Quick and Easy Meals Using the Freezer

Things you will need~

Your choice of freezer-safe containers- heavy plastic bags that seal, plastic containers with tight fitting lids, aluminum foil and plastic wrap, or a disposable aluminum pie pan and heavy plastic wrap.

  • A permanent marker in a dark color
  • Masking tape
  • Notepaper
  • Pen or pencil

Keep it safe~

Most frozen foods will last 3 to 6 months.

When re-heating your freezer meals in the microwave, please use microwave safe containers. Some of the plastic containers we use to freeze foods in are not safe for the microwave.

Making freezer meals~

  • When you are cooking, make extra to freeze. Casseroles and one-pot recipes usually work well. Many soups and stews are also good freezer foods.
  • When the recipe is cooked, spoon into your freezer container. Seal the container leaving a small amount of air space.
  • Mark the container with the date, the number of portions and the name of the recipe.
  • On your notepad write down the date, the number of portions and the name of the recipe.
  • Keep the notepaper on your freezer door to remind you what is inside. The next time you want a meal that only requires heating-up check your list to see what you have.


Until next time, enjoy the family!   Stefanie

Vegetable Chowder


3 tablespoon(s) butter

1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)

2 medium red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced (2 1/2 cups)

1/2 teaspoon(s) dried thyme

3 cup(s) milk

4 medium (about 2 1/2 pounds) baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes

8 ear(s) corn, kernels removed (about 4 cups)

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1 1/2 pound(s) green beans, ends trimmed, broken into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)

Hot pepper sauce (optional), for serving



In a Dutch oven or 5-quart pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, bell peppers, and thyme; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.  Add milk, potatoes, and 5 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until potatoes are almost tender, about 8 minutes.  Stir in corn, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer until corn is tender, about 3 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer 3 cups of the solids to a blender; puree until smooth. Return to pot; add green beans. Bring to a simmer; cook until beans are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Season again with salt; serve with hot pepper sauce, if desired.

Source: University of Connecticut/University of Rhode Island Family Nutrition Program, Senior Nutrition Awareness Project.

Recipe from: Martha Stewart


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Basic Steps in Assembling, Freezing and Thawing Sandwiches

The same basic steps may be followed for assembling most frozen sandwiches:

  1. For sandwiches where the filling might soak into the bread, spread a thin layer of soft butter or margarine to the edges of the sides of bread that will be the “insides” of the sandwich. DO NOT use melted margarine or butter. NOTE: Bread that is at least a day-old may be slightly firmer and easier to spread.
  1. Make your sandwiches “assembly line” fashion, completing one step for all sandwiches before moving on to the next step.
  1. A quick way to freeze sandwiches is to:
    1. Place them in zip-top/self-sealing type plastic sandwich bags, labeling the bag with the date and type of sandwich. Squish out as much air as possible before sealing them.
    2. Lay them in a single layer in the freezer on a cookie sheet or other flat surface and freeze them for about an hour until they hold their shape. Then place the sandwich bags in a larger freezer-quality bag, such as a gallon freezer bag. Squish out extra air before sealing. The thin sandwich bags aren’t satisfactory for maintaining food quality during longer-term freezer storage.
  1. Use frozen sandwiches within 1 to 3 months for best flavor and quality.
  1. Thaw individual sandwiches in their sandwich bag or other wrapping in the refrigerator. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to eat them.
  1. To keep perishable sandwich foods like meats and cheeses cold, pack them in an insulated lunch bag or lunch box; include a small frozen gel pack. Or, if there’s a refrigerator available, store perishable items there upon arrival.
  1. Add tomato or onion slices, lettuce, a squirt or dab or horseradish, pickles, etc. just before eating sandwiches. A small container or snack-size plastic bag of these add-ons can be packed with a sack lunch.

Until next time, enjoy the family!  Stefanie


Source: Alice Henneman, MS, RD, University of Nebraska Extension, Lancaster County


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The Skinny on Freezing Sandwiches

It’s often reported the word “sandwich” originated with John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (18thCentury).  The Earl supposedly ate bits of meat between pieces of bread so he could continue to play cards while eating and not get his hands greasy from the meat.  Sandwiches continue to be a popular food today because of their versatility and convenience.  Freezing sandwiches offers several additional benefits:

  • Save money by making your own “fast food” sandwiches for a sack lunch or meal at home.
  • Save time by making several sandwiches at once.
  • Utilize “leftovers” or cook extra at a meal for use in tasty and different ways at future meals.
  • Control type of bread (such as choosing a whole grain bread), type of filling and spread (amount, salt, fat and forth) by being in charge of the ingredients.
  • Enjoy a wholesome, homemade sandwich as part of an inexpensive, quick meal!

