Thursday, April 17, 2014

Freeze Ahead Meals: Meatloaf, Taco Meat, Enchiladas, and Loose Meat Sandwiches

One of the strangest things for me with my second pregnancy has been the nesting instinct.  With Annalyn, it was easy - I had to get the nursery ready, clothes washed/organized, essentials purchased/cleaned/organized and reorganized when I decided my original method made no sense (mostly because I had no idea what would make sense once she was actually here), books to read, blankets/booties/hats to knit, and impending parenthood to ponder/look forward to/stress about.  I definitely had plenty to keep me busy. 

This time around, I have more than enough to keep me busy (things like a two yr old, full time job, etc.), but in terms of getting ready for baby, not so much.  The nursery's already done, including a big girl bed for Annalyn so she doesn't resent baby for taking over her crib.  I've gone through all the giant tubs of baby clothes and made room for them.  I even finished knitting her blanket last week (big relief!) and bought cute little matching outfits for the girls for the day we bring her home.  Michael has a list of things to retrieve from the attic (car seat, burp clothes, etc.) and hopefully with nagging he will get them down within a couple weeks.  We've hired our new nanny and made plans with friends/family for when baby makes her arrival.  I've even started collecting items for my hospital bag since Annalyn came 3 weeks early.  Truly, we are almost ready!  Yet, I feel like I should be doing more. 

So in an effort to feel productive and do something, I decided to start making a few freeze ahead meals for my last weeks of pregnancy/first weeks of new baby.  I made a few of these before Annalyn and along with meals that our friends/family/neighbors brought, we were so grateful for them.  Since my time is much more accounted for these days, I decided it would be best to carefully plan the preparation of these meals to be as efficient as possible.  So day one of freezer meals included all ground beef recipes:  meatloaf, taco meat, beef enchiladas, and loose meat sandwich meat.  To be honest, I was very impressed with how quickly and easily these all came together.  Take a look at how our day went:

Day one of my last vacation before Emelina arrives:
- 10 am:  OB appointment with Annalyn (and office was running about 40 min behind)
- 11:30 - 12:30pm:  groceries (to buy the ingredients) and birthday treat delivery to Tammy at the pharmacy
- 1 - 3pm:  lunch and snuggles with Peanut
- 3 - 5pm:  naptime for Peanut and cooking like mad for Mama!  I successfully made 6 freezer meals all while she was napping.  Whew!  Talk about a feeling of accomplishment.  Special thanks to my Michael for helping clean up the mess and grilling brats for dinner.

Here's how Mama coordinated it:

Ground Beef Freezer Meals

Ingredient list:  (includes 1 meatloaf, 2 qt. bags taco meat, 2 pans of 6 enchiladas each, and 1 qt. bag loose meat sandwich meat)

- 6 lbs. ground beef
- 3 large or 4 medium onions, chopped (can be done ahead!)
- 2 cans black beans
- 1 (7 oz.) can chopped green chiles
- 1 (5 3/4 oz.) jar sliced green olives
- 2 ( 3.8 oz.) cans sliced black olives
- 4 pkg taco seasoning
- 2 T. mustard
- 2 T. cider vinegar
- 1 T. brown sugar
- 1 pkg Ritz crackers, crushed
- 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 t. Lawry's seasoning salt
- 2 eggs
- 24 oz. white Velveeta cheese
- 1 1/2 c. fat free sour cream
- 12 tortillas
- 2/3 c. shredded cheddar
- salt and pepper as needed
- quart freezer bags
- 8 inch square foil pan
- two 9x13" foil pans
- aluminum foil and plastic wrap


1.  First, chop all the onions - it makes it so much easier to have this done already.  Remove about 1 lb. of beef for the meatloaf and 1 lb. for the loose meat sandwiches (LM).  Brown the meat for the LM, adding about a cup of chopped onion and 2 t. salt.  Drain the fat.

I bought 3 lb. containers, and roughly split into thirds


2.  While meat is browning, mix up the meatloaf by adding 1 c. chopped onion, 1 pkg crushed crackers, 2 eggs, 1 T. Worcestershire sauce, and spices (s/p to taste, 1 t. Lawry's seasoning salt).  Place into an ungreased 8" square foil pan, cover with plastic wrap and foil, label, and freeze.

3.  Add remaining ingredients to the LM (2 T. mustard, 2 T. cider vinegar, 1 T. brown sugar, 1 c. water), bring to boil, then decrease heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes.  Meanwhile, begin browning remaining ground beef for taco meat.  (It took a little longer than usual because it was 4 lbs. of meat.  I used a big soup pot, but if you have a really big/deep skillet, go for that!)


4.  Drain taco meat, add onion and cook until softened slightly.  Add remaining taco ingredients (2 cans black beans, 2 cans sliced black olives, 1 jar sliced green olives, 1 can chopped green chilies, 4 pkgs taco seasoning, 2 c. water).  We like to add a lot to ours, feel free to adjust to your taste.


5.   Allow taco meat to simmer until the water is cooked off.  By now, the LM should be done and ready to place in a labeled quart freezer bag.  When taco meat is close to done, heat 24 oz. Velveeta with 1 1/2 c. sour cream until melted.  Grease two 9x13" foil pans.  Set aside for enchiladas.


6.  Remove half of the prepared taco meat and place into two labeled quart freezer bags.  Add half of the Velveeta mixture to the remaining taco meat for enchiladas. 


7.  Assemble enchiladas by placing about 2/3 c. taco meat in each tortilla.  Wrap and place in greased pans (about 6 per pan).  Cover with remaining Velveeta mixture and sprinkle with shredded cheddar (about 1/3 c. per pan).   Cover with foil, label, and freeze.

8.  Step back and admire the fact that you just made 6 meals (plus leftovers!) in about 2 hours!  Whew!

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