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freezable family dinner ideas

So my brother and sister-in-law who live out of town just gave birth to their youngest and we're going to visit them in a few days. They don't cook; I cook a lot. As a favour to them (what with a newborn and a two-year-old), I'd like to make a week or two worth of freezable meals for them.

I need ideas or suggestions for things that take well to freezing and only require reheating and/or oven time. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking a whack-load of bolognaise, braised spare ribs (hell, anything braised), meat pies, etc.

Got a couple days to plan this thing- suggestions would be gratefully appreciated!

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  1. lasagne
    chili
    casseroles
    beef stew

    1. Soups like Butternut Squash or Roasted Cauliflower
      Taco Meat
      Stew
      Shepherd's Pie (w/ Lamb)

      1 Reply
      1. re: kk202

        agree with all of the above and would add pulled pork, cabbage rolls and chicken/turkey pot pies to the list.

      2. http://amandascookin.com/2011/05/brea...

        A friend of mine made these for her family and they lasted maybe 2 days.....

        1. Hmm. Do cooked potatoes, chick peas or other legumes & pulses (as you'd find in a stew, fox example) freeze well? For some reason I'm not sure...

          2 Replies
          1. re: biggreenmatt

            Chick peas and lentils freeze fine, in soup or just in their cooking liquid. Potatoes in soup or stew get very soggy, almost like wet cotton balls. I know some people who say mashed potatoes freeze okay, but I've never tried.

            1. re: nemo

              Think it depends on the type of potato? I imagine a baking potato would disintegrate into nothing, but a waxier, more solid version might do better.

          2. Also, what about classical sauces- obviously not stuff like a hollandaise, but what about a cheese sauce for (proper) Mac & cheese?

            1 Reply
            1. re: biggreenmatt

              I did mac and cheese (along with many of the suggestions in this thread,) for friends that had a baby and made it extra saucy so it wouldn't be dry when they took it out of the oven. They said it was great.

            2. Enchiladas
              Quiche (usually, but once mine thawed a bit watery--not sure why)

              1. So I've pulled out and leafed through my assorted cookery books (bearing in mind my background- I'm Canadian, Jewish and living in urban Toronto) and pulled out the following ideas (I think what I'll do is put the list to my bro & sis-in-law and tell them to pick 3 or 4):

                Bolognaise sauce
                Cheese sauce
                Lasagne
                Pulled chicken/pork (I'm obviously not THAT Jewish!)
                Quiche Lorraine and/or whatever
                Tourtière (Quebec meat pie)
                Beef/lamb stew
                Spanish rice
                Sweet & sour meatballs
                Gratin
                Korean braised spare ribs (love those suckers!)
                Char siu (more love!)
                Braised brisket/pot roast
                Stuffed peppers/cabbage rolls
                Shepherd's/Cottage pie
                One of the million different kinds of Moroccan tagines
                Coq au vin
                Boeuf Bourguinon
                Any kind of (mild) Thai curry (excluding the jungle curries that won't freeze so well)
                Moussaka
                Osso Bucco
                Matzo balls (for soup)
                Pot pies
                Pelmeni (but only if I get help)

                Please continue; thoughts are appreciated!

                1. Mini meatloaves. I've made some that have some shredded cheese mixed in with the meat, and they reheat very well in the microwave, straight from being frozen. Very moist, not dry at all. I think the mini size helps with this too since it doesn't take long (2 min maybe?) to heat through. You could also freeze them raw and just have them bake.

                  This is the recipe I used http://traceysculinaryadventures.blog... It calls for cubed cheese but I used shredded. I topped w/ bbq sauce instead of ketchup.

                  1. There have been a lot of discussions about this issue on Chowhound. Here's one link to give you some ideas.

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/596936

                    Roasted chicken, shredded off the bone, in one- or two-meal packs, with gravy. Good over a baked potato or toast for an open-faced sandwich. Or pack buttered noodles separately (so they don't get soggy in the gravy) and rubber band to the chicken packs.

                    And besides meals, maybe loaded muffins (bacon, cheese, raisins or other dried fruit, ham bits, mashed bananas, drained crushed pineapple, nutritional yeast, whatever, mix-and-match) individually wrapped for parent up at a wee hour to grab and warm in the microwave or toddler for a quick breakfast or snack.

                    1. Having just gone through this myself with 2 year old and newborn ... I craved vegetables and would recommend adding extra veggies to whatever you make. Feeding my toddler was the most stressful part - if you provided healthy food that their 2 year old would eat, sized appropriately, I think they would appreciate that a lot. I also wished that someone would have made me a batch or two of healthy muffins with fiber, nuts and protein. For the nursing mom, I recommend the baked oatmeal on the muffin tin mania site, but i would add salt and maybe a bit of brown sugar too.

