Posts

The BEST Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe

By Polly Conner

If you are looking for a GREAT Snickerdoodle Cookie recipe, go no further. Stop searching. Don’t try anything else. You have arrived. These Snickerdoodles are easy to make, so soft & chewy, and so delicious. I am even going to show you how to make them ahead to freeze!

Snickerdoodle cookies stacked up

Snickerdoodles are like a moist, fluffy sugar cookie wrapped in a cinnamon sugar hug. They seem especially special around the holidays but I am totally fine making them anytime of the year. I have been making this recipe for almost 10 years now and wouldn’t change one thing about it.

This recipe is the only one you’ll need.

Soft and chewy snickerdoodle cookies with bite taken out

Snicker Doodle Pro Tips I’ve Learned Over the Years

This is a great recipe to make with kids. Not only does it come together fast, but they love to help roll the dough into balls and coat them with the cinnamon sugar. If you have multiple kids helping, give them each their own bowl. Trust me on this one.

Child's hand rolling snickerdoodles in cinnamon & sugar

Error on undercooking the cookies. For me, 12 minutes is PERFECT. Not one minute over, not one minute under. To obtain that desired chewiness you want in a Snickerdoodle, you simply cannot overcook them. Nothing worse than an overcooked Snickerdoodle.

Snickerdoodles on a baking sheet

Double the recipe and freeze some of the dough for later! See below on how to do that.

How to Freeze Snickerdoodle Cookies

If you want to make these cookies ahead of time, I recommend balling up the dough, rolling them in the cinnamon sugar, and freezing them on a baking sheet, and then moving them to store in an airtight container.

When you want to make them, simply let them thaw for 20-30 minutes on a baking sheet and then bake them as directed.

Snickerdoodle cookie dough in a freezer bag

Why is Cream of Tartar in Snickerdoodles?

Instead of baking powder, use cream of tartar and baking soda in snickerdoodles. Cream of tartar adds a unique tangy flavor to the cookie, which sets it apart from a regular sugar cookie. It’s absolutely delicious and pretty essential to making a Snickerdoodle.

Snickerdoodle cookies on a white platter
Print

The BEST Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 14 minutes
  • Total Time: 29 minutes
  • Yield: 1618 cookies 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These snickerdoodles are always a favorite with their soft, chewy middle and the delicious cinnamon sugar mixture on the outside.


Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Cinnamon sugar mixture for rolling:

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions

  1. In large bowl, mix together the butter and sugars. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  2. In another bowl combine the rest of the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar).
  3. Mix dry ingredients into the wet.
  4. Refrigerate dough for 30-60 minutes.
  5. Scoop a small amount of dough out and roll into a small ball (I’d say a little smaller than a walnut).
  6. Roll dough into cinnamon sugar mixture.
  7. Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes and no more. The cookies will seem a bit undercooked but they will continue to develop after they are removed from the oven.
Snickerdoodle cookies stacked

Oven Roasted Broccoli

By Polly Conner

This simple side dish will turn your broccoli-hater into a broccoli-lover! Our 3 ingredients Oven Roasted Broccoli is DELISH!

Friends, take me seriously when I tell you that cooking broccoli this way will convert your family into broccoli eaters. Want proof?

  • My husband who has turned his nose up at broccoli his entire life now scoops a generous portion of this onto his plate.
  • My two-year-old repeated the phrase, “Mo brockwy” at least five times when we served this at dinner for the first time.
  • When we went to a tailgate a few days later, the same two-year-old passed up the chips and other junk food for a handful of raw broccoli (thinking it would taste the way I made it.) She wasn’t too happy when she took a bite to find out it didn’t have the flavor of the oven-roasted goodness.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to steaming broccoli. We are oven roasted converts.

The Three Simple Ingredients in Oven Roasted Broccoli

This side dish is incredibly easy. To be honest, I don’t even measure the ingredients any more. Once you get the feel for it, you will be able to make it intuitively as well. The ingredients you’ll need are:

  • Broccoli – using fresh is far better than roasting it from frozen. BUT from frozen will work in a pinch.
  • Olive oil – another great option is avocado oil.
  • Sea salt – I have for sure used table salt, kosher salt, and even garlic salt and they all work.

Raw broccoli on a baking sheet

How Long do I Roast the Broccoli?

This really depends how crispy you want your broccoli to be. Anywhere from 13-18 minutes will have it done. I like mine pretty charred so I error on the longer side. If it’s not browning up like you want it to, you can always broil it for a minute or two at the end!

Overhead shot of oven roasted broccoli

How to Store and Reheat Roasted Broccoli

Like most leftovers, you’ll want to store your roasted broccoli in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

To reheat, I highly recommend using a toaster oven or your oven. If not, the reheated broccoli will be pretty soggy and sad.

What to Serve with Roasted Broccoli

Roasted broccoli would be a great side dish for SO many meals. Here are a few ideas:

Print

Oven Roasted Broccoli

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 13 minutes
  • Total Time: 18 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Vegetables
  • Method: Roasted
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Oven roasted broccoli is the perfect side dish for your next meal. It is perfectly crispy, does not get soft, and has fantastic flavor because of the olive oil and sea salt.


Ingredients

  • 23 heads of broccoli, cut up
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • pinch of sea salt

Instructions

  1. Cut the florets off of your broccoli and put them all in a ziplock bag
  2. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and a pinch of salt
  3. Shake it up until broccoli is coated with oil
  4. Spread broccoli out on greased baking sheet
  5. Cook at 450 for about 13 minutes.

If you like roasted vegetables, you might also like:

Oven Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Vegetable Hash

Sweet and Savory Carrots

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken

By Polly Conner

This Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken recipe is easy, tasty, freezer-friendly, and made in the crock pot. Shred up those tender chicken thighs and serve it over rice for a delicious, filling dinner. For a dump and go crock pot freezer meal, it doesn’t get much better!

Slow cooker teriyaki chicken on a plate with green onion

Oh man, was this Slow Cooker Chicken Teriyaki good. Yes, I do repeat. This is a GREAT SLOW COOKER RECIPE. I have tried one too many slow cooker recipes that have failed to impress me, but this one is a keeper.

What Ingredients Do I Need to Make Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken?

The ingredients are simple. I bet you have most of them at home already! Here is what you’ll need…

Ingredients in slow cooker teriyaki chicken
  • Olive or avocado oil to saute the onions
  • 1/2 onion, diced – We found that this needs to be sauteed in order to be done when the chicken is done. If not, you’ll have crunchy onions!
  • Garlic cloves, minced – Shortcut: 1-2 teaspoons pre-minced garlic
  • Soy sauce Gluten-Free Option: Use coconut aminos or gluten-free Tamari Soy Sauce
  • Honey
  • Brown sugar 
  • Rice wine vinegar 
  • Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (This is where we get our favorite organic chicken*.) – You can also use boneless, skinless thighs!
  • Cornstarch – To thicken the sauce at the end.

*affiliate link

That’s it! In fact, watch this short video to see how easily Teriyaki Chicken comes together:

How Long Do I Cook Chicken Thighs in the Slow Cooker?

There is a lot of misinformation out there about how long to cook chicken in the slow cooker. After testing hundreds and hundreds of slow cooker recipes for our cookbooks, we have nailed down the perfect cooking times for all the most common cuts of meat. In fact, we created a free, printable slow cooker cooking times chart. You can download it and print it off to have on hand for the future.

When it comes to chicken thighs, we have found it’s always best to cook them on Low and only for 3-4 hours at the very most. While chicken thighs can cook a bit longer than chicken breast, they will definitely start to dry out after that amount of time cooking.

Teriyaki chicken thighs in a slow cooker

Can you freeze Slow Cooker Chicken Teriyaki?

Yes! This recipe makes for an awesome make ahead Crock Pot freezer meal. Here’s how:

To Freeze For Later: Place the raw chicken thighs and all of the marinade ingredients (except for the cornstarch) into a gallon-sized freezer bag. Seal and freeze.

To Prepare From Frozen: Thaw using one of these safe methods and then cook as directed.

Teriyaki Chicken thighs in a freezer bag with marinade

Can I add vegetables to this meal in the slow cooker?

While you can for sure add vegetables to the recipe in the slow cooker, I’d recommend giving them a quick saute on the stove instead and then stirring them in at the very end. That way they stay fresh and crisp. When cooked in the slow cooker, vegetables can get a little soggy.

I also love to serve it over a bed of brown rice.

Teriyaki chicken on a serving platter with vegetables

Can I use other cuts of chicken instead of thighs?

You bet! Just use our cooking times chart to navigate how long to cook the chicken for in the slow cooker.

Print

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken {Freezer Meal}

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 hours
  • Total Time: 5 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Freezer Meal
  • Method: Slow cooker
  • Cuisine: Japanese

Description

This fast, healthy chicken teriyaki dinner will thoroughly impress your family and friends. The best part – it’s made in the slow cooker, so you have very little work to do!


Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (Shortcut: 12 teaspoons pre-minced garlic)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (Gluten-Free Option: Use coconut aminos or gluten-free Tamari Soy Sauce)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar 
  • 2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (This is where we get our favorite organic chicken*.)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

*affiliate link


Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. Heat the oil in a small saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Saute the onions for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add in the garlic and saute for another 30-60 seconds. (Shortcut: Place the onions and oil in a small microwaveable bowl and microwave for 3-4 minutes, until softened. Add in the garlic and microwave for another 30-60 seconds.) Add to the slow cooker.
  2. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and honey to the slow cooker and whisk until combined. Nestle the chicken into the bottom and make sure it’s coated in the sauce.
  3. Cover and cook on LOW for 3-4 hours, until internal temperature registers to 165°F.
  4. When chicken is done, remove it from the marinade to a serving platter*. Then, carefully pour the marinade into a medium sauce pan.
  5. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together 3 tablespoons cold water and the cornstarch until the cornstarch is dissolved and no longer lumpy.
  6. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the teriyaki sauce mixture, and whisk to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, and let it cook for about 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat.
  7. Pour the sauce over the top of of the chicken until it is well coated. (This won’t take all of the marinade; you will have some remaining). Optional: Using two forks, shred the chicken and serve over rice.

Freeze For Later: Place the raw chicken thighs and all of the marinade ingredients (except for the cornstarch) into a gallon-sized freezer bag. Seal and freeze.

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw using one of these safe methods and then cook as directed in Step 3.

COOKING NOTES:

*If you want the skin on the chicken to be crispy, transfer it to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Broil the chicken under the broiler for about 3-5 minutes, until crispy. Keep a close eye on it.

