It is hot where I live now! Snickers and I moved to Arizona almost two years ago and have had to learn to adapt to a lot of hot weather. It is wonderful in the winter and early spring and we love hiking (as you know from Snickers’ last entry). However, the summers can be brutal.
As we head into our second full summer in the desert heat, I have had to figure out how to feed myself without heating up the kitchen and without getting completely sick of salad. So, I have wrenched control of the blog away from Snickers to describe my plan.
I am filling my freezer with individual servings of freezer meals. I do not like eating the same meal every day for a week, and I really do not like fast food, so I needed to come up with a way to have healthy, portion-controlled dinners on hand. I want to use either the grill or the air fryer (which I keep outside) as my primary cooking tool for the summer. I picked small foil pans as my vessel of choice and made a large variety of meals that can keep my interest for the next couple of months.
In addition to the pre-portioned meals, I also made four larger casseroles that I can keep in the freezer for when I have friends over or when family comes to visit. (Now that we can have friends over and family visits!) I also purchased some large packs of bratwurst, pork chops, and burgers so that I can grill when I want. Those meats are pre-seasoned, and vacuum sealed so that they are ready to go on the grill whenever I want them.
I made up a lot of these recipes and got a few from watching YouTube and joining a freezer-meal based Facebook group. Some are just things that I would normally throw together into a baking dish but in smaller portions. I have included three of the recipes in this blog and will add more in the next week or so.
I heard the name of this recipe and it sounded delicious. So, I decided to make my version of Spinach-Artichoke Dip and add some pasta and chicken. It turned out good and I am looking forward to having it available all summer.
Spinach/Artichoke Chicken Casserole
½ small onion
2 cloves garlic, chopped
8 oz Ditalini pasta/orzo/pasta of your choice, cooked al dente
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened in microwave
½ cup sour cream
1 12oz package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 15 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 cups cooked cubed chicken
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (please, not the stuff from a can)
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
Sauté onion until softened. Add garlic and cook for additional 30 seconds or until fragrant. Combine all ingredients except Parmesan and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. I used the heat of the pasta to help melt the cream cheese. Mix thoroughly. (If it looks dry, add additional sour cream and/or pasta water as needed.) Season to taste. Mix the breadcrumbs with the Parmesan cheese. Divide casserole mixture into baking dishes and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes in the air fryer or oven until bubbly around the edges and browned on top. If cooking from frozen, add 25-30 minutes to baking time and make sure to cover with foil until the last 10 minutes of cooking.
This recipe is one that I remember from the college food service. It sounded good to me and I made it up in my head as I went. It turned out delicious! I did experiment and found out that I needed to prebake the casseroles before freezing or the cornbread mixture sank to the bottom.
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 12oz package frozen corn
2 packages Jiffy corn muffin mix
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
Brown ground beef and drain fat. Add onion and cook until softened. Add taco seasoning mix and ¾ cup water and cook for one minute until thickened. Add black beans and corn and mix thoroughly. Divide this mixture into baking dishes as desired. Combine corn muffin mix, eggs and milk according to package directions and spread evenly on top of meat mixture. Sprinkle with Cheddar cheese. Bake at 375F for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely before freezing. Reheat by thawing completely and baking in oven or air fryer at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
I adore this next recipe. It is one that I have played with for several years and usually make out of leftover roast lamb or braised lamb shanks. Since I was prepping for the summer, I did not have any leftovers to use so I just used ground lamb. It is not as good as usual but will do in a pinch when I am craving something delicious in the middle of the summer.
1 lb. ground lamb
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T flour
2 cups beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
2 12oz packages frozen vegetables
4 large russet potatoes, cooked and mashed -or- 2 packets instant potatoes (if you feel lazy!)
Brown ground lamb and drain all but 2T of the fat. Add onion and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle with flour and cook for additional minute. Slowly stir in beef broth. Season to taste. Stir in frozen vegetables. Divide into baking pans. Prepare mashed potatoes and spread evenly onto meat mixture. Bake in an oven or air fryer at 370F for 20-25 minutes until heated through and bubbly around the edges.
Those are three of the many recipes I used when stocking my freezer for the summer. I will come up with the rest soon and will keep you posted as to reheating and keeping myself fed over the summer. (If I can keep control of the blog away from the dog!)