Preparing My Kitchen for Soccer Season

Bring on the soccer games, the soccer practices, the soccer referee schedules (for our older boys), and the general soccer craziness at our house!  While the spring soccer season isn’t as intense as the fall season (college soccer takes place in the fall on top of our boys’ soccer) – I still find myself running a little bit ragged trying to keep everyone in clean, matching soccer socks during these weeks of games.

Having a few extra food items ready to warm up quickly to feed the family is helpful during any time of the year.  But during soccer season, I find it especially helpful.  Therefore, last week, I spent a few hours each day working to get ahead.  As a result, I’ve got a freezer packed with healthy, easy to grab and heat meals.

In case you’re interested in seeing a few photos to document my efforts (and some recipe links to motivate you toward getting some food in your freezer too!), here you go:

I made a double batch of Taco Corn Fritters for lunch one day.  We ate half, then I froze half.  These will warm up great in our toaster oven.

I made two Green Bean Casseroles (using a recipe in this holiday ebook), but I added some hamburger meat to make it an “all in one meal”.  These will be perfect to throw into the oven before or after a game.  (And by throw, I really mean “carefully slide”.  Please do not throw casseroles into your oven, especially when they are in glass dishes.)

These Creamy Chicken and Rice Casseroles didn’t make it into my freezer, as I served them all for High School Huddle on Sunday.  But since I put them together during my “extra cooking days”, I decided they would feel left out if they didn’t have their opportunity for a photo shoot.

I prepared seven pounds of Chicken Fried Steak Strips, froze them on parchment paper, then put the frozen strips into freezer bags.  These are wonderful to have on hand to grab out and cook up quickly.  I was lazy and put several layers on one cookie sheet just to see if it would work.  Yay!  It worked.  (Good thing too, or I would have had seven pounds of chicken fried steak in one huge rectangular chunk!)

We all love these Raw Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites – which sound like a dessert – but are really a high protein, healthy snack.  They freeze well, or store well in the fridge.

The following picture is not meant to be motivating at all, but rather posted so that you can feel very sorry for me and say nice things about how awful it is that a mess like this happened in the middle of my hard working cooking time.  (Woe is me.)  I had a pint of cream sitting on my counter that I knocked off with my elbow while grabbing a spoon.  It was so very sad.  :(  And for the record, cream really does splatter quite a long distance across a kitchen.

In happier news, I made Chocolate Chip Cookies for “just in case”.  It’s always great to have a batch of cookies in the freezer to grab at a moment’s notice.  However, these never made it to the freezer.  I ate all 24 of them while consoling myself after I knocked the cream off the counter.  Just KIDDING.  I packaged them up and sent them with Matt to give to some college students.  I think I did eat one or three first – just to make sure they tasted good.

I put my boys to work scrubbing 10 pounds of potatoes, which we baked and turned into frozen hashbrowns.  Wow, it’s nice to have these in the freezer for a quick addition to meals.

I put together two big Lasagna Casseroles, which freeze very well and can be baked on a busy day.

Malachi was hanging out with me during one of my cooking times and asked me to take a picture of him doing his math.  Hey, if a casserole dish is picture worthy, I’d say my seven year old deserves some camera time too.  And no, we don’t require our children to wear fancy button-up shirts while they do their school work.  But Malachi absolutely loves his shirt and tie combo and would wear it every day if we let him.  Shucks, sometimes we do.  Although I do try to wash it occasionally.

Here you see 48 Pigs in a Blanket.  They are put together, but unbaked and now in freezer bags waiting for a day when I need something fast to throw into the oven.  Oh dear – there I go throwing things into the oven again.  Disclaimer:  No pigs will be thrown into my oven at any time during soccer season.  After soccer season is over, no guarantees.  Kidding.  I’m kidding.

Last, I made a double batch of Chewy Granola Bars.  These are awesome grab and go snacks.  Shucks, if you need to throw these, it’s perfectly fine.  Throw them into your purse or a bag, or even throw them across your mini van at your kids.  Carefully, of course.  Here is a picture of the bars right after I poured them into a pan, before refrigerating and slicing them.

Been throwing anything into your oven lately that we should know about?  What are your favorite freezer meals?  Do you feel sorry for me that I spilled all that cream?

