Make Ahead Meals-Batch One

For the next few posts I’ll be sharing some meal prep I’ve got going on this fall.  Before school starts, I always like to stock away some freezer meals and some easy, bulk breakfasts and snacks.  During Christmas break, I do the same thing before heading back for second semester.  It is just one of those little things that ends up making a BIG difference.

This year, more than most, I feel the pressure to get ahead.  With baby number two on the way, my nesting mode already switched to ‘on’ long ago, and meal prep just seems so important right now!

I have carefully chosen meals and other bulk recipes to make, and I have divided everything up over several non-consecutive weekends (yes, I even marked everything out on the calendar). This way, I don’t have to do a meal-prepping marathon-which is fun (when you’re not seven months pregnant)-and I can make more in the end than I’d have the time and freezer space for if I did it all at once.

Batch one is simple: two freezer Crock Pot recipes that will be perfect for the fall, along with one healthy breakfast cookie recipe that has already been ‘kid-approved’ at my house.

For each freezer meal, I made two batches which ends up being four meals total.  Each meal will contain about 4-8 servings.  You can do singles, double, or triple the recipe-whatever works for you and your freezer space.  First, I pile all ingredients on the counter so that I can prep as quick as possible.

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Next I prepare my freezer bags.  On the label I write the name of the meal, the cook time and temp, and any extra ingredients or instructions.  Some people also jot down an expiration date or write the date the meal was made; but in our house, we eat these so quickly that I haven’t found that type of labeling to be necessary! 😀

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After everything is set, I begin filling bags!  At the end of it all, I lay the bags flat and even them out so they stack neatly in the freezer. Some people choose to double-bag each meal just in case the seal should pop open and spill.  I have never had an issue with that, so currently I just use one bag per meal.

And now for the recipes….

Meal One: Crock-Pot Cheesy Tortellini Soup

16 oz frozen tortellini
1 small bag fresh spinach
2 cans (15 oz) Italian style diced tomatoes
1 box or 4 cups vegetable broth
1 block (8oz) cream cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Toss all but the vegetable broth in a gallon-sized freezer bag, and freeze for up to 3 months.  When ready to eat, throw the contents of the bag into your Crock-Pot along with the vegetable broth, and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours.  This pairs well with garlic bread, or a simple, grilled sandwich.

I always buy all ingredients at the same time (unless they will spoil), for example: I bought the broth and it’s waiting in my pantry for when I want to cook this meal.  That way I don’t have to remember to buy extra ingredients later.  Instead, I’m always ready for any meal craving that comes my way!

Here is the source where I found this delicious meal.

 

Meal Two: Crock-Pot Chicken Alfredo

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 small cans of cream of chicken soup (I used cream of mushroom, you can also make your own)

1 block (8 oz.) of cream cheese

1 packet of Italian dressing mix

Place all into a freezer bag and freeze for up to three months.  When you are ready to cook, drop everything into the Crock-Pot for 6-8 hours on LOW.  You can serve this hearty sauce over the pasta of your choice. Pair it with a side of veggies and *poof* you’ve got a delicious dinner for the fam!

 

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Last but not least: Carrot Cake Breakfast Cookies!  These can be made ahead for a simple breakfast-on-the-go, or even frozen for up to two months.  I made a couple of changes to the original recipe, so my version is below:

2 ¼ cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup oat flour or whole-wheat flour (I used whole wheat)
½ cup white flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup cinnamon applesauce
½ cup honey
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup (4 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup grated carrot
1 apple, grated, peel left on

For the carrot and apple, I just chopped both in my food processor for ease.  Then, I dumped everything into my mixer, combined until it looked gooey–kind of like a chunky cake batter consistency.  Next, make patties about the size of your palm and press them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake in the oven for 14 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let the breakfast cookies cool on the pan a few minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack.

 

Follow me on Pinterest to get a sneak peek of other meals I might be prepping along with family activities for the fall!

Italian Meatball Risotto

I don’t know how to make risotto.  I just tried it once, and it tasted good to me, so I go with it.  If I invited a food critic over for dinner, my risotto might be heavily critiqued-who knows….but again, it’s good enough for me!

Looking to clean out the pantry and fridge of a few items, and with a relentless craving for (my version of) risotto, I decided to really challenge myself and come up with my own, original risotto recipe.  Now, knowing that I don’t know how to make risotto, you might want to call this “Italian Meatball Rice,” but I’m going to continue pretending to be fancy, so the word Risotto will remain in the title 😉

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I wrote down a couple of items I had that I wanted/needed to get rid of: Rice, marinara, spinach, and ground beef.  Next I added the base for risotto: Arborio rice, broth, and wine (okay, maybe you don’t haaaave to have wine..).  And finally, I threw in some spices and cheeses to round everything out.

I made sure to make the recipe one that I could easily halve or double.  If you make it with the quantities I list here, it will serve about 8 people. 

Per serving:        Calories:  370
              Fat: 18.6         Carbs: 25.8           Protein: 24.4
Find this recipe on the MyFitnessPal  app under “Meatball Marinara Risotto.”

 

Italian Meatball Risotto:

Ingredients:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 2 cups Arborio Rice
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup white wine  (you can trade this for water if you wish)
  • 2-4 cups water
  • 1, 10 oz. box of spinach, drained
  • 1 T. basil
  • 1 T. parsley
  • 2 t. oregano
  • 20 oz. of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese diced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Meatballs– you can purchase frozen meatballs, or follow the recipe below to make your own.

