Make Ahead Meals for Small Freezers – The Update!

Whew!  Big Foot has now made it through ten weeks of life!  Only 592,849,107 more to go, right?

Before he made his forgettable debut, I told you about my manic cook-n-freeze frenzyI’m happy to report that almost all of the meals I made turned out very well or at the very least, edible.  I was also super surprised by some pretty awesome friends who brought me some pretty delicious food during Big Foot’s first week before heading off on holiday.

As I was slaving away over a hot stove this summer, sweating it out sans air conditioning, I wondered if all the culinary madness was worth it.  The verdict?  Definitely!  The gifts of friends combined with the bounty in the freezer allowed me to cook almost nothing for a full month!  I can’t even begin to describe the value of having time to just be with my family and adjust to a new baby without having to worry about what in the world I will cook for dinner.

So, without further ado, here is the list from the previous post with my comments on how each item fared following its nap in the depths of the deep freeze.

Freezer Meals I Made

  • Pasta Sauce Great! This is hands down my favorite sauce recipe.  I wish I had made more.  It can be used for pizza, pasta, lasagna, polenta, gnocchi, etc.  I now make a vat of this sauce, multiplying the ingredients by 6!  I’d make even more at a time, but that’s all I can fit in my largest cooking pot.
  • Pueblo Corn Pie I love this meatless main dish.  It reheated well, but I’d recommend defrosting it overnight in the fridge before popping it in the oven.  It sucked way too much energy going straight from the freezer to the oven.
  • Potato Soup This one of two things I have not yet eaten.  But if the Twice Baked Potatoes are any indication, it should turn out just fine.
  • Lasagna Casserole I don’t really like ricotta cheese, but I found myself chowing down on this dish.  Very easy to make, freeze, and reheat in the oven.
  • Homemade Pizza Pockets (but I used Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day dough) These are better reheated in the oven than in the microwave.  Next time I might make half with meat and half vegetarian.
  • Teriyaki Chicken I never got the time to make this and then freeze it.  But I’ve made this meal again and our family really loves it.  It might sound crazy, but try serving it with mashed potatoes instead of rice!
  • Twice Baked Potatoes These take up a lot of room in the freezer.  I thought they were decent but could use a bit more cheese.  My boys didn’t like them, but I’m not sure why since they like potatoes, broccoli, and cheese.  Perhaps it was the potato skin??
  • Black Bean Burgers Cooking these burgers was a nightmare, and next time I will search for another recipe.  I still have not tested them since Big Foot has serious gas issues.  If anyone has a better homemade black bean burger recipe, please leave a comment with a link!
  • Lemony Lentil Soup A regular meal in rotation around here, and it tastes just as good after being frozen.
  • Creamy Turkey Wild Rice Soup I loved this soup, and I can definitely see myself making this a staple during the winter months.  No issues reheating the soup even with the dairy.  It’s a good idea to undercook the veggies as the recipe suggests. 
  • End of Summer Harvest Soup  I have thrown together this super simple slow cooker recipe many times in the past several years, but I was disappointed at how it turned out after being frozen.  The zucchini was mushy to the point of being unrecognizable, and the pasta absorbed most of the soup liquid.  Better to just cook this in the crockpot and eat right away.
  • Corn Chowder I added some black beans to this recipe which most likely contributed to it tasting a little off.  The texture seems grainy and chunky when cold, but it evens out when reheated in the microwave.
  • Lemon Chicken (an old recipe similar to Chicken Piccata without the capers – I froze the chicken separately from the cooked spaghetti and steamed vegetables mixed in with the lemon sauce)  If I did this again, I would only cook the spaghetti for half of the time called for on the package (even less than al dente).  I would also double the sauce and freeze the sauce in one bag and the pasta and chicken in another.  The steamed vegetables turned to mush.  I should have simply parboiled them!  Not a great dish to freeze but still a family favorite.
  • Taco Meat (with lots of extra veggies – I used zucchini, onions, and red bell pepper)  Delicious!  We made a huge baking sheet of nachos with this.  I should have made several bags of taco meat since it can be used for a host of dishes (tacos, burritos, nachos, taco soup, quesadillas, enchiladas, etc.).
  • Marinated, Grilled Chicken (fully cooked)  I undercooked these chicken breasts ever so slightly – smart move.  The reheated chicken was still moist and juicy even after being zapped in the microwave.
  • Roasted Vegetables (zucchini, bell pepper, onion – for quick omelets and vegetarian quesadillas)  We did indeed feast on veggie quesadillas!  I will be making lots of extras whenever we grill this vegetable mix again.  I can see myself tossing them in deep dish pizza, frittatas, soups, paninis, etc.
  • Cooked Black Beans  Convenient, but next time I will freeze in quart-sized bags instead of gallon bags.  Since Big Foot has so much extra wind flying out the behind, we have eaten beans & rice a lot less than I originally anticipated.
  • Cooked Pinto Beans  See above.
  • Salsa I regularly whip up a big batch of salsa and freeze three quarters of it since cilantro is hard to come by ’round these parts.  It does turn out a little watery, but that can be easily drained.
  • Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins  Scrumptious!
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough  Amazing as always.  Freezing ready-to-go balls of cookie dough is pure genius!

In addition to the formidable amount of freezer meals I assembled, I also put together jars of dry ingredients for homemade Hamburger Helper and pancake mix.  I was so impressed by the convenience of these ready-to-cook items that I have continued to refill the jars when they become empty.  In fact, I so love having easy peasy Sunday flapjacks on hand that I’ve got a how-to post coming soon with my go-to pancake recipe.

But perhaps the most remarkable discovery for me during this adventure has been how well baked goods freeze.  After being delightfully surprised by my defrosted blueberry muffins, I have successfully frozen pumpkin muffins, lemon cupcakes, chocolate chip scones, peanut butter cookies, and more.  Sticking half the batch of whatever I bake in the icebox saves waist and waste!

Freezer cooking has truly changed how I manage meal planning in my home.  It’s been a positive experience that I hope will continue to save me time and stress for all those 592,849,107 weeks to come!

Have you tried any of the recipes above?  Let us know how they’ve turned out, or leave a link with your own favorites!


2 thoughts on “Make Ahead Meals for Small Freezers – The Update!

  1. Pingback: Make Four Weeks of Pancakes in 10 Minutes « Thrifty Travel Mama

  2. Pingback: The 2012 Thankful List « Thrifty Travel Mama

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