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Comments

  1. Meredith says

    LOL! You make me LAUGH!! What a gift you have for being funny & for being able to have it come across PERFECTLY in WRITING – that can be a challenge!

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    Laura Reply:

    Aw, thank you for the encouragement. I have so much fun writing!

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  2. Jenn foy says

    That’s awesome! We don’t bake our potatoes before making them into hashbrowns…we just grate them into the food processor and, voila! I can’t imagine they take much longer than potatoes that have been cooked. I just start them first while I’m getting the eggs or whatever else ready, and they are all done at the same time.

    And I’m sorry about your cream! That IS sad. I hope you have a good week :)

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    Laura Reply:

    I never found that grating my potatoes raw and cooking them into hashbrowns worked very well. What’s your secret?

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    Jen Reply:

    In my experience, the trick is to put the raw, grated potatoes in a thin towel or cheesecloth and squeeze all the water out. They need to be as dry as possible when you begin frying them. It works well, but it is kind of a pain.

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  3. Sarah Z says

    How many glass 13×9 pans *do* you have?!!! Looks yummy!

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    Laura Reply:

    Um, yes…I think I have about seven or eight. Not sure how I acquired that many, but boy do I use them!

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    Debbi Reply:

    So Laura, do you freeze them in the glass dishes? I need to find something I can freeze the dishes in without using up my precious glass dishes. Or maybe I just need to start collecting more glass dishes so that I can spare a few while they’re in the freezer.

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    Rebecca Reply:

    I often use greased parchment paper or foil to line a pan and put the casserole in the freezer to freeze. When it is solid I pop it out of the pan and wrap tight in foil or in a plastic freezer bag with the label, cooking instructions and which pan it needs and stack them in the freezer. that way I can get by with just 2 pyrex pans, but have multiple meals in the freezer. When you need a meal, take it out of the freezer, remove the parchment or foil if desired, and bake. Sometimes the parchment gets really stuck and I just bake the whole thing together. It makes for easy pan clean up.

  4. says

    I am now exhausted after reading all that you did!!! I like to make a lot of stuff and stick it in the freezer for THOSE days, too. However, we just butchered a steer and it is kinda hanging out in EVERY part of ALL my freezers right now. Have to eat some of it so I can fit prepared meals in the freezer. That is a lovely problem to have, dontcha think?!

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    Laura Reply:

    Yes, a very lovely problem. I love having a freezer full of meat!!

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  5. Dawn says

    Thanks, that WAS inspiring! We have a busy summer ahead as well, and I hadn’t even thought of cooking ahead. I have just been considering how to manage my crockpot, but this is wonderful! I am now totally inspired! Bummer about the cream, I was making yogurt the other day, while also cleaning the house, and forgot about it on the stove. A whole quart of goat milk evaporated and scorched. :( So I totally feel your pain! THanks again!

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    Laura Reply:

    Oh, yucky scorched milk. :( I need to think about how I can use my crock pot too – thanks for the reminder on that!

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  6. Lana says

    I DO feel sorry about your spilled cream! I am so good at making messes like that and they do go everywhere! About a year ago I took a pot pie out of the oven that I had baked in a skillet. The handle snapped off the skillet just as I had it out and over the floor. That pot pie went as far as it could in every direstion and even 20 feet away into the living room. YUCK! I found gravy splatters for a week afterward, all dried by then.

    Try washing your potatoes in the top rack of your empty dishwasher. Just put them through a rinse and hold cycle. So easy and they get good and clean.

    We are empty nesters so just about anything I cook makes enough for the freezer too. I can cook on Sunday and we eat for 2 more days after. I guess I should be happy about that after cooking from scratch for 7 for so many years but we do get tired of having a fridge full of leftovers.

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  7. TaraK says

    Just last Monday I went to the grocery store. I bought some meat that was “use or freeze by YESTERDAY” so I made up the bulk of my meals for the week that afternoon. Usually when I do freezer cooking I take a couple of days to plan and clean the kitchen and organize the recipes. Monday on the spur of the moment I put lava meatballs, a double batch of taco stuffing and 6 cups of cooked, shredded chicken in the freezer. And I also made a batch of your popcorn chicken! It was so simple and everyone loved it, thank you for the recipe!

