Cooking From Every Angle

Freezing Your Way to More Home Cooked Meals

By • January 9, 2012 • 73 Comments

 

lentil sausage

- Merrill

We've been saying we were going to do it for a couple of years now, and we finally did it. My husband and I bought a chest freezer. What on earth (you might ask) would possess a young couple living in a cramped New York apartment and expecting their first child to make such an outlandish purchase? After all, it's enough of a challenge to figure out where to store all of the baby gear without adding another large appliance to the mix.

Well, I've got news. The chest freezers of old, those massive, hulking objects reminiscent of Victorian-era steamer trunks, have been joined by a younger, sleeker breed. It was this stainless steel beauty that caught our eye last week and convinced us to finally take the plunge. It's nestled into a back corner of our dining room, where we plan to throw a tablecloth over it and add a vase of flowers or a bowl of fruit to complete the disguise.

Over the past ten days or so, I've been cooking up meals to fill our new freezer. It seems I'm not alone in this endeavor, so I thought I'd share a list of some of the recipes I've already made or am planning to make to tide us over when all my husband and I have time to focus on is changing diapers and stealing a few precious moments of sleep wherever we can. Whether you're expecting or just looking to stock your own freezer with great meals that reheat beautifully, this list should be helpful. And please feel free to make more suggestions -- I've still got a week!

Chicken Soupy Stew

Chicken Soupy

Pasta and Bean Soup

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry

butternut soup

Oliver Clark's Meatloaf

Slow-Cooked Pork Tacos (doubles as chili and taco filling!)

pork tacos

Weeknight Ragu (using pork breakfast sausage)

...which I then turned into lasagna.

Mashed Potatoes

mashed potatoes

...which I then turned into shepherd's pie, loosely following the Joy of Cooking recipe.

Lentil and Sausage Soup for a Cold Winter's Night (I used turkey sausage)

Lentil and Sausage Soup for a Cold Winter's Night

Pastitsio (using lamb and chicken sausage from Fleischer's, which just opened in my neighborhood)

pastitsio

Joan Nathan's Brisket with Sweet and Sour Sauce from the New York Times


Jump to Comments (73)

Comments (73)

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over 2 years ago fudgefactor

My go-to freezer container is the quart sized ZipLock bag, especially for liquid, sauced, or soft food such as mashed potatoes. I turn out the bag edges to keep the zipper clean when filling the bag, fill the bag to the desired level, close the zipper except for one corner, then squeeze out the air and seal the bag. I freeze them flat on cookie sheets and then stack them once frozen.
They are great for soups and holds 2-3 servings nicely. If I'm in a hurry I stick a bag in the microwave for a coupe of minutes and then empty it into a saucepan to heat.
For sauces and pestos, I put in much smaller amounts into the bags, resulting in thin bags which defrost in minutes when laid on counter. Also, I roast pounds of tomatoes with onions, garlic, sometimes peppers, and put them in bags. They can be used as is or pureed for a sauce.
I roast potatoes, halve them, stack and freeze the skins for stuffing, mash and freeze the pulp unadulterated and you can use it for potato bread as is, or add milk, butter, whatever to use as a vegetable or savory pie topping. Same with sweet potato pulp, but here I discard the skins.
Too much stuff in the CSA box?: I blanch it and freeze it.
Vegetable scraps (including carrot tops) and peelings go into an ongoing gallon bag for stock. Bones into another bag.
Bread goes into gallon, or larger, bags. It's best defrosted at room temperature, though we frequently use the microwave on low power. When the kids were little I used to pre-slice loaf bread and just take off how ever many slices I needed. (I have always made all our bread.)
Unfrosted cakes and other baked goods freeze well - freeze individually wrapped pieces for family use and put them in gallon bags.
And those disposable/re-usable plastic containers are great for 2 servings of lasagna, casseroles, etc.
Flavored/compound butters freeze fabulously and are a great way of using excessing herbs. Just wrap them in plastic wrap and pop them into a bag.
Personally, I won't microwave anything in plastic beyond just getting it unfrozen enough to transfer to another container. Ideally, I get out what I need early enough for it to defrost in the refrigerator.
Label everything! Even when you are sure you will remember what it was!
I have two large freezers so keep a spreadsheet of most everything in them, except for bread. Now that it's on my iPad on the kitchen counter it's easy to keep up.
The chest freezer was a challenge to keep organized; The trays at the top are great for stacked ziplocks but I didn't want to use boxes below as they are heavy to move so I finally found some really inexpensive mesh bads on the Internet - like the sacks that bulk oranges come in. I tie long color-coded fluorescent tape labels to the pull ties on the bags - blue=beef, green= lamb, orange=fruit, etc., using permanent ink pens to write on the label "lamb chops", "berries", etc. It works well for me. (We live in a mountain town where food shopping is challenging, and entertain frequently, so buy a lot of stuff in bulk.)
Hope this helps. Good luck, Merrill. Enjoy motherhood and treasure every moment.

