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Assembling Freezer Meals

Once you know what freezes well and what does not, freezer meal planning and preparing can begin!

Grocery Shopping:
Make your grocery list BEFORE going to the grocery store. Tip: Take inventory of your pantry, fridge and freezer before leaving the house. This will save money and help you avoid extra waste! Grouping similar items (like all seasoning, all produce, etc) will help you be most efficient with your time at the grocery store.

Preparing Ingredients for Freezer Meals:
When you feel most motivated, start preparing meals! This could take anywhere from 1-4 hours depending on how many recipes you are making. Review your recipes to see what needs to be completed ahead of time.

  1. Look to see which meats need to be cooked ahead of time. Some recipes call for raw meat to be thrown in with all the other ingredients before freezing, while others (usually ground meats in chilies or soups) need to be cooked ahead of time.
    1. Recommend cooking all meats at the start of prep so they are cooled and ready-to-go into recipes.
  2. Cook any pastas and rice that need to be cooked before frozen.
    1. Remember to cook them only about ¾ of the recommended cook time so they freeze better. For example, if pasta typically calls for 12 minutes of cooking, only cook it for 9 minutes for your freezer meal pasta dish.
  3. Cut, chop and dice any fruits and vegetables that are needed for recipes.
  4. Place all of these in refrigerator while you take a moment to clean pots, pans, and cutting boards.

Assembling Freezer Meals:
Label any freezer bags and casserole dishes (foil or glass work best) and focus on one recipe at a time. Line up freezer bags or casserole dishes. Have the measuring utensils you need out and ready for you to use. You will want to double check the recipe to make sure all ingredients are included. Place in your freezer and move on to the next recipe!

Labeling Your Freezer Meals:
Labeling meals is a very important step in freezer meal cooking! Write the name of the recipe, date made and instructions for finishing or reheating the meal. Having this information right on the package will save you time later trying to find it! It is recommended to eat frozen meals one to three months after making them for best quality.

Freezer Meal Cooking can save you time and the stress of making homemade meals on a busy weeknight. It can also help bring variety to your weekly menu. The best part: homemade freezer meals can be tailored to meet any of your dietary needs!

Blog post provided by:
Megan Kemp, RDN, LD


Go Further with Food Meal Plan: Chicken

Chicken, it’s what’s for dinner tonight…and tomorrow!

These meals should require little to no work other than heating up. On Saturday/Sunday, prep all ingredients as needed; chicken breasts cooked in crockpot (or buy a rotisserie chicken) and sliced/diced, potatoes baked and diced, brown rice cooked according to package instructions etc. Place all ingredients for each meal in glass tupperware container.

Meal #1 Southwest Chipotle Chicken

  • 3 teaspoons Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle seasoning
  • 4 (4 ounce) boneless, precooked chicken breasts, sliced or diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup Tostitos chunky salsa

Place all ingredients in a glass Tupperware container and mix. During the week simply dump all ingredients into a skillet on medium-high heat, until hot for serving. Stuff in a whole wheat tortilla shell, on top of baked chips, served with brown rice (cook ahead of time if so) or as is. Top with cheese, additional salsa, avocado, chives etc.

Meal #2 Honey Sesame Chicken

  • 3/4 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bag frozen chopped Broccoli
  • 1 bag frozen sugar snap peas or edamame
  • 2 large chicken breasts cut into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • Honey Sesame Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
  • 1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • salt & pepper to taste

Shake together all honey sesame sauce ingredients in Mason jar or small storage container- reserve until heating.

Place all ingredients in a glass Tupperware container. During the week simply dump all ingredients into a skillet on medium-high heat. Add the sauce to the pan and simmer for 2 minutes, until food is hot and sauce is thickened.

