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October 25, 2013  | Everyday Recipes
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October 25, 2013  |  Messages and Recipes

Cooking for Your Freezer

We see three reasons to cook for your freezer: It saves time, it saves money, and it puts food away in case of an emergency. In this article, we'll give you helpful directions for getting the most from your freezer.

If your home is like ours, we routinely put leftovers in the refrigerator. Than we forget about them and in a few days, throw them out. How much better to wrap them, freeze them, label them and use them at a later date. And when you're cooking that favorite casserole, why not double the batch, make two, and freeze the second? If we have a selection of favorite family foods in the freezer, we can bail ourselves out on those busy days when we just don't have time to cook.

Your freezer can save you money in a number of ways. On those busy days when there is no time to cook—and for most of us, there are too many of those days—we either reach for a store-bought prepared food, call out to the restaurant for delivery, or jump in the car and go out to eat. All three solutions are expensive. Grabbing a casserole, some frozen rolls, and a dessert from the freezer is quicker, better, and will save money. And in an emergency, it's nice to have food put by.

Tips for Getting the Most from Your Freezer
Avoid freezer burn: Freezer burn is actually dehydration. It destroys cell structures and affects both flavor and texture. Plastic is not an adequate oxygen barrier. Use wrapping paper designed for freezing. If you do use plastic, it should be the heavier “freezer” bags designed for the freezer and the food should not be stored long.

Stay organized: Mark and date everything. Group foods by type with all meats going in one area of the freezer and baked goods in another. Meats should be stored on the lowest shelf so that in the event of an outage, melting juices will not drip on other foods. Keeping a pad on the freezer to jot down inventory items and dates is a good idea.

Rotate: If you don't rotate the food in your freezer--use it--you'll throw it out. Know what's in your freezer and use it often. Don't wait until the food is marginal.
Freeze only best-quality foods: Freezing never improves quality.

Do not overcook foods: Food will continue cooking when reheated.

Practice safety: Do not let lukewarm foods sit on the counter before freezing. Remember that bacteria will grow below 140 degrees and freezing does not kill them--they only go dormant to grow again when removed from the freezer. If you need to cool foods quickly before freezing, consider placing them in ice. Do not put so much food in your freezer at one time that the freezer cannot freeze the food solid within 24 hours.

Some Commonly Prepared Foods and How to Freeze Them
Casseroles: Undercook casseroles when practical. To freeze, wrap the casserole tightly in foil to avoid air pockets. Use within four to six months. Reheat in an oven at 400 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.
Meatloaf: You can freeze your meatloaf baked or unbaked. Use within three or four months. If unbaked, cook the meatloaf for 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees or reheat a baked meatloaf for one hour.

Other cooked meats: Remove as much fat from the meat as possible before freezing. Keep the pieces large and cover with gravy or broth if possible. Use within two to four months. Thaw in the refrigerator and reheat for 20 minutes in a hot oven.

Potatoes: Store mashed potatoes in a covered container. Twice baked potatoes store well. Consider cutting baked potatoes lengthwise, mashing the contents, and refilling the shell before freezing. French fries can be frozen. Reheat them on a baking sheet at 400 degrees.

Quick breads: Wrap the bread in aluminum foil to freeze. Use within two or three months. Thaw it at room temperature or reheat it in a warm oven (325 degrees).
Yeast breads: Consider slicing the bread before freezing. Place the bread in plastic bags and then wrap the loaves tightly in foil. Thaw the bread at room temperature or reheat it at 300 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes. Consider toasting individual slices to thaw.

Cakes: Unfrosted cakes such as fruit cakes and angel food cakes freeze well. Consider slicing them before freezing so that you can get our just what you need. Wrap the entire cake in foil or wrap individual slices to freeze. Cakes with shortening or butter should be used within four months. Many types of icing do not freeze well.

