4lbs), add salt (about 1tsp) and mix well.

Remove a few cabbage leaves from the head of cabbage, lay aside to cool, replace lid so it steams the next layer.  Form a small-medium handful of meat mixture into an elongated meatball.  Lay on the 'core side' of the cabbage leave, roll leaf, ensuring you are also wrapping side in to create a 'pocket' for the meatball.  Secure with a toothpick.

In a 2nd kettle I make a small layer of sauerkraut with a little water and begin layering the pigs in as I roll them.  My preference is to create a single layer, add some sauerkraut as a layer separator (you can use torn cabbage leaves too, just something to create a layer), and continue layering until pot is full!

Pictured is my first layer of pigs, atop a small amount of saukerkraut and water

This is a visual of the first layer then covered by sauerkraut, repeat until all meat is gone!

I like to boil mine for about 10-15min, lower heat on stove to low or simmer and allow to sit ALL day!  These are so much better the 2nd day, if you can wait that long.  At the end of the day, depending on when we are eating these, I will freeze a good amount of them by placing in a single layer in a gallon size freezer bag, enough for a meal or two for our family.

When reheating from the freezer, I allow to thaw in the fridge (okay on the counter, you caught me) until thawed and place in a shallow baking dish, cover with an 8oz can of tomato sauce and reheat in a 350degree oven until heated through about 30-45minutes. 

My favorite way to serve these is with MORE sauerkraut, I can't get enough of sauerkraut, some mac and cheese on the side and viola...dinner is served! 

As my kids break it down:  the meat is the protein, the 'kraut and cabbage the vegetable and the rice inside the starch, truly a one bowl meal, but my mom always added mac n' cheese on the side so I do too!



Stocking up on Enchiladas!

I attended our monthly 'cooking club' through OSC.  This particular theme was 'new year, new recipe.'  I managed to pull out a 'cake in a crock pot' from some website I can no longer locate, thank goodness I printed out THAT recipe!  It was a hit!  I will post on that on another tangent day, but trying to stick to 'freezer food' today.

I have made enchiladas for 10 years, the same way, shred chicken, can of sauce and some cheese.  Viola!  Well at our club this weekend there was a most AMAZING Creamy Enchilada Verde  (http://www.tasteandtellblog.com/2011/12/chicken-black-bean-zucchini-enchiladas/).  After talking to the young lady who made it, it was intended to be a 'healthy' version of the cream sauce and added protein and veggies to the enchiladas, would aide in any New Year's resolution to "eat healthier."  While it did take a litte bit to get it together I tell you it was (and will be out of the freezer) SO WORTH IT!  I even think think this verde sauce would make a GREAT soup base, a sauce drizzled over chicken and rice.....oh my mouth is drooling already!  Just plan 45-60 minutes to get dinner assembled or prepped for the freezer...sooooo good and sooooo worth it!


For the Chicken:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the Black Bean Filling
olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 pound zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into quarter-inch slices
1 clove garlic, minced
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Sauce
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalepeno, seeds and ribs removed, minced  (I did omit this for my kids' sake)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup sour cream
1 4-oz can fire-roasted mild green chiles
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
cayenne pepper, to taste

For the Enchiladas
8 8-inch flour tortillas
3/4 pound Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish

1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking dish with foil.

Make the chicken:
In a bowl, combine the Dijon, olive oil, chili powder and salt. Add in the chicken breasts and stir until the chicken is coated. Place the chicken on the prepared baking dish and cook in the preheated oven until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool enough to handle. Once cool, shred the chicken and set aside.

Make the black bean filling:
Coat the bottom of a large skillet with the olive oil. Add in the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and saute until it is tender, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, beans, chili powder, cumin and salt and cook until the beans are tender, another 5 minutes. Place the mixture in a large bowl and add the cooked, shredded chicken. Set aside.

Make the sauce:
Wipe out the skillet you were using for the bean filling. Melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the garlic and jalepenos and cook until fragrant and softening, about 4 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the stock, then change the heat to high, bringing the mixture to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer until it has reduced a bit and become opaque, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor. Add the sour cream, the chiles, cumin, chili powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Puree until smooth.

Assemble the enchiladas:
Coat the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish with the green chile sauce, reserving the rest of the sauce. Fill each of the 8 tortillas with the chicken and black bean mixture, a spoonful of the cheese, and a sprinkling of cilantro. Roll up and place seam side down in the baking dish. Pour the remaining green chile sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

**At this point cover with foil, label and freeze.  On cooking day, thaw overnight in fridge, bake at 350degrees for 40-50min until heated through.

**Other suggestions (and what I did today).  I doubled the chicken and used two chicken breasts for this recipe and two to make 'red' enchiladas.  In my red enchiadas I added one can of pinto beans to the chicken and some cheese.  As mentioned above with the 'sauce' for red enchiladas I used one can of red enchilada sauce, 1/2 can of chicken broth, and 1/4c. cilantro, mixed in a blender.   Pour 1/4-1/2c. of sauce just to coat bottom of pan.  I filled 8 tortillas with mixture, rolled and placed in a pan for freezing.   I smothered the rolled enchiladas with the sauce from the blender.  Sprinkled cheese, covered with foil, freeze to be baked later, just as above.


