Meals From The Freezer


Freezer Cooking Series: Bulk Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Hello again!  Thanks so much for taking part in my FREEZER COOKING series!  We’re stocking our freezers and putting our plans in place to have a great back-to-school season.  I really appreciate you being here!  My first freezer cooking video (baked ziti) has received a lot of views.  I take this as validation that your lives are just as hectic as mine, and that we are all searching for solutions.  Stocking my freezer has been my SECRET WEAPON all these years.  Having a bunch of dinners ready-to-go in my freezer takes my stress down a few notches, opens up more time to spend with family and friends, and generally just makes me feel better.

I’ve developed all these recipes over twelve years of trial-and-error.  In the early years I read all the books, tried other people’s methods and was ultimately disappointed.  So, I set about writing my own methods and my own recipes.

To make these Bulk Creamy Chicken Enchiladas for the Freezer, you will need:

8 chicken breasts (frozen or defrosted)

1/4 cup olive oil (plus additional olive oil to line the bottoms of your pans to prevent sticking)

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 cup salsa

8 oz cream cheese

4 cups cooked rice

2 cups Colby/jack cheese, separated. One cup for filling and one cup for enchilada topping

2 dozen burrito sized flour tortillas

3-4 jars of salsa verde

1 recipe of simple white sauce (see short video below)

Ingredients for white sauce:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

6 cups milk

1/2-1 teaspoon salt

You will also need 4 3-qt casserole pans, or 2 5-qt pans.  You can make even smaller portions if you wish, to freeze individual dinners.  The defrosting and cooking time will be shorter, of course.  I often make individual portions of freezer meals for my husband and teenagers.

 

This recipe makes 4  3-quart pans of enchiladas or 2 5-quart pans.  I have a large family and hungry teenagers, so I make 5 quart pans.

 


It all starts with the chicken.  You can use a crockpot or a pressure cooker.

Chicken component:

8 chicken breasts (frozen or defrosted)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 1/2 cup salsa

Crockpot for 8 hours (on low).

Pressure cook for 1 hour.

Next, shred the chicken and add 8 oz cream cheese.


Now, add 4 cups cooked rice and 1 cup shredded Colby/jack to the chicken mixture.
Fill the tortillas, and line up in pan.  I give the pans a good dousing with olive oil before I start lining them with enchiladas.

 


Cover with white sauce (recipe and method on video above), and 1/2 – 1 jar of salsa verde.

Top with remaining 1 cup of cheese.  Cover with foil and freeze for up to 2 months.  To cook, take out of freezer and place in a COLD oven.  Turn the oven to 350* and bake for 1 1/2 hours with foil.  Remove foil and continue baking until the top is bubbly (about 20 minutes).

It serves up very well with a little salad and hot sauce.  Sour cream too, if you’ve got it!

Thank you so much for being part of my freezer cooking series!  I really appreciate you taking the time to watch my videos and click on my website.  I hope you enjoy this recipe.  If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact me either in a comment here on this blog, or through my facebook page.

I hope you are having a peaceful day, wherever you are!

Shannon Vavich


Lemon Cilantro Chicken Thighs (Freeze Ahead Recipe)

This assemble-ahead, freeze-ahead recipe is so easy to make and SO delicious, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief.  It takes only minutes to assemble, and is a snap to bake.  It’s a light, springy, fresh-tasting addition to your recipe repertoire, and the slice of lemon a top each chicken thigh will add a bit of civility to a busy weeknight.  These chicken thighs pair well with any number of easy side dishes too, such as steamed rice, egg noodles, a crust of baguette or even angel hair pasta tossed with a little olive oil and parmesan cheese.  You can’t go wrong.

 

Lemon Cilantro Chicken Thighs

6-8 chicken thighs (I use the individually frozen thighs, and I do not defrost them before assembling this recipe)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sesame oil

1 lemon (cut into as many slices as you have chicken thighs)

1 teaspoon salt

bunch of cilantro (about 1 1/2 cups, chopped
Simple assemble the ingredients in 1 gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bag.

It’s really that easy.

You can make as many as you want.  In fact, mass producing them is super efficient.  Each will keep for 8 weeks in the freezer.

When you’re ready to cook, set the bag on the counter for 4-6 hours.  It will defrost as it marinates.  Conversely, you can defrost a bag in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Pour all the contents of the bag (including the liquids) onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 400 degrees F for about 50 minutes.

Video:

 


Freezer Cooking Series: Baked Ziti From the Freezer 1

Update: The video was from last summer, but the written post below was from a couple of years ago.

DSC_1411Dinners from the freezer:  Because sometimes you need to drop everything and explain to your kids why we don’t draw swastikas on things.

“Look what we made, Mama!”, my five and seven-year-old sons said proudly.  As they waved a little homemade flag with a hand-drawn swastika on it.

I don’t think anything can quite prepare you for the sight of two little boys brandishing a swastika.  Especially if those boys are yours.  Not to mention, they had just gotten brand new Marine Corps haircuts and for a minute they both looked like something right out of Hitler Youth.  I just about passed out.

Thirty minutes later, they were both sitting on the sofa, pale as ghosts, mouths wide open.

As I wrapped up my thirty minute impromptu presentation on why we are never allowed to draw a swastika, EVER, they both looked up at me with solemn little faces and said, “We promise, mama, we’ll never draw that thing again.  Never.  Ever”.

