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Broccoli and Wild Rice Casserole {Freezer Meal}

By Polly Conner

Broccoli and wild rice casserole. Full of flavor, packed with healthy ingredients and freezer friendly. Since I was in charge of bringing some type of broccoli casserole to Thanksgiving this year, I searched high and low for a recipe that could be made in advance (since we had to drive 2 hours that day) and that most people would like.

I came across Pioneer Woman’s Broccoli and Wild Rice Casserole recipe. I mean, a Pioneer Woman recipe has never served me wrong so I thought it was a no brainer. Well, I’m glad I gave it a trial run before making it for Thanksgiving because, well, I didn’t like it. (Please note-the pictures in this post are from when I made it the FIRST time. I have since tweaked it so if you make it, it may look a bit different).

I made quite a few changes to the recipe. First of all, the original recipe was WAY too much rice. I also felt like it needed more broccoli and veggies so I upped the amount of broccoli and added in some cauliflower.  With a few other tweaks, I got the recipe to be where I wanted it. I thought it was pretty dang good! I felt confident about the dish I was bringing (and that felt somewhat representative of my cooking abilities to my in-laws). Broccoli and wild rice casserole. Full of flavor, packed with healthy ingredients and freezer friendly.

Well, pride comes before the fall, my friends. I probably should have known that at a large Thanksgiving, people have LOTS of options and little space on their plate. When a broccoli and rice casserole is competing with cheesy twice baked potatoes, buttery rolls, three different types of turkey and so on, it pretty much doesn’t stand a chance. It just wasn’t fair to put the broccoli casserole to caramelized sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows. Or maybe I’m making excuses. I don’t know. For one reason or not, the broccoli casserole was not a hit. Just being real here.

Despite the majority of the crowds turning their nose at it, I stand by my recipe. I liked it and think it is worth sharing. It was full of flavor, filled with seasoned veggies, and made a great side dish. If you’re a broccoli and rice lover like me, you’ll probably like it too.

Ready or not, here is how to make Broccoli and Wild Rice Casserole.

Broccoli and wild rice casserole. Full of flavor, packed with healthy ingredients and freezer friendly.

Preheat oven to 375.

Time to get that wild rice cooking. Combine rice with 4-5 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until rice begins to break open. Mine took about 35-40 minutes, but follow the instructions on the package. As I mentioned above, the pictures I have are not necessarily representative of what it should look like. I used half of the rice in the picture below AND this rice should have cooked a bit more. 

Once the rice is cooked, set it aside or go ahead and spread it out in a 9×13 casserole dish.

Broccoli and wild rice casserole. Full of flavor, packed with healthy ingredients and freezer friendly.

Meanwhile, get to chopping up all of those veggies. Cut the broccoli into small florets. Finely chop the other veggies up. This recipe does have a lot of chopping to do so use a food chopper if you have one! Otherwise, give your forearms a pep talk because they are about to get a workout.

To make sure your broccoli gets cooked, you’re going to need to give it a head start. This means cooking it in boiling water for a minute or two then blanching it (removing it from the boiling water and plunging it into icy water to stop the cooking process). After this step, spread it out evenly over your wild rice.

Broccoli and wild rice casserole. Full of flavor, packed with healthy ingredients and freezer friendly.

Now it’s time to make the good stuff. In a large pot, melt about 6 tablespoons of butter and then toss all the rest of your diced veggies in with it. Stir frequently for about 8 minutes until they are softening and turning a bit darker.

Sprinkle the flour on the vegetables and stir to incorporate it, then cook for about a minute. Pour in the remaining 5 cups of broth and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and allow it to thicken, about 3 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream, stirring to combine. Let the mixture cook until it thickens. Season with the salt and pepper, then taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Using a ladle, scoop out the vegetable/broth mixture and spoon it evenly all over the top. Continue with the rest of the sauce, totally covering the surface with vegetables.

