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Maternity Leave - Make Now, Freeze, & Later Defrost & Eat

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I am planning to go on maternity leave in the fall - and I thought I might start compiling a list of things I can cook before the baby and then easily defrost for dinner post-baby.

The criteria is doesn't take too much space in the freezer (since we have a bucket type freezer...and hence not alot of space) and reheats beautifully. Just because we'll be busy and tired doesn't mean we don't want tasty, nutritious food...

Some of the easy things I thought of already are:
Spaghetti sauce (made with summer's end tomatoes!)
Taco seasoned beef for a taco/burrito type bar
Minestrone soup contents (then just add stock)
Tourtiere (Quebec style meat pie)
(the problem is - do you see a theme - ground meat!)
Any other suggestions?

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  1. How about some stews. I like the mahogany beef stew on the epicurious site. Good in the fall months and nice over some noodles.

    1. I was thinking soups and stews too, like homemade won ton soup. Make your wontons and freeze them individually, then drop into freezer bags. Freeze homemade Asian chicken broth. The day you want your soup, just add your fresh vegetables and dried herbs, and veggies. Scallions, dried mushrooms/clouds ear, julienne carrots, and you can add small strips of pork to the broth either before or after, ginger root coins, spinach or bok choy, whatever you like in your wonton soup. Add a bit of toasted sesame seed oil, soy sauce, and heat and eat. Made this for a good friend that traveled, she would put it together when she got in and had a craving for won ton soup. It's really good, and hits the spot!

      1. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/560577

        Jfood's Salmon Croquettes are delicious. He has posted that they freeze beautifully.

        Congratulations, Apple!

        1. Good ideas so far. Keep in mind, you don't necessarily need a large quanity if you supplement with a rice or fresh veg side. Only a few things don't freeze well--potatoes come to mind because they get mushy/grainy. I bet Trader Joe's frozen rices could help too--the brown rice (unseasoned) and jasmine rice would support any of the dishes mentioned. I have been in grad school so one dish meals out of the freezer have been a god send. It is worth buying a second fridge (second-hand-cheap) just for this reason...
          - Chicken Paprikash
          - Chicken Stews
          - Brisket
          - Lamb stews (curry or otherwise)
          - Quiches
          - Spanikopita (you can make it as a pie or as a roll/log type setting; freeze before cooking; bake it from a partial frozen state
          - Chowders (seafood, fish, etc.)
          - Sauces: puttanesca, curry, pesto, etc. (or just stock up from TJs--many are organic and preservative-free)
          - Carnitas/Pulled Porks (Asian Char Siu, Cuban Roast, Carnitas)
          - Empanadas
          - Legume/Vegetable stews (with lentils, for example)

          Let others support you, too. Add directions to the container so someone else can prepare the food while you are napping.

          1. I saw some cook now and freeze recipes that I'd actually eat in Clean Eating magazine a month ago. You might want to try that. Also Cook's Country has a make and freeze recipe every month and they are usually good (i.e. no condensed soup as ingredient).

            1. I like chicken or turkey. Roast a big turkey and then cut up:

              turkey pot pie, add all the ingredients, put everything including the sauce in a baggie. Then take out put in a baking dish and top with a store bought pie crust. You can even keep the frozen kind. Quick, just defrost, heat the oven and bake.

              The other turkey make a wild rice dish with a cream sauce bechemel based with sherry, broccoli, turkey freeze the rice in one baggie with the broccoli and the turkey and sauce in the other. defrost and then bake together. Top with some parmesan and bake. (sherry can be optional)

              Left over turkey is great also for quesadillas. Any toppings you want, peppers, onions, mushrooms, any cheese, Just pan grilled and it is amazing and quick.

              Bags of grilled chicken are great. I did this when I was pregnant. I made 3-4 and cut them up and put lots of bags in the freezer. I could add it in tacos, quesadillas, in soups, stir fry or pastas. They are also good for chicken sandwiches or add some BBQ for a simple BBQ sandwich

              Pizza. If you have some leftover chicken or turkey you can add this with veggies cheese and instant pizza. A nice salad and dinner

              I love hearty potato soup, not bad for the baby if breast feeding, healthy and easy to make. Chunky potato bacon, and creamy. It freezes well, or you can make it all ahead and then just add stock and cream when ready.

