Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nest it up: Freezer meals and meals with cooked chicken

I will be full term on Friday (yikes!) and the nesting has shifted from organizing and cleaning to cooking. When my daughter was born with colic we were totally unprepared food wise because we didn't realize that when you have a small human bomb in your house screaming up to 20 hours a day that you can barely find the time to eat let alone cook. There were days when I wouldn't even get breakfast until after 4 pm it was that bad. Those first weeks I lived on pizza pockets and peaches.

This time we're hoping for one of those 'easy' babies but not holding our breath. We're totally expecting a repeat of last time, and this time with a child to feed we need to be prepared. Which is why I'm filling the freezer and mixing it up.

I have a system in place- depending on how hard the day is. Some days I'm going to need something I can microwave and eat right away. Other days I just need a little help to get me going. I know that my big road block when it comes to cooking while tired is dealing with raw meat. So I'm trying to get that obstacle out of the way in advance.

Freezer meals are a great concept, but often not the best reality. Some foods don't freeze well. Other foods don't mesh with the season (who wants a hot comforting meal in a July heat wave?). Some foods are both tasty and appropriate, but not the healthiest (how many times can you eat lasagna and baked pasta casserole really? Do you really need all that starch and cheese?), or just take so long to prepare for freezing that it's just too much work to save yourself a little time along the way.

Meat freezes really well. So do certain vegetables. Starches like pasta, rice, potatoes and root vegetables do not. They tend to get mushy and tasteless. They give freezer meals a bad name. Cheese intended for melting freezes fine, milk based sauces do not. So you need to pick things to make knowing these things.

I have been doing some double and triple batches of meals I know to freeze well rather than spend entire days cooking dishes using similar meats, although that is also an option. Here are some of the things we're using. I like to use large ziploc freezer bags to save space. Each dish is linked to the page that includes the seasoning mix and recipe if you click on it.


Meals that taste just as good once frozen and reheated

Fajjita filling

Lemon chicken

Chili

Spaghetti Sauce

Taco filling

Sloppy joes

Pulled pork

Sweet and sour chicken

Buffalo chicken

General Tso's chicken

Beef Vindaloo

Teriyaki Chicken

Souvlaki

Shawarama filling

Meatloaf

Hunan chicken/beef

Meatballs

Honey garlic spare ribs or wings

Stir fry

Korean BBQ

Pot Roast

Honey mustard chicken

Broccoli beef stir fry

Most of these meals require other things that are very fast to make- buns, pasta, rice, tortillas, ect. You can buy and freeze some of the bread related products along with the ziploc full of meat or buy them fresh. I find it's not too daunting to boil some pasta or steam some rice while the meat portion of the meal is in the microwave. I also either steam or microwave any frozen veggies I want or need to use. On the most hectic of days a bowl of microwaved frozen green beans will round out a meal.


If you don't have time to cook a lot of food in advance, you can also just prechop and marinade the meat in the freezer, then dump it in the wok or slow cooker. This works for meals/links listed above such as fajitas, tacos, sloppy joes, pulled pork, sweet and sour chicken, buffalo chicken, General Tso's chicken, beef vindaloo, teriyaki chicken, stir fry, souvlaki, shawarma, hunan chicken, honey garlic ribs/wings, korean bbq, honey mustard chicken, or broccoli beef (minus the broccoli). As outlined in the post prep it up you can dice or cut the chicken into strips then pour in the marinade with it and freeze it together.

For the days when I know I'll have a bit more time and energy, but still not enough to prepare an entire meal, I've been freezing cooked chicken. I really hate dealing with raw chicken when I'm tired or hungry, but don't mind handling cooked meat at all. I often pick the leftovers off a roasted chicken and then freeze them. What's even less work is to poach a package of chicken breasts or thighs. You just boil them until they are fully cooked and then freeze them whole to chop up or shred later.


Some meals I like to make with pre-cooked chicken:

Gumbo

Fried rice

Chicken and dumplings/chicken stew

Chicken pot pie

Creamy curry casserole

Pad thai

Spanish rice

Creamy chicken fusili

Chicken and rice casserole


With an arsenal of frozen meals and pre-cooked chicken I feel much more prepared. Now if I get an easy baby I can use my free time for what I want- relaxing! And if we get another wild one... well at least we will be fed this time.

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