Who could resist a freshly baked (from frozen) pie?
Who could resist a freshly baked (from frozen) pie?


Across the region ranchers are bracing for the start of calving season and for some it has already begun. Sleepless nights and long days can make the effort of cooking healthy meals almost overwhelming. And for many of us fast food or delivery isn’t an option since town is at least an hour away. Taking a weekend to put meals in the freezer or to pressure can soups and stews can be an effort that will pay dividends on hard days. 

My new favorite cookbook is The Complete Guide to Pressure Canning by Diane Devereaux. The author covers safe canning methods, a buying guide for pressure canners and includes many easy recipes to can meals in jars. This is a great source for those new to the tradition of preserving food. It even describes how to can raw chicken and beef: these are great options to make bbq sandwiches or chicken salad and can make the tougher cuts very tender. The possibilities are almost endless with many canners making BBQ pork in jars, baked beans, chicken pot pie filling and the list goes on. Pressure canning recipes can be found with an easy internet search also. If you aren’t comfortable using a traditional pressure canner there are many electric pressure canners available that function much like an instant pot. 

I add beef bones, seasonings and water and let them cook for hours in my electric roaster making delicious beef broth. It’s easy to can this in both pints and quarts and so nice to add to recipes. I also use left over turkey and chicken carcasses to make broth. Another time saving hack is to brown up several pounds of hamburger and refreeze in meal size portions. The meat thaws quickly and is easy to use for tacos and spaghetti. I also brown up bulk sausage and refreeze to add to scrambled eggs and breakfast burritos. Homemade meatballs are another item that freezes well and can be placed in the crockpot with your favorite sauce or added to pasta sauce. Making up and freezing sloppy joe meat is also an easy meal. Cooking and freezing chicken for recipes is another time saver. When I’m making hashbrown casserole I often will make two, one to bake right away and freeze the other. Breakfast casseroles and burritos also freeze well and make an easy nutritious breakfast. I bake and freeze muffins, quick breads and coffee cakes for later use. 

When I have time and the fruit, I make up a bunch of pies and freeze raw. From frozen they bake about an hour to an hour and a half at 350 degrees. Make sure to place a cookie sheet underneath the pie pan to catch drips. It is so nice to have warm pie with very little effort. 

Who could resist a freshly baked (from frozen) pie?
Who could resist a freshly baked (from frozen) pie?

I purchased a 12-volt food warmer that works great to send meals in. The removable stainless-steel liner easily holds a pint of soup or stew and gives those away from home the option of a warm meal.  

I’ve included a few recipes we enjoy and that make quick meals. 

Hearty Hamburger Stew 

2 pounds ground beef, 

½ teaspoon coarse sea salt, 

¼ teaspoon pepper, 

2 medium onions chopped (1 cup), 

6 garlic cloves, minced. 

4 cups peeled and finely diced russet potatoes, 

4 cups fresh or frozen green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces, (if frozen, do not thaw.) 

2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, (if frozen do not thaw), 

1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced. 

12 medium Roma tomatoes, finely diced, 6 cups, 

4 cups beef broth, 

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 

1 teaspoon dried oregano, 

¼ cup tomato paste, 

2 teaspoons granulated sugar, (optional) 

In a large stockpot, add the ground beef, salt and pepper and cook of medium high heat. Using a wooden spoon break the meat into small bite sized pieces, turning and mixing as it cooks. Drain off and discard any excess fat. To the meat in the pot add the onions and garlic and cook over medium high heat for five minutes. Add the potatoes, green beans, corn bell pepper and tomatoes, mix well and cook for two minutes. Add the broth, Worcestershire sauce, oregano and tomato paste. Stir well until the paste is evenly distributed. Add the sugar, mix well and cook for an additional three minutes. 

Ladle the hot soup into hot jars, leaving 1 inch of head space. Wipe the rims of the jars with a warm washcloth dipped in distilled vinegar. Place a lid and ring on each jar and hand tighten. 

