5 Vegetarian Freezer Meals- Perfect for the new mom, busy weekday, get well soon, or sympathy visit.

My sister in-law is due any day now and I know they will have their hands full. I have searched high and low for vegetarian friendly freezer meals. Their family isn’t vegetarian but I am. Cooking meat dishes is not a specialty so rather than getting them all sick with improperly cooked meat I decided to go meat free for their dishes. I wanted the dishes to be easy, quick and somewhat healthy. The five dishes in this posting are black bean chili and skillet cornbread, frozen pizzas, tomato & broccoli casserole, veggie and rice soup, and baked pasta. They took me about two afternoons to prepare everything and some of the ingredients worked well in several dishes (carrots, zucchini, ect) Below are recipes, tips and links to help you prepare someone or a family you love a week’s worth of dinners. photo 2

1. Black Bean & Veggie Chili
This quick simple healthy chili will go great with the skillet cornbread. IMG_2799

* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1/2 white onion, diced
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
* 3 carrots, thinly sliced
* 1 tablespoon chili powder
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 2 cans (19 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
* 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
* 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed

In a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add zucchini, carrots, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, and 1 cup water. Simmer until slightly thickened and carrots are soft, 8 to 10 minutes more. Allow to cool completely before transferring to freezer bags. See below for tips on freezing soup.

2. Thyme Veggie & Rice Soup
Another easy soup that warms the belly and kitchen. IMG_2801

* 1 qt. (32 fl oz) Vegetable broth
* 4 cups water
* 3/4 cup rice (or quinoa, ancient grain ect. adjust cooking time accordingly if necessary for substitution)
* 2 golden potatoes, diced
* 1 zucchini, halved and sliced evenly bite sized
* 2 carrots, sliced evenly bite sized
* 1/2 onion, finely chopped
* 1 Fresh thyme sprig, pluck leaves from fresh thyme sprig
* salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, bring water,oil  and broth to a boil. Stir in the remaining ingredients; set heat to medium-low, cover and let boil for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool completely before transferring to freezer bags.

How to Freeze Soup (from Southern Living Article)

1. Cool. Refrigerators and freezers cannot cool soups quickly enough to be food safe. Speed up the cooling process by placing the pot of soup in a bath of ice water in the sink. Stir soup often to help release the heat.

2. Package. Label and date gallon- or quart-size zip-top plastic freezer bags, place in a bowl, and cuff the bag over the edge. Ladle soup into each bag, then let out any excess air and seal.

3. Freeze. Lay bags flat in a single layer in the freezer; when frozen, stack bags to save space.

4. Reheat. Thaw overnight in fridge. Reheat chowders over low heat; gumbo, stew, and Hearty Italian Soup over medium-low. Stir occasionally. http://www.southernliving.com/food/how-to/how-to-freeze-and-store-soup

Bonus points! Cornbread to go with the soups.
Freeze that Cornbread! Skillet Cornbread
I started with the simple cornbread recipe from the House Autry corn meal mix through in the skillet element and then added tips for freezing the cornbread.(Note here: use don’t have to use a cast iron skillet for this recipe just sub cast iron for baking or muffin pan and adjust accordingly)Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

* 5 “Cast Iron Skillet
* 3 cups House Autry Yellow Self Rising Corn Meal Mix (other similar brand yellow self-rising corn meal mix)
* 2 eggs
* 2 tablespoons oil
* 2 cups milk
* 1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 425 and carefully place cast iron skillet inside while you prepare your mix. Beat together eggs, milk and oil. Stir in corn meal until throughly mixed. Once the oven is preheated carefully with a hot mitt remove skillet from oven and butter all sides of the skillet. Add mix. Bake 15-20 minutes or until done.

Allow skillet to cool COMPLETELY. Wrap the bread in plastic wrap very tightly. Wrap in aluminum foil and tape shut. Label with the date, reheat instructions and use within three months. To reheat: unwrap and remove plastic wrap. Loosely rewrap foil and heat at 350 until warmed.

3. Frozen Pizzas (from thekitchn.com)
Frozen pizza is a great lunch time item and homemade pizza is even better. To secret to freezing pizza is par-baking the crust. Try this recipe and get creative with your toppings or go simple to please the picky eaters in the crowd.IMG_2773

* 1 pound pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
* 1 jar tomato sauce
* Toppings of your choice
* 2 cups cheese of your choice

*Parchment paper
* Rolling pin
* Baking stone/sheet
* Plastic wrap
* Aluminum foil

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 450°F. Place a pizza stone or baking sheet on a middle rack in the oven as it heats.
  2. Roll out the pizza rounds. Divide the pizza dough in half to make two individual pizzas, if desired. Place the ball of dough in the middle of a piece of parchment paper. Roll it out to your preferred thinness. If the dough starts to shrink back and crinkle the paper, let it rest for a few minutes and then try rolling it out again. If making two individual pizzas, repeat with the second round of dough.
  3. Par-bake the pizza rounds. Slide the pizza rounds on the parchment sheets onto the pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 3-5 minutes until the rounds are puffy and dry on the top, but still very pale.
  4. Let the pizza rounds cool completely. Remove the parchment from beneath the pizza rounds and let them cool completely on a wire rack.
  5. Top the pizzas. When cool, top the rounds as you would if you were going to bake them right away: spread some sauce on the pizzas, add toppings, and sprinkle cheese over the top. Note: pizza rounds can also be frozen un-topped.
  6. Freeze the pizzas. Place the pizzas on a baking sheet and freeze, uncovered, until solid, about 3 hours.
  7. Wrap the pizzas in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Once frozen, remove the pizzas from the freezer and wrap them first in plastic wrap. Write the pizza toppings on a piece of masking tape and stick the label to the plastic wrap. Then, wrap the pizzas in a layer of aluminum foil. The double layer protects the pizzas from drying out in the freezer.
  8. Freeze for pizzas for up to three months.
  9. Bake the frozen pizzas. When ready to eat eat the pizzas, preheat the oven to 550°F (or the temperature at which you normally cook your pizzas). If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven as it heats; frozen pizzas can also be baked on the foil used to wrap them. When the oven has heated, unwrap the pizzas and slide into the oven. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is dark brown and the cheese in the center of the pizza is bubbly. Eat immediately.
    From http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-homemade-frozen-pizza-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-186527

4. Tomato, Mozzarella & Broccoli Casserole (adapted from thekitchn.com recipe)
A simple casserole to freeze and basic enough in take if you have picky eaters you are trying to please.

IMG_2775* 12 ounces penne pasta (or pasta of your choice)
* 1 pound broccoli
* 3 large tomatoes, divided
* 3/4 pd. onion, diced
* 4 garlic cloves, very finely minced
* 1/2 pound mozzarella
* 3 large eggs
* 1 cup cottage cheese (4% milkfat or greater)
* 1 lemon, juiced
* salt & black pepper to taste

Preheat oven 375°F and grease casserole dish with olive oil. Heat a large pot of water cook pasta until barely al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Steam the broccoli in the microwave or in a steamer basket on the stovetop, just until tender. (click here for tips on steaming broccoli) Drain thoroughly and chop roughly into bite-sized florets. Toss with the cooked pasta. Chop two of the tomatoes into rough pieces, and add them to the pasta. Stir in the chopped onion and minced garlic. Add 2/3 of the mozzarella into the pasta mixture.

Whisk the eggs with the cottage cheese and lemon juice. Stir in 1/2 cup of Parmesan. Stir this liquid into the pasta mixture until well combined. Stir in the salt and pepper. Spread the pasta in the prepared baking dish. Slice the remaining tomato into half-moons and arrange on top of the pasta. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, and drizzle with olive oil.Bake for 35 minutes or until the cheese on top has melted and the casserole is bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before freezing. Adapted from http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-tomato-broccoli-mozzare-153919

5. Baked Pasta
This is a simple recipe that you can adapt easily depending on what you have the cabinet.

*1 bag pasta of your choice (shells, penne, ect.)
* 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
* 2 cups mozzarella cheese
* 2 cloves garlic (I like to use the frozen garlic cubes from Trader Joe’s cuts down on prep time)
* 3 cubes frozen basil (also from Trader Joe’s)
* 1/2 jar of tomato sauce
* Olive oil to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta to al dente. Heat frozen basil and garlic (if your are using fresh garlic then use oil and cook garlic accordingly) Once the cubes melt add a little olive oil and the remaining ingredients. Heat ingredients together while pasta cooks. When pasta finishes cooking drain and then add into the mix. Stir together and add to the casserole pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 375. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Once cooled wrap up with lid and plastic wrap and aluminum foil and freeze. See tips below for reheating directions.

Other helpful pasta freezer tips (from Martha Stewart)

Freezing and Reheating Pasta
These pasta recipes hold up very well in the freezer. If reheating without dividing into two pans, oven times will increase slightly.

Freezing
Always cool food first. Divide into two 8-inch square freezer-to-oven baking dishes. To avoid freezer burn, wrap tightly in plastic. Label and date, and freeze up to three months.

Handy Freezer Storage
If you don’t want to tie up your baking pans in the freezer, line them with plastic wrap before filling. Once food has frozen, lift out, remove plastic wrap, and transfer to resealable freezer bags (label and date); place in freezer. When ready to bake, remove from plastic bag and place in pan to reheat.

Reheating Frozen
You can put baked pasta dishes in the oven directly from the freezer. Remove plastic; cover with foil. Bake at 375 degrees until hot in center, about 1 hour; remove foil.

Reheating Defrosted
Defrost dishes in the refrigerator overnight. Bake at 375 degrees until hot in the center, about 45 minutes.

From http://www.marthastewart.com/266815/baked-pastas

Additional tips on freezing meals

Tips for sharing your frozen meals.

* Be sure to include reheating instructions.
* Check in and make sure there aren’t any dietary restrictions you should know about. Are they vegetarians? Are the on a low sodium diet you should hold back that salt shake on? Do they have any allergies? Check into this before you spend your time making yummy meals they can’t enjoy!
* Include on the labeling when you made their meals and when they should be eaten by.
* Get creative and make up some cute labels that have encouraging messages along with reheating and best by dates.photo 1

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