Broccoli and wild rice casserole. Full of flavor, packed with healthy ingredients and freezer friendly.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine in separate bowl with the panko breadcrumbs. Toss the mixture together to coat the breadcrumbs in butter, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs all over the top.

Broccoli and wild rice casserole. Full of flavor, packed with healthy ingredients and freezer friendly.

Cover with foil and bake your casserole for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 15-20 minutes more until the breadcrumbs brown a bit.

Enjoy!Broccoli and wild rice casserole. Full of flavor, packed with healthy ingredients and freezer friendly.

Broccoli and wild rice casserole. Full of flavor, packed with healthy ingredients and freezer friendly.

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Broccoli and Wild Rice Casserole

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Casserole
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Broccoli and wild rice casserole. Full of flavor, packed with healthy, fresh ingredients and freezer friendly. Take this to your next family gathering!


Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked Wild Rice
  • 10 cups Low-sodium Chicken Broth, more If needed for thinning
  • 1/2 cup (1 Stick) Butter
  • 4 heads broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 package (8oz) white mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1.5 cup cauliflower, finely chopped
  • 1 whole medium onion, finely diced
  • 2 whole carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Instructions

  1. Start cooking your wild rice. Combine 4-5 cups chicken broth with wild rice. Bring to a boil (follow the cooking instructions that are on the wild rice package or cook the rice until it has just started to break open and is slightly tender). Mine took about 35 to 40 minutes. Drain and set it aside.
  2. Meanwhile, blanch the broccoli by throwing the florets into boiling water for 1½ to 2 minutes. Immediately drain and plunge it into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Remove it from the ice water and set it aside.
  3. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat, then melt 6 tablespoons of the butter. Add all of your vegetables and cook them, stirring frequently for about 7-8 minutes. When they start to soften and turn a bit brown, they are done.
  4. Sprinkle the flour on the vegetables and stir to incorporate. Then cook for about a minute. Pour in the remaining 5 cups of broth and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and allow it to thicken, about 3 minutes. Pour in the heavy cream, stirring to combine. Let the mixture cook until it thickens. Season with the salt and pepper, then taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
  5. Add the cooked rice to the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish, then layer on the broccoli. Using a ladle, scoop out the vegetable/broth mixture and spoon it evenly all over the top. Continue with the rest of the sauce, totally covering the surface with vegetables.
  6. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine in separate bowl with the panko breadcrumbs. Toss the mixture together to coat the breadcrumbs in butter, then sprinkle the breadcrumbs all over the top.
  7. Cover with foil and bake the casserole at 375 for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top. Optional: sprinkle on the parsley after you remove it from the oven.

Notes

Freezer Meal Instructions:
To Freeze:
Follow steps 1-6. Freeze before cooking.

To Prepare:
When ready to cook, let thaw completely and follow step 7.

Light & Easy Penne Rosa Pasta: 15 Minute One-Pot Dinner

By Rachel Tiemeyer

This four-ingredient pasta dish is so simple to make and has fantastic flavor. Garnish it with some basil and parmesan cheese for a meal you're sure to love.

Many nights of the week, I’m looking for a meal that I can pull together in just minutes and that doesn’t dirty up the kitchen. Penne Rosa Pasta fits the bill! Plus, this cheesy and filling pasta dish is also light and tasty! I like to steam some broccoli florets in a colander over the boiling pasta for a fast and healthy side. You’ll have this meal on the table in about 15 minutes. Score.

light and easy penne rosa pasta

This four-ingredient pasta dish is so simple to make and has fantastic flavor. Garnish it with some basil and parmesan cheese for a meal you're sure to love.

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Penne Rosa Pasta

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Instant Pot
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This four-ingredient pasta dish is so simple to make and has fantastic flavor. Garnish it with some basil and parmesan cheese for a meal you’re sure to love.


Ingredients

  • 12 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
  • 2 cups marinara (either homemade or a good store-bought one)
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese (low fat works)
  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (fat-free works)
  • Optional garnishes: chopped fresh parsley and/or basil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Cook penne pasta according to directions. Drain pasta.
  2. Combine hot pasta with marinara, cream cheese, and yogurt in the pot. Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.
  3. Serve warm with chopped parsley or basil and/or shredded Parmesan cheese on top.