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about 1 year ago Alicia Van De Kop

I want to be you when I grow up...

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over 2 years ago parksgirl

It was almost exactly one year ago that I made Lentil and Sausage Soup for a Cold Winter's Night and put it in my freezer in preparation for the arrival of our son. I did my cooking three weeks before my due date and my guy decided to show up 2.5 weeks early so it was just in the nick of time too. I didn't have my bag for the hospital packed before I went into labor but I had my meals in the freezer.

BTW it ended up being my favorite thing that I froze AND it became my standard meal to take to new parents. Excellent choice! :)

I did my cooking three weeks prior to my due date and then my little guy decided to come 2.5 weeks early.

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over 2 years ago buddingtaste

Congratulations, Merrill! One bit of advice is to add more one-handed meals to the freezer stock - I found stuff like cut-in-half calzones, quiche (crustless quiche/frittata can be cut into small portions and frozen that way), burritos, and lasagne that you like to eat at room-temperature are all great options - you can load them with protein and veggies and eat them easily while nursing or otherwise juggling (not literally) your newborn. Also, soups that you can sip out of a mug are great - basically, anything that you can grab and eat sans utensils while still standing in front of the open fridge are life savers for the days when it's suddenly 3pm and you realize all you've eaten all day is a handful of almonds. Best of luck!

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over 2 years ago MsJoanie

In addition to lasagne, I freeze stuffed shells with sauce and mozzarella -- I make mine with turkey, artichokes and ricotta.
Muffins and quick breads like zucchini and banana bread (add chocolate chips for a nice treat) and par-baked scones and great. I also make freezer biscuits to bake off only a few at a time -- it's less up front prep. I also ALWAYS have butter and mini-baguettes in the freezer, it's the perfect way to fill out a meal of soup or to have with a big salad with some leftover meat on top (steak, chicken, salami chunks) and of course, just plain great to nosh with some cheese.
I also freeze tons of spaghetti sauce (plain and ragu) in meal-sized portions, along with recipe ready portions of stock (1 cup, 3 cups, etc.).
I cook a turkey every once in a while and then shred the meat and freeze for specific recipes, like cream of turkey soup with wild rice (3 cups meat, 3 cups stock x2).
Enchiladas also freeze really well.
As you move through the seasons, you'll also be able to freeze wonderful fresh purees for the baby -- you can make applesauce and squash purees right now.
And of course, sliced fruits like peaches and strawberries, and any whole berries freeze very well and the baby will love them, especially when teething begins :-)

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over 2 years ago WendieW

There's a product called Press & Seal Freezer that is great for storing cutlets and the like. Really protects against freezer burn. If I'm making turkey cutlets I bread a few extra and put them in the Press & Seal and then in plastic storage bags. Also good for collecting the chicken tenders from boneless breasts. I save them up until I have enough for a stir fry.

And there is a new app, Freezer+, that helps you keep track of your stored food. No more "now when did I put this in here?"

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over 2 years ago Eve Fox

Congrats on the baby to be! My husband and I did the same thing before our son was born a few years back and I can't say enough good things about chest freezers. A few more ideas for you that have worked well for us: quiches (broccoli, cheddar, ham, bacon, etc.) - they reheat nicely, if you don't can your own tomato sauce, it's great to make a bunch of good sauce (including meat which is tricky to can but fine to freeze) to freeze and just defrost one at a time to turn plain old pasta into something special (we freeze that in yogurt containers), lassagna is great - we've started freezing in family-sized portions instead of having to defrost a whole pan at once, good veggie or meat-laden chili, or just plain old black bean soup - all so good. Oh and congrats also on having Fleishers nearby - such a wonderful store! We live in upstate NY and go to the original one in Kingston often.

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over 2 years ago susan g

So many excellent suggestions, but a comment from my experience -- you will be a mother, a new mother, but you will still be Merrill. My hunch is that you will find cooking from scratch very rewarding during the transition period when everything with Baby is new. I kept cooking and baking my own bread through the newborn days, sometimes holding a crying baby as I stirred. (Maybe that was unwise.) One of the delights of breastfeeding was that I had a free hand to hold a book (or lunch). That's how I read the Time-Life Foods of the World books as they came out. You and your husband still have to eat, but keep it simple and enjoyable. Enjoy this special time!

