Freezer Meals for Beginners

It sounds amazing, doesn’t it? To cook one day and eat for a month and save money in the process? So many moms on Pinterest do it like it’s no big deal. For some reason, though, the idea of making a bunch of meals and freezing them for the week or month has always seemed intimidating to me. Thankfully, this month’s Recipe Redux theme is freezer meals, so I had some motivation to overcome my fear of cooking in bulk. I did my research and have compiled some tips for other beginners (like me) right here:

Things you’ll need:

  • Freezer bags or freezer safe plastic containers
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • 6 quart crockpot (but not for today’s recipe)
  • Freezer space
  • Large mixing bowls
  • Permanent marker

Honestly, that’s about as far as I got in my research before realizing I can totally handle this and so can you! So let’s get right to it. My very first freezer meal is a seasoned turkey burrito bowl. I chose this recipe because you can easily freeze each component separately to use in other dishes if you get tired of eating burrito bowls. I was also inspired by the cooking philosphy in the cookbook “Well Fed,” in which Melissa Joulwan does all the chopping of vegetables and cooking of meats on Sundays like a CrossFit workout for time and then assembles the prepped ingredients on weeknights to finish off her meals in just a few minutes. Thinking of meal prep as a timed workout helps to make the process more efficient! By the way, if you’re cool with eating the same thing every night, you could store this meal in the fridge instead of the freezer and enjoy dinner for one 5 nights in a row. 

  
Turkey Burrito Bowls

Ingredients:

(Serves 5)

-20 oz lean ground turkey

-2 tablespoons taco seasoning

-1 cup brown rice

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-1 large onion, sliced

-1 green bell pepper, sliced

-1 red bell pepper, sliced

-1 can black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed

-For serving: shredded lettuce, salsa, avocado, shredded cheese, and/or sour cream

Preparation:

1. Brown the ground turkey in a 10″ skillet, breaking it into crumbles until no longer pink inside. Add taco seasoning and stir to thoroughly coat the turkey. Set the meat aside to cool.

2. Cook the brown rice on the stovetop or in a rice cooker by combining 2 and a half cups of water with the cup of rice, bringing to a boil, and reducing to a simmer until all liquid is absorbed (30-45 minutes).

3. Heat the olive oil in a 10″ skillet over medium high heat. Once hot, sauté the vegetables until they begin to soften and caramelize, abot 5 minutes.

4. Divide the ground turkey, cooked brown rice, sautéed vegetables, and black beans among 5 sandwich sized zipper bags or pint sized plastic freezer containers. Freeze until ready to serve.

5. When ready to eat, transfer the contents of the freezer bag or container to a microwave safe dish and defrost according to microwave instructions. Alternatively, you can thaw the contents of the freezer bag/ container in the fridge during the day and zap for a minute or two on high power when ready to eat.

6. Top with shredded lettuce, salsa, avocado, shredded cheese, and/ or sour cream and serve! 

That really wasn’t so bad! I don’t have much freezer space, but I’m excited to try some more freezer meals for a family of two. Pre-prepped meals will definitely be useful over the next few months while I’m studying for the MCAT and have no time to cook!

  
Check out some more healthy freezer meals below:

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Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

This month’s Recipe Redux theme is “Spring Cleaning!” Clearly, my pantry is still in need of it:

Never mind. I was going to include a picture of the mess in there, but it’s too embarrassing! 

As I was going through my pantry to find an ingredient for this month’s challenge, I found an entire Costco sized package of canned tomato sauce. Well, if you’ve ever accidentally bought too much tomato sauce like I did, I have a great recipe you can put in your lunch or dinner rotation now!

  
Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

  

Ingredients (makes 6):

6 bell peppers: red, orange, and/or yellow

15 oz can tomato sauce

1 cup dry quinoa

2 cups chicken broth or water

16 oz lean ground turkey

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 small can diced green chilis

3 garlic cloves, chopped

Taco seasoning, to taste

6-12 oz shredded cheese (I used 2% fat Mozzarella)

Preparation:

1. Remove the tops and seeds from each bell pepper. Heat a large pot with enough boiling water to just cover the bottom below a steamer basket. Place bell peppers in the steamer basket and steam, covered, for about 5-10 minutes or until desired tenderness is achieved. You can boil the peppers submerged in water to soften them instead. Remove the peppers, pat dry with a paper towel, and allow to cool on an aluminum lined baking sheet.

2. As the peppers cool, toast the dry quinoa in a saucepan, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups boiling water or broth and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook covered for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

3. While the quinoa is cooking, sauté the onions And garlic in 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once softened and golden, set aside. Brown ground turkey in the pan until there is no pink visible and the meat is in small crumbles. 

4. Stir taco seasoning, tomato sauce, cooked onions, cooked quinoa, and diced green chilis into the turkey. 

5. Distribute the meat and quinoa mixture evenly among the bell peppers, top each one with 1-2 oz shredded cheese, and broil until golden and bubbly.

  
These reheat well in the microwave and pack easily for lunch at work! Enjoy with a side of salad. 

  
Check out other Recipe Redux creations below:

Favorite Workday Salad

I love finding a portable meal that’s flavorful, protein rich, and easy to prepare multiples of for the week! This salad has been my go-to for two weeks now and I’m still not tired of it.

Ingredients:

2 eggs or 3 egg whites, hard boiled & chopped

1/2 can of tuna

1 medium tomato, diced (or 1/2 cup grape tomatoes sliced lengthwise)

2 tablespoons finely diced red onion

1/2 cup garbanzo beans

1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

Large handful of spinach or mixed greens

1 tablespoon olive oil

Squeeze of lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

Preparation:

1. Place eggs in a pot of cold water. Bring to a boil. Cover, remove pot from heat, and set a timer for 12-15 minutes. Run the eggs under cold water to stop the cooking process and make them easier to peel.

2. Layer all ingredients except for greens in a bowl or travel container. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

3. Top with mixed greens or spinach.

4. When ready to serve, stir or shake to combine all ingredients.

And done! I like to make 2-4 of these at a time to keep in the fridge for lunch on weekdays. They hold up well as long as the spinach/greens are on top!

Enjoy!

Albondigas Soup (Meatball Soup)

It’s (kindof) soup weather in Vegas! It’s still really warm, but it’s been gloomy out and raining all day. All I’ve wanted to do today is come home and curl up on the couch with a blanket, soup, and my husband to watch How I Met Your Mother. Now that I’m getting home from work earlier, I actually have time to cook AND relax! It’s pretty great. Here’s what I think is one of the BEST soups I’ve ever had! It has so much flavor and it comes together quickly. Give it a try! (This recipe is my healthier adaptation of a recipe on food.com)
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Ingredients:
(for the meatballs)
– 3/4 lb lean ground turkey
– 1/4 lb raw chorizo (pork or beef)
– 1 egg
– 2 cloves of garlic, minced
– 1/2 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa
– 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
– 1 finely grated carrot
– 1 tsp ground cumin
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/4 tsp black pepper

(for the soup)
– 1 tbs olive oil
– 1 cup diced celery
– 1 cup diced onion
– 6 cups low sodium beef broth
– 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
– 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
– 1/2 tsp cumin
– 1 tsp dried oregano
– 1 large zucchini, sliced

Directions:
1. Begin by making the meatballs. In a large mixing bowl, combine all meatball ingredients and combine thoroughly with your hands.

2. Wet your hands and form small meatballs out of the ground meat mixture. Place them on a baking sheet or cutting board. You should end up with 35-40 small, 3/4″ diameter meatballs.

3. Refrigerate the meatballs while completing the following steps. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium/ high heat. Add the diced celery and onion to the hot oil and stir around for about 3 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

4. Add the beef broth, tomatoes, cilantro, cumin, and oregano to the pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Carefully drop the meatballs into the boiling soup one by one. Bring the heat down to a gentle boil and continue to cook for 10 minutes.

6. Finally, add the sliced zucchini and simmer for 5-10 minutes more.

I hope you like this soup as much as Colby and I did! The above recipe makes about 8 servings.

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Mini Taco Cups

I’ve been cooking a lot, but not posting much lately. I wanted to share this awesome easy recipe with you today since I have a bit of time on my hands. Before coming up with this easy version, I was making a similar but more labor intensive stuffed egg roll recipe. These taco cups are cute, crunchy, and satisfying. Serve them at a football party or pack a few in your workday lunch. They’re tasty hot or cold!
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Ingredients:
24 wonton wrappers (sold in the produce section of your grocery store next to the tofu)
1/2 lb lean ground turkey or beef
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup salsa
1-2 tsp taco seasoning
Cooking spray
1/2 cup 2% reduced fat shredded Mexican blend cheese
Cilantro, sour cream, and/or guacamole for garnish

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and lightly spray two 12-cup muffin tins with cooking spray.
2. Brown the ground meat in a frying pan until no longer pink. Drain.
3. In a separate pan, saute together the bell pepper and onion until tender. Add to the ground meat.
4. Stir in taco seasoning, black beans, and salsa. Mix until well combined.
5. Press a wonton wrapper into each lightly greased muffin cup. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the meat and vegetable mixture into each wonton cup.
6. Top each cupful with a pinch of shredded cheese and bake at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes, or until the corners of the wonton cups turn golden brown but not burned.

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This recipe serves six semi hungry, four hungry, or two ravenous people :)
There are approximately 280 calories per four cup serving. Enjoy!