My friends recently found out that they are pregnant with their first child! Yay! They hate to cook whereas I LOVE it, so ideally I’d like to bring them some post-homecoming meals.
I don’t freeze meals myself and I primarily eat vegetarian food so this will be a bit of a challenge as they are die hard carnivores! So far I can think of lasagne and bolognese, however I don’t know how much minced meat they can handle.
Does anyone have suggestions for dishes that are freezer-friendly, can be made all at once, and won’t break the bank? — Aisling
Comments on What are the best homemade freezer-friendly meals for new families?
Just a note: it’s easy to get carried away, make something lovely, and leave it for the new parents. But it would be super helpful to them if you label it! And leave some cooking/reheating instructions! Microwave stuff is easier, but especially for a casserole or anything that goes in the oven it’s so much easier to just follow some directions than try to figure out what temperature the dish is supposed to go in at or for how long.
Casseroles always freeze well (try Oktoberfest sausage [peel off the skin and fry it], celery, noodles of some kind, and mushroom soup, topped with bread cubes tossed in oil). You can freeze the whole thing and have them pop it in the oven, or put it in some tupperware for microwave reheating.
Any kind of pasta will also work well, and there’s so much you can do with pasta. Tomato-based, oil-based, and even cream-based will freeze and microwave fine.
SNACKS!!! I never had time to sit down and eat proper meals so i snacked heaps. If you have some great snack recipes i’d go with them (marth stewart maple oat cookies are wonderful and full of breastfeeding-helper goodness! I swear i ate hundreds of those things).
I love everyone’s mention of burritos. I’m 7 1/2 mos. pregnant and plan on making about 3 batches of these burritos in preparation for baby’s arrival: http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1031019 It’s my mom’s recipe 🙂 I have no idea if “chili beans” exist outside of the US, so if you’re not American just use whatever beans you like.
Also, dried mixes and snacks are great. When my sister had her baby last September, I knew her cache of frozen meals would be gone by Christmas. So, I sent her a big gift basket with high-protein “Nutmeal” mix (Quick oats, ground nuts, brown sugar, and powdered milk), several kinds of soup mix, dried fruit, and beef jerky. She and her hubby loved it.
And this isn’t so much a recipe as a tip: If you’re new to freezing and worried about saving the texture of the food, consider freezing your goodies with dry ice:
Wrap your casserole up into portions. Get a big hunk of dry ice, break it into small chunks, and dump them into a big cooler — wear heavy-duty gloves for this! Bury the wrapped food in the ice, close the lid on the cooler (loosely, so the CO2 gas can escape), and wait a couple of hours. It might seem like a pain in the butt, but if you want to prepare several meals for your friend this will be way more efficient than sticking them into a kitchen freezer. The dry ice will freeze the meals SUPER FAST, which means a much better texture and “just baked” flavor when they’re reheated.
It’s probably all been covered on here, but in addition to freezing stuff as flat as possible so you can stack it, I’d recommend a box freezer because fridge/ freezer combos are a joke. Maybe that’s a good registry item, LOL. Get a seal- a meal, too. Definitely worth the money. Also label everything.
I had pretty good luck freezing enchiladas. I hated to use a throwaway aluminum pan but it’s better than having one of your casserole dishes in there for who knows how long. You can also stack casseroles up once each one is frozen. Lasagna would work, too. Someone asked about a quiche- I’ve frozen them fully cooked and they were fine.
Here is something else I’ve learned from being a professional chef- you can make a huge batch of different soups/ stews all at once, starting with one big batch of mirepoix (celery, onion, carrots… maybe garlic). Saute all the veg up together then divide into 3 pots- one could be the crock pot. Then add different veggies/ potatoes, seasonings. Make a stew, a cream soup, and a bean soup for example. It would require large pans though.
Here is my recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup:
1 package skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs (raw, whole)
3 ears fresh corn- remove from cobs (can use less/ use frozen)
1 yellow onion- dice
5 cloves garlic- mince
3 carrots- peel & dice
3 stalks celery- dice
1 bell pepper- dice
3 fresh tomatoes- dice (or use canned, maybe RoTel brand)
4 C chicken stock (next time I’d add more, or add 1 C water, because the soup was more like a chowder it was so thick)
1-2 (15 oz) cans tomato sauce
1 chipotle in adobo – mince (add more for a spicier soup)
1 TB salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 t paprika
pepper to taste
juice of 1 lime
I used a large Dutch Oven.
