Good Food That Freezes Well?
I am due to have my first baby sometime in the next couple of weeks. I'd like to make some dinners to freeze so my husband and I don't have to cook for the first few weeks at home with our newborn. In my search to find recipes that freeze well, I've only found things that call for pounds of ground beef, butter, cheese and condensed mushroom soup.
We are used to eating somewhat light, but very flavorful meals. We're big on seasoning with herbs and spices, not so much butter and fat. We also like lots of whole grains, beans, and veggies, but aren't total health freaks. Mostly, we just like good food.
Anybody have any recipes or ideas for make-ahead or freezable meals that a Chowhound could love?
I'm a single vegetarian who routinely makes big batches of things so I don't have to cook every day. I love soups, stews, and bean dishes -- all of which freeze beautifully -- and am devoted to my pressure cooker. (If you haven't made the acquaintance of modern pressure cookers, do yourself a favor. They're huge time-savers, completely safe, and will get you out of the kitchen faster than you thought possible. I can recommend cookers made by Kuhn Rikon and Fagor. Don't get anything smaller than a 6-quart, since they can only be filled halfway.)
Author Lorna J. Sass is the doyenne of pressure cookery, and has written a number of terrific cookbooks, available through Amazon. One I use regularly is "Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure." Wonderful.
Congrats on the about-to-be new arrival!
I cook or roast whole chickens, great to shred or diced and keep in baggies for anything, stir fry, sandwiches, creamed or just leftover. I make turkey meatballs or meatloaf, made healthy, Roast a turkey and make stock, and a bunch of other dinners. I keep frozen shrimp, not fresh, but a great go to quick dinner, same with some frozen filets. There are some good ones. Frozen Beef tips in broth. A great simple dinner you can serve with just some fresh rice and a salad. Mac and cheese done with some good cheeses. Of course the standard, lasagna, but a great mushroom or spinach lasagna, also ravioli is great and easy. make some rolled chicken breasts stuffed with fresh veggies and then lightly breaded. Sauteed and served in minutes. Soups and chilis of course.
Anything Pasta will make a good casserole that will freeze well. Everyday Food had a great recipe for a squash lasagna.
In fact, the recipe from this site are really quick and easy and very good. There is only so much you can do ahead for the months to come. Fresh produce is so essential. But, please check on the Everyday Food site for some awesome recipes that are quick and easy and delicious.
I really like lentil stew with chorizo and spinach. You can freeze in portions sizes; just take out of freezer in a.m. and defrost in refrigerator. It's one of my favorite dinner in a hurry, combined w/ crostini -- bread lightly toasted in oven, rubbed w/ 1/2 clove garlic and sprinkled w/ olive oil and salt.
You can freeze cooked beans, and then add to greens sauteed w/ garlic and chile pepper. Or use canned beans.
Also a Mexican casserole w/ layers of filling (beans, salsa, cheese, spinach) between corn tortillas is handy.
We freeze a lot. Most often in one portion sizes so that it can be taken to work for a healthy lunch or a solo dinner (or a lazy, rushed dinner for two night!).
What I freeze most often is soup - all sorts of soup; vegetable barley, tomato squash, mushroom, lentil, roasted cauliflour etc etc. These are generally lunches.
Lately, I've also frozen sheppard's pie made with turkey (spinach added to turkey) and lots of vegetables beneath healthy mashed potatoes (no butter or cream - when I want to be healthy, I find there's enough going on in the sheppard's pie without fat in the potatoes).
I also made a huge lasagna (again, turkey) and froze most of it in portions. I do the same as mentioned below - freeze shredded roasted chicken. When we have bean burritos, I make extra and freeze beans, onions and mushrooms for another busier night.
I also season meats before freezing them. I'm sure others wil argue that this isn't perfect 'culinary practice', but at the moment, I have two pre-seasoned pork chops defrosting in my fridge, which will cook up in no time when I get home. A fast, easy meal for us.
Good luck with your baby!
Forgot to mention - I also freeze thai chicken curry (and brown rice seperately), and chicken stew (tomato based with mushrooms onions garlic cilantro etc) to be eaten over cous cous. (it takes less than 5 mins to make the cous cous - will probably take you longer to heat up the chicken stew).
Also pasta sauce....
Om my gosh, we freeze everything we make, and, aside from a few slightly disappointing things (barley and balsamic salad, enchilada cassarole), it all seems to reheat just fine.
