Thank you for everyone’s support and prayers for my baby great nephew! His surgery was successful! He is still in the hospital, in recovery, but his sweet mom finally got to hold him a couple of days after the surgery and he has an amazing team of nurses, doctors, and specialists looking after him.
I am going to discuss a practice this week that I rarely take part in: Freezer Meals. Even when I had a busier schedule, I only made freezer meals a couple times a year. But for many families, they are very helpful, and on occasion I find myself wishing I froze more meals in advance, for days when I’m too tired or sick to deal with the prep work of a meal, or days when our schedule is just plain hectic. I love having a freezer meal option on days when we tackle big house projects, like painting. All the energy spent on home improvement zaps any desire to stand in the kitchen and cook!
This past Saturday, I spent the entire day in the kitchen on a sudden whim to prep as much as possible for the week’s upcoming meals. In one day I made or prepped:
- Beef & Barley Stew (can be frozen, but I left mine in the refrigerator for Sunday’s dinner)
- Chimichurri marinade for salmon steaks
- Two Chicken & Spinach Pasta Casseroles
- Chicken Tikka Masala (chicken boiled & cut, but meal assembled the next day for lunch)
- Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
- Green Chili Pork Stew (chopped meat & veggies, all frozen in separate freezer bags, then stored in one larger freezer bag, prepped and ready to be thrown in the slow cooker another day)
- 8 cups of chicken broth, divided into portions.
That’s seven meals ready to go, plus a full 8 cups of chicken broth to have on hand for soups, stews, casseroles, and so on. I also restocked the cheeses in my freezer. I buy shredded cheeses in bulk for a lower unit cost, divide them into 1-cup portions, and freeze them. I always keep monterey jack, colby jack, cheddar, and mozzarella on hand for casseroles, enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, lasagna, etc.
BEEF AND BARLEY STEW
Serves 4; Stew can be doubled so half can be served immediately and half can be frozen
Downloadable PDF of Beef and Barley Stew
- This stew can be frozen in individual portions and reheated in a microwave safe bowl or on the stovetop
- Use frozen stew within 2-3 months
- Options for freezing and reheating:
- Freeze portions in individual freezer & microwave safe dishes, topped with foil, then tight-fitting lid. To reheat in the microwave straight from freezer, remove foil, vent lid, and thaw using the microwave’s defrost setting. Once stew and container have gently defrosted enough, microwave at 50% power for 2 – 4 minutes, stir stew, then microwave at full power an additional 1 – 2 minutes until thoroughly hot. Let sit for a minute, stir, then serve.
- Freeze portions in individual sized freezer plastic bags. To reheat in the microwave, tear the bag away from the frozen stew, place frozen stew in microwave safe dish and follow above instructions. To thaw on the stovetop, tear bag away from frozen stew, place frozen stew in a saucepan, and heat over medium low heat until thawed. Increase heat to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes until stew is heated through and steaming hot.
- Freeze one batch of stew in a large freezer safe container. To reheat, place container in refrigerator 24 hours before you want to serve the stew (the night before serving). Pour thawed stew into stock pot and reheat over medium heat, simmering at least 5 minutes, until heated through and steaming hot.
- When putting a dish straight from the freezer to the microwave, I ALWAYS use the microwave’s defrost setting to thaw the dish and food gently. Many dishes will crack or even explode if exposed to extreme temperature changes so ALWAYS be careful.
- In a large stock pot, heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium heat
- To the hot oil, add: 3/4 pound beef stew meat, cut in bite size pieces
- Sprinkle stew meat with salt and black pepper to season while browning
- While meat browns, dice 4 large carrots
- Add diced carrots to browned meat and saute 4-5 minutes
- To the carrots and meat, pour in 32 ounces low sodium beef broth
- Add 1/2 cup barley to the soup
- Stir in 12 ounces cream of mushroom soup (I use Pacific Organic brand, which has a wonderful, rich flavor)
- Bring soup to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low
- Simmer for 30 minutes or so
- Serve immediately, or cool to freeze
- Cool soup thoroughly in refrigerator before freezing
- Divide into desired freezer-safe containers, label with date, name of meal, and reheating instructions, and freeze.
This is one of my all time favorite stews for fall and winter. It’s so rich and hearty with very few ingredients. It freezes and reheats well, so it’s easy to double a batch and freeze half for later. I have been known to freeze portions of stews in individual microwave safe containers, take them to work, and heat them for lunch. They make an easy and filling homemade lunch at the office.
Remember to always, always ensure your dishes are microwave and freezer safe, and never subject them to sudden, extreme temperature changes for your safety. Exploding dishes are very dangerous. Also be sure to reheat food thoroughly, to steaming hot, to avoid food-bourn illnesses. Never freeze partially cooked meat. Freeze it raw, or fully cooked, never partially cooked. When in doubt, consult the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service’s website on Freezing and Food Safety.
~Ingredients to nourish the body put together in ways to nourish the soul to share with family and friends to nourish the heart~