Back to School Part 2: Make-Ahead Meals and Freezer-Friendly Meals

This first week post-Labor Day has introduced cooler fall weather! With the humidity and temperatures lower, I start thinking about and planning for busy work weeks. With most school-age children back in the classroom this week (and for me, a new job!) planning ahead and making meals that last longer than one sitting will help relieve the stress of preparing meals one evening or morning at a time.

I am not setting a good example for myself this week, I will use starting a new job as an excuse, but normally I try to plan and prepare at least one larger serving, freezer- friendly meal over the weekend for the following week. Ideally, I also like to prepare a breakfast item and a lunch/dinner item, to help take the breakfast prep burden off of us during the week as well.

A fan favorite, easy and freezer-friendly breakfast recipe for hectic weekday mornings is sausage and egg “muffins.” The adapted recipe below from Daily Dose of Pepper is easy to double and freeze. In addition, the sausage can be subbed for any type of sausage, depending on what your tastes and preferences are. In my case, I tried some soy sausage!

Spicy Sausage Egg Muffins

Note: You can use any breakfast meat or meat substitute for this recipe. I actually used a soy-based breakfast sausage! Also, these freeze really well!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes

Ingredients
1 lb turkey breakfast sausage
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 4 ounce can mild green chilies (use hot if you want more spice/heat)
3 cups liquid egg whites or egg substitute
3 cups hash browns, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 tsp Lawry’s Season Salt (I used smoked paprika here instead)\
Pepper, to taste
Cooking Spray (necessary, the potatoes like to stick)

IMG_5243Photo credit: Daily Dose of Pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet over medium high heat add turkey sausage, break up a bit with spatula then add onions, garlic, and chiles. Continue to cook until the sausage is browned and the onions are soft. Remove from skillet and set into a large mixing bowl on the side.
  3. In the same skillet over medium high heat, spray lightly with cooking spray and add hash browns, season salt, and pepper. Cook until warmed through nicely, about 3-4 minutes. They do not need to be crispy and browned.
  4. Add hash browns in with the turkey sausage mixture. Add egg whites and mix together thoroughly.
  5. Spray a muffin tin generously with cooking spray and scoop mixture into each spot about 3/4 full.
  6. Pop into the oven for about 15-18 minutes. Insert knife into middle to check if they are done. The knife should come out clean.

Nutrition Information
Each egg muffin is 85 calories. 2g fat, .5g fat saturated fat, 6.5g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, .5g sugars, 7g protein.

IMG_5239Photo credit: Daily Dose of Pepper

In addition to breakfast, I also enjoy preparing meals that can be stretched to half a week or a full week’s worth of dinners and/or lunches. A great way to start with these types of dishes involves casserole-type recipes or one-pot/Dutch oven meals.  My sister and I started our solo cooking journey’s creating meals for our family once a week in high school with casseroles and one-pot meals.

One of my favorite dishes in this vein is enchiladas. My love for enchiladas comes from my Aunt Patsy, and I want to plug her here! The great thing about any and all enchiladas is that you can be as creative or basic as you want with the recipe and you can even sneak in leftovers and additional veggies inside the tortilla filling that you, your significant other and/or children won’t even notice! Also, based on the taste preference of your family or the season of veggies, you can prepare them with any meat and/or veggie.

For the enchiladas recipe below, sometimes for the sake of time, I actually don’t even mess with making this a “casserole” but just add the chicken filling mixture to each tortilla, wrap and bake with the salsa topping and cheese on top. Also, to make the prep faster, you can use a rotisserie chicken, but be aware of extra seasonings, which could affect the sodium. This is an adapted Cooking Light recipe, but the key to healthier enchilada recipes is using 2% cheese and less of it, as well as preparing your own sauce topping to reduce the sodium counts, since pre-packaged enchilada sauce can contain a lot of sodium.

Chicken Enchilada “Casserole”

This recipe was adapted from Cooking Light.

* I recommend doubling this recipe if you want extra to freeze or to feed a crowd. You can also sub the chicken for other meat or non-meat ingredients, but also sub the broth accordingly. For the filling, feel free to add additional ingredients!

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onion, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup salsa verde
  • 1/4 cup water 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño pepper
  • 9 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
EnchiladasPhoto Credit: Cooking Light

How to Make It 

Step 1|
Preheat oven to 425°. 

Step 2
Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side. Place skillet in oven; bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 15 minutes. Remove meat from bones; shred. Discard bones. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, corn, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) to chicken; toss to combine.

Step 3
Return pan to medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup onion; sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 3 garlic cloves; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add onion mixture to chicken mixture; stir to combine.

Step 4
Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups onion, remaining 3 garlic cloves, broth, salsa, 1/4 cup water, and jalapeño in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Carefully pour mixture into a blender; add 2 tablespoons cilantro. Process until smooth.

Step 5 (If you want to make more traditional enchiladas and not a casserole, skip this step).
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tortillas; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove tortillas from pan; repeat procedure with remaining tortillas. Cut tortillas into quarters.

Step 6
Spread 1/2 cup salsa mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 12 tortilla quarters over salsa mixture. Spoon half of chicken mixture over tortillas. Repeat layers, ending with tortillas. Pour remaining salsa mixture over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Top with remaining cilantro.

Nutritional Information
Calories 371 Fat 12.4g Satfat 5g Monofat 2.9g Polyfat 1.8g Protein 23.1g Carbohydrate 45.3g Fiber 5.4g Cholesterol 80mg Iron 1.5mg Sodium 759mg Calcium 141mg

Post by Sarah

 

 

 

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