Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

Chicken Rice Casserole

Nothing is more satisfying than putting a hot, healthy, homemade meal on the table for your family. Make ahead meals are a great solution for busy moms. Cook once and have dinner twice!

Plan your shopping to include items for meal preparation for two weeks or more at a time. One morning spent preparing and freezing nourishing meals for the family will give you more quality time through the busy weekday evenings, and will lower your stress level.

What foods freeze easily and will reheat quickly? Consider one-dish meals or fillings for hot, savory sandwiches that can be served with a cold side dish. Here is a chicken broccoli rice casserole that is easy, delicious and freezes well! Notice that frozen or fresh broccoli can be used. And try some changes now and then:  use different vegetables (or a combo) and try using 2-3 cups of cooked pearl barley in place of the same amount of rice.

Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

•5 cups cooked rice, either white or brown
•2 cups cooked chicken, cubed
•2 cups chopped broccoli, fresh or frozen, lightly cooked
•1 can cream of chicken soup
•1 can cream of mushroom soup
•2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
•salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, and divide in half for two freezer meals.

The easiest storage is to use zip-lock bags and freeze flat, making sure all the air is out of the bag. To serve, thaw overnight in the refrigerator or use the defrost setting on your microwave. Prepare a greased 8x8 casserole dish. Have some extra cheese on hand to sprinkle on top before baking.

Serve with crusty bread and fresh fruit for a well balanced meal.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until heated through.

This recipe makes around 10 servings, and each freezer bag serves 4-5 people.

The chicken broccoli rice casserole is budget-friendly, filling and easy to freeze. A good tip for your make ahead meals is to flatten your freezer bags so they will stack easily and save room in your freezer. Place bags on a baking sheet until frozen to help freeze them flat. Don't forget to label with the dish and date!

Don’t let busy schedules prevent your family from enjoying special times around the dinner table. A homemade dinner can be a memory maker, so take time to prepare great, nutritious meals ahead, and serve them to the most important people in your world – your family!

 

Enchilada Casseroles

Taco Casserole

Enchilada Casseroles are ideal for a family meal any day of the week. It satisfies our craving for spicy food, providing taste and comfort at the same time. This recipe serves 8 people, meaning it is a double batch. You can serve it to fewer people and freeze the rest for future use. It is an easy meal that you can make ahead of time in preparation for weeknight meals.

3 pounds ground beef
1/2  cup of olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cups sour cream (or plain greek yogurt)
2 cups mild enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
6 tortillas
2 garlic cloves, diced

You can substitute different types of cheeses for the cheddar and Monterey Jack. A mixed cheese blend or muenster cheese will work. You can also substitute other meats for the beef, like chicken or chorizo. Keep in mind that this recipe is mild in terms of spice, so feel free to add more of your own hot sauce, salsa or peppers.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spread the olive oil around a skillet on medium heat. When the pan warms, place a tortilla on it and warm until it is crispy. Cook them one by one and place each on paper towel after cooking.

Next, add the diced garlic and onions to the pan. Once they've cooked, put them aside on a plate or in a bowl. Cook the ground beef in the pan until it is brown. Then remove the beef and drain the fat out of the pan. Return the beef, garlic and onions to the pan and stir them together.

Spray a cooking spray onto a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Then put the enchilada sauce (only ½ cup) into the dish and spread around the bottom. Put 3 tortillas over the sauce. Then add another half cup of enchilada sauce onto them. Put a layer of the onions, garlic and beef onto the sauce. Add a layer of sour cream, spreading it across the top, and sprinkle with cheese. Perform this same layering with 3 more tortillas and the rest of the ingredients for a second layer.

Cook for about 20 minutes or until you see that the cheese has fully melted. An enchilada casserole is something you can make ahead of time and freeze, as it tastes great after being warmed up.

 

Stuffed Manicotti

Manicotti

Easy Stuffed Manicotti - Double Recipe

Are you looking for a classic Italian dinner recipe that’s simple to prepare and one everyone will enjoy? Italian Stuffed Manicotti is the answer. Though it sounds complicated to prepare, you’ll be surprised how easy it really is. Stuffed manicotti is very nutritious and freezes very well. Just pop it in the microwave when hungry guests unexpectedly arrive at your door or when your night is running extra long. Make your dinner time a special time with the goodness of manicotti (or large shells) and everyone will love you for it. 

Manicotti Sauce
2 pound ground meat, such as beef, sausage, veal or turkey
4 tablespoons butter

Pasta Sauce
4 tablespoons salad oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
2 12-ounce cans tomato paste
4 teaspoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons oregano leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 bay leaf

1.  Cook onion and garlic in hot salad oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat until tender, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes.
2.  Over high heat, add tomato sauce and the rest of the ingredients over and boil.
3.  Reduce the heat to a simmer over medium-low and partially cover, cooking for 30 minutes. Throw out the bay leaf when done.

Manicotti Shells  (OR purchase pre-made pasta)
2 cup all-purpose flour
8 eggs
2 tablespoon salad oil
2 teaspoon salt
2 cup water

Filling
4 cups ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 eggs
2 8-ounce packages coarsely shredded mozzarella cheese

Prepare the pasta sauce and set aside. Then on low speed, use a mixer to blend pasta shell ingredients and finish by blending for one minute on medium speed.

