Friday, September 3, 2010
As part of the preparation for the birth of our baby, we've been stocking up on some of the essentials we keep in the house. This includes FOOD!
Last weekend, the "nesting" bug really kicked in and I was determined to fill our freezer with easy meals that will help us out on those nights when we just really don't want to cook. I made a list of recipes that I wanted to make and freeze, made a long grocery list, and we hit the ground running. I spent six hours in the kitchen on Sunday night, and another three hours in the kitchen on Monday night. The result is a totally stocked freezer!
Check it out:
I've been planning to write this post since before I even started this "project," but even so, I received messages from some of you asking me to post it because so many people are curious about the best meals to freeze and how to go about doing it all.
So, let's go through everything that's in the freezer (with links to recipes, as appropriate):
- 18 (1 lb.) packs of chicken breasts - We buy the club packs (cheaper per pound!) and I trim the fat off of everything and split them into 1 lb. portions to make it easier. We do this on a regular basis, but don't usually have quite so many bags saved up. But we figured the more we had saved, the easier things would be down the road.
- Ground beef (1 lb. packs) - We do the same thing as with chicken--buy the club packs and split them up. We only have three packs of beef on hand right now, but we don't eat it very often, so those will probably last a while.
- Three packs of turkey bacon - This is just something good to have on hand. We buy the three-pack at BJ's (great price on them), and freeze them. BLTs make super easy dinners, plus it's good to have on hand to add to certain soups, salads, etc.
- Blueberries - As I mentioned in my blueberry muffin post, we stocked up on these when they were in season and on sale for several weeks in a row. (We also picked some wild blueberries of our own!) Good to have on hand for pancakes, muffins, etc.
- Muffins - I baked up a batch of low-fat blueberry muffins, let them cool completely, then froze them in a gallon zip-loc freezer bag. When we want to eat them, we can remove individual muffins. If we're in a hurry, they can be defrosted in the microwave, but my favorite way to defrost baked goods is always at room temperature. It just requires a little planning ahead!
- Banana bread - My favorite low-fat banana bread! I baked the loaf as normal, let it cool overnight, wrapped it tightly in foil, then stuck it in a gallon-size freezer bag and popped it into the freezer. Quick breads usually freeze really well. After defrosting at room temperature, they're generally just as good as they are when they are freshly baked. Yum!
- Enchiladas - We made two trays of enchiladas (seven enchiladas in each one) by preparing one recipe of saucy chicken enchiladas. We cooked and shredded the chicken, then assembled the enchiladas as if we would be baking them right away. We used 8" tortillas so they would fit nicely into the disposable baking pans. Then, instead of throwing them into the oven, we threw them into the freezer instead. We'll get two separate meals out of this. These can be baked straight from the freezer (no defrosting required); we'll just need to increase the normal cooking time by 10-15 minutes our so.
- Chicken Salsa Verde Bake - We prepared the recipe as normal, and then--same thing as the enchiladas--just froze it instead of baking it. Again, we'll likely bake this directly from the freezer, simply increasing the baking time to account for its frozen state.
- Soup - This is one of our favorites, asian chicken noodle soup. The only thing we did differently here was to cook the noodles for less time than normal. Once all of the ingredients were incorporated, I scooped all of the soup into a gallon zip bag, then put the bag into an ice bath to quickly cool it down. Once cool enough, I froze the bag flat in the freezer for easy storage. To eat, we'll defrost in the refrigerator in advance, then dump the contents into a sauce pan and cook until hot.
- Meatballs & Sauce - Spaghetti and meatballs! Well, we didn't freeze the spaghetti part. On Sunday, I actually made a double batch of the sauce/meatballs. We ate one batch for dinner that night (with leftovers throughout this week), and the second batch went into the freezer for after baby. Again, just scooped the meatballs and sauce into a gallon zip bag, gave it an ice bath, then froze it flat in the freezer. This will also be defrosted in the refrigerator, then reheated on the stovetop.
- Two bags of pizza dough - We've frozen this dough before, and it's great to have on hand for making pizza without much effort. The dough is made in the bread machine, and I always split it into two batches since it's just the two of us. To feed more than two, you should use the whole batch. This is best defrosted in the fridge, then needs to sit and rise at room temperature for a while. Roll out and bake as normal!
- Potstickers - Alton Brown's Perfect Potstickers. We actually made this batch a while back, but still have them in our freezer, and they'll be perfect for an easy meal after baby arrives. These can be cooked in the pan, directly from frozen. Just add an extra minute or two.
- Ice cream - Ummm, just for fun. :) Actually, we needed to remove our ice cream maker from the freezer to make room for all of these meals, so we figured that we may as well put it to good use while it was still frozen. This is a "No Dough Cookie Ice Cream" and a recipe post and review will be coming soon.
In general, soups, stews, casseroles, and sauces freeze really well. Enchiladas, lasagnas, etc. are good, too. The USDA website has a helpful section about the different types of food and how long it can stay frozen for. For the enchiladas and the chicken salsa verde bake, we bought disposable/recyclable baking pans so we weren't sacrificing all of our baking pans to the freezer. Everything else freezes well in zip freezer bags.
I think that sums up my knowledge on the subject, so I hope this post was helpful to all of you who were wondering. I must say, though... a stocked freezer did not come easy! I'll leave you with several photos of the gigantic mess I made in the kitchen during the two-day process--and we didn't even take pictures of everything! :) Thankfully Michael was around to help out, because the dishes were OUT.OF.CONTROL.