Sandwiches ingredients that DO and DO NOT freeze well  Some common sandwich fillings that DO freeze well include:

  • Peanut butter and other nut butters
  • Canned tuna and salmon
  • Cooked roast beef, chicken and turkey (especially tasty when the meat is finely chopped and mixed with a “salad dressing,” such as Miracle Whip, to add flavor and moistness
  • Natural or processed hard and semi-hard cheeses, such as Swiss, Cheddar.  NOTE: As frozen cheese may crumble more after thawing, you may be more satisfied with the result if you grate it before freezing it in sandwiches.

Some common sandwich fillings that DO NOT freeze well include:

  • Hard-cooked egg whites (freezing toughens them).
  • Jelly or jam (soaks into bread and makes it soggy).
  • Tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, onions, etc. become limp when thawed; they can be added to thawed sandwiches just before eating them.

IMPORTANT: “Salad dressings,” such as Miracle Whip, work better as a binder in sandwiches than mayonnaise.  Mayonnaise tends to separate on thawing.  In comparison to mayonnaise, a Miracle Whip-type salad dressing tends to have a sweeter, tangier flavor.  So, experiment to see how you like the result before making a freezer full of sandwiches.   Until next time, enjoy the family!   Stefanie   Adapted from: Alice Henneman, MS, RD, University of Nebraska Extension, Lancaster County

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Sandwiches – Take 2

Sandwich spreads.  Use different sandwich spreads to kick up the flavor and nutrition.  Go easy on spreads such as mayonnaise, margarine, butter, and cream cheese because they add fat and calories and little nutritional value.  Instead, try low-fat plain yogurt, different flavors of hummus, mustard or honey mustard, or light dressing.

Boost nutrition with tasty toppings.  Give your sandwich a nutritional boost by adding vegetables or fruit.  Different veggies include spinach, arugula, sliced zucchini, cucumber, green or red peppers, red onion, and grated carrots.  Fruits to try on sandwiches include sliced apples, pineapple and banana.

Go lean with protein.  Choose lean turkey, roast beef, ham or low-fat luncheon meats for sandwiches instead of luncheon/deli meats with more fat, such as regular bologna or salami.  Processed meats such as hams and luncheon or deli meats have added sodium.  Check the ingredient and Nutrition Facts Label to help limit sodium intake.

Food safety for sandwiches on the go.  Pack and store sandwiches in an insulated tote.  Use an ice pack, gel pack or freeze a juice box, bottled water or the sandwich itself (more on this topic in the next blog).  For best quality, use coarse-textured breads that don’t get soggy as the sandwich thaws.  Frozen juice boxes, water, and sandwiches will thaw by lunch.

Til next time, enjoy the family!    Stefanie

Turkey, Spinach and Apple Wrap (Serves 2)


1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons honey mustard
2 whole-wheat lavash wraps or flour tortillas
2 cups (washed and dried) baby spinach leaves, loosely packed, or two large leaves of a soft leafy green lettuce
4 thin slices turkey breast (4 ounces)
1/4 Granny Smith apple, sliced paper-thin



1. Combine mayonnaise and mustard. Lay out both wraps. Spread the edges of each with the mayonnaise mixture. Leaving a margin free on the side closest to you, arrange a layer of greens on top of wraps. Top each layer with half the turkey. Evenly divide apple slices and lay lengthwise across turkey.

2. Fold over the end of the wrap closest to you, then the two sides. Roll the wrap as tightly as possible toward the opposite side. Cover each wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate, seam side down, up to 4 hours before serving. When ready to serve, remove plastic wrap and cut each wrap in half, at an angle.


Per serving: 234 calories; 7g total fat (1g saturated fat); 27g carbohydrate; 3g fiber; 20g protein; 294 mg sodium


Recipe by: Michele Borboa, MS www.sheknows.com

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Tips for Nutritious and Delicious Sandwiches – Take 1

  • Choose whole grains.  Vary the taste and texture of sandwiches with whole grains.  Grains provide many nutrients vital for health, such as dietary fiber, B vitamins, and minerals.  Try out different ways to hold sandwich fillings with pita pockets, bagels, tortillas, and whole wheat or rye breads.
  • Use food labels.  The color of a product isn’t always a good indicator of whether it’s a whole grain.  Bread can be brown due to molasses or other added ingredients.  Choose foods with ingredients such as these first on the ingredient list: brown rice, oatmeal, wild rice, whole-grain corn, whole oats, whole rye, or whole wheat.  Also, check the Nutrition Facts Label and choose products with higher fiber contact.
  • Try different fillings.  Instead of mixing shredded tuna, turkey, or chicken with mayonnaise, use low-fat plain yogurt.  For added flavor and crunch, add chopped onion, celery, and cucumber or pickle.  And, to really kick up the flavor, add in herbs or spices such as dill or cumin.  Instead of the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich, try peanut butter and sliced banana (YUMMY…see below).

