Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Feeding the freezer

I’ve been feeding the freezer a lot this past month. See, the Engineer and I bought a chest freezer, and I’ve filled it up with meals and snacks for after the baby’s born. This is obviously a long and energy-intensive project, but by tackling it a little each day, I made good progress. I found it hard to come up with recipes that fit the season (July-August in South Texas, so we don’t want to be eating lasagna all the time) and my dietary restrictions (a lactose-free flexitarian who plans to breastfeed). So I also want to come up with a list of meals that are easy enough to prepare that it would be feasible to tackle them in the weeks following the new arrival, along with ready-made products that we enjoy and should keep in stock. This post will be more about freezing food, though I do plan to have another one with the quick and easy recipes. Hopefully this can help give you ideas if you are in the same situation! (We don’t have a slow-cooker, but obviously if you do, that widens your options.)

First, here’s a post titled Freezer Meals on the Cheap on A Turtle’s Life for Me. It doesn’t have any recipes, though it does link to an inexpensive cookbook on Amazon; I like it more for the methodology and ideas. There are also some great tips in this Oregon Live article. And here’s a post on What’s Cooking, Chicago? with tons of recipes, as well as this one on Simple Bites with both tips and recipes and that one specifically for warm weather cooking.

I really recommend the blog Once A Month Mom, where the blogger basically likes to cook tons of food once a month and freeze it. Start with 25 fast freezer meals and go from there – there are lots of free recipes on the site. There’s also a Pinterest board, if you’re more visual.

Here’s a roundup of links from The Kitchn: What foods should I bring to a new mom?, Tips for making a meal for a new mom (the comments are great), Freeze and thaw: 15 make-ahead meals and tips, Dairy-free, freezer-friendly meals for a new mom, Help me fill my freezer with nourishing goodies before my baby comes!, What meals should I freeze before our baby arrives?, as well as low-carb freezer meals, easy non-spicy vegetarian meals without onions and suggestions for eating healthy while recovering from surgery.

Keep in mind that some foods don’t freeze well, while others are surprisingly freezer-friendly (including whole raw tomatoes, apparently).

There are also websites to coordinate meals if several groups of friends and family plan to visit and bring victuals with them for the new parents. Don’t forget about services offering ready-to-cook dinner kits (which save a trip to the grocery store and prep time) or, even better, food delivery services. In Montreal, I was a big fan of Mama Luv for my gifts to new moms, but last I checked they didn’t accommodate most food allergies, and I haven’t heard of anything similar in my area now.

My tips: when you package things for the freezer, be sure to write not only the contents and date, but also reheating instructions (and potentially problematic ingredients) so that you’re not scrambling around looking for the original recipe. I also keep an inventory of what’s in the chest freezer, because I know that I won’t be able to remember it all clearly in the post-baby brain fog.

I’ll admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed, because I don’t know how much food (and what kind) will be enough. I’m not sure if I’ll have any dietary restrictions like avoiding brassica (will that vegan lasagna made with kale be alright?), allium (how much onion is too much?) or legumes (should I bother freezing chili and burritos? will I be able to make bean salads?). Will I have enough oatmeal-laden foods? I’ll just try to do my best and learn from the experience. Here’s the list of what’s in the freezer, which is pretty full; recipes already on this blog have links, while new/untested recipes have asterisks and will get links once I taste the food and blog about it.

- Apple bacon quiche (2)
- Spring quiche*
- Squash bacon tart*
- Tourtière* (Quebec meat pie)
- Penne with sausage and tomato sauce
- Vegan(ish) lasagna (2)
- Spaghetti sauce (2)
- Beef and turkey hamburger patties*
- Beef and carrot stew*
- Asian barbecued pork tenderloin
- Chicken pesto manicotti*
- Tuscan chicken soup* (2)
- Breaded chicken breasts*
- Macaroni and cheese with squash and maple syrup*
- White bean tuna pita sandwiches* (6 pita halves)
- Turkey meatballs
- Cooked grains (2 bags of farro, 2 bags of quinoa)

- Vegan banana coconut bread*
- Chocolate chip banana bread* (2)
- Cherry ginger rye scones (really not my best, so no recipe)
- Chocolate orange cupcakes (24)
- Maple olive oil granola
- French chocolate granola
- Kitchen sink granola*
- Cranberry-raspberry orange muffins (12, based on this recipe)
- Banana cereal muffins* (12)
- Fresh ginger muffins (24)
- Cherry orange poppy seed muffins (12)
- Neiman-Marcus cookies
- Lactation cookies*
- Healthy gingerbread loaf cake
- Two kinds of energy balls*
- Katharine Hepburn brownies
- Cocoa nib brownies*
- Smoothie packets*

Other things I sorta meant to make, but won’t be doing because the freezer is full anyway: burritos, spinach lasagna roll-ups, pizza and calzones, vegetable pot pie, cilantro lime chicken tacos, pulled pork tacos, roasted sweet potato soup, stuffed potatoes (which freeze well, unlike other kinds of potatoes), meatloaf baked in muffin tins, stir-fry kits with rice (or fried rice, really), chili, pesto, various kinds of cooked meat that I could serve with a quick green salad, frittata, crispy quinoa bake; pancakes and waffles, sorbets, cakes (like applesauce chocolate cake), oat cakes, various kinds of baked oatmeal. There are also cookbooks made specifically for freezer-friendly recipes, such as The Foolproof Freezer Cookbook and Don’t Panic – Dinner’s in the Freezer (I haven’t actually read either one, but they look good, and I’d consider buying one if feeding the freezer became a lifestyle for us).


Amélie said...

I decided to add a link to this awesome freezer cooking post by The Pioneer Woman: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/07/freezer-cooking/

Amélie said...

More relevant links in the comments:

- An introduction to freezer cooking: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-freezer-meals-can-make-your-day-193964

- How to prepare stir-fry freezer meals: http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-prepare-your-own-frozen-stirfry-dinners-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-193932

- Tips for power-cooking/freezing sessions: http://www.thekitchn.com/best-tips-for-freezer-meal-preparation-freezer-friendly-advice-from-jessica-fisher-194138

Amélie said...

The Kitchn is talking a lot about freezers this month, and I found this link to be particularly appropriate: http://www.thekitchn.com/5-dos-donts-for-freezing-meals-before-baby-arrives-216363

Amélie said...

I’m not going to make a whole post about this, but for posterity, here’s what I had in the freezer the second time around.

Bonus, pro tip: If you’re making pasta sauce, do stock up on dry pasta at the same time. You’d be surprised how taxing it can be to remember to grab some at the store when you’re defrosting your spaghetti sauce, fully intending to eat spaghetti for dinner...

- Cretons (2)
- Turkey meatballs
- Pâtés de viande (2)
- Spaghetti sauce (3)
- Breaded chicken breasts (4)
- Pesto chicken shells
- Beef carrot stew
- Veganish lasagna (2)
- Savory cauliflower cake (8 slices)
- Mexican rice (2)
- Beef “manicotti”
- Shepherd’s pie filling
- Mac & cheese with bacon

- 36-hour cookies (2 bags)
- Neiman-Marcus cookies (2 bags)
- Pain-gâteau à la courge
- Granola érable et gingembre (2)
- Honey-lavender scones (12)
- Fresh ginger muffins (24)
- French chocolate granola
- Vegan banana loaf (2)
- Fudgy vegan brownies
- Pistachio-citrus pound cake
- Cherry orange poppy seed muffins (12)
- Gingerbread
- K.H. brownies
- Baniques aux bleuets
- Scones de Maman (8)
- Carrot tahini muffins, no glaze (12)