  • 1 lb. of ground beef
  • 1 egg white (3 T. of liquid egg white)
  • 1/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • Pinch each of salt and pepper

 

Procedure:

For the meatballs, combine thawed beef with beaten egg white, breadcrumbs, and seasonings.  Fold everything together until well combined.  Form 1/2 inch- inch meatballs. and bake at 350 for 10 minutes on a foil-lined tray.

For the risotto, melt the butter over medium heat in a large and wide saucepan (I use a wok for risotto).  Once melted, add the Arborio rice and stir around for about 2 minutes until golden.  Add the wine (or water, if you please) and let it simmer down until almost no liquid.  Continue stirring.  Note: If you do use wine, it is fun because it makes a lot of noise and steam upon pouring it in so you’ll totally feel like a top chef 😉

When liquid is visibly reduced, add one cup of broth and simmer and stir until you almost see no extra liquid. This will take three-four minutes.  Repeat this process with the other three cups of broth.  If the rice looks plump and soft, stop there, if not, repeat the simmering process with a couple cups of water.  I think I used one cup of water when I made this.

When your last cup of liquid is nearly dissolved, add the marinara sauce, spinach, and seasonings.  Give that a couple minutes to heat up and then throw in the cheeses and the (now cooked) meatballs.  Turn off the heat, and stir so that everything is combined, and cheeses are just starting to melt.  Serve, and enjoy!

 

What other ingredients would you like to see in a risotto? Leave me some feedback below!

Must-Make Gingerbread Cookies

Something about gingerbread just says Christmastime to me.  If you like gingerbread-or even if you don’t- these cookies are PERFECTION.  They are full of spice, and very soft. I have made these multiple times over the last few years and they sure do please a crowd!  Enjoy.

Must-Make Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients

  •  4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt

 

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix butter and brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy.
  2. Mix in eggs, one at a time, and then molasses. Reduce speed to low.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder, spices, and salt and add to bowl; mix on low until just combined. Add more flour if needed.  Dough should not be overly sticky.
  4. Roll dough out between parchment or the Dough E-Z mat, and let it rest by refrigerating until cold, about 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut out cookie shapes and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, approximately 2 inches apart, and re-roll out dough and cut shapes as needed. Refrigerate until firm; at least 15 minutes to 1 hour.
  6. Bake cookies until lightly golden; 10 to 14 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the cookie. Let cool on wire racks and serve as is or decorate with icing.

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This recipe has been adapted from sweetopia.net

My Notes

The only issue I ever have with these is the sticky-ness of the dough.  If it still seems sticky after the initial hour in the fridge, add flour!  The dough should look and feel like normal sugar cookie dough.

I like to frost these with a simple, white icing.  I tried a ‘dipped’ technique this year that worked really well. (And of course didn’t take a picture! Ugh.)  Just mix powdered sugar with a little water until you get an icing mixture with a slightly runny consistency.  Dip half of the cookie in the icing mixture and then let it drip off until only a thin layer is left clinging to the cookie.  Dry on wax paper and then muse over the uber-elegant look 😉

 

Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole

This post contains affiliate links to my favorite place ever: Amazon.com

 

Waking up to the smell of breakfast cooking makes for the sweetest of mornings.  And, with the help of the Crock Pot, this food fantasy can become real!

I have a couple of Crock Pot breakfast recipes on rotation, but this one stands out as a crowd-pleaser.  This can also double as a dinner recipe–leave everything in the crock pot all day while you’re at work, and come home to a warm, comforting meal.  Breakfast or dinner, it doesn’t really matter when you try it; just try it!

Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole

Ingredients

1/2 lb ground sausage, cooked

1/2 onion, minced

16 oz. frozen hash browns

1 c. shredded cheddar

6 eggs (or 18 T. egg whites)

1/2 c. light sour cream

1/2 c. skim milk

1/2 t. dry mustard

1/2 t. garlic powder

Preparation

Brown the sausage in a skillet and add onions in for a few minutes to soften.  (*Tip: I loathe the crunch of an onion! So, I always puree onions before adding them to a recipe.) When they become translucent, drain any grease that has accumulated and set the skillet aside.

In your crock pot, layer half of the hash browns, meat, and cheese.  Then repeat the layers.

In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, sour cream, eggs, and seasonings.  (*Tip: If you don’t have dry mustard, use Dijon.  Mustard in a cheese sauce really helps the flavors pop!) Pour the egg mixture over top of the contents of your crock pot and cook on Low for 5-8 hours.

 

Click on the pictures to access my must-haves for this recipe:

These Slow Cooker liners are perfect for a no-fuss clean up.  With an egg dish like this, the liners will really come in handy.

 

 

The Crock Pot on the right is very similar to the one I own.  The nice part about this model is that you can clamp the top on for easy travel.

 

 

This Crock Pot, pictured left, will be my next purchase whenever my current one decides to bite the dust.  It is programmable! Oooh so fancy!  I’ve seen it on sale for under $40, too!

 

 
These silicone utensils are everything.  I love them for Crock Pot recipes because they don’t scratch the pot.  

And, last but not least, a liquid measuring cup.  I actually just received my first one for Christmas this year and I don’t know how I ever cooked without it!  Game changer, for sure.  I have used it at least a dozen times and it hasn’t even been a month!

 

 

What are your favorite Crock Pot meals?  Leave ideas in the comments section below!