10 Things I Always Keep in My Freezer for Quick Meals


It’s been hot and humid this week. And, of course, my air conditioner chose now to conk out. So, while we’re waiting for the AC repairman to fit us in, the last thing on EARTH I want to do is heat up my kitchen. Thank goodness for my stocked freezer of ready to eat and low prep meals! Here are 10 things I always have in my freezer.

1. Chicken Soup
Of course everyone loves chicken noodle or chicken and rice soup when they’re under the weather. So, instead of waiting until someone gets sick, I make a big batch of chicken soup and freeze it in 6 C increments. (2 adult servings plus two little kid servings)

Do not freeze noodles or rice in the soup. Cook these up as you’re reheating the soup.


2. Chili
Whenever I buy ground beef, I plan to make at least one batch of chili. Often, I double the recipe so I can have some to freeze. It’s perfect to reheat for a quick but hearty meal.
Read my post: <<5 Things to Do With Leftover Chili>>


3. Black Beans
Surprisingly, cooked beans freeze really well! I freeze in 2 C increments if using as a side or in soup, and 4 C increments if using for a main dish.
Read my post: <<5 Ideas for Leftover Black Beans>>


4. Pizza
Homemade pizza dough actually freezes quite well. Simply pull it out to thaw and let it rest before rolling out. Although, I have to admit that I typically store a few Trader Joes Organic Cheese Pizzas for a quick meal.


5. Frozen Fruit
When it’s 102 and humid out, frozen fruit is my lifesaver. Smoothies are one of our favorite light suppers (serve with PBJ sandwiches, soft pretzels, or French bread.)


6. Frozen Veggies
I always have organic broccoli, organic corn, and organic peas on hand to throw in soups or cook up as a quick side dish.


7. Organic Chicken Breasts
I love throwing chicken into my crock pot for a simple meal shortcut that doesn’t heat up the kitchen. Since we choose to spend money on organic meat, we have to make it go a little further. So shredded meat for soups, stir fries, salads, and pasta dishes allows us to enjoy quality meat with the most bang for our buck.
Read my post: <<Kitchen Hack: Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken>>


8. Organic Ground Beef
I usually buy the 4 lb. packs (three individually wrapped packs of 1.3 lbs) of organic ground beef from Costco, and keep at least two sections in my freezer at all times. I make tacos, meatballs, burgers, and chili.


9.  Wild Salmon
My kids love salmon, and I always keep some wild salmon in the freezer for a quick grilled meal with rice and veggies. It’s super healthy and super quick to prepare.


10. Meatballs
I cook up 4 lbs of meatballs at a time (makes about 40), and freeze them in increments of 8, which is perfect for one meal plus leftovers.
See my post: <<10 Ideas for Leftover or Frozen Meatballs>>

Book Review: Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I’m reading through Scripture (especially in the Old Testament), I’ll see a name or place I can’t pronounce and just gloss over it. I’m sure there is meaning to what I just read, but I don’t always take the time to look up the names and places, and I know my reading time could be better understood with the help of a good Bible Dictionary.

Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary is a large reference book that is both an encyclopedia and a dictionary. It gives the correct pronunciation of Biblical words, names, and places, and also gives the history behind it as well as a very detailed definition. In addition, the entries are cross-referenced with where they’re found in Scripture, and there are many wonderful photos of artifacts and locations. One of the other impressive things about this reference book, is how much detail the entries have. The entry for each book of the Bible includes the theme and outline of the book, cultural background, spiritual significance, and historical setting. Important people in the Bible also have long and detailed entries. There are also categories, such as Biblical Occupation and Trades, which describe the in detail the role of dozens of jobs referred to in the Bible.

I was very impressed with the scope and vast information in this book, and I would recommend it to anyone, whether they have a doctorate in theology or simply want to learn more about the Bible. I know it will be a well-used reference book, both in my own devotional time and in our homeschool classroom.

*I was provided a free copy of this book from Thomas Nelson and Booklook Bloggers in exchange for my honest and unbiased review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way. 

Recipe: Best Ever Nacho Cheese Sauce

Perhaps it has to do with growing up in Southern California, but I find few meals more satisfying than a big plate of nachos with all the toppings. I’m talking about the gooey, cheesy ballpark type nachos. Not the kind with a few chips topped with plain cheese. Those aren’t nachos. They’re chips. With cheese. Not nearly as enticing as a creamy and delightful cheese sauce smothering warm chips topped with guacamole, salsa, and green onions. And beans. Perhaps taco meat. Oh, my mouth is watering.

