Freezer Meals for New Moms

Best Freezer Meals copy copy

When I was gearing up for the baby, I was oddly worried about what we would eat in the days and weeks following the birth.  It might of actually been a little neurotic.  I am a big meal planner (more on that to come next month) and I plan each dinner down to the date based on ingredients’ sell-by dates. I literally thought my life would be in such a crazy, sleep-deprived disarray that there would be no time to cook, not to mention eat.

I employed the help of my sister who is a far better and more organized meal planner than I am.  While I rely on simple stove top meals, she always has really great crockpot meals and freezer meals – most of which are incredibly healthy since she’s mostly paleo.  I knew this would be a moment where her Evernote database of recipes would come in very very handy.

So, one day in July, we sorted out which recipes would freeze and reheat best.  I created a master list of ingredients and we spent almost 6 hours cooking over 16+ meals to freeze.  It was fun to spend the day together doing something that we both really enjoy.  Plus, we have such a stock pile of meals, that I don’t worry about going hungry anymore.

Although there are just 9 recipes, a few of them make 2 meals! I tired to designate any recipes that could adhere to specific diets.  Of course, there are modifications that can be made to any of them as needed as well.  If you want to make ALL of these meals at once like we did, you can get the master shopping list here.

Then, follow each recipe and have fun!

beef stew

From lovingmynest.com

Yield: 2 gallons

Serves: 7-9 all together, or 2 meals for 4.

2.5 lbs Beef Cubed
1 medium onion, diced
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 bell peppers, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 small cans tomato paste
2 cans diced roasted tomatoes with green chilies 14oz
Half jar of spaghetti sauce (no sugar added)
8oz mushrooms
½ tbsp. chili powder
½ tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp dried basil
½ tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste

Divide all ingredients between to two gallon zip lock bags, freeze flat. When ready to eat, cook in slow cooker on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.

chicken enchiladas

My own recipe

Yield: 2 8″ square pans

Serves: 4-5 all together, or 2 meals for 2.

12 small corn tortillas
1 can diced wasted tomatoes with green chilies
4-5 chicken thighs, cooked and shredded
1 packet taco seasoning
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups Mexican style shredded cheese
1 can red enchilada sauce

Mix shredded chicken, roasted tomatoes and taco seasoning in a medium bowl.  Drizzle the bottom of two 8″ square pans (or one 13″ casserole pan) with a few tablespoons of enchilada sauce. In each tortilla, spread a teaspoon(ish) of cream cheese down the center, then top with about 3 tablespoons of the chicken mixture.  Roll the tortilla and place it seam side down in the pan.  Repeat with all remaining tortillas. Then, divide the remaining enchilada sauce among the two pans, drizzling it over the rolled tortillas.  Top each pan with 3/4-1 cup of shredded cheese.  If cooking right away, bake at 350 for 20 minutes covered.  If freezing, cover with foil and freeze.  When you’re ready to eat, make at 350 for 30 minutes covered, then an additional 15 minutes uncovered or until cooked through and cheese is melty.

 

greek meatballs

Yield: 16 small meatballs

Serves: 4

For the Greek Meatballs:

1 lb. ground lamb (or ground beef)
½ medium red onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
zest of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander (Find HERE)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Avocado Tzatziki:

1 avocado
1 small/medium cucumber or ½ large cucumber, cut in half and seeds scraped out with a spoon
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon red onion, diced
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh dill (or mint, depending on your preference)
¼ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt (leave out for dairy free option)
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all avocado tzatziki sauce ingredients together in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour sauce into a quart sized freezer bag.  Then, combine all the meatball ingredients together and form into approximately 1-1/2 to 2 inch balls. Place in a freezer-safe & oven safe foil dish and freeze.  When ready to eat, bake at 325 for 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, defrost sauce in it’s bag in a bowl of hot water. Serve meatballs plan or over top lettuce or couscous, or pita, or whatever you’d like!  Top with avocado tzatziki sauce and enjoy!