Meal #3 Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Vegetables

  • 4 (4 ounce) boneless, precooked chicken breasts, sliced or diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow squash, sliced
  • 3 medium potatoes, precooked, diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup whole wheat Bread Crumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

Lightly spray a 9x13 inch casserole dish. Add all ingredients to dish. Toss well with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Store in fridge until ready to eat. Right before baking, mix ½ cup whole wheat Bread Crumbs and ½ cup grated parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over top of chicken and vegetables. Bake in preheated, 350 degree over for 30-40 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Meal #4 Garlic Chicken and Veggies

  • 4 (4 ounce) boneless, precooked chicken breasts, sliced or diced
  • 3 medium potatoes, precooked, diced
  • 1/2 tsp Basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced Garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Oregano
  • 1 tbsp Parsley
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp Honey
  • 2 tbsp Brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp Olive oil

Place all ingredients in a glass Tupperware container and mix. During the week simply dump all ingredients into a skillet on medium-high heat, or on sheet pan and roast in oven at 350 degrees until warm- about 30 minutes. Serve with steamed vegetables or salad.

Blog post provided by:
Katie Foster, RDN, LD


Carbs, Sugar, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Health

Added sugar has been a hot topic for some time now, but like most nutrition-related topics, it has gained more attention than may be necessary. When it comes to diabetes, and cardiovascular heath, it is indeed important to limit added sugar; however sugar should not the main focus. Carbohydrates are the macronutrient found in foods that affect blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, and in return effects insulin production. All carbohydrate are broken down into sugar, therefore it is total carbohydrates that must be of focus when controlling blood glucose levels. When reading the nutrition facts label, total carbohydrates is listed in bold, whereas sugar is listed beneath total carbohydrates and is indented. This is because all the sugar in a food is already counted for in the total carbohydrate. A balanced diet is very important for all areas of our health, especially when it comes to diabetes and cardiovascular health.

The average person should eat between 45-60 grams of carbohydrate at each meal, 3 times per day, along with 15 grams per snack up to 3 times per day. When it comes to controlling your blood sugars, it is important to know what foods contain carbohydrate, as this is the macronutrient that has the biggest impact on blood sugar. Carbohydrates are found in breads, pastas, rice, milk and yogurt (which contain lactose- a natural sugar), fruit (which contain fructose- a natural sugar) and starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas, butternut squash). If you are familiar with MyPlate, this is demonstrated in the “Fruit”, “Grain”, and “Dairy” section, as each serving of these foods contain about 15 grams carbohydrates, equaling about 45 grams per meal. Along with protein, heathy fats and non-starchy vegetables, which contain little/no carbohydrates.

When Nutrition Fact Labels are available, keeping track of carbohydrates is easy and straight -forward.  In diabetes management, focus on the serving size and total carbohydrates, not sugar. When focusing on sugar, you lose opportunity for some healthy foods and typically eat more carbohydrates. For example, a serving of dried fruit (25 grams carbohydrate, 15 grams sugar) is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth with little to no “added sugar”, plus you are gaining fiber and potassium. A bagel can pack up to 60 grams of carbohydrate (a meals-worth), and have little to no sugar. Breads, pastas, and rice also contain carbohydrates but little sugar. Although these foods contain little to no sugar, they contain carbohydrates, therefore affecting blood sugar once metabolized. Carbohydrates affect blood sugars in different amounts depending on fiber content, other nutrients eaten within that meal, and the particular individual.  

Bottom line- Focus on total carbohydrates rather than sugar, strive for a balanced plate (1/4 lean meats, ¼ whole grains , ½ non-starchy vegetables, and 1 serving of dairy ). Following a carbohydrate consistent diet will help with weight management, improve diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels and improve cardiovascular health.

Blog post provided by:
Katie Foster, RDN, LD


Introduction to Freezer Meal Cooking

How do dinners look at your house? Do you plan your meals ahead of time or tend to go with the flow? Planning to eat healthy plays a big part in actually eating healthy. If we don’t have healthy foods in our pantry or fridge, it is easy to overlook health and turn to convenient alternatives. Sure, convenience can mean high fat, high calorie foods but it isn’t the only option.

Freezer meal cooking is a great resource for those who want to eat healthy but have a busy schedule. Freezer meal cooking is planning and preparing meals ahead of time that can be easily frozen for later use. It could simply be doubling a recipe and eating one half for dinner and freezing the other half for future use. The benefit of freezer meal cooking is that it helps find a balance in convenience and health.

Assess Your Freezer Space:
Before you start looking for appetizing freezer meal recipes, you want to look at how much space you have in your freezer. Some recipes can be frozen in freezer bags and take up little space, while others, require 8x8 and 9x13 pans and need a little more.