Cookies: Store baked cookies in heavy plastic bags and use within two months. If stored in foil in rigid, airtight containers, the cookies may be stored for up to six months.
Dennis, the Prepared Pantry  
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Just wanted to THANK The Hungry Housewife -- Denise in the Villages, FL Who sent in the Pumpkin Oatmeal Recipe. Made it for breakfast this morning and Yes, it is delicious. Gave recipe to my daughter in Texas, and she couldn't wait to get to the store for ingredients. It's a winner. We have a big garden and part of what we grow are the small pie pumpkin and I just happen to bake some that day for another recipe I want to try. I am scheduled to furnish dessert for 40 or more Nov. 9th. and wanted to ask if anyone had something beside cobbler to serve as a second choice. I will be making a pumpkin bar recipe for one of the desserts. It is nice having a choice when dinner is finished. Thanks in advance. Nancy you do so much for all of us. I kinda like the break in it not coming every day. But I have been really busy right now.
ak from CA

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This is a favorite family quiche, as many do not think a pie crust should be used for anything except pie. They will eat the filling, but leave the pie crust. Hot soup and quiche is a great lunch, as the weather turns cold in this part of the country.
Robbie IN

Rice Seafood Quiche

1/2 c. long grain rice
1 c. Swiss cheese, shredded
3 egg whites
1 egg
1/4 lb. crab meat, blend
1/4 lb. shrimp, chopped
1 sm. onion, thinly sliced
1/2 box frozen spinach, thawed and drained well or 1/2 c. chopped fresh spinach
1 c. milk
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Cook rice and let cool. Lightly grease 9 inch pie plate. Mix rice, 2 tablespoons cheese and 1 egg white. Press in pie plate. Bake 5 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool. Layer crab, shrimp, spinach, cheese, and onion over rice. Combine 2 egg whites, 1 egg, milk, and pepper and pour over mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Robbie IN
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You can easily add cooked and crumbled bacon, sausage or ham to this dish, as well as mushrooms or other vegetables. You can also use other cheeses.
Robbie IN

Tortilla Quiche

Olive oil cooking spray
5 thin 10-inch flour tortillas
1/3 C. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 C. sour cream, light or regular
2 extra-large eggs
1 can (7 ounces) green chiles, drained and rinsed
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and minced (optional)
1/4 C. chopped onion
1 T. minced cilantro
1 1/2 C. grated Monterey jack cheese
Chile powder or paprika

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Mist a 13 x 9 inch baking dish or other shallow oven-proof dish with the olive oil spray. If the tortillas are cold and stiff, warm them in a nonstick pan or in the microwave to make them more pliable. Fit them into the baking dish, overlapping and with at least 2 inches of the edges sticking up out of the dish. When all the tortillas are fitted into the dish, mist them with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with
the Parmesan cheese and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven but leave the oven on.

Put the sour cream, eggs, 2 of the green chiles, the jalapeno, onion and cilantro into the bowl of a food processor. Process until well blended. Pour into the pre-baked tortilla shell. Layer the Monterey jack cheese over the filling and then sprinkle with a little red chile powder or paprika. Bake for 18 minutes, or until the filling is set. Remove and cool for at least 15 minutes. Use a wide spatula to help slide the tortilla quiche out of the dish, and cut into small pieces. Serves 6 as part of a brunch buffet.
Robbie IN
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How to Grill Ribs

For the mop sauce:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup apple cider
3 tablespoons bourbon, or 3 more tablespoons apple cider
3 tablespoons soy sauce
For the rub and ribs:

2 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dry mustard (preferably Colman’s)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
½ teaspoon celery seed
2 racks baby back pork ribs (4 to 5 pounds total)
Lemon Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce or another favorite barbecue sauce

You’ll also need:

1-1/2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory or apple), soaked for 1 hour in water to cover, then drained
A barbecue mop

1. Make the mop sauce: Melt the butter in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cider, bourbon, and soy sauce. Keep warm until ready to use.

2. Make the rub: Place the salt, brown sugar, paprika, pepper, mustard, garlic powder, and celery seed in a small bowl and mix with your fingers, breaking up any lumps in the brown sugar or garlic powder.