Chicken Stuffed Shells

A friend shared this recipe with me a few years ago, she graciously brought our family dinner one night amidst our craziness!  CLICK HERE  She tailored it a bit and I have since tailored it to our own families taste.  It makes GREAT leftovers and is so easy to double or triple the recipe to make a few pans for the freezer!  **The stuffing of the shells is incredibly easy, you know me it better be fast or it isn't happening!

(my version, makes one 8X8 and one 9X13 pan)

4 chicken breasts
1 box jumbo stuffed pasta shells
2 bottle of Classico Four Cheese Alfredo sauce (yummy we like this more than plain alfredo)
1 bag of stuffing (we use the bag but you could use stove top I am sure)
disposable foil pans (or whatever you want to freeze in, zip locs don't work well unless you freeze shells in a single layer and add to ziploc bag after they are frozen).

Boil chicken breasts and in another pan cook jumbo pasta shells according to package directions.
Once pasta shells are done rinse with cold water and allow to cool enough to handle.
Prepare stuffing according to package directions.  Once stuffing is done, add shredded/chopped chicken to the pan and stir to combine.  Add 1/2 of a jar of the alfredo sauce to the chicken mixture and stir to combine.

Stuff each of the pasta shells with about 2-3 Tbsp of chicken mixture and place in foil pan.  Once pan is filled with shells drizzle remaining cheese sauce on top.  (When I made today I used a 1/2 jar on the 8X8 and one whole jar on the 9X13).  Wrap top with foil and freeze!

same day: bake at 350 degrees for 30-40min, covered
If frozen: bake at 350 degrees for 60-75 (from frozen) or 45-50minutes from thawed state, covered


Italian Tortellini Soup (you choose the meat mixture you use)

Ooooo-eeeee was this soup good!!!  I think it's easily a freezer meal.  When you make it for your family double or triple the recipe (the broth and seasonings, everything but the tortellini) before you add the tortellini.  Then before adding the tortellini divide up the broth into however many servings you want.  If your family is bigger divide it in thirds, if it's a smaller number divide them amongst smaller quart baggies that make 1-2 servings for lunch or small dinner down the road. 

If you are freezing place divided broth sections into gallon/quart baggies.  Freeze it flat (for space purposes), add tortellini on serving day just before serving. 
(I am sorry I deleted the picture I took on my phone to post on here...ugh....so much for de-cluttering my phone, I deleted some of the needed pix).

Italian Tortellini Soup
12oz. beef/pork, meatloaf mix, or just ground beef, you choose your meat mixture
1 medium onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (14.5oz each) of chicken broth
1 3/4c. water
1 can (14.5oz) of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 package (9oz.) tortellini, fridge or freezer-kind, you choose
1 package (6oz) fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2 1/4 tsp. minced fresh basi or 3/4tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp. pepper
Dash of red pepper flakes, optional
Shredded parmesan cheese, optional

Crumble beef, add onion and cook it up until no longer pink.  Add garlic, cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Add the broth, water and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.

Stir in the tortellini and return to a boil, according to package directions.  Add the spinach, basil, pepper and pepper flakes, cook 2-3 minutes or until spinach is wilted.  Serve with cheese if desired.


Black Bean Chicken

This is one of those no brainer meals you can throw together tonight. The nice thing about it is you can double it so it's waiting in the freezer for the "OH NO ....DINNER!!" night when things are less than serene!

Shopping list
This will make two meals, one to eat tonight and one to freeze.
2 can of black bean (undrained)
6 frozen chicken breasts
3 c. of your favorite salsa

In a gallon zip loc bag, compile the other half in a pyrex to bake tonight.

1 can of black bean (undrained)
3 frozen chicken breasts
1 1/2 c. of your favorite salsa
Shake bag, seal and freeze.

For the other compilation in the pyrex bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. For the last 5 minutes, pour an 8oz bag of Monterey Jack cheese on top (or cheese of your choice). Serve with tortillas or rice.

MEAL KIT: Chicken

Meal kits, what are meal kits?  They are partially made meals you prepare ahead of time.  What makes these different from freezer meals is the meat and veggies are chopped.  There is no sauce or seasonings included in your bag so that you can use the kit for what you want on cooking day.  These are good things to have in the freezer so you can tame a craving and aren't 100% committed to a certain meal.

A meal kit you can often find in my freezer:

Dicey Chicken
2 lbs. diced chicken meat (this is for my family of 4 eaters and leftovers)
1 small diced onion
1 small diced bell pepper
Put diced chicken in one quart/gallon size baggie
Place diced veggies in another quart baggie
Place both baggies in a large gallon baggie and in the freezer.

