8 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours

Work Melissa is creeping back…I feel it.

I have the urge to be efficient.

I have the urge to make lists and get stuff done.

 

I am starting to set my alarm…early.

Summertime Melissa will be gone soon.

Thankfully, after our lovely holiday I really do feel relaxed and haven’t thought much about returning to school.

I should start thinking about school though because it starts next week.

Now the actual school stuff is no big deal, after a few operational days next week and a work day Monday, I’ll be ready for those 30 little treasures that will enter my classroom Thursday morning.

But by the end of the day during the first few weeks, the last thing I want to do is plan and prep a meal.

A few years ago, I met another teacher who said she always prepped a whole bunch of meals in the summer that she could use at the beginning of the school year.

“It just saves my sanity a little. If I need to stay at school a little later, or when I get home exhausted, I don’t have to worry about what we are going to eat.” she said.

I thought I would try it this year. Usually I do some crockpot meals, but you still have to organize, shop and prepare them when all you really want to do is crawl promptly into bed as soon as you get home.

So I found a few easy, freezable recipes and got down to work.

I decided to choose 2 chicken recipes and 2 beef recipes so that I could buy a club pack of each and use it all. These meals will feed Andrew and I for supper and give us leftovers for the next day. If you are feeding a larger family, you may want to increase the meat amounts so that there is enough.

After I had gotten all the groceries I needed, I started by labeling all my bags and containers.

On each, I put the name of the recipe and how to cook it.

8 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours

I figured I would get the easy ones out of the way first, and then tackle the more labor intensive ones after.

For each of the 4 recipes I chose, I made two batches to get the total 8 meals.

The first recipe I chose was Teriyaki Chicken.

In each bag I placed

  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 can pineapple chunks

8 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours- Teriyaki Chicken

I removed as much air as possible, zipped them shut, laid them flat and popped them in the freezer.

8 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours- Teriyaki Chicken

2 meals down, and only 15 minutes in!

Recipe #2- Peach Ginger Chicken

8 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours- Ginger Peach Chicken

In each bag I placed

  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 1 small sliced red onion
  • 12 oz bag of frozen peaches
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander

I removed as much air as possible again, zipped them shut, laid them flat and popped them in the freezer.

8 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours- Ginger Peach Chicken

4 meals done and 30 minutes down- BOOM!

Here is where the meal prepping really slowed down.

The third recipe I chose was my favorite pineapple meatball recipe from the Company’s Coming Slow Cooker cookbook.

I started by making the meatballs.

8 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours- Pineapple Meatballs

In a (not large enough) bowl, I mixed

  • 1/2 a club pack of ground beef
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 cups bread crumbs
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic

I rolled out all the meatballs and popped them into the freezer to firm up before I put them in the bags.

While the meatballs were in the freezer, I made the sauce.

In a medium saucepan, I mixed together

  • 2 cans crushed pineapple
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce

I brought it to a boil and then added 2 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in some water to thicken it up.

I let the sauce cool down and then put half the meatballs and half the sauce in each bag, laid them flat and popped them in the freezer.

6 meals done in 1.5 hours.

The last meal I tackled was lasagna. This was by far the most labor intensive, but a lasagna will feed us for days, so I can stretch over many meals…especially if I serve it will a salad.

I started by dicing half an onion and cooking it with the rest of the beef, salt, pepper and garlic.

Once it was cooked through, I drained it and added 3 jars of pasta sauce and let is simmer for 15 minutes.

While that was simmering, I mixed a large container of cottage cheese (in hindsight, I would have done 2 so that I had more for the lasagnas) with 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and some dried parsley.

I set up all my lasagna-making-stuff and got down to it.

8 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours- Lasagna

Sauce on the bottom and a layer of noodles,

8 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours- Lasagna

then some mozzarella cheese and dollops of the cottage cheese mixture.

8 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours- Lasagna

I repeated this again and then did another layer of noodles, sauce and cheese on the top.

I popped the lids on and added them to the freezer.

8 Freezer Meals in 3 Hours- Lasagna

8 meals +clean up in 3 hours.

Now maybe I’ll reward myself with a nap.

Lasagna Cook-Off

My sister makes a mean lasagna.

Liz's Lasagna

The problem is her friend, Glen, has very fond memories of the lasagna he ate as a child and he thinks HIS lasagna is pretty darn good.

Glen's Lasagna

The only way to solve the dispute, undoubtedly, was a cook-off.

Let the cook-off begin

Both contestants prepared their lasagnas at home and brought them over to our house to be cooked and subsequently judged.

Let me break down the differences between the two lasagnas:

Lasagna

Liz’s Lasagna

  • spinach/ricotta layer
  • ground beef
  • more cheese than you can ever imagine
  • thick cheese top layer
  • very structured layers and tightly packed together
  • literally weighs a tonne

Glen’s Lasagna

  • mushrooms (canned, to preserve the authenticity of his childhood memory)
  • lots of noodle layers
  • cottage cheese layer
  • ground beef
  • thin top layer of Parmesan/mozzarella cheese
  • chopped parsley on top for visual appeal and the attempt at healthiness.
  • More free-form in the layers

Everything but the kitchen sink lasagna

I threw my “everything but the kitchen sink” lasagna into the tasting mix, but decided it wouldn’t be fair to the contestants to have mine judged as I never claimed that it was the best. (but it was pretty darn good if I do say so myself AND it used up a variety of things in my fridge that were just sitting there taking up space)

Each person around the table was required to try both lasagnas. Some even ate more than one piece of each to get a better handle on the complex flavor combination. (The judging panel wanted to make  well informed votes…)  I made garlic bread and Cesar salad to go along with the lasagnas but looking back now, it was just EXTRA food that contributed to the carb coma and meat sweats we all felt by the end of the meal.

Supper is served

We voted by secret ballot and I read the votes in the traditional “Survivor” style.

Voting

In the end my sister prevailed. Her spinach/ricotta/cheese brick won the votes of most of the judges. (Glen, you know I voted for yours….it was an exceptional lasagna)

The results

It was a great time and Liz was a gracious winner.

The gracious winner

In the end, Glen and Liz decided that a hybrid of the two would make the ultimate lasagna….with the addition of a layer of salami (that was in my “kitchen-sink” lasagna and was a big hit with the judges)

Liz with her world trophy.

We’ve decided we will do this again…but not in July….it was so hot and we all sweat our way through the meal. January will be the next meeting…when we are all sick of turkey and everyone can wear their stretchy lasagna-eating pants.