Creating a Freezer Meal Recipe Collection:
You can start by looking at your own recipe collection. Shortly, we will review what freezes well and what does not which will help you better assess your recipes. Taste of Home has excellent freezer meal cookbooks and several blogs offer a variety of tried and true recipes from Six Sisters’ Stuff to Once a Month Meals.

What Freezes Well:
Meat, poultry and fish all freeze well. Raw meat is preferable for long storage because it doesn't dry out or get freezer burn as fast as cooked meat. Dough/batter of cakes, pies, muffins, bagels, breads, cookies and pizza crusts can also be frozen; they also freeze well already baked. Beans and rice can be cooked in bulk to save time and frozen to be used at your convenience. Cooked scrambled eggs freeze well.

What Freezes Okay but Texture Changes:
Fruits and vegetables all soften when frozen. Potatoes and mushrooms must be cooked before freezing or they may turn black and your dish will appear less appetizing. Cooked pastas will become much softer after they are frozen and should only be cooked about ¾ of the recommended time. Milk and dairy products can be frozen but may separate after being frozen. For best quality, only freeze these items for 1-2 months.

What Does NOT Freeze Well:
Vegetables such as lettuces, celery, radishes and cucumbers have a high water content and typically turn to mush when frozen. Mayonnaise tends to separate. Sliced and block cheeses tend to crumble and are hard to use when frozen.

Freezer meal prepping and planning can be done during our free time or when we feel most motivated. Focus on adapting your recipes to be healthier. Fresh & frozen fruits and vegetables can be incorporated into main dishes or used as quick and easy side dishes. If a recipe calls for canned goods, try low-sodium or no-salt-added. Traditional products found in the grocery store freezer section often have higher sodium content than fresh foods. However, your homemade freezer meals can be made lower sodium by replacing salt in recipes with Mrs. Dash seasoning or other herbs. By always having healthier homemade freezer meals assembled in your freezer, you will have them ready to go for dinner when you get in a pinch!

Blog post provided by:
Megan Kemp, RDN, LD


Go Further with Food Meal Plan: Pork

Pork, it’s what’s for dinner tonight…and tomorrow!

As continued from last week, weekend meal planning allows for little to no work other than heating up during the week night. On Saturday/Sunday, prep all ingredients as needed.  Bake pork loin (fat side up) in oven at 375 degrees until internal temperature is 150, cooking time will depend on size of pork loin. Take it out of the oven, cover with foil and let sit for 30 minutes. Cool and slice/dice as need for recipes. Place all ingredients for each meal in glass Tupperware container and store in fridge until ready heat. During the week, simply place ingredients from Tupperware into large skillet or crock and heat!

Egg Roll Bowl

Ingredients

  • 2 cups diced pork loin
  • 6 cups coleslaw mix
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil or tahini

Instructions
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add all ingredients. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until cabbage has softened a bit. Remove from the heat and top with the green onions and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve with brown rice-optional.

Rosemary Pork Loin and Potatoes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pork loin, diced
  • 2 large baked potatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary

Instructions
Store precooked/diced potatoes and pork loin in fridge, drizzled with olive oil and garlic. Right before cooking, toss with bread crumbs, paprika and rosemary mixture and lay out on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degree for 10 minutes. Serve with steamed veggies and/or side salad.

Pork Chow Mein

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pork loin, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup thinly sliced carrots
  • 1 cup thinly sliced celery
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped cabbage
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • Cooked brown rice, optional

Instructions
Heat oil in a large skillet or wok on high; stir-fry all ingredients until vegetables are cooked to desired tenderness, 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately over rice if desired.

Crockpot Shredded Pork Loin

Ingredients

  • 4lb pork loin
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded, chopped
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cup fresh orange juice

Instructions
Place the pork in a slow cooker (fat side up), top with the onion, jalapeño, minced garlic and OJ. Slow Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 6 hours (or 1h 30 m in an electric pressure cooker on high. The meat should be tender and easy to shred. Remove from the slow cooker and let cool slightly. Then shred the pork using two forks. This is a great recipe to put in the crockpot on Sunday night/Monday and eat on all week. Great with baked potatoes and steamed veggies, for nachos/tacos/quesadillas, sandwiches etc.

Blog post provided by:
Katie Foster, RDN, LD


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