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Preparing frozen dinners for a client.

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Hi everyone! I really hope there're some creative chowhounders out there that can help me out with this inquiry.

I recently took on a housekeeping and cooking job for a disabled man in my community. The housekeeping is minimal, and I'm a very capable cook and baker, so it's right up my alley. I'm excited to be providing such a valuable service for a nice man who's finally grown tired of a constant parade of Mexican and Chinese takeout and frozen TV dinners.

However . . . there are some caveats.

- dinners must be freezable, in single portions
- his tastes run 1950s American - think Thanksgiving dinners and the like
- he has false teeth, so any vegetables must be diced fine and cooked thoroughly
- he also wants frozen savory breakfast items, along the lines of egg mcmuffins, hot pockets . . . does anyone know about the logistics of freezing and reheating something with cooked, scrambled eggs?
- he can only reheat things using the microwave

Any suggestions along the lines of what foods will work well, how to package freezable meals, general helpful guidelines . . . I'd really appreciate it!

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  1. Although not a "mcmuffin" or "hot pocket" type dish, what about quiche? I often make quiche and then freeze, later to be thawed and reheated in the microwave by slice. If they make any "pot pie" type disposable dishes (that aren't tin foil) that would be perfect.

    I make lasagna and freeze it in serving sizes (chill overnight and then wrap individually in plastic wrap and freeze in heavy duty freezer bags). These thaw and reheat well in the microwave.

    Is it possible for you to make a main course that you freeze in individual portions ( like meatloaf or roast beef in gravy) and then he can use commercial prepared food like the Bob Evans mac and cheese or mashed potatoes?

    6 Replies
    1. re: anni

      Quiche! What a great idea. I'm sure that would go over well. Now, to find some sort of disposable, non-metal, pot pie-sized baking containers . . .

      1. re: operagirl

        You could make the quiche in metal pot-pie tins, let them cool, then pop them out and freeze individually without the tins. The crust should hold up when they're microwaved later.

        1. re: leanneabe

          Great idea. It didn't occur to me that they could just be heated up later on a plate, but you're totally right.

        2. re: operagirl

          WOO-HOO! I think this might help you!

          http://heftybrands.pactiv.com/HeftyEZ...

          1. re: anni

            Very cool. The single serve casserole ones would be great for lasagna or enchiladas, both things this man enjoys. I just checked at my local grocery store, and they don't have them . . . does anybody know where to get these? Target, or Walmart maybe?

          2. re: operagirl

            or use silicone muffin dishes.

            They freeze really well

        3. When my mother was living by herself, I would cook, portion and fill up her freezer frequently. Things that worked well ware soups or stews that I would freeze in meal servings in zip-lock bags. She could pop them into the microwave easily. I purchased microwave-safe dishes from a company called Littonware - I don't know if they still exist. They had separations for portions and a lid that could be snapped on.

          2 Replies
          1. re: EllenMM

            Ditto on the soups and stews in ziploc bags. I put them in the freezer to freeze "flat" and then they don't take up much freezer space at all.

            1. re: anni

              I use the ziploc or gladware "disposable" containers. They freeze fine and reheat in the microwave without problem.

          2. Have you checked out Dream Dinners menus? Their whole concept is make ahead/freeze/thaw, and their menu may give you some ideas.

            1. There are savory bread puddings and breakfast casseroles that use an eggy custard base. I've never frozen them though, so don't know if that would work. Maybe someone else with experience can pipe up. I have a recipe for a Reuben bread pudding, if you're interested.

              Crepes freeze really well with a piece of wax paper or parchment between them -- open zip bag, grab a couple, make a breakfast wrap with a slice of Canadian bacon and a piece of cheese. You could also use tortillas, but the crepes have eggs so a little more breakfast friendly for your guy.

              The heat sealers and vacuum sealers use bags that have the option of going in a microwave or in a pot of boiling water on the stove. Sometimes microwaving dries out foods, but if the pot of water seems like a safety issue, never mind!

              Individual servings of roasted shredded chicken in gravy microwave well and can be served over bread for an open-faced sandwich, over noodles, or like a previous poster suggested the refrigerator section mashed potatoes.

              Speaking of potatoes, they're the only thing I know DO NOT freeze well when in soups and stews. They turn into nasty little sponges.

              Also, you could hard cook a few eggs for him and he could slice them up and put them on a faux McMuffin.

              1. Mac & Cheese
                Swiss Steak
                Tuna Casserole
                Chicken Casserole (sooo many)

                1. Mr. HR's grandma makes these awesome potatoes. They are very much 1950's fare and fairly un-Chowish, but we LOVE them! I have never tried to freeze them, but I think they should freeze well.
                  Nanny's Potatoes
                  1 2lb bag of frozen hash browns
                  ½ cup onion, diced
                  1 can cream of chicken soup
                  1 can cream of celery soup
                  12 ounces cheddar cheese, grated
                  1 pint sour cream
                  2 cups crushed potato chips
                  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
                  Thaw frozen potatoes by spreading out on cookie sheet at least 30 minutes.
                  Mix all ingredients except chips and put in a greased 9 x 13 pan.
                  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Sprinkle chips over top and bake an additional 30 minutes.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: HungryRubia

                    Aw man, I hate to rain on your [extremely well-intentioned and kind] parade, but I didn't stipulate that my client specifically said he does not care for cream-of-whatever-soup-based recipes. I'll add another post to include as many of his preferences as I can . . .

                    1. re: operagirl

                      Oops! Missed that part, sorry!

