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Freezable, transportable, one pot dinners -suggestions needed (no tomato sauce, please)

About once a week, I travel to another city after work (by train) to have dinner with a friend. Because I arrive pretty late we don't want to cook from scratch. He loves to eat and I love to cook so I offered to bring dinner, and he provides the wine.
Because I go there straight form work, I bring something that I made earlier in the week and froze. Because of limited space in my bag, I don't want a lot of different containers with different dishes. So far I've brought minestrone-type soups (made into a meal with bread and salad), chili, and pasta sauces (we cook the pasta on the night and heat the sauce - ragu Bolognese or meatballs in tomato sauce is what I've made so far).
I'm getting tired of these tomato-based sauces and could use some ideas for either:

non tomato- pasta sauces that have both vegetables and protein,
soups and stews that are not too much like minestrone or lentil soups and that are a meal in itself (maybe with an easy starch added like rice, pasta, or couscous.

I'm very much a 'buy fresh stuff every day, cook it and eat it' kind of cook, I hardly ever cook for the freezer (and hate left overs)... so I need some inspiration!

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  1. I've made pot roast and frozen it for new parents to keep in the freezer and have once the steady stream of ready-made meals stops. Both couples RAVED about it for weeks afterward so I don't think anything was lost by freezing it. All they had to do was boil a pot of water for buttered egg noodles and serve.

    1. I cook meals for my parents, freeze them, and when I see them every 3 months or so, I do a "freezer dump."

      Things that have worked well for this arrangement:
      Massaman Curry, in fact any Indian stewed dish. I keep the "toppings" in separate bags so they can add them at the last minute. They cook the pre-portioned raw Basmati rice while the dinner heats.

      Lasagna: both meat and veggie, with or without tomato sauce. Parents toss a salad while it is baking.

      Quiche: so far we have found that the standard quiches fare better than more "fancy" ingredients. Again, parents toss a salad. [I don't know if they eat this at room temp or warmed.]

      Stews: They have enjoyed beef and lamb stew immensely. Since they prefer mashed potatoes, I freeze some in a separate container, but that is easy to make upon arrival.

      I think that delivering frozen food during the summer is harder. Summer is all about lighter, fresher ingredients so you might focus on composed salads with bread, lighter vegetables soups with crostini, etc.

      2 Replies
      1. re: smtucker

        the Silver Palate original recipe book --- Navarin of Lamb (the recipe calls for some ingred that are now easily avail fresh etc. I think the snow peas is one of them. Also - i don't flame the ingredients (as called for)

        but the jelly is essential.

        oh - and corn chowder? can doll it up w/ shrimp at serving time.

        1. re: smtucker

          Veggie lasagna would be great!
          Chicken and dumplins is a great one pot meal.
          Chicken and rice
          enchiladas

        2. * a chicken soup & salad
          * meatloaf & veg
          * chicken or pork or beef or shrimp stir fry
          * cobb salad
          * tacos
          * chili cheese baked potatoes
          * bbq chicken and corn
          * baked beans & smoked sausage
          * chicken salad on greens
          * tuna salad on greens
          * pasta salad & chicken

          1 Reply
          1. re: laliz

            You freeze chicken, tuna and cobb salads? What is the texture like after these items come out of the freezer?

          2. You could do a skillet lasagna by using the small "Mafaldi" noodles. They look like lasagna noodles. Break them up and use the same ingredients as for classic lasagna only no layering.

            Swiss Steak or Chicken Marsala freeze well. Cook a big batch for dinner one night and freeze the leftovers for your booty call. :-) Just Kidding.

            Almost any kind of a crockpot meal would freeze well.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Hank Hanover

              I've done a baked pasta with mafalda, lots of steamed, drained and chopped spinach or other greens, sauteed green onions, lemon zest and dill, then tossed with ricotta and feta cheeses (reserve some feta for sprinkling on top. I don't know about freezing it, but it could be taken onto the train cold, in a container inside a cooler with freezer packs, and heated gently then broiled to brown the top layer of cheeses.

              You can also do a one-pot stew of chickpeas, cauliflower, potatoes and other veggies. The spicing can be Spanish (saffron, chorizo, onions, garlic, smoked paprika, chopped fresh parsley) or Indian (simple curry powder or else your own blend of garam masala plus turmeric, onions, garlic and ginger).

            2. There are tomatoes in this, but it's still pretty different: brown and crumble some Mexican-style (the raw, soft one) chorizo. Toss in some diced onion and red bell pepper. When they're nearing soft, throw in some diced garlic. Stir in a jar of petite diced tomatoes and a dash of smoked paprika and let simmer for ten minutes or so. Add chickpeas (canned or cooked from dry, whichever you prefer) and finish simmering. Serve with crusty bread and a poached egg (since you said you boil pasta, I figured you could poach an egg.

