Sweet Pecan French Toast Casserole, Basic Cream Muffins, and Poptarts ~ Freezer Cooking Challenge

I was planning to share part of this yesterday, but my website server was down most of Wednesday (ack!).  Therefore, I’m sharing the rest of my freezer cooking challenge results all in one post.  Actually, since I couldn’t work on my website Wednesday, that ended up being great kitchen time in which I experimented with new recipes and knocked out the rest of the baking I needed to do for this challenge.  Sometimes, not being able to work on the computer is a good thing.  :)

Tuesday, I made two dishes of Sweet Pecan French Toast Casserole (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook).  We ate one that morning, and I froze the other one.  My freezer is beginning to be super full.  Love this!

french toast 2

french toast 1

Yesterday, I rolled out a double batch of dough and made tons of Poptarts.  It’s been a while since I’ve made these, so everyone was very excited to have these for breakfast.  It’s a good thing I froze half before serving them, otherwise I think the boys would have just eaten them all!

poptarts freezer

Once the Poptarts were in the oven, I mixed up a double batch of Basic Cream Muffins (recipe in Let’s Do This! eCourse, Lesson 4).  I had plans to divide the dough in half, and add in different fruits.  But then I got lazy and just dumped blueberries into the bowl.  Eh, we like blueberry muffins.

cream muffins freezer

I froze the batter, unbaked, and will simply pull them out some night before bed to bake the next morning.  If you haven’t tried freezing muffin batter, you must!  I love how easy this is!  Here are all the details.

And that completes this week’s freezer cooking challenge!  How did you do?

We’ll be taking a break next week and pick back up on our freezer cooking challenges later.  I’ve got a party planned for us next week (can’t wait to share!), plus my freezer is really full.  ;)

Poppyseed Bread With Orange Glaze ~ This Week’s Freezer Cooking Challege

This quick bread recipe is our family’s favorite, hands down.  It is super moist, very flavorful, and well, it kind of tastes like cake.  It definitely tastes like a treat, even if you cut down the sugar in the recipe.

Speaking of cutting down the sugar – I’ve been really focusing on chopping sugar quantities in most of my recipes.  I’ve found that the recipes still tastes great, and my family is definitely benefiting from not eating so much of the sweet stuff.  All that to say, a few week’s ago I edited the {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook (where you’ll find the recipe for this bread) to cut the sugar down significantly.  If you purchased this book before April, your version likely calls for 1 1/2 cups of sucanat.  Yikes.  Do that if you must, but I think you’ll find that cutting it in half (or more) still turns out a great product.

poppyseed bread for freezer

For the Freezer Cooking Challenge today, find some time to make a double recipe of Poppy Seed Bread with Orange Glaze (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook).  Doubling the recipe will turn out four loaves.  Once they have completely cooled, you can set aside a loaf (or two, if you are my family) for tomorrow’s breakfast, then wrap and freeze the others for another day.  I typically just place them in freezer bags, push all the air out, and seal.  Be sure to label your bags.

When you’re ready to serve your frozen loaves, simply get it out of the freezer the night before you plan to serve it and let it thaw on the countertop.  In the morning, you can slice and eat!

This bread is wonderful with scrambled or fried eggs and a fruit such as apples, bananas, applesauce, or berries.

I can’t wait for you to try this bread! 

Easy Breakfast Casseroles ~ This Week’s Freezer Cooking Challege Begins

Today for the Freezer Cooking Challenge, we’ll be making Easy Breakfast Casserole (x2).  This is, for sure, one of the easiest make-ahead-meals to put together.

I save dirty dishes by cracking eggs directly into my casserole dishes.  Then I add remaining ingredients, whisk it up, and it’s done.  Super simple!  If you have kids old enough to crack eggs, delegate that job to them while making these casseroles.

I made two of these casseroles last week with the help of my 12 year old.  Once my casseroles were put together (it took 15 minutes, tops) – I put the lids on, and put one in the fridge to bake the following morning.  The other, I labeled and put into the freezer, unbaked.

egg casseroles for freezer

To bake my frozen Breakfast Casserole, I’ll simply put it into the fridge overnight, then bake as directed the next morning.  I may need to add a little extra baking time if it hasn’t thawed entirely.

You will love how easy it is to make this casserole ahead of time!  This kind of freezer cooking is my favorite.  It’s practically effortless, and makes putting healthy food on the table for breakfast a piece of cake. (casserole. whatever.)

Go thou into the kitchen and begin cracking eggs.  Breakfast has never been easier.

The Plan ~ Getting Ready For Freezer Cooking, Week Three – Breakfast Foods

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I’ve shared with you before that while I am a morning person, I’m not a fan of standing at the griddle flipping pancakes for an hour.  After all, there are all kinds of other important things that need to be done to get the day going.  Making breakfast the night before or pulling breakfast out of the freezer rocks my world and makes me a much more lovely person in the morning.  (Lovely at heart, that is.  I’m not saying a word about my frizzed, right-off-the-pillow hair.)

