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Favorite homemade "TV Dinners" (ie, freeze and bake meals)?

I'm going to visit a friend who just had a baby and want to bring something she can stash in her freezer for a quick and easy homemade dinner at a later date. I was thinking maybe pot pie (I'm eyeing Oui Chef's recipe) or perhaps a baked pasta dish. Nothing spicy and nothing too wintery too eat in July/Aug. (it's N. Cal, so it's not exactly hot, but still...)

asked by Ms. T over 2 years ago
21 answers 3770 views
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added over 2 years ago

I love taking pot pies to new moms. Usually, I'll make 2 types, chicken and one vegetarian. Other items on the new mom gift basket include different flavored pestos that are frozen. All they have to do is boil water and add pasta. Mac and cheese is always a favorite. Slow simmered bolognese sauce, which can be paired with either pasta or polenta. Frozen homemade waffles for breakfast or dinner. Aretha Franklins waffles of insane greatness, a featured genius recipe, freezes beautifully. Makes a wonderful snack as well. If the family has a sweet tooth, frozen brownies, or unbaked cookie dough, pre-portioned, so all they have to do is stick in oven.

Food54_profile_pic
added over 2 years ago

Great suggestions. Re: pot pie--I was thinking I would freeze it with raw pastry dough on top. I should skip the egg wash on top before freezing, right? What instructions do you usually give for baking? (i.e., let it thaw at all? or just put the frozen pot pie right into pre-heated oven?)

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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added over 2 years ago

If her family eats meat, Shepherd's Pie is great without the trickiness of a pastry crust - just mashed potatoes on top. (I shouldn't say "just mashed potatoes" - what more does someone need?) Easy to reheat and keep very well. Sounds like a lot of recipes for Shepherd's Pie have been entered in the Pub Food contest this week. Hope the new Mom & Dad get some sleep!

Food54_profile_pic
added over 2 years ago

Totally agree--what more does someone need besides mashed potatoes??? Saving this idea for another time--thanks!

Baci1
HalfPint

HalfPint is a trusted home cook.

added over 2 years ago

I've always loved the meatloaf/mashed potato combo. Make the meatloaf in little mini-loaf pans for individual servings.

Melissa_mitchell
added over 2 years ago

I bet your friend will really appreciate the dinners! I always bring a baked pasta, in disposable pans (I know, I know, it's not very environmental, etc., but it's easiest for the new mom). I usually put a protein in (often ground turkey), and either do a tomato/pesto sauce or one or the other. Ricotta, mozzerella, etc. I tend to try to tailor it to my friend's liking. I wrap it in foil and write the directions on top so she or her partner doesn't have to think too much about it. I usually "portion" it out, generally in a 8x8 or 9x9 dish so that it can be two meals or dinner and a lunch or something. I did butternut squash soup for one of my friends, too, and it froze well and she loved it. I also always make chocolate chip cookies and freeze the dough in a big log, so that my friend can cut a little off and bake a few cookies if she has someone coming to see the baby, or wants something sweet. One of my friends actually made a few while she was up with a fussy baby in the middle of the night. Whatever gets you through! One of my other friends did turkey tetrazini, which was a big hit. Although not really very summer-y.

Food52
added over 2 years ago

When I was in the Navy, my submarine was in the ship yard for about 8 months at one point. This meant that our galley was closed down and we were not preparing food on board our boat. The crew was stuffed into a barracks for living quarters which only had microwaves in the "Kitchen". To make things worse, the only dining available in a 10 mile radius was nasty fast food.

I convinced my Captain to let me use our recreational funds to purchase a food saver and food from the local BJ's. I used a galley on a near by barge to make microwavable meals (Which included meat starch and veg) for my crew so they wouldn't suffer for 8 months. It turned out to be a very succesful venture. With no overhead costs on my end, I was able to only charged what we payed for the products (rounded up to the nearest $0.25 increment). The crew got healthy meal options and we raised a few hundred bucks for our recreational fund.

Anyway, enough of a back story :) Some interesting things I did that were a big hit:

1) Steak: I would get the grill really hot and mark the steaks for 20 seconds on each side. the inside was still cold and raw. Vaccume sealed in a food saver bag with some smashed potatoes and blanched vegetables, if I microwaved it on high for 3 minutes, it came out a perfect medium rare. 4-5 minutes gave you medium to medium well, etc... And the veg and potatoes were nicely heated too.

2) Risotto: All in one meal. I would make it the way it was supposed to be. Long and slow, I sat in front of a big pot stirring and stirring and adding stock bit by bit. Add whatever you like to add in your risotto. Cooled then portioned the meal into food saver bags.

3) Lasagna: This one is a given

4) Pasta Alfredo: I cheated and made the sauce with cream and a light roux. This ensured that it would not break in the microwave. I just used tons of garlic and fresh grated parmesan.

3) BBQ chicken: This one ends up a little messy out of the bag, so plan accordingly. I just gave the chicken legs a good douse of BBQ seasoning rub and grilled it (basting with sauce as it cooked). I vaccum sealed it with roasted baby new potatoes and corn on the cob. I would par boil the corn cobs and cut them into thirds so they fit into the bag better.

Hope these help!

