Ahh, summer is finally in the air here in Minne! Which means the grill is going and our typical weeknight meal consists of grilled chicken and whatever frozen vegetable I can find in the freezer.
Typically my husband and I eat healthier in the summer, but ever since I got back from a long work trip I’ve been eating horribly. Basically whatever I can find in the cupboard/eating out/just plain old unhealthy-ness.
Essentially I’ve been a super slacker in the cooking department lately, so when two of my friends had babies I figured it was the perfect opportunity to dust-off my imaginary apron and get back in the kitchen!
Quick side bar – you are probably wondering why babies lead to food. Essentially I don’t know what people need with newborns so I just cook since that is more in my comfort zone. I received some good feedback from my friend, Steph, when I delivered these meals to her – she said they got a bunch of food the first week the baby was born but then ran-out. So if possible try to provide food maybe a couple weeks into the pregnancy (and of course freezer meals give them more flexibility).
Alright back to food – My go-to for freezer meals are usually a healthy take on comfort food. So given the warm weather my goal was to find food that would seem fresh but was still freezer friendly.
Below are five Summer Friendly Freezer Meals (plus a couple of sides/desserts) that I gave a shot! I spent $200 on groceries – but that made 3+ batches of each dish plus sides, so 15 complete meals (with at least two meals per batch) plus 4 batches of bars. boom. Here they are:
1.) Almond-Apricot chicken with Cherry Tomato Crisp
These are two recipes I was super into a few years back but haven’t made in awhile. The chicken is a nice change of scenery (and who doesn’t love goat cheese?!) and the cherry tomato crisp is a colorful yet easy side dish.
I didn’t take the best pictures, but I promise both are tasty!
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds
- 2 ounces goat cheese
- 1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into small pieces (about 1/2 of a package)
- 1/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of the almonds, goat cheese, and apricots. Season with a dash of salt and pepper.
- Lightly beat the egg and place in a small bowl
- On a plate, combine the breadcrumbs and remaining almonds
- Create an assembly line of sorts with the chicken breast, apricot mixture, egg, and finally the plate with the bread crumb/almond mixture
- Cut a slit into one side of each chicken breast, deep enough to fill but making sure to not cut through the chicken breast
- Stuff each breast with 1/4 of the goat cheese mixture
- Dip each breast into the egg, then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat
- Transfer each breast to the skillet and cook until golden, 3-4 minutes on each side
- Bake for about 15 minutes until heated-through
**If you want to freeze, place chicken in a plastic bag and place in freezer. To prepare, thaw and cook according to directions.
Apricot, almond, and goat cheese mixture
My “assembly line” 🙂
Stuffing each chicken breast
after it is dipped in the egg, roll in the breadcrumb mixture (note this was an extra 5th breast I added at the end with the small bit left)
- 2 slices white sandwich bread
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 Tbl fresh parsley flakes
- 1 Tbl olive oil
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic
- 5 cups cherry tomatoes
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- In a food processor, combine the bread, Parmesan cheese, parsley, olive oil, and garlic (season with salt and pepper)
- Pulse until bread is chopped
- In an 8×8 inch baking dish, arrange the cherry tomatoes in a single layer
- Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture
- Bake until the crust starts to brown and tomatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes
**If you want to freeze, cover pan with cling wrap then tinfoil and place in freezer. To prepare thaw and cook according to directions.
mix the bread crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, garlic, and olive oil
Layer the tomatoes in an even layer
top with the bread crumb mixture and bake!
2.) Garlic-Marinated Chicken with Red Potatoes and Asparagus
This was my grill meal – nothing in this recipe is hard or crazy, but pre-marinating and cooking the potatoes just makes it easier!
Garlic-Marinated Chicken with Potatoes and Asparagus
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken breasts (about 6)
- 1 Tbl olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic (or 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic)
- 2 Tbl white-wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 Tbl fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- Whisk together all marinade ingredients and combine with chicken
- Let the chicken marinade for at least 10 minutes
- Grill until browned or bake 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until cooked-through
**To freeze, place the chicken in a plastic bag and place in freezer. To prepare, thaw and cook according to directions.
- 1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved or quartered
- 1 1/2 pounds asparagus
- 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp homemade Vinaigrette
- 1/4 Cup white-wine vinegar
- 1 Tbl dijon mustard
- dash of salt/pepper
- pinch of sugar
- 3/4 Cup olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Place the potatoes on a pan with a drizzle of olive-oil and a dash of salt and pepper and bake for about 30 minutes, flipping half-way through
- In a large bowl combine the asparagus with 1 1/2 tsp olive oil. Cook in a skillet over medium heat, 4-5 minutes until cooked through, stirring occasionally. Once cooked, toss with 1 Tbl of the homemade vinaigrette.