Notes
If you eat dairy: Adding ¼ cup feta cheese to the meatballs and/or the Avocado Tzatziki Sauce (seriously, either one!) is SO GOOD!

green chicken enchiladas

From SkinnyTaste.com

Serves: 4-5 all together, or 2 meals for 2

For the Chicken and White Bean Filling:

1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup minced white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chiles
15.5 oz can Navy beans (or Cannellini beans)
8 oz cooked shredded chicken breast
1/3 can water
1 chicken bullion
1 tsp cumin

For the Green Chile Enchilada Sauce:

1 tsp butter
1/2 cup chopped white onion
2 tbsp flour
1 cup fat free chicken broth
7 oz can chopped green chile
2 jalapeños, chopped (I used jarred)
salt
1/2 cup light sour cream

 

3/4 cup reduced fat Mexican cheese

8 medium low carb tortillas

chopped fresh cilantro or scallions (or both!)

Preheat oven to 375°. Start with the filling.  In a medium pan, heat olive oil on low. Add onions, garlic and saute until soft, about 2-3 minutes. Add green chiles, beans, water, bullion, and cumin. Mix well and cover.Simmer on low 15 minutes. Remove cover, add chicken and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until it thickens and liquid boils down. Set aside. Now, make the sauce.  In a large nonstick pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and starts to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add flour and stir well. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Slowlywhisk in the chicken broth. Whisk until the sauce becomes smooth. Cook over medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens, about 4-5 minutes. Add green chiles, jalepeños, and salt to tatse. Cook another minute then remove from the heat. Stir in the sour cream. To assemble the enchiladas, Spread about 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish.Fill each tortilla with 1/3 cup of the chicken/white bean filling. Roll the tortillas and place seam side down in the prepared baking dish. Continue filling remainder of the tortillas.
Pour the enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas. Top with cheese. Cover with aluminum and freeze.  When it’s time to eat, bake at 350 covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 10-15 minutes until cooked through and cheese is melty.  Top with fresh cilantro or scallions.

jambalaya

From Lovingmynest.com

1.5 c. (x 2 – see directions) chicken broth
4 bell peppers
1 large onion, chopped
1 large (32oz) can of diced tomatoes (leave the juice)
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 bay leafs
1 lb large shrimp, raw and de-veined
4 oz. chicken, diced
1 pkg spicy Andouille sausage
1 head of cauliflower grated into a fine rice consistency (or omit and serve over rice)
2 c. okra (optional)
2 tsp Cajun Seasoning

Split all ingredients except chicken broth to two gallon zip lock bags. (2 bell peppers in each bag, 1/2 onion in each bag….) This recipe makes 2 meals worth. If you have a really large (6.5qt or larger) crock pot you could cook all of this in one (what we did, which is why you see the two bags making one meal in the picture) if you had a large family to feed, otherwise split this into two. Freeze flat. On day of cooking add chicken broth and cook on low for 6 hours.

Warning that this is a bit spicy – if you are sensitive to spice, you might want to get a less spicy sausage and back down on the Cajun seasoning some.

taco soup

Yield: 1 gallon

Serves: 4-5

1 onion, chopped
1 (16 ounce) can chili beans
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (12 fluid ounce) can or bottle beer (or broth)
2 (10 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning
3 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts
shredded Cheddar cheese (optional garnish after cooking)
sour cream (optional garnish after cooking)
crushed tortilla chips (optional garnish after cooking)

Combine all ingredients into a Ziploc bag. Freeze. Thaw and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Shred chicken in crock pot once cooking is done. Serve topped with shredded Cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and crushed tortilla chips, if desired.

sweet potato curry

From One Ingredient Chef – I got this recipe from my sister-in-law who is vegan.  Although Matt and I aren’t vegan, we love this recipe and make it almost weekly!  Give it a try!