Saute onion & garlic a few minutes. Add carrots, celery, & bell pepper. Saute until starting to soften. Add spices and chipotle and sauté for a minute. Deglaze pan with stock. Add tomato sauce and fresh tomatoes. Add chicken breasts (whole and raw). Bring to a boil, then simmer until chicken is cooked through- 10 – 15 minutes. Remove and shred the chicken. Season as needed and return to pot. Add corn and cook 5 minutes to heat through- longer if you don’t like crunchy corn. Finish with the lime juice, and adjust seasoning as needed.
Serve with tortilla chips, cheese, sour cream, avocado… whatever floats your boat. 🙂
I know you said they are carnivores, but fresh fruit (as well as some of the snacks others have suggested) is my go to. According to many approaches to medicine, new mamas should eat high protein/fiber and low processed grains. Granted, that may not be your friend’s take, but I’ve found that folks often appreciate fresh foods.
I’m going to agree with the soups suggestion- I find both potato based soups (baked potato soup, potato chowder, chorizo potato) all freeze well, as does corn chowder.
Chicken broth based soups also usually freeze well- though maybe avoid noodles (which get mushy if reheated too long) and stick to rice or orzo if doing a classic chicken soup.
Mac’n’Cheese also freezes well- just follow a recipe for baked mac’n’cheese right up to the part where you actually bake it and then freeze it instead, all your friends have to do it pop it in the oven to reheat. You could totally make them individually sized too.
On the topic of dishes: I agree that you shouldn’t gift the food in dishes you expect back. However, I’m wary of the disposable foil casserole pans. Mostly, I’ve had them get poked and leak or rip or just bend in an awkward way and frankly, new parent with baby on hip and trying to carefully remove a pan from the oven? I can remember it happening too many times to too many people, and having sturdy dishes is a life saver!
Solution: Go to the thrift store, buy casserole dishes there–especially the smaller ones! You can get some for the same price or not much more then the disposable ones. They may even come with lids which will make storing any leftovers and reheating them much easier. Tell the parents when you gift them that these are thrifted dishes, you don’t need them back, and they can do whatever they like with them; keep them, gift them to other people, freecycle them, donate them, break them into shards for drainage in planters, or even ask you to come back and get them so they don’t have to deal with them.
I know there are like a billion suggested and that I made two, but last night I remembered one more! Twice Baked Potatoes!
They’re a great freezer meal. You bake the potatoes, cut them in half, scoop out their insides, add some butter, sour cream, whatever cheese or garlic or other toppings you like, mix it up, put the mixture back in the potato halves then wrap them up individually in foil and put them in a tupperwear or bag and bring them over. When the parents want one they just take it out, bake it for a bit (or remove from foil and microwave for a bit) and devour. They’re great and since each one is just 1/2 a potato the parents can have two halves for a meal or one for a snack!
I really like the meat portions of meals frozen, Pulled pork, jerk chicken, taco meat etc just add a bread and some lettuce and dinners ready, then you get to feel the accomplishment of “making something” and it takes ten minutes start to finish
I love making freezer-to-crockpot meals, and they would work great for a new-baby household, too. I set aside a day about once every month or two and do all the prep for 4-5 meals a week for two months or so and freeze them, then just put one in the fridge the day before, and in the morning into the crockpot (once you get in the ‘rhythm’, in the morning you swap one from freezer to fridge, and the one in the fridge into the crock). I have a bunch of recipes at http://dragonkitchen.blogspot.com/ and you can find more ideas all over the web.
Granted, it doesn’t have the personal touch, but you can pick up a sack of pre cooked meatballs at the supermarket (find them at the periphery of the meat department, not the frozen food aisle). I can say for a fact that they freeze like a dream (we’re having some for dinner tonight). They have instructions right on the package for microwaving as little as a single portion, and they can be eaten on their own or as component of a bigger meal, like heroes or pasta.
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