Want More Slow Cooker Freezer Meals?

We have an amazon collection of make ahead crock pot meals. Here is a great round up of 25+ Slow Cooker Recipes to get you started!

slow cooker and crock pot Recipes for groups of people

Southwest Chicken Tenders

By Rachel Tiemeyer

This southwest chicken recipe is sure to please all the eaters in your house. It’s easy, healthy, freezer-friendly, and full of flavor but not spicy. You can bake it or–even better–grill it!

Southwest Chicken tenders on a white plate and on the grill

These Southwest Chicken Tenders take main stage in our Southwest Chicken and Bacon Wraps and Southwest Chicken Burrito Bowls recipes. However, we’ve also learned that they are delicious on a salad or a chicken sandwich. There are so many ways to use them.

How to Make Southwest Chicken Tenders

Just check out how easily this southwest chicken recipe comes together…

Do I have to use chicken tenders for this Southwest Chicken recipe?

Heavens, no! We know our readers love versatility. The marinade will work for almost any cut of chicken. You can use it on:

  • Chicken breasts
  • Drumsticks
  • Thighs
  • And, of course, tenders.
southwest chicken marinade in a freezer bag with chicken breasts

What Ingredients are in the marinade?

As a mom of three younger kids, what I love about this marinade is that it’s so very flavorful but not too spicy. The resulting meal is a home run with all ages. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Avocado or olive oil – Use a fairly neutral oil keeps things moist without an overpowering flavor.
  • Apple cider vinegar – Cider vinegar adds a delicious twist on the acid component but white vinegar will work.
  • Fresh chopped cilantro (or parsley) – Adds a pop of green and fresh flavor. Use dried parsley (half the amount) as a sub.
  • Chili powder – Smoky, subtle heat from ground chilis. Flavor can vary between brands.
  • Garlic powder – This pantry staple adds big (and convenient) garlic flavor that rounds out the whole marinade.
  • Ground cumin – Love this smoky yet not spicy addition.
  • Dried oregano – Crush in your hand before adding to release the oils in this dried herb.
  • Salt – A must in any chicken marinade.
  • Ground black pepper – Gives a little bite. Add more if you’d like.
Ingredients in a southwest chicken recipe

Can I Freeze Southwest Chicken Tenders?

YES YES YES!

This recipe is one of my go-to freezer meals. It’s so easy to scale up and make multiple batches at once.

HOW TO FREEZE:

Combine all ingredients except the chicken tenders in a large freezer bag, seal, and shake. Add chicken tenders, seal tightly, and shake again. Label and freeze.

HOW TO THAW AND PREPARE:

Place the frozen chicken in the fridge and let thaw for about 24 hours. If you need your chicken defrosted sooner, use one of these safe thawing methods.

Southwest Chicken recipe in a freezer bag
 

How Should I Cook Southwest Chicken Tenders?

The two best ways to prepare southwest chicken tenders are:

Grill it!

Grill chicken tenders over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes per side. Chicken is done when there is no longer any pink inside or it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. (source)

Bake it!

Bake at 425°F for about 15 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking time. Chicken is done when there is no longer any pink inside or it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. (source)

Southwestern Chicken on a grill

How Should I Serve Southwest Chicken Tenders?

Here are some ways to use your chicken tenders:

  1. Serve them in Southwest Chicken and Bacon Wraps. This is my personal favorite, and I make it all the time for groups.

2. Use it for Southwest Chicken Burrito Bowls. We love this option, because everyone can personalize their own bowl.

3. Turn it into a chicken sandwich like the Gourmet Grilled Chicken Sandwich.

Create the ultimate chicken sandwiches for any weeknight by prepping and freezing all the components ahead of time. This well-seasoned, versatile grilled chicken also works to top pasta or salads.

4. Dice the chicken and use on top of a salad, perhaps with our Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette.

However you serve it, be sure to double and freeze a batch for later. Your crew is going to love this southwest chicken recipe!

Print

Southwest Chicken Tenders

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Total Time: 23 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Grilled
  • Cuisine: American

Description

These southwest chicken tenders are sure to please all the eaters in your house. They are full of flavor but not spicy. 


Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup avocado oil or olive oil
  • 1/3 cup apple cider or white vinegar (Gluten-Free: Make sure your vinegar is gluten-free.)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders

Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the chicken tenders in a large zip top bag and shake. Add chicken tenders and shake again. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  2. Place bag in a dish and set in the refrigerator. Let chicken marinate for 2 and up to 24 hours, occasionally turning the bag to evenly distribute the marinade.
  3. Cook the chicken using one of the following two methods. Chicken is done when you cut into it and there is no more pink or it registers 165°F internally. Do not overcook. 
    1. OPTION ONE: GRILLING – Grill chicken tenders over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes per side. 
    2. OPTION TWO: BAKING – Bake at 425°F for about 15 minutes, flipping half way through. 

Freeze For Later: Follow Step 1. Seal and freeze.

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw using one of these safe thawing methods. Cook the chicken according to Step 3.

Southwest chicken tenders after being grilled

Crowd Pleaser Mexican Soup

By Polly Conner

This is the only Mexican Soup recipe you’ll ever need. I’ve been making a variation of this soup for my family and guests for years.

Mexican soup in a white bowl with toppings

Affiliate links are used this this post.

One of the things I appreciate most about this Mexican Soup recipe is its versatility. It can be made on the stove, in the slow cooker, or in the Instant Pot. It’s also a crowd-pleaser and makes a large batch, so it’s a great recipe for groups of people or to use as a make ahead freezer meal. And get this: this soup is made with real food ingredients.

Seriously, you need this soup in your kitchen! 

How to Make Mexican Soup: You Choose!

There aren’t many soups that can be made every which way. This is one of the reasons I keep coming back to this recipe! Here’s a quick overview of your options:

MAKE MEXICAN SOUP ON THE STOVE:

After cooking the onions and the beef in a skillet, add all the ingredients into a large stockpot. Simmer for 1-2 hours.

MAKE MEXICAN SOUP IN THE SLOW COOKER:

After cooking the onions and the beef in a skillet, add all the ingredients to a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

MAKE MEXICAN SOUP IN THE INSTANT POT:

Use the sauté setting to cook the onions and beef. Add all the ingredients in, lock and seal the lid. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes, then quick release the pressure.

Mexican soup in a white bowl

Can I Freeze this Mexican Soup recipe?

Yes yes yes! Mexican soup freezes and thaws beautifully BEFORE or AFTER cooking. Because it makes such a big batch, I almost always freeze it in small portions to have for lunches down the road. When frozen after cooking, it can also be a great freezer meal for 1-2 people.

TO FREEZE:

Option 1 (Before Cooking): Cook the onions and beef, then stir in the rest of the ingredients, and freezer in airtight freezer containers.

Option 2 (After Cooking): Follow all of the cooking instructions in the recipe below. Let cool and freeze in airtight freezer containers.

TO PREPARE:

Option 1 (Before Cooking): Let the soup thaw completely. Then follow the cooking instructions for whatever cooking method you choose (see options below).

Option 2 (After Cooking): Let soup thaw completely. Then just warm up in the microwave or on the stove on low until desired temp.

Mexican soup with toppings and spoon

Where to Get Ground Beef You Can Trust

A recipe is only as good as the ingredients in it. This is why we continually nudge people to use high-quality, organic produce and meat if possible.

One EASY way to have humanely raised 100% grass-fed beef delivered to your door is through ButcherBox.

What is ButcherBox?

ButcherBox has high-quality meat delivered to your door… easy and convenient. They carry humanely raised 100% grass-fed beef, free-range organic chicken, heritage breed pork, and wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon all free of antibiotics and added hormones.

Polly Conner with ButcherBox

What Should I Serve with Mexican Soup?

Believe me when I say this soup is hearty. You won’t need much more to go with it other than tortilla chips or maybe some corn bread. I like to provide some optional toppings like:

Want More Recipes That Are Great for Groups?

Check out our roundup of 25+ Slow Cooker Recipes for Groups of People.

Ok, ready to chow down on some Crowd Pleaser Mexican Soup? Get after it!

Print

Crowd Pleaser Mexican Soup

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 12 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

Super easy Mexican soup recipe. Packed with flavor, very filling and makes a TON. Great recipe for large groups. Freezer friendly as well!


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef (or sub ground chicken or turkey) (where to find meat you can trust)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt (Sub: 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt)
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning
  • 2 (15 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes, juices and all (Tip: Use fire-roasted tomatoes for more flavor.)
  • 2 (4 oz) cans diced green chilies, juices and all
  • 2 (15 oz) cans shoe peg white corn, drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 quart of chicken broth 
  • 1 cup mild salsa (use medium if you like spice!)
  • Optional Toppings: Shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, diced avocado, salsa, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, squeeze of fresh lime, red onion

 


Instructions

Make It Now

Stove Top Method

  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat until shimmery. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper while they cook. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper while they cook. 
  2. Add in garlic and ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the meat is cooked through (5-7 minutes.) Drain the grease from the meat.
  3. Add the meat mixture and all other ingredients to a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  4. Optional: Serve with your favorite Tex Mex toppings.

Slow Cooker Method

  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat until shimmery. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper while they cook. 
  2. Add in garlic and ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the meat is cooked through (5-7 minutes.) Drain the grease from the meat.
  3. Add the meat mixture and all other ingredients to a 6 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours.
  4. Optional: Serve with your favorite Tex Mex toppings.

Instant Pot Method

  1. Set the 6-quart Instant Pot to “Sauté.” Pour in 2 tablespoons of the oil and heat until shimmery. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for about 4 minutes, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper while they cook. 
  2. Add in garlic and ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the meat is cooked through (5-7 minutes.) Press cancel. Drain the grease from the meat.
  3. Add all other ingredients to the Instant Pot. Lock and seal the lid. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes, then quick release the pressure. 
  4. Optional: Serve with your favorite Tex Mex toppings.

Freeze For Later

Option 1 (Before Cooking): Cook the onions and beef, then stir in the rest of the ingredients, and freezer in airtight freezer containers.

Option 2 (After Cooking): Follow all of the cooking instructions in the recipe. Let the soup cool and then freeze in airtight freezer containers.

Prepare From Frozen

Option 1 (Before Cooking): Let the soup thaw completely. Then follow the cooking instructions for whatever cooking method you choose in the recipe above.

Option 2 (After Cooking): Let soup thaw completely. Then just warm up in the microwave, on the stove on low, or in the slow cooker on low, until warmed through.

