Side dish recipes are, for me, often the trickiest part of getting dinner on the table.
There are only so many times I can roast broccoli florets with olive oil and salt (my normal weeknight go-to) and instead make one of our side dishes a little more interesting.
The problem with “interesting” side dishes on a weeknight, though? They usually take too dang long. We’re working against the clock here, people!
That’s why I started seeking out some easy side dishes that did double duty as banging freezer meals.
If I could throw a couple together on a weekend and store for later, I knew it would save me time on the weeknights; bonus was it would change up our boring side dish routine!
So here are some of the tastiest side dishes I’ve found out on these there interwebs lately. I’ve saved them to my Side Dishes Pinterest board, where I’m always adding new pins and recipes, so if you dig this list, make sure to follow that board, too!
Made with mashed butternut squash and a simple white cheese sauce, this Butternut Squash Ziti is comforting, freezes great, and simple to make!
There’s a thing I need to tell you about this easy butternut squash baked ziti.
But first, let’s gaze at its beauty a bit:
There’s the white cheddar and mozzarella layer on top that’s sharp and smooth and pulls away in delicious cheese strands of YES PLEASE I WANT SECONDS:
There’s the creamy butternut squash white sauce mixed in around the chunky ziti noodles.
And the pretty smattering of chopped parsley, natch.
But hey mama, guess what? Guess what’s the best part about it?
This butternut squash baked ziti freezes like a BOSS.
Make it. Put it in the freezer. Then pull it out, get the chill off the glass dish if you’re using one (otherwise it might shatter in a hot oven which would be no bueno), and bake that baby up.
Got a friend who just had a baby? Make her this baked ziti and she’ll love you forever. I mean, forever more than she probably already does.
Got a busy season coming up: your kids is in soccer finals, your husband’s working a big project and coming home late for a week, your calendar is stacked to the nines?
Make a batch of this butternut squash baked ziti in a quiet 20 minute window, and pat yo’self on the back the day you pull it out of the freezer.
Ooh! You know what else you could do? Make this butternut squash baked ziti from fresh and then stand over the stove eating it and burning your mouth while doing so because it’s so creamy and cheesy and delicious and simple to make.
Because if I know anything, I know exactly what that is like. I’ve got the mouth burns to prove it.
Roast the squash beforehand to make this even easier to pull together on the day you’ll be cooking. You can also buy pre-mashed butternut squash in some grocery stores’ prepared produce section; check to see if yours has it ready for you!
1 large butternut squash (about 5 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons white flour
1 cup milk (2% or whole is perfect)
2 garlic cloves
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 pound penne noodles
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Preheat the oven to 400*F.
Prepare the vegetables:
Slice the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle the squash in oil and lay the halves, skin side down, on a sheet pan. Place the pan in the oven and roast until the squash is soft all the way through, about 20 minutes. When the squash is done roasting, turn the oven down to 350*F.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, then add the penne noodles and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain but do not rinse, then set aside until needed.
Peel and mince the garlic.
Strip away the inner stems from the parsley leaves, then mince the parsley
While the squash is roasting, make the cheese sauce:
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth and combined.
Cook the roux (butter and flour mix), stirring often, until it has turned a light golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Whisk in the milk until smooth, then add the garlic and salt.
Stir in the parmesan cheese until smooth and combined, then add the mashed butternut squash.
Stir to combine, then pour the sauce into the cooked penne noodles and stir to coat.
Pour the penne and cheese sauce into an 9×13” baking dish.
Top the ziti with the shredded white cheddar and place the baking dish in the oven. .
Bake until the white cheddar has melted and begun to brown, about 8-10 minutes.
Follow steps 1 through 16, then wrap the ziti and freeze. Thaw overnight before cooking
If you’re having a hard time getting the kids (and yourself!) out the door in the morning, then a breakfast casserole can be a time saver! Just make a big one on the weekend and serve it up all week long. Here’s a huge list of 23 delicious breakfast casseroles to get you started!
One thing every one of my busy mama friends tells me is this: Mornings are freaking hard with little kids.
