Though the chipper holiday song claims that this is “the most wonderful time of the year”, sometimes mundane things like weeknight dinners become overwhelming amidst all the added holiday activities. Much thought is given to the big Christmas dinner, but what about the meals that come before and after that big event?
It’s times like this that I like to have a little arsenol of meals frozen ahead to pull out on extra busy days. It frees up precious time to visit with family & friends or curl up on the couch and watch a feel good Hallmark holiday movie together.
One of my favorite freeze ahead meals is lasagna. I usually plan on making 2 pans at a time, and it keeps in the freezer for up to a month (or maybe even longer?). Although traditional lasagna often calls for cooking the noodles first, this recipe doesn’t require that finicky step. (hallelujah!!)
Along with ground beef, it requires only 4 other ingredients ~ lasagna noodles, prego (or your pasta sauce of choice), cottage cheese and grated mozzerella cheese.
If doubling the batch, brown 2 1/2 pounds of ground beef and add the whole jar of prego (1.75 Liters) and 3/4 cup water.
Let simmer for a few minutes while you set up your assembly station.
Once all your ingredients are handy, simply layer up the pans in this order:
1.Small Layer Meat; 2. Noodles; 3.Cheese; 4. Noodles; 5. Cottage Cheese 6. Meat; 7. Noodles; 8. Remainder of Meat Sauce; 9. Cheese
(If you study my fancy moving image up there carefully, you’ll notice I forgot to photograph the noodle layers a few times. My apologies… So, if you do make this dish, follow the layer steps instead of the picture!:))
A key in the success of this dish is to make sure the final meat sauce layer is generous and covers all the noodles entirely. This ensures the noodles will cook nicely during the baking process.
Once you have the lasagna all layered up, cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Label with a sharpy marker, and pop into the freezer.
When you are ready to bake it, put the lasagna into the oven from frozen, covered (but remove the plastic wrap first!) and bake at 300 degrees for 2 hours. Or, if you have thawed it completely first, bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
If you are looking for other freezer friendly meals to set aside in the freezer for this busy holiday season, here are a few more ideas:
~Marinated Chicken Breasts ~ Before you throw the whole family sized bag of chicken breasts in the freezer, why not pour some marinades over some in ziploc bags for a quick dinner solution? Our favorite marinade recipe is this one, but many varieties work wonderfully.
~ Chimicangas and burritos ~ Mix up a flavourful filling and place it in soft tortillas before freezing. These chicken chimicangas are always a hit at our house.
I would love to know what time saving tips you may have for meal-time during this busy season (and all throughout the year!). Please feel free to comment below and add in your helpful hints. You may also want to stop in over at the Harbour Breeze Home blog and check out the series I did on Freeze Ahead Meals.
Happy Cooking and Merry Christmas to you!
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