Make Ahead Banana Breakfast Cake

By Rachel Tiemeyer

Banana Breakfast Cake is my dream breakfast. My whole family likes it, it’s full of nutritious yet simple ingredients, and it works perfectly to double the batch to make a breakfast freezer meal. 

Make Ahead Banana Breakfast Cake

I’ve been making this breakfast cake for YEARS. It’s one of my go-to make ahead breakfast recipe ideas that my whole family will devour.

Think moist, sweet banana bread but in a cake form. I love to warm it up a bit and serve with a little bit of butter.

The best part: It is filled with banana and sneaky sweet potato! YES, you can get your crew to eat sweet potato for breakfast!

What’s in Banana Breakfast Cake?

As I mentioned before, this breakfast cake is made with ingredients you likely already have in your pantry. Here is what you’ll need:

  • Bananas – The riper the better. Pro-tip: You can freeze ripe bananas for recipes like this! Here’s how to freeze bananas.
  • Cooked sweet potato – You can also substitute canned pumpkin or cooked butternut squash for sweet potato.
  • White Whole Wheat Flour – Please note that this is not just whole wheat flour. It needs to be WHITE WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR variety. If you don’t have that, you can use half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour as a substitute.
  • Coconut oil – Make sure it’s melted or substitute avocado oil.
  • Plain Greek yogurt – You can use full fat sour cream instead, if you want.
  • Mini Chocolate Chips – I’ve used dark chocolate chips before and loved it!
  • Standard baking ingredients: Eggs, vanilla, sugar (I used coconut sugar), baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Slice of banana breakfast cake on a plate

One thing worth noting on this recipe is that you will need a blender. This makes the batter SUPER smooth and hides all the sneaky produce.

How do I Freeze Banana Breakfast Cake?

We are huge fans of make ahead freezer meals. Not only have we written two freezer meal cookbooks, but we have a huge collection of freezer meals that are delicious, healthy, and easy! Banana Breakfast Cake is a recipe that freezes beautifully.

If you are already busting out all of the ingredients and utensils to make this breakfast cake, you might as well make two batches and freeze one for later. Here’s how:

TO FREEZE BREAKFAST CAKE: Bake breakfast cake just until done. Cool completely. Either cover the baking dish tightly in a few layers of foil or plastic wrap or carefully lift the cake out of the baking dish and wrap in several layers of foil or plastic wrap, pressing as much air out as you can.

TO PREPARE BREAKFAST CAKE FROM FROZEN: Thaw on the counter. Warm a slice in the microwave for 15-20 seconds and top with a pat of butter, if desired.

Banana breakfast cake in an 8x8 dish

What Should I Serve with Banana Breakfast Cake?

Our smoothies would be a perfect pairing with breakfast cake. Choose from one of the following flavors!

Another idea would be Oven-Baked Bacon. It comes out perfectly every time using our baking method.

Print

Banana Breakfast Cake

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: one 8x8 pan 1x
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

A deliciously moist banana cake that makes a healthy snack or breakfast. You will be surprised how fast your family will empty the dish on this one!


Ingredients

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour (sub: 1 cup wheat flour + 1 cup all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I often use unrefined coconut sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cooked and mashed (about 1 cup) (sub: pumpkin puree or butternut squash puree)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil (sub: avocado oil or melted butter)
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt (sub: sour cream)
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (I used carob chips, since they are low in sugar and dairy-free)

Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Spray an 8×8 inch baking dish (or a 9×13 baking dish, but note the shorter cooking time) with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a blender, combine the bananas, sweet potato, eggs, vanilla, coconut oil, and yogurt. Blend until smooth. (If needed, add just a splash of milk to help the blender get moving.)
  4. Using a spatula to clean out the blender, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir gently with a spoon just until combined (do not over mix). Batter will be thick. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread evenly using a spatula.
  6. Bake for about 35-40 minutes (for a 9×12, bake 25-28 minutes). It’s done when a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool completely.

Freeze For Later: Bake breakfast cake just until done. Cool completely. Either cover the baking dish tightly in a few layers of foil or plastic wrap or carefully lift the cake out of the baking dish and wrap in several layers of foil or plastic wrap, pressing as much air out as you can.

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw on the counter. Warm a slice in the microwave for 15-20 seconds and top with a pat of butter, if desired.

Young boy holding banana breakfast cake

Want more make ahead freezer meal breakfasts? Hop over to our freezer meal index and browse around!

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

By Polly Conner

Who doesn’t love a simple BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich with moist shredded meat? After a day in the slow cooker, this shredded pork is a total crowd pleaser. Not only is it an easy dump and go meal for the Crockpot but it also makes a great make-ahead freezer meal!

Slow cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches on a yellow plate
Image Credit: Hélène Dujardin in From Freezer to Cooker

Why We Love Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

This BBQ Pulled Pork has been a regular around our house. It’s SUPER easy, freezes beautifully, and makes a lot of servings. Since we used rolls to turn the last batch into pulled pork sandwiches, it was enough to feed 10+ people!

A butcher will tell you to plan for 1/2 pound per person but I find that to be pretty generous. I guess it just depends on the appetites of those you are feeding.

How to Make Slow Cooker Pulled Pork (A short video tutorial)

This crock pot pulled pork recipe is hard to screw up. Watch and see how easy it comes together!

What Ingredients do I need to make Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork?

The ingredients are SO simple! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1, 3-4 lb. pork shoulder (also known as Boston butt)
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce (Here is our homemade recipe)
Ingredients for slow cooker bbq pulled pork

How Long Do I Cook Pork Shoulder in the Slow Cooker?

After testing hundreds of recipes for our slow cooker cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker, we found that cooking a 3-4 pound pork shoulder should take 7-9 hours depending on your slow cooker.

Oftentimes, people take the pork out too early because it appears to be tough and dry. However, the pork needs lots of time to break down the fibers holding the meat together. When cooked correctly, pork in the slow cooker should be tender and juicy.

Cooked pulled pork on a wooden spoon coming out of the slow cooker

After years of testing slow cooker recipes for our website and cookbooks, we’ve developed a reliable cooking times chart for all different types of recipes. Never overcook or undercook a recipe in the slow cooker again!

How to serve Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

My favorite way to eat it is as a sandwich. If you want to go gluten-free, eat it without a bun. I serve it with more Killer Homemade BBQ Sauce on the side. Some side dishes that go well with Slow Cooker Pulled Pork are:

BBQ Pulled Pork on a plate with asian slaw

Can I freeze pulled pork?

YES! Like so many of our freezer meal recipes, BBQ Pulled Pork works great as a make-ahead freezer meal. To make this recipe into a freezer meal, follow these instructions:

TO FREEZE FOR LATER: Follow steps 1 and 2. Place the seasoned pork and 1 cup of the BBQ sauce in a gallon-size freezer bag or container. Seal and freeze. Place the remaining 1 ⁄2 cup BBQ sauce in a small freezer bag or container and the buns in a separate freezer bag. Seal and freeze them alongside the pork.

PREPARE FROM FROZEN: Thaw. Place the pork in the slow cooker. Follow steps 4 through 6.

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich on a white plate

This is a great recipe to stock up on when pork goes on sale! Such an easy freezer meal and a great meal to take to others.

Print

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 810 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This pulled pork recipe is a cinch to make when you whip it up in the crockpot. Add some BBQ sauce and your dinner is done!


Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) pork shoulder (also known as Boston butt), trimmed

  • 1.5 cups BBQ sauce, homemade or your favorite all-natural store-bought BBQ sauce


Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  2. Pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towels and rub it with the seasoning mix to coat all sides. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  3. Place the seasoned pork in the slow cooker and top with 1 cup of the BBQ sauce.
  4. Cover and cook on Low for 7 to 9 hours or on High for 4 to 5 hours, until the meat easily shreds.
  5. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and shred the meat. Return the meat to the slow cooker and stir it into the sauce.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to the toasted buns and top with the remaining BBQ sauce as desired. Serve.

FREEZE FOR LATER:

Follow steps 1 and 2. Place the seasoned pork and 1 cup of the BBQ sauce in a gallon-size freezer bag or container. Seal and freeze. Place the remaining 1 2 cup BBQ sauce in a small freezer bag or container and the buns in a separate freezer bag. Seal and freeze them alongside the pork.

PREPARE FROM FROZEN:

Thaw. Place the pork in the slow cooker. Follow steps 4 through 6.

Making this for a group of people? Here are more recipe ideas for large groups if you need some! You can also check out our 25+ Slow Cooker Recipes for a Crowd if you want more ideas.

Collage image of 20+ meal ideas for groups of people

Salmon and Sweet Potato Cakes

By Rachel Tiemeyer

These salmon and sweet potato cakes are packed with nutrition and flavor! Enjoy them as a sandwich or a la carte. Freezing instructions included!

salmon cakes on a plate with lettuce and tartar sauce

I love cooking shows. And, there’s one Food Network star who will always have a special place in my heart. Can you guess who?

Rach, of course! I watched 30 Minute Meals pretty consistently for over 10 years. Honestly, a large majority of what I know in the kitchen, from tips to ingredients to technique, I learned directly from her.

I saw Rachael Ray make a similar version of these Salmon and Sweet Potato Cakes on her show and knew I had to try them. Over the years, I’ve made these few times and tweaked the recipe to make it a little more user-friendly.

Why I Love These Salmon Cakes

I love them because they are super nutritious, my kids will actually eat them(!), and they freeze nicely so I can make a big batch for later. Don’t worry, there’s no fishy-ness in these cakes. All the different flavors and textures make them absolutely great, in my opinion.

How to Make Salmon and Sweet Potato Cakes

Check out how easily this recipe comes together!

What Ingredients are in Salmon and Sweet Potato Cakes?

This delicious recipe uses two of the best super foods on the planet!

Wild Salmon Filets – The big gun ingredient is the Omega 3-rich wild salmon which the American diet is sorely lacking in. The salmon provides heart-healthy fat and lots of protein.

Note: Be sure to buy WILD salmon, NOT farm-raised salmon. That’s because many studies have shown there are 10 times as many PCBs in farmed fish. Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an article here says,

Basically, that’s a reflection of how much pesticides, antibiotics, other contaminants are used in raising these farmed fish. There’s higher pesticide levels in the farmed fish….They actually raise these farmed fish (with large numbers in pens) … You actually have to give them antibiotics. And a lot of the PCBs and toxins are all part of the farming process that are used to try and keep these fish free of disease….sometimes even inject fish like salmon with red dye or pink dye to make them look more pink, more like their wild counterparts.

– Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Wild Salmon is readily available and affordable in most grocery stores now, but the tastiest Wild salmon I’ve had is from ButcherBox. It’s where I get all of my meat, because they offer affordable, healthy (and delicious!) meat from small farmers that is delivered to my doorstep on my schedule. (Cancel any time.)

Sweet Potato Puree – One of the top super foods in the world, packed with plenty of minerals, fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients that help both your body and mind.  The sweet potato helps as a binder (instead of mayo!) and lends a slightly sweet taste.

You can find sweet potato puree in a can or you can easily make your own. Simply poke some holes in a few sweet potatoes using a knife. Place them in the microwave and cook in 2 minute increments. Turn the potatoes between increments and cook until soft and tender all the way through. Use a knife to check. Mine usually take about 5 minutes.

Other Ingredients:

  • Seafood seasoning – Recommended: Old Bay Seasoning.
  • Whole wheat crackers – Panko breadcrumbs would work instead.
  • Egg – Helps to bind the mixture.
  • Fresh thyme leaves and fresh parsley – These fresh herbs add depth of flavor.
  • Scallions or green onions – Adds a little pungent flavor
  • Hot sauce – Optional, but lends a touch of heat.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – Another heart-healthy oil that you’ll use to grease the pan.

How to Serve Salmon Cakes

First of all, I’d highly recommend making our Avocado Aioli sauce to top these cakes. The creaminess and beautiful color of the sauce contrasts well with the warm, crispy salmon patties. You can also use an all-natural Tartar Sauce for serving, if you want.

My kids liked them on mini buns with a slice of cheese on top, like a burger. I ate these Salmon and Sweet Potato Cakes a la carte with some of the Avocado Aioli sauce on top. Delicious!

With these salmon cakes as the center piece of your meal, all you need are a few simple, healthy sides. Here are a few ideas:

How to Freeze Salmon Cakes

It’s easy to freeze salmon cakes. They turn out tasting just like you made them fresh, if you freeze them this way:

Freeze For Later: Put the salmon cakes together, but do not cook them. Freeze in a freezer bag or container in a single layer. If stacking patties, divide single layers with parchment paper.

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw completely in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. Then cook according to the directions.

More Salmon Recipes:

Here are few more salmon recipes from our collection you might enjoy…

Salmon and Sweet Potato Cakes Recipe

Print

Salmon and Sweet Potato Cakes

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 24 mins
  • Cook Time: 6 mins
  • Total Time: 26 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Skillet
  • Cuisine: Seafood

Description

These salmon and sweet potato cakes are packed with nutrition and flavor! Enjoy them as a sandwich or a la carte. With a small amount of effort, you’ll make a meal your family is sure to love.


Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato, cooked and mashed* (about 1 cup)
  • 3 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets
  • 1 quart (4 cups) chicken broth (sub: water)
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon seafood seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat crackers, crushed into crumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 scallions or green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. Bring the broth to a boil in a large skillet or pot over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. 
  2. Season salmon fillets lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Carefully lower them down into the liquid, making sure they are submerged. (Note: If the broth doesn’t cover the top of the filets, add just enough water to make sure they are covered.) Poach until the salmon is opaque, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the salmon to a mixing bowl and flake the fish with a fork. Add in the mashed sweet potatoes, seafood seasoning, half of the cracker crumbs, the egg, thyme, hot sauce, scallions, and parsley. Using your hands or a fork, combine until the mixture is firm enough to mold into cakes. (If it’s too wet, add a few more cracker crumbs.)
  4. Add the remaining cracker crumbs to a plate. Form the salmon mixture into four (4-inch) patties or eight (2-inch) patties and coat in the cracker crumbs on both sides. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  5. Discard the liquid from the skillet and wipe it clean. In that same skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmery.
  6. Cook the fish cakes until light golden, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
  7. Serving suggestion: Serve with tartar sauce for dipping or serve on buns with cheese on top, like a burger.

Freeze For Later: Follow Steps 1-4. Freeze in a freezer bag or container in a single layer. If stacking patties, divide single layers with parchment paper.

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw completely. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Follow Steps 5-7.


Notes

*To cook and mash the sweet potato: Wash and dry it. Poke several holes around it using a knife, so steam can release while it cooks. Microwave it for 2 minutes. Flip it over and microwave another 2-3 minutes, until soft all the way through. Test doneness by inserting a knife into the middle. It should give easily.

Make Ahead Lunch Wraps

By Rachel Tiemeyer

Freezer-friendly lunch wraps are nutritious, hearty, and completely adaptable to whatever your family might like in them!

fruit and tortilla wraps on plates

Right now during this time of quarantine, I know many of you are right where I’m at–trying to keep up with work, homeschooling your kids, feeding your family three meals/day, and trying not to gain the ‘Rona 15.

Meals have to be simple and something your kids won’t groan about. A bonus is if it’s cheap and healthy, too.

Make Ahead Lunch Wraps to the rescue, my friends.

strawberries, grapes, vegetarian burrito wrap on a plate

These Lunch Wraps were a staple in my Freezer Club many years ago and make for a healthy and quick lunch or dinner when you’re hanging by a thread.

Video Tutorial: Make Ahead Lunch Wraps

I mean really, it couldn’t be simpler to make these. Watch this short tutorial to see how to make these freezable wraps…

Why Make Freezer-Friendly Lunch Wraps?

Yes, this question deserves an entire section. Because you NEED to know how serious I am about you trying this recipe. It might just save your sanity this week.

  1. They’re cheap.
  2. Uses up leftover rice and beans of any kind.
  3. Fast to prepare. Easy to grab and go.
  4. Healthy and will keep you satiated. Just because they lack meat doesn’t mean they won’t fill you up!
  5. Freezable! (Our favorite way to save time!)

See why my Freezer Club friends and I have made Lunch Wraps for years? Now it’s time to join the “club”.

What Are in Make Ahead Lunch Wraps?

ingredients for make ahead lunch wraps on a cutting board

All you need are 6 simple ingredients:

  • Whole wheat tortillas – Flour tortillas are preferred because they hold up best. Note: corn tortillas will not work well.
  • Brown rice – Substitute ideas: white rice or quinoa.
  • Black beans – Kidney or pinto beans work well, too.
  • Shredded cheddar cheese – Or substitute your preferred shredded cheese. Here’s how to shred your own cheese.
  • Salsa – Use your favorite brand and preferred heat level.
  • Corn – Canned, frozen, or fresh will work.

Feel free to toss in anything else that floats your boat: baby spinach, sautéed bell peppers and onions, green chilis, taco meat, grilled chicken, etc.

Can You Freeze Wraps?

Absolutely! Just follow our simple freezer meal instructions…

vegetarian lunch wraps on a wooden cutting board with small bowls of corn, salsa, and rice

To Freeze Wraps for Later:

Assemble lunch wraps as recipe states. After tortillas are wrapped in foil and before baking (Step #2), place in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

To Prepare Wraps From Frozen:

To heat from frozen, add about 10-15 minutes on to baking time (so total baking time is about 25-35 minutes). Or remove foil, wrap in a moist paper towel, and microwave in 30-60 second increments until heated through.

What to Serve with Lunch Wraps

Here are a few ideas to serve alongside this super simple recipe…

freezer-friendly lunch wraps on a wooden cutting board

Creamy Avocado Dip

creamy avocado dip

Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

What to Do with Leftover Tortillas

If you have leftover tortillas, did you know you can freeze them? Here is the best way to freeze tortillas for later.

tortillas in a freezer bag

Make Ahead Lunch Wraps Recipe

Print
freezer-friendly lunch wraps on a wooden cutting board

Make Ahead Lunch Wraps

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 6 lunch wraps 1x
  • Category: Lunch
  • Method: Bake
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Lunch wraps are nutritious, hearty, and completely adaptable to whatever your family might like in them! Make a batch and freeze them for a delicious lunch!


Ingredients

  • 6 (8-inch) whole wheat or multigrain tortillas (corn tortillas are not recommended)
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup black or kidney beans, cooked or canned (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 cup corn, frozen or canned (drained)
  • 1/2 cup salsa (your favorite kind)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (how to shred your own cheese)

Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Lay out the tortillas on a cutting board or clean surface. Evenly distribute the rice, beans, corn, salsa, and cheese among each one. Roll up like a burrito, tucking in the bottom and top and rolling tightly. Wrap each burrito in foil. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  3. Bake directly on an oven rack for about 15-20 minutes, until hot all the way through.

Freeze For Later: Follow Steps 1 and 2. Then, place the uncooked wraps in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

Prepare From Frozen: To heat from frozen, you have two options:

Option 1 (Oven): Cook according to Step 3, adding about 10-15 minutes on to baking time. So, the total baking time will be about 25-35 minutes.

Option 2 (Microwave): Remove the foil, wrap in a moist paper towel, and microwave in 30-60 second increments until heated through.

Super Sloppy Joes

By Rachel Tiemeyer

This homemade veggie-rich Sloppy Joes recipe with a tangy-sweet tomato sauce is a family favorite. Double and freeze extras for later!

Sloppy Joes in a bun on a plate with salad

After polling dozens of my friends and family, I learned that Sloppy Joes are quite the divisive meal. People either love them or hate them.

I counted myself as a hater until just a few years ago because I always envisioned the canned version from childhood. Yuck!

sloppy joes mixture in a pan

However, I decided to give this poor man’s entree a try again, albeit the non-canned, non-processed, veggie-rich, grass-fed beef version.

Why? Simply, my husband loves them and my kids will eat them.

ingredients for sloppy joes recipe including red pepper, garlic, ground beef, tomato sauce

And I was won over by this particular recipe; the tangy-sweet tomato sauce surprised me in a good way. Plus, you know I love any recipe where I can sneak in more vegetables for my family.

Now these are the only Sloppy Joes my family (and Polly’s family) likes!

How to Make Super Sloppy Joes

Watch this 1 minute video tutorial to see just how easy it is to make sloppy joes from scratch…

How to Freeze Sloppy Joes for Later

sloppy joes mixture in small freezer containers

A smart idea is to package up any of the leftovers into individual serving sizes and freeze them for easy lunches in the future. Or, of course, you can always double this recipe and freeze an entire batch for another family meal, another night.

How to Freeze for Later: To make sloppy joes into a freezer meal, fully cook an then let the sloppy joe mixture cool. Place in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container. Try to remove as much air as possible and seal tightly before freezing. Here are our favorite freezer containers.