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over 2 years ago susan g

So many excellent suggestions, but a comment from my experience -- you will be a mother, a new mother, but you will still be Merrill. My hunch is that you will find cooking from scratch very rewarding during the transition period when everything with Baby is new. I kept cooking and baking my own bread through the newborn days, sometimes holding a crying baby as I stirred. (Maybe that was unwise.) One of the delights of breastfeeding was that I had a free hand to hold a book (or lunch). That's how I read the Time-Life Foods of the World books as they came out. You and your husband still have to eat, but keep it simple and enjoyable. Enjoy this special time!

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over 2 years ago SandyLaFleur

Things to put in the freezer : Things YOU like to eat. Things that you can turn into something good to eat with little effort. Things that don't require you go to the market for something essential to make the dish. A lot of these tips you can use in winter even when you are not having a baby, but so there is something at home in case you are snow bound for a few days. Use the freezer for things that do well by freezing.

Frozen Bread. Bake it yourself, or buy your favorite whole grain from your favorite shop, and cut it in half. Wrap it as airtight as possible, and thaw without opening, or in the oven. Whole foods sells very good bread that is almost all baked, and I have it at home for when I run out. They have French, Ciabatta...rolls. Very easy, and I usually pick it up when I see it's on sale. Bread for sandwiches, already sliced can go in there or in the refrigerator. You can always have bread pudding if it starts to look stale.

Cooked pasta meals in the sauce already. When we are talking about frozen meals, we are talking, "What freezes well?" You can pre cook pasta and freeze the extras just as they are but the frost will get them after a while. The sauce makes them into a lump that freezes better.
When you heat this up, add fresh sauce from the pantry. Microwave it, then finish it under your broiler, convection oven...dry heat to give it just baked taste.

You can save leftovers, especially beef and chili type things, and serve them in a tortilla with fresh veggies chopped on top. Yup, dad has to bring those things home, or you and baby have to go on a field trip to the market. Get cheese if you like. Sad but true, melted cheese makes the worst meal just a little more palatable.

The soup, the lady mentioned above. Beef stew into beef soup. You need beef broth in the pantry, and celery, onions, garlic, carrots, frozen mixed veggies. You can float leftover pasta in it or rice, or, if you eat this kind of thing, a scoop of mashed potatoes smiling up at you. Short ribs of beef, roast beef dinner, steak, even meatballs, make a great treat in your soup, as long as you have something that tastes like real beef stock. Bring out the flavors, if it is flavorless, with, sea salt, soy sauce, marsala wine, canned tomatoes/diced fresh tomato, shallots, garlic. Use the salt carefully until it tastes right. Use pepper before you serve it.

In your freezer, you should have all your favorite treats from Trader Joes. The petite peas, the french style green beans, the leeks, and the treats you like, like a pizza or burrito choice.
If you eat these things get hubby to make a salad for you. And of course, a few sweets from Trader Joes go well after a blah dinner, if it turns out badly. Perhaps you have another store that has frozen things?

Reheating frozen foods can be a challenge if they are in a block of ice. If you planned ahead you might thaw things in the freezer, but I would suggest, freezing some of your things in the shape of your casserole dish. You will have to put the plastic wrap in the casserole dish, and freeze it , and then take it out and put it in something else, like a zip lock bag. Or else freeze things loosely and then put them together. That is how I freeze chicken breasts, so I can take out how many I need.

Fish. Some fish is ok to eat after it has been frozen. We, on the east coast think this is nuts, and even have a hard time with frozen salmon. Cook thawed frozen fish only for a minimum time. Buy frozen fish that you actually like, and know what to do with. Some things fishy that are good frozen, are clam chowder, shrimp, cooked lobster, and maybe you might like to do something with tuna. Frozen seared tuna is not bad on a salad. Frozen salmon can make a nice salmon cake, or just buy the salmon cake already frozen. We like that salmon cake on a bun with lettuce and mayo.

Freeze raw meat when you see it on sale, buy two. Pot roast, chicken breast, whole chickens, a boneless turkey roast. These things thaw out and cook nicely, and taste just like they were fresh from the store. Use your big cast iron pot, and salt your meat, brown it a tiny bit and then roast it, add what ever you have, or just an onion or garlic. Put the cover on and forget it for some hours. Very easy. Frozen ground turkey can be turned into fabulous turkey meatloaves, but you have to remember to thaw the meat. I will post my turkey meatloaf recipe on my page here.

4 x 4 chunks of lasagne, freeze exceptionally well, freeze them cut apart on a cookie sheet, then wrap them individually. You want easy servings. Raviolis, even the refrigerator style ones from the super market go nice in the freezer. Gnocchi. Stuffed shells, manicotti.