Food52
added over 2 years ago

FYI: before vaccume sealing anything, make sure it is completely cooled in the refridgerator so there isn't a drastic temperature change after the seal.

Also, cut a steam vent in one of the corners before heating so the bag doesn't explode.

Food54_profile_pic
added over 2 years ago

Wow, sounds like your crew was VERY lucky to have you on board!

P1291120
added over 2 years ago

All I can say is "WOW!". Benny -- that was totally inspired and inspiring. Thank you for sharing the story and the ideas. Awesome.

Sit2
Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

added over 2 years ago

That steak suggestion is something I use all the time with the vac sealer. Especially for camping when for 'first night' I don't want to fire up stuff and get settled in. It works very well--still has the chargrill taste and super easy to deploy. Boil in bag or nuke (on low).

Img_0472
added over 2 years ago

When I was pregnant I made myself stews and packaged them in ziplock bags, it made the thaw time so short. I also pre scooped frozen cookie dough balls, froze them, and then put them in ziplocks back in the freezer. Loaves were great too, I had quite the stock of banana bread and lemon poppy seed loaves. My baby's 4 months old and I've finally gone through them all. I loved getting lasagne, and casseroles.. I received like 3 lasagnes, Shepards pie and chicken pot pies would've been great to receive.

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added over 2 years ago

I love making a big vat of baked enchiladas lasagna style in a couple 9x13s and cutting them up. We do a vegetarian one with a sweet orange squash, mushrooms and greens and a meat one- either shredded pork or chicken. Both are layered and smothered in green chili sauce and cheese, baked to bubbly perfection and then portioned. The thaw well and are great with a side salad and some crema.

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added over 2 years ago

What great suggestions! When I've been unable to cook I've been thrilled with frozen lasagna, chicken pot pies & tetrazzini & soups. Leftovers have been an extra boon. Pulling something out & adding a premixed & washed salad with a thawed bun is marvelous.

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added over 2 years ago

lemon/picatta chicken, chicken & turkey sausage

Food54_profile_pic
added over 2 years ago

Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions (and back-stories--I love it all!). In the past, some of my favorites for this purpose have been enchiladas & chili (although that was before a new mom told me that spicy food when you're breastfeeding can keep the baby up!), homemade mac & cheese with broccoli or cauliflower, butternut squash soup, roasted tomato soup, and homemade pizza. In this particular case, lasagna is off the table, because this friend makes the best lasagna I've ever had with homemade past, and I can't compete! I think I will go with the pot pie, since I'm planning to make a portion for me too, and that's the one I most want to eat right now...Thanks all!

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added over 2 years ago

I know this is a bit controversial, but just in case it makes a difference, when I was nursing a newborn (about 3 years ago), I was fortunate enough to have regular access to lactation nurses, who all told me without exception that newborns actually often enjoy breast milk flavored by the spicy food eaten by the mom, and to go ahead and eat spicy food if I liked it. Gassy foods are another matter, but I was told that the "bland food theory" is an out-of-date idea. I know not everyone agrees, however...

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added over 2 years ago

I have a good friend who said recently after his wife passed away that he was thankful for all the meals people brought, but he couldn't stand to eat anymore pasta or comfort food. Don't get me wrong, I love comfort food, but it's nice to pull something health out for a quick dinner.

I made a big batch of my favorite and most versatile recipes.
Marinate shallots, onions and herbs in a liberal amount of white wine. Take large pieces of foil, portion a good amount of spinach on each one. Put a boneless chicken breast or a nice piece of salmon. Spoon a good amount of the onions and wine mixture over each piece. Some extras that I like are sun dried tomatoes, olives, capers, hit peppers...feta or goat cheese are nice too. Lastly, if you want to add some blanched asparagus or broccoli on top. Wrap each foil into a tight packet. Store a few in large freezer bags.
They take 25 minutes on 400 for the chickens and 20 minutes on 400 for the salmon to be medium.
Super healthy and easy to make large batches.

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added over 2 years ago

great suggestions!

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added over 2 years ago

@Ms. T: I usually leave off the egg wash before freezing. I usually tell them to bake straight out of the freezer, and if they want, they can brush on a coating of heavy cream.

Oh...another favorite....Cornish pasty. I just gave the last of my "pizza" pasties to a friend who just had surgery. Just filled them with slow simmered bolognese, mozeralla, and green olives. It's easy to eat, esp. for a mother who may be nursing and may have only one hand available. Another filling that always please, is to fill it with some mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese and sauteed onions.

Sit2
Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

added over 2 years ago

I've never tried for a full dinner. But had a friend that did that for his elderly Mom....a he had a vacuum sealer, and these great sectional microwave plates. Which I'm sure you could find online.

And it would be things like meatloaf, baked ham, turkey and dressing in one section. Then standard stuff like green beans, peas and carrots--along with mashed potatoes or rice. All in their sections and vac-packed, seasoned and sealed.
Those heated up nicely for single portion full meals.
The entire plate would be frozen--and then vacpacked. We visited and he had a couple of plates of baked ham, mashed potatoes, and green beans done that way..and it actually pretty good for late night freezer food.

The thing with big single dish frozen stuff is you still have to make veggies and then for a single person..you're faced with taking the entire casserole and tossing it after a few meals.