Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Steph's Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti night is a favorite in many households including ours. This recipe is my go-to spaghetti sauce recipe. I've been making it this way for years. I add lots of veggies to my sauce because I like the flavor it gives the sauce, it makes it pretty with all the different colors, and it makes it healthier. If you have a favorite family sauce, make it in a large quantity and freeze it. I've had several friends ask me how I make my sauce, so here it is...

3 pounds ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage
2 bell peppers, any color, diced
2 pounds sliced mushrooms
2 large carrots, diced very small
2 yellow onions, diced
4 - 5 garlic cloves, minced
2 - 3 zucchini, diced small
2 - 3 yellow squash, diced small
2 large (66 oz.) jars of traditional spaghetti sauce
2 tablespoons butter
Italian seasoning, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Write on 4 two gallon bags: Steph's Spaghetti Sauce, the date, and the following instructions: Cook on low for 4 - 6 hours or heat on the stove until veggies are cooked. (You could easily leave this on low in your slow cooker for longer)
  2. Over medium-high heat, saute mushrooms in butter in a saucepan on the stove. I do this in one pound portions - mostly because of Julie Child and the movie Julie & Julia: "Don't crowd the mushrooms!" Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set them aside to cool.
  3. Brown meat with onion, garlic and seasonings. I also do this in one pound portions. Once cooked, remove from pan and set aside to cool.
  4. Dice vegetables and distribute between the bags. 
  5. Distribute sauce between the bags.
  6. Press the air out of the bags and seal them shut. Lay them flat in your freezer.

Serving Ideas
  • Serve sauce over your pasta of choice. Garnish with shredded parmesan cheese
  • Use it to make lasagna, baked ziti or serve over raviolis
  • Make Million Dollar Spaghetti - It's so good!
  • Use leftover sauce to make a sort of minestrone soup. What? Yes! Add chicken broth or water, green beans, white beans and small pasta - Boom! You've got soup!
Usually I will serve the sauce over pasta the first night and use the leftover sauce to make Million Dollar Spaghetti or our version of minestrone soup. I'm not good at eating leftovers, so I always try to reinvent them into something else.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Savory Pepper Steak

I found this recipe on Pinterest, which lead me to the Six Cents blog. I went ahead and cooked the steak before freezing it, but the original recipe did not require that. My round steak was frozen so I had to unfreeze it in order to cut it into strips. My Mom said that once a meat is thawed it should not be refrozen without being cooked. Why? I don't know. I didn't question my mom on this. She's a great cook and a smart lady. Her word is good enough for me.

By the time I remembered to take a picture of our dinner plates, it had already been gobbled up, so I ran out to my freezer to take a pic of the second bag. Not real pretty, but trust me, this meal is real tasty. We all loved it! My toddler son ate all of his and several bites from my husband and I's plates. He made yum sounds and clapped his hands. My husband loved it too. This is a real winner and I'll certainly be making it again.

3 pounds of round steak cut into ½ inch thick strips.
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons Joe's Stuff  or your favorite seasoning
1 large onion chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2  16oz cans of Italian diced tomatoes
2 tbsp beef bouillon
4 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ofsteak seasoning
2 tablespoons of steak sauce
Cooked rice, for serving

  1. Write on 2 gallon freezer bags: Savory Pepper Steak, the date and the following instructions: Cook on low 4 hours if beef is already cooked or on low for 8 hours if it is uncooked. Serve over rice.
  2. Toss steak strips in mixture of flour, Joe's Stuff/your seasoning, and salt and pepper.  (At this point I cooked the steak strips in a skillet with olive oil. Then set it aside to cool before putting it in the bags)
  3. Mix together beef bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, and steak sauce and divide evenly into two bags.  
  4.  Add remaining ingredients between the two bags.
  5. Press the air put of the bags and seal them shut. Lay flat in the freezer.

Tex-Mex Chicken with Beans

I can pretty much always count on Martha Stewart for recipes. I made a few changes and turned the original recipe into a slow cooker freezer meal. Also, I added extra seasoning, my favorite all purpose seasoning: Joe's Stuff. Use whatever seasoning you would for chicken or for a Tex-Mex dish. Taco seasoning would actually be really good here. In fact, I'm going to add some when I cook up the other bag. I have noticed that some of the slow cooker freezer meals can be a bit bland for our taste, so I've started adding in more seasoning.