Homemade Whole Wheat Egg Noodles

By Rachel Tiemeyer

These homemade whole wheat egg noodles are cheap, healthy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. All my favorites in one recipe!

Homemade whole wheat egg noodles - delicious and simple!

My 5-year-old daughter and I threw these together one afternoon in about 15 minutes. I know it looks fancy or difficult, but I ASSURE you that you can do this.

Check out just how easy it is to make Homemade Whole Wheat Egg Noodles…

Homemade whole wheat egg noodles - delicious and simple!

My kids took several helpings of the chicken noodle soup we made with these. And, the leftovers were even better the next day. We’ll be making them again soon!

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Homemade Whole Wheat Egg Noodles

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Mix and prep
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Homemade whole wheat egg noodles are delicious and simple! Make them from scratch and enjoy the fantastic flavor in Chicken Noodle Soup or as pasta with sauce on them.


Ingredients

  • 2 1/3 cups whole wheat flour (I recommend white whole wheat flour for lighter noodles.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup water, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Instructions

Make the Noodles:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Then, make a “well” in the middle using your finger.
  2. In a separate small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, water and olive oil. Pour this wet mixture into the “well” in the middle of the dry mixture. Stir with a spoon until the ingredients are mostly combined. Add a little more water if it is too crumbly and not coming together like a dough.
  3. Generously dust flour over a clean countertop. Dump the dough out onto the well floured surface and knead it with your hands a little bit to get the ingredients combined well. Form into a round disc-shaped dough ball. Sprinkle with a little more flour.
  4. Use a well floured rolling pin and roll out your noodle dough until it’s very thin, about 1/8 inch in thickness. If needed, add more flour under the dough to keep it from sticking to the counter. This is very important!
  5. Use a pizza cutter to cut long strips of noodles as thin or thick as you like and any length you like, but try to keep them a uniform size.

Cook the Noodles:

Simmer your homemade egg noodles in a big pot of salted water until noodles are fat and tender to the bite (aka al dente). Drain in a colander. Or, try using them directly in this Chicken Noodle Soup.

Store the Noodles for Later:

Option 1 (Freezing the Dough): After Step 3, place the dough in a freezer bag, seal, and freeze until ready to use. The dough will be good for about 3 months. When you’re ready to use it, thaw the dough in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours and following the instructions, beginning with Step 4.

Option 2: (Drying and Storing the Noodles): Complete the recipe through Step 5. Spread the cut noodles on a wire cooling rack and let dry for about 2 hours. Store in an air-tight container in the pantry for up to a month.

 

Garden Vegetable and Lentil Soup {Freezer Meal}

By Rachel Tiemeyer

If you’re looking for a low calorie, nutritionally-dense, and tasty soup….this is it! #realfood #freezermeal #superhealthy

I can’t wait to share this recipe with you. If you’re looking for a low calorie, nutritionally-dense, and tasty soup….this is it! It’s simply perfect for a summer day, especially when your fridge is overflowing with garden produce to use up.

Here’s a bowl full of veggies my green-thumb friend, Nicole, sent me home with last week. This palette was quite an inspiration. You know cooking is art, don’t you?

Garden Vegetable and Lentil Soup Recipe: If you’re looking for a low calorie, nutritionally-dense, and tasty soup….this is it! #realfood #freezermeal #superhealthy

Now, let’s talk lentils for a minute. Did I scare you off with a mention of those? If so, don’t shy away from these small round, lens shaped legumes. I hadn’t tried cooking with them until this recipe, and I tell you, I’m sold! Not only are they full of fiber and protein, but they made this soup hearty and rich-tasting. They really cook down in the broth, adding a buttery creaminess to the texture. The key, I learned, is using lots of seasoning to keep them from tasting bland in this soup.