Today, I’m sharing my best recipe for nacho cheese. Not chips with cheese. This is the best textured cheese sauce I’ve found. Feel free to experiment with different types of cheeses. Omit jalapenos if you want to cut out some spice. It does have quite a kick, so I don’t use jalapenos when the kids will be enjoying it as well.

Best Ever Nacho Cheese Sauce
Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook 3rd Edition: Cookware Rating Edition

-1 3/4 C whole milk
-2 TBS cornstarch
-4 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese (1 C)
-4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese (1 C)
-1/2 jalapeno, chopped. Ribs and seeds removed. (Optional)

1. Bring 1 1/2 C of milk to a simmer in a large saucepan. Mix the cornstarch and remaining milk (1/4 C) together, then stir into the simmering milk on the stove. Continue to cook, whisking often, until thickened, about 2 minutes. (If milk is not warm enough, it will not thicken. But if it’s too hot it will scald. Keep an eye on the temp of the milk. Start at medium-high heat and adjust as necessary.)

2. Once thickened, turn off the heat, and stir in the cheese until melted and smooth. Stir in jalapenos and season with salt.

3. Serve over nachos, as a dip, or over broccoli.

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The Best Time-Saving Cooking Tip…EVER!

Like most of America, one of my go-to quick fix meals is spaghetti or pasta of some kind. But, truth be told, by the time I get the water boiling and the pasta cooked, it ends up not being that quick. I knew there had to be a way to hasten the process, but just didn’t know exactly how.
Then, a revelation. After watching a Food Network show about restaurant cooking, I noticed that many restaurant chefs actually precooked their noodles, then cooked the sauce while reheating the noodles. I tried the method a few times, and could not believe how much it revolutionized my cooking life! Since you don’t cook the noodles all the way, they don’t get gummy or leftover tasting, and you can heat up as much or as little as you’d like. This is an especially easy way to get a quick meal on the table on days you’ll be home late, or won’t have much time to eat. I cook up a pound of pasta at the beginning of the week so I’ll always have some at the ready. So, here it is! The Best Time-Saving Cooking Tip EVER!
1. First, earlier in the day or a couple days before you’re going to have the pasta, boil a pound of noodles according to “al dente” package directions. Make sure it still has a little bite to it…you don’t want the noodles to be overcooked. Drain pasta. Add a pat of butter and stir around until combined. Let noodles cool, and add to a container. (A 13″x9″ pan holds about a pound of pasta.) Refrigerate until needed.
2. When you’re going to use the pasta, heat a few tablespoons of water until boiling in a skillet (takes about 30 seconds on medium heat), then add desired amount of noodles and stir them around a little to heat them up and keep them from sticking (another 30 seconds). Once the noodles are loosened and starting to heat up, go to step 3.
3. Add desired amount of sauce (it doesn’t have to be heated up. It can either be refrigerated or jarred), and stir to combine. Cook noodles with sauce until both are warm (between 1-2 minutes). Serve with fresh parmesan or any desired toppings!
Using this cooking tip, you can cook noodles ahead of time when you’re not too busy, then reheat them quickly. The entire process takes around 2 minutes, and you don’t get that leftover, gummy, or harsh taste of reheated food. I think we’ll be eating a lot more spaghetti now :)
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Recipe: Crock Pot Baked Potatoes

I received our crock pot as a wedding present, almost 9 years ago, and have used it so much that the insert is permanently discolored from batches upon batches of tomato based soups and black beans. As a newlywed finishing my degree, I would put something in before class, and it would be finished as we got home that evening. Now, as a mom, I use my crock pot as often as possible, because, let’s face it, there are some days that dinner wouldn’t get on the table if it weren’t for the glorious appliance.

This week I found out that you can actually make Baked Potatoes in the crock pot! How perfect is that? Either as a side dish or a main course topped with the works, baked potatoes are a versatile staple that I rarely make, for the sole reason that the last thing I’m thinking about at 4:15pm is putting potatoes in the oven. Microwave at 5:30pm, yes. In the morning when the kids are still mild-mannered, yes. So, what better way to get a head start on dinner than to throw some potatoes in the crock pot?

The skin on these potatoes don’t get as crisp as they would in the oven, but they’re still good, and I will be using this recipe often in the future!

Slow Cooker Baked Potatoes
Serves 4

-4 Russet Potatoes, thoroughly washed and dried
-Vegetable or canola oil*
(*I used extra virgin olive oil and the flavor of the oil was pretty strong, so I would use a more neutral oil next time.)

Stab the potatoes with a fork, rub with a small amount of vegetable or canola oil, and sprinkle with salt. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, until potatoes are soft and tender. Cut open and serve with variety of toppings.

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