Sausages, including chicken sausage freeze well raw. They microwave and stir up in a pan or broil up in minutes (with vegetables if you have them.) You can make a bolognese sauce by thawing the meat you put away in your freezer, and stirring in sauce....and that same ground meat...turkey, beef, chicken, can make a taco. You cannot always expect The Works with your taco, just settle for cheese, tomato, lettuce or one of these...all from some frozen meat.

Think about nutrition, and getting your fresh vegetables and fruits, and put some effort into that. Those are the things, salad and fruits that you cannot freeze and you need to get at the store.

Any easy meal for moms everywhere: The chicken roasted at the store and carried home by dad.
No freezer needed, throw the mess away. This take out meal does not cost what restaurant meals cost. Whole Foods where I live, even has chicken without salt or flavors.

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over 2 years ago Mamak

Although I don't live in New York, my freezer, canner and food saver are must have's for me.

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over 2 years ago Mamak

Although I don't live in New York, my freezer, canner and food saver are must have's for me.

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over 2 years ago fayehess

That is a brilliant idea. I ate bowl after bowl of cereal after I had my baby. best of luck with the baby, Faye

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over 2 years ago avimom

I actually found myself making a whole loaf of bread into PB&J sandwiches and freezing them individually...as insurance for those days when I wouldn't have eaten at all if there wasn't a pre-made sandwich (super colicky baby + sleep deprivation + first-time mom = frozen sandwich for lunch). As well as those times, as lastnightsdinner says, when nursing leaves you famished. You'll also find the chest freezer is great for storing breastmilk! You won't be sorry you bought it. Congrats!

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over 2 years ago orlenda

do you just set it out on the counter to thaw then?

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over 2 years ago orlenda

do you just set it out on the counter to thaw then?

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over 2 years ago CampingCookWY

I buy bulk tomatoes and break them down for sauces, then I have vats of homemade (meatless) tomato sauce around for pasta, sloppy joes, lasagna, you name it.

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over 2 years ago CampingCookWY

I buy bulk tomatoes and break them down for sauces, then I have vats of homemade (meatless) tomato sauce around for pasta, sloppy joes, lasagna, you name it.

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over 2 years ago Christine Hardy Leaf

One of the best things I had done for my cooking self was getting a small chest freezer. It is in the coat closet, had a plug moved in there.
All the suggestions have been great. Just remember to label. I have zip locked bags with white stuff, is it mashed potato and parsnips or sake lees? Use the baskets that come with it. I find my self freezer diving all the times. Lots of mystery things.
Congratulations and have a healthy birth. This is going to be one of the most blissful times for you and your little family. Enjoy.

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over 2 years ago Robin O'D

Might want add some cookie dough to the stash of that great looking freezer. Don't underestimate the power of a peanut butter cookie in the middle of the night with a big glass of milk.

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over 2 years ago Droplet

If you happen to like beets, I was going to suggest some Cream of Beet soup as well. Beets are at their best now and will give plenty of iron that most moms and babies really need. They also help the liver detox effectively, which is believed to be a factor in reducing the amount of colic baby has.

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over 2 years ago fayehess

thank you for this! I have been trying to think of iron sources and never thought of beets.

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over 2 years ago lastnightsdinner

Waverly and betsykp bring up a good point for nursing moms to pay attention to. My little guy seems to have inherited my iron stomach, so nothing I eat seems to bother him, but it can't hurt to err on the side of caution, especially at first :) And I don't know about anyone else, but I had no idea how hungry nursing would make me - like, ravenously so. And thirsty! I guzzled glasses of water as quickly as my husband could get them to me when we were starting out, and I still need to have snacks on hand throughout the day. You've heard people say "sleep when the baby sleeps"? For me it's more like "eat when the baby eats"!

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over 2 years ago Waverly

Well, this a very informative thread re. freezing food. I will add my 2 cents - bread. Freeze bread - any kind. It won't mold and it tastes just fine (not as good as fresh, of course). My only other comment would be that nursing mothers should be careful at first what they eat - you might not be thinking about that now, but read up on foods that might upset a newborn. Their systems are not well-developed and while with some you can eat whatever you like, others do not do as well.
Last of all, Merrill, parenthood is an amazing and life transforming experience. When you hold your baby for the first time and look into its eyes, you will know what life is all about.

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over 2 years ago EmilyC

What a nice post, one that resonates with me as an owner of a chest freezer who's expecting baby #2 in March. All I've done to prepare is to freeze one lasagna, so I'm going to use your list as inspiration. I'm also planning to freeze pizza dough (I'm partial to Peter Reinhart's Napoletana dough), pesto, and bread (both yeast and quick). On some mornings, when it's virtually impossible to get out of bed, a slice of homemade banana bread that you've thawed overnight--along with coffee or hot tea--is a godsend! Many congrats to you and your husband on the upcoming arrival of your little one...wishing you all the best!