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  8. TaraK says

    And also, I’m excited to make the pigs in a blanket! I have all the ingredients and everything! (How hard is it to roll out the dough, I’ve never done that?)

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    Laura Reply:

    Sometimes the dough is a little tough to roll out and I find myself just pressing it down instead.

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  9. Janet says

    How do you reheat the casseroles after freezing them? I guess my question is more than just an “in the oven” answer. Obviously like you said you can’t just put the glass casserole dishes in the oven. I’m also guessing the dishes take longer to heat because they are frozen. When I’ve tried doing this in the past I end up with mush, especially when trying to reheat pasta that had previously been cooked.

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    Laura Reply:

    If I think of it early in the day, I let the casseroles thaw on the counter to be baked that night. If I don’t think of it early in the day, I find that putting the frozen casserole in the cold oven two hours before dinner time works well. Put the frozen casserole in, then turn the oven on to 350 and bake for two hours. The dish warms with the oven, which prevents it from shattering. Two hours usually thaws and bakes it, in my experience, although every oven is different!

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  10. mckinsey says

    I love all that you got done! I am planning a big cooking day to get some things put in the freezer:) Thanks for the inspiration.

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  11. Naomi says

    Did you do all that cooking on the same day? Whoa!! And I don’t know what is worse, cleaning a pint of cream off the FLOOR, or cleaning A PINT OF CREAM (!) off the floor. I, too, love your blog and terrific sense of humor. You have become one of my two favorites.

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    Laura Reply:

    Definitely not all in the same day! That work was spread out over the course of about five days, making it much more doable for me! :)

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  12. CeCe says

    You inspire me! Yesterday, with the kids at school, I was able to make 2 things from scratch, so that’s a start, right?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Definitely, good job!

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  13. Charlotte Moore says

    You are so funny!! I too was wondering how many long dishes you must have. Also I am tired from reading all you have cooked in a few days.

    I usually always make a triple recipe of chili or spaghetti sauce and freeze some. When I do barbeque I try and freeze some also. It is very nice to have on hand.

    Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and brownies all good to have in the freezer.

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  14. Sarah B says

    When you make freezer meals, do you bake it first and then freeze? Or, do you freeze it unbaked? Also, do you leave it in your 9×13 the whole time in the freezer? Or, do you somehow line them and, when frozen, remove the meal from the 9×13?

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    Laura Reply:

    I freeze them, then bake when we’re ready to eat. I do leave them in my 9×13 dishes while in the freezer.

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  15. joanie e says

    HI laura! I have a ? for you- I made your choc choc chip cookies as directed, but mine came out poofy, like cake… what did I do wrong ? I wanted them nice and flat and crackled like your picture : ))
    Blessings!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    It could be that you should add a little less flour next time to see if that helps. :)

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  16. says

    Wow, you have been busy! I am making your Creamy Chicken Casserole tonight for the first time. I come from a “can of cream of something” loving family so I am excited to see how this turns out! Thanks for your blog -I look forward to reading it every day!

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  17. kentucky Lady 717 says

    Wow! I am starved just reading your blog….could you post the recipes of all of this when you get time ? Everything looks so yummy…..

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    The recipe are all posted on my site – simply click on the links shared throughout the post. For instance, when I wrote “Pigs in a Blanket”, you can click on those words and it will take you to the recipe. :)

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  18. Alea says

    I understand your “woe is me” about the cream. I’ve done that too. Your consolation is: at least it wasn’t in a glass jar! Thanks for the motivation today!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Well, it was actually in a glass jar, but the jar didn’t break. So for that, I am thankful!

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  19. louise says

    no use crying over spilt milk (or cream!) as they say – altho a whimper or two is allowed…
    I too love to batch cook – its cheaper to buy meat in bulk I find and the thought of pulling something from the freezer rather than from scratch each day makes it so worthwhile:) I am really bad at labelling for the freezer so often leftovers go in and I have no idea what they are when they come out – that is what we now call ‘tuesday night surprise’!!!

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  20. says

    I’m always looking for recipes of food for the monthly sandwich supper at our local congregation. Always enjoy reading your website and trying the recipes.

