Your favorite freezeable meals
I'm a teacher about to start the new school year. During the school year I rarely have the time or energy to cook meals, so in these last few weeks before school starts I'm trying to make a few things that I can freeze and enjoy over the next couple of months. I have a couple of batches of pesto frozen and several jars of jam in my attempt to capture the best of summer, but I'm looking for meals (think: meatloaf) that I can pull out of the freezer, thaw, and enjoy over a couple of days. What are your faves? Thanks in advance!
Btw, I live in New York City and therefore don't have access to such things as: "dreamdinners", a large freezer, large kitchen. Also, there are only two of us in the house, so we don't need huge meals, just good freezeable ones!
I like to make a large batch of, say, french onion or lentil soup and freeze in portions. SO good to come home to homemade lentil soup after a long day!
I also make smaller lasagnes and freeze (uncooked). I prefer to use the ready-made lasagna noodles you don't have to boil.
Eggplant parmesan in small dishes.
I've made chole (indian chickpea dish) and frozen. You can find frozen naan. Keep those in the freezer and you have a couple of great indian meals!
That's a bit of what I do. I also like to make lots of dumplings (asian), steam some and freeze some unsteamed. They go great from freezer to steamer or skillet if you're making them in to potstickers :)
BTW, here's my favorite lentil soup recipe. I am a vegetarian, so I leave out the meat but make up for flavor lost by adding some smoky chipotle powder.
1 lb lentils
1/2 lb bacon or pancetta, diced
1 leek, diced,white part only
2 medium onions, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 quarts chicken stock or beef stock or ham stock (depending on your taste)
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
1 large potato, peeled
1 ham bone or 2 large ham hocks
2 tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar or sherry wine vinegar
1 lb sliced kielbasa, cooked (optional)
2 yukon gold potatoes, diced (optional)
1. Wash lentils and drain.
2. In a Dutch oven fry bacon until golden.
3. Add diced leeks, onions and carrots and cook until onions are limp.
4. Add lentils, stock, celery, salt, pepper, and bay leaf.
5. With a medium size grater, grate potato into mixture and add ham bone.
6. Add optional ingredients.
7. Simmer 1 hour or until lentils are tender.
8. Remove bay leaf and ham bone; cut meat from ham bone and return meat to soup.
9. Add lemon juice and serve.
10. If soup is thicker than you would like add additional stock or water.
11. Note: If using a bone in piece of ham or ham hocks with a lot of fat, it is best to cook the meat in the stock separatelyfirst, remove meat and reserve, and then defat.
12. Proceed as above, adding meat back at the end.
here's the chole recipe I've made and frozen:
A nice spicy Indian chickpea recipe. I know, I know. The beans come from a can. Yeah, yeah. But I was so hungry, and I was in a hurry! Remember this little dish the next time you're short on time, too! To serve as a vegetarian main dish, increase the quantity. Reheats well, too.
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1/2 inch cinnamon sticks
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 (15 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/2-1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1. In large saucepan over medium heat, heat cumin seeds, bay leaf and cinnamon until very fragrant, swirling around to prevent burning.
2. Add ginger and garlic, cooking until the smell of those fills the air, then add onions.
3. Saute onions, stirring frequently, and adding drops of water to prevent sticking, until they are translucent.
4. Add the tomatoes, coriander, turmeric, salt, and cayenne.
5. Check for seasoning, adding more as you prefer.
6. Bring to a boil.
7. Add garbanzo beans (chickpeas), cover, and reduce heat.
8. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.
9. Stir in garam masala and lemon juice just before serving.
10. Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro if you desire.
11. Serve with rice, or Indian breads or pitas (breads are best warmed on a hot griddle).
I find that nearly everything freezes well. For your "party of two", get small gratin dishes (I like oval Apilco dishes) and line them with non-stick foil. When you make mac & cheese, any chicken dish, etc., 3x it (or more).
Place your food into your lined gratin pan; cool to room temp, cover and freeze. After frozen, remove the foil and place food into freezer bags (or seal), marking the name, date, and how to bake/reheat. These are easy to stack "bricks" of food, which take little room in the freezer.
Meatloaf freezes beautifully. I like to make small, flat-ish loaves (for more topping coverage); cover & freeze. Then wrap and stack as mentioned above.