How to Prepare From Frozen: Thaw the meal using one of these safe methods. Warm the meat mixture over medium-low heat on the stove or on Low in the slow cooker, gently stirring until heated through. (Tip: Add chicken or beef broth if it needs more liquid.) Serve as directed in the recipe.

Serving Suggestions for Super Sloppy Joes

We served our sloppy joe mixture on whole wheat hamburger buns. Tip: Toast the insides of the buns under the broiler for a minute, so they hold up well.

We like to serve them with Oven Steak Fries and a simple green salad with Honey Balsamic Dressing.

Two plates with forks and sloppy joes, fries, and salad

Sloppy Joes Recipe

Full of veggies and flavor, you’ll love our freezer-friendly Super Sloppy Joes recipe…

Print

Super Sloppy Joes

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Sandwich
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This homemade version of Sloppy Joes is packed with veggies and has such great flavor! Your family will never ask for the canned variety again.


Ingredients

  • 3 teaspoons olive oil or avocado oil, divided
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (preferably grass-fed; we get ours here)
  • 2 teaspoons all-natural steak seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 (8 ounce) cans unsalted tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Salt, to taste
  • 4 whole wheat hamburger buns (or 8 mini buns), toasted (Gluten-Free Option: Use GF buns.)
  • Optional: cheddar cheese slices (Omit this for the Dairy-Free Option.)

Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, until shimmery. Add the ground beef* to the pan and begin to break it up while it browns. Sprinkle the brown sugar and steak seasoning evenly over the meat and continue to stir and break it up until it has browned completely. Remove the meat to a paper towel-lined plate to drain the oil.
  2. Wipe out the skillet and place it over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the pan. When the oil is shimmery, add the carrot, onion, red peppers to the skillet. Cook until veggies are tender, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, red wine vinegar, and Worcestershire during the last 30-60 seconds of cook time.
  3. Stir in the cooked meat, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and maple syrup to the veggies until combined. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the Sloppy Joe mixture 5 minutes longer. Taste and season with salt, if needed. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  4. Using a large spoon or ice cream scoop, pile meat mixture onto toasted bun bottoms**. Add a slice of cheese, if desired, and top with bun.

Freeze For Later: Follow Steps 1-3 and let the Sloppy Joes mixture cool (see our tips for doing this quickly here). Place in a freezer bag or freezer-safe container. Try to remove as much air as possible and seal tightly before freezing.

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw the meal using one of these safe methods. Warm the meat mixture over medium-low heat on the stove or on Low in the slow cooker, gently stirring until heated through. (Tip: Add chicken or beef broth if it needs more liquid.) Follow Step 4.


Notes

*You can substitute ground turkey or ground chicken for the ground beef, if desired.

**To toast the hamburger buns, place them on a sheet pan with the insides facing up. Preheat the oven’s broiler to high and broil them on the top rack for about a minute or until golden brown. Watch closely so they don’t burn!

Looking for more ground beef recipes?

Check out our Top 10 Ground Beef Freezer Meals!

Ground Beef Freezer Meals

Egg-in-a-Hole: A Classic Breakfast Idea

By Polly Conner
Eggs in a hole on a plate

Why I love Eggs-in-a-Hole

There are quite a few reasons this mama loves a good ‘ol egg-in-a-hole for breakfast.

  • It’s quick and easy to make. It’s one of my go-to weekday breakfasts.
  • It’s cheap. All you need are a few pantry ingredients: eggs, butter and bread.
  • It’s got protein. I find it hard to get healthy protein in the morning and I know that a crash will come mid-morning if I only eat carbs for breakfast.
  • If you use whole wheat bread, it is an entire breakfast of real food ingredients. No additives or mystery ingredients.
  • Lastly, my whole family likes it! It’s a recipe that any age can be happy about.
Eggs in a hole sliced on a plate

Making an egg-in-a-hole is very simple. Just fry an egg inside of a piece of bread.

However, since I have made eggs-in-a-hole seemingly hundreds of times, I’ve learned a few tricks that have perfected the process. The detailed instructions below are to help you see exactly what I do when I make them but I wanted to make sure you knew it doesn’t have to be complicated AND you don’t have to do it exactly like me.

Onward!

How to Make a Great Egg-in-a-Hole (+ some pro tips!)

Using a round cutter of some type, remove a circle from the inside of a piece of bread. (Tip: if you don’t have a cutter, you can use the top of a drinking glass or mason jar!)

Bread with a hole cut out of the center

Set your “roundies” (as we like to call them) aside.

Now this tip is very important for the next step: use softened butter. We always have some out on our counter and it comes in handy!

Softened butter

Spread the softened butter on ONE side of your bread. Just one. Trust me. You’ll understand later.

bread with holes cut out of the center

Depending on the size of your skillet or pan, warm 1-2 tablespoons of butter on medium-high heat. It should be to the point that it will sizzle when you put something on it. Mine usually takes about 5 minutes on medium to get to this point. If it starts smoking, remove it from the heat and let it cool down a touch.

You want to have enough butter to coat the majority of the pan’s surface. Once it starts melting, tip your pan around so the butter spreads all over it.

butter melting on a pan

Now, place your bread, butter side up on the pan.

Eggs in a hole cooking

Crack an egg into each of the holes.

It is at this point that you have options.

Eggs in a hole cooking

I know as an adult, I’m supposed to like runny yolks but I just don’t and neither do my kids. So when I make them for us, after I crack the egg, I break the yolk of the egg open and let it spill out. 

If I’m making them for my husband, I let the yolk remain intact because he likes it a little oozy.

Eggs in a hole cooking

Sprinkle each piece with salt and pepper.

After a few minutes, flip and cook the other side to your desired level of doneness.

Eggs in a hole cooking

Don’t forget to cook up your roundies as well! If you have extra butter in the pan, use them to soak it up. I usually have to add more to the pan and even to the roundies. Let them toast on the pan and then give them a flip after a few minutes.

Eggs in a hole cooking

Customize your roundies to what you typically like on toast.

Eggs in a hole cooking

I like strawberry jam or apple butter. My daughter likes honey. Some may like cinnamon sugar. Or you can just be boring and eat them plain. They are still delicious. It’s up to you!

I like to add avocado slices to my eggs-in-a-hole too sometimes!

That’s it! Told you it was super simple. Now just serve it with some perfectly cooked bacon and you’ll be dominating breakfast time!

Eggs in a hole on a plate
Print

Egg-in-a-Hole: A Classic Breakfast Idea

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 3 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 8 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Skillet
  • Cuisine: American

Description

A cheap, simple and easy breakfast idea that the whole family will enjoy. Try these and they’re sure to become your new family favorite.


Ingredients

  • Softened butter
  • Eggs
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Using a biscuit cutter, remove a circle out of the middle of a piece of bread and set it aside.
  2. Generously butter one side of the bread.
  3. Warm 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. (The more the better!)
  4. Place bread on skillet, butter side up.
  5. Crack an egg into the middle of the circle.
  6. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and let it cook a few minutes on each side.

Notes

Don’t forget to toast the round circles you cut out!

Add some sliced avocado over your egg-in-a-hole for some extra nutrition.

Eggs in a hole on a plate

More Easy Breakfast Ideas You’ll Love

Swing by our recipe index for more easy breakfast ideas!

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

By Rachel Tiemeyer

This pantry staple Vegetarian Tortilla Soup recipe is a meatless “one pot wonder” that I’ve been making and freezing for years for my family. Filled with beans, tomatoes, chilis, corn, and more, it only gets better the longer it sits in the fridge.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
Photo Credit: Hélène Dejardin: From Freezer to Cooker

Why Make Vegetarian Tortilla Soup?

Years ago I implemented a small goal of having at least one day a week be meatless for our family. This is for three reasons: it’s cheap, it’s often healthier, and it’s better for the environment (raising animals utilizes much more of our natural resources than raising crops).

The great thing about Vegetarian Tortilla Soup is that it’s hearty enough for any meat eater in your family and makes a big batch for a crowd or just to have on hand all week long.

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup in a large stock pot

Another benefit is the flexibility of this soup. You can prepare it on the stove, in the Instant pot, or in the slow cooker. Plus, we also include instructions for how to make it ahead and freeze a batch for later.

Not only that, but you can use up what you have on hand with this “kitchen sink”-type soup. Don’t have green chilis? Add a little more salsa. Don’t have rice? Try quinoa. Have fresh veggies on hand? I’ve thrown in chopped zucchini, spinach, and diced bell pepper before with great results (just cook until they are soft).

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup in a bowl on a plate with chips

Ingredients for Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Yes, this soup is super easy. But, here’s something that you should pay attention to. Since there are quite a few convenience foods included, be sure to select canned items with as few ingredients as possible.

Read labels and look for canned foods or mixes that don’t contain trans fats, MSG, or other ingredients you can’t pronounce.

You also need to look for canned items that do not use BPA in the can lining. When it doubt, look for organic versions.

Also, despite what my picture shows below, you should make your own Taco Seasoning!

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup ingredients including rice, taco seasoning, corn, beans, vegetable stock, tomatoes

Keep these pantry staple ingredients on hand all the time, and you’ll always have a delicious, healthy meal ready to go in minutes.

How to Make Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

It’s hard to mess up Vegetarian Tortilla Soup! Just follow this simple recipe using either the stovetop, Instant Pot, or slow cooker instructions.

Print

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

This one-pot wonder is packed with flavor but is also vegetarian! This winning combination of ingredients and flavors is sure to impress your family and friends.


Ingredients

  • 1 (32 ounce) box vegetable stock (Sub: chicken stock or broth)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can vegetarian refried beans* (Sub: drained pinto beans that have been smashed with a fork)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed (Sub: kidney or pinto beans)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained (Sub: 2 cups frozen corn)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes (juice and all) (Tip: Fire-roasted diced tomatoes are delicious!)
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles (Sub: 1/2 cup salsa)
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2 tablespoons all-natural taco seasoning mix
  • 12 cups cooked brown rice (Sub: cooked quinoa)
  • Optional Toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, jalapeños, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, crushed tortilla chips, lime wedges, diced avocado

Instructions

Make It Now:

Stovetop Method: In a large pot, combine broth, refried beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chiles, salsa, and taco seasoning. Stir and break up the refried beans as much as possible. Bring to a boil and quickly reduce to a simmer. Cook over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally while it cooks. Stir in the cooked rice and serve warm with optional toppings.

Slow Cooker Method: Combine broth, refried beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chiles, salsa, and taco seasoning in the crockpot. Stir and break up the refried beans as much as possible. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. Stir in the cooked rice and serve warm with optional toppings.