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  21. Laura says

    I love your humor! As well as your recipes!I have been following your blog for about a year now and I feel a sort of kindred spirit to you. My name is also Laura and I am expecting our 4th son very soon. Your sons are much older than mine, ages soon to be 6,4,2 and a newborn. So, its fun to hear and see what feeding 4 growing boys looks like from you! Thanks for sharing!

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  22. Linda Hayes says

    OK, you’ve shamed me, frustrated me, but also inspired me. Thanks — I think. Can’t wait to try these recipes. All seem winners. While I am not feeding an army of hungry athletes, I need to have “take-ready” dishes prepared and frozen for those in our church that need a helping hand. All of them appear to be the type that are easy to split into smaller portions. It sounds like you are involved in FCA. Hubby and I help with Huddle meetings. We are not as thoughtful as you though. We tend to think heavy snack. Maybe next year we can do better. Just need a few more adults standing behind our children.

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    Laura Reply:

    Oh dear, I sure don’t mean to shame or frustrate you! Everything you’re doing is wonderful – I just happened to knock out a lot of extra cooking last week. We aren’t involved in FCA actually. Our church high school group gets together each Sunday evening for a meal and that meeting time is called huddle. Here’s more info on that: http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/gratituesday-high-school-huddle

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  23. Kristin says

    The homemade cookie dough balls look divine. Also, I can’t wait to try your pigs in a blanket dough in other applications like veggie pizza. I have yet to find a substitute for the croissant dough in the blue can :( Sorry about the cream, especially if, like me, you have to drive clear across town to find a store that actually sells organic cream to get more. How many freezers do you have? Besides the one attached to the fridge we have 1 chest freezer in the basement. The chest freezer is currently filled with breastmilk, grass fed/pastured meat, summer produce, freezer jam and preservative free bread. The upstairs one contains some nuts, plus veggies, fruit and bread currently in use, as well as snacks like granola bars, graham crackers, brownies, etc. In other words, there is literally no room to store made ahead meals. In fact that is one of my greatest challenges with eating avoiding processed food. I simply run out of room to store things! In the past, my fridge was filled to the brim with fresh produce, dairy and nuts. But now, it also contains things like whole grain flours, flax meal, corn meal, steel cut oats, etc. The other day I noticed my brown rice (riceland) bag suggests refrigeration, yikes! Every Saturday morning, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle trying to get everything to fit. Does anyone else have this problem?

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    Laura Reply:

    I actually have three extra freezers, which is a super blessing. One is for meat, one is for garden produce and one is for any extras, like freezer meals!

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    Rebecca Reply:

    Of what you listed only flax really needs to be in the fridge. Flours, oats and cron meal are very shelf stable, esp if you use them in a regular consistent time frame. I go throught my stash of rice and flour every two months or so and have never had it go rancid, even insummer. Cornmeal and oats I have kept even longer. Refridgeration won’t hurt, but mostly it isn’t necessary.

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  24. Linda Hayes says

    I have a question about the glass casserole dishes. Is there a reason you don’t freeze in metal pans? I often put half my recipe into an 8 by 8 foil pan so I can just transport it wherever it is needed.Others have suggested to foil-line pans, freeze, remove and wrap securely then use it or put it back into the freezer. Thanks for the help.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I freeze in glass dishes because I have so many. I have a couple of metal ones and do use them occasionally. I try not to cook much with/in foil because aluminum is not a very safe metal to use. I’ve tried that same concept with parchment paper, but didn’t have great success.

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  25. says

    Glad to read the above response to baking in cold glass. I’ve only busted 2 dishes so far this year ;-)

    One time I had been reheating meat in the oven for about 20 minutes and LIGHTLY sprinkled filtered (cold) water over it. POP!

    The year is still young though, so I will join you in mishaps and spills, and we can make a sport of it! :)

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  26. kim says

    This is awesome! I just don’t have that much food at one time to even consider doing that much cooking. I do try to make big pots of soup and then freeze what we don’t eat. Or make two casserole’s at one time and freeze them. I’d love to be able to have a day that all I do is cook and freeze. But it’s not in the budget to get that much food at once.

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  27. says

    My freezer is completely full but not so much with ready made meals. I do have several quart size bags of cooked beans though. Our freezer isn’t very big but I keep it packed with frozen fruit, a little organic meat frozen in small packages, veggies, more beans, and muffins. There is some frozen juice and flour as well.

