With Foodie Baby’s impending arrival, I started thinking about ramping up our deep freezer inventory. As soon-to-be first-time parents, we’ve been told countless times over the last several months that we’re going to be too tired to cook so we should make sure that we have a freezer full of food or delivery on speed-dial. We’ve also been told that we’re going to be too tired to eat… possibly by people who don’t know us very well
And then I discovered the great “freezer meal” debate among expecting mothers. Freezer meals are full of processed crap. There’s no way you can eat healthy. I’ll never be so tired that I can’t manage dinner. Good luck getting rid of the baby weight! I get why “freezer meals” come with a negative connotation. I really do. The first things that I used to think of when I heard “freezer meals” were lasagna, sodium-bomb frozen dinners, and “cream of” casseroles.
The idea of the two of us living off the mushy contents of a 13×9 for 4 days straight? No thanks. And the Foodie Groom? Riiiiiight. The dish has to be spectacular – or pizza – for him even touch a leftover. Don’t get me wrong, we do love us some lasagna. But there’s way more to freezer-friendly meals than a vat of lasagna.
Our deep freezer is now pretty well stocked. We’ve found keeping a variety of our freezer-friendly “greatest hits” on hand has been super helpful, baby or not. We’re not casserole fans. There’s nothing special about the food that goes in there, either – it’s all “normal” food. Prep work is usually limited to moving something from the freezer to the fridge the night before, roasting a veggie, boiling some pasta, or whipping up a salad. And clean-up? Far easier when it’s limited to side-dish prep which is something I can really appreciate since I can turn my kitchen into an OSHA hazard just by making sandwiches!
Not everything can be frozen. Not everything should be frozen. I’ve gone back and added the Freezer Friendly tag to recipes that I’ve made specifically to be frozen and included To freeze instructions, where necessary.
The biggest thing for me was understanding that size does matter. I take advantage of cooking large-batch dishes in portion-friendly containers for the freezer. The throwdown containers that they sell in the baking aisle of my grocery store are cheap and recyclable. And bonus – you don’t deplete your baking dish supply. Soups, pulled pork, and sliced brisket freeze flat in quart-sized zipper baggies. Meatballs get double-batched and divided into two gallon-sized zipper bags for meatball subs or a quick appetizer.
Muffins and bagels (pre-sliced) also get the gallon bag treatment. Enchiladas (recipe below) and manicotti go into 8×8 containers in two-people servings and stuffed shells go into mini-loaf pans in single-servings (7-8 shells each). Chicken pot pie also gets the individual-serving treatment. Lasagna does get baked in the 13×9 vat but the leftovers are wrapped and frozen into individual squares.
Also, another helpful element is letting the freezer do some of my prep work. Nothing is more frustrating than deciding that you want fajitas at 5pm and realizing that you need 2 hours to marinate the meat. It takes less than 5 minutes for me to whip up a batch of fajita marinade and pour it over a flank steak in a freezer bag. The marinade in the bag does double-duty as the meat thaws.
There are also the obvious safety concerns in for-the-freezer food prep, like following appropriate cooling techniques (if I’m making something specifically for the freezer, I’ll use an ice bath to cool it quickly). Check out the USDA’s freezer safety tips for more information. Happy freezing!
Green Chile-Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas
4 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Serranos, diced (seeds-in if you like the heat; reduce to 1 if you’re not a fan of spicy food)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups sour cream
16 oz jar of your favorite tomatillo-based/green salsa
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
12 tortillas, small fajita size
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack
1/2 medium onion, diced
Preheat the oven to 350. Melt butter over medium-high heat. Saute Serranos until soft and then add the garlic, cooking for 1 minute. Stir in the flour and let cook 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the chicken broth until smooth and let cook until bubbly. Stir in the sour cream, salsa, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, and cilantro until the sauce is smooth. Remove from heat.
Spray/grease a 9×13 baking dish. Add 1 cup of sauce to the bottom of the pan. Add chicken, cheese, and chopped onion to the center of each tortilla and roll, placing seam-side down in the dish. Pour the sauce over the enchiladas, top with leftover cheese, and bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until top is brown and bubbling.
To freeze: Cook the sauce and cool completely (I do it quickly using an ice water bath). Assemble the enchiladas in portion-friendly dishes and wrap well with plastic wrap or foil. To cook thawed, bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes (or to an internal temperature of 165). To cook straight from the freezer, increase the baking time to 45-55 minutes.
Yields: 12-15 enchiladas
Adapted from: Homesick Texan