More tips on Monday….til then, enjoy the family!    Stefanie

Grilled Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich


cooking spray

2 tablespoons peanut butter

2 slices whole wheat bread

1 banana, sliced



Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Spread 1 tablespoon of peanut butter onto one side of each slice of bread. Place banana slices onto the peanut buttered side of one slice, top with the other slice and press together firmly. Fry the sandwich until golden brown on each side, about 2 minutes per side, or just eat cold.

No matter how you make it its YUMMY, and a quick, nutritious meal on the run.



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From Berries to Butty

Happy Monday!  No I’m not crazy and yes I said butty.  You know, a butty…(not to be confused with a number of things, the least of which is buddy.)  A butty is a British, or Northern English word for sandwich.  Actually, more specifically, it’s a piece of bread and butter wrapped around something.  Why am I telling you this, you ask?  My response is easy and quirky.  Because August is National Sandwich Month and I didn’t think that “berries to sandwiches” would grab your attention.
Sandwiches make quick, easy, and nutritious meals.  Since August is National Sandwich month, what better time than to try a different type of sandwich or have fun inventing a new sandwich to share with family and friends.  Before I get into tips on how to experiment with different veggies and fruits, lean meats, whole grains and sandwich spreads, I thought I’d give you a little history on the sandwich.

A famous rabbi, Hillel the Elder, made the first recorded sandwich in the 1st Century BC.  He mixed some nuts, apples, and spices with some wine and put it between two matzos.  Through the 6th to 16th Century, people used bread as plates.  They put meat and vegetables onto some bread and ate with their fingers.  These were the first open faced sandwiches and they were called “trenchers.”

More to come about sandwiches and sandwich history on Thursday, until then…enjoy the family!    Stefanie

The Great British Bacon Butty

3 slices bacon

2 slices of farmhouse style bread


A-1 sauce

Worcestershire sauce

  1. Cook the bacon under a preheated oven grill for seven minutes at about 475F turning half way through the cooking time.
  2. Cook until crispy, but not burnt or too dry.  (You can also fry the bacon in a pan if you wish).
  3. Butter the two slices of bread and place the grilled or fried bacon inside the two slices of bread to make a sandwich.
  4. Add sauces to taste.
  5. Enjoy!



Recipe from: http://www.food.com/recipe/the-great-british-bacon-butty-bacon-sandwich-247495

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Berries, Berries Everywhere

Summer is my favorite time of the year.  And by favorite, I mean FAVORITE.  I love everything about summer – bring on the sun, the long days and the heat.  As a child, I spent my summers on Brant Lake, often with my cousins who would visit from Concord, New Hampshire.  We would be up before anyone on the lake swimming, fishing, tubing, waterskiing and if we were lucky, out on the Sunfish.  We wouldn’t get out for anything.  In fact, I can remember many times a bar of Ivory soap being thrown down with instructions of washing up before we got out.  Ahhh, those were the days, many things have changed since the 70’s.

What hasn’t changed is my love for summer and BERRIES.  It doesn’t matter, I love them all – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, dewberries and huckleberries just to name a few. Berries are an anytime-favorite-snack that we can go on and on and on with. The sweet-tart flavor that this juicy fruit renders, attracts everyone.  July is National Blueberry Month, so let’s end the month with some fun facts:

1. There are 2 types of blueberries grown in the USA – highbush and wild (lowbush). The highbush berries are big and pretty and served mostly fresh. Wild blueberries are smaller and mostly used in food preparation (blueberry muffin, anyone?)

2. Blueberry consumption (and production) has tripled since 1995. Back then, the average American ate 1 pound of blueberries a year. This year, we will surpass 3 pounds per capita.

3. Blueberries are a native plant to North America.

4. It’s peak season here, and prices for fresh domestic blueberries are very affordable. The season begins in May and lasts until early Fall.