              Or, last week, I wanted pasta but it was gorgeous out so I wanted to grill. So I charred a red pepper and then put it into a plastic bag to steam into roasted red pepper. I grilled cherry tomatoes and chicken thighs. Once everything was done, I chopped it all up and sauteed it a few minutes with some shallots, garlic, basil, oregano, crushed red pepper. Once the pasta was cooked, I used some reserved pasta water to finish it off. It was summery and great, and would keep well.

              And this is the season for a corn, basil and bacon sauce too!

              1. Sheppard pie or cottage pie
                Swedish meatballs or sweet and sour
                Chicken caccatore
                Tuna casserole
                Ham and scalloped potatoes
                BBQ beef or pork over rice or for sandwiches
                Ham and asparagus lasagne with bechamel

                Happy cooking

                1. I see you're in Amsterdam and the weather is in the 70's. Like others, I'd suggest lighter, summery things. How about chicken/pasta/pesto ? You can either roast or poach the chicken, tear it into large chunks, freeze it in either some of the poaching liquid or a quickly made sauce from the roasting fond. Pesto can be any herb and nut combination you like (consider pistachios instead of the pricey pine nuts). Pesto can be made ahead a few days, does NOT need to be frozen, and a small container goes a long way. At your friend's home, rewarm the roasted chicken, drain, and toss with freshly cooked pasta and the pesto, or drain the poached chicken and use at room temp for a cold pasta salad (pasta chilled in ice water).

                  I didn't see that anyone mentioned ratatouille. It might get a bit watery after thawing, but that's why they invented bread, and, of course, reheating will make it less so. I add a healthy amount of basil pesto (can you tell I'm a pesto fan!), which you could add at your destination because I don't think the cheese in pesto freezes well. Or add all the pesto ingredients except the cheese to the ratatouille and take grated cheese in a separate container.

                  1. Beef in Beer. Use any lean beef, cut into bite-size pieces---eye of the round works well. No need to brown it. Put 1/2 cup flour in dry crock pot, salt to taste, an 8-oz can of tomato sauce, 2 or 3 bottles or cans of decent beer depending on size of crock, the beef, some sliced onions, and sliced Portobello mushrooms (use Portobellos because they make a dark rich gravy). Cook this a really long time so that the meat is falling apart. It all gets very rich and dark and beefy. Serve with noodles (Spaetzle noodles if you can get them). This freezes just fine. (I know you said no tomato sauce but the tomato in this is greatly overwhelmed by the other flavors---you won't know it's there.) Be sure to add no other liquid, just beer to the max.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Querencia

                      here is my absolute favorite lentil soup, even lentil haters love it. I have frozen it and packed it in a backpack for backcountry camping. I often up the amount of carrots in it. I find it is even better reheated.

                      http://red.food.com/recipe/red-lentil...

                    2. Any recipe for braising meats and vegetables together would work. Braisings are better the next day than when first cooked anyway. I'd suggest getting a good braising cookbook such as Molly Stevens' "All About Braising" and working your way through it.

                      Meat pies or Chicken Pot Pies would also work.

                      1. Thanks all, some nice ideas here!
                        there's no oven at the place where he's staying, so lasagna and shepherds pie, casseroles etc are out.
                        I like the idea of mini quiches though that we could eat at room temp, maybe with soup.

                        Indian is something I almost never make, I'm going to check out some recipes.
                        It's a bit too warm for stews and braises here now (finally) so for this week I'm thinking either soup and quiche, or sme sort of vegetable medley with corn and red peppers and basil, to serve with pasta.
                        I have All about Braising and will definitely look at that when the weather gets cooler again, can't believe I did not think of that!

                        1. Must it be frozen? Do you have refrigerator space at your workplace? If you can store unfrozen, cooked food at work, that would open up options as some others have also mentioned - like roasted or poached poultry, or I'll add seafood and even some meats - that are meant to be eaten at room or cool temperature.

                          It wouldn't taste quite as good as freshly cooked, but then, frozen food is a compromise as well. If you store things separately - meat, sauces, vegetables, etc. - and assemble them just before you eat, it won't seem so much like "leftovers."

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: MikeG

                            there is a fridge at work, but the food is unrefigerated for about 2 1/2 hours when I travel to get my friend's house, and in the summer, I'm not really comfortable taking cooked food on a hot train!

                            1. re: Klary

                              I don't know if they're available there, but in the US, soft-sided, insulated bags aren't hard to find. Smaller ones are sold as lunch bags for children or construction workers, for example; larger ones for picnics or beach-going. (I did a little googling and it seems they're becoming quite popular, here, anyway even for office-worker types: http://www.sears.com/shc/s/t_10153_12... ) I wouldn't trust them to keep food cold all day by themselves, but I'm sure they'd be fine for a few hours. Another useful product, which may or may not be available there, is a reusable "ice pack" like this: http://www.academy.com/webapp/wcs/sto...,

                              1. re: MikeG

                                I second the well-insulated cooler bag. I pack DH's lunch into one with a big iceblock and most of the time when he gets home the ice block is still frozen solid, so that thing stays COLD. Your food would be quite safe in one for three hours, as long as you had it in the fridge at work so it started out cold.