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Healthy Freezer Meals

healthy freezer mealsWith today’s busy schedules and multiple responsibilities, it definitely can be an ongoing challenge to cook homemade, healthy dinners each night.  From deciding what to make, getting all the ingredients, assembling the recipe and then cooking the meal, it’s a time commitment that isn’t always practical.

Rather than have to resort to carry out yet again, with some planning ahead, you can simply pull a premade meal from the freezer and pop it in the oven or slow cooker for a healthy, easy dinner. Just add some simple sides, like a salad, vegetable, or whole grain bread, rice or pasta. As an extra bonus, you may even have leftovers that can cover lunch the next day.

To get you started, we’ve researched healthy freezer meals, and here share some of our favorites, based not only on taste, but on broad appeal to families, simple ingredients and easy assembly. For best results, note specific directions regarding freezing, thawing and cooking. If you make a few of these at once, your freezer will be stocked, freeing you from the nightly pressure of determining what’s for dinner. Enjoy!

Healthy Freezer Meals

Beef Stew (Pinch of Yum)

Freeze together:

  • 2 lbs. beef chuck, fat trimmed, cut in small-ish pieces
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thinly
  • 6 stalks celery, sliced diagonally
  • 6 carrots, sliced diagonally
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cans tomato juice (about 1 cup)

Add after cooking:

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water

Instant Pot: From frozen, 30 minutes on high pressure + 10 minutes natural release.

Slow cooker: From thawed, 5-6 hours on high.

Final step: After cooking in Instant Pot, turn on sauté function. Add cornstarch slurry. Cook for a few minutes until slightly thickened. (If using a slow cooker, add cornstarch when it’s done and let thicken for 30 minutes.)

Chicken or Turkey Meatballs (Pinch of Yum)

Mix and roll into balls:

  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper to taste

Freeze. From frozen, bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

You can also bake the meatballs first (400 degrees for 20 minutes) so that you can keep them in the freezer fully cooked and ready to go. Serve with literally anything – pasta, meatball sandwiches and more!

One Pan Tuscan Chicken Bake (Sweet Peas and Saffron)

  • 4 oz uncooked rotini or bowtie pasta (see Recipe Note for cup measurements)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms, roughly 4 cups
  • 14 oz chicken breast in 1-inch cubes (1 large chicken breast)
  • 2 cups Tuscan kale or spinach, shredded
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used mozzarella)

Heat oven to 400F. Spray a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with oil.

In the bottom of baking pan, combine pasta, flour, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, chicken stock, milk and sun-dried tomatoes. Stir until no flour clumps remain.

Scatter with mushrooms and chicken breast, and season with additional salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After baking for 30 minutes, stir in kale and cheese, then cool completely.

Cover tightly with foil, label with re-heating directions (below) and freeze up to 2 months.

To bake from frozen:

Heat oven to 350°F. Place pasta bake (still frozen and covered with foil) in oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup broth, cover back up and bake for another 15 minutes. Stir everything up, and if it is heated through, uncover and heat for a final 5 minutes.  If it’s not heated through, continue heating (covered) until it is.

Recipe Notes

4 oz rotini= 1.5 cups
4 oz bowties = 1.75 cups

Burrito Pie (Thriving Home)

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, drained
  • 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans refried beans (organic or one with no trans fat, preservatives, or additives)
  • 12 (8-inch) whole wheat flour tortillas
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar red enchilada sauce (homemade, organic or one with no preservatives or additives)
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In large skillet over medium heat, sauté ground beef for 5 minutes. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until onions are translucent (about 5 more minutes). Drain any excess fat, if desired. Mix in green chile peppers, tomatoes, and enchilada sauce. Stir mixture thoroughly, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

While meat mixture simmers, spread a thin layer of refried beans on one side of each tortilla. Set aside.

In the bottom of casserole dish(es), spread thin layer of mixture. Cover with layer of tortillas that have been smeared with the refried beans, followed by more meat mixture, and then a layer of cheese. Repeat tortilla with refried beans, meat, and cheese pattern until all tortillas are used up. Top off casserole with a layer of meat mixture and cheese.

Cover with plastic wrap and foil and place in freezer-safe container. Store for up to 3 months.

To Prepare:
Thaw for approximately 24 hours in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheese is slightly brown and bubbly.

If cooking directly from frozen state, cover with foil and increase baking time by 30-45 minutes. So total baking time will be about 1 hour, but check for the casserole to be brown on top and bubbly. Remove foil the last 10-15 minutes of baking, so the top can brown.

Quinoa-Crusted Fish Nuggets with Tartar Sauce

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup uncooked white quinoa
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 cup fat-free buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 pound skinless flounder or cod fillets, cut into 1-in. pieces
  • 1/4 cup canola mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill pickles
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

Cook quinoa in a large skillet over medium-high, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until toasted and fragrant. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor; process for 20 seconds or until finely ground.

Stir together flour, paprika, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a shallow dish. Stir together buttermilk and egg in a second shallow dish. Place ground quinoa in a third shallow dish.

Dredge fish pieces in flour mixture; shake off excess. Dip fish in egg mixture; dredge in quinoa, pressing to adhere. Place fish in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.

Freeze until solid. Place nuggets in a Ziplock plastic bag; return to freezer.

To cook, place frozen nuggets in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with greased parchment paper; lightly coat nuggets with cooking spray. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Meanwhile, stir together mayonnaise, yogurt, pickles, vinegar, mustard, dill, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Serve with fish nuggets.

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