Preparing for Baby – Freezer Cooking Marathon

Last weekend, my mom came over and we had a freezer cooking marathon to stock our freezer with meals for when Baby Henry gets here. In about 4 hours, we ended up with 14 casseroles stacked in our freezer that are ready to just be popped in the oven for an easy dinner during those early postpartum days when me cooking a meal is pretty much out of the question.

You can see that we divided these recipes into smaller pans that are the perfect portion size for Jeff, Jack, and me. My mom got these pans and lids on Amazon, I think.
It feels so nice to have our freezer stocked so I know Jeff can easily pop one of these meals in the oven on nights when I just don’t feel like cooking in those early postpartum weeks.

Here are the recipes we made (sorry there aren’t any photos of the actual food – we were in the zone while we were cooking and my kitchen was a total mess, so I didn’t photograph as we went):

Mamaw Hopper’s Squash Dressing

This is one of my Mamaw Hopper’s recipes. Using squash in the dressing makes it super moist and gives it a great, fresh flavor. You can use fresh or frozen squash – just make sure to drain it well and mash it up before adding it to the dressing mixture. We like to eat this as a side dish with grilled or baked chicken, but it is hearty enough to make it an entree on its own.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups yellow squash (boiled until very tender, drained, and mashed)
  • 2 cups cornbread crumbs (cornbread recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup grated onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste
  • 3/4 stick of butter, melted
  • water

Instructions:

  • Crumble cornbread into a large mixing bowl and moisten slightly with water.
  • Add mashed squash, grated onion, eggs, cream of chicken soup, and butter. Mix well.
  • Add spices to taste (I typically add about 2 teaspoons of salt, a teaspoon of black pepper, and a teaspoon of poultry seasoning). Mix well.
  • If mixture is too thick to pour, add a little more water until mixture pours easily into greased 9×13 casserole dish.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

Mama’s Chicken Dressing

My mama’s chicken dressing is kind of famous in our family. It’s always her contribution to our family’s Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, but we don’t just save this dish for holidays. Pretty much any time we have leftover cornbread, we’ll make a batch of dressing because our whole family loves it. I’ve shared this recipe before as part of my Open-Faced Turkey Sandwiches recipe. It’s simple, classic, and always comes out perfect.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large pone of cornbread, crumbled (cornbread recipe below)
  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers, crumbled
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 8 chicken thighs, boiled and shredded (I like white meat, so I will sometimes use half chicken thighs and half breasts) – make sure to season with salt while boiling the chicken!
  • About 4 cups of chicken broth (reserved from cooking chicken)
  • Salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste

Instructions:

  • In a large mixing bowl, crumble a large pone of cornbread (about 4 cups total) and the saltine crackers.
  • Add the onions and stir until mixed well.
  • Lightly beat the eggs and add them to the bread mixture. Mix well.
  • Add in the shredded chicken, then slowly add in the hot chicken broth, stirring well after each addition of broth (if you dump it all in at once, you will end up with little pieces of scrambled eggs in your dressing, so make sure to temper the bread mixture as you’re adding the hot broth).
  • Continue adding broth until the mixture is pretty wet, like cornbread batter (You’ll probably need about 4 to 5 cups of broth).
  • Add salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste. We usually start with about a tablespoon of each and then just taste and adjust as needed (the hot chicken broth cooks the eggs, so there’s no reason you can’t taste a little of the mixture before it’s baked).
  • Pour the batter into a buttered 9×13 deep baking dish (if your dish is shallow, you may need two baking dishes to hold the mixture).
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the top is just lightly browned. (We like our dressing really moist, so we don’t brown it much.)

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

I first found this recipe in Trisha Yearwood’s Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen cookbook (one of my favorites if you’re looking for a great Southern cookbook). I adapted the recipe a little since I don’t eat cheese – but if you’re a cheese lover like my husband, you’ll love her original recipe where the cheese is mixed into the chicken mixture and used as a topping for the casserole.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked white rice (make sure to add salt as it is cooking!)
  • 1 pound boiled and drained broccoli florets, roughly chopped (make sure to add salt as it is cooking!)
  • 2 cups shredded chicken breast
  • 1 can cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup (or the combined cream of chicken and mushroom, if you can find it)
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Colby Jack or cheddar cheese
  • 1 sleeve butter crackers
  • 1/4 stick butter, melted

Instructions:

  • Spread cooked white rice into the bottom of a 9×13 inch greased baking dish.
  • Roughly chop cooked broccoli florets and spread over rice (according to Jeff, the secret to making this casserole good is to make sure your broccoli is super tender, so I always make sure to boil it until it’s basically falling apart since that’s how he likes it. I don’t mind the broccoli having a bit of a bite to it, so I have used a bag of broccoli that can be steamed in the microwave for this step and it tasted just as good to me…go with your preferences here).
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together the shredded chicken, soup, sour cream, mayo, lemon juice, salt, and pepper until well combined.
  • Spread chicken mixture over broccoli.
  • Since I don’t like cheese but Jeff loves it, I top half of the casserole with shredded cheese and half with crumbled butter crackers tossed with melted butter. If you and your family love cheese, feel free to skip the crackers and top the whole thing with shredded cheese.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, until cheese is melted and edges are bubbly.

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole

I just kind of made up this recipe a few years ago after one of Jeff’s friends mentioned that his wife made a poppyseed chicken casserole for dinner and Jeff wanted me to make one. It’s a really simple and quick casserole to put together, and it’s always delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 2 cups shredded chicken breast
  • 1 can cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup (either one works great, OR if you can find the cream of chicken and mushroom kind, that’s even better)
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon mayonaise
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 sleeves butter crackers
  • 1/2 stick of butter, melted

Instructions:

  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together the rice, shredded chicken, soup, sour cream, mayo, spices, and lemon juice.
  • Spread into a greased 9×13 casserole dish.
  • Crumble crackers into a mixing bowl and toss to coat with melted butter. Spread cracker crumbs over chicken mixture.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until crackers are golden brown and edges are bubbly.

Michelle’s Chicken Spaghetti

I got this recipe from my cousin, Michelle. She brought it to a church potluck and Jack absolutely loved it, so my mom and I asked her for the recipe and she was kind enough to share. This is always a crowd pleaser.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of shredded chicken breast
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced bell pepper
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes
  • 32 ounces chicken broth
  • 8 ounces of spaghetti

Instructions:

  • Cook spaghetti, peppers, and onion in chicken broth until spaghetti is tender. Do NOT drain.
  • Mix shredded chicken, soups, and tomatoes in a casserole dish, then add broth and noodles. Mix well.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and cover with shredded cheddar cheese.
  • Place back in the oven until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Traditional Southern Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups self-rising cornmeal (I prefer yellow, but white works just as well)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 stick of butter

Instructions:

  • Spray a cast iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray and place butter in skillet. Put in oven as the oven preheats to 400 degrees.
  • While the pan and oven are heating, mix together the cornmeal, egg, and buttermilk in a large mixing bowl.
  • Once the pan is hot and butter is melted, pour the batter into the skillet.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until top of bread is golden brown.

This recipe makes a large pone of cornbread. We used one pone to make the chicken dressing and most of a second pone to make the squash dressing.

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