I’ve known Amylee from ProductiveMama.com and her love of delicious, nutritious and convenient food for a long time. In this guest post, Amylee shares six ideas for taking your garden bounty from field to freezer to plate in a seamless process that saves you time and money—freezer meals! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Amylee’s knowledge of freezer meals.
She is publishing a Freezer Meal Club Guide and Course and I was thrilled to be part of her review team. I’m excited about partnering with a few friends in a freezer meal exchange that lets us share and enjoy our gardens’ food for months to come. If you’re curious to learn more, check out the details (and special discount code!) at the end.
Without further ado, here’s Amylee:
If you’re lucky, you’re still harvesting your garden bounty and reaping the rewards of your hard work. Or, if you’re REALLY lucky, you have a neighbor who works hard and shares!
Tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, winter squash, herbs, eggplant, okra, carrots, fall greens and more are treasures on the table and on your palate. There are many ways to put up your harvest: can, dehydrate, freeze, pack in salt or oil, or ferment. All are wonderful options. All help you create nourishing meals down the line.
But how about creating those wholesome meals AS you put up the harvest? Put those delicious gems right into a meal so when you’re ready to cook, you simply defrost, heat and eat. You already need to set aside time to process your excess food, so kill two birds with one stone. Process and build your meals simultaneously!
Quiche works for a variety of garden vegetables and herbs. It’s also great if you have an abundance of eggs. You can make your basic quiche mix with as much or as little as you have available, adding cheeses, if you like.
You can use your favorite quiche recipe, or a general guideline is 5 eggs, a cup of milk, your favorite available herbs to taste, a cup of any combination of available vegetables, and a cup and a half of cheese.
Add the beaten eggs and all ingredients to a freezer bag or container and freeze for baking later.
Try asparagus (usually available earlier, so make a note for next year), summer squash, onions, green onions, potato, bell peppers, chile peppers, greens, basil, dill, rosemary and anything else you like!
Ratatouille is the perfect use of summer’s harvest! Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, basil, oregano, thyme come together for a delicious freezer meal.
Chop, salt and rinse the eggplant. Then, mix it with the the other chopped veggies, onion, garlic, and spices.
Cook together until the vegetables just start to soften. To freeze, do not overcook the mixture.
Let it cool completely and then freeze into meal sized portions for your family.
Thaw, add broth, and finish cooking to enjoy summer’s bounty throughout the year. Use your favorite recipe as a guide, if you have one.
Upon serving, add mozzarella and serve over rice, bread or however you like it.
Gumbo Veggie Base
Every gumbo lover’s got their own recipe, but okra is a staple for most.
If you grow okra, chop it up and right into a freezer container. If you like corn in your gumbo, that’s another summer crop that can go right in.
Onion, zucchini (or other summer squash), tomatoes, bell pepper, celery, carrots and more can be added.
If you’d like to complete the entire meal, you can add your filé, spices, and meat (sausage, chicken, or shrimp) to the freezer containers and you’ll have everything all together when you want to make your gumbo.
OR add those later and label this “Gumbo Veggies” for when the time comes.
Use jarred or canned tomato sauce to make a quick and easy pasta sauce with some heft.
Start with the prepared sauce in the freezer container or bag. Into the bag add whatever chopped or shredded vegetables you want: summer squash, carrots, onions, peppers, eggplant, and any herbs. You can cook those OR toss them in raw and cook in the sauce on the day of serving.
You can make a tasty vegetarian meal or go ahead and add meat before freezing, as well.
Use this to top pasta, make a casserole or as a base for an Italian soup!
Winter Squash Soup
I hope you already have your favorite pumpkin, butternut, acorn or other winter squash soup recipe because everyone needs one. (Amy hopping back in to say…here’s my current favorite with coconut milk for creaminess!)
What I love about these squash is that they store well over time and can be available whenever you’re ready for them.
BUT if storage space is an issue, you can also process them, of course. You can cook your squash before creating a squash soup freezer meal OR peel, chop and freeze the cubes of squash in a single layer.
Take your cooked or frozen squash and add it to the freezer container, along with your preferred herbs and spices (try ginger!). Some folks add carrots, too, which can be added at this time.
You will want to hold off on any cream, though coconut milk will be OK to add and freeze. You can add broth if there’s room or wait and add that upon cooking.
On cooking day, your raw squash will need more time to cook and your cooked squash less time. When you’re ready, use an immersion blender to give you a smooth texture.
A go-to, all-purpose friend to any home cook!
You can add any of the vegetables mentioned above under Veggie Sauce, if you like. But in this case, you’ll be using your own tomatoes as the base.
You do need to cook your sauce before freezing and use your favorite recipe as a guide. (Amy again…here’s my go-to big batch of tomato sauce recipe from Barbara Kingsolver.)
A slow cooker is perfect for making a big batch.
Saute onions, garlic, and peppers in oil. Add all the chopped tomatoes and your herbs, salt and pepper. Cook on low for 2-3 hours, stirring frequently.
Let cool completely and then store in meal-sized portions to freeze.
If needed, thicken when you reheat by adding a can of tomato paste.
Garden Fresh & Freezer Convenient
Freezer meals are for everyone and are great for busy gardeners who like to use their own produce. So, if your green thumb is paying off right now in a major way, go ahead and put your harvest right into a freezer meal. You’ll be so thankful later when you grab your ready-to-cook meal!
To learn more about freezer meals using high quality ingredients, safe storage containers and sharing the bounty, visit Productive Mama.com.
Amy here, back again to wrap things up. 🙂
If you’re like me, you’ve been jotting down new ideas for the rest of your summertime harvest. As the season marches on toward the first fall frost, we have been bringing in buckets of produce to put up. (If your garden has finished producing for the season, remember your local Farmers’ Markets are likely at their peak in late summer and early fall.)
Introducing the Freezer Meal Club Guide and Course
As I mentioned in the introduction, Amylee is launching her Freezer Meal Club Guide and Course very soon. In the course and e-book, she walks you through how to start a club, figure out the logistics of sharing meals, and overcome typical challenges that pop-up when you’re coordinating a group. She shares her tried-and-true freezer meal recipes and lots of printables to make it all simple and straightforward.
If you’re curious, click here to hear more from Amylee about the course. Since she’s doing a quiet “pre-launch” this week, she’s graciously allowed me to share the discount code she emailed to her readers with you as well. Use the code LAUNCH_LIST for 10% off if you decide to purchase by Wed., Sept. 13.
If you’d like to hear even more productivity tips especially for moms, I hope you’ll visit Amylee at ProductiveMama.com.
Amylee, the Productive Mama, lives with her husband and three girls, elementary through high school, in the Land of Enchantment (also known as New Mexico). She loves the sunshine, big sky, gorgeous vistas and amazing history there, even though high desert gardening can be a challenge.
Growing up a military brat, she is now content to stay there forever and never move again.
In a perfect world, she would visit Hawaii, ski with her family, donate to various charities and sleep in on a regular basis. Until then, she will share her journey through Productive Mama-hood and enjoy her kids!
Now, Amylee and I would love to hear from you.
Do you use the freezer to preserve your produce? Have you tried freezer meals before? Will you try any of Amylee’s suggestions for your family? We’d love to hear about your experience and favorite recipes in the comments below.