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over 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Congratulations to you too, EmilyC! How very exciting!

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over 2 years ago cookinginvictoria

I will chime in too -- warmest congrats, EmilyC! Another Food52 baby . . . such happy news!

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over 2 years ago betsykp

A cautionary note on freezing ahead food for new breast feeding mothers--be sure to avoid spicy foods or brassicas (cabbage, broccoli etc.). Learned from personal experience when I froze some left over lamb paddies, and ate a few days after returning home with my son. While only mildy spicy, our son got a bad case of gas and upset stomach, with hours or crying, panicked new parents and our first exposure to Mylicon drops.

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over 2 years ago Sodium Girl

I have been wanting a chest freezer forever! Just waiting for space. But your adventurous buy is making me think it is time for one! So excited for your new bundle of joy (meaning the bambino on the way, not just the freezer)

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over 2 years ago JWB

Perfect timing, as I am getting ready for my second baby in three weeks! Frozen food is by far the best baby gift and the best use of your nesting time. You might be surprised at how starving you are as a new mom. I would focus on the meatiest, highest calorie options like beef stews and Pastitsio. Shalini's cake/brownie suggestion is right on. Also throw in a bunch of muffins, granola, frozen fruit for smoothies and baked bread. After a long night of feedings and not sleeping, you will need a big breakfast. Good luck, Merrill!

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over 2 years ago JWB

Perfect timing, as I am getting ready for my second baby in three weeks! Frozen food is by far the best baby gift and the best use of your nesting time. You might be surprised at how starving you are as a new mom. I would focus on the meatiest, highest calorie options like beef stews and Pastitsio. Shalini's cake/brownie suggestion is right on. Also throw in a bunch of muffins, granola, frozen fruit for smoothies and baked bread. After a long night of feedings and not sleeping, you will need a big breakfast. Good luck, Merrill!

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over 2 years ago creamtea

Megedarra/mujadarra (no matter how you spell it)!

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over 2 years ago creamtea

Not freezable, but simple whether as sides or undemanding mains with maybe a salad (for when you don't want to think too much):

sweet potatoes (garnet or ruby) with dollop of plain yogurt (or sour cream--cholesterol's good for babies and fine for preg/nursing mommies) and scallion

giant baking potatoes with various fillings-yogurt with salsa, or grated parmesan, seasoned chickpeas (lemon juice, oo, pepper, maybe some spinach thrown in).

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over 2 years ago Shalini

Merrill, good luck this week. Your freezer list is wonderful. The only thing I might add is chocolate cake or brownies. You might find yourself craving lots of desserts! You could always try freezing some "healthy" granola bars, we tried the ones from GOOP and added milk chocolate chips in with the goji berries to make them a little bit like a cookie. Make sure you have ice cream too!

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over 2 years ago lorigoldsby

a frozen chunk of brownie...mmm

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over 2 years ago ashleypiersonchasesdinner

Merrill, Congratulations on your first baby!! How exciting for you and your husband! Love your article too.

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over 2 years ago Phoenix Helix

Freeze some adult finger foods, too, for those times when you can't put that baby down, but you need to eat! Appetizers aren't just for parties.

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over 2 years ago lastnightsdinner

Oh yes - things I could easily eat one-handed were a godsend... I ate a lot of "stuff on toast". Ricotta and jam on toast. Avocado and sardines on toast. Roasted tomatoes and goat cheese on toast. Really saved me in those first few weeks :)

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over 2 years ago Angela @ the well-worn apron

I've not been very happy with frozen potatoes. What's your secret?

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over 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I'm so glad you started this question and thread, Merrill. I have 5 grandchildren and soon, perhaps, to have 2 more. Five of them visit over the holidays and will be back mid-February. These are fabulous ideas for when they come to visit. Best wishes to you, your husband and your baby on his/her way. This is such a special time for you :-)

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over 2 years ago Fairmount_market

Happy last minute cooking Merrill! I always feel more content with some beans and tomato sauce in the freezer. One thing I learned after the birth of my first daughter was to relax and let other people cook for me. Delivering meals for new parents is a wonderful way for friends and family to express their love and support. And accepting meals, even mysterious casseroles, is good practice for accepting all the things you can't control about parenting.