Garden Vegetable and Lentil Soup: If you’re looking for a low calorie, nutritionally-dense, and tasty soup….this is it! #realfood #freezermeal #superhealthy

One more thing to share before we get to the recipe. Would you believe that my kids even tried and ate some of this soup? All three of them–the 2, 4, and 6 year olds. That’s because they helped me pick the produce and chop it for the soup. The push to get kids in the kitchen isn’t just a nice theory. It really works if you’re wanting your children to try new foods and take an interest in where their food comes from.

Garden Vegetable and Lentil Soup Recipe: If you’re looking for a low calorie, nutritionally-dense, and tasty soup….this is it! #realfood #freezermeal #superhealthy

My 6-year-old has become an expert chopper, as we’ve worked on his knife skills over the past year. My 4-year-old daughter isn’t too bad either. I usually give them a butter knife and it works fine, although I now trust my older son with a small sharp chopping knife. The 2-year-old picked herbs off the back porch for me and then proceeded to make his own “soup” while we cooked. What great fun in the kitchen (and quite a mess…yes…but worth it)!

Garden Vegetable and Lentil Soup Recipe: If you’re looking for a low calorie, nutritionally-dense, and tasty soup….this is it! #realfood #freezermeal #superhealthy

Keep in mind, you can use all kinds of veggies in this recipe. Just toss in what you have on hand in place of the ones I suggest, if you want. Happy summer soup making!

Garden Vegetable and Lentil Soup: If you’re looking for a low calorie, nutritionally-dense, and tasty soup….this is it! #realfood #freezermeal #superhealthy

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Garden Vegetable and Lentil Soup recipe

Garden Vegetable and Lentil Soup Recipe

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Dutch Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

A low calorie, nutritionally-dense, and tasty soup that’s simply perfect for a summer day or a cold winter night.


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 cups onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • fresh thyme, bundle a few sprigs and tie together with kitchen twine or another sprig
  • 23 large carrots or 1 bag of baby carrots, chopped
  • 2 cups green beans, chopped
  • 1 small to medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • fresh herbs (i.e. parsley, basil, etc), chopped, to taste

Instructions

Note: Try to chop the vegetables about the same size and small enough to fit on a spoon bite.

  1. Heat olive oil in Dutch oven over medium heat.
  2. Add onions, bay leaf, and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Saute until softened. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Pour in chicken broth and bring to a boil.
  3. Add lentils and thyme bundle and simmer about 10 minutes less than the lentil package directions call for.
  4. Add vegetables and simmer another 10 minutes.
  5. Remove bay leaf and thyme bundle. Top with freshly chopped herbs. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Serving suggestion: Top with fresh Parmesan cheese and serve with a good loaf of crusty bread.


Notes

Freezer Meal Instructions:

To Freeze:
Cook soup completely and let cool. Put soup in freezer-safe container or bag. Freezer for up to 3 months.
To Prepare:
Thaw soup in refrigerator overnight. You can also warm it from frozen on the stovetop.
*Note, you may need to add some more water or broth because the vegetables will absorb some of the liquid.

Vegetable Minestrone Soup {Freezer Meal}

By Rachel Tiemeyer

Update on 8/4/14: I tested this soup again and made a few tweaks. It’s incredible! Who knew this many veggies in one bowl could be so scrumptious? Serve with some crusty bread, and you’re good to go.

Need to use up some vegetables quickly?  Here’s an idea.  A brief perusal of my refrigerator and freezer this morning revealed some aging celery, onions, garlic, green beans, and a host of other veggies that had to go soon. So, I tried my hand at a vegetable minestrone soup.

Although I passed up using meat in the ingredient list (I’m sure Italian sausage would be great), I was pleased to learn that my farm-boy-carnivorous husband liked it!  Not only that, but much to my surprise, my kids even ate this vegetable soup (a minor miracle!).  Of course, feel free to substitute in the things you like and omit the ones you don’t; it’s hard to mess this one up.

Hope you enjoy this filling, healthful, and cheap soup!

