Tag Archives: freezer meals

Elk (or Beef) Pot Pies

January is finally rearing it’s ugly head with sub-zero wind chills – although sadly there is nary a snowflake to be found around here, which means I’m just staying bundled inside instead of getting my ski on. With all that time spent inside, Will’s weekend nap times have turned into make-ahead-meal sessions for me. I’ve been knocking out hearty and warm comfort foods left and right, like these pot pies full of classic wintery flavors.

I have the good fortune to have a freezer full of elk at my disposal, which helps seriously cut the fat and pump up the protein for this dish, but a roast-style cut of beef would work just as well. If you happen to have wild game at the ready, this is a great way to keep the lean meat nice and juicy. On the same kind of note, pre-fab pie crust would be a good time saver but if you have the time, the homemade crust is really worth the little bit of extra effort.
elk potpie
Stew Filling
1 1/2 lb beef, elk, or venison, trimmed and cut into small chunks
2 C low sodium beef stock
1 C red wine
1/4 C flour
4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 C hashbrown potatoes, shredded
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1-2 tsp kosher salt
1+ tsp pepper

Combine flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper in a medium bowl and mix well.  Cut meat into bite-sized chunks and pat dry with a paper towel.  Add to bowl and toss with flour mixture until meat is lightly coated. Meanwhile in a stock pot or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.  Once melted, add coated meat to the pan.  Cook until meat is just browned, approximately 3-4 minutes.  Transfer meat back into your bowl and set aside.  This will prevent the lean game meat from overcooking and becoming tough while you cook the vegetables.

Add the onions, celery and carrots to the pot.  If needed, add another pat of butter or a drizzle of olive oil to prevent scorching.  Once vegetables begin to soften, add garlic, bay leaves, and thyme.  Season lightly with salt and pepper. Let vegetables continue to cook for another 5 minutes, then add the red wine and balsamic vinegar. Cook for another 5 minutes, allowing wine to reduce slightly and be absorbed by vegetables.

Next, return the meat to the pot.  Add the hashbrowns and the beef stock.  Bring the temperature to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Vegetables and meat should be cooked through and sauce should be thickened.  Remove from heat and allow filling to cool slightly while you prepare the pie crust.

Pie Crust
2 C flour
3/4 – 1 C shortening
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vinegar
1 C ice water (you may not use it all)
parchment paper
mini aluminum loaf tins

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.  Separately, combine vinegar and ice water.  Cut the shortening into the dry mixture in small chunks using a pastry cutter or fork. Begin adding water to the dry mixture, 1-2 Tbsp at a time as you use the pastry cutter or your hands to work the shortening into the flour.  Continue adding water until all the flour is worked in and dough just holds together.

pie crust

Divide dough into 2 balls and place each ball between 2 sheets of parchment paper.  Roll out with a rolling pin until dough is flat and thin.  Press the bottom and top of a loaf tin into the dough like a cookie cutter to shape the crusts. Use a small knife to cut out the pieces, placing the small one in the bottom of each loaf tin.

Preheat oven to 350. Gently press the bottom crust of dough into the tin. Scoop a heaping ladle of stew filling into each loaf tin. Place top crust on top and gently crimp edges onto the loaf pan.

Bake for 30 minutes if serving immediately.  If you are freezing your pot pies, trim a layer of parchment paper to fit the top of the loaf pan.  Place on top of crust and wrap twice with heavy duty freezer foil.



Filed under Main Dish, Make Ahead Meal

Freezer Friendly Meals

I have always been a fan of freezer friendly meals.  On busy nights, there is nothing better than being able to pull a homemade meal out of the freezer and simply heat it up.  With a new baby on the way, I have started spending my weekends cooking and freezing meals and treats for those busy days and long nights ahead.

I prefer to freeze meals that are precooked and simply need to be reheated before serving.  One meal that I have found freezes and reheats very well is Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken.  It is a recipe that is easy to double and is also something that my whole family enjoys.  I also like to make a large batch of rice and freeze in individual bags to serve alongside the chicken.  That way, all I need to do is take about 10 minutes to reheat and make a vegetable or whip up a quick salad.

Another meal that I have found freezes well is meatloaf. I prefer to make smaller meatloaves that are just the right size for dinner for my family. You can really use any meatloaf recipe that you like, but my favorite is a very basic meatloaf with a hint of a surprising ingredient – brown sugar! This recipe can also easily be doubled.

Basic Meatloaf

1/2 cup milk
¾ cup cracker crumbs (I use saltine crackers)
½ cup ketchup
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ tsp black pepper
1 egg beaten
1-2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 lb lean ground beef

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl, leaving out the ground beef. Add the meat and mix with your hands until just combined. On a foil lined cookie sheet, shape the meat into 2 medium size loaves. Bake at 350 or for about 45-55 minutes until fully cooked. Top with ketchup for the last 10 minutes of cooking if desired.