Let’s keep our mornings simple, while feeding our families healthy food too!  That’s why we’ll be focusing our Freezer Cooking Challenge around breakfast foods this week.

Here’s what I hope you’ll love about this week:  Each day we’ll be making something new from the list below.  We’ll put part of it into the freezer for another day.  But we’ll be saving one meal’s worth to serve for breakfast the following day.  That means each day this week we’ll all wake up to a breakfast that is already prepared!  Once you get into this habit, I think you’ll love it as much as I do!  Then we can all be lovely at heart in the morning.  And for those of you who naturally roll out of bed with pretty hair, you can be lovely in appearance too.  Some of us just have to live with the frizz.

french_toast_casserole_3

Here’s what I have planned to make this week:

I always serve fruit with breakfast, and I often serve eggs.  Keep that in mind as you plan your menus!

Want to join in?  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 42 eggs (3 1/2 dozen)
  • 5 cups heavy cream (1 quart plus 1/2 pint)
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • Add-ins for the Easy Breakfast Casserole (x2) – I’ll be adding ham I already have in the freezer
  • 7 cups whole wheat flour
  • 10 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 cups butter (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 cups plain yogurt (16 ounces)
  • 2 cups sour cream (16 ounces)
  • 10 ounces 100% fruit jelly or jam for Poptarts
  • 3 3/4 cups sucanat
  • 6 cups milk (1 1/2 quarts)
  • Add-ins for muffins
  • 2 loaves whole wheat bread (homemade if you like)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup orange juice

Be sure you have:

  • Sea salt
  • Baking powder
  • Vanilla extract
  • Almond extract
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Honey
  • Poppyseeds

Looks like a lot, but these groceries will provide you with 10+ meals!

I’ve created a downloadable and printable grocery list for you here:  Freezer Cooking Grocery List Three

Important Note:  If you purchased {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook before March, 2014 – I’ve since edited both the Sweet Pecan French Toast Casserole and Poppy Seed Bread with Orange Glaze recipes to cut the sugar (sucanat) in half.  Those recipes taste just as yummy without all that sugar!

Your first assignment in this week’s challenge is simply to purchase all groceries, and/or make sure you have all ingredients on hand.  On Monday, we’ll begin prepping these great breakfast foods to serve and freeze.  It’s gonna be a great week!

Let’s Do This! eCourse and {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook are discounted to just $5 for the whole package.  The recipes included in that package are some that we use all the time at our house to get ahead!

Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken – A Family Favorite Freezer Meal

I don’t think it would matter how much I of this Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken I made – my family would keep asking, “Can I have another piece of chicken?”  I definitely never can make enough.

Ah bacon and cream cheese…two of life’s happiest ingredients.  Today, I made a batch of this chicken – serving half for lunch and freezing half for another day.  It’s a super easy freezer meal to make, and great to pull out and cook quickly.  You can even cook it from its frozen state – so having it on hand can save your neck if you forgot to thaw anything for dinner.

Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken

What a great way to finish out this week’s freezer cooking challenge!  I served this at lunch today with peas and smoothies (full of spinach, strawberries, peaches, and mango).  It was a super easy lunch, packed with nourishment for my family.  I’m excited to have more of this chicken in my freezer for another meal soon.

Have you made this chicken dish yet?  You’ll find this recipe in our {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook (which is currently part of a package deal you can get for just $5).  The recipes included in that package are some that we use all the time at our house to get ahead!

As a reminder, here are the other posts from this week’s challenge:

If you’re just joining us for the Freezer Cooking Challenge, that’s great!  You can get started here.

Coming up next week, we’ll be filling the freezer with breakfast items.  I’m so excited about this, as having quick, easy, and healthy breakfast foods on hands is such a life-saver for me!

Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken ~ Freezer Cooking Week Two

Hopefully, you’ve knocked out cooking your whole chicken and making chicken broth, plus made a double batch of Black Bean Chicken Nachos for the freezer.  If you’re just joining us for the Freezer Cooking Challenge, that’s great!  You can get started here.

Today is going to be just as easy as yesterday when it comes to prepping a meal for tonight’s dinner along with putting a meal (or two) into the freezer for another time.  All you need to do is throw chicken into the crock pot, cover with bbq sauce, and let the crock pot do your work for you.  Once your chicken is done, use a portion as part of tonight’s dinner.  Allow the rest to cool, then put into a jar or freezer bag.  Place it in the freezer (clearly labeled) for a day you don’t have time to cook.