              Chicken breast thawed, breaded and frozen. Put in a small baggie, then in a large baggie. Also in the large baggie add a bag of frozen veggie and another of sauce. A bag for a simple chicken parm. I used to do that all the time.

              Stews are always good.

              Also I used to cut up a bunch of potatoes, sweet and white and keep them on hand to just make quick but honestly you can make them in the micro just as quick.

              Quiches are also good and can be frozen in small portions

              Soups ... highly recommend.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kchurchill5

                Mexican Chicken Lasagna freezes great, roasted chicken,chunky tomato sauce as spicy or not as you like, shredded cheddar and monterey jack layered with tortillas. You can heat from frozen and top with sour cream, guacamole, olives etc.

                Lentil Soup, thaw and add stock to the desired consistency

                The freeze and serve chicken pot pie from cook's country is fantastic, i made and froze several for my maternity leave and they were one of my favorite meals ...

              2. I did the same thing when I was preg and it was such a wonderful thing to have a home cooked meal after the little bundle of terror, I mean, joy arrived. (Really, she is fabulous, but we went into major sleep-deprived shell shock upon her arrival.)

                Anyway... I am a total meat freak these days. Breast feeding makes me want to eat red meat all the time.

                Braises are great.
                Pesto to throw over pasta, or whatever
                Ratatoullie freezes well

                Congrats & good luck!!

                1. Meatloaf, can be fun. I make mini loafs which are easy to freeze. I make them with turkey and they are very healthy. Spice add what you like but the small ones can be for a dinner or just for lunch. Inexpensive, easy, healthy. Ravioli made with wontons. Make a simple red sauce with meat,beef or sausage and then make cheese ravioli. Or make a sausage and cheese ravioli or spinach or a mix. It makes a ton, they take up no room, cook in a minute and with a simple sauce done it no time with a fresh salad makes a great dinner. Same with meatballs.

                  I make a great spinach and turkey meatball. It has amazing flavor with red peppers but moist and tender. Great over some pasta and a little sauce.

                  1. I make chicken vegetable soup and freeze. Stew chicken with onion, celery, butter, s&p (don't ask why on the butter - it's the way my mom does it). Cool chicken, shred, and add back to strained broth with a large jar of salsa, 1/2 head of shredded cabbage, and whatever veg you want and simmer until done. Freezes well.

                    I also freeze pans of ziti to bake, but that may take up more room than you want to.

                    Also remember the crockpot is your friend, as well as Trader Joe's (we ate sooo much TJs when my daughter was newborn).

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: MrsCheese

                      Crock pots are great, some veggies, chicken and presto. It is not always tte absolute best but, it is a great home cooked meal. Sometimes I would rather grill or slow cook, but the crock pot offers an easy alternative. I often buy the family pack of chicken breasts and I just put 3-4 per baggie and freeze it. Take it out chop it up with some fresh broth or stock and add fresh veggies and stew or soup easy dinner with a healthy alternative.

                      I make one with chicken, sweet potatoes, parsnips, cabbage, onions, crimini, some cumin, cinnimon, nutmeg, but also savory components. 10 min in the am and put all together and turn on. Dinner later that night.

                      1. re: kchurchill5

                        The crockpot is also a great way to cook pork shoulder. I think I've posted this on here before. I layer a sliced onion in the bottom of the pot, place pork shoulder on top, and layer another sliced onion on top, pour in a can of ginger ale and forget it. Take meat out and shred and chop up some of the onions. Freeze some of the shredded pork with onion and juices and use later for quesadillas, tacos, etc. (like carnitas). Mix the rest with 1:1 crockpot juices and bbq sauces (I like Sweet Baby Ray's) for pulled pork sandwiches (cole slaw on top optional). We can usually get about 4-5 meals out of a pork shoulder.

