Take a look at the calendar. Do you see what I see? Very busy days just ahead. There will be shopping and crafting, rehearsals and pageants, parties, wrapping and shipping … need I go on?
I know from experience that you can blow a cannon-size hole in your holiday budget if you rely on take-out and drive-thru to make it through the holiday season. But you can avoid that if you start out with a freezer full of menu items the family can thaw, heat and eat.
Here are three big batch recipes for our favorite comfort foods to help you get started:
(Yield: 4 dozen meatballs)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1 large onion, chopped finely
- 4 slices day old bread, crumbled
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1/8 teaspoon each salt, pepper and garlic powder, or to taste
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and combine well with your very clean hands. Form into 1-inch balls, place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 F about 45 minutes. Drain off fat and allow to cool. Put into freezer on trays until frozen and then transfer to zip-lock bags.
Here are some quick and easy ways to use your frozen meatballs:
For noodles and meatballs: In a large sauce pan, mix together 1 can cream of mushroom soup, 1/2 package dry onion soup mix and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, add 18-24 meatballs and continue to simmer until meatballs are heated through. Serve over egg noodles; makes six servings.
For spaghetti and meatballs: Heat your favorite spaghetti sauce in a large pan. Add meatballs and allow to thoroughly heat through. Serve over spaghetti noodles.
Make meatball soup the same way you’d make stew: meat or vegetable stock, onion, carrots, celery, tomatoes, pasta or potatoes or whatever you like. Add meatballs at the end and heat through.
Six-Week Bran Muffins
(Yield: 50 muffins)
- 1 10-ounce box Raisin Bran cereal
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 cups sugar
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 5 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 5 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 tsp. vanilla
Mix Raisin Bran, sugar, flour salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Add eggs, oil, and buttermilk. Mix and store in a container with a tightly fitting lid in the refrigerator for up to six weeks (honest).
To use: Fill greased or paper-lined muffin tins two-thirds full. You can make as few or as many muffins as you like at a time. Bake 20 minutes in 400F oven. Makes 50 muffins.
Tip: Instead of storing the batter in the refrigerator, make up all 50 muffins, but instead of baking them, place the muffin tins in the freezer. Once frozen, pop the unbaked muffins into zip-type bags. Now you’re one step closer to freshly baked bran muffins. Simply add 5 minutes to the baking time when starting with frozen batter.
Big Batch Chili
(Yield: 16 Servings)
- 5 pounds ground beef
- 1 28-ounce can peeled and diced tomatoes
- 3 16-ounce cans chili beans
- 3 16-ounce cans kidney beans
- 1 large green pepper, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 12-ounce bottle taco sauce (like La Victoria)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 12-ounce bottle chili sauce (like Heinz Chili Sauce or Sona)
- 2 cups sweet red wine
Brown the ground beef in a large pot. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. Freeze in meal-size containers. Serve with cornbread and grated cheddar.
Hint: Make up your favorite cornbread and freeze the batter in paper-lined muffin tins. Once frozen transfer to zip-type bags. To bake, place the muffins (as many as you need) back into the muffin pan and bake as usual, adding 5 minutes to the baking time.
Want to share your freeze-ahead ideas? Use the comments feature below!