In case you don't know, I have a bad ankle. I hurt it when I was a little girl and have had trouble with it ever since. I am about to have my 5th surgery on it next week. So, I won't be blogging for a while because I won't be cooking for a while. But, I thought I would share some ideas about making food ahead of time and freezing it. I like to cook a bunch of things that freeze well so all my husband has to do is thaw something out. I don't want my poor kids to eat pizza or cereal every night (even though they'd probably love it). My husband can't cook...at all. He just recently started to grill hamburgers. Very recently. And we've been together over 18 years! I don't blame him, really. I love to cook and have always done it. So, he's never had to. But, last year I had a donor tendon transplanted into my ankle and was laid up for quite a while. My Mom stayed with us and helped out, but my husband had to step up when she went home. I had thought ahead and made several things before my surgery and put them in the freezer. It made his life a lot easier and my kids diet a lot better. Here are some things that you can make ahead and freeze, whether you'll be laid up after surgery or just want to get a head start on dinner.
1/2 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground pork (or use all beef)
2 slices white bread soaked in 1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt/pepper to taste
1/2 tsp each dried basil and oregano (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix everything together gently (don't over mix). Form into balls (I use a 1/8 cup measuring cup to get equal amounts). Place on cookie sheet with lip (or baking dish - needs sides or grease will go all over your oven) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.
Any meatball recipe will do. I like to make a big batch (double or triple my recipe) and bake them in the oven, rather than frying (just easier). After they cool to room temperature, I place them on cookie sheets and put them in the freezer for about 1 hour or until they are hard. This helps them to freeze individually and not clump together. Then, I put them in freezer bags (about a dozen per bag). Then, you can just pull a bag out and thaw them in the microwave or in a pot of bubbling sauce (jar sauce or make your own ahead and freeze it too).
1 lb ziti pasta (or penne or rotini)
1 8oz container ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 jar marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta (in a big pot) to just under al dente (it will finish cooking in the oven). Drain the pasta and put back in the pot. Add all of the ricotta, half the mozarella, and half the parmesan. Stir to combine. Add a little sauce (just enough to make it pink-about 1/2 - 3/4 cup sauce). Stir well. Place in a baking dish (if freezing, make sure dish is freezer safe - I like to use those disposable aluminum pans). Sprinkle other half of mozarella and parmesan on top.
If freezing, let mixture come to room temperature, then cover tightly with foil and put in freezer. If eating right away, do not cover, put in oven and bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with extra sauce.
This dish gives you some of the flavors of lasagna, but is much easier to make. Because it is meatless, it's perfect for Lent. If you want, you can add cooked sliced Italian Sausage to it.
Beans freeze very well. I like to make red beans in my crockpot, let them cool, then put in a large freezer bag to freeze. All my husband has to do is take it out and put it in the fridge the night before or the morning of. He can even run the bag under warm water to loosen it, then squeeze it out into a pot and thaw on the stove top. Make some rice and a quick corn muffin mix and you're good to go.
Find my recipe for red beans and rice here:
Pulled pork is so delicious! And when you cook a pork shoulder, it makes a ton. So, take your leftovers and freeze them. Then, all you have to do is get some buns and thaw it out. Easy!
Here is a link to my pulled pork recipe. In fact, any of the recipes in this post will freeze beautifully. Chicken Creole, Roast Beef, or Pulled Pork.
My last tip is to freeze any leftovers you have, no matter how little. You may think if there isn't enough to feed the family why bother? But you can make your own frozen meals. Why buy them when you can easily make them for free! For instance, say you made meatloaf and there is only one slice left. Put it in a small quart size freezer bag with a little leftover gravy. Get all of the air of the bag that you can. Lay it flat in the freezer so it will freeze flat and even. When you want to eat it, run under warm water to loosen the food from the bag. Put food on a microwave-safe plate and cook it until done. Easy and better tasting than anything you'll get in the freezer section of the grocery store. Pasta dishes, rice dishes, beans, veggies, stir-fry, chicken, beef, pork, turkey - all freeze really well. If you have gravy or sauce to add, it works even better.
So, I hope you found something interesting you can make ahead and freeze. And I hope you'll forgive my absence while I rest up and heal. Here's to a speedy recovery and some good food to eat while I'm at it!