homepage logo

Meals made ahead

By Staff | Mar 21, 2014

DEB VAN BRUGGEN works over a sauce pan in her rural Hospers home. She said her freezer is filled with meals she prepares ahead of time.

HOSPERS – Whether cooking for the family or for her husband’s business, Deb Van Bruggen said there always needs to be a large quantity of good, home-cooked food.

Their home near Hospers provides a place for the family to gather for meals and enjoy each other’s company.

The rest of the week, she said, requires planning to handle her full-time job and feed her husband and the men who work for him.

Deb and Roger Van Bruggen married 38 years ago. The farm operation has changed drastically from their early years together, she said.

Roger farmed some land and raised some hogs, she said. Then the children started to arrive.

VAN BRUGGEN KEEPS meals for employees made ahead of time in disposable serving containers and stored in a freezer. Employees pick up the meals daily.

First born was son Dan, followed by four sisters – Becky, Rachel, Amanda and Faith.

While the children were small, Deb Van Bruggen said her cooking consisted of feeding the immediate family and relatives on the weekend.

Things changed, she said, when she took an off-farm job and Roger opened his business – Van Bruggen Pit Cleaning Inc.

At first, she said, he was the only employee. She worked and prepared Roger’s daily meals and then the family meals in the evenings.

But the business grew with the family. What once was a one-man operation has blossomed into a six-man operation, making her responsibilities greater, too, she said.

Necessity and creativity are now the name of the game, Van Bruggen said.

She purchases standard plastic foam to-go containers and fills them with a hot dish, chips and fruit. She prepares these meals after her work day and has them ready in a cooler for a worker to pick up.

“After working a full day, I have to be prepared and that is what makes the freezer meals work so great,” she said.

She said the concept was appealing because she could prepare a home-cooked, nutritious meal that could be heated and ready when the men needed it.

“The guys love it, too.”

Van Bruggen said a friend helped her on the first try at these freezer meals. It was vital help, she said, because of the logistics involved.

This included disposable 9-by-13-inch pans and preparing 32 freezer meals – including baked spaghetti, Tater Tot hot dish, tuna and noodles, goulash and beefy noodles.

This amounted to being about two months of meals for the business.

“Things like soups don’t work,” Van Bruggen said, “because they are too hard to transport.

“But I can sometimes do some sort of hot sandwiches to switch things up.”

Cooking is most fun, she said, with the whole family around – her favorite thing is grilling.

“I love to grill steaks,” Van Bruggen said, “and then each one of the girls brings some sort of yummy side dish.”

This is geared towards Van Bruggen’s efforts to provide healthier meals.

She said the children’s favorite meal is roast, mashed potatoes, carrots and applesauce.

Van Bruggen said she gets help from some of her nine grandchildren. The older granddaughters love to assist in preparing meals, Van Bruggen said, but they love baking most of all.

Family dinners occur most weekends and then every holiday and birthday they can find to celebrate.

Her hobbies include camping, when she takes a meat smoker with her.

She said everyone in the family will visit and eat wherever she is camping for the weekend.

Mexican casserole

1 16-ounce package of tortilla chips-crushed

2 pounds ground beef seasoned (browned and grease drained off)

1 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup

1 10-ounce can cream of chicken soup

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

1 10-ounce can of enchilada sauce

14-ounce can green chilies

2 cups of grated cheddar cheese

Place the crushed tortilla chips in a large, greased casserole dish and then top with the ground beef.

Mix the remaining ingredients, except the cheese, and pour the mixture over the ground beef.

Top with cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Chicken casserole

1 large onion

1 large bell pepper, chopped

Vegetable cooking spray

2 cups chopped cooked chicken breasts

1 10-ounce can fat-free cream of chicken soup

110-ounce can fat-free cream of mushroom soup

1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

12 6-inch corn tortillas

1 8-ounce block reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded

Saute the onion and the bell pepper in a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until desired tenderness.

Stir in the chicken and the next six ingredients. Remove from heat.

Tear tortillas into 1-inch pieces; layer 1/3 tortilla pieces in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, coated with cooking spray.

Use 1/3 of the chicken mixture and pour over the top, then sprinkle on 1/3 of the grated cheese.

Repeat and this makes 2 layers.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes until bubbly.

Beef noodle casserole

1 1/2 pounds of ground beef

Salt and pepper

1 onion diced

1 green pepper diced

1 10-ounce package noodles

1 10-ounce can cream style corn

1 10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup of sour cream

2 cups grated mild cheddar cheese

Brown the meat, onions and peppers and drain off excess fat.

Cook noodles until done in another pan.

When cooked, add noodles and cheese to the meat and mix.

Put in a coated 9-by-13-inch baking dish and cook at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Country casserole

2 cups small shell pasta, cooked and drained

3 cups frozen mixed vegetables, cooked and drained

2 cups cheddar cheese divided in half

1 can French-fried onions divided in half

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 10-ounce can cream of chicken soup

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, reserving half of the cheese and fried onion for topping.

Spoon into a 9-by-13-inch coated baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.

Top with the remaining cheese and fried onions and bake until the cheese is melted, which is about 5 minutes more.

Heavenly ground beef casserole

2 pounds ground beef

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 28-ounce can of tomato sauce

1 4-ounce can of diced green chilies

8 ounces cream cheese softened

1 pint sour cream

1 cup chopped onion

12 ounces egg noodles

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown the ground beef and drain excess fat.

Add garlic, salt, green chilies and tomato sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes.

While simmering combine and mix cream cheese, sour cream and onions.

Cook the noodles. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray and layer one-third sauce, one-half noodles, one-half cream cheese mixture and one-half of the mozzarella cheese.

Then repeat these steps ending with the final one-third of sauce on top.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven cover and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page