1 small yellow onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried spices: cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, coriander, ground cloves
Salt, to taste
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 red chili
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas
1 large sweet potato
1 can (15 oz) light coconut milk
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Jasmine rice or cauli-rice if grain free, for serving

In a large, deep skillet, heat the vegetable oil and a small yellow onion (loosely diced). Soften for 3-4 minutes while mincing the garlic & chili and gathering the spices. Next, add the garlic, chili, and ginger to the onions with about 1/2 a teaspoon of each spice. Stir and allow the flavors of the spices to integrate with the onions for several minutes. Next, throw in the (drained and rinsed) chickpeas, the can of tomatoes, the light coconut milk, and 1 large sweet potato that has been peeled and diced into 1 inch chunks. Turn the heat down to a simmer & cover.  Let simmer and stir occasionally for 30-50 minutes.  Pour finished curry into two 1-gallon freezer bags and freeze flat.  Defrost in a sink of warm water, then heat for 10-20 minutes on the stove (or even in the microwave) before serving over rice. I’ve found that (like good chili) this recipe is really great – maybe even better – reheated.

stuffed shells

My own recipe

Yield: 2 8″ pans of shells

Serves: 4-5 all together or 2 meals for 2

1 box Barilla Jumbo giant shells

1 16oz container ricotta cheese
1 bag frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed of excess water)
1 bag shredded Italian 4 cheese blend
1 bag shredded mozzarella
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 jar spaghetti sauce

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix all cheeses, spices, and spinach.  Mix well. When pasta is cooked to al dente, drain and rinse well in cold water. Spread about 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce in the bottom of two 8″ pans.  Then, use a cookie scoop to scoop about 2 heaping tablespoons of cheese mixture into each shell.  Place the shell open-side-up into the sauce lined pan.  Continue with rest of shells until both pans are full.  You may have some leftover shells.  Then, divide the remaining sauce among the two pans, drizzling over the cheese-stuffed shells.  Cover with foil and freeze.  When ready to eat, bake at 350 for 20 minutes covered, then uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes until cooked through.  Serve with a green salad and Italian bread.

Ragu Sauce

Yield: 2 1-quart freezer bags

Serves: Each bag serves 2-3 people

6 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Small Onion
3 large cloves garlic
1 Carrot
1 stick celery
OR
3 pkg Mirepoix
Fresh Rosemary
1lb ground beef
Dry red wine
3 tbsp Tomato Paste
Canned whole plum (roma) tomatoes 2.5 cups chopped with juice
In a dutch oven, heat oil to medium.  Add onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and rosemary.  Cook 7-8 minutes until vegetables are soft, adding a few tablespoons of water as necessary to keep veggies from browning.  Add beef and cook, breaking into chunks with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes.  Add wine and tomato paste.  Cook, stirring occasionally until wine evaporates, 3-4 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper, then stir.  Cover and reduce heat to a simmer cooking for about an hour or until thick and aromatic.  Cool the ragu, then divide among two 1-quart freezer bags.  Freeze flat.  To defrost, soak bag in a sink of warm water, then heat on the stove or in the microwave.
To keep this paleo, I serve it over spaghetti squash (which I bake halves, cut side down, at 400 for 30 minutes).  Or you can serve over pasta!  Side note: I was going to eliminate this from the recipe list, but my sister said it was her favorite ragu that she even makes for company, so I kept it in the lineup!  I have yet to eat it, but will let you know as soon as I do!

Well, when it comes to eating with an infant at home, I am happy to say that it’s been much much easier than I anticipated.  I actually do have some time to cook and prepare meals, so we haven’t plowed through these freezer meals as quickly as I thought we would! When Matt gets home from work, he’s more than happy to spend some quality time with the babe, and I’m a little ready for some Erin-time, so he takes Maeve to play or for a walk while I pour myself a glass of vino and prep for dinner.  Although we typically don’t eat until after she’s in bed for the night, the quiet time to prep everything up until a certain point is certainly super helpful.  Plus, I’ve found that dinner is one of the only solid meals I eat during the day (lunch is typically trail mix or whole fruit) which makes it even more important that it’s a good one.

If you have a friend who is pregnant or just had a baby or surgery or lost someone, consider making one or two of these meals for them. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to get a few home cooked meals the week we returned from the hospital.  Or, if you’re the pregnant one, consider making it a cooking party and prepping several of these meals for your family! I know you’ll love the peace you feel around dinnertime when you have options!

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