Place jars in the pressure canner, lock the lid and bring to a boil on high heat. Let the canner vent for ten minutes, close the vent and continue heating to achieve eleven pounds of pressure for a dial gauge or ten pounds for a weighted gauge. Process quart jars for 90 minutes and pint jars for 75 minutes. 

A pantry of home canned goods is a welcome sight going into calving. Deanna Nelson-Licking | For Tri-State Livestock News

(From the Complete Guide to Pressure Canning, by Diane Devereaux.) 

Beef Stroganoff in a Jar 

1 teaspoon ground black pepper, 

2 teaspoons salt, 

2 teaspoons dried thyme, 

2 teaspoons dried parsley, 

4 tablespoons tomato paste, 

4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 

2 cloves garlic, 

1 cup sliced mushrooms, 

1 cup chopped onions, 

2 pounds stewing beef, 

Hot beef broth, 

In a large bowl mix everything from the black pepper down to and including the Worcestershire sauce. Wash, peel and slice the garlic, add to bowl, wash and slice the mushrooms, add to bowl. 

Wash, peel and chop the onion, add to bowl. 

Heat your beef broth. Trim excessive fat off the beef and cut into 2-inch chunks. Add to bowl. 

Mix very well. Fill your jars, three quarters full and cover with broth, leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles and add any additional broth to maintain 1 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims with a warm cloth dipped in distilled vinegar. Add lids and rings and hand tighten. Place jars in pressure canner, lock the lid and bring to a boil over high heat. Let the canner vent for ten minutes, close vent and bring to pressure, 11 PSI for a dial guide and 10 PSI for a weighted gauge. Process for 90 minutes for quarts and 75 minutes for pints. 

You can give home canned stroganoff a creamy texture prior to serving by adding one quart of stroganoff to a saucepan and heat on medium-high. Add 1 cup sour cream and ¼ cup softened cream cheese and mix well. Serve over cooked noodles or mash potatoes. 

(The Ball Home Canning Book) 

Taco Soup. 

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained, 

2 cans black beans, 

2 cans red kidney beans, 

2 cans whole kernel corn, 

4 cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, you can substitute Rotel tomatoes if you like more zip, 

1 package taco seasoning, 

1 package ranch dressing mix, 

Pour all the vegetables into a large crockpot without draining. Add beef and seasoning. Stir carefully, cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Delicious served with shredded cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips. 

Homemade taco soup.
Homemade taco soup.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas  

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened 

2 tablespoons water 

2 teaspoons onion powder 

2 teaspoons ground cumin 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/4 teaspoon pepper 

5 cups diced cooked chicken 

20 flour tortillas (6 inches), room temperature 

2 cans (10-1/2 ounces each) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted 

2 cups sour cream 

1 cup 2% milk 

2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chiles 

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, water, onion powder, cumin, salt and pepper until smooth. Stir in chicken. Place 1/4 cup chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in 2 greased 13×9-in. baking dishes. In a large bowl, combine soup, sour cream, milk and chiles; pour over enchiladas. Bake, uncovered, 30-40 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with cheese; bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Since this recipe makes two large pans, it’s easy to bake one fresh and freeze the other for another meal. Cover well and freeze, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. 

(Taste of Home Recipe) 

Freeze-and-Bake Rolls 

2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast 

2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided 

1-1/2 cups warm water (110° to 115°) 

1-1/2 cups warm whole milk (110° to 115°) 

1/4 cup canola oil 

4 teaspoons salt 

7-1/2 to 8-1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

Butter, melted 

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar in warm water; let stand 5 minutes. Add warm milk, oil, salt and remaining sugar. Stir in enough flour to form a stiff dough. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-1/2 hours. Punch down dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into four portions. Divide and shape each portion into 12 balls. Roll each ball into a 10-in. rope; tie into a loose knot, pinching together ends. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Cover with kitchen towels; let rise in a warm place until doubled, 20-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 300°. Brush rolls with melted butter. Bake 15 minutes to parbake. Cool completely on a wire rack. Freeze in resealable plastic freezer bags. To serve, preheat oven to 375°. Bake frozen rolls on baking sheets until browned and heated through, 12-15 minutes. 

(Taste of Home Recipe)