**I cooked the veggies then froze with the vinaigrette on the side, serve with the chicken
3.) Crockpot Jambalaya
Ever since I had Jambalaya at a restaurant in Asheville, NC (at Mayfel’s, check it out!) I have been craving it. It is comfort food but with plenty of spice, flavor, and protein.
I found this crockpot recipe on Pinterest from Spicy Southern Kitchen (can’t have a freezer meal blog without a crockpot meal!) and after some taste-testing I think it is a keeper!
4.) Spring Risotto with Peas, Mushroom, and Zuchinni
My lovely friend, Leigh, once told me that Risotto is the adult’s Mac & Cheese which is a fantastic description. I usually don’t make risotto because honestly I think it takes way too long but multi-tasking while making it definitely helped and it was worth the time!
Spring Risotto with Peas, Mushroom, and Zucchini
- 28 oz. reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 3 Tbl butter
- 1-2 large zucchini cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 Cup chopped mushrooms
- 1/2 Cup chopped onion
- 1 1/2 Cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- Heat broth and 2 1/2 cups water in a saucepan over low heat to keep warm
- In a large skillet or pot, melt 2 Tbl of the butter over medium heat
- Add the zucchini and mushrooms (season with salt/pepper), and cook until veggies are softened 8-10 minutes
- Remove the veggies with a slotted spoon and set aside
- In the same pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion. Cook until soft about 5 minutes seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Raise the heat back to medium and add the rice, cooking until translucent around the edges stirring continuously
- Add the wine and cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes
- Cook the rice by adding 1 cup of hot broth at a time (stir until the broth is absorbed before adding more). This process will take 25 to 30 minutes
- Add the zucchini, mushrooms, and peas until combined
- Remove from heat, and stir-in the remaining 1 Tbl of butter and the Parmesan cheese
**To freeze, place in a plastic bag and place in the freezer. Simply thaw and re-heat to prepare!
5.) Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
This is a recipe my mom used to make and one of the first recipes I made in college (which means anyone can do it)! This one isn’t crazy healthy but good comfort food and the curry adds some good flavor!
Chicken and Broccoli Casserole
- 2 packages frozen broccoli (I substituted a broccoli/cauliflower/carrot medley)
- 6-8 cooked boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 cans cream of chicken soup
- 1 Cup mayonnaise (I substituted Greek yogurt)
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 Cup cheddar cheese
- 1 Cup croutons or bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Cook the chicken breast – place a small amount of water in a skillet and heat with the chicken breast around 45 minutes until tender (flip halfway through). Once cooked chop into 1″ pieces
- Cook the vegetables according to package directions, and spread in the bottom of a greased 9×13 inch baking dish
- Place the chicken breast on top until the pan is covered
- Mix together the soup, mayonnaise, (or Greek yogurt), lemon juice, curry powder, cheese, and croutons
- Spread over the chicken until pan is covered
- Bake about 1 hour (covered)
**To freeze, cover with cling wrap and tinfoil then place in the freezer. To prepare, thaw and remove cling wrap, then re-cover with foil and bake according to directions.
OK finally onto the desserts! In true Minnesota fashion I made two pans of bars. When I lived in DC for a few years I realized that the term “bar” is not universal and the more I thought about it kind of doesn’t make sense. Here is the description according to Wikipedia:
“Dessert bars, or simply bars or squares, are a type of American “bar cookie” that has the texture of a firm cake or softer than usual cookie. They are prepared in a pan and then baked in the oven. They are cut into squares or rectangles. They are staples of bake sales and are often made for birthdays”
I chose a couple of bars that have been on my Pinterest board for awhile and they were great!
Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars from Bake or Break – they have a nice mild peanut butter flavor and are super soft/chocolate-y too!
Funfetti Gooey Bars from Crazy for Crust – these are basically a combination of funfetti cake with vanilla frosting and sugar cookies. Super sweet but SO GOOD!
*Note the batter at first was super crumbly, but just stick with the mixing and it gets a bit thicker. You still need to kind of “clump” (or press) it together.