12 Things I Always Have in my Freezer {& Chicken Noodle Soup recipe}

homemade chicken noodle soupA recent weekend found both Husband and me feeling a bit under the weather - coupled with a few of those gray days where the only thing that sounds good is a big blanket, a good book, and the occasional movie. And of course, Chicken Noodle Soup.One of the many benefits of having a well-stocked - and well-organized, freezer {more on that soon!} is that you can pull together a healthy dinner quickly, without having to rely on pre-packaged foods that most likely aren't as tasty or good-for-you as you can make yourself. And thanks to a little extra effort most every time I'm in the kitchen, I had everything I needed to make a great tasting soup, without bundling up and dragging myself to the store.By "extra effort" I simply mean this: if you're chopping one onion, chop two. If you're browning one pound of ground turkey sausage, brown two. And every time you are preparing dinner, don't throw away the parts you cut off of all those vegetables. Stick them in a freezer bag so you can easily make homemade vegetable stock whenever the bag gets full. {Seriously… just add water, simmer and strain. That's it!}Besides typical freezer-section staples {mostly nuts, fruits and veggies} and complete freezer-friendly dishes I've made, here are ingredients that you'll {almost} always find in my freezer:
    1. Rotisserie Chicken :: Buy them whenever they're on sale and shred while still warm. Cool completely and store in freezer bags. Top pizza, add to soups, fill enchiladas, toss with pasta, make chicken salad, stir into a comfort-food casserole.
    2. Caramelized Onions :: Cook sliced onions with a touch of olive oil in a large skillet, low and slow {really, the longer the better!} until golden. Add to pizza, soups, or casseroles. Use as a burger or sandwich condiment.  Or just fill bathtub and bathe in them {I'm kidding. But boy do I love caramelized onions!}
    3. Pesto :: Stock up on fresh basil during the summer at your favorite farmer's market, then make a big batch, and portion into smaller servings. {A little pesto goes a long way!}  Toss with pasta, spread onto a sandwich, use as a pizza sauce, stir into a frittata, use as a condiment to dress up a savory soup, make a dip with cream cheese and jarred pappadew peppers and serve with crackers.
    4. Grilled Pizza Crusts :: My recipe, a whole-wheat crust, makes 8 crusts, and I don't think I've ever NOT doubled the recipe to ensure plenty left over for the freezer. Anyway when isn't pizza a good idea?
    5. Grilled Vegetables :: Slice into uniform sizes and grill until done. My favorites are onions {red and white}, zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms and asparagus. They make a beautiful addition to a family-style meal as is, but freeze leftovers individually for later. They'll lose a little of their shape, but it doesn't matter. Stir chunks into a healthy vegetable soup. Puree to add a rich "creaminess" and deep flavor to soups or sauces. Top a pizza, toss with pasta, or whip up a super easy vegetable frittata. I list 10 ways to use them here.
    6. Roasted Tomatoes :: If you bought a few too many roma or cherry tomatoes, roast them! Slice in half, sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and place on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Just like the onions, cook these long and slow, until they're as done as you like them. Sometimes I'll roast them for a few hours - all the way down until they're little flexible disks… and eat them like candy! Freeze to use later in pasta or pizza sauce, add to soups, deepen the flavor of a crockpot meal. Chop small and stir into your favorite dip or guacamole.
    7. Browned Ground Turkey / Turkey Sausage :: Brown this ahead of time, so you don't have to dirty a pan or deal with spatters at meal-time. Great as a pizza topping or in a hearty frittata. You could also use it in a comforting casserole or simply toss with pasta and your favorite sauce. It makes a great base for sloppy joes too.
    8. Turkey Meatballs :: You can tell by the picture of this recipe that I always multiply it. Why? Because I don't ever want to be without these! Toss with your favorite sauce and pasta or spaghetti squash. Sometimes I'll just eat them by themselves, they're that good.
    9. Cauliflower "Cream" :: This is one of those "bases" I wonder how I lived without. If you love creamy soups, "Alfredo" sauce and casseroles but feel guilty about all the fat, meet your new "miracle" food. Simply cut a head of fresh cauliflower into florets. Cook in boiling water until soft and drain. Add to blender or food processor with a little salt and pepper and liquid of your choice {perhaps broth, or my favorite, almond milk}. Now you have a great base that can be stirred into just about any sauce, soup or casserole. Depending on how you're using it, you may want to add a little butter, cream and/or cheese - but the good news is it only takes a little to give it great flavor and texture. My friend Linsday Ostrom has written a whole e-cookbook on this miracle ingredient.
    10. Tomato Sauce :: Forget the jarred pasta sauce - nothing beats homemade, and it's easy to make in big batches and freeze. While I love to bring home a bushel of tomatoes in the summer, I find that Muir Glen Fire Roasted tomatoes are just as good whipping up a batch. We love spaghetti squash and Turkey Meatballs, and eat it frequently enough during the extended Minnesota winters that I don't use this sauce for much else. Occasionally, I'll add some of the Cauliflower "Cream" {from above} and a little vodka to it for a delicious "adult" Penne ala Vodka. Or thicken it with tomato paste, add some spices for kick, and make a great homemade pizza sauce.
    11. Homemade Vegetable Broth :: While I don't like how much food Americans waste {myself included} I'm not quite into the whole composting thing. But I do keep a big Ziplock bag in my freezer full of the vegetable remnants from meal prep. I keep adding to the bag until it's full, then when I've got some time {usually when catching up on Downton Abbey or House of Cards} I'll put them all in a pot with a little salt and pepper, cover with water and simmer for about 45 minutes or an hour. Sometimes longer. Strain the broth, cool, then freeze in 1-cup containers. {I'll keep in small plasticware until frozen, then run warm water over the outside to loosen the broth and place cubes into a larger bag until needed.} The flavor is terrific, and makes any dish you use it in better.
    12. Chopped Onions :: Even if you're not going to take the time to grill or caramelize onions in advance, freezing chopped onions is a big time saver. If you're going to be using them in a soup or sauce, the only thing you lose by freezing them are the tears!
Here's the recipe for the soup. I didn't have fresh carrots or celery - which I normally would add to this, but the homemade broth had so much flavor in it {from vegetables including carrots and celery} that we didn't miss it. I had frozen peas, and I liked the little hint of "sweet" they gave the soup. Don't have noodles? Toss in a grain, or some orzo.
5.0 from 1 reviews
Chicken & Noodle Soup
 
Ingredients
  • 12 cups chicken or vegetable broth, preferably homemade
  • 1 package whole wheat noodles
  • 3 cups chopped rotisserie chicken
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • salt & pepper
Instructions
  1. Bring broth to a boil in large stock pot or dutch oven.
  2. Add noodles and cook until done, according to package instructions.
  3. Add chicken, stirring occasionally, until heated through.
  4. Stir in peas, and cook for about 3 minutes, until heated through.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Here's a sneak peak of the freezer. I'll give you my best organizing tips and tools in a future post.organized freezer

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2 Responses to 12 Things I Always Have in my Freezer {& Chicken Noodle Soup recipe}

  1. Kelly Blackwell June 10, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

    I love your freezer must haves! Of course I still “must have” a freezer. I keep praying and hinting. Still I think I can do this in a smaler version with my own. If only my husband didn’t like TV dinners for his lunch. they take up a lot of room!

    • Morgan Wood June 11, 2015 at 10:31 am #

      The freezer is probably my best purchase of all time – and I think it’s paid for itself many times over :) So nice to be able to grab healthy, homemade meals anytime. WAY better than frozen packaged stuff. Tell your husband it’s an investment in his health!

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