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Vegetable Minestrone Soup

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Who knew you could enjoy so many vegetables in one bowl of soup? Try this hearty vegetable minestrone for your next weeknight meal. You’ll be so glad you did!


Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 celery stalks, chopped
  • 23 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 6 cups low-sodium, all-natural vegetable broth
  • 4 cups tomato juice (i.e. V8)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup whole wheat elbow pasta
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup broccoli, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas
  • fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Saute onion, carrots, and celery until soft (about 3-4 minutes). Add garlic and saute 1 minute.
  2. Add garbanzo beans, vegetable broth, tomato juice, water, Italian seasoning (crush in hand before adding), salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. {Freezer instructions begin here}
  3. Add whole wheat macaroni noodles and cook for 4-5 more minutes (or a few minutes less than the directions say to cook it.)
  4. Then, add green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower and cook for 4-5 minutes (or until crisp-tender).
  5. Stir in the frozen peas and turn heat to low (no need to cook these, as they will warm up in the soup). Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove bay leaf.
  6. Serve warm and topped with chopped fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese.

Notes

Freezer Meal Instructions:
To Freeze:
Fully cook the soup through Step 2 (before adding the pasta), let it cool completely, and freeze in a BPA-free gallon freezer bag or other air-tight freezable container for up to 3 months.
To Prepare From Frozen:
Thaw soup and add to a large pot. Bring to a simmer, add the pasta, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

Creamy Corn Chowder: A Lighter Version {Freezer Meal}

By Rachel Tiemeyer

It’s a winter day fit for Creamy Corn Chowder, I say.  Why?  Here’s a peek out my front door.

This lighter version of Corn Chowder yields a creamy, rich-tasting soup without all the calories. You won't miss the cheese and bacon in this one!

With a wind chill of something like -4 degrees and several inches of snow, soup was a must for lunch today.  I tried out a quick and healthy Corn Chowder recipe (see below), making quite a few adaptations.  My friend Jeannette stopped by (which made for an even better lunch!), and we both thought the chowder was very good.  The kids didn’t mind it.  “Meal success” also equals “no outright rejection of the food by the kids,” so I count this as a win.

This lighter version of Corn Chowder yields a creamy, rich-tasting soup without all the calories. You won't miss the cheese and bacon in this one!
If you’d like to “unhealth” it a little, you could always add a bit of bacon or ham at the beginning and cook the veggies in that fat.  You could also add cheese.  But, quite honestly, the flavor of this meatless, low-fat soup held it’s own.  I will definitely make it again.

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Lighter Creamy Corn Chowder

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 23 minutes
  • Total Time: 28 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This lighter version of Corn Chowder yields a creamy, rich-tasting soup without all the calories. You won’t miss the cheese and bacon in this one!


Ingredients

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 in pieces, divided
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 medium to large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 2/3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/3 cups reduced fat milk
  • 2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • Dried or fresh parsley (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. In small saucepan, put two of the potatoes in enough cold water to cover them. Liberally salt the water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender (about 8-10 minutes).
  2. While potatoes are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until soft. Add celery, carrot, and garlic, and season with a dash of salt and pepper (maybe 1/4 teaspoon of each). Saute until soft, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add remaining potato, broth, bay leaf, and Italian seasoning. Cover; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and cook, partially covered, until potato is tender, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, once the two potatoes in the small saucepan are done cooking, drain the water. Add 2 tablespoons butter, a splash of chicken stock, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and mash well. Add this mashed potato mixture to soup in medium saucepan. Stir to combine.
  5. Place milk and 1 cup corn kernels in blender. Place cover on blender jar. Blend until well combined, about 25-30 seconds. Add this mixture and remaining 1 cup of corn to the soup. Stir until well combined.
  6. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Cook gently over low heat until warmed through. Add a little dried or finely minced fresh parsley for garnish, if desired.

Notes

Freezer Meal Instructions:
To Freeze:
Fully cook the soup, cool, and freeze.
To Prepare:
Thaw in the refrigerator and then warm at a low temperature on the stovetop.