Friday, May 7, 2010

Baby Preparation

Once I reached about 7 months into my pregnancy, I realized it was time to start planning meals. After all, I'm the cook here. My beloved husband, Dinah, can manage on his own, but why not make things easier on him?

Here's what we did.

In order to maintain variety, I chose 14 recipes that would freeze well. By cooking & freezing at least a double batch of each, that would allow a month of meals, ready to go. However, in my classic style, I went a bit overboard. We ended up with 60 frozen meals (each serving 2 people).

Pear-Stuffed Pork Loin, from Taste of Home
- - I didn't bother to put the recipe on, as it turns out we don't like it very much.
- - Serve with microwave-baked potato & canned veggie

- - It's the classic about-to-have-a-baby freezer food!
- - Serve with salad and bread (can send someone to the store for bread and bagged salad, to make it easy).

Chicken-Sweet-Potato Soup
- - I got the recipe from a crock pot book.
- - Serve alone or with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Cashew Chicken
- - Be sure not to over-cook the veggies before freezing, so they don't just end up squishy. Also, I recommend *against* adding the cashews at the time of freezing. They got REALLY soft after being frozen, and I ended up adding fresh cashews anyway.
- - Serve with rice cooked fresh at time of serving... but you can cook ahead and freeze it. I just find that doesn't save much time.

Stuffed Chicken Rolls

- - These turned out great as a frozen meal! Although the recipe says to slice them into rounds before serving, they stay much hotter if left whole, so I now go that route.
- - Serve with pasta and salad or canned veggie.

- - I canned about five quarts of chili, but it freezes great. Just make your favorite chili recipe like you normally would, pour into freezer bags, and you're ready to go. If you're up for the adventure, the BEST site to learn to can is the National Center for Home Food Preservation site.
- - Serve with cornbread. I bought some corn muffin mix, to make life easier.

Roasted Chicken Thighs/Quarters
- - The only thing I did here was prepare the spice mixture and pour it into the freezer bag with the chicken. That way, when you're ready to make it, all you have to do is dump it in your baking dish. It saves some prep time and makes the meal more approachable for someone not used to cooking (i.e. my spouse).
- - Don't forget to write the baking instructions on the package.
- - Serve with microwave-baked potato and veggie.

Spaghetti w/ Meatballs
- - Originally, I planned to cook the pasta and meatballs, pour the sauce over it, and freeze it like that... but then I ran out of freezer space and just put the meatballs in the freezer in packets containing enough for 2 people.
- - Serve with salad and bread.

Chicken Pot Pie / Chicken and Dumplings / Chicken and Biscuits
- - I made the innards of chicken pot pie and froze it. We don't actually make pie with it, though (I don't know what else to call it. I bought frozen biscuits to be served with it.
- - Serve with frozen or canned biscuits.

Chicken and Risotto
- - This was a one-pot-meal out of the Mediterranean cook book. It actually came out pretty bland - it's just risotto made w/ chicken broth, onions, chicken, and some spices. There's a different chicken one-pot meal I FAR prefer frozen: Chicken and "Chorizo." I have frozen the leftovers from that meal MANY times, and it comes out great.
- - Serve with salad or canned veggie.

Spinach-Cheese-Bacon Stuffed Pork Loin
- - This is definitely my favorite frozen meal. I made three of these and froze them. From now on, I plan to make several every time I make this and freeze the spares for future use.
- - Serve with microwave-baked potato and canned veggie.

Chicken Tetrazzini
- - I used a recipe from Taste of Home, and it came out GREAT. This is another one where I will make extra from now on, freezing more for later. Just like when freezing lasagna, follow all the instructions except baking it at the end.
- - Serve with salad or canned veggie.

Minestrone Soup
- - I canned four quarts of Minestrone, but it would freeze just fine. Again, for canning instructions, I highly recommend the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
- - Serve with deli sandwiches.

- - These have been great not only for dinners but also for lunches while I'm at home during the day. Again, follow all the instructions except baking them at the end of the recipe. I just found a recipe online and went with that. I bought canned enchilada sauce to put in the cupboard for use at time of serving.
- - Serve with canned corn.

Some notes:
- - When freezing lasagna or tetrazzini, line your pans with tinfoil before filling, allowing enough to cover it up as well. I put foil in the pan like a + sign and seal the meal up like a package. Then, once the meal is frozen, I remove the pan and put the tinfoil-wrapped meal in a big freezer bag.
- - I listed really easy sides, but as I began to recover more, I have been cooking fresh vegetables and making some more interesting salads and sides to go with the entrees.
- - We have a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer unit, and I was able to fit the following: 2 pear-stuffed pork loin, 3 lasagna, 4 chicken-sweet potato soup, 5 cashew chicken, 6 packs of chicken rolls, 8 packs of chicken thighs/quarters, 6 packs of meatballs, 2 chicken pot pie, 4 chicken and risotto, 4 spinach/bacon/cheese pork loin, 3 chicken tetrazzini, and 6 packs of enchiladas. Combined with the chili and minestrone, we set ourselves up for meals for two months at least.

I'm really getting won over to this Once A Month Cooking thing!

Happy cooking!