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over 2 years ago wulfferine

I freeze leftover tomato paste in tablespoonish size dollops, and also chipotles in adobo in ice cube trays. I also make chicken broth from the roast chicken carcas and freeze in ice cube trays, then transfer to ziploc bags. That's great for pan sauces

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over 2 years ago CookingMomTR

Merrill - make sure you use your freezer to make your own baby food when the time comes. I only ever bought a single jar of a type of baby food...the first time I fed it to my kids. If they didn't react to it, I made my own. I'd steam veggies, in as little water as possible, then puree with formula (or breast milk). Then I'd put it in ice cube trays, date and freeze. I would do this while cooking for my family, since I was cooking anyway, so it wasn't an extra task. If you doubt the idea of making baby food...actually taste the stuff in the jars. Unless you are buying organic, it doesn't taste like the food it is supposed to be...(bananas are the worst....they taste lemony, so they don't brown). My kids benefitted immensely...they've never been on antibiotics and are 10 and 13.

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over 2 years ago orlenda

are your kids homeschooled? i'm just curious since you sound like teh sort that might homeschool and i know i picked up most of my germs at school! public schools are terrrible places-like giant petri dishes where nothing good gets accomplished

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over 2 years ago Alexandra Stafford

My husband and I just bought a free-standing freezer, too! We are very excited about it. He's a hunter and we could feed a small village with the deer he's shot this winter. It's so awesome to have this incredibly tasty, local, wild meat on hand. Looking forward to stocking up on some non-deer meals as well. Thanks for this post!

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over 2 years ago Helen's All Night Diner

I highly recommend you get a FoodSaver. I'm on my second, since I'm such a hard core user! It's great for just about everything. I've been making dinners for my in laws, either in single portions or 3-4 person portions. The small foil pans are great for mini pies, crisps, etc. I found a discount shop near me that sells the foil pans with the paper lids, that makes labeling easy. Once frozen, I process in the FoodSaver. The trick is to LABEL EVERYTHING. I bought a stand up unit rather than a chest unit, because I found that things get marooned at the bottom.. If you have some bins in there, that will hep keep things organized.

Congratulations on the baby! I'm sure that the whole Food52 community is sending you wishes for a safe, happy Labor Day!

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over 2 years ago Sam1148

The food saver is really the way to go. But the budget minded might like the ziplock system.
I use both, as the long term seal on the ziplock doesn't really hold well---but it's perfect for cheeses in the 'fridge as you can unzip it and use a bit, and repump it with the hand pump. IMHO it doesn't really replace the food saver, but for cheeses and 'fridge storage it's has an edge. Plus it's only 5 bucks. And like you say, the trick to using a food saver is pre-freeze wet things in the bag..and THEN seal. I put stews and such in a loaf pan to make 'stew ingots'..frozen..and then remove them put them in the vac pack with the FS for long term storage, for easy boil/bag deployment. For babies this would be great to make purees..and freeze in muffin tins and then remove single servings and vac pack.

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over 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I precook quinoa, farro, black beans and canelini's and freeze them in small individual containers and defrost when I need them. Easy to add to a soup, salad, pasta, or veggies. I also always keep a stash of breadcrumbs that I've sauteed with lemon, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and freeze them. Great for an easy pasta along with some roasted cherry tomatoes.

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over 2 years ago healthierkitchen

also brown rice! Best of luck Merrill!!!

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over 2 years ago Sam1148

One Foodsaver trick I use is freezing steaks. Sear a couple underdone to how you like them--just to get a nice browning--crust on the outside at very high heat.
Rest them, freeze them then vac pack in a foodsaver or ziplock vac seal bag with the juices.
You need to freeze first before vacuuming sealing them to keep the juices inside.
Defrost in warm water and then finish with almost boiling water to get the correct doneness you like, just a 5 mins on simmering water for med-rare. You still get the nice crust and a cooked steak in a boil-bag.
Think of it as a reserve sous-vide method.

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over 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

What a fabulous idea!

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over 2 years ago susan g

It is helpful to have an array of sauces and pestos and such on hand. Then a simple food prep can become anything you desire (if you have a variety on hand -- think of it as costume changes).

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over 2 years ago Bevi

I froze Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce with great success, and aargeri's lamb stew also freezes very nicely: http://www.food52.com/recipes...

You efforts are so admirable! Do rest up and all the best to you and your husband. We should have a food52 collection of goodies for you, with sign ups for weekly drop offs by your staff!

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over 2 years ago Panfusine

All the best with the new baby Merrill!, that freezer .. I can't believe they make such sleek models! I'd resolved to stick to freshly made food for 2012, but these dishes are an Awesome reason to forgo the resolution!

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over 2 years ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

AJ - Your comment is ery helpful. I've perused fresh from the freezer book and I think its time to buy it - now! I have an aversion to freezing but no more - food resolution for 2012. Thanks.