                      1. There are some great suggestions here! I agree about the vegetables, as people tend to send over starchy, meat-driven dishes.

                        Another thing that worked well when cooking for my sister after she had a baby was if possible, portion things into 1 quart containers instead of larger containers. They're easier to store and defrost as needed. When people brought over large quantities, it would inevitably go to waste because there was too much of it at once and they got tired of eating it after a few days.

                        1. I agree with the comments about portion control- I'm gunning for ease-of-use here, and that means lots of smaller items (1 L, 500 ml containers) that can be pulled out of the freezer on an as-needed basis.

                          I also hear what you're saying about veg- my only issue is that veg, even in the winter months, are 99% of the time better (and not difficult at all) to make on an as-needed basis, with no need to freeze. Sure I could blanch-and-freeze, but how much time/effort is being saved over cooking them from raw?

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: biggreenmatt

                            I just never had time to prep and cook veggies because I was always with the baby. In rare moments when I was not with the baby, I tried to nap or spend time with my toddler. Also, I could start something on the stove but then would be called away at a moments notice and be unable to finish it. So I think items like a lasagna or soup that includes veggies are great because they provide veggie servings with little work by the new parent. Another thing you could do is cook a lot of veggies for the week - roasted veg, sautéed greens etc. leave them in the fridge instead of freezing them and they can reheat them as needed all week long.

                            1. re: Westminstress

                              Re: veggies, when our dd was a wee babe, a friend steamed kale, whizzed it in the food processor, and froze it in ice cube trays before popping them out and freezing in a ziplock baggie. Easy to then toss into soups, stews, sauces, etc for an easy boost of veg.

                              Soups are great and while I do not love ziplock bags (despite the endorsement above) I do find that they are the best way to freeze soup. Can be stored flat, defrosts fairly quickly on the countertop, or in a big pot of warm water that also might be warming baby's bottle.....

                            2. re: biggreenmatt

                              Smaller labelled containers are great, that way mom and dad can eat separately or heat up only hat they want.

                              Toddler appropriate foods would be a lifesaver for the new parents. Mini muffins, quiches, lasagnas, Mac n cheese. If it'll hold it's shape when cooked, bake some in mini muffin tins

                              Baked apples are a great treat that can sit in the fridge for a while.

                            3. I've prepared some crab cakes over the weekend. Made the balls, rolled them in panko, went into the freezer. No need to defrost, straight into the pan, saute on each side for 5-6 mins. Or alternatively you could spritz the surface with oil and bake I guess.

                              Also you can marinate meat/seafood in advance and they just need to throw it into the oven.
                              - Miso salmon
                              - Tequilla Lime chicken
                              ...

                              and make whatever veggies for freezing as well.

                              1. We had twins....I could have eaten the sofa cushions had they been covered with gravy and wrapped in Tupperware. :-).

                                My fave: Au gratin potatoes with big squares of ham mixed in.

                                1. Minestrone and jambalaya. They're both easy one pot meals that can easily be defrosted and reheated. You can also pump up the vegetables in each so the new parents don't have to worry about making them separately.

                                  1. Deed's done! I think I made enough food to last a solid two weeks, including:

                                    8 L of quality chicken stock;
                                    2 major lasagnas and 4 minor lasagnas;
                                    4 L of chicken cacciatore;
                                    2 L of meat sauce;
                                    2 mushroom-onion quiches; and
                                    10 lbs of braised brisket with a light espagnole.

                                    I'll say this about that: if the apocalypse comes to pass on the 22nd as predicted, so long as their over still works, the bro-and-sis-in-law should be able to eat their way through it!

                                    Thanks for your input!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: biggreenmatt

                                      Bravo! What an accomplishment. I'd like to be your sister.

                                    2. Rice. If you use the converted rice aka yellow rice the grains stay separated when frozen and do not mash together. I cook the biggest possible rice cooker full then freeze individual portions in plastic sandwich bags. They can be grabbed and zapped quickly to go with anything.

                                      Also, don't forget sweets. I put chocolate chip cookie dough in a brownie pan but omit the chocolate chips, which I put on top. Run the pan in the oven for a minute to soften the chocolate then use a table knife to marbleize it through the dough, then bake. These chocolate chip brownies are quicker to make than the cookies and they freeze perfectly (as do any brownies, of course).