1 cup dried pinto beans, rinsed
1 jar (11 ounces) mild or medium salsa (1 1/2 cups)
4 tablespoons mild enchilada sauce
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 8)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons Joe's Stuff or your favorite seasoning - taco seasoning would be great!
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream, for serving

  1. Write on 2 gallon sized freezer bags: †ex-Mex Chicken with Beans, the date, and the following instructions:   Cook on low heat for 8 hours. (Do not open lid or stir.) Remove chicken from stew; shred into large pieces and return to stew. Serve topped with sour cream.  
  2. Chop onion, cilantro and bell peppers - divide between bags
  3. Season chicken with salt, pepper and your choice of seasoning - divide between bags
  4.  Stir together beans, salsa, chilies, flour and 1 cup water - divide between bags
  5. Press the air out of the bags and seal them shut. Lay them flat in your freezer

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Anytime I'm at El Tequila in Tulsa and the lunch menu is available, I order chilaquiles. So when I stumbled upon this recipe while perusing through Cooking Light's list of their top slow cooker meals, I was excited and knew I had to make it into a freezer slow cooker meal. I adjusted the recipe by using chicken thighs, I used enchilada sauce instead of chipotles in adobo and I used shredded taco cheese instead of queso fresco. It's your dinner, so feel free to do what you want.

I am happy to report that the recipe turned out great. Our son even ate two helpings of it! This recipe makes 8 servings total, 4 servings per bag.

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 cups chopped red onion
1 1/4 cups chopped red bell pepper
1 1/4 cups chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup fat-free,lower-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons mild enchilada sauce
6 garlic clove, chopped or minced
2 (28-ounce) cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies, undrained
tortilla chips, for serving
shredded taco or cheddar cheese, for serving
sour cream, for serving

  1. Write on 2 gallon sized freezer bags: Chilaquiles, the date, and the following instructions: Cook on low for 4 - 5 hours or until chicken is done. Then remove and shred the chicken, return to slow cooker. To serve: ladle over tortilla chips, top with cheese and sour cream.
  2. Chop onion, garlic, cilantro and bell peppers - divide between the two bags
  3. Season chicken with salt and pepper or whatever you like - divide between the two bags
  4. Open cans of broth, tomatoes and green chilies - divide between the two bags
  5. Divide the cumin between the two bags
  6. Press the air out of the bags and seal them shut. Lay them flat in the freezer.

12 meals, 6 recipes

I usually just make 2-3 recipes each weekend to slowly build up my freezer inventory. I assemble meals on the weekend so my husband can watch my son, but his work schedule has him busy the next two weekends, so I had to step up my game. Thank goodness for my mom. She helped me shop, chop, prep and bag meals this weekend. Dad and Grandpa did a good job entertaining our son.

We made Sloppy Joe's, Cajun Chicken with Sausage, Savory Pepper Steak, Chilaquiles, Tex-Mex Chicken with Beans, and Red Beans and Rice.

I've made Sloppy Joe's and Cajun Chicken with Sausage before but the other four are new. I hope they turn out to be yummy. I'll post those recipes as I try them in case I need to make adjustments or in case they flop entirely.

Sloppy Joe's

I love Sloppy Joe's. I just do. I love this recipe too, not only because it's delicious, but because it saves me on the days when I forget to throw something in the slow cooker. The beauty of this recipe is that you can warm it on the stove or in your slow cooker. The original recipe is courtesy of Pillsbury. I added a bottle of chili sauce to the Pillsbury recipe because it wasn't saucy/sloppy enough for our taste. 


3 lb. lean ground beef

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 (12-oz.) bottle chili sauce

1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste

2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon pepper

16 sandwich buns, split

  1. Write on 2 gallon sized freezer bags: Sloppy Joe's, the date, and the following instructions: Cook in slow cooker on low for 4-6 hours or warm through in a saucepan on the stove over low heat. Serve on split buns with a side of corn on the cob or other veg of choice.
  2. In large skillet, cook ground beef, onions,celery and bell pepper over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until beef is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain. Cool. 
  3. Add all ingredients except buns to freezer bags. (Sometimes I freeze buns so I don't have to run to the store and have them on hand the day I make these)  
  4. Press the air out of the bags and seal them shut. Lay them flat in the freezer. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Freezing Cookies

I love Pinterest! I came across a pin about freezing cookies which lead me to a blog explaining three ways to freeze cookies. Genius! So, on this chilly, rainy day Levi (my 1 year old son) and I decided to whip up a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies and give it a shot. I'm not going to post the recipe because it's my best friend's family recipe, so it's not really mine to share. I'm sure just about any cookie recipe will do.

I followed the recipe to prepare the dough then dropped spoonfuls of dough on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper. Next, I placed them, uncooked in the freezer.

 I left them in the freezer for about an hour and then transferred the dough balls into a freezer bag. Now I can bake a batch of cookies any time I want without making a mess of my kitchen. I also went ahead and baked a batch so we could sample them. You know, just to make sure they're OK. And they were. Yum! After Levi ate one, he ran up and hugged me, so I'd say he liked them too.