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over 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I freeze most things in wide mouth mason jars, leaving plenty of headspace to prevent expansion/breakage of the glass. The metal lids are removed and all soups, stews, saag, etc. are defrosted in the microwave at about 1/3 power, checking periodically (every three or four minutes) and stirring to facilitate the process. Meats (including Beef Bourguignon) are defrosted first out on the counter for about an hour - my freezer is really cold, so they need a little jump start, plus my kitchen is usually rather cool -- and then in the fridge. It takes about a day for those to defrost. BTW, between October and April, I keep multiple, separately frozen batches of Beef Bourguignon in the freezer (well marked as to date and used and replaced regularly) for last minute dinner parties. They are a life saver, not to mention that BB tastes great even when frozen and defrosted correctly. I often add a bit of additional red wine to the sauce when reducing, after defrosting. I'll confess here and now that where given really short notice (as in, day of party notice), I've been known partially to defrost my Beef Bourguignon very slowly on power 2 of my microwave, stirring regularly, with no adverse effect. ;o)

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over 2 years ago Megan Herbert

I couldn't be more jealous of the freezer! If we had room in our place, you can bet we would have one. I dream of a freezer. . ..

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over 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Well, it's been a long time since I could have stocked my freezer in anticipation of a birth (I say "could have" because both boys arrived well in advance of their due dates). Over the years, first as a trial lawyer and now as I run my own practice, while squeezing as much life into every day as I can, I’ve developed a regular practice of putting my freezer to work. I bought a great book called "Fresh from the Freezer" by Michael Roberts when I was a young lawyer who wanted to eat at home as often as possible. I highly recommend it. Here are some current favorite recipes and strategies:

** Merrill’s Saag Paneer http://www.food52.com/recipes...: Make double or triple batches of the basic mixture, and freeze what you don’t eat. (Make extra rice, too, and freeze that separately.) Freeze the saag before adding the cream and buttermilk; the cheese freezes just fine, so I just pop it into the freezer container with the saag.

Also, keep in mind that the spinach mixture makes a perfectly delicious soup, if thinned with stock + a touch of buttermilk or, my personal favorite, ricotta whey. In fact, if you squeeze homemade ricotta dry (wrap in cheese cloth after draining for a few hours over a colander, shape into a rectangle, then press it for another hour or so under a cutting boarded weighted with a Dutch oven set inside a cast iron pan, or a couple of large cans of tomatoes), you’ve got paneer!!

** Soups: Double or triple any of these, and freeze what you don’t plan to eat, but see the notes below about holding off on adding certain of the vegetables to the portion you freeze:

Red lentil cauliflower soup (double or triple the base recipe and freeze before adding the cooked carrots and cauliflower) http://www.food52.com/recipes...;


Any bean soup with or without ham; set aside and add torn kale (not cooked) to the portion you plan to freeze. I don’t add carrots to the cooked soup that I plan to freeze, however, as their texture is somewhat mushy when thawed and reheated. I typically just peel and cut a few carrots and microwave them with a bit of water while the thawed soup is simmering.

Roasted pumpkin and red lentil soup (I use butternut or other winter squash for this almost exclusively these days, given the availability of excellent squash.) http://www.food52.com/recipes...

Speaking of squash, it takes less than a minute to cut a butternut squash in half to put in the oven to roast with whatever else you’re roasting, and about five minutes, at most, to remove the cooked squash after it’s cooled. Figure three cups of edible roasted squash per medium butternut. It freezes really well, for future use as a side dish, to put into soup, etc.

** Meatloaf and Meatballs: Make double batches of any meatloaf and before cooking, freeze – I have glass loaf pans with plastic lids that are perfect for this – what you don’t plan to eat that night. The mixture, once thawed, can also typically be turned into meatballs.

Speaking of meatballs, most meatballs freeze really well. If you are not simmering them in sauce (i.e., if you bake them, or want more flexibility down the road), do make sure that you freeze them in enough broth to cover. Use the broth to deglaze the pan, then add it. All frozen cooked meat, in any form, holds up much better in the freezer, if frozen in a sauce or broth, or even just water if you don’t have stock.

Here’s a great meatball recipe, with broth, which freezes well. http://www.food52.com/recipes...

(I always undercook the meatballs before freezing, knowing that they’ll cook further when re-heated.)

Another of our favorite meatball recipes on FOOD52, http://www.food52.com/recipes... , can easily be doubled. I typically make it with half ground turkey and half ground pork. I’ve also made the meatballs with beef, and a combination of beef and pork.

