Freezer Cooking Tips (Recipe: Chicken Enchiladas)

Freezer Cooking Tips
Did you know that you can cook once and eat all week, or even all month? That’s right, it’s called Freezer Cooking and a lot of busy people do it to help them eat healthier at home, save time, and even save money. Freezer cooking consists of making several meals at once, freezing them to reheat and eat at a later time. Traditional cooking means coming home after a long day at work and maybe even your child’s baseball game and still cook dinner and clean up prior to taking time to relax.

Imagine instead that all you have to do is pop in one of your premade frozen dinners. A dinner that you made yourself that you know the exact ingredients, unlike commercial frozen dinners these dinners are prepared by you and do not have all the preservatives that “TV Dinners” have. Even better, a child or a husband can quickly put the dinners in the oven prior to you getting home, make a quick side salad and some rolls and you have a dinner fit for a family.

The Benefits of Freezer Cooking

It may seem a little overwhelming to think about cooking for your freezer, but the truth is, there are a lot of benefits to doing so. You’ll save time, money, and eat better than you normally do. Plus, you’ll seem like an amazing person when last minute guests arrive and you put a full dinner on the table without breaking a sweat.

Saves Time

This is true in manufacturing and it’s true in cooking dinner too. It takes just as much time to make one enchilada casserole as it does to make two or four. It just takes bigger pans and containers. The time you save by spending one day cooking will be paid back to you each day that you don’t have to cook a full meal.

Saves Money

Due to the fact that you’ll be purchasing in bulk you’ll save money. Not going to the grocery store as often as you did before will keep you from picking up those impulse buys. When you do freezer cooking, you limit your grocery store trips to the day before you prepare the food and you shop with a list. This automatically means money savings.

Better Nutrition for Your Family

You know and I know that when we get too busy we tend to go through the drive-thru. We know it’s not healthy, but we’re hungry, the kids are hungry, and we’re exhausted. But, imagine you have food at home that you can easily reheat and serve that is healthy. No preservatives, actual food unlike that fast food burger. Many people find that with freezer cooking they lose weight because they are skipping the drive thru.

Delight Last Minute Guests

How many times have people shown up at your home unexpectedly? It happens, especially if you have children. Plus, you probably enjoy having company over, but it always seems like just too much work. Now, you can relax a bit because you don’t need to do more than heat up a delicious entre, make a nice salad, and pour some wine to look like the most amazing host on the planet.

What Freezes Well and What Doesn’t?

It’s important to understand what freezes well and what doesn’t when embarking on a freezer cooking plan. Keep in mind when you choose meals to freeze, that freezing changes the texture of some foods. For instance high moisture fresh foods don’t really freeze well if you plan to eat them in raw form later. For instance, you can’t freeze a raw chef salad and expect it to taste like a fresh chef salad after freezing. But you can freeze chopped tomatoes to use in a sauce later.

Do Not Freeze These Items (or freeze with caution):

Cottage Cheese
Cream Cheese
Crumb Toppings
Eggs in the Shells
Fried Food
Salad Dressing
Salad Greens
Sour Cream
Some of the above items can be frozen if you know what you’re doing and understand what changes freezing will make to it.

Cheese — You can actually freeze cheese as long as you understand the texture will change. It will be crumbly, (shred it first) and you can’t eat it as is, but you can use it in a casserole as a topping. So, if you put cheese on top of a casserole that you’re going to pop into the oven to reheat anyway it’s fine. But if you plan to slice it for a sandwich, you probably don’t want to freeze your cheese.

Fried Food — You can freeze fried food as long as you wrap it right, and then reheat it correctly. For something like fried chicken be sure to cool it down while draining off the extra fat, then wrap with freezer paper and then put it inside an air tight container. To reheat, put in the oven frozen after unwrapping on a greased pan.

Grapes — Everyone knows you can freeze grapes if you plan to eat them frozen. A nice treat and tastes like dessert.

Onions & Peppers — You can chop these and freeze them to use in recipes. Chop and let them dry on a paper towel first to drain off extra moisture. Spread them on a cookie sheet and freeze for about an hour before putting them into airtight freezer bags.

Tomatoes — You can chop them and freeze into serving sizes or recipe sizes in airtight containers. You can only use them for sauces after freezing or in a soup or stew where texture isn’t as important.

Oranges & Citrus — You cannot freeze the fruit but you can freeze the zest. Zest onto a paper towel, and let dry out a bit, then freeze in one layer on a pan for about an hour. Pour into a airtight container to use in recipes.

Rice & Potatoes — They freeze fine in casseroles and dishes, but it does change their texture a bit. You cannot freeze them raw; you must precook and then freeze.

Pasta – While many places have pasta on the ‘no freeze’ list, you can freeze cooked or frozen pasta. It is recommended that you freeze pasta for some dishes uncooked because it will cook during the reheating and you don’t want to overcook it. But, you need to use prepared dried pasta and not freshly made pasta that isn’t dried.

The important thing is to remember to prepare the dishes correctly for storage and to reheat them properly. You have to be sure that your freezer is the right temperature, (under 0°F) and in good repair and that you consider the moisture content of anything that you plan to freeze. Moisture expands when it freezes.
Tips for Freezer Cooking Success

When you decide to try freezer cooking for the first time it’s important to learn from people who have experienced failure before you. There are some tried and true tips to make sure you have a successful freezer cooking experience that you should follow.

Be Prepared

It’s important to get prepared for your cooking session if you’re going to cook several freezer meals at once. Even if you are just doubling your nightly meal to “feed the freezer” you want to get everything prepared, make sure you have all the ingredients, the storage containers, and everything set up in an assembly line to make it easier.

Get Comfortable

This isn’t the time to wear your good clothing or pearls and certainly not uncomfortable shoes. In fact, you probably should wear a good pair of shoes that are meant for standing for long periods of time to make it easier on your feet and back. If you can invest in a comfortable standing mat for your kitchen floor all the better. Have a snack before you start to avoid snacking as you cook.

Shop with a List

You definitely do not want to shop for a freezer cooking session without a list. It’s a good idea to plan out everything that you do, and a shopping list is a must for successful freezer cooking. You need to know exactly how much and what to buy so that your recipes turn out perfect each time.

Cook What You Like

Most families actually rotate the same 8 to 10 dishes, and rarely try anything new. It’s important to understand what you and your family like and work within that parameter to truly be successful with freezer cooking. Try only one or two new things in any give month and you’ll be a lot happier with the outcome.

Get Organized

Before you start, make sure you begin with a clean kitchen and an organized workspace. Get out the pans and supplies that you need in advance and set them out like you work in a factory so that they’re at the ready. The same goes for measuring cups. It helps if you have several sets of measuring cups so that you don’t have to wash anything while you’re cooking. Stick dirty things in the dishwasher as you go to keep your area neat.

Packaging & Labeling

The best packaging material are either freezer bags that you use a press to seal, or Ziploc® bags. You can freeze these flat for stacking so more will fit into your freezer. Of course, you must label everything because you really won’t know what it is after it freezes. Plus it’s good to know the date you put it in as some things don’t last forever. In fact, most things last about 4 months with a few lasting up to a year.

Handling Food Safely

When you are preparing everything it’s imperative that you are very careful about cleanliness and handling all the food safely. Cool down items before you put them in the freezer, first on the counter, and then in the fridge and finally move it to the freezer. To thaw items, start in the fridge the day before. Remember to not mix utensils when handling raw meat, especially poultry. Wash your hands a lot in hot soapy water. Use a thermometer to ensure proper internal cooking temperatures.

Preparation, organization, and safe handling of food will ensure that your freezer cooking session is a success. Don’t try to skip any of the steps because you will invariably end up forgetting something important and you won’t even know it until you thaw it out to eat later. Keeping a checklist nearby to mark off each step will be very helpful.

Freezer Meal Recipe

Chicken Enchiladas

These are really simple enchiladas to make, but remember that some people cannot tolerate cilantro, if you have anyone in your family who complains about cilantro tasting like soap, don’t put cilantro in your dishes. It’s a genetic thing.


4 Medium Chicken Breasts, cooked and cut in strips
2 TBS Olive Oil
1 tsp Pink Himalayan Salt
1 PKG 10 LG Tortillas
1 Can Green Chile Enchilada Sauce
1 Small Can Diced Green Chiles
2 Jalapenos
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, chopped
1 15 oz Can Diced Tomatoes, drained
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
3/4 Cup Sour Cream
1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder
Chopped Fresh Cilantro (optional)
1/2 pound of Pepper Jack Cheese shredded


To cook the chicken breasts braise the outsides in 1 TBS oil in a non stick skillet, transfer to baking pan, sprinkle with 1 tsp salt. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes uncovered in a preheated 400°F oven until no longer pink inside. Check temperature with a meat thermometer. Internal temperature should be 170° F. Let chicken stand for 30 minutes to cool before cutting into strips.

Tip: You can precook chicken as above, then after cooling for 30 minutes, individually wrap chicken breasts in waxed paper. Then put into individual air tight freezer bags. Label. You can freeze cooked chicken breasts like this for up to 4 months. This way you can thaw them out to use in recipes like this.

1. In the same non stick skillet you braised the chicken, adding more oil if needed, cook the bell peppers, green chilies, diced tomatoes, jalapenos, cumin and garlic until the peppers are done about 10 minutes. Add the chicken strips to coat.

2. In a separate bowl large enough to dunk the tortillas, place the Green Chile Enchilada Sauce. Dip each tortilla in the sauce, coating both sides.

3. Place 1/10th of the ingredients into each, roll and place in a 9×13 glass baking dish sprayed with non stick cooking spray. (Tip: use the glass baking pan for your rolling station to avoid a mess.)

4. Pour over top any remaining sauce. Top with 1/2 pound shredded pepper jack. Cover tightly with foil or if your pan has a lid put on the lid. Label and Freeze.

To Serve: Reheat from frozen for 45 minutes to 1 hour in 350° oven with foil on. Remove foil last 10 minutes. Serve with Sour Cream with fresh cilantro on top.