Freezer meals that can be cooked frozen
Please share your experience of what meals I can put together and freeze AND cook from the frozen state. Due to all of our family's schedules I never know what will be going on for dinner the next day or how many of us there will be. I have frozen many meats in the past (good sale, didn't have a chance to cook before goes bad, etc) but we never end up using them because we didnt thaw before wanting to use them. I want to make freezer meals ahead of time but would like to cook them without defrosting first. Crock pot meals are ok but I hubby and I both need to go to work in mornings before knowing our schedules for that day. I can come home at lunch, program oven, or have kids start oven when home from school.
I freeze my leftover chicken enchiladas (the ones that didn't get sauced because the pan was already full). I cook those (heat in the oven, actually, as the chicken is already cooked) straight from the freezer with fresh enchilada sauce. I'm awfully picky about leftovers and freezer meals, but these I like just as well as the first day I make them.
I can't think of any pre-cooked food item that can't be cooked straight from its frozen state. It's usually better to reheat them at a low temperature (e.g 200 degrees) and warm them through slowly but when the center reaches serving temperature the food should be just fine to serve.
Uncooked foods are considerably more difficult to deal with, especially meat products, so I wouldn't even try that.
I make giant stuffed shells and freeze them. I cook the shells before stuffing them with a ricotta based filling, freeze them on a tray and then throw them in a freezer bag. To heat, place frozen shells in a casserole in a single layer filling the base of the dish, cover with a marinara or meat sauce, home made or store bought, sprinkle on some parm, cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 1 hour. I make these in individual serving casseroles so I only use 2 to 3 shells per serving. This is a good base recipe to build on.
I have had several delicious beef roasts that I've cooked directly from the frozen state. They all had a nice dark brown seared crust. Of course, this goes against tradition and many will knock it before they try it.
If you're willing to give it a shot, you can program your oven or have kids start it and then throw in some potatoes or veggies to roast when you get home and are ready for dinner.
Here's a study from Kansas State University that found that color, "shear force", juiciness, flavor, connective tissue amount, and overall tenderness did not differ (P>0.05) between steaks cooked from frozen and thawed states. However, thawed steaks cooked faster.
My mother always used to make a vegetarian moussaka that always heated up nicely. I tend to make extra chili as well, I find it reheats beautifully from frozen.