Contributed by: Joanne and Adam Gallagher www.inspiredtaste.net
You tried to leave work a little early but got dragged into a “quick” meeting. Then maybe you got stuck in traffic or had to pick up the kids from practice. Now it’s dinnertime. You’re tired and don’t know what to do.
Don’t stress! We’ve got you covered with 10 things you absolutely must have in that freezer of yours. With these tips, you’ll be able to get dinner on the table–fast.
1. Frozen Breads and Biscuits. We always have a bag or two of our favorites ready and waiting. All you need to do is heat up the oven and bake until warm and toasty. Serve them on the side, or have them star in sandwiches with shredded rotisserie chicken and a selection of deli meats and cheeses. You can even turn the biscuits into dessert, like Blackberry Cheesecake Dessert. Try it next time you want an easy but decadent treat in minutes.
2. Frozen Veggies. Our freezer is packed with them! Sure, you can throw them into the microwave and heat them up for an easy side, but think bigger. Add a whole bag of mixed vegetables to cooked instant brown rice. Add a few dashes of teriyaki or soy sauce, and top with a fried egg for a super-quick take on fried rice. Or add half a bag of frozen peas and carrots to jarred pasta sauce. (We love Muir Glen® Italian Herb Pasta Sauce.) Cook up some spaghetti and top with your veggie-packed sauce and shredded cheese.
3. Easy-Peel Shrimp. Don’t forget about protein. To thaw the shrimp, simply throw them into a plastic bag (make sure it’s sealed) and submerge in cold water for 15 to 20 minutes. To speed things up a bit, change the water once or twice while thawing. Then cook however you like.
Stir-fries are a big go-to for us since they are so fast. (And you can use a bag of frozen veggies, making things extra easy.) Sesame-Ginger Shrimp and Vegetable Stir-Fry is great! Or for delicious roasted shrimp, toss shrimp with olive oil, salt, pepper and other seasonings of your choice, spread onto a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Burgers and Meatballs. Buy precooked hamburger patties and meatballs. Or make them yourself by shaping ground beef, chicken or turkey into patties or meatballs, placing in a resealable plastic bag and freezing up to 4 months. When ready to use, remove what you need from the freezer and bake or grill. If you like mushrooms, definitely give these Grilled Mushroom Swiss Burgers a try. Or use lean ground turkey and make Italian Turkey Meatballs; thaw, heat in pasta sauce and serve over spaghetti or in hoagie rolls.
5. Individual Pot Pies. We absolutely love making Mini Crescent Pot Pies and Turkey Sweet Potato Pot Pies. We eat a couple and then freeze the rest for another day. All you need to do is pop the frozen pie into the oven and bake until heated through. Easy!
6. Casseroles and Soups. It’s always a good idea to have a selection of casseroles, soups or stews that you know your family loves and that you can just slide into the oven. Next time you’re making lasagna (or Creamy Chicken-Chile Enchiladas and Macaroni and Cheese), make a double batch and freeze one portion for an easy, stress-free future meal.
7. Pasta Sauce. A huge lifesaver for us is pasta sauce. Just thaw, heat and spoon over noodles or even grilled chicken and beef. We’ll often make a batch of meat sauce, such as Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce, and freeze it for the next time we want something meaty and comforting at a moment’s notice.
8. Waffles. Speaking of comfort, let’s talk breakfast. Why not have breakfast for dinner? Next time you break out the waffle iron, make a few extra and freeze them. When you feel like it, heat them up and serve with maple syrup and butter. Or go a little crazy and top waffles with chicken nuggets for a play on the famous chicken and waffles.
9. Dessert Fixings. Just because you’re short on time doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in dessert, right? Definitely keep your freezer stocked with such staples as ice cream, whipped topping and frozen berries. We love to heat up frozen berries in the microwave and then spoon them over super cold ice cream.
10. Cookie Dough. If that isn’t enough for you, though, how about freshly baked cookies? When you make (or even buy) cookie dough, freeze individual portions on a baking sheet until hard. Then transfer to a resealable plastic bag. The next time you have a craving for hot-from-the-oven cookies, pull out a few pieces and bake. Yum!
From casseroles to cookies, you can create just about anything when your freezer is stocked with essentials. So go take a peek in your freezer and see what you can add to it for the next time you’re asking yourself what’s for dinner!