It all started when I was pregnant. Past the second trimester, it became clear that my energy level was dropping faster than my belly was growing. I have always tried to make well rounded meals for our family. I knew, too, that once baby came, good food meant more energy and quicker recovery.
Mr. E. cannot cook beyond spaghetti and pizza. Love him dearly, but as much as I enjoy someone cooking for me... I'll keep the job of chef in our house :) My only hopes of eating well in the days after baby was to cook it myself, and ensure it was fool-proof enough for him to reheat.
My first attempt at freezer meals was exhausting. I followed quite a few of the recipes that this fellow blogger had done when she was pregnant. What an undertaking. I way underestimated how much time it would all take, and how sore my feet would be at the end of the day.
I didn't make all of the recipes that she did, mostly because a lot of them didn't have the amount of veggies that I wanted. What I did make & how it turned out:
- Baked Ziti: OMG this stuff is insanely good. I did modify it a bit - using ground beef instead of Italian turkey sausage, leaving out the fresh basil, the cornstarch, and used skim milk instead of heavy cream. I put in in Dollar Store tin pans, wrote instructions on the top, and froze. Downsides: it took a long time to thaw, and since it was in the tin pans, we couldn't defrost in the microwave. It took a good hour in the oven to get hot all the way through, and in the ciaos of new baby and toddler, it was sometimes a hassle. The metal coated paper tops from the Dollar store got all soggy on us when thawing. Sometimes the paper would stick to the chunks of cheese. The recipe itself doesn't have enough veggies for my taste, either. Will make again, just not all the time.
- Chicken enchiladas: Another super yummy dish. My modifications were to cook a batch of chicken breasts in the slow cooker a few days before assembling. (Cheapo frozen ones from Sam's work well for this). I also made my own enchilada sauce. I shredded up the chicken, added the beans, some salsa and cheddar cheese. On a double over sheet of aluminum foil, I assembled and laid out 4 enchiladas, spread some sauce over, and then a good handful of cheese. Wrapped up them up, and sealed in a Ziploc bag. I always write simple but specific instructions before putting food in the bag - saves your handwriting from getting bumping and sloppy! Again, because of the foil, you can't quick defrost in the micro. So you've gotta pre-plan at least the night before. I also found out the hard way to SPRAY the foil with Pam and cook in a glass pyrex dish (not a dark metal one), or you'll lose the bottoms of the tortillas to the foil.
- Chicken Alfredo: slow cooked chicken breasts + alfredo sauce from Sam's + broccoli. Put a few ladle-fuls into Ziploc bags. Simply microwaved and added to whatever freshly cooked noodles we had on hand. The fat & sodium content was pretty high from the store bought sauce, but it was so easy to make, and for Mr. E. to reheat.
- Beef Stew: Take your favorite recipe (each family likes it a little different!), and ladle into Ziploc bags. My fav way to do it is a big batch of slow cooker stew, full of all sorts of veggies. Easy to reheat, and serve with mash potatoes or crescent rolls. My only dislike - I'm not a big fan of beef stew! And I found that potatoes don't freeze and reheat well, and carrots end up mush.
- Chili: another easy recipe for the slow cooker. I use that linked recipe as a base, and throw in whatever we've got on hand (minus the Velveeta). Just cook, bag up and freeze. But T. isn't especially fond of spicy things, and it doesn't contain a whole lot of veggies other than tomatoes. Loaded with lean protein in the hamburger and beans, we'll always have some on hand.
I will post soon about my freezer meals for the crock pot!