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Friday, November 20, 2020

This Week's Menus Plus Homemade Brown 'n Serve Freezer Pizzas

wrapped homemade brown 'n serve pizza

We're plowing through our rotation of canned vegetables. This week, we made creamed spinach with some of those canned leafy greens. My daughter prepared it, adding a topping of Parmesan cheese over each serving. Delicious -- we all loved it! 

I roasted a whole chicken this week and managed 3 dinners from the bird, 1 lunch of chicken noodle soup, and enough stock for our upcoming Thanksgiving side dishes.

And we made desserts twice this week -- one a no-bake bar cookie and the second a cake. Both of these lasted for several days.

One of the side effects of this pandemic is that many of us are cooking dinners at home much, much more than normal. Sharing our weekly menus may provide much-needed inspiration for each other, as we find ourselves more and more drained from this experience. As you can see, my menus are all pretty simple and rely heavily on our pantry staples.

fried TVP patties in a homemade teriyaki sauce
canned beets in vinaigrette
canned peas
leftover peanut butter, cracker, and chocolate bars

refried bean and TVP tostadas, using homemade fried flour tortillas and served with homemade salsa
canned carrots
canned green beans
leftover bar cookies

roasted chicken and gravy
canned cranberry sauce
bread and butter (it happened to be bread-baking day)
canned yams baked in a sugar, spice, and butter topping
oven-roasted frozen broccoli (drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt)
leftover bar cookies

leftover chicken in homemade marinara sauce (canned tomato paste)
creamed spinach with Parmesan cheese
leftover bar cookies

pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in refrigerator crescent roll dough)
canned corn
green beans
canned pineapple
German chocolate cake

chicken and dumplings with canned carrots and canned peas
leftover canned cranberry sauce
prunes stewed in pineapple juice (leftover from canned pineapple)
leftover cake

homemade frozen pizza (brown 'n serve pizza)
carrot and celery sticks
leftover cake

Needing some family fun time, our foursome decided to make every Friday evening pizza and movie night. I make a pizza and we rotate who chooses the movie. Making a pizza from scratch each week adds up to a lot of work. However, making one large batch of dough and sauce for several pizzas at a time saves work over making small batches each week.

I bake the first pizza for us to eat right away, using a hot oven (about 400 degrees F) so that the bottom is crispy and the cheese and toppings are bubbly and golden. I prepare the rest of the pizzas as brown 'n serve pies. When I reheat them later they brown and crisp up without over-browning, like those dinner rolls which are pale but cooked when you buy them to be toasted in the oven at home. 

underside of part whole wheat pizza
before second bake time

I follow similar suggestions for brown 'n serve pizzas as I do for homemade brown 'n serve rolls. To make brown 'n serve pizza, I prepare the whole pizzas as I would for immediate consumption, except I bake them at a lower temperature. My goal is to bake the dough fully and melt the cheese, but not brown either.

topside of pizza before second bake time

To do this, I bake the topped pizza on a baking sheet at 350 degrees F (until the crust is thoroughly cooked, but the toppings and cheese have not reached the point of browning), about 18-20 minutes, depending on thickness and toppings. After cooling for about 30 minutes, I wrap the extra pizzas in plastic wrap and freeze. 

To reheat, I thaw the pizzas on the counter for about 45 minutes then brown them on an oven rack (no pan) for about 9-11 minutes at 380 degrees F. They turn out perfectly. 

Brown 'n serve pizza are my homemade version of commercial frozen pizza. I spend a couple of hours one afternoon to make enough pizza for several easy dinners without sacrificing any of the fresh-baked flavor or texture upon reheating.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!


  1. Some of your meals looked a lot like ours! We had tostados with homemade refried beans one night that was a big hit. We had baked chicken one night with butternut squash mash and green beans. I'll often make a deep dish pizza and I think that will be tonight. We also had pigs in a blanket!

    We always cooked most of our meals anyway so this pandemic hasn't changed any of that for us but I can see that others appear to be cooking at home more. The elderly couple across the street turned away fresh green beans once when I offered it saying they didn't really cook at home anymore. Lately I see lots of grocery delivery people in their driveway unloading a lot of groceries so it looks like they have had to cook at home. My parents would go out for breakfast to meet friends several times per week but waiting outside for a table and now no inside dining, they have just stay home too and they are fine with that. Mom's a great cook anyway!


    1. Hi Alice,
      How funny that so many of your meals were like mine! Great minds . . .
      I've only made deep-dish pizza once or twice. Thinner crust pizza is what I grew up with, so that's what I've always made. I'm wondering if deep-dish pizza is more common in your area than on the west coast? I love the idea of having more toppings for a deep-dish pizza or using toppings that I might not normally use on thin crust, such as meatballs.

      I do feel for folks who suddenly find themselves "forced" into cooking at home when they haven't had as much cooking experience. (I was thinking about my brother when he was a just-out-of-college bachelor -- cereal and pasta with jarred sauce was most of what he "cooked" for himself.) I hope they're adapting well, now.

      Have a wonderful day, Alice!

  2. We also bake pizzas in batches, at least 3 or 4 at a time. Because we don't finish an entire pizza at a meal, we freeze our pizzas in IQF slices. Simply cut the pizza in slices and spread apart on the pan, into the freezer that way, then bag the slices. We heat the pizza slices straight from the freezer into the toaster oven, no thawing. Fast and easy, and perfect crispness when baked twice. Recently, I've discovered a new to me topping that goes so well with pepperoni and mushrooms, which is garlic/olive oil marinated roasted eggplant. I had a few eggplants that I didn't know what to make, so these made great "make ahead" toppings.

    With meal planning, your meals are so well coordinated and complete like restaurant meals, except healthier because you control the ingredients.
    I admire your planning abilities, and think how blessed your family is for what you do. Not only physical needs but meeting emotional needs too when you are there taking care of the ship (like your Love Boat analogy).

    Have a great weekend!!

    1. Hi Laura,
      Freezing your pizza as individual slices is such a great idea! This would be so helpful for those who snack on pizza. I may try this next time with one or two of the pizzas. I'm certain my family would absolutely love this. Oh, yum! I love eggplant so I can just imagine it on pizza! Next time I find eggplant at a good price I'm going to try this. DO you peel the eggplant before cubing and roasting or leave the skin on?

      Thank you. I don't always feel our meals are all that balanced, especially as we're eating so much canned veggies. I miss all of the fresh produce from our garden. Oh well.

      Wishing you a great day, Laura!

    2. I didn't peel the eggplant or soak in water. Just cube it and marinate in oil and garlic for several hours, place on a cookie sheet, 375 degrees for 45 minutes, according to a recipe, don't remember where I got it. Then I IQF froze the roasted eggplant, so I wouldn't have to thaw before topping the pizza. I freeze fresh mushroom slices and garden basil leaves to use as toppings too. Frozen basil turns a dark shade, but that's ok since it will be like that after baking anyway.

      Have a great week, and Happy Thanksgiving Day!!

    3. I keep mushrooms and basil in the freezer, too, Laura. I think basil tastes better frozen as opposed to dried, so it's a better way for me to preserve the herb. Thanks for the info on the eggplant!

  3. Your brown and serve pizza is a great idea, Lili. We really have no room to spare right now in our freezer but I'll file that away for future use. How do you manage the rising time for the dough?

    Like Alice, cooking and eating at home isn't really different for us. I do miss going out for coffee with friends and/or family. It will make it all the sweeter when we finally can do that again. I also miss being able to bring "coffee time" to my mom in assisted living--her facility has us leave items to be dropped off on a table outside and then they take it in, so even doing it together during a window visit doesn't always work out, as the timing varies as to when things are delivered to the resident's rooms.

    Now I'm trying to remember our meals this week. Monday was unusual as we got a takeout meal from a local restaurant (still less expensive than eating in as we got a family-style meal, and I supplemented with beverages and salad at home and there was no tip). Tuesday I made Thai peanut chicken over rice. Wednesday I had kielbasa and white bean chowder in the crockpot and I made biscuits to go with it. Thursday I made cheeseburger pie which used up some of our indoor-ripened garden tomatoes which are sprinkled on top. Hubby made dinner yesterday--pork carnitas--yum.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Thank you.
      Do you mean rising time because I'm not baking them all at once? I've found that this dough recipe is not all that picky for when I get the pizzas into the oven. I've never had a pizza crust fall back due to over-rising. Perhaps I don't allow them to fully rise in the first place, as I would do for a loaf of bread. Pizza crust seems to be fine without being super fluffy, at least for my household (we're not all that picky, I think).

      For my family, eating out was more like a small treat, like your going out with a friend for coffee. I miss that. While we can still have treats at home, we have to find new ways to get that away-from-the-routine treat experience. Eating a bowl of ice cream at the kitchen table is not nearly as fun-sounding as going to the ice cream shop for a cone. But we can be creative and find new and fun ways to experience those treats. I do feel really badly for families like yours who have a loved one in assisted living. The day that you and your mom can have a real coffee time together will be a joyous one, I'm sure.

      Yum! That Thai peanut chicken sounds delicious! I'm going to give something like that a try with our canned chicken. Thanks for the inspiration! You and Live and Learn are so lucky to still have some garden tomatoes ripening indoors. A nice reminder that spring and summer will come again.

      have a wonderful day, Kris!

    2. Sorry, I misread the post. So you bake all the pizzas at a lower temperature and then freeze them after? I was thinking that you were putting them in the freezer without letting them rise and then allowing for the rising and baking time. I need to read more carefully, haha.

      I would think that the Thai chicken would work well with canned chicken. Back when I was in college, my roommate made chicken pockets which was canned chicken mixed with cream cheese and plopped in crescent rolls and baked. Delicious.

    3. Those pockets with chicken and cream cheese sound tasty, too, Kris! Thanks for the ideas.

  4. Like, Kris, we're using up tomatoes that are ripening on the counter. I made tomato soup one day, spaghetti sauce another, and a tomato salad still another day. Good thing we like tomatoes or that could be a little much for one week.

    The pizza looks great and I'm sure the whole family will appreciate being able to just pull one out of the freezer on a busy day. I know we do, but ours come from Costco. I'm sure not as cheap as yours are, but cheaper than delivery.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Tomato soup with fresh tomatoes sounds delicious! All of your tomato dishes are making me hungry.

      I bet the Costco pizzas are very good. So much of what I've had from Costco has been delicious. And you're right -- a good, cost-saving alternative to delivery. Some days, convenience or ease is what is called for.

      Enjoy your afternoon, Live and Learn!

  5. Oh, I love this idea! Though I think I'll have to file it away for when more of the kids are grown and move out, or else buy a lot more pizza pans, lol. Currently, a batch of 4 homemade pizzas at our house is ONE meal. But it makes a LOT of sense to do it that way. Smart thinking on your part.

    I haven't been doing the best with meal planning. Started back to work at my old job three days per week back in August (working Tue/Wed/Fri) and have been struggling since. This week, we've eaten: spaghetti with meat sauce, green beans, and garlic bread, homemade Mushroom Chicken loosely following the copycat Panda Express recipe from Dinner then Dessert's blog, chicken pot pie, and takeout pizza. Can't remember the other day's dinner.

    1. Hi Cat,
      In my opinion, you're doing very well if you're working 3 days/week and still getting dinner on the table daily for a big family. Thanks for mentioning the copycat Panda Express recipe. I'll search for that, as it sounds like something I would enjoy (and another idea for my stockpile of canned chicken). I just checked the recipe -- I don't have zucchini, but I do have chicken, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and frozen mushrooms. Do you think it would at all be okay with canned green beans added at the last minute instead of using zucchini?

      Wishing you a great day, Cat!

    2. I think that could work out quite well with other veggies. I've subbed a bit here and there, though I haven't tried canned or frozen in it yet. After the first time or two, I quit using the cornstarch on the chicken and simply broil pieces about 2-3 bite-sized, then add them to the sauteed veggies and sauce mixture. So it's a pretty flexible recipe. She has several other "copycats" for Panda on there as well. Have fun experimenting!

    3. Hi Cat,
      I think I'll try it with canned green beans. The veggies won't have that crispness that I like, but maybe that lack will be compensated by the delicious sauce. Thanks again for the tip on that site. I'll look around and see what else I can do with my ingredients.

      Have a wonderful day, Cat!

  6. Hi Lili. I'm so glad y'all liked the creamed spinach! I think it's good too. I typically use Parmesan cheese in mine also, but if I'm out, I don't let it stop me. I use whatever kind of cheese I have on hand!

    Your menus sound great. They are always so balanced and thrifty. I like the idea of the prepared pizza and crusts. Since it's just 2 of us now, I could do this for future pizza meals. Love preparing once and eating twice!

    Also, don't know how many cans of sweet potatoes you have (or fresh sweet potatoes), but for a change you could make sweet potato biscuits to switch up your bread options as well as use the potatoes. They are delish!

    Have a good week everyone!

    1. Hi Lynn,
      Oh, sweet potato biscuits is such a great idea! Yes, I do have several cans of sweet potatoes. That will definitely go on my list. I've made pumpkin biscuits before and we enjoyed those a lot.

      That creamed spinach was a hit, here, and definitely easy enough to do again and again. Thanks again for that suggestion.

      Have a wonderful day, Lynn!

  7. Lili, I know the rest of the country loves their pumpkin, but here in the south (and in NC especially since we are the top producer of sweet potatoes!) we love our sweet potato pies and biscuits :) And regarding the ease of creamed spinach, I'm ALL about good AND easy! You are so welcome. I'm glad the suggestion was helpful for you and yours. I've learned SO very much from you through the years. I'm delighted that I have a suggestion that is actually of benefit to you!

    1. I'm so glad that we can benefit each other, Lynn!
      One of these years, I'll make a sweet potato pie, so I can taste for myself!
      Have a great day, Lynn!


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