We love the tikka masala sauce recipe, and use it for shrimp and chunks of firm fish that have been lightly seared before adding to this sauce. I’ve been known to triple the sauce recipe and double the meatballs, set aside 1/3 of the sauce separately to freeze on its own, and then freeze 1/3 of sauce + ½ of the meatballs together for a future meal.

Beef Bourguignon also freezes really well. Don’t freeze the carrots, onions and mushrooms, though, but do make sure the meat is thoroughly covered with sauce. Generally, I strain but don’t reduce the sauce before freezing. If I need more liquid to cover the meat in the freezer container, I add a bit of concentrated stock. When re-heating, I defrost then remove the meat with a slotted spoon, then add the carrots to the reserved sauce and cook until just tender; then I add the mushrooms and onion and continue to cook a bit more; then the meat goes in, just to heat.

Whenever I roast a chicken, and put one lower joint, a drumstick and as many scrappy bits as I can fit, into a storage box, cover with a bit of reserved sauce and enough good stock to thoroughly cover the meat, then freeze. That provides the basis for another great meal (Pad Thai, pho, other soups, stroganoff over toast, and pot pies are favorite uses this time of year).

There are many, many other recipes and strategies that I could share. I’ve got too much going on the office to add any more right now. ;o)

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over 2 years ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

How do you know once you freeze any of the above-mentioned dishes how to reheat? Do certain dishes require thawing? How do you know what temperature the oven should be and the cooking time. Are the basic guidelines for how to cook after you freeze? And whats the such as buying resturant style foil pans or the like or storing in ziploc bags?

Merrill

over 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Good questions -- my guess is you'd get some really great answers if you posted these on Hotline! I froze most of these dishes in 2-3 portion containers (plastic), and I plan to defrost most of them in the fridge for a day or so before reheating and serving. The lasagna, shepherd's pie and pastitsio I made in small foil pans, so they can go right into the oven (I didn't pre-bake them before freezing). AntoniaJames also has some great general tips on freezing above.

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over 2 years ago Emily

Merrill, I can't wait til your baby arrives!!!!! So exciting!!!! xoxoxoxo

Merrill

over 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks, Emily. We're pretty excited too! xo

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over 2 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

WOW it's almost baby time! How exciting! I have frozen NancyJo's eggplant parmesan more than once in lunch size portions - it works great. Also split pea soup freezes really well. And cornbread ... which you could make into a sort of main dish dressing with some veggies and sausages and the like. You guys could go really crazy and get a FoodSaver - we use ours ALL of the time - then you could do things like roasted chicken portions without risking freezer burn. GOOD LUCK and don't forget that we will be demanding photos pretty much immediately :-)

Merrill

over 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Great ideas, all! And I promise to post photos...

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over 2 years ago mcallahan36

I put any leftovers of just about anything in the freezer -- leftover soup, beans, pasta, pasta sauce, chicken and dumplings -- anything and everything. After a couple of weeks I pull out a combination of those leftovers, add some chicken broth and turn it into soup. Last night my 'leftover soup' included leftover Hoppin John, leftover pasta parmigian, leftovver cannellini beans, leftover pasta sauce -- fabulous.

Merrill

over 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Love this idea!

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over 2 years ago Matilda Luk

Good luck, Merrill! Freezer meals are especially useful for parents who work outside the home--there's nothing like coming home at 6:30 p.m. to a meal I only have to reheat to serve the hungry masses that are my family.

Merrill

over 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks, Matilda!

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over 2 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I did more cooking and baking after both my son and daughter were born, while I was home on maternity leave. I still remember it most fondly. That said, the first thing we bought before the first one was born was a medium-sized chest freezer. Which continues to serve me nicely today. I love all your easy-to-reheat ideas, Merrill, and I imagine you're having a wonderful time nesting.

Merrill

over 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks, boulangere! Hopefully I'll have the same energy to cook post-baby as you did.

Dscn2212

over 2 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I was working in finance, not food, in those days, so I was a little more focused, as was AntoniaJames, on good meals at home at night once I went back to work. I love her meatball/meatloaf suggestions especially. It sounds like you've organized your portions beautifully. All you need now is the baby! Warm congratulations all around. We're all nearing the breath-holding stage with anticipation for you.

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over 2 years ago lastnightsdinner

Now that's what I call nesting! I didn't do a ton of freezer meals in preparation for Julian's arrival, but we were *really* grateful for the stuff that I did prep ahead of time and stash away, particularly after my parents left and we were on our own. Even having portioned-out bags of basic tomato sauce was a huge help to us. And I'm not a big one for giving unsolicited advice, but do make time to rest up in these last days of your pregnancy ;)

Merrill

over 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thanks, I'll try!