With this meal kit you have alot of options!
Saute chicken and vegetables in 2 Tbsp. of olive oil and salt and pepper (to taste)
Prepared sauces you can add and simmer for 5 minutes to make your meal:
Sweet and sour sauce
Teriyaki sauce
Serve above with rice

Add a "Dicey Chicken" meal kit to a soup pot, saute with 1 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp for about 3-5 minutes.
Add 8 c. of chicken broth
Add 8oz sliced fresh mushrooms
Bring to a boil

To make dumplings:
1 c. flour
1 1/2tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp. parsley flakes
1/4tsp salt and pepper
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 tbsp olive oil
Stir with a fork until mixture combines.
*We enjoy large dumplings so add above mixture in golf ball size drops (I use an ice cream scoop) to boiling broth.  When done adding dumplings, cover with lid for 5 minutes (no peeking) until dumplings puff and are cooked through!

We enjoy using the above dumpling recipe with a "DICEY BEEF" kit as well.  Prepare as above but add diced rump or arm roast instead of chicken and beef broth (I like using larger dices when I have beef, 3inch by 3inch).  When I make the beef stew I allow it to simmer on low (before adding the dumplings) for about 3-5 hours to be sure beef is super tender.

When we make a "stew" with the DICEY BEEF meal kit we use beef broth, can of golden mushroom soup (makes it so hearty and taste so slow cooked).


Stuffed Pepper Casserole

I have great intentions when it comes to meal planning!  However, times DOES get away from me and for that reason I have started freezer cooking in recent years.  I make "meal kits", some have raw meat, some have cooked meat and only need a skillet zap on a rushed evening, others are a "meal in a bag" casserole.  I prepare all the food, put it in a gallon zip loc, freeze it flat.  On cooking day I thaw it on the counter (yes, I know, bad idea, feel free to thaw yours in the fridge, but mine takes too long and I don't think that far ahead) so I lay it on the counter for a few hours, once it's thawed I empty the contents of the bag into the greased casserole dish and bake!  It's easy clean up, little to no prep work (unless you count the non-stick in the pan) and we have a good meal on the table!

This is one of my favorites.  While stuffing peppers and baking is great in theory, I don't have time!  So this is a great shortcut and a recipe prepared for me when one of our babes was born!  I now find it on our table often!  Yummy!  Really good served with warm crusty bread!

Stuffed Pepper Casserole

1 c. white rice
1 lb. ground beef
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 can (14 ½ oz) diced tomatos w/basil, garlic and oregano
3 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
2 tsp. garlic salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 F – only if you plan to serve right away. Mixture can be refrigerated or frozen and baked later (See note below)

2. Cook rice according to directions.

3. Brown ground beef in skillet, drain fat and set beef aside

4. In deep skillet, cook bell pepper and onion in hot oil until tender. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 min. Stir in cooked rice and cooked beef into tomato mixture.
**If you are freezing, allow mixture to cool, and put in a gallon size zip loc, freeze flat.

On cooking day, thaw mixture and
5. pour into 9 x 13 inch pan

6. bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until bubbly

Optional: sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese after baking is done.


How do I get started freezer cooking?

I often get asked "I don't know how to get started with making freezer meals, seems like a lot of work."  Getting your 'inventory' going in your freezer is easy if you plan ahead. 

There are two ways to get started:

1.  Plan one day where you can dedicate 6-8 hours (that includes prep and clean up), pick 3 or 4 of your family's favorite recipes and begin!  Plan to make 2 meals for each recipe (so you end the day with 6 or 8 meals in the freezer).  I found meatloaf to be a great starter.  Mix your ingredients, place the ground beef mixture in a gallon size freezer bag ( you can roll or flatten bag depending on your storage capacity and limits ).  That way on cooking day, you thaw the mixture overnight in the fridge, place contents in your loaf pan of choice...bake!  Little to no clean up or prep time and you have a good/homemade meal on the table with very little effort.  While you might not each all 6 or 8 meals (however many you make) in the same month, if your freezer space allows, it lets you get started on a freezer inventory.

2.  Another way to get started is to double each of your recipes over the course of one week.  If dedicating 6 or 8 hours in one day is too much to commit to  for you, plan on doubling your recipes the next week or two and freezing one of the meals you make.  In one to two weeks you will have 8-10 meals in the freezer to get started!

While I call it "easy" you do have to plan a little.  Plan a little extra in your grocery budget (for the doubled recipes), plan for the time to prepare an extra meal or two, and plan to have the freezer space necessary to store your goods.  I have a good friend who uses a college size deep freeze (resembles the college size refrigerator).  She makes all the recipes she can and freezes them flat in a gallon size zip loc and can easily get 20+ meals in that little appliance...it's pretty amazing to see! 

Again, it takes some effort to get started but if you enjoy home cooked meals and are looking to spend a little less on eating out...give it a try!  Feel free to "comment" questions or other and I will answer away!