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Start the New Year Right with this Prep Ahead Healthy Meal Plan

Happy 2018! Let’s start the new year right with my Prep Ahead Healthy Meal Plan for January! Are you ready to cook from scratch in 2018?? Featuring inspiration for 28 quick,  healthy, from scratch meals plus seven easy tasks to fill your freezer, this plan will help you cook from scratch in 2018!

Start the new year right w/ a prep ahead healthy menu plan. 28 recipe ideas and tasks to fill your freezer will help you cook from scratch! #fromscratchcooking #menuplan #prepahead #freezercooking

Start the New Year Right with this Prep Ahead Healthy Menu Plan

If you’re looking to eat start cooking from scratch in 2018 so you can eat healthier and save money, this is your year. Follow along in January as I work with you to do just that. Let’s take control of cooking and eating in 2018, shall we? Let’s all cook from scratch a lot more this year!

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Monthly Menu Ideas

One of my largest obstacles to cooking from scratch is not being prepared. This healthy meal plan is here to save the day! Simply pick one option from each category and fill your week with quick and easy, from scratch meal ideas! There are enough meal ideas here for four full weeks!

Meatless Mondays

Taco Tuesdays

Wing It Wednesdays

Porker or Beef Thursday 😀

Pizza Friday

Soupper Saturday

From the Sea Sunday

Freezer Friendly Leftover Eggnog Waffles

Ditch the Breakfast Cereal with these Homemade Breakfast Ideas

Want to really make from scratch easier? Start filling your freezer! Cook from scratch with these tasks!

Seven – 30 minute {or there about} tasks for filling the freezer

It will help you cook subsequent meals quicker if you do these seven tasks on the first full week of the month. That way you’ll have leftovers for other meals this month that will make meal prep faster. However, if you’re really busy or don’t have the ingredients ready to go, just shift the tasks to a day when you are able to get it done! Again, flexibility is key.

You can read how I fill my freezer in 30 minutes a day over at Premeditated Leftovers – I wrote a blog post there a while ago.

1. On Monday, cook up a huge pot of dried beans and freeze in 3-2 cup portions, with the liquid. Make sure you soak the beans Sunday night! I highly recommend owning a really big stainless steel stock pot. I have a 12 qt stock pot similar to this one that I use for canning and cooking beans. It comes in really handy! I generally cook 8 cups of dried beans, which yields about 3-4 bags for my freezer after we’ve eaten the beans for lunch and also for dinner. If you’re not familiar cooking dried beans, you’ll want to soak the beans over night and then cook about 1-2 hours the next day in fresh water. You can read here for more details, need be.

2. On Tuesday, {preferably the week you eat regular ole tacos, so you also get your dinner prep out of the way too} make a huge batch of taco meat using ground meat of choice and beans from Monday’s cook or the freezer, and freeze extra portions of meat.

3. On Wednesday, roast an extra chicken, in addition to cooking a rotisserie chicken for dinner, so that I have cooked chicken ready for the remainder of the Wednesday chicken meals.

4. On Thursday, make enough crock pot ham so that you have leftovers to freeze. Also, cook up a big batch of bacon in the oven. Freeze some in whole pieces to use on the egg sandwiches, and also freeze some crumbles to use on the bacon pizza! Don’t forget to save the bacon grease as it makes a great, free fat in which to cook your eggs and veggies!

5. On Friday,  Make and freeze 4 extra potions of pizza dough for each of the other pizza nights in January.

6. On Saturday, make a huge batch of homemade bread. I bake bread in 5 loaf quantities and then freeze extra or store in my fridge. This task actually takes about an hour and half, start to finish – but really only about 30 minutes active prep and clean-up. I’d also make up a double batch of Artisan Bread Dough on Saturday too, so you have a nice crusty bread to go with your soups!

7. On Sunday, make a huge batch of fruit and honey granola to enjoy for breakfasts and snacks.

At the end of the 7 days, you should have quite a few meal components added to your freezer to simplify meal prep at a later date!homemade opt in

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How to Cook Dried Beans in the Instant Pot {Soaked or Unsoaked!}

Do you know how to cook Instant Pot Beans? Beans are tricky in the Instant Pot, but this post will teach you how to cook both soaked and unsoaked beans in the Instant Pot. Both ways are totally doable with these useful tips.

How to Cook Dried Beans in the Instant Pot {Soaked or Unsoaked!}

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How to Cook Dried Beans in the Instant Pot

One of the things I love the most about my Instant Pot is the ability to cook unsoaked dried beans relatively quickly. My Instant Pot has transformed the way I cook dried beans. I never remember to soak beans the night before and the ability to simply omit that step is so lovely!

We eat a lot of beans here at SimplifyLiveLove. I add them to taco meat to stretch the meat, they’re a staple in my kids’ favorite taco soup, and we make a lot of refried beans for bean burritos, nachos, and more. Dried beans are frugal, healthy, and easy to make and we love them!

how to cook unsoaked dried beans in the instant pot

Cooking Time for Dried Beans in the Instant Pot

I primarily cook three different types of beans: pinto beans, black beans, and kidney beans. But I have all types of beans in my pantry and so I’m sharing this handy chart of cooking times for nine different types of beans. Soak them, or don’t soak them. That’s your call.

Bean Type Soaked Unsoaked
Black Beans 10-15 minutes 22-27 minutes
Black-Eyed Peas 5-10 minutes 10-15 minutes
Cannellini Beans 10-15 minutes 30-35 minutes
Garbanzo Beans 15-20 minutes 35-40 minutes
Kidney Beans 10-15 minutes 25-30 minutes
Lentils 12-17 minutes
Navy Beans 10-15 minutes 20-25 minutes
Pinto Beans 10-15 minutes 25-30 minutes
Split Peas 5-10 minutes

How to choose a cooking time for unsoaked dried beans

How I choose a cooking time depends primarily on my end goal for the beans. If I plan to use the beans in another recipe, meaning they will continue cooking after I take them out of the Instant Pot, I will cook them for fewer minutes. For instance, if I’m using black beans in my taco meat, I’ll cook them for around 22 minutes instead of 27. But if I’m not putting them in another recipe, I will cook them for longer in the Instant Pot so they come out softer instead of al dente. I cook pinto beans for 28 minutes, for instance, instead of 25 if I’m making refried beans.



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In addition to the beans, you’ll also need a good quality oil and salt as well. I prefer to cook with unrefined salt as regular ole table salt has been bleached and has a lot of additives that I’d rather avoid. My favorite type of salt is REAL Salt from the Great Salt Lake in Utah. I love its pretty colors and it has a nice taste and lots of healthy qualities too. There are so many different types of salt. We only use table salt for crafts.

how to cook soaked or unsoaked dried beans in the instant pot

Some things to be careful about when cooking Instant Pot beans

Make sure you do not over fill your IP when cooking beans or it will foam and boil over. While the oil helps reduce foaming, one pound of beans (2 cups) is the maximum you can cook in a 6 quart Instant Pot. I know, that saddens me too, but it’s not worth the mess to cook more. 🙁 Also, use high pressure and a natural release for best results.

ESHA Logo
Calories
859 cal
Fat
44 g
Carbs
89 g
Protein
34 g


Click Here For Full Nutrition, Exchanges, and My Plate Info

How to Cook Dried Beans in the Instant Pot
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Recipe Image

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried beans, rinsed and sorted
  • 8 cups water
  • 3 TBS oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Add ingredients to instant pot.
  2. Seal the lid and cook on high pressure for the time specified in the chart.
  3. Manually release pressure and enjoy.
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And that’s it, my friends, how to cook dried beans in the Instant Pot! It’s totally worth the price of the Instant Pot to me, just for the ability to cook dried beans in a relatively short amount of time! Do you cook beans in your Instant Pot? I’d love to hear if you soak them, or skip it!

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Let me help you Cook from Scratch! Get your free weekly meal plans by clicking here.

Here are the secrets to Instant Pot Beans. Cook dried beans, both soaked and unsoaked, with this handy time chart that will help you get perfect instant pot beans every time! #InstantPot #DriedBeans #InstantPotRecipes

 

Make Ahead Appetizer Recipe – Baked Taco Empanadas

A delicious appetizer perfect to make ahead and serve at parties or for a main dinner course as well, these Baked Taco Empanadas are very tasty {and freezer friendly too}!

Make Ahead Appetizer Recipe - Baked Taco Empanadas

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You guys know that my family is crazy about tacos. So crazy, that I made an entire weekly menu that featured nothing but tacos or taco derivatives. It’s genius actually. Make a huge pot of taco meat using my favorite recipe and homemade taco seasoning, and feed it to the family ALL. WEEK. LONG. lol!

Well, this recipe is another creative way to turn leftover taco meat into something just a little bit different. And wouldn’t you know, it makes a great appetizer too! They take a while to make, but you can do most of the work ahead of time so you can stay out of the kitchen and socialize during the Big Game!

Baked Taco Empanadas

To make this recipe, the first thing to do is make the empanada dough. It’s pretty easy to do if you use your food processor, but if you don’t have one, you can totally mix by hand as well.

Make sure to give yourself enough time for 50 minutes of cooling – 30 minutes of cooling after you make the dough and another 20 minutes of cooling after you’ve put the empanadas together.

roll out the empanada dough

After the dough has cooled for 30 minutes, roll it out and cut it into circles. You can use a circle dough cutter or a mug if you want. I don’t have a biscuit cutter (but I used to!) so I used one of my Starbucks mugs.

taco empanadas - add toppings

Now add 1-2 TBS cooked taco meat, this is my favorite recipe here, a bit of cheese and fold the empanadas. Seal with a fork, brush with egg white wash, and chill for 20 more minutes in the fridge.

taco empanadas

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes on a sheet pan {these are my favorite sheet pans, by the way}, serve with dippers like sour cream, guacamole, and salsa. Enjoy!

Freezer Friendly Baked Taco Empanadas from scratch

ESHA Logo
Calories
914 cal
Fat
46 g
Carbs
62 g
Protein
62 g


Click Here For Full Nutrition, Exchanges, and My Plate Info

Yields 24 empanadas

Make Ahead Appetizer Recipe – Baked Taco Empanadas

1 hrPrep Time

12 minCook Time

1 hr, 12 Total Time

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Recipe Image

Ingredients

    For the Empanada Dough
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup ice cold water
  • 1 egg white for an egg wash.
  • For the Filling
  • 1/2 lb of your favorite taco meat
  • 8 ounces shredded cheese
  • assorted toppings: sour cream, guacamole, salsa

Instructions

    For the Dough
  1. Make the dough in a food processor by first mixing flour and salt.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles peas.
  3. Add in egg and water and pulse until a nice, soft dough forms.
  4. If it's too wet, add a bit more flour. If it's too dry, add a bit more water, 1 tbs at a time.
  5. Make a dough ball and chill in plastic wrap in the fridge for 30 minutes - 1 hour.
  6. For the Empanadas
  7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  8. Roll out dough and cut into circles using a biscuit cutter or a cup if you don't have one.
  9. Add 1-2 TBS taco meat and cheese.
  10. Fold over the top and seal the sides with your fork.
  11. Brush the top of the empanadas with egg white wash.
  12. Chill the empanadas for 20 minutes.
  13. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
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The nice thing about these baked taco empanadas is the recipe is also freezer friendly! You can make them up ahead of time and freeze the unbaked empanadas. Then on game day, pull out the frozen beauties in the morning and let them thaw out, then pop them in the oven and bake according to the directions above! How awesome is that? Homemade appetizers with little effort on game day.

60+ More Appetizer Ideas! 

With the football season coming to a close, it’s time to start thinking about Big Game parties and inevitably, the recipes you will make and bring to yours! In preparation, I’ve teamed up with my football blogger friends in one final collaboration to bring you some brilliant Big Game recipe ideas. We’ve made appetizers, entrees, desserts and even drinks. Prepare to be inspired, and be sure to check out their links below!

Big-Game-recipes-graphic
Classic Potato Salad by Celebrating Family
Chili Cheese Burritos by Love Bakes Good Cakes
Fruit Spring Rolls with Key Lime Cheesecake Dip by Body Rebooted
Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sliders by Dash of Herbs
Mediterranean Seven Layer Dip by The Culinary Compass
Chicks in a Blanket with Apricot Sauce by Mom’s Messy Miracles
Jalapeno Pale Ale Chili by Beer Girl Cooks
Jalapeno Popper Pull Apart Bread by The Life Jolie
Sausage Pepperoni Pizza Dip by Feast + West
Baked Southwestern Egg Rolls by Family Food on the Table

Mini Bacon Ranch Cheese Balls by Honey & Birch
Cookie Dough Cheese Ball by Bread Booze Bacon
Hawaiian Pizza Jalapeno Poppers by Love & Flour
Meatloaf Sliders by Foodtastic Mom
Wonton Taco Cups by A Mind Full Mom
Pancetta and Smoked Mozzarella Arancini by The Secret Ingredient Is
Bean and Cheese Taco Bites by The BakerMama
Monte Cristo Poppers by See Aimee Cook
Chile Beer Sangria by Cake ‘n Knife
Low Carb Stuffed Crust Pizza by Sustaining the Powers

Puff Pastry Pizza Bites by The Mexitalian
No Churn Pistachio Baklava Ice Cream by Club Narwhal
Roasted Jalapeno Poppers by Off the Eaten Path
Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese by Hello Little Home
Jalapeno Popper Chicken Wings by Around My Family Table
Gluten Free Bread Sticks by What A Girl Eats
Cheesy Beef Dip by Polka Dotted Blue Jay
Buffalo Chicken Deviled Eggs by The Crumby Cupcake
Greek Meatballs by Two Places at Once

Cheese Sticks by Coffee Love Travel
Bacon Wrapped Blue Cheese Meatballs by West via Midwest
Puff Pastry Bacon Pizza Twists by 2 Cookin Mamas
Skillet Chicken Queso Dip by foodbyjonister
Spicy Sausage Rolls by Peanut Blossom
Protein Dark Chocolate Truffles by The Creative Bite
Chickpea Pepper Cheese Poppers by Bucket List Tummy
Maple Cranberry Apple Sangria by Order in the Kitchen
Meyer Lemon Shandies by The Speckled Palate
Game Day Fried Deviled Eggs with Chow Chow Relish by For the Love of Food

Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls by Simple and Savory
Pastrami Nachos by A Little Gathering
Shrimp Ceviche Dip by Glisten and Grace
Football Bourbon Balls + Boozy Lemonade by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
Apple Cider Mimosas With A Sparkly Sugar Rim by And She Cooks
Pulled Pork Stuffed Corn Dogs by Nik Snacks
Easy Pepperoni Rolls by Me and My Pink Mixer
Real Boneless Chicken Wings by Macheesmo
Califlower Tater Tots by Living Well Kitchen
Cheeseburger Naan Pizza by Shaws Simple Swaps

Red Velvet Ginger Rum Balls by Cafe Terra
Crab Rangoon by Brunch-n-Bites
Sweet n’ Spicy BBQ Popcorn by Life’s Ambrosia
Buffalo Chicken Rolls by Loves Food, Loves to Eat
Crowd Pleasing Steak Fajita Dip by Lizzy is Dizzy
Sriracha Hummus Pinwheel Sandwiches by Casa de Crews
Simlple Meatball Sub Sliders by Loaves & Dishes
Maple-Mustard Bacon Chicken Bites by An Oregon Cottage
Soft Pretzels with Beer Cheese & Honey Mustard Dipping Sauces by A Simpler Grace
Ricotta Stuffed Sausage Meatballs by A Joyfully Mad Kitchen

Please note: This post is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by the National Football League (NFL) or any of its teams. All opinions and views expressed on our blogs are our own, not that of the NFL and/or any of its 32 teams. Any team names, logos or other symbols referenced are properties of their respective organizations. We are just big fans — and we want to share our love for our teams, the game and the food that brings us all together on game day.

Will you watch the big game? What are you eating and who are you rooting for?

Baked Taco Empanandas - Freezer friendly from scratch appetizer recipe

15 Healthy Make-Ahead Freezer Meals

Happy New Year! If this is the year you plan to incorporate more healthy food into your diets, this post is for you! My freezer is empty and I need more healthy make-ahead freezer meals. Here are 15 recipes I either have tried, or am excited to try!
Healthy make-ahead freezer meals

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Having prepared meals in my freezer saves me more often than I can tell you. When I don’t have meals in the freezer, take-out pizza and other unhealthy options rule. Take a few extra minutes when preparing a meal and double the recipe. Put one in the freezer, and voila! Another meal for a busy day with minimal effort = drive through avoided!

Unfortunately, even thought I KNOW that freezer meals save me big, I’ve gotten off the bandwagon in the last year and have been pretty lazy in the kitchen. This January, I’m taking it back. Staring this week, I will double at least ONE recipe and put at least ONE meal a week into my freezer. Here are the recipes I’m considering this first week in January.

15 Healthy Make-Ahead Freezer Meals

Make Ahead Freezer Meals

Stuffed Taco Shells – Shugary Sweets

Healthy Homemade Hot Pockets – Happy Money Saver

Quick & Healthy Bean Burritos {for the freezer} – Wallflower Kitchen

Healthy Make Ahead Freezer Meals

Freezer Friendly Baked Ziti – I Wash You Dry

Spinach Mozzarella Meatloaf – Simplify Live Love

Chicken, Broccoli, Bacon & Potato Bake – Kylee Cooks
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Healthy Hearty Make Ahead Freezer Meals


Our Favorite Taco Meat – make a large batch perfect for the freezer – Simplify Live Love

Three Bean Chili – Cadry’s Kitchen

Ground Beef Stroganoff – Simplify Live Love

Healthy Chicken Make Ahead Freezer Meals

Freezer Crispy Cheddar Chicken – Mommy Savers

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie – Meal Planning Magic

Chicken Parmesan Casserole Recipe {An Easy Freezer Meal} – Thriving Home

Healthy Make Ahead Casseroles for the Freezer

Three-Cheese Penne – Skinny Mom

Make Ahead Lasagna Recipe with Cottage Cheese & Secret Veggies  – Simplify Live Love

Easy Taco Casserole Recipe – Eating on a Dime

What are you waiting for? Check out these recipes and start cooking for your freezer! If you want more freezer friendly recipes, I’ve got a whole category of tried and true freezer friendly recipes!

More posts to help you save time and money in the kitchen:

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Let me help you Cook from Scratch! Get your free weekly meal plans by clicking here.

25 Genius Meal Prep Ideas

Homemade baking mix recipes to help you cook from scratch

15 Ways to save money on organic food

Prep ahead weekly meal plan perfect for fall

5 Practical tips to help you start cooking from scratch

printable labels for freezer meals

How about printable labels for your lovely freezer meals? Download them free here. Print them on 4" x 5" labels like these and them sick them on your containers! Easy-peasy.

 Get your healthy eating back on track with this collection of 5 make ahead healthy freezer meals! Make one for dinner and another to freeze. A quick and easy way to fill your freezer.

Healthy make-ahead freezer meals
Healthy make-ahead freezer meals