Help with freezer to microwave meals please!
I going up to visit my younger brother who just started grad school, and I offered to bring some food to stock up his freezer. The problem is, his tiny studio doesn't have a stove, only a fridge and microwave. Most recipes that adapt well for the freezer (lasagna, casseroles) require an oven to bake them. So other than a few soup recipes (chili and tortilla soup) I'm stumped on what else to make. Does anyone have any recommendations? Thanks!
I think you can totally microwave lasagna and casseroles. They should be fully cooked and portioned into single serving containers, and they'll be great. Some additional ideas: mac and cheese, curries (Indian or Thai), enchiladas. Also, cooked brown rice, farro, and lentils all freeze well - so if you were to make a curry, for example, you could also make rice, and then he could heat each one and combine - which feels more like a real meal.
You know, it's nice to have simple meal components around too, especially if he wants to feel like he put something together himself. I have plenty of similar in my freezer too:
-Pan fried crumbled ground beef or ground turkey, drained (tacos, chili, nachos)
-Roast chicken, picked off bones (soups, chicken salad)
-Cooked chickpeas, chilled then frozen in the pot jelly (add to soups, make hummus, in cold salad)
-Greens, slightly pan-wilted w/olive oil, s-n-p (chard, spinach, beet greens, bok choy)
-Asparagus, roasted w/lemon, olive oil, s-n-p (out of season, I know! still good)
-Chimichurri sauce (over chicken, beef, tofu)
Look at the size of the frozen entrees in the grocery store, and get that size containers. They all heat in the microwave in about six minutes. The ones that don't heat well are the ones with mashed potatoes. All the rice and noodle based dishes do well. I am cooking for one, and frequently cook in batches and freeze individual servings. It will help for him to have some microwave cookware also.
You're a good sister!!
Agree about the microwaveable cookware, especially the little ceramic frying pans that are composed in such a way that the bottom gets very hot. You preheat empty for a couple of minutes, then put a burger patty or halved bacon slices or the like into it, cover, return to full microwave power, remove and flip 30 seconds later. You get actual surface searing. The bottom of the pan does not continue to amass heat once the food is in, so you take advantage of the browning only for the first 90 seconds of cooking. After that, the pan behaves like any other microwaveable dish.
If you have a vacuum sealer you can freeze an individual portion in a microwaveable dish, then remove from dish, seal, and store in the freezer. He can then either reheat in the sealer bag, or remove the frozen food and pop it into the dish to nuke. When using a vacuum sealer you do not need to freeze food first but it makes storing more compact, since the edges of the food are even.
If you have amorphous frozen blobs in vacuum bags, you're asking for a painful avalanche bruising your toes when you open the freezer!
And one more suggestion for micro cookware: this looks rather lame but works beautifully -- removable ceramic bowl inside plastic bowl, with vented lid. Easy to cook in without splatters, pulls out of micro easily, can eat in front of TV or computer without burns. We use these daily for oatmeal, soups, leftovers, defrosting.
(Edited to add: Greyg needs to quit looking at my blob-filled freezer and bruised toes. Seriously, freezing flat or in blocks is the way to go. Wish I'd realized that 20 or 50 years ago. :)
Lasagna and casseroles **absolutely** can be microwaved, especially if they've been baked ahead of time.
Crunchy bits won't be crunchy, but for someone living with only a micro and a fridge, this isn't going to be a huge issue.
I have frozen boeuf bourgignonne (with noodles), coq au vin, spaghetti, lasagna, chili, beef stew, chicken soup, --- the list is not endless, but pretty expansive.
Wow, that's brutal.
Suggestions (parcel into single-serving sizes):
-Sausage, onions, peppers in tomato sauce
-Curries of all sorts (with rice parceled up separately)
-Roast pork, beef, or chicken in BBQ or other sauce (he can micro-bake a potato)
-Baked ziti (can be jumbled up for reheating, versus lasagne)
-Black beans and rice (he can provide fresh onion, garlic, cilantro)
-Butternut squash soup
I know you asked for food ideas, but I have to ask, does he cook for himself? If so, a $25 electric skillet and a $70 toaster/convection oven might be worthwhile investments, and can be put away after use.
Yes, he can cook for himself. I should have clarified further. Housing regulations prevent them from having any type of electric grill or stove top. I will have to find out about the toaster. My jaw dropped when I heard this, but I've been asking around and a couple of other people I've talked to have said they have seen/experienced this with on campus housing. Thanks for the ideas!