Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tasty Tuesday: Freezer Meals {Part 2} Taco Soup and Easy Lasagna

Last week's Tasty Tuesday featured Chicken Teriyaki and Sweet BBQ Chicken freezer meal marinades as Part 1, and today is Part 2 with Taco Soup and Easy Lasagna.  These are two of my favorite meals, and as always, they are husband approved.

Taco Soup

Growing up, I never had or even heard of taco soup.  It wasn't until I got married and my mother-in-law made it that I fell in love with taco soup.  I love it, because it is so easy to make and you can use whatever you have on hand.  It's a really flexible recipe.  Here is how I make taco soup when I am making it for a freezer meal at my house.

You will need:

1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 can corn, drained
1 can sliced olives, drained
1 can kidney beans
1 packet taco seasoning (I also add a little more southwest seasoning for kick)
 46 oz can tomato juice (or 2 cans tomato sauce with 1/4 - 1/2 cup water)

Brown the beef and drain all fat.  Add beef and all other ingredients to a Freezer Gallon Ziplock Bag.  I like the flavor and consistency best when I use tomato juice, but it turns out fine with tomato sauce too.  If you like chunky tomatoes, you can even add a can of diced tomatoes too.  Make sure to get out as much air as possible before sealing the bag shut.  Mix all the ingredients together with your hands, making sure the taco seasoning is mixed throughout. Lay flat to freeze.

To cook: Take out of the freezer an hour before cooking OR run it under hot water for about a minute.  Dump the meal in the Crockpot and cook on Low for 4-6 hours or High 2-3 hours.  You can also cook it quicker by putting it in a stove top pot and cooking until it gets hot and bubbly.  Serve with sour cream, cheese, and tortilla chips (we like Fritos).  Serves about 3-4 people.  If you want it to serve more, you can double the recipe or just add an extra can of corn, black beans, or onions.  It's really just whatever your family likes.

Easy Lasagna

I love lasagna!  A lot of people think lasagna is time consuming and difficult to make, but it really is pretty easy.  I think simple lasagna with basic ingredients tastes the best.  I've tried adding cottage cheese, onions, and other things into my lasagna, but it never tastes as good as when I just keep it simple.  I make this a lot when we have friends over for dinner, and everyone always loves it.

You will need:

1 box of Lasagna noodles
Pasta Sauce (I use Prego or Ragu Traditional)
Shredded Cheese (I use a cheddar jack mix)
1lb ground beef, browned and drained
Seasoning for beef (just whatever you like)

non-stick cooking spray
a metal or glass pan (I use 9x9) or disposable pan
aluminum foil


Start by browning and draining the ground beef.  Add seasoning to the meat, or salt and pepper works too.

Every time I make lasagna, I use half of the noodles in one box.  I think it equals about 10-12 whole noodles.  Before boiling, break each noodle in half.  Boil lasagna noodles until they are al dente (which means they are slightly firm, not cooked all the way through).  You don't want them mushy, because they will cook more in the oven and become really soggy.  When the noodles are done rinse and let them cool.

For the pan, I like to use a square 9x9ish sized pan.  You can use a bigger one, but you will need to cook more noodles.  For a freezer meal, I like to use a disposable pan like this one.  It makes it easier to give away to someone else for a meal too, since you don't have to worry about getting your pan back.



Once you have all the prep work done, you are ready to make the lasagna.  Start by spraying the pan with cooking spray so the pasta doesn't stick to the pan later on.  Next, put a couple spoonfulls of sauce on the bottom of the pan.  Then follow these steps for layering the lasagna.

1. Add your noodles side by side and slightly overlapping if possible.  When you overlap the noodles, it helps keep the lasagna together better.  I always layer my noodles like this:

2. Next, add some sauce.  You don't want to put too much, but too little will make the lasagna dry.  I usually add more sauce if I plan on using the lasagna for leftovers after I cook it, because the extra sauce helps keep it yummy.  I usually spoon about one large spoonful of sauce per noodle I have in each layer.

3. Next, add your ground beef.  I usually separate my ground beef into 1/4 sections in the pan so I can make sure to have even amounts in each layer.  

4. Finally, sprinkle on the cheese.  Don't be shy with the cheese.  Too much cheese is never a bad thing.

Repeat steps 1-4 until you get to the top of the pan.  For the very last layer, make sure and add a lot of cheese.  When you are done, cover with aluminum foil.  Make sure and spray the foil with cooking non-stick spray on the side you will put on the lasagna to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil when you cook it.

Don't forget to label with a date and item name when you make your freezer meals.  If you're cooking the lasagna immediately, bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until the cheese on the top is melted and bubbly.  If you are freezing the lasagna, you will cook at 400 degrees for 1-2 hours or until the cheese is melted and bubbly on top.  All the ingredients inside are already cooked through, so you are essentially just warming it up.  Serve with a salad and garlic bread.

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