With baby countdown at 2 weeks and 1 day I felt it necessary to make some freezer meals for those days (of which I’m sure there will be many) that I don’t have time to cook a real meal. I searched quite a few websites for recipes that would freeze and reheat well. I cannot attest to their post-freezer goodness , but I did some taste testing along the way and I was pleased with the flavors and a little upset that I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy the food for dinner that night.
I didn’t want to make typical freezer meals. Lasagna, chili and casseroles that use cans of cream of whatever soup were just not the kind of meals I was looking for. Yes, I like to make things difficult for myself. Yes, I am a bit of a food snob. Ask me a year from now, and I think my love of convenience foods will have grown. But since I have the time now, why not make something extra good?
Here is what I ended up with in my freezer. Click on the meal for a link to the recipe. The pastitsio and shepherd’s pie include freezing instructions. I added my own for the chicken pasta.
Pastitsio – a layered Greek noodle dish with ground beef, tomatoes and bechamel sauce. The beef layer is spiced with olives, oregano, cinnamon and oregano.
Chicken Florentine Artichoke Bake – a bowtie pasta casserole with chicken, artichokes, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and cheese.
Shepherd’s Pie – Turkey, tomato, peas, corn and mushrooms topped with mashed carrots and potatoes.
These are not the quickest meals to get prepped for the freezer. But the time you spend now will be time you save in a few weeks or a couple months when you go to enjoy the results of your hard work. I made the pastitsio the other afternooon, I think it took me about an hour and a half to cook and clean up. I made the chicken pasta and shepherd’s pie Saturday morning, and I think my total chopping, cooking, boiling, packaging and cleaning time was 3 hours. Here’s my kitchen during its worst moment on Saturday.
I know some of you have now decided that I am crazy to have spent that much of my Saturday morning on this project, but it’s something I’d planned to do…and so I had to do it. I also kind of like spending that time in the kitchen and having something to show for it. It makes me feel productive, and it’s a lot more fun that organizing the stacks of paper on the desk in the office. And look at my fully stocked freezer! Two 9×13 pans and two 8×8 pans of food waiting patiently to be eaten. Why does this kind of thing make me happy?
Here are a few quick notes and changes on these recipes. Some changes were made because of personal preferences, others because I forgot to or chose not to buy an ingredient. I am becoming more and more comfortable with improvising in the kitchen. It makes life so much easier, and it saves money too. A jar of sun-dried tomatoes was going to set me back $5.99…so I used some sun-dried tomato pesto that I already had. It makes me feel so resourceful when I can do things like that.
- Left out the red wine
- Used green olives instead of Kalamata
- Used only 4 tablespoons of butter, 1 cup of milk and 1 egg in the pasta mixture
- Use a LARGE and DEEP pan, I did not have room in a regular 9×13 to fit all the sauce. It broke my heart to pour that creamy bechamel down the drain.
Chicken Florentine Artichoke Pasta
- Cooked 2 chicken breasts in a skillet and chopped it up to make 2 cups
- Used a 12 ounce package of pasta instead of 8 ounce
- Used 2 tablespoons of sun dried tomato pesto instead of the chopped sun dried tomatoes
- Freezer Instructions: Bake without bread crumbs for 15 minutes, then with bread crumbs for 5 minutes. Let cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and a couple layers of foil. When ready to bake, let it thaw in the fridge overnight, then bake @ 350 F covered with foil for 20 minutes and without foil for 15-20 minutes or until nicely brown on top.
- Used 6 carrots and 4 large baking potatoes which was enough to top 2 8-inch pans
- Made one of my pans with cheese, and one without
- Used 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, 1 1/2 cups peas and 1 cup corn in addition to the meat and tomatoes
When Ben and I get around to eating these over the next couple months I will give some feedback about how the thawing and re-heating goes. If you try them in the meantime and bake them right away, please let me know how they turn out!