And they haven’t.

Children are capable of understanding more that you might think.

“The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”.  The saying may be cliché, but hear me mama’s of the world:  If you think that learning history and passing on those lessons of history to your children is beyond your job description, you would be wrong.

And it really is okay to ban certain things from your home.  In fact, it’s your job.

It’s okay to say “no”.  It’s okay to tell the truth about horrific bits of history.  It’s okay to drop everything, let the household come screeching to a halt, and draw the line.  I do it all the time.  Whenever something happens which is what we’ll call a “HELL NO MOMENT”, I drop everything and address it.  Dinner is delayed, playdates are canceled, we miss lessons and practice.  Even my precious laundry routine is halted.  One thing I’ve never done is let issues of a character nature (or other serious issues) slide just because life is moving us in an insanely fast direction.  I’m THE MAMA, and I’ll say “time out” whenever I need to so I can draw the line.

No one tells you about this in that parenting manual we never got.

The swastika drawing incident of 2016 was not a character issue, but it demanded the same level of “hell no” response on my part.  My boys had just seen that symbol in one of the many WWII documentaries that their big brother watches.  They were just trying to make a menacing looking flag for their back yard Nerf Gun war.  They had no idea what it really meant.

They know now!

Ban on swastikas.

Because there’s no such thing as “swastikas in moderation”. Just like there’s no such thing as “cheating in moderation”  or “trashing the house (frat party-style) in moderation “, just to name a few.

Mama says “hell no”.

For those “hell no” moments, I always keep a couple ziti’s in the freezer.

DSC_1400Ta-Da!

This recipe makes two full pans and you can throw them both together in about thirty minutes.  Pop them in the freezer and you’re ready to smack down whatever axis of evil comes knocking……and still get dinner on the table in good time.

 

HOWEVER…..I have learned that there are a couple dishes that are easy to throw together, and can really get you out of a bind when your kids have just transformed themselves into the Hitler Youth and you really, REALLY need to put everything else on the back burner while you sort that shit out.

This baked ziti would be one of those “do able” recipes.

DSC_1360In my opinion, the whole point of a “freezer recipe” is that it comes together quickly.  We’re doing it to SAVE time, so we need to be able to throw it together in a flash.

The recipe is a simple ratio:

For ONE pan of ziti you’ll need

1 Pound penne, boiled

1 small container (11oz-16oz) whole milk ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1 jar of marinara sauce

1 8oz block of mozzarella, grated

Ratio up for each pan you want to make.

Advice for newbies:  Keep it small.  I can throw together 8 pans when my kids are in school and I have the house to myself.  4 pans when they are running around and I feel I have extra energy.  Two pans when I’m just desperate to get something in the freezer.  Choose your ratio wisely based on where you are in your life and how much you feel you can accomplish without completely exhausting yourself.

I digress.

 

You’ll also need some foil, nonstick spray, and some aluminum casserole dishes.  You can use glass or earthenware casserole dishes if you want.  You can freeze the ziti in several small containers, or one big large one.
DSC_1368First, mix the eggs and the ricotta.

DSC_1371Kind of hard to get it all mixed nicely, but use a whisk and keep it up.  It will break down.

DSC_1372Nice and smooth.  Just right.

DSC_1375Put the cooked pasta into the disposable pans.  I coat them with nonstick spray, first.  Plop spoons of the egg/ricotta mixture over the top of the pasta.

DSC_1382You can leave them in clumps (left), or stir it so each piece of pasta is coated.  It’s both good.  You decide if you want ricotta clumps or not.  I like both.

DSC_1388Next, pour a jar of sauce over each pan of penne and ricotta mixture.  I have a great recipe for homemade sauce and I do think it’s better than jarred sauce, but remember – the whole point here is to throw something together in minutes, then throw it in the freezer.  If you want to use your own recipe of sauce, I’m sure it will turn out very well.
DSC_1397Grate your cheese and throw it over the top.  One 8oz block of mozzarella for each.

DSC_1398So, here’s a little trick:  You are going to cover each with foil, right?  Well before you put the foil on the ziti’s spray the side of the foil that will be FACING DOWN.  That way, when your ziti’s cooking the cheese won’t stick to the sheet of foil.

So spray the sheet of foil with nonstick spray, then turn it facing down, and cover your ziti.
DSC_1400Label it with the month you made it and a happy face for reassurance when you are having a “hell no” moment.  Because you will.  You will be frustrated.  You will be terrified.  You will be exhausted.  You will be…….

*Yoda voice*:  “You will be…”.

Pop them in the freezer for up to 8 weeks.

If you want to skip the freezer and cook them right away, NO WORRIES!  Just keep them uncovered and bake them for 30-35 minutes at 350*.

From the freezer:  Pop the whole thing (foil and all) into a COLD oven then set the temp to 350*.  Bake for 1 1/2  hours.  Take off foil and bake for 15-20 minutes more.

1 1/2 hours.  That’s enough time to set things straight.  Run an errand.  Pick someone up from soccer.  Call your spouse and announce that tonight is one of “those nights” and that you’ll need full moral indignation as a back up measure.
DSC_1411And that’s just how it’s done.

No one said parenting was going to be easy.  But it’s do-able.  It really is.  You just try.  And then go to bed, and get up the next morning and try again.  You educate yourself, and check yourself, and keep on trying.  It’s the most important thing you will ever do.

You’ll be okay, kid.