You can freeze soups in 16 oz. hot/cold cups sold at Costco for convenient storage and reheating.
Various soups (beef-barley, french onion, ham & bean) are great for just pulling out of the freezer and reheating as needed.
Make a big pot of beef stew and portion it out into individual servings. Or chili. Simply make a small batch of cornbread to go with, and you're good to go.
Lasagna, as others have mentioned. You can buy the smaller foil pans that the no-cook lasagna noodles just fit into and create/freeze/bake in them and bring them to the table that way.
Perhaps you could pre-make calzones and freeze them and pull them out when needed? All sorts of fillings for calzones.
Caramelize a mess of Vidalia onions and freeze them in 1-cup portions. You can mix that up with a white sauce and add sauteed chicken and veggies and pasta later on.
I do lasagna as well - guess we all like this! I make lots of curries and stews. These freeze well and you can do big batches with not much more work than doing a single meal. Lamb shanks, ragu bolognaise (the basis of the lasagna), short ribs, all these take to freezing. I do soups and chili in big batches as well. Last winter I made Moroccan chicken and lamb several times, using Paula Wolfert's books - basically they're made with preserved lemons and aromatic spices.
I also roast chickens and freeze them, we grill legs of lamb which we divide into meal portions and freeze. We use our smoker a lot to smoke pork chops and make pulled pork. We're coming to the end of carnitas made from a whole shoulder of pork which we froze in smaller portions.
We have a big freezer so we can accomodate a lot. You may have to plan your cooking so make best use of the space you have, but you certainly don't have go without homecooked food through the school year.
Years ago I received a wonderful book called "The Wonderful World of Freezer Cooking" by Helen Quat. It is likely out of print but worth finding. What is most helpful are her make-it-to-this-point-and-freeze instructions. Dividing the recipes for two servings is no problem. I filled my freezer from this book when I was expecting my first child.
(that my husband received unexpected Navy orders and we moved two weeks prior to the big day in no way invalidates Quat's work. I was very popular in my neighborhood as I gave away a lot of delicious food)
Enchiladas freeze well in small individual aluminum trays and lids that can be gotten at restaurant supply places. (here on the west coast we have Smart & Final) Make up a batch and put two into each tin. Nap with sauce and grated cheese. They stack beautifully.
I use the same foil containers to freeze double servings of split pea soup, and make a batch of cornbread baked directly in the foil containers to go along.
I buy chicken parts when on sale and marinate in several types of sauce, enough to completely fill my large Weber BBQ grill. Once cooled, I freeze four pieces per slide-lock bag. If the coals are still hot, I'll slap on some breasts as they stay juiciest with low heat.
I hear your pain about post-workday cooking. The older I get, the harder it is to be on my feet all day and well into the evening. Thanks be for freezers!
I freeze cooked rice and grains, then I make stir fry. Frozen french green beans, a few sliced frozen carrots, zucchini or ? a scrambled egg. And, yum fried rice. Steam w a little stock. Add left over meats, shrimp ?? Serve with chicken soup. Makes for a great meal in the cold weather. :) KQ
I invested in a Foodsaver last fall and love it. Lazy Sundays I make sauces for pasta, stuffed shells, lasagna, short ribs, meatballs, sausage and peppers, all great comfort foods. On the lighter side I BBQ fish and saute vegetables or chicken breasts (marsala, picatta, mushrooms) and package together for the healthier lighter nights. So depending on the day I had I can have a light meal of fish/chicken with the veggies, or if I had a bone crusher and need a hug from my food I boil some pasta and grab a sauce.
In my family everything freezes well, I guess I mean, we freeze everything. Our family never makes a single batch of anything. For example, when my sister makes anything with pasta, it would not be unheard of to make 2lbs., that way she can send leftovers home with my Dad and me. If I have other food at home, I will always freeze something so that nothing is wasted. Bottom line, always make extra and freeze some in individual containers to enjoy in the weeks to come.
There's nothing better than having something good in the freezer when you're tired!
This recipe for Chicken Cakes (like crab cakes) is easy, freezes well and you can do different sauces quickly. I've used the horseradish/mayo listed as well as Very Very Teryaki and appricot preserves cooked with a little dry sherry.
Good luck and thanks all for the ideas!