Remember those heady pre-kids days when our coffee was hot, our showers were hotter, and we could listen to the news without the background noise of cartoons?
The glory days, man.
But those days of calm mornings are behind us (and, eventually, ahead of us)
So for here, for now, we’re in the get-everyone-out-the-door-without-going-berserk phase.
And on the crazy days, having breakfast made ahead of time is a life saver.
A sanity saver, too. Time saver, even!
Breakfast casseroles are the best at this. Make a big pan (or two!) on Sunday, divide it up, and BOOM PRESTO, breakfast is over and it’s time to go get your shoes on.
I’ve rounded up some of my favorite breakfast casseroles from the interwebs here for you!
Also, I helpfully separated them into the three categories I find most breakfast casseroles fall into: Paleo/Keto/Healthy/Gluten-Free, Sweet Casseroles, and Basic Breakfast Casseroles.
Bonus? Any of these casseroles are great for the holiday season as well!
Oh, and here’s a tip: If you want to make your own breakfast casserole with what you’ve already got on hand, this is my basic ratio. I like to start with this, and then I play around with flavors:
Line a 9×13” baking pan with bread cubes.
Mix 8-10 eggs with 1 ½ cups half and half and pour on top
Add cheese and protein, like sausage
Bake at 350*F for about 10 minutes, until the middle of the pan is set.
Here’s the rest of the list; I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments below!
A simple grab-and-go breakfast bowl that rocks on busy mornings! This post was sponsored by Farmland Fresh Dairies. Click here to read my disclosures.
Here’s the story of how an easy breakfast bowl got this mama her morning groove back.
See, I love implementing systems and rhythms in my family’s days. I know, right!? I only gush about them every chance I can get in this space. But seriously though guys, I Really. Freakin’. Love. Routine.
But hey, guess what? I’m also a human, who screws up, and loses steam, and gets distracted. And my rhythms sometimes fall apart, just like they do with basically everyone else in this world.
I just make sure that when that happens, I stop, reassess, and get back into the fallen rhythm as soon as I possibly can.
Case in point: the wheels have lately begun to come off of our morning routine.
And I needed to do something about it.
My kids are both in school now and everyone in the family has to be out the door by 7:40 am. The first few weeks of the school year I was really nailing our new-to-us morning routine and getting a hot, filling breakfast on the table for everyone.
But things started slowly piling up and one day I found myself wrapping peanut butter toast in paper towels and passing them out as we all rushed out the door. And while I’d never fault that for happening occasionally, it started happening more and more.
My awesome morning routine wasn’t so awesomely routine anymore.
So when Farmland Fresh sent me a shipment of dairy products and asked to create a recipe for them, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: breakfast.
Preferably a breakfast that was healthy, grab-and-go, and full of natural flavors.
Like an easy breakfast bowl. (Seriously. Really easy.)
Crisp fall mornings go hand in hand with apples, so this Apple Pie and Chia Easy Breakfast Bowl, featuring plain yogurt from Farmland Fresh thickened with chia seeds and topped with warming apple pie flavors,, takes just a few minutes of hands-on work for a great reward.
Plus, these easy breakfast bowls are allllllllmost like having dessert for breakfast.
Like, if you close your eyes real tight and pretend you’re eating real apple pie instead of, you know, a healthy breakfast, you might just believe it.
In any case, easy breakfast bowls are a great option for anyone riding the weekday morning struggle bus (like me lately).
You can mix these apple pie breakfast bowls up the night before and throw ‘em in the fridge, or even make a handful at the start of the week and skip the morning cooking altogether for a few days.
Because other than a pre-set coffee machine, there’s nothing easier than a premade, easy breakfast bowl that only needed the plastic wrap to come off before digging in. Am I right?
Make these grab and go breakfast bowls the night before! Chill them in the fridge overnight and then grab and go in the morning. Adding antioxidant-rich chia seed to the yogurt will bulk it up and help you stay fuller for longer.
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoon apple pie seasoning
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup Farmland Fresh plain yogurt
Remove the core from the apples and cut them into small dice.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then add the apples, apple pie seasoning and brown sugar.
Stir to combine and let cook until the apples have softened and the mixture is starting to break down, about 10 minutes.
While the apples are cooking, divide the yogurt into 4 bowls.
Stir 1 tablespoon of chia seeds into each bowl until combined.
When the apple have cooked, remove from the heat and spoon onto the yogurt bowls.
Serve immediately or let cool and then wrap and store in the fridge.
A fresh and bright grain-based tabbouleh salad that comes together quickly and is full of summertime flavor.
This bright and zingy tabbouleh salad is incredibly easy to make side dish since it can be thrown together in as little as 15 minutes!
Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad typically made by combining bulghar wheat (also known as cracked wheat), cucumbers, parsley or mint, fresh tomatoes, and lemon juice.
I’m changing the traditional version of this easy to make side by adding a few “extras” that I think brighten this dish as a whole.
I included bit of fresh mint leaves alongside parsley, sweet cherry tomatoes instead of the usual diced vine tomatoes, and lime juice in place of lemon. The mint adds a freshness that blends well with peppery parsley. Cherry tomatoes lend a pop of juicy sweetness, and lime juice is brightens with less of an acid overtone than lemon.
Depending on who makes it, it can be heavy on the veggies, or mostly parsley, or be made with a majority of bulghar. It’s super customizable and comes together crazy quick.
And speaking of customizable, just because there are traditional ingredients in a tabbouleh salad, it doesn’t mean you can’t play around with it. I don’t usually add cucumbers as I’m not a huge fan, but I will toss in diced bell peppers, cooked eggplant, grilled asparagus- namely, all the summer vegetables.
One thing that’s always served on top of my tabbouleh salad? A big dollop of Greek yogurt.
The tang of Greek yogurt paired with the zesty herbiness of a well-seasoned tabbouleh salad creates the perfect easy to make side.
But what really is my fave thing about a tabbouleh is this: while it comes together quickly, the real magic lies in letting this salad sit for a while. If you make a big batch of it and then portion it out into containers, you’re basically winning at life and meal prep. It’s a hearty and hardy salad that keeps, stored in a tightly covered container in the fridge, for up to 5 days.
Whip together this easy to make side dish for your next picnic, potluck, or meal prep session!
This is an easy to make side that comes together in under 15 minutes. Add in whatever fresh vegetables you have on hand for a fresh twist!
for the tabbouleh:
1 1/2 cups bulghar wheat
1 pint cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
2 tablespoons torn fresh mint
2 tablespoon roughly chopped Italian parsley (leaves only)
1/4 cup lime juice
Salt (to taste)
Greek yogurt (to taste)
Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat, then add the bulghar wheat. Boil, uncovered, for about 8-10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and drain the water. Fluff the wheat with a fork and set aside.
In a large bowl, toss the bulghar wheat with the mint, parsley, cherry tomatoes and lime juice.
Season to taste with salt, if needed.
Serve chilled, with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.
Busy parents need all the help they can get in the evenings, which is why having a few DIY Freezer Meal Kits packed away will make your freezer your new BFF.
Having a freezer filled with ready-to-go freezer meal kits as a backup on busy nights means you can rest easy no matter what the week throws at you!
What’s a DIY Freezer Meal Kit, exactly? Think of it as though a freezer meal and a delivery meal kit had a baby. In your kitchen.
It’s way more awesome than it even sounds, trust me.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of delivery meal kits, like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, here’s how they work:
Once a week, a box arrives on your front step containing a recipe and all the ingredients you need to cook a few simple meals. Many of the ingredients are already broken down or at least have been packaged in a way that preparing them for cooking is a snap.
Cooking dinner from a meal kit may not look like less work from the outside – after all, you still have to cook, right?- but the energy it saves is huge!
This is energy saved not only in the physical labor of grocery shopping and much of the ingredient prep, but mental energy as well; deciding what to make, finding a recipe, seeking out the ingredients, figuring out what to do with leftover ingredients and leftovers from the meal, etc.
It’s a formula that works, and that’s why meal delivery kits are all the rage with busy parents.
But they’re expensive. You don’t get to choose the individual recipes. And sometimes, you dont get a chance to make the recipe, meaning you’ve got to figure out what to do with those leftover ingredients!
That’s where DIY Freezer Meal Kits come in. You choose the price point that works for you. You choose the individual recipes. And you choose when to make the dish, so you’re not on anyone’s time clock but your own.
How exactly do you create a DIY Freezer Meal Kit, though? Can you just throw the ingredients of any dish in the freezer and call it good?
Well, kind of. While it’s true that not every dish is amenable to being made into a freezer meal kit, the fact is that yes- you can freeze just about any ingredient.
Here are a few unexpected ingredients you can totally freeze:
Eggs? Sure, if they’re out of the shell and raw.
Sour cream? Yep!
Breadcrumbs? Of course!
Cheese? Yes- especially if it’s been shredded and cubed to cut down on moisture.
And while most of these items won’t thaw and revert back to their original state prior to freezing, they will cook up perfectly fine- which is why DIY Freezer Meal Kits lend a ton of flexibility.
Let’s take the example of Chicken Enchiladas, one of my favorite meals to make into a freezer meal kit.
Step One: Look at the recipe and see what happens right before it gets put in the oven. You’re looking for what components, if any, are prepared in a separate way before everything gets combined and cooked. So, with Chicken Enchiladas, you’ve got shredded chicken, cooked and seasoned black beans, and salsa verde, all made (or purchased!) and then it’s all rolled up in tortillas and topped with cheese before baking.
Shredded chicken, salsa verde, seasoned black beans, tortillas and shredded cheese are the components of Chicken Enchiladas, so that’s what gets frozen in separate bags or containers.
Step Two: Divide those components into separate, freezer-safe containers or ziplock bags. No matter whether you’re purchasing ready-made salsa verde or making it from scratch, put it in a freezer-safe container or ziplock bag and label it with the date. Do the same with each component. Then, place each wrapped component in the final baking dish (a casserole dish, either reusable or disposable) and wrap tightly. You can also pack everything together in a big gallon ziplock bag, if it’s big enough to hold everything. Clearly write the name of the recipe and the date on top with a Sharpie, and place it in the freezer
Step Three: When you’re ready to cook, pull the whole dish out, thaw the items (here’s a primer for thawing) and then assemble and cook as directed.
So what do you think? Are DIY Freezer Meal Kits a great backup option for your family?
Try the Chicken Enchilada recipe below as a DIY Freezer Meal Kit, and let me know how it turns out for you!
This simple weeknight dish of chicken enchiladas, packed with shredded chicken and black beans and smothered in salsa verde and melty cheese, also makes a perfect DIY Freezer Meal Kit. Simply freeze each component of the dish in separate containers and store together in the freezer. The ingredients thaw faster this way, and the dish tastes like it’s made from fresh- with less of the work on the night of!
I usually cook big batches of chicken breasts all at once in the crockpot, then shred and store for recipes like these. If you’re starting from scratch, poach the chicken in water until cooked thoroughly, then shred using two forks or a hand mixer on low.
I really recommend using flour tortillas in this recipe as opposed to corn; they’re more durable and hold up to cooking much better, meaning there’s fewer enchiladas falling apart while you’re trying to serve.
for the salsa verde:
2 tablespoons olive oil
8-10 large tomatillos (papery shells discarded and rinsed)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional if you’re a cilantro hater )
Make the salsa verde: Halve the tomatillos. Heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering, then add the tomatillos and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have started to brown and soften. Add the lime juice and cilantro and stir to combine. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until smooth, then set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400*F.
Roll the enchiladas: In a large bowl, combine the shredded chicken, black beans, salt, and cumin. Stir to mix.
Place 1/2 cup of chicken and black bean mixture in the center of a flour tortilla and roll the tortilla around the mixture in a long cylinder. Transfer the tortilla cylinders to a 9″x13″ baking dish, nestling them next to each other in one long row.
Once all the tortillas have been rolled and placed in the dish, pour the salsa verde over the tortillas, using a spoon to smooth the salsa verde into any cracks and crevices.
Sprinkle the enchiladas evenly with cheese and place the dish in the oven.
Bake until the cheese has melted and is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.