Wow. I might have been deluding myself when I thought I could try new and original recipes while staying at home with two young children and teaching seventeen piano students every week. I’m sure I’ll get back to it, but for now, my days are a haze of diaper changes, preschool pickups, music theory workbooks, and bedtime routines. We still eat dinner at home the vast majority of the time, but I find myself cooking two or three times a week and freezing a lot of food to thaw and reheat on busy nights. A friend who is adopting a baby from China asked me recently if I could recommend any recipes that are particularly good for freezing. These are some of my favorites.
Lentil Soup (from Ina, of course)
Lentil Soup with Sausage (also from Ina)
Indonesian Chicken (another Ina favorite – I freeze the chicken in the marinade)
Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini (sometimes I substitute green beans for zucchini, or whatever we have on hand; I freeze the soup before adding the tortellini, and then add the tortellini when we re-heat)
Black Bean Soup (I start from scratch using dry beans)
Thai-Style Pork Stew (we serve this with brown rice, which is now available in microwaveable frozen packets)
Ham and Bean Soup – I tend to wing it with this with dry white beans or mixed dry beans, and add any number of vegetables like onions, leeks, kale, carrots, parsnips, cabbage, celery or celery root. I cook the beans all day in the crock pot with a ham bone, and add the vegetables throughout the day.
Red Beans and Rice (again, I would use the frozen brown rice)
Chicken Pot Pie or Ina’s Chicken and Biscuits (make the filling ahead of time, and add biscuits or pie crust after thawing, then bake)
Chicken Noodle Soup (I freeze it without the noodles or any starch, because they tend to get mushy when thawing. I thaw the soup, simmer and add noodles long enough to cook them right before serving)
Beef Stew – I assemble this all in a freezer bag and put the contents of the bag in the crock pot on low for the day (one large bag containing three smaller bags: 1) cubed stew beef dredged in flour, salt, pepper and paprika, 2) vegetable bag with carrots, leeks, onions, parsnips, celery, celeriac, or some combination of these, 3)sauce bag with soy sauce, tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce). Once thawed, add contents of bag to crock pot with cubed potatoes and beef stock. The same process could be used with pot roast.
Stir fry and taco/fajita mix – just chop meat and vegetables for the stir fry and freeze in a zip-loc bag or freezer-safe container with soy sauce and some fresh ginger and garlic, and taco/fajita mix cooked together with spices and vegetables. For the stir-fry, I would serve with frozen brown rice, and for the tacos/fajitas, I would freeze some tortillas and cheese alongside the mix.
Asian Grilled Salmon (freeze with marinade, and then thaw before grilling)
For the most part, cream-based soup and sauce do not thaw well from the freezer. If you’re just looking for a meal that can be made in advance and refrigerated until reheating gently at dinner time, I like Roasted Potato Leek Soup and this recipe for chicken wild rice soup. These are especially nice to bring to families with a new baby, especially if you know they’ll be eating it soon.
Here are some other links to crock pot recipes:
And links to freezer-friendly meals:
Another soup I’d like to try, but I’d freeze everything before adding the pasta and cheese, and add those after thawing:
And a slow cooker cookbook I’m dying to try – I’ve heard rave reviews.
When bringing a meal to a family that is welcoming a new baby, or grieving the loss of a family member, or recovering from an illness, I like to bring as much as possible in disposable containers, or something that doesn’t need to be returned to me. If I can, I include paper products, salad or fresh fruit, bread, and a little dessert. New moms especially need things to grab quickly and eat with one hand – at least I appreciated that! This pumpkin bread or any of Ina’s muffins or scones are great for that, as breakfast often gets neglected. Really, though, I was appreciative of anything edible that came through the door!
What are your favorite freezer-friendly, slow-cooker, or otherwise make-ahead meals?