We always love when Chef Tess shares with our readers. ESPECIALLY when it has to do with Meals in a Jar!  Take it away, Chef Tess!!

I was in Utah this last week, and one of the classes I adored teaching was how to make shelf-stable meals in a jar that are good 5-7 years. This is, in fact, something I have done for my family for years. It’s just a super practical way to have a “grab-n-go” meal for any occasion. Unlike other jar meals I’ve seen, the ones I plan are “just add water” and include the meat, veggies, sauce and all…ONE jar. One place. Grab-n-go!   These quart size jars make a meal for our family of 6 (4 adults, 2 children) and average about 9 cups of prepared food coming from the small amount of space in a quart jar. They can be made in mylar bags, but I personally prefer the jars. They’re airtight, rodent proof and clear so I can tell if the food is still gorgeous. Yes, I do slip into my Hollywood fashion designer alter-ego and say, “Fabulous Darling! Fabulous!”  Yes. I realize I’m odd. Shhh. I’m happy in my delusion. It keeps me young. What was I talking about? Oh yeah…

While I was in Utah I made well over 30  meals in a jar in about an hour at my folk’s house. My dad loves Italian Casserole so we made the “Baked Ziti Casserole”  in a jar. The ingredients had been sitting in the large cans for a while and I asked them why they didn’t use them. “We don’t want to open the big cans,” was the response. So, I showed them how to make the meals custom to their needs.  We made the recipe in pint size jars (yes we cut the recipe in half) since it is just mom and dad at home now. That was the perfect size for them.  There was enough for dinner and some left over for lunches to take to work the next day. Yes…from the pint-size jar! 

When was the last time you made 30 full-size dinners for your family in about an hour and didn’t get spaghetti sauce in your hair? I mean…really? It’s just a really fast way to put together a lot of divine meals that your family will enjoy. Mom and dad had made a few other meals in a jar before and I’m happy to report that mom is teaching others how to make them! It’s so simple, why not share this crazy technique? Initially, I used this method to plan my food storage for a year’s worth of meals. Breakfast and Dinner were planned for 7 days a week. Monday dinner, baked Ziti. Obtain 52 jars of baked ziti and I had dinner for a year for Monday night. Follow with meals for the rest of the week (yes the printable recipes will be at the end of this post…don’t pass out.) Do you see how it would be easy to plan around meals your family would actually eat and have the beautiful convenience of a grab-n-go meal without having to find cans and boxes?  For us, it’s worked great. For the thousands who have been reading about it on my blog…it’s been epic! We’ve had a magnificent response! Disclaimer: This is what has worked for us. If you choose to make the recipes, try a few out first and see if they are recipes your family will eat. I just know that 99% of the folks who have tried them, have loved them.

If you are new to  my series on homemade convenience meals you will want to read  the post on my blog: Introduction to the 52 Method.  You will be using a method called “dry pack canning”. No liquid or pressure canning is necessary. If you opt to use the freeze dried meat in the recipes, please note: The repacking of Freeze Dried Meat must be done within 24-48 hours of opening the can and must be done in a dry environment. Once repacked you must use an oxygen absorber to make sure there is a vacuum oxygen free environment. Mylar bags can also be used instead of jars, but it is not recommended to use Ziploc bags as the sole source of storage if you are including meat. 

I’m sharing an adaptation to an old family recipe that I think is a keeper! I made it for my kids and the 12-year-old had 3 plates of it. Next time I’m making half gallon jars. I’m getting into teen years with these little whipper-snappers. Yikes. Needless to say, the meals will feed a normal family of 5…or one teenage boy. I also plan a loaf of bread a day per person (for rolls, breadsticks, or sides like that) in my food storage. I have a whole series of jars based on those too…but that will be a later post.   This is an adaptation on my mom’s Zucchini Casserole. I grew up with this fresh from the garden and I wanted to capture the flavors in a jar meal for storage.  Thankfully Honeyville has the most beautiful freeze dried zucchini slices!  I have to stop myself from eating them like potato chips right from the can. You know what else I love? Honeyville doesn’t add any junk to the freeze-dried fruits and veggies. It’s just the veggie. Just the fruit. Nothing added but happiness. 

When the Ground Beef and Zucchini Quiche Casserole is in a jar, it looks like this…

 Prepared, it looks like this…

You will need a few Honeyville products to make this.

My Mom’s Ground Beef and Zucchini Quiche Casserole

adapted from  cheftessbakeresse: Geneve’s Zucchini Casserole

1 cup Honeyville Freeze Dried Ground Beef (See safety note on FD real meats!)
1/2 cup Honeyville Freeze Dried Bell Peppers
1/2 cup Honeyville Freeze Dried Zucchini
1 T Honeyville Powdered Butter
1/4 cup Ova Easy Egg Crystals 
1/2 cup Honeyville Powdered Sour Cream
 2T  Ultra Gel
1/2 tsp Chef Tess Romantic Italian Seasoning
1 cup Honeyville Freeze Dried Cheddar Cheese

 *Real freeze dried meat must be in a glass jar or mylar bag with an oxygen absorber. Open all your cans of happiness. Line up your jars. Get all your measuring tools and stuff together. Make sure you have all your ingredients. 

Not all eggs are the same. I recommend the Ova Easy Egg Crystals because they are epic-delicious eggs! They cook and taste like a real scrambled egg. 

Put the green onion, ground beef, zucchini, bell pepper in the jar. Add the powdered ingredients and shake them down into the veggie mixture. This is how I get a lot of product into a small space. I shake things a lot in my jars. 

 Add the cheese and top with a fresh 300 cc oxygen absorber. You can also use the jar attachment on a food saver, but you’ll need to either cut a coffee filter to fit the top of the jar or use a cupcake/muffin liner at the top of the jar just inside the rim to keep the dry particles from clogging the hose. I prefer the speed of the oxygen absorbers. Frankly, that’s how I can do so many in a short amount of time. If you want to use the slower method with the lid attachment, you totally can. 

 In about 25-30 minutes, the jar lid will “pop”, indicating you have a vacuum seal. 

I made eight of these meals in about 15 minutes (one was prepared and in the oven when I took this picture). Eat your heart out Rachael Ray. One dinner in 20 minutes is so last week. 

To prepare:  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Pour the jar ingredients in a 2-quart bowl and add 2 1/2 cups cool water. Allow to hydrate 10 minutes. 

 Lightly grease a 9 inch by 9-inch casserole (or solar oven 9 inch round pan works too). 

Cover with foil. 

 Bake until set, 325 degrees 50 minutes. Do not over bake. May be stored in the refrigerator after baking and heated for service. 

I had enough ground beef to make about 10 of these meals, so initially, the cost is about $8 a meal. Some meals or less if you use the TVP. The sausage TVP is amazing. I’m a big fan. 

There you go! Welcome to my meals in a jar!  Oh…and don’t forget to share these ideas with your friends and family!  My sister Emily did some wonderful pdf’s for this tutorial and method, including an estimated price list (based on the prices at shop.honeyville.com about 6 months ago–retail store prices are lower generally),  recipe cards, and a shopping list to take to the retail stores for 12 meals (again, these are estimated quantities, as some product may settle during shipping).  If you print or share these, you are required to include my contact information and website information. Thank you!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess