If you're here for inspirational, beautifully garnished cuisine with fresh garden herbs, you're in the wrong place. If you're here to prep for calving and want a freezer full of EASY, yummy, good ol' fashion meals, then I got you. Read on...
First you need to know that I am LAZY in the kitchen. I don't enjoy cooking. I do it because apparently it is a necessity for my family to eat. So before our busiest season of the year I like to stock up on ingredients, meals and easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy foods for us to grab on the go (or just eat numbly while we try to keep our eyes open after a long night of calving). Here's a few tips & tricks I use to get ready for calving season (or any busy season!):
BIG BATCH everything & freeze. Period.
In the weeks leading up to calving when I make something for supper, say lasagna, but I'll do a triple batch and freeze the extras in tinfoil containers. Put in the freezer and VOILA, when I'm running behind (or simply don't want to cook), I pull out a freezer meal and I'm a hero. I do this all year round and with baking too. The best part is that I usually have extras after calving still in the freezer- hello haying meals! And those leftovers from branding (or make extras on purpose)- hello harvest meals!
Some of my favorite meals to big batch & freeze are below:
Lasagna- I just wing my lasagna recipe (but I also love this zucchini lasagna recipe when I have tons of big zucchini from my garden!)
Spaghetti Bake- Whenever you have leftover spaghetti (which is often in my house because I can't seem to measure spaghetti appropriately) I throw this together and pop in the freezer
Crockpot Roast Beef- I'll do a rather large one and then use the leftovers for a few days. I can then make & freeze...
Shepherd's Pie- Perfect for your roast beef (or hamburger) & mashed potato leftovers
Roast Chicken- Not a real time saver, but if you plan ahead you can make a chicken and use your leftovers to make & freeze...
Chicken Pot Pie- I sometimes make mini versions for easy individual field/work meals, but you can make large family size ones too. Clearly I wrote this recipe out pre-kids as today I would just buy pre-made pie shells, ha!
Stuffed Potatoes- great to have in the freezer, individually wrapped and ready to pop out whenever you need a quick side. I loosely follow this recipe but mostly just wing it.
Super Potatoes- these are what we make for branding and they're a huge hit! Again, another great side option to thaw and throw in the oven.
Chili- My mom's chili recipe is the BOMB (and not spicy, because we're not spicy family). Check my insta story highlights for a rough recipe. When I cook chili I usually pair it with this cornbread. This also freezes great & is easy to throw on the side of a field meal later on!
Casseroles- My hubs is not a fan, so I don't have any stellar recipes for you (sorry!) but I'm sure you hve your faves.
While anything above could be used for lunch (hello, leftovers), I have a few go-to lunch recipes that I don't prep ahead of time but always have the ingredients on hand for in my freezer. They're not glamorous but they are delicious. Also, they're great if you need to feed a crowd on short notice, or after helping you process cows.
Garlic Bread Pizza: Think pre-made garlic bread from your grocery store, pasta sauce from a jar, your favorite pizza toppings (I buy pre-packaged pizza meat variety packs) & cheese. Bake in oven until warm. Done & delicious!
Ham & Swiss Sliders (my absolute favorite- I could live on this recipe!)- I just always have a dozen tray buns, swiss cheese and a pack of pre-sliced sandwich ham in my freezer.
Pigs in a Blanket. Yep, its definitely not glamorous but its darn easy & tasty. Have hot dogs and pilsbury dough on hand. It's that easy. Pair with some canned soup. Done.
Calzones- Any time I have leftover meat (roast, taco meat, ground beef, chicken, anything!) I will throw it in some sauce & cheese and stuff it in a calzone. Freeze. Thaw when needed & warm!
Pancakes- My mom taught me this and its genius. Whenever you make pancakes, make a ton. Then freeze the extras in a ziploc with parchment paper between. Take out one at a time and throw in the toaster for instant pancakes in the morning!
Baking Powder Biscuits- you'll see this one in dessert too, and you'll know why once you try them. But my hubs loves them with just butter or homemade jam/jelly as breakfast. Or throw some fruit in the recipe for a scone-like breakfast treat. You can find the recipe in my insta highlights.
Smoothies- I like the taste, but hate the hassle/clean up. But of course my daughter loves them, so I'll make a big batch of fruit smoothie (literally just throwing in whatever I have on hand) and then freeze extra in ice cube trays. Then when she wants a smoothie I'll take a few out, add either milk or yogurt and bammo, done!
Muffins- I always have tons of veggies/fruit in the freezer from my garden so I attempted to use up some in these healthy-ish recipes. I did a couple dozen of each and then froze them in variety packs of 12. My intention is to thaw a pack, use them for breakfast & snacks as easy to grab options:
Banana Rhubarb Muffins
Pumpkin Banana Muffins
Apple Rhubarb Muffins
Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Baking Powder Biscuits- Now this is the way my side of the family likes to enjoy these biscuits- as dessert. Add whipped cream & strawberries. Easily one of my fave desserts of all time. I make big batches and freeze in ziplocs. Again, find the recipe in my insta highlights.
Bread Machine Sticky Buns- Now my mom has the BEST cinnamon sticky buns, but they take her ALL day to make. I have no time for that. Hello bread machine- no kneading here! While this recipe does take some time (for rising) and dirty dishes, you can make big batches easy and freeze. YUMMM.
Apple & Pumpkin Pies- These are my go-to recipes for dessert. I grow lots of pumpkins in the summer and collect my mom's apples so these ingredients are always on hand in my freezer for me. I've also made individual pies in little tart shells for brandings or field meals. Super handy.
Is there anything better than baked goods? Nope. I am a sweets girl alllll the way. So I like to bake some snacks for the freezer I can just pull out and thaw.
Banana Bars- If you're like me, I have a TON of old bananas in the fridge, so you'll see a common theme below ;). A new recipe I had to try this year was Rocking Bar H Ranch's Banana Bar. I was insta-influenced on this one and it was so worth it! Also if you don't follow Brooke (@rockingbarhranch) on Instagram, you should!
My favorite year-round cookie hack is to make our favorite cookie doughs, scoop them out on a cookie sheet, then freeze them. Once frozen I take them off the cookie sheet, throw them in a ziploc and put them back in the freezer. This makes it sooooo easy any time you want cookies. Just grab as many as you like, thaw (or if you don 't have time, I add about 2 mins to my regular cook time) and bake! This is my go-to hack for when neighbours show up and I need something yummy to share! This year I made Chocolate Chip Cookies & Double Chocolate Cookies and froze the dough.
Pumpkin Cake Cookies- These are a long time fave of mine and a perfect way to use up more of my frozen pumpking puree. I haven't froze the cookie dough before, but I do freeze the whole cookie, icing and all.
Monster Cookie Oatmeal Energy Bites- My sister-in-law introduced me to these. AMAZING and way too easy. Literally just combine 3 cups oats, 1 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup M&M's or chocolate chips. Shape into balls, refrigerate for an hour. Done!
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