Here’s the recipe you’ll need for today:  Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken Breasts

bbq chicken dinner

As you can see, I chose to serve our Bbq Chicken on buns with cheese melted on top.  We had a busy evening with soccer practices, so setting these out on the table with fresh pineapple, carrots, and cucumbers made a quick meal for us to grab on the fly.  The rest of the chicken is now in the freezer, waiting for another day when I can pull it out to use.

I hope you’re beginning to see how easy freezer cooking can be!  Coming up next:  Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook)

How are you doing with the challenge so far this week?

Black Bean Chicken Nachos ~ Freezer Cooking Week Two

Ugly picture alert. 

Below is a picture of my container of cooked and frozen salsa chicken.  It looks kind of…eh.

black bean chicken nachos frozen 2

Makes you want to get right into the kitchen and make some yourself, doesn’t it?  It’s a shame, really, to put that picture at the top of a blog post.  Trust me though, when I say that as ugly as that chicken is in its frozen state, it really is a delicious dish.  The best part is how easy it is to make this.  Ready to get started?

You’ll find the recipe for Black Bean Chicken Nachos here.  Simply get your chicken and salsa cooking (double the recipe).  This chicken cooks on its own while you work on something else.  Then, you can add the beans and serve part of the chicken dish at lunch or dinnertime.  Allow the remaining chicken to cool, then, freeze it in a jar or Ziploc bag to pull out and serve another time.

If that wasn’t the easiest freezer cooking you’ve ever done, I don’t know what is.

Below you’ll find a much more attractive picture of this meal.  Serve it with fresh fruit, and you’ve got one very easy and family friendly meal – times two, because now you also have one for your freezer.  I’m loving this freezer cooking challenge!

Black Bean Chicken Nachos

How is the challenge going for you at this point?  If you haven’t started yet, you can join at any time!  Up next, Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken Breasts.

Cooking Whole Chickens and Making Chicken Broth ~ Freezer Cooking Week Two

Hope you’re joining us for the Freezer Cooking Challenge!  You’ll find this week’s plans here.

Today is the biggest day of our challenge when it comes to time and effort.  We’ll be making Chicken Broth, plus shredded cooked chicken for salads and stir fries.  We’re doing it first, just to get it out of the way.  The rest of the week will be so easy you won’t know what to do with yourself.

The best thing about today is that while it does take several hours to make broth, it doesn’t actually take hours of work on your part.  Once you get your chicken and veggies cooking, you can just walk away and let it do its thing.  By the end of today, you will have several jars of rich, nourishing broth.  Plus you’ll have cup after cup of cooked chicken.  Having cooked chicken means you have all kinds of quick meal options.  Simply toss your cooked chicken into soup, casserole, salad, or stir fry.

Okay, here we go!

Begin making your Chicken Broth by putting your whole chickens, carrots, onions, and other veggies into a large stock pot.  Fill 3/4 full of water.

chicken week 1

Cover pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, leaving lid on.  Allow the chicken/veggies/water to cook for 3-4 hours.  See a thorough Chicken Broth Tutorial here.

chicken week 2

Remove chickens from pot, placing them on a platter to cool for a few minutes before you take the meat off the bones.  In the meantime, strain out the veggies and broth.  Throw the mushy veggies into a blender, give them a whiz until they are smooth, then stir them into your broth for extra nourishment!  Pour broth into other bowls or pans so that it can cool.

Time to debone those chickens.

chicken week 3

Confession time:  I thoroughly dislike de-boning chickens.  I don’t know why, I just don’t like it.  So what does a good mother do?  She calls in her children and makes them do the job she doesn’t enjoy.  The good news:  My four boys got right with it and had the meat off those bones in no time as if it wasn’t a job to be despised.  Justus (age 14) and Malachi (age 9) left the kitchen afterward while saying the words, “Well, that was fun.”

I’m pretty sure they liked it because he could nibble chicken while they worked.  Okay by me.  I didn’t have to debone the chickens.

Important:  Once the chicken is off the bones, I always throw the bones back into the pot, fill it up 1/2 full of water, and cook it for another few hours to make even more broth.  Gotta use those great chicken bones for all they’re worth!  While round two of broth was cooking, I got to work with that cooked chicken.

I packaged up three Ziploc freezer bags with cooked chicken to pull out for soups and casseroles.  Then I made a big batch of Chicken Salad.  I put it into the fridge and had two meals worth ready for quick lunches.  Love this!  I put the remaining chicken in a glass pyrex storage dish in the fridge to have chicken chef salads this week.  The bagged chicken went into the freezer.

chicken week 4

When it was all said and done, I ended up with 5-half gallon jars of chicken broth.  Some is in my freezer, some is in the fridge for soups this week.

chicken week 5

You can tell the difference between batch one and batch two.  Batch one was cooked with veggies.  Batch two was cooked with bones only.  I certainly could have thrown in more veggies for round two, but I was plumb out of carrots and onions at that point.  I’ll be sure to use the veggie-less broth to make soup in which I add veggies in.

