Summer Meals

I don't know about anyone else, but from about two weeks before school gets out until the last week of June our calendar is jam-PACKED with activities!!  I thought summer was supposed to be relaxing and refreshing, but one look at our calendar and my mind starts to spin.

About a month ago I decided that one way to help keep my sanity during these busy 6 weeks is to have a well stocked freezer...not just a bunch of food, but foods that were cooked and just needed reheated or foods that were ready for the oven or grill.

I made a master list of things that I wanted to have on hand:
  • Taco meat
  • Chicken...cooked and chopped
  • Sloppy joe meat
  • Spaghetti sauce with meat
  • Enchiladas
  • Pizza Dough
  • Hamburger Patties
  • Meatballs
  • Chili {for dogs and Frito Chili Pies}
  • Shredded beef
  • Browned hamburger
  • Mexican Pasta Shells
  • Tater Tot Casserole
Then I proceeded to add at least one and sometimes 2 of those items to my weekly menus and planned to make double.  One to eat that week and one for the freezer.  This made it really easy to get my freezer stocked without becoming just another overwhelming piece of my to-do list.

I also stocked up on chicken breasts, bratwurst and polish sausage when they were on sale.  These things will be so great to just throw on the grill after a late night ballgame or practice.  As will those hamburger patties and they are so much cheaper to do yourself rather than buying them...plus I get to use our homegrown beef this way!

So I wanted to share a couple of recipes that I have tried recently that are DELICIOUS {Westynn's new word!}!!

Tater Tot Casserole

Brown together:
1 lb hamburger
1/2 cup chopped onion

Mix together:
16 oz sour cream
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 1/2 soup can of milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

2 cups corn flakes
1/4 cup melted butter

2 lbs tater tots
Shredded cheddar

Put tater tots in bottom of 9x13 casserole dish.  Pour sour cream mixture over tater tots.  Top with hamburger and onions.  Cover the casserole with a thick layer of cheddar cheese and then with cornflakes and butter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.

If you don't like a traditional tater tot casserole, try this one.  I promise you will LOVE it!  Our church ladies made it for our fellowship dinner and I promptly requested the recipe.  I changed it a tad because the original called for 2 lbs of shredded Velveeta and there was no way I was paying for that much processed cheese, so I used regular cheddar and it was just as cheesy and delicious...YUM!  

This makes a HUGE casserole so it's great for a crowd.  Or great to divide up and freeze some for later.  For our family I prepared one 8x8 dish for that evening and divided the rest into 3 aluminum pans and put into the freezer without the corn flake topping.  When it's time to bake those I will defrost in the freezer and add the topping and bake...easy peasy!

Another recipe that I just whipped up this morning to have for tomorrow's dinner is Southwestern Casserole.  This original recipe even calls for one to be put in the freezer!

Southwestern Casserole {from Taste of Home Ground Beef Cookbook}

Southwestern Casserole

1 pkg {7 oz} macaroni
2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans {14.5 oz} diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can {16 oz} kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can {6 oz} tomato paste
1 can {4 oz} chopped green chilies, drained
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and chopped

Cook macaroni according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in large saucepan, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink.  Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer,  drain, stir in the tomatoes, beans, tomato paste, chilies and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.  Drain macaroni; stir into beef mixture.

Transfer to two greased 2-qt. baking dishes.  Top with cheese and jalapenos.  Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  Uncover, bake 10 minutes longer or until bubbly and heated through.  Serve one casserole.  Cool the second casserole; cover and freeze for up to 3 months.

To use frozen casserole: Thaw in the refrigerator for 8 hours.  Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Okay, so I might say that I was out of disposable aluminum pans for the freezer portion, so I cooled it down a little and put it in a gallon freezer bag, wrote the directions on the bag and threw it in the freezer. I planned to thaw it, cover with cheese and bake like the original casserole.

We'll have this one tomorrow; I'll let you know if it's as good as it smells!!

So, what do you like to have for a quick and easy meal after a crazy day?


Melanie said...

MMMM. .sounds yummy!! I do a daily food plan for our family, which helps. .but not prefixed meals for the freezer. .it's a great idea! I'm ready for some summery eating!!

Janelle Wensler said...


Anonymous said...

Pizza from the C-store. Traci

The Murphy's said...

i too have been thinking of stocking up the freezer for those late nights outside and Tball nights! I cook up lbs of beef and make Taco Meat, Taco Salad Meat (has beans in it too) and Taco Burger meat. Freeze in ziplocks for quick meals. Enchiladas, baked spagetti and Cheese Burger Quiche are some of our favorites to freeze up too! You have me motivated to fill up my freezer this weekend! Thanks! :-)