Lightly coat a large skillet with salad oil and heat over medium-high heat. Slowly pour a large ladle of the pasta batter into the skillet and tilt pan to cover it evenly with the batter. Let it cook only until the top is set and dry and the underside looks lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Remove it to a piece of waxed paper and repeat until all the shells are complete.

In a large skillet, cook the ground meat with the butter over medium-high heat until the meat is browned. Then slowly add in the prepared pasta sauce and heat through.

Gently pour 1/3 of the hot sauce evenly among two large roasting pans about 15 inches by 10 inches or in one larger pan. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together all the filling ingredients, except the mozzarella cheese, until well blended. Drop a heaping tablespoon of the filling in the center of each shell and then add some mozzarella cheese. Carefully fold edges over cheese and place each shell in pan(s) with seam side down. Top with remaining sauce and bake for 30 minutes. This mouth-watering dish will produce 16 main-dish servings.

Preparing & Storing Meat

Kafta Shawarma Chicken Pita Wrap Roll Sandwich

Cook, Package, and Freeze Meat Ahead for Quick Meal Preparation

Your days are full, but you can take part of the chore out of making dinner by not only planning meals but also cooking meat in advance to freeze and use later. It is possible to shorten dinner preparations considerably if you shop for meat once a month, and take a day to cook it ahead and store.

A vacuum packager makes storage easy, but cling wrap and zippered freezer bags together work well, too. The secret to storing meat is to eliminate as much air as possible from surrounding the food. This helps avoid freezer burn and preserve the flavor of the meat. Make sure to use the thicker freezer zipper bags, not the everyday bags. Season meat as you use it in your favorite family recipes, typically with salt and pepper. Other seasonings can be added when you make your dish. And if the weather is right for a BBQ, cook some extra meat to freeze.

Cooked ground beef is one of those foods that you can easily freeze for later use. Depending on the size of your family, you can store the meat in one or two pound batches, and take it out to use in tacos, casseroles, chili, pizza or any family favorites that call for ground beef.

Grilled steak is good to cook ahead and store in the freezer, too. Grill it to your family’s liking and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap before putting in a zippered freezer bag. Thaw what you need and slice for Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, beef stroganoff, stew, Asian dishes, or any of your other favorite beef dishes. If you know you'll use some meat cut into strips or chunks, you may want to do this before freezing.

Chicken is another versatile meat that is great to cook ahead for quick meals. Roast or crockpot a whole chicken or several chicken breasts, and let cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes or until you can handle it. Remove all the meat from the bones and store it in double zippered freezer bags to use in your favorite soup, stir fry, wrap, quesadilla or chicken salad recipes. If you buy the value sized package of chicken breasts, they're easy to freeze individually or cubed. Cool completely and then wrap full breasts in plastic wrap and put cut up chunks in zipper bags, then each should be put in to larger freezer bags. Remember to remove as much air as possible.

For larger quantities, steak and chicken pieces do well wrapped tightly in plastic wrap bundles, and then put into a gallon-size freezer bag. You can remove just the number of servings you need and save the rest for later. Force as much air as you can from the bag before zipping it closed. Be sure to date everything, and do not store any cooked meat longer than three or four months, at the most.

Plan a weekly or monthly dinner menu that utilizes your frozen, precooked meat, and you will truly enjoy the time it saves. Thaw packages of meat for 24 hours, always in the refrigerator, and if it is still a bit icy to start, it will work fine.

Chicken Stew

14-01-27 chicken stew 900x602

Winter can be an especially brutal time of year. The days are short on sunlight and long on cold. Deep into the cold winter, a beautiful and hearty soup or stew seems to be just what is needed. Plus, a large batch of soup or stew can be made once, frozen and reheated as needed to be enjoyed throughout the rest of the month.

Unlike in summer, there may not be the rich array of fresh, healthy foods easily available. However, that does not mean that one has to serve up a bland or unhealthy dish. In cold winter days, a hearty and healthy chicken stew can be just the thing and can incorporate the flavors of the season.

One such recipe for a chicken stew that is both hearty and healthy and makes 12 servings is:

8 cups cooked chicken breast meat cubed
10 cups vegetable broth
1 cup cooked barley
3 cups chopped parsnips
6 cups cooked, diced sweet potatoes
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped onion, sauteed in olive oil
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

Start by cooking the chicken breasts in your preferred manner. Cook barley according to package instructions. Saute onion in olive oil. Cook and dice the sweet potatoes.

In a large saucepan, combine the vegetable broth, barley, parsnips and celery. Cook at a simmer over a medium heat for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until ingredients have reached the desired level of softness.

Add the cubed chicken, barley, onions and sweet potatoes to the mixture. Cook this mixture for an addition 10-15 minutes. Stir in flour to thicken the sauce. Add salt and black pepper to taste.

For a variation on this, replace the cooked barley with cooked brown rice. Instead of vegetable broth, chicken or beef stock may be substituted. Scallions may be substituted for the onion, or they may be used in addition to the onion. You can also puree a few veggies to thicken the stew, such as cauliflower or carrots, or even 1-2 potatoes.

This hearty chicken stew can be dressed up by sprinkling it with a bit of fresh parsley. Alternatively, this dish may be spiced up with the addition of a bit of crushed red pepper or pepper flakes. You can also add frozen veggies, of course.

This healthy and hearty chicken stew may easily be cooked, frozen and reheated for later dinners as needed throughout the month. This is a wonderful stew for cold winter days, and it is something that the entire family can enjoy.