Take note also that if you are going to freeze broth in jars, be sure to leave 2-3 inches of space at the top of the jar to allow for expansion.  Do not put them into the freezer until they have completely cooled.

After today, give yourself a huge pat on the back for a job well done!  This day is a little more labor intensive than others will be, but think of all the wonderful meal possibilities you’re creating with just 2 chickens!

Coming up next in the freezer cooking challenge, we’ll be making Black Bean Chicken Nachos….

The Plan ~ Getting Ready For Freezer Cooking, Week Two

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Are you ready (to get ready) for our Freezer Cooking Challenge, week two?  This time, we’ll be focusing on chicken recipes.  Want to know what’s coming up after this week?  I’ve updated the post which shares the challenges to come.  You’ll want to check it out!

Here’s what I have planned to make next week in an effort to put chicken dishes in the freezer.  Want to join me?

If you joined the challenge last week and ran out of Pyrex dishes, you’ll be glad to know that you don’t have to use any casserole dishes this week (unless you want to)!  This week, you’ll just need Ziploc type freezer bags and jars.  :)

The Grocery List

  • 2 whole chickens (more if you like)
  • veggies for making broth (like carrots, onions, and celery)
  • 10 pounds (give or take) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup (for barbecue sauce)
  • 4 cups salsa
  • 4 cups cooked black beans (or 2 cans prepared black beans)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 pound bacon

Miscellaneous items you’ll need:

  • minced onion
  • sea salt
  • garlic powder
  • black pepper
  • liquid smoke
  • cheese, chips, sour cream, and other nacho toppings if you plan to serve Black Bean Chicken Nachos this week
  • fruit and veggie side dishes

I’ve created a downloadable and printable grocery list for you here:  Freezer Cooking Grocery List Two

Your first assignment is simply this:

Check out the recipes above and purchase all needed groceries.  Then, look at your schedule next week to see how you might be able to work out the following:

On Monday, we’ll start by cooking our whole chickens to make Chicken Broth.  Wednesday we’ll work on Black Bean Chicken Nachos.  Thursday will be our Crock Pot Barbecue Chicken Breasts day.  And we’ll wrap up on Friday by making Bacon Wrapped Cream Cheese Chicken.  By the end of the week, you will have fed your family very well, plus you will have a freezer full of broth, pre-cooked chicken for salads, stir-fries, and casseroles, plus packages of bbq chicken, salsa chicken, and bacon wrapped chicken for easy-to-heat-up meals!

If that particular schedule doesn’t work for you – no problem!  Those are the days I’ll be blogging about my freezer cooking progress with each of those recipes, but you can certainly work at your own pace and in your own time.

Ready…go!

Don’t forget, Let’s Do This! eCourse and {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook are discounted to just $5 for the whole package.  The recipes included in that package are some that we use all the time at our house to get ahead!

Cheesy Beef and Pasta Casserole ~ Finishing Freezer Cooking Week One

Heya!  We are in our final stretch with week one of the Freezer Cooking Challenge.  I have loved hearing from so many of you that have joined in.  This is so much fun – cooking together!  Too bad we can’t also do dishes together.  Or make our kids do dishes together so that we can all just sit and drink coffee together and chat.  Yes, I like that plan.  Why did I not think of that before?

Here’s what we’ve made so far:

Now, we’re down to Cheesy Beef and Pasta Casserole (recipe in {Healthy} Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook).  This casserole has definitely become a family favorite.  It is as simple to make as spaghetti, yet it tastes like something super special.  That’s probably because I always stir in a lot of love.  Love, that is, in the form of cream cheese.  It has a love language all its own, right?

To finish up this week’s freezer cooking assignments, all you need to do is get out the remainder of your cooked meat, boil your noodles, stir together all remaining ingredients, spread mixture into pans, top with cheese, put on a lid, label, and you’re done.  Phew.  Sounds like a lot, but really, it’s as easy as making spaghetti.  While stirring in love.  And cream cheese.

beef freezer cooking 6

The night I finished this and served it, we ate it with a simple salad and roasted asparagus.  So much deliciousness!  I love knowing I’ve got another dish of this casserole in the freezer ready to be served on a busy day.

cheesy beef pasta meal

At this point, hopefully you’ve put together eight casseroles: four to eat this week, and four to freeze for another day.  This freezer cooking thing really isn’t so hard, is it?

Stay tuned for upcoming plans for Freezer Cooking Week Two - the week of the chicken.  I’ll have a grocery list and game plan ready for you on Friday. :)

Give us an update! How is the challenge going for you this week?