5. Blueberries are only blue on the outside, the flesh is actually green. The blue color of the berries’ skin comes from anthocyanins, a set of powerful antioxidants that may hep reduce the risk of cancer.

6. Blueberries are an amazing snack. Not only do they taste great, they are very low in calories – just 80 calories for a 1-cup serving.

7. Blueberries are nutrition powerhouses. A serving has 25% of the recommended daily value for vitamin C and manganese, as well as 4 grams of fiber (15% of the daily recommendation).

8. Blueberries have a low glycemic index, which is good news for people with diabetes who are afraid to eat fruit. In a human study, blueberries have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity in people with pre-diabetes.


Blueberry Oatmeal Yogurt Pancakes

Start your mornings off right with these light and fluffy, healthy pancakes chockfull of juicy blueberries!


1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 cup milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 large eggs

1 cup blueberries

Maple syrup, for serving



Preheat oven to 200 degrees F and a nonstick griddle to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together yogurt, milk, butter and eggs. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula just until moist. Add blueberries and gently toss to combine.

Lightly coat a griddle or nonstick skillet with nonstick spray. Scoop 1/3 cup batter for each pancake and cook until bubbles appear on top and underside is nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook pancakes on the other side, about 1-2 minutes longer; keep warm in oven.

Serve immediately with maple syrup.


Recipe from: www.damndelicious.net

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Check to Make Sure Your Fruit is Not on the Food Recall List!

Have you purchased stone fruit—peaches, plums, nectarines, or pluots—recently? If so, check to make sure they are not part of a recent nation-wide recall of Listeria-contaminated fruit!

On June 19, 2014, the Wawonda Packing Company of Cutler, California, voluntarily recalled some of its conventional and organic varieties of:

  • yellow peaches and nectarines,
  •  white peaches and nectarines,
  •  black plums, and pluots.

The recalled fruit, potentially contaminated with Listeria, one of the deadliest foodborne pathogens, was packaged between June 1-12 and sold to retailers and wholesalers, who have resold the products nationwide under multiple brand names.

Stores that may be selling these fruits in the U.S. include:

  • Aldi,
  • Big Y Foods,
  • BJ’s Wholesale,
  • Costco
  • Dillons,
  • Food 4 Less,
  • Foods Co.,
  • Fry’s,
  • Giant Food Stores,
  • Hannafords,
  • King Soopers,
  • Krogers,
  • Martins,
  • Ralphs,
  • Sam’s Club,
  • Save-a-Lot,
  • Stop & Shop,
  • Trader Joes,
  • Walmart,
  • Wegmans; and
  • Whole Foods.

Listeria is a bacterium that can cause the life-threatening illness Listeriosis. Healthy consumers generally do not get ill, or experience only mild symptoms. Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and adults with weakened immune systems are most at risk of severe illness. Of those it sickens, 94 percent require hospitalization and 16 percent die from it, making it one of the most hazardous foodborne illnesses. Symptoms of infection include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea. Pregnant women can experience miscarriage.

If you believe you have been exposed to Listeria and experience any of these symptoms, contact a physician immediately. Symptoms of Listeriosis may begin two to four weeks after consumption of Listeria-contaminated foods. Symptoms usually last 5-10 days, but complications are common. A severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions can be symptoms of life-threatening neurological complications that require immediate attention from a physician.

Recalled fruit should not be eaten. If you have recalled fruit in your home, return it to the store for a refund, or dispose of it—remember, when in doubt, throw it out! If you are uncertain if your fruit is part of the recall, call your local grocery store to see if their products were affected. Further information on recalled products is available from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration www.FDA.gov

If you have questions about a product, you can call the Wawonda Packing Company at 1-888-232-9912.

Til next time, check your fruit and enjoy the family!        Stefanie


Source: Nutrition Action Newsletter

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Delicious Summer Produce

Summer is the peak of the season for many northeastern fruits and a great time to enjoy a wide variety of fresh vegetables.  Below are fruits and vegetables in season that you are likely to find at your local farmers market:






beets                            broccoli                       cabbage                       carrots             cauliflower

celery                         cucumbers                   eggplant                      endive              fennel

garlic                           green beans                 kohlrabi                       lettuce             mushrooms

okra                             onions                           peppers                        potatoes           radiccio

scallions                    sprouts                         summer squash         sweet corn       tomatoes



apricots                        blackberries                 blueberries                cherries            currants

elderberries               gooseberries                melons                         nectarines        peaches

plums                           raspberries


The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) has officially started. Coupons are distributed to qualifying seniors at congregate meal sites, senior housing complexes, farmers markets, and Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County among other places.  The $20 of coupons are 5,-$4.00 coupons where no change is given back. Seniors must get their coupons in person as there are no proxies allowed.  At the time of receipt, qualifying seniors will certify and self-declare that indeed they do meet the eligibility requirements.  This year the eligibility requirements are as follows:

  1. A senior:
    1. a.      60 years of age or older; AND
    2. b.      Monthly income is at or below

i.      $1,800/month for a one-person household,

ii.      $2,426/month for a two-person household

iii.      $3051/month for a three-person household


  1. c.       Currently receiving or eligible to receive SSI, public assistance, or Section 8 Housing subsidy
  2. 2.      Also has not received Farmers Market checks from any other location.


Choose peaches and serve up great taste with vitamin C.  Try my cool, refreshing and delicious Peachy Pops recipe below and til next time, enjoy the family!  Stefanie


Peachy Pops

2 peaches (1 ½ cups chopped)

2/3 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

2 cups orange juice

6 paper cups

6 spoons

Aluminum foil


Chop peaches and divide among 6 paper cups.  Place yogurt in medium bowl and slowly pour orange juice into yogurt, stirring until blended.  Pour juice mixture over peaches and place a spoon in each cup.  Cut squares of foil to cover tops of cups, piercing each with spoon handle.  The foil holds spoon in center of cup.  Freeze at least 4 hours and to eat, peel paper cups away from pops.

Make 6 pops, 70 calories and 0.5 grams fat per pop.

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Buy Local: Shopping at the Farmers Market

Summer has finally arrived! And, Orange County has fifteen different farmers markets for you to explore.  Shopping at the farmers market is one sure way to buy fresh locally-grown and in-season produce.  Take a look at the following tips for making the best of your local farmers market.

  •  Dress appropriately – When headed to your local farmers market, dress comfortably and travel light. Check the weather report before you leave home and dress accordingly. The farmers market will be open come rain or come shine. A hooded jacket is better for a rainy day than trying to maneuver through the crowds with an umbrella and all your purchases. Wear clothes with lots of pockets; and on sunny days, wear sunscreen and sunglasses.
  • Know the season – Don’t go to the farmers market in July expecting to find pumpkins. Do not expect uniform size in the produce selections either. Sizing is a supermarket tactic, but it is not the way things grow. 
  • Be bold and try something new -  You will find heirloom varieties that you may not have tasted before. Farmers can also tell you what they will be bringing to future markets as the season progresses. Be prepared by making a shopping list, but also allow for spontaneity.
  • Go early or go late – If you arrive early, the market will be less crowded and availability will be good. On the other hand, you may find bargains and reduced prices at the end of the market day. Most farmers do not want to take their goods back home.
  • How will you pay?   Markets are ready to take senior coupons, WIC coupons, and many have an EBT machine for accepting SNAP, but, bringing cash is your best bet. Carry small bills and change in a pocket-size change purse. Some vendors are equipped and ready to take credit cards, but cash is ideal. Leave your larger purse at home or in your trunk.
  • Tour the entire market first – Stroll around and check out what is available and the prices. Most prices are uniform, but the varieties and quality may not be as consistent. Decide which vendor you will purchase from.
  • Take your own bags and containers – Berries get crushed, so take a ridged container or basket. If you plan to buy fresh-cut flowers, they should be placed in water for the trip home. Although some farmers’ market vendors have bags, very few have boxes. It is easier if you bring your own containers and reusable bags with handles. Make sure that they are clean. You are contributing to the most basic recycling cause by using your own cloth bags.
  • Consider a small cart or cooler on wheels – Even small bags can get mighty heavy as you walk through the Farmers Market. Places to sit and rest may be limited. Place a cooler or two in the car. Pack it with some ice or cold-packs to keep things at peak freshness. Many types of produce like melons, corn, apples, will not need immediate cooling. If you use a cart, be considerate of other shoppers. There are lots open-toed shoes out there!
  • Do not over buy – Eat it while it is fresh and return next week for more. Do some mental meal planning, even if you do not write it down, and don’t buy more than you can eat in a week.

On Thursday I’ll share what summer produce you can expect to find at the markets and what the 2014 criteria is for the Senior Nutrition Farmers Market Coupons, including where you can get them.

Til next time, enjoy the family!  Stefanie

Source – University of Illinois Extension

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    Stefanie manages all nutrition programming at Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County. An avid cook and advocate for health and wellness at all levels, Stefanie enjoys ... Read Full
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