Instant Pot Method: Combine broth, refried beans, black beans, corn, tomatoes, chiles, salsa, and taco seasoning in the crockpot. Stir and break up the refried beans as much as possible. Lock and seal the lid. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes, then quick release the pressure. Stir in the cooked rice and serve warm with optional toppings.

Freeze For Later:

Method 1 (Uncooked): Combine all ingredients in a pot/bowl, except rice and optional toppings. (Don’t worry if the refried beans aren’t completely integrated.) Carefully ladle the soup into gallon-sized freezer bags or containers and seal. Package the cooked rice in a small freezer bag and freeze alongside the soup.

Method 2 (Fully Cooked): Fully cook the soup according to instructions. Stir in the rice. Let cool. Freeze in freezer bags or containers, as individual servings or one full meal. Freeze until ready to use.

Prepare From Frozen: 

Method 1 (Uncooked): Fully thaw the soup. Cook according to instructions.

Method 2 (Fully Cooked):

Stove or Slow Cooker: Warm over low heat on the stove or in the slow cooker.

Instant Pot: Turn on Saute button and warm over low, stirring frequently.*


Notes

*If you want to cook the soup from frozen in the Instant Pot, you’ll need to freeze it in a round container that is smaller than the diameter of the pot. When ready to cook, turn on the “Saute” function and saute the frozen block of soup for 5-10 minutes to release some liquid. Press “Cancel”. Lock and seal the lid. Cook at high pressure for 12-17 minutes with a quick release.

Gluten-Free: If using a taco seasoning packet from the store, be sure to buy one that is gluten-free.

Dairy-Free: Omit using any cheese or sour cream on top.

Powerball Cookies

By Rachel Tiemeyer
Powerball cookies have been a longtime favorite in my home. Look no further for a great make-ahead, freezer-friendly snack. 
 
No Bake Powerball Cookies on a plate

What’s in these no-bake Powerball Cookies?

With a few simple pantry ingredients, you can whip these up in no time! The beauty of this recipe is the ingredients are somewhat fluid. Add or subtract based on what you like or what you have on hand. Here is what you’ll need:

  • Peanut butter or almond butter
  • Honey
  • Old-fashioned oats
  • Flax seed (Why eat flaxseed?)
  • Dark chocolate chips (or 3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup any combination of these add-ins:
    • chopped nuts (i.e. chopped pecans, sliced almonds, etc.)
    • unsweetened shredded coconut
    • chia seed
    • soft dried fruits (i.e. raisins, dried cranberries, etc)
Powerball cookie ingredients in white bowls

Once you’ve gotten all of your ingredients beautifully placed in nice, neat, white bowls like above … (JUST KIDDING! No one actually does that unless they are a food blogger, right?!)

Anywhoo, once you’ve rounded up all of the ingredients you want in your powerball cookies, you’ll add them all into a big ‘ol mixing bowl.

Tip: I’ve found that if I warm the peanut butter and honey just a tad it makes it easier to stir all of the ingredients together.

Powerball cookie ingredients being mixed together

Watch How Easily Powerball Cookies Come Together…

How do I store Powerball Cookies?

Here’s the fun part. Using wet hands and/or a small ice cream scoop, form small balls and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet.

You’ll freeze them this way so that they hold their form. Once they are frozen, transfer them to an airtight freezer container and store them in the freezer.

Be sure to train the kids to know where they are at. They’ll be asking!

A hand holding a powerball cookie

Make sure to make a double batch too. Not only do these make a great afternoon snack, they can also be a great breakfast!

Closeup of powerball cookies
Print

Powerball Cookies

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 3035 cookies 1x
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Mix
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Powerball Cookies are a healthy, real-food snack. Careful, it’s hard to stop at just one!


Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-natural peanut butter or almond butter (crunchy peanut butter is really yummy!)
  • 1 cup honey (I often cut this back to 3/4 cup and make up the 1/4 cup with more nut butter)
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats (quick-cooking works fine)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed (Why eat flaxseed?)
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or 3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips)
  • 1 cup any combination of these add-ins:
    • chopped nuts (i.e. chopped pecans, sliced almonds, etc)
    • unsweetened shredded coconut
    • chia seeds
    • soft dried fruits (i.e. raisins, dried cranberries, etc)

Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the peanut butter and honey until smooth. (Tip: You may want to warm them in the microwave first to make this step easier.)
  2. Stir in oats and flaxseed.
  3. Add the chocolate chips and your 1 cup of preferred add-ins. Stir until well combined.
  4. Using wet hands or a wet cookie scoop, shape the mixture into 30-35 balls. Use a heaping tablespoon of mixture per cookie.

Freeze For Later: Follow Steps 1-4. Place the rolled cookies on a sheet pan (line with parchment paper for easier clean up). Place in the freezer for an hour or so, until hardened. Place them into a freezer bag or airtight freezer container for up to 3 months. Prepare From Frozen: Either set cookies out on the counter to thaw slightly or warm in the microwave for about 15 seconds.

Hand grabbing a powerball cookie
 

More Healthy Snacks You Might Like:

 

Oven Baked Steak Fries

By Rachel Tiemeyer

This steak fries recipe turns out perfectly crispy and seasoned, thanks to a few tricks including a secret ingredient. Plus, this oven baked method is healthier and less messy than frying!

steak fries dipped in ketchup

I’ve been making this steak fries recipe at home for many years. Not only do they taste like restaurant quality, but they are much healthier thanks to the oven baking method.

Tips for Making Crispy Oven Baked Steak Fries

To make sure your oven baked fries turn out right, follow these tips to make them crispy:.

1) Soak the cut potatoes in a bowl of water for 30 minutes or more. Then, drain and rinse them. This removes some of the starch from the potatoes.

potatoes cut into steak fries in a bowl of water

2) Dry the potatoes really well using a dish towel or paper towels.

potatoes cut into steak fries in a towel

3) Season with our secret ingredient in this recipe! Believe it or not, just a little bit of sugar in the seasoning mix helps the potatoes to caramelize in the oven and produces delicious flavor. Be sure to season these fries well before they go in the oven and after (to taste).

potatoes cut in the shape of steak fries on a sheet pan

4) Make sure the potato wedges don’t touch or over lap so they can get nice and crispy on both sides. Be sure to flip them halfway through the cook time. I’ve found that using parchment paper underneath makes for much easier flipping and clean up.

oven baked steak fries on a sheet pan

How to Make Crispy Oven Fries at Home

Making homemade steak fries is not only cheaper and healthier than eating out, but they really are easy to make. Once you’ve done this a time or two, it will become like second nature.

Here’s how to make Steak Fries in the Oven..

What to Serve with Oven Baked Steak Fries

Oven Baked Steak Fries are one of our favorite side dishes. They go well with some of these main dishes…

Mini Chicken Burgers with Herbs

chicken burger on a bun with cheese on a plate

Pesto Burgers

Freezer friendly pesto burgers

Mini Wild Salmon Patties with Lemony Avocado Sauce

Steak Fries Recipe

Once you learn this method for making homemade steak fries, you may never have to make a trip to Red Robin for their fries again!

oven baked steak fries on a sheet pan
Print
steak fries dipped in ketchup

Oven Baked Steak Fries

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: 68 1x
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Try your hand at these yummy, healthy oven steak fries. With just a bit of sugar added, you’ll amaze your friends and family with how good these taste.


Ingredients

  • 4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed clean (no need to peel them)
  • 12 tablespoons avocado oil (sub: olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (this addition makes a big taste difference!)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and then slice into steak fry wedges, about 1/4-1/2 inch wide each. (Just make sure they are all about the same size to ensure even cooking.)
  3. Soak the fries in a large bowl of water for about 30 minutes or until you’re ready to bake them. (This helps remove some of the starch and makes them crispier in the end.)
  4. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then pat them very dry with a dish towel. (This is a VERY important step! They must be really dry.)
  5. Rinse and dry out the large bowl and return the potatoes to it. Toss with enough oil to coat them, sea salt, a few cranks of fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, and sugar.
  6. Spread out the potatoes in a single layer on the two sheet pans. Make sure none of the fries touch, so they can get nice and crispy all around.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes. Then, flip the fries over with a spatula, and rotate the pans by moving the one on the top rack to the bottom and vice versa. We also recommend rotating the pans themselves 180 degrees, so the front is now in the back of the oven and vice versa. (Rotating the pans like this helps with even baking.) Bake another 10-20 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn. 
  8. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper, as desired. Serve while hot with ketchup or our Avocado Aioli.

Freezer Friendly Chicken Spaghetti

By Polly Conner

Chicken spaghetti is an easy, cheesy, make-it-again-soon-please, casserole that your whole family will love. We teach you how to make it fresh AND how to prep it to be a freezer meal. A great meal for groups of people too!

Freezer friendly chicken spaghetti

Chicken Casserole: A Family Favorite Dinner

When I made this chicken spaghetti recipe for the first time last week, my husband ate it for about 5 meals in a row and proceeded to ask me to make it again the next week.

My kids eagerly scarfed it down as well. Tonight’s batch ended up on about every area of exposed skin on my 18 month old, but I take that as a sign he liked it. Needless to say, this recipe is a keeper!

While this chicken casserole recipe is baked in a 9×13 dish, I oftentimes split it into two, 8×8 dishes and freeze one for later. More on that soon though!

Chicken spaghetti with a side salad

Short Video Tutorial for Making Chicken Spaghetti

How to Make Chicken Spaghetti

Here is what you’ll need:

Ingredients for chicken spaghetti

Ingredients ready? Let’s do this.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, until al dente (slightly undercooked). Undercooking it keeps it from getting mushy while baking. This is especially important to do if you are going to make this a freezer meal.

While that pasta is cooking is a great time to sautee those chopped veggies. Multitasking is your friend for this recipe.

In a large mixing bowl, gently stir together the cooked pasta, cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, chicken, veggies and seasoning.

Now please take note of this: Add in only 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. I always get moving too fast and add it ALL in at this point. You need some to sprinkle over the top so restrain yourself!

Chicken spaghetti being prepared in a mixing bowl

Here it is all mixed up. Yum. Or yuck. Not sure.

Either split it up between two 8×8 dishes or put it all in one 9×13 dish. Top with remaining cheese. Assuming you listened to my warning above about not mixing in all of the cheese, that is.