Let the meatloaves cool and then wrap them in surran wrap, place them in a freezer safe bag and stick them in the freezer. When I am ready to use, I just thaw them overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat in the microwave or oven. I like to freeze mashed potatoes in separate bags for a quick and easy side. Again, just thaw overnight or pull right out of the freezer and reheat!

With a little planning, I was able to prepare 6 full meals for busy days ahead.  Next time you are taking time to cook a meal, considering doubling the recipe and freezing the leftovers for another day.  It is a small step that can save you a lot of time.

Stay tuned for other freezer friendly recipes!

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Filed under Cook, Main Dish, Quick & Easy

{Make Ahead Meal} Butternut Squash Lasagna

Since going back to work I’ve relied heavily on make ahead meals that allow me to put homemade dishes on the table while spending my post-work time with the fam instead of prepping food. About once a month I’ve spent a full weekend afternoon making 4-5 freezer friendly meals that will get us 8-10 dinners. I’ll be sharing lots of make ahead meals this year but lasagna is a hearty go-to.

freezer friendly meals, make ahead meals

The Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce recipe I shared last week does double duty for me in this veggie-focused lasagna. I add Italian sausage at the request of my husband but you could easily skip it or substitute with portabellas for a completely vegetarian meal.

Butternut Squash Lasagna
1 pkg lasagna noodles
1 1/2 lb ground italian sausage
15 oz low-fat ricotta cheese
1 C parmesan cheese, shredded
1 egg, beaten
1 pkg frozen spinach, thawed & drained
2 C mozzarella, shredded
salt, pepper
Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce
2 9×9 aluminum foil roasting pans
heavy duty aluminum foil
parchment paper

In a large stockpot, boil enough water to cover the lasagna noodles. Once water comes to a boil, heavily salt water and add noodles, cooking according to package directions until al dente. Rinse with cold water to prevent sticking and set aside. Meanwhile, in a saute pan, cook italian sausage completely, about 8-10 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine egg, ricotta, 1/2 C parmesan and spinach. Season with salt and pepper.

Trim a noodle to fit your pan using a kitchen shears. Use that noodle as a template to trim the rest of your noodles. You’ll have some small loose end pieces, which can be used for your middle layer of noodles without sacrificing the structure of the lasagna. Begin by layering three full, trimmed noodles in the bottom of each foil pan. Visually divide cheese and sausage into 4 portions in your head. Spread 1/4 of the cheese mixture on top of the noodles in both pans. Top with 1/4 of the sausage. Top with a layer of squash sauce. Next, sprinkle each pan with 1/3 C mozzarella cheese.

Add another layer of noodles, using end pieces as needed. Repeat layers. Finally, top each pan with another layer of complete noodles, a thin layer of squash sauce and the remaining 1/3 C mozzarella. If freezing, trim a piece of parchment paper to fit the top of each pan and cover lasagna. Use two layers of heavy duty foil to wrap tightly around pan.

If serving, bake at 400 for 50-60 minutes or until center is fully cooked and cheese topping is golden.
If freezing and serving, remove from freezer about 24 hrs before serving to partially thaw. Bake at 400 for 60-75 minutes. NOTE: I recommend setting your timer for 60 minutes and checking the temperature from there. Depending on how thawed your lasagna is your baking time will vary.

Each pan serves 4 large servings.


Filed under Healthy, Main Dish, Make Ahead Meal

Creamy Chicken Taquitos

Every once in awhile I come across a recipe that is so good, it instantly gets put into my monthly rotation.  This chicken Taquitos recipe adapted from Our Best Bites is just that kind of recipe.  It is seriously good and quite easy to make, but the best part is that these little, baked taquitos can be doubled and frozen so you can eat them any time of day with almost no effort.

The chicken taquitos are filled with a delicious creamy chicken mixture and then baked up to crispy perfection.  I serve them with a sauce of equal parts mashed avocado and sour cream.

Creamy Chicken Taquitos

3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup green salsa
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (or pepper jack if you prefer more of a kick!)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Line a cooking sheet with tin foil or a silpan and set aside.

Mix the softened cream cheese with the salsa, lime juice, seasonings, cilantro, shredded chicken and cheese.  Stir until well combined.  Now you are ready to fill your tortillas.  The tortillas I buy are very soft and usually don’t crack.  If you are having a problem with this, just microwave them for a couple seconds each in order to get them to a nice pliable consistency.

Take your tortillas and place a small amount of the filling (2-3 tsps) in a line a little off center.

Roll the tortilla up completely and place it seam side down on your prepared cookie sheet.

Continue until you run out of filling.

Spray each taquito with a mist of cooking spray or olive oil from an olive oil mister and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Bake for 15-20 minute or until the they are crispy and lightly brown.  Dip in cool, creamy ranch dressing, guacamole or sour cream.

If you prefer to freeze the taquitos for another time, place them in a freezer safe bag after you roll each taquito up, but before you spray them with the cooking spray.  Then when you are ready to eat, just take them out of the freezer, pop them on a cookie sheet, spray them and sprinkle some salt on them.  Bake at 425 for about 20-23 minutes.  No need to thaw!


Filed under Cook, Main Dish