A couple things that do especially well are:
-Lasagne: but don't stick to the traditional recipes. Load up veggies, use pesto instead of tomato sauce, or italian bread slices in place of noodles. The best part about lasagne is that it doesn't need to be cooked before you freeze it, so you can just pop it in to bake when you're ready to eat it.
-Vegetable Curries: I freeze them with the rice right in the bottom of the container. I lived in India for 2 years, but my favorite (and easy) curry is from Cooks Illustrated. I can paraphrase the recipe for you if you'd like.
-Baked Empanadas: I make like 2 dozen at a time, using the Goya store bought empanada wrappers (in the freezer section) and this filling: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo.... I replace the ground beef with ground turkey or chopped mushrooms, and I bake instead of deep fry. You can toss them in the freezer before or after baking (if before, they do better if they thaw before baking).
Another option I'd look into is whether you have a good butcher or meat shop around you. We have one that makes amazing stuffed chicken breasts and chicken florentine and things like that, and they are actually really affordable. I always have some in our freezer, ready to be pulled out and tossed in the oven when I just can't bear to cook. It's so much better than the frozen entrees at the supermarket since they are homemade in the shop.
Enjoy the new baby!!
One Sunday I had bought a large pack of boneless skinless breasts and then pounded and stuffed. I did with some simple spinach and ricotta, did another with olives, ricotta and sundried another just breaded one a couple for that night. As RosemaryHoney mentioned. I froze 2 or 3 in a ziplock and had them ready to go. It took no time, similar ingredients, but nothing difficult. No cooking, just a couple of mixes and presto.
Also I buy lasagna noodles (fresh) and then roll individually with ricotta, parm and spinach. I put the sauce in one bag and the rolls in another. Simple lasagna, and very very good.
I also make a packet sometimes. 2 steaks or pork chops or pork loin cut into thick slices and I also in that same bag put a marinade in a small ziplock. Bag it all together and freeze. Defrost, marinade overnight or all day and grill or pan saute. The marinade is just soy, ginger, olive oil, oj, garlic and cilantro. Very basic but a great base. As they cook I baste with a mix of honey and current jelly. Couldn't get much better. and simpler.
Steak I would glaze with garlic and herbs with an balsamic marinade and then roast and serve with a balsamic and honey glaze. Similar but both very easy and quick.
Meatballs in sauce freeze very well. Same with bolognaise sauce.
I cook and freeze lentils quite often. I cook and salt them, but season once defrosted before serving to ensure a fresh flavor. I second the pressure cooker rec.
Immediately after you deliver you will need light but rich and energizing food that won't make your stool hard. An oatmeal soup cooked in a rich chicken broth, or if you like it, oxtail-barley soup or something with strength giving marrow bones is great. Cook and freeze those now. Eat dried fruit like dates as well.
Congratulations of your baby and I wish you a good delivery!
We freeze a lot of things too, many of them mentioned here. Red beans with sausage freezes well, and I always cook extra rice to freeze in serving bags for us - so easy.
I also freeze pot pie fillings, chili, soups and stews, and pasta casseroles. I have a stuffed cabbage recipe we love that takes hours to make, so I double the recipe and freeze portions of that - it reheats beautifully. Best wishes for your baby.
I recommend investing in a vacuum sealer. I have one that costs around $100, though I got it on sale with a coupon. You can get a battery-operated $10 one (Reynolds) at Walmart, Target, and some supermarkets. Check it out on the Cookware board. Some people swear by the cheap version; others at it. Vacuum-sealing makes a lot of difference in freezing meat - raw or cooked. I think it's better than plain baggie or container-freezing for preventing freezer burn and the "old" taste that happens to meat fats. When thawed, meat dishes as well as pastas and those containing cooked potatoes are prone to "weeping'. There's going to be SOME loss of texture and/or flavor in most frozen meals but nothing horrible. I am single, and when I was facing major surgery I froze portions of chili, spaghetti sauce, and lots of hearty soups. Also breakfast burritos, ratatouille, and bar cookies. If you have freezer room, you can freeze portions of plain cooked pasta and rice. Reheat pasta by dunking in a small amount of boiling water; microwave the rice or use a double boiler.
I over-prepared to the extent that I stockpiled enough canned and dry goods to last for twice as long as my predicted recovery - I figured it would get used sooner or later, and would allow me to gradually work up to my pre-surgery routine. And in case of a slower recuperation (which in fact happened) I'd be covered.
All the best for you and the kidlet!