Chicken spaghetti prepped for the freezer

How to Freeze Chicken Spaghetti

Freeze for Later: Here’s the fun part: If you have split it into two 8×8 dishes, you’ve just made two dinners! To freeze one of the 8×8 Chicken Spaghetti portions, simply wrap it tightly or place a lid (if you have one) on your baking dish. (Here are the freezing containers we use and recommend for recipes like this.) You can freeze it for 4+ months! Even longer if you’ve packaged it well.

Prepare From Frozen: Place frozen casserole into the fridge and let thaw for 24+ hours. Follow step 5!

Chicken spaghetti on a white plate with green salad

What to Serve with Chicken Spaghetti

Here are some recipe ideas that would go well with your Chicken Spaghetti:

Done and done.

Print

Chicken Spaghetti

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 50 mins
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Freezer Meal
  • Method: Casserole
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This freezer-friendly Chicken Spaghetti Casserole will keep your family coming back for more deliciousness. 


Ingredients

  • 1 pound whole wheat pasta
  • Two (10 and 3/4-ounce) cans organic cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 23 chicken breasts, fully cooked and chopped or shredded (roughly 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1 small or medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt, such as Lawry’s Seasoned Salt or use this DIY recipe
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar, divided

Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13 inch casserole dish or two 8×8 dishes with cooking spray.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, until al dente (slightly undercooked). When the pasta is done, drain it in a colander over the sink.
  3. While pasta is cooking, saute the bell peppers & onions in a bit of olive oil until they begin to soften (about 4-5 minutes).
  4. In a large mixing bowl, gently stir together the cooked pasta with the cream of mushroom soup, chicken broth, chicken, sauteed veggies, seasoned salt, cayenne, and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Sprinkle it all with salt and pepper, to your preference.
  5. Place the mixture in the dish (or dishes) and top with the remaining 1 cup of cheese. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  6. Bake until bubbly around the edges, about 40-45 minutes. (If the cheese on top starts to get too dark, cover with foil.)

Freeze For Later: Follow steps 1-5 (do not bake). Cover the casserole dishes with a few layers of plastic wrap and foil. Squeeze out any excess air and freeze.

Prepare From Frozen: Thaw. (Here are three safe ways to thaw freezer meals.) Follow step 6. If it’s still slightly frozen in the middle, you’ll just have to cook it longer than the recipe calls for or defrost a bit in the microwave before baking. Cover it with foil if the top gets too brown in the oven.


Notes

We get our meat from ButcherBox*. The chicken is organic, curated from small, trusted farms, and absolutely delicious. We highly recommend this service to source all your healthy meat, from grass-fed beef to uncured bacon, and have used it for years ourselves. *Disclaimer: We are an affiliate of ButcherBox.

Freezer friendly chicken spaghetti in a white baking dish

3-Ingredient Homemade Hot Chocolate

By Rachel Tiemeyer

Did you know you can make homemade hot chocolate with only THREE ingredients? Skip the generic brand (made with highly processed, sugary ingredients) and make your own hot chocolate at home! Tip: Use Ghirardelli cocoa to make it extra delicious!

Ghirardelli Homemade hot chocolate in a white mug

Parents. You know how it goes.

Snow falls from the sky. Kids pillage the home for their snow gear that has been scattered about. You spend 30 minutes helping them get suited up appropriately. Kids play outside in the snow for 5.2 minutes. Kids return to the house and wet snow gear gets piled by the door. The clamoring for hot chocolate begins.

ghirardelli girl blowing on hot chocolate

However, what’s a parent to do if the pre-packaged hot chocolate is running low?

Fear not. We have an easy solution. You can make hot chocolate mix SO EASILY at home.

So, we’re excited to share our 3 ingredient recipe for delicious, all-natural homemade hot chocolate.

ghirardelli hot chocolate with marshmallows

Why Make Hot Chocolate Mix from Scratch?

Ingredients matter. As you will find in most of our recipes, we primarily use whole foods, real ingredients. Ingredients you can pronounce. Ingredients your great grandma would recognize.

This is why when I looked at the ingredients in a generic hot chocolate mix, I was shocked.

Ingredients in generic hot chocolate

What IS all that junk? Well, I can tell you, this is NOT real food. Not only is this mix full of highly processed, sugary ingredients, but it also contains corn syrup, artificial flavors, and preservatives.

Whenever possible, we try to make things from scratch. You’d be suprised at how easy it is to make your own things like pizza sauce, croutons, BBQ sauce, and even breadcrumbs.

Even better news is you can make homemade hot chocolate with only THREE ingredients!

No trans fats, artificial flavors, or preservatives included. You probably have them in your pantry right now.

closeup of homemade hot chocolate mix

What’s in Homemade Hot Chocolate?

You likely have the ingredients to make hot chocolate RIGHT now. All you need is:

  • Cocoa powder (I recommend Ghirardelli brand)
  • Sugar
  • Milk

How to Make a Batch of Hot Chocolate Mix

While our recipe below is to make just one cup of hot chocolate, you can easily scale the recipe up and have a batch of the mix on hand. The cocoa powder/sugar ration is 1:1 so I simply put 1/2 sugar and 1/2 cup cocoa powder into a mason jar and give it a good shake. Now you can have hot chocolate mix ready to roll whenever the first snow flake flies.

Note: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read our full disclosure policy here.

Why Use Ghirardelli Cocoa?

We like Ghirardelli because it’s one of the best powdered cocoas you can get. It rivals speciality high end products but is much cheaper. It’s flavor is deep, rich, and velvety.

This hot chocolate recipe will totally work with any type of 100% cocoa powder but we personally love Ghirardelli. You can even buy it on Amazon! Just be sure to get the 100% unsweetened cocoa, not the hot chocolate mix.

Print

3-Ingredient Homemade Hot Chocolate Recipe

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1x
  • Category: Beverage
  • Method: Mix
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Avoid all the junk in store-bought hot chocolate mix by using just 3 simple ingredients to make your own. This recipe makes the best hot chocolate ever!


Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons 100% cocoa powder (I recommend Ghirardelli brand)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined, raw sugar
  • 1 cup organic whole milk

Instructions

  1. Pour all three ingredients into a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat.
  2. Stir constantly until the ingredients are fully combined and the milk is hot.
  3. Serve immediately.

Notes

You can pull back on the sugar if you want. 

hands holding ghirardelli hot chocolate

Tasty Tip: The Best Ever Homemade Popcorn is our favorite snack to enjoy with this hot chocolate. Have you tried it yet?

homemade popcorn with coconut oil

Baked Italian Meatballs {Freezer Meal}

By Rachel Tiemeyer

Look no further for a delicious baked meatball recipe. Our Baked Italian Meatballs are a 30 minute meal staple in our house! The ingredients are simple but they are still packed with flavor. They make a great freezer meal because you can easily double the batch to freeze meatballs for later!

Baked meatballs on a white plate with marinara sauce

Easiest Baked Meatballs… EVER

Everybody loves a good meatball, right? Well, at least everyone in my crew does. And, as my mom friends out there know, it’s no small feat to prepare a meal that everyone eats and enjoys. These delicious, moist, Baked Italian Meatballs may get eaten before they ever make it atop whole wheat spaghetti with homemade marinara sauce or a Meatball Sandwich.

The ingredients in our baked meatballs are simple:

You likely have all of the ingredients for these easy baked meatballs in your pantry!

Baked italian meatball

Perhaps the best part: Skip the stove top mess and bake these away in the oven for only 20 minutes. They come out perfect every time. And, like so many of our recipes, you can make these meatballs ahead of time and freeze them for a quick, healthy meal later. Check out the freezer meal instructions in the recipe.

Here is a short video of how Baked Italian Meatballs come together

How to Freeze Baked Meatballs

One of the best parts about this meatball recipe is that it is freezer friendly. Meatballs work beautifully to assemble and then freeze before baking for a meal down the road. I’d suggest rolling them up and placing them on a parchment lined baking sheet to freeze.

How to freeze baked italian meatballs

After they are frozen enough to hold together, place them in an airtight container or freezer storage bag.

The beauty of freezing meatballs is that you can now pop out as many as you need for future meals. No need to bake them all at once. These can be a great freezer meal for 1-2 people.

Ways to Use Baked Meatballs

Baked meatballs are incredibly versatile. Here are some ideas on ways to use them!

  • Serve them over whole wheat spaghetti with marinara sauce
  • Bake them and then assemble them as Meatball Sandwiches
  • Eat them plain! They can be a great appetizer.
  • Lighten up but don’t miss out on flavor by serving them over zoodles.
Baked italian meatball on a fork

What to serve with Baked Italian Meatballs

Here are some ideas that baked meatballs would go well with:

Print

Baked Italian Meatballs {Freezer Meal}

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 46 (about 24 1-1/2 inch meatballs) 1x
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Everybody loves a good meatball! These delicious, moist ones may get eaten before they ever make it atop spaghetti or a sub sandwich. You’ll want to make this baked version of meatballs again and again.


Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lb ground beef (This is where we get our favorite grass-fed ground beef.*)
  • 1 cup whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

*affiliate link


Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.
  2. Using clean hands, gently combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.
  3. Use a medium dough scooper or a spoon to scoop and then roll about 1 1/2 inch meatballs. Line up meatballs on the sheet pan, leaving room between each.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes or until no longer pink inside (160 degrees internal temperature).
  5. Optional: Serve with marinara sauce over pasta or on a sub sandwich.

Freeze For Later: Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil. Then, complete Steps 2 and 3. At this point, flash freeze uncooked meatballs by placing on a rimmed sheet pan or baking dish in the freezer for about an hour or so. Once frozen, dump meatballs in a gallon-sized freezer bag, seal, and place in freezer. Prepare From Frozen: Thaw meatballs using one of these safe thawing methods. Cook according to instructions, beginning with Step 4.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Cheese Taquitos {Freezer Meal}

By Rachel Tiemeyer

Slow cooker chicken and cheese taquitos is a delicious meal that the whole family will love! Be sure to make a double batch for the freezer. Then, you can pull out however many you want and throw them directly in the oven for a quick weeknight dinner.

Slow cooker chicken and cheese taquitos

Affiliate links may be included.

There is a short list of meals in my house that pleases all five of us. It seems like everyone has their own aversions and favorites, which can be exhausting sometimes. Can any moms out there relate??

Now, there is an added bonus when you can find a recipe that is easy, made in the slow cooker, AND freezer friendly. This is why I love Slow Cooker Chicken and Cheese Taquitos! Or, you can make them in the Instant Pot using our Instant Pot Chicken and Cheese Taquitos recipe.

Slow cooker chicken and cheese taquitos

Watch How This Meal Comes Together

How to Make Slow Cooker Chicken and Cheese Taquitos

You are going to LOVE how simple this is. Start by seasoning your chicken with some taco seasoning. Toss it in the slow cooker and add some broth. Water works fine too.

Now here’s the key: Do not overcook your chicken! We wrote a whole post about how long to cook chicken in the slow cooker if you want a bit more information but for now, just follow the recipe, got it? Yeah, you got this! 🙂

Slow cooker chicken and cheese taquitos

Once that chicken has cooked, grab two forks and give it a good shred.

Shredded chicken on a cutting board


After this, rolling up the taquitos and baking them just takes minutes. I also love that I can make these in advance and pop them in the oven right before dinner (fresh or frozen).

Slow cooker chicken and cheese taquitos

How to Freeze Slow Cooker Chicken and Cheese Taquitos

As I mentioned above, another beauty of this recipe is that Chicken and Cheese Taquitos are freezer-friendly. Because of this, I almost always double the recipe. Simply follow the cooking instructions right up until baking and then freeze them in a single layer in a freezer bag.

Chicken and cheese taquitos in a freezer bag

Then, you can pull out however many you need on a busy week night and bake them directly from frozen using our freezer meal instructions below.

Side Dish Idea

Looking for something to serve this with? Try our Avocado Lime Salsa!

Avocado Lime Salsa

What to Do with Leftover Tortillas

If you have leftover tortillas, did you know you can freeze them? Here is the best way to freeze tortillas for later.

tortillas in a freezer bag

Slow Cooker Chicken and Cheese Printable Recipe

Print

Slow Cooker Chicken and Cheese Taquitos

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours and 20 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

This is a delicious meal that the whole family will love! Be sure to make a double batch for the freezer. Then, you can pull out however many you want and throw them directly in the oven for a quick weeknight dinner.


Ingredients


Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. Place the chicken breasts in your slow cooker. Rub both sides of the chicken with all of the taco seasoning. Add water or broth.
  2. Cover and cook on LOW for about 3-4 hours, until it shreds easily. (Note: chicken should be 165°F internally when done.) Shred the chicken with two forks and stir, so the seasoning is evenly distributed.
  3. Add cream cheese and salsa to the shredded chicken and stir until cream cheese is melted.
  4. Arrange tortillas on a flat surface. Top each tortilla with an equal amount of chicken mixture, leaving a little room at the edges so the filling doesn’t spill out. Top chicken mixture with 2-3 tablespoons of shredded cheese. Roll up tortillas tightly. (Freezing instructions begin here.) 
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 
  6. Place the taquitos on a baking sheet, seam side down. Spray the tops with cooking spray and bake for 10-20 minutes, until cheese melts and they are golden brown on top. (Note: If you have leftover cheese, you can sprinkle it over the top of the taquitos before they bake.)
  7. Serving suggestion: Top with sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, salsa, Guacamole, or our Avocado Lime Salsa.

Freeze It For Later: Complete the recipe through Step 4. Then, place rolled up tortillas side-by-side in a single later in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Seal tightly and freeze.

Prepare From Frozen: When ready to bake, you have two options:

Method 1 (Thawed): Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or in the microwave using the defrost setting. Bake as directed, beginning with Step 5.

Method 2 (From Frozen): Follow Steps 5-7, but cover the frozen taquitos with foil after spraying them with cooking spray. Then, bake for about 25 minutes or until warmed through. Remove the foil and bake another 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.


Notes

For Instant Pot instructions, try our Instant Pot Chicken and Cheese Taquitos.

Slow cooker chicken and cheese taquitos

Be sure to try our Instant Pot Chicken and Cheese Taquitos for a faster cooking method.

Hearty Baked Penne Pasta {Freezer Meal}

By Polly Conner

Delicious dinner recipe? Check. Freezer friendly? Check. Makes a lot of leftovers? Check. Approved by all ages in the family? Check. Feeds a large group of people? Check. Easy to make? Check!

Baked Penne Pasta

Affiliate Disclosure:  Posts may contain affiliate links.

I’ve been making this Baked Penne Pasta Recipe for a while now. It’s finally time for me to share it with the world. If any of you dear readers out there embark on making this recipe, the world will be a better place. Share the love and impress your eaters.

Video Tutorial: Baked Penne Pasta

How to Make Baked Penne Pasta

To get started with the hearty-gooey-tasty deliciousness, you make the sauce first.

Ingredients for Baked Penne Pasta

Start by softening up your garlic and diced onion in some olive oil. (PS-here is a little tip on how to dice an onion!) Now add your ground beef and brown it up until there is no pink showing. (Here is where you can find meat you can trust, btw.)

Browning ground beef

At this point, things will start smelling really good and your toddler will begin his attempts to climb up your leg. When he fails, he will likely take any loose-fitting pants down with him. Just sayin.

Now that your toddler is occupied watching fire trucks on your iPhone (wait, I’m not supposed to do that before two years old, right?) Well, at least I’m not cooking pantless anymore. I digress.

After the meat is browned up, drain off some fat and add in the tomato sauce and tomatoes. You could sub these two for two jars of marinara if you want. Add your salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and anything else you feel it needs.

Now let it simmer on low for about 25-30 minutes. After that, remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down. You’ll see why in a bit.

Making tomato sauce

After you get that sauce a-simmerin’, start multitasking. If you need to shred your cheese (here is why you should shred your own cheese by the way) go ahead and do that. You can also start to boil your pasta. Make sure to undercook it a tad. Seriously. If not, you’ll have some funky texture going on after it bakes in the oven.

In another bowl, combine your creamy stuff: ricotta, egg, 2 cups mozzarella, parmesan, salt, and pepper. Give it a good stir. But not TOO good of a stir. Just enough to mix it together, k?

Once pasta is cooked and drained, mix it with your cheese mixture. After the pasta and cheese mixture is combined, add in that cooled pasta sauce I told you about earlier. You did follow my directions, right?!

Once you’ve mixed that together, you have a delicious, gooey mess.

Pour the pasta into a baking dish. 

Pasta in a 9x13 dish

Now top it off with remaining pasta sauce.

Pasta & sauce in a 9x13 dish

Now finish it off with a layer of mozzarella.

Cheese on top of pasta in a 9x13 dish

If you’re planning on freezing this meal, this is the point in which you put your lid on and freeze it. Here are the freezing containers we use and recommend.

Either freeze your baked pasta at this point, or….

Freezer meal

Bake it!

Baked Penne Pasta in a 9x13 dish

Let it cool a bit before serving it up.

Baked penne pasta next to a green salad

Goodness. I need to make some more after writing this post.

Print

Baked Penne Pasta

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1012 1x
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Freezer Friendly Baked Penne Pasta Recipe. Easy, kid-friendly dinner idea. Great for large groups too.


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds ground beef (or one pound ground beef & one pound Italian sausage) Here is where you can find meat you can trust.
  • 1 can (28 ounce size) whole tomatoes, with juice
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounce) tomato sauce or marinara sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 16 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 tub (15 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 11/2 pounds mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg

Instructions

Make It Now:

  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced onions and garlic and saute for several minutes, or until starting to soften.
  2. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.
  3. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. After that time, remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Begin to boil your pasta. Make sure to undercook it a tad–especially if freezing!
  7. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, and a dash of salt and pepper.
  8. Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and barely mix it together.
  9. Add the cooled meat sauce that you set aside earlier and toss to combine.
  10. Dump the pasta mixture into a large greased casserole dish or lasagna dish. (NOTE: I ended up using a 9×13 AND a 9×9 dish to fit all of it!) Spoon the remaining sauce over the top, then top with remaining mozzarella cheese. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
  11. Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving. Hint: Sprinkle chopped parsley over the pasta before serving!

Freeze For Later: Follow the recipe through Step 10. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, foil or a lid. Freeze.

Prepare From Frozen: When ready to cook, you have two options:

  1. Thawed: Thaw in the fridge (may take up to 48 hours) or thaw in the microwave on defrost setting. Bake at 375 degrees F according to Step 11 in the recipe.
  2. Frozen: If cooking directly from frozen state, cover with foil. Bake in a 375°F oven for about 1 hour and 20 minutes or so, until heated through and bubbly. Remove the foil the last 20 minutes.

Notes

We get our meat from ButcherBox*. The ground beef is grass-fed, grass-finished with no hormones or antibiotics and is absolutely delicious! We highly recommend this service to source DELICIOUS and HEALTHY meat–like heritage-raised pork, organic chicken, wild salmon, and uncured bacon–and have used it for years ourselves. *Disclaimer: We are an affiliate of ButcherBox.

Looking for more ground beef recipes?

Check out our Top 10 Ground Beef Freezer Meals!

Ground Beef Freezer meals

Chocolate Sweet Potato Banana Bread {Freezer-Friendly}

By Rachel Tiemeyer

Ah, sweet breads. Forgiver of all added-in leftovers and hidden fruits and veggies. Your family is going to love this pretty darn healthy Chocolate Sweet Potato Banana Bread!

chocolate banana bread slices on white plate

I had leftover pureed sweet potato and several overripe bananas in the freezer to use up recently.  (Yes, you should definitely freeze leftovers like that to save money.) Anyway, this delicious banana bread was the result! It’s similar to my Banana Pumpkin Muffins but with some added cocoa and a sweet potato twist. 

chocolate banana bread slices on white plate

In the recipe, I suggested several substitutions to make this bread even healthier (if you want):

  • For 100% whole wheat bread, use the white whole wheat variety in place of both flours.
  • Want a dairy-free loaf? Substitute canned coconut milk for the yogurt and use coconut oil instead of butter.
  • To make this recipe a bit lower on the glycemic index, use coconut sugar in place of the other sugars. Also don’t add the chocolate chips. 🙂

I also love using cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder, which is even healthier!) in recipes like this because: a) it adds chocolate-y decadence without the added fat and sugar of chocolate chips, b) it’s actually full of antioxidants, and c) it masks the flavor of any hidden veggies. 

chocolate sweet potato banana bread

As I write this post, I’m enjoying a piece of this warm-from-the-oven bread with some butter and hoping I’m going to be able to stop with just one. Chocolate Sweet Potato Banana Bread is absolutely decadent and healthy.  My favorite kind of snack!

If you love muffins and sweet breads, be sure to try these other favorites from our site:

How to Store Overripe Bananas for Later

P.S. If you have more overripe bananas than you can use in this recipe, did you know you can freeze them? Here is the best way to freeze bananas for later.

Print
chocolate banana bread slices on white plate

Chocolate Sweet Potato Banana Bread

  • Author: Thriving Home
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • <