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Fresh Family Dinners Out of the Freezer

Now that summer is over and the kids are back in school, everyone's schedule is as hectic as ever, making it almost impossible for many parents to put a homemade dinner on the table. But with just a little bit of pre-planning, a delicious home-cooked meal can take as little as 30 minutes.

"Early Show" Recipes Galore

"Early Show contributor Katie Lee shared some simple recipes that go from your freezer, to the oven to the table. They are perfect for any busy weeknight.

Freezer Tips:

Before freezing hot foods, allow them to cool completely. Putting hot foods into the freezer will raise the temperature of your freezer and could melt other items.

It's important to pack foods properly, protecting them from exposure to air, in order to avoid freezer burn. Plastic wrap, resealable freezer bags, foil, and airtight containers are all excellent choices. Be sure to wrap items tightly and press any air out of the bags before sealing.

When cooking dinner, make a double batch and freeze the extra portions for a quick dinner another time.

Make labels or use a permanent marker identifying the package's contents and the date you froze it.

The safest ways to thaw food is in the refrigerator or on the defrost setting on the microwave. Never thaw at room temperature.

Use frozen foods within 6 months of freezing.

Freeze food individually to retain shape and make it easier to store and thaw. Use a baking sheet to freeze items and then individually wrap or transfer to an airtight container once they are frozen.

RECIPES:

Lasagna Spirals

INGREDIENTS:
1 teaspoon olive oil
10 lasagna noodles
1 pound ricotta cheese
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed (squeeze out all excess water)
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
6 basil leaves, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 cups tomato sauce
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

METHOD:
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add olive oil. Place noodles in water, stirring occasionally, and let cook 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and spread out noodles on a towel to allow to cool.

While pasta cooks, in a medium bowl, mix ricotta, spinach, mozzarella, basil, egg, garlic, salt, and pepper.

Spread one cup tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. When pasta is cool enough to touch, spread each with a layer of ricotta mixture. Starting at one end, roll up the noodle. Place each lasagna spiral, seam side down, into the baking dish. Top spirals with 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce. Cover and wrap tightly and freeze. Before baking, sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 F for 40 minutes. Serve with additional tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.

**If you do not want to freeze, only bake 20 minutes at 350 F.

Chicken Cutlets

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
8 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper

METHOD:
Use a meat mallet to pound chicken to even thickness. Put the flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs seperately into three shallow dishes. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and season both sides with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken breast first into the flour, then the egg, letting the excess drip back into the bowl, then dredge in breadcrumbs to coat.

Transfer chicken breasts onto a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze about four hours. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze.

To cook from frozen preheat oven to 350 F. Bake about 45 minutes until cooked through. To cook from thawed, bake at 350 F for about 20 minutes.

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