3. Prepare the ribs: Place a rack of ribs meat side down on a baking sheet. Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of the rack by inserting a slender implement, such as a butter knife or the tip of a meat thermometer, under it. The best place to start is on one of the middle bones. Using a dishcloth, paper towel, or pliers to gain a secure grip, peel off the membrane. Repeat with the remaining rack.

4. Set aside 2 tablespoon of rub for serving. Sprinkle the remaining rub over both sides of the ribs, rubbing it onto the meat. Cover the ribs with plastic wrap and refrigerate them while you set up the grill.

5. Set up the grill for indirect grilling (see page 33) and preheat to medium (325 to 350F). Place a large drip pan in the center of the grill under the grate. (For instructions on smoking on a gas grill see page 36.)

6. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Place the ribs bone side down in the center of the grate, over the drip pan and away from the head. (If your grill has limited space, stand the racks of ribs upright in a rib rack; see page 52.) If cooking on a charcoal grill, toss half of the wood chips on each mound of coals. Cover the grill and cook the ribs for 45 minutes.

7. Mop the ribs on both sides with the mop sauce. Re-cover the grill and continue cooking the ribs until well browned, cooked through, and tender enough to pull apart with your fingers, 45 minutes to 1 hour longer, 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours in all. When the ribs are cooked, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about ¼ inch. Mop the ribs again every 15 minutes and, if using a charcoal grill, replenish the coals as needed.

8. Just before serving, brush the ribs on both sides with some of the Lemon Brown Sugar Barbecue Sauce and move them directly over the fire. Grill the ribs until the barbecue sauce is browned and bubbling, 1 to 3 minutes per side.

9. Transfer the ribs to a large platter or cutting board. Let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the racks in half or into individual ribs. Sprinkle a little of the reserved rub over the ribs and serve at once with the remaining barbecue sauce on the side.
Bill, Alb
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Jose Ole' 

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Glazed Beets
Makes 2 servings

1/2 pound fresh beets
2 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoon water
2 tablespoon strawberry jelly
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon butter

Cook beets, covered in small amount of boiling salted water until tender (about 35 minutes). Drain, peel and slice beets; set aside. Combine cornstarch, water, jelly, lemon juice, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Stir in beets and butter, stirring gently until butter melts and beets are thoroughly heated.
Lisa TX
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Mixed Squash Casserole
Serves 8

1 C. carrots sliced 1/8-inch thick
4 c. yellow squash slices, 1/4-inch thick
4 C. zucchini slices, 1/4-inch thick
1/2 C. chopped onion
1 can (10-1/2 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 C. sour cream
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2/3 C. crumbled corn bread
2/3 C. torn or chopped dry white bread in ¼-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In medium saucepan, bring about 4 cups water to a boil. Add carrots. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 6 minutes. Add squash, zucchini and onion. Continue simmering uncovered 3-4 minutes or until carrots are tender crisp. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk together soup, sour cream, salt and pepper until well blended. Pour over vegetables and mix well. Transfer to a 2?quart baking dish. Cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes.

In medium bowl combine corn bread and torn white bread. Drizzle with butter. Toss lightly to coat evenly. Remove foil. Top vegetable mixture with corn bread mixture. Continue baking 5 minutes.
Lisa TX
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Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 (15 oz) can whole-kernel corn
1 (15 oz) can lima beans

Melt butter in saucepan. Add corn and beans. Heat through.
Lisa TX
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Zucchini Boats

4 medium zucchini
1 cup long grain rice, cooked
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 cups canned spaghetti sauce
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

Split zucchini lengthwise, scoop out seeds. Saute ground beef, onion, garlic, dill, and parsley in olive oil. Remove from heat. Add cooked rice, beaten egg, 1/4 c bread crumbs and mix well. Fill zucchini with mixture and place in a baking dish. Cover with spaghetti sauce, sprinkle cheese and remaining bread crumbs on top. Cover and bake at 350 for approx 45 minutes, until zucchini is tender but firm.
Karen TX
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