                        1. re: MrsCheese

                          I have posted before but not on this. Yes Mrs C great way to make a pork shoulder. Not trad BBQ but pretty darn good. I remember your ginger ale cuz I never used it, I use beer. Probably same or close to result but nice touch. I love it in the crock. What could be easier. Same here 4-5 meals. BBQ sammies, quesadillas, salad, just a plain dinner and a stir fry.

                          FYI, I don't have Trader Joes either, we have Sams Club

                    2. I did this for my second baby in anticipation of him being the crying, colicky mess his big sister was.

                      I made chicken tetrazzini, i think it was a rachael ray recipe, it was nice comfort food!

                      also breaded and fried chicken cutlets, then cooled and froze

                      same thing with grilled chicken, one of the uses for it was mock fajitas...used the bag of frozen pepper strips, sauteed them quickly and served in tortillas with the fixins.

                      i also did a BIG shop at Trader Joes, stocked up on frozen veggies, the spinach spanikopita, pizzas, burritos.

                      my two FAVE super fast 'pantry meals, just in case....

                      pasta with ricotta...cook rigatoni till done, reserve a cup of pasta water and drain. add a few generous dollops of ricotta to pasta, stir till it melts and is creamy, thinning with the pasta water as needed. lots of freshly ground pepper and it's hot, creamy comfort!

                      easy pasta fagiole

                      saute one small onion, diced. add a can of tomato sauce (small can) and lots of red pepper. add in one can of drained cannellini beans, heat through. cook pasta (orecchiete or shells) and drain, combine with bean mixture. yummy!

                      1. I learned from someone here on Chowhound to repackage chicken when I get it home from the store and toss a marinade in with it before sealing and freezing. Take it out some evening and it will marinate as it thaws in the fridge. Next night, just bake the chicken in a hot oven and you have a delicious and freshly made chicken dish. Easy!

                        1. Wow - so many great ideas so far... do keep them coming... one thing - I'm in Canada and we don't have Trader Joes - so I don't know what CH'ers mean when they say "and there is always Trader Joe's" do they have great food I should know about? The closest one is in Ann Arbour, MI (and that's over 4 hrs away)

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Apple

                            I'm thinking healthy stuff with lots of veggies.

                            * Stews
                            * Burrito filling (veggie, chicken, or beef) - easy to thaw, heat, and use as filling with tortillas
                            * Cabbage rolls
                            * Quiche
                            * Baked pasta (with feta, veggies, mozzarella), ziti, cannelloni, etc.
                            * Ratatouille
                            * Split pea or lentil soup (fall will be right around the corner)
                            * Dal
                            * Channa masala (curried chickpeas)
                            * Minestrone soup
                            * Macaroni & cheese
                            * Shepherd's pie

                            Good luck, and congrats!!!

                            1. re: Apple

                              Whoa, TJ's is not "4 hours away" great! :-) It's just good, cheap, convenience food. Wonderful if you have one in your hometown (or the next one over, as I do), but def not worth a huge drive. Basically lots of frozen food that actually tastes good - besides all the other great stuff they have - good, cheap wine (actually not an oxymoron), good, cheap cheese (same), produce, organic food, etc.

                              I'll just add that while it's wonderful to be prepared with things in the freezer - and I commend you for thinking ahead - cooking is a great release for me, as I'm sure it is for lots of people who frequent Chowhound, esp. the home cooking board. When my daughter was a crying, colicky, totally annoying (honestly) newborn, I could not wait for my husband to get home so he could take the crying lump and I could do what I love, cook. Even if I was exhausted, it was cathartic and kind of zen to cook after dealing with the crying kid all day. Seriously, she was awful.

                              'Course I'm bitter because my kid was awful the entire time I was home on maternity leave, and just started to be cute once I had to go back to work and she had to go to daycare. She's now getting ready to turn 3 and is a total doll and the best kid ever, so all totally worth it. :-) And now she loves to cook with me! Get them involved as early as possible! She was just shelling peas with me tonight.

                              1. re: MrsCheese

                                You make me laugh... I am preparing for the worst with the "football" (name of impending him/her) - I hope that I will be able to cook - because I, too, find it cathartic and stress relieving... but what if I am an unshowered, tired mess? I am going to need a plan b. This is it. :) I love the suggestions, CH'ers - keep'em coming. I am quite sure others are also finding this useful!

