Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Works-For-Me-Wednesday: Cook Once, Eat Twice (Plus Recipe)

One of my favorite things to do for dinner lately is pull an already prepared home-cooked, semi-healthy meal out of the freezer and pop it into the oven.

The catch is that you have to first prepare said home-cooked meal and freeze it.

But that’s really not as hard as it sounds.

There are several recipes I’ve used lately that freeze beautifully. Because I love things that freeze beautifully.

Here’s how it works for us:

*Most recipes are for a 13x9 pan. We will never eat that much for one meal, and we’re not very good at leftovers.

*I’m already cooking, so I just double *some* of the ingredients and split the recipe into two 9x9 pans.

*One of the pans, I cook and we eat for dinner. The other pan is lined with foil (leaving the ends long) before the ingredients go in. Then I put the pan into the freezer.

*After the second meal is frozen, I pop it out of the pan and wrap the long pieces of foil around it. I then wrap it in plastic wrap for good measure and slip into a gallon freezer bag.

*Any pertinent information gets written on the freezer bag before the frozen meal goes in; things like what it is, whether it has to be thawed before cooking, temperature and length of baking.

*When I am ready to bake the meal, I can pull out of the freezer, pop back into the 9x9 dish (thaw in the fridge if necessary), and toss it into the oven. Done!

Freezing in the pan, then putting in a baggie helps keep the freezer from getting junked up, and I can still use my pans.

It doesn’t double the cost of the meal because I don’t have to double all the ingredients. And most of the ingredients I double are cheap – rice, beans, etc.

You can find lots of recipes that include freezing instructions, but I’ve found that most casserole-type meals can be frozen successfully, though most of mine are rice-based. I'd love some good pasta-based ones, so if you have one you'd like to share, please feel free!

And for your cooking pleasure, here’s one of my new favorites and detailed instructions as to how I made it.

Chicken Taco Bake (This is supposed to make a 13x9, and my altered instructions are in italics.)

2 cups of cooked rice (doubled to 4 cups)

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

1 8oz can tomato sauce

1 pkg taco seasoning

1 can refried beans (doubled to 2 cans)

1 cup grated cheese (doubled to 2 cups)

Prepare your pans first. You’ll need two 9x9 pans. I always spray with non-stick spray! Line the one you’ll be using to freeze your extra meal with foil, leaving the ends long. And yes, I spray the foil with non-stick spray too.

Cook rice and spread layer in bottom of pan (half in each 9x9 pan). Mix shredded chicken, tomato sauce and taco seasoning, making sure all the chicken is coated. Spread on top of rice layer (half in each 9x9 pan).

“Frost” with refried beans (one can per 9x9 pan). It helps to stir these a bit first. Sprinkle with grated cheese (half in each 9x9 pan).

Bake uncovered at 400 for 30-45 minutes until hot all the way thru and cheese is bubbly. For the one you’re freezing, toss into the freezer for several hours until frozen. Then pull it out, wrap it up, put it in your freezer baggie, then back into the freezer for a rainy (or busy!) day.

If you’re pulling this out of the freezer, it helps to thaw it a bit before baking. I haven’t baked it straight from the freezer. You might adjust the baking time and possibly cover toward the end so the cheese doesn’t burn.

For more Works-For-Me-Wednesday, head on over to We Are THAT Family.

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  1. Welcome back to the blogosphere! I've missed you!

  2. I bought some new baking dishes and full they hold enough for 5 of us,and we are only 4, so I freeze just one portion each time. After 4 times we have enough meals in the freezer for us all to have one of those and usually there is a variety.

  3. Sounds fantastic! I just did this a couple weeks ago, and it made Sunday dinner unbelievably easy.

  4. Yummy. Going to have to try!

  5. I am going to have to try this one! I have hundreds of freezer recipes if you ever want to look at my freezer binder for new ideas. I love to make soups and put them in gallon baggies for later as well as cook fajita mix to pull out later.

  6. I love the cook once eat twice!! I do it a lot and am glad to have a new recipe to try!

  7. What a great idea and that recipes sounds really good. I am going to have to add that to my menu!