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  28. says

    The spilled cream: quasi tragic! They say not to cry over spilled milk but I think a few tears over spilled milk, cream, kefir, butter, or even spilled yogurt is quite appropriate! Oh, and tears over a botched batch of yogurt like someone posted… yes, acceptable!

    So glad you mentioned your hash browns. I have a bag that I made months and months ago and couldn’t remember what to do with them! We’ll be enjoying them next week now that I remember what they are :).

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  29. blair says

    Do u cook the chicken fried steak fingers before u freeze them?

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    Laura Reply:

    No, I freeze them raw and then cook them before serving them.

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  30. Tammy F says

    OK, I see everybody’s comments are about your divine recipes (obviously), asking about the glass dish acquirements (natch), but I have to say, my favorite part of your post is: Throwing things around!! Yep, that’s got to relieve some frustration of spilling cream (beats crying over it *wink*). I especially love tossing the granola bars at the kids in the van…I thought I was the only one…carefully of course!!

    As always, great post and inspiration. Reminds me I have to get ready for our small soccer season…..

    Tammy

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  31. Christie says

    Baseball season is here! So I didnot have time to read your entire post, yet, but it LOOKS great! I was just reflecting on my days of once-a-month cooking. You have encouraged me again. Thank you, Laura, for giving me some great ideas. I was about to go with the diet of a meat, bread, steamed veggie, and large garden salad, but maybe I can find time to fix ahead again. And… We are building our first house for our family of 12, 10 living at home . We are also planning for lots of grandchildren ,lots of meals ,with plenty of hospitality , and love. Have you ever subscribed to Keepers at Home in the spirit of Titus 2 ? Just this morning I was reading an old article ( summer 2002 issue) on “Feeding a Crowd”. Very good! I believe they are mostly Mennonites and Amish, so not Internet access… I don’t think. I think God may trying to help me get back to cooking in large batches for future meals.
    I do not want to continue fast food America style during this, if the Lord wills ,last year ( 4 sons playing) of baseball. Thanks again!!!

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  32. kentucky Lady 717 says

    Hi Laura, Just looked at your recipe for Granola Bars….can you use applesauce instead of oil in them ? I know with some recipes you can use the same amount of applesauce as oil….just wondering about the Granola Bars tho…
    I made brownies a couple of days ago and decided to use applesauce instead of oil, and I just did not think they were that good…….may be just me tho…..

    [Reply]

    LindseyforLaura@HHM Reply:

    I don’t know that it would work for this recipe…it may change how well they set up.

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  33. Lisa M says

    Laura-
    I have read your site for a long time and love you tips and ideas. The other day when I saw this post I was so overwhelmed. I actually started to cry and closed the page. I do menu planning and freezer meals but I also have 2 special need kids and am in a season where I am using more and not able to put much back. I know for me this is a season and I just had an emotional moment. But it got me to thinking how this journey can be overwhelming for so many to start. Especially if you have all young ones and limited on time, etc. I am sure you have addressed this in the past but thought I would share in case you have tips on how to schedule this all in. How long did it take you to make all this? How much do the boys help? I see the picture of Malachi doing his Math but do you have them do their regular load that day of is it a lighter school day? You boys are older and more independent – did you do this when they were little also?
    I know you have done No More Excuses and Real Foods at a Low Cost. Have you ever been in this season and able to share how you handled it. We are eating a lot of simple and quick things(lots of farm fresh eggs). Think it would be a good post. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Aw man, I am so sorry you felt so overwhelmed by this post. I can see how you would feel that way. I definitely didn’t post it to make anyone feel bad, simply to inspire people to cook ahead if possible so that we don’t have to rely on fast food or other unhealthy options. I DEFINITELY did not do this in one day – I did it all over the course of a week. My boys helped with several of the food projects and I did it while my boys were doing school work independently. Since my boys are older and can work/play on their own much of the time, I am more able to do this kind of thing in during this season in life. I did do some things like this when they were all little, but not to this extent.

    SO, do not feel bad, but instead know that you are doing a great job during this season loving on your little ones and putting healthy, simple meals on the table for them!!

    [Reply]

    Lisa M Reply:

    Please know that any other day I would have been completely inspired.
    Thank you for taking the time to reply.
    I am thankful for all that you share

    [Reply]

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