                            2. I recently purchased several make and freeze cookbooks on Amazon - 2 that I love are "don't panic...dinner's in the freezer" "don't panic..more dinner's in the freezer"
                              I'm really bad about thinking too much about dinner with the baby and work, so these have been great to keep away my inclination to order expensive take out. Tonight we had Peanut Chicken (I just made broccoli and rice to go with it). Tomorrow is orange teriyaki chicken breast, use leftover rice from today and a veggie side.

                              1. Not a freezer suggestion, but maybe bake a ham when you get home. It's no real work (but have your partner do it - you won't want to lift it) and you'll have something around to make sandwiches from or throw together a quick pasta or casserole.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: silvergirl

                                  That is a great idea! We just made a ham recently and I always marvel at how many meals we get out of it. Ham and scalloped potatoes, ham steaks, ham salad, ham & beans... (I'm starting to sound like Forrest Gump).

                                  1. re: MrsCheese

                                    I make it a lot and love it. Mac and cheese, scalloped and ham, ham salad is often forgotten and so good. Pasta with a creamy fontina sauce, peas and ham. And a fritatta, omlette, lots of stuff

                                    1. re: kchurchill5

                                      Yuppers. Ham for a week, in all different incarnations. And leftovers can be frozen, too, if needed. A bone-on ham also yields a bone, which is perfect for making a no-fuss split pea soup in the crock pot, some of which can be frozen!!!

                                2. Congratulations on your impending arrival. About six weeks before my due date I started making a double batch of whatever I was making and freezing half of it for post-baby meals. I did a lot of soups (dal, minestrone, lentil, split pea), which were great with some really good bread. Also a few pans of things to bake that can be stacked on top of each other in the freezer (I did lasagne, Mexican polenta lasagne and baked ziti). Also pesto and tomato sauce.

                                  Oops. The little darling is awake now. More later.

                                  1. Speaking of frozen potatoes. I usually always have too many potatoes left, and with the hot weather, I haven't felt like cooking them. But anytime I have sweet potatoes, or potatoes that need to be used, I always mash them exactly like I would to serve them, and then I freeze them. They microwave beautifully! Or bake a potato and scoop out and restuff with butter, cheese, bacon (not sour cream or veggies) and then microwave add more butter salt, pepper, scallions sour cream or that stew that you froze! These are terrific for quick healty dinners. Used to make these all the time when I was working, and they were great for my lunch too.
                                    Pancakes, french toast, waffles, freeze them. Pretty much anything that you see in the freezer section, you can do it too.

                                    1. Hi Apple.I really don't mean to rain on your parade in the slightest, but you should be prepared for the eating habits of the new one if you plan on nursing. We have a happy healthy 6 month old, and I hope your new one is healthy as well upon arrival BUT -
                                      Tomatoes are a issue for a fair amount of nursing infants. Ours included. When mama eats tomatoes, junior spits up like crazy. On queue. Like clockwork. A similar food is dairy. Junior, right on queue, spits up like a madman if mama has any form of dairy.
                                      Just be prepared. I have a ton of lasagna in my freezer, a few qts of chili, spaghetti sauce as well. Mama can't have any of it. And she's a huge dairy fan - cheese especially. I'm not saying your little one will have the same reactions, but just a warning that tomato and dairy a fairly common trigger foods for nursing infants.

                                      I'd highly agree with and suggest grilled chicken. It freezes beautifully. If you have a charcoal grill, or a smoker, do some whole chickens while it's nice out. Quarter them up, and freeze them. You can eat them as is with some seasonal veggies on the side, baked taters, etc, OR strip the meat, and use it in salads, quesadillas, enchiladas and what not.

                                      1. I remember being so tired and my eyes hurting me when our kids were first born, I wish you a happy and healthy baby.

                                        All of your stuff sounds great. I would recommend that you use those new freezer bags with the suction pump to remove all of the air, so everything keeps with out getting freezer burned.

                                        The ZiplocĀ® Brand Vacuum Freezer System includes a specially designed vacuum bag and a simple, battery-free, air removal pump.