                  2. Some more preferences:

                    - he doesn't like anything made with cream-of-whatever canned soup.
                    - he likes the flavors of various nuts (except walnuts), but they need to be chopped fine in order for him to eat them
                    - favorite dinners include carnitas with corn tortillas and pico de gallo, and turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy
                    - he doesn't eat fish
                    - no green beans
                    - no white sauce-based dishes; he's not so keen on sauces in general
                    - he likes baked beans.
                    - he's a huge fan of cookies, as long as they're of the soft variety.

                    1. Both these items freeze well and sound like they would be good options

                      Breakfast Biscuit Bites

                      2 cups shredded mild cheddar
                      1/2 lb thin ham chopped (get in deli section)
                      3/4 c mayo (we used Kraft light and it was fine)
                      1/3 c bacon bits
                      2-3 tbsp dijon mustard
                      1 tube Flaky biscuits

                      Preheat oven to 450.

                      Grease muffin pan. Cut biscuits into thirds and mold into muffin pans (you just squish it in to fill the hole. We used mini muffin pans and cut it into fourths. Stir together shredded cheese, ham, bacon bits, mayo and mustard. Spoon into biscuits - don't overfill or it overflows and is hard to clean off pan. Bake 9-11 minutes. Let stand 3 minutes before removing.

                      Runzas
                      1 pound ground beef
                      little less than 1/2 a small head of cabbage
                      Seasoned salt
                      Pepper
                      Worcestershire sauce
                      Package of 3 loaves of frozen bread dough

                      Filling: Cut cabbage into small pieces. Cook in water on stove for 5 or so minutes.
                      Brown ground beef then drain off oil.
                      Drain cabbe and add to ground beef. Add seasoned salt, Worcestershire sauce and pepper to taste.

                      Let bread dough it rise and roll it out. Put small piles of filling on dough and cut dough around the piles. Shape into balls fully enclosing the filling.

                      Cook at 400 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. You can make them small or big. Serve them plain or ketchup and mustard.

                      If you want to see pictures of these items they are at http://recipesforgoodfood.blogspot.com/

                      1. Chicken Divan (otherwise known as chicken & broccoli casserole)
                        Lasagna
                        soup/stew
                        french toast
                        ham/sausage biscuits

                        1. Breakfast Casserole:
                          Layer in a casserole dish:
                          1. Bread - cubed sliced sandwich bread, or croissant dough.
                          2. Meat - sausage (cooked in a skillet like you would brown ground beef), or cubed ham, or shredded turkey, or whatever meat you like for breakfast.
                          3. Eggs - equal parts eggs and milk, with seasonings of your choice (I like salt, pepper, mustard, and a bit of sugar). There needs to be enough egg mixture to *nearly* cover the bread and meat.
                          4. Cheese - shredded cheddar, or mozzarella, or parmesan, or a combination.
                          Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake until eggs are set (we uncover it for the last few minutes to make the cheese crispy, but you might want to skip that step).
                          Slice into squares. Individual portions freeze *very* well and easily reheat in the microwave.

                          I'm sorry I don't have the exact recipe. It was originally from an old church cookbook. We make this on Christmas Eve every year and put it in the fridge. On Christmas morning, it bakes while we open presents. Delicious leftovers!

                          1. What about spaghetti sauce, chili, and stew? I freeze the leftovers in plastic containers all the time. Chili spaghetti is good as well and freezes nicely. All three of these are good ways to get lots of veggies and fiber in as well.

                            Frittatas are good for breakfast and taste good warm, room temp, and cold.

                            Oatmeal freezes well too.

                            1. I've never tried this, but you might give it a shot. Make a "tv dinner" with a scoop of dressing/stuffing, covered with slices of turkey meat and gravy. If you can't find disposable individual serving dishes microwave safe, try using little Corning Ware type casseroles. Wrap the dinner well and store in a freezer bag. Thaw it overnight and then reheat in the microwave, substituting a piece of wax paper for the foil.

                              Think that would work?

                              1. Along the breakfast line, if a toaster is an option, then homemade waffles freeze wonderfully. Cool them individually on a rack, then pack up and freeze in a ziploc freezer bag--it helps to put a small piece of wax or parchment paper between each one.

                                Chicken enchiladas reheat well after being frozen, and could be packed one or two to a package. Calzones also freeze well, though better reheated in a toaster oven than microwave. I'm sure that meatloaf would reheat well.

                                You might want to see if there is an "assemble your own dinner" company in your area and see if it would be economical for him if you used their service.

                                1. Beef stew would be good.

                                  I put beef shanks in chicken stock (even canned will be fine) and V8 juice, and a bit of wine, with onions and cook for about 2 hrs. Then I add potatoes and carrots (and any other veggies you would want) and continue to cook another hour or so until the meat is super tender. Then I cut off the meat from the bones, and you could cut into small bite sized pieces suitable for the client at this stage. Refrigerate a day, and lift all the fat off the top. Then portion into serving sizes and freeze. They will reheat very well.

                                  I also make and freeze standard chicken soup - chicken cooked in stock with a bay leaf and some peppercorns. Then remove chicken and take the meat off the bones. Add diced celery, carrots, and onions to the stock, and cook while chopping up the chicken meat. Then add noodles. Add back the chicken meat. I like to sprinkle fresh dill on top. Refrigerate a day, then remove the hardened fat. And then portion and freeze.

                                  1. Meatloaf is an obvious one, along with pork chops, turkey breast, and stews. Maybe a shepards pie, pot pies, lasagna, homemade soups.

                                    For breakfast, I found this interesting item about a premade frozen omlet. I've never tried it, but it might be worth a test drive to see it this works for your client...

                                    http://havecoffeewillwrite.com/?p=1186

                                    Cook and flash freeze pancakes. Quick breads are nice too.