This post is for all you busy mamas/baby mamas/working mamas/hungry mamas. All you mamas who want good food for you and your family, but are shy on time. I’ve been working on this one for a while now, so I’m excited to get a little round-up put together for you as I have been aggressively (but manageably) preparing my freezer over the last few weeks for dinners after baby arrives. Because here’s the cold, hard truth: with your first baby, you eat for months. Years, practically. Everyone brings you food because it is a universal love language and first-time moms are so irresistibly lovable. With your second baby, your circle shrinks a little bit so you still get meals, but it’s not in biblical quantities like it was with baby #1. With this third child, while I have no experience to speak on yet, I do know one thing: food is still a universal love language, but I am also more equipped this time around to handle the needs of my family (and I’m working on a hypothesis which will be proven soon that people simply have given up on you while you continued to procreate. You got yourself into this mess, now you can eat your way through it on your own). And that means I want to be the one to feed these people who call me mom & wife after the baby comes. I want to be in control of their intake. I know their little -isms; the pickiness, the aversions, the tricks to get them to eat things they would otherwise gag at. Also, I want to eat meals which I know every ingredient of. I will be breast feeding and if something should upset the baby (or me) I want to have an idea of what ingredient(s) could have been the culprit(s).
After exhaustively searching Pinterest for a variety of comfort foods, healthy meals and easy-to-reheat meals, I have almost filled our secondary freezer with quality goodness that will last us a few weeks by my calculations. Between late evenings at swim team for Navy and the nights where I simply don’t have the get-up-and-go to cook fresh food, these will come in so handy, I know. So without further ado, the Something Courtly round-up of post-baby freezer meals:
Zucchini Bread: This was delicious and extended-family approved. I skipped the nuts simply because I didn’t have them on-hand, and it was a delicious bread, perfect for breakfast, snack or a side dish.
Loaded Chicken Alfredo Gnocchi Bake: Haven’t tried this yet, but it was easy, looked delicious and I had all ingredients on hand. I purchase my Gnocchi at Bamber’s Superette (Italian market in South Bend).
Paleo Homestyle Meatloaf: What is a list of freezer meals without a meatloaf? Also, I like that this one is paleo and on the healthier side. It will mix in nicely with a week that also includes some higher-carb meals for a good balance.
All-Purpose Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken: This is maybe the most boring thing I prepared and froze, but so universally useful, I knew it would come in handy. Even if I just wanted to throw it into some tortillas for chicken quesadillas, or serve it over a bed of greens for a big chicken salad. There are 1,000 uses for shredded all-purpose chicken, so I thought it would be a great staple.
All-Purpose Shredded Pork: Same as above, but pork instead of chicken. Again, a universally useful ingredient. I serve it with BBQ sauce, or plain; on a baked sweet potato; on a sandwich. Lots of options here.
DIRECTIONS: In a slow cooker on low heat, place your boneless pork shoulder, which has been seasoned (with Reese’s Steak Salt if you can find it, but coarse salt & pepper will do). The pork doesn’t require any liquid as it creates its own juices. Leave in cooker for MANY HOURS. Like, 8. At least. Shred it up and you’re ready to go. Add BBQ sauce when it’s cooked if you wish, or eat it plain… the salt & pepper is just enough to bring out the deliciousness.
Chicken, Broccoli, Bacon & Potato Bake: Again, this meal looked great, pretty healthy balance of carbs/protein/fat, and it made several pans.
Zucchini & Sausage Casserole: This is a Helman sister favorite meal. It’s low-carb and paleo if you skip the cheese, and Whole 30 if you use a sugar free tomato sauce. Super satisfying and guilt-free.
Ingredients: Chicken Sausage Links (I use Aidell’s Italian-flavored sausages), 2-3 zucchinis (green and/or yellow), preferred jar of tomato sauce, seasonings to taste, mozzarella cheese (optional).
Directions: Cut zucchini into discs & blanch until tender but not soggy. Cut chicken sausages into discs. Since mine are pre-cooked, I don’t need to do anything to these but if you are using raw sausage or ground sausage, brown it in a skillet until cooked throughout. Combine blanched zucchini and cooked sausage into a greased baking dish and season to taste with salt, pepper and Italian seasonings. Pour over the tomato sauce. Mix in a handful of mozzarella if you wish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until hot throughout and/or cheese looks melted. Add additional cheese to top and bake an additional 5 minutes if you want.
Crispy Cajun Shrimp Fettuccine: I made this for a dinner party and purposely tripled the batch so I would have a ton of leftovers. Threw the leftovers in aluminum baking dishes, popped them in the freezer and will thaw & reheat when we’re craving this INSANELY delicious meal.
Crockpot BBQ Chicken: Whipped this up, fed my family, and put all the extra in a freezer bag to save for post-baby. Don’t even get me started on how much I appreciate a good crockpot meal. Crockpots were invented by angels and I might ask to be buried with mine. This is my truth.
Balsamic Pulled Pork: Another Crockpot meal, and one that we really enjoyed (although Stockton unknowingly dumped BBQ sauce on his before he knew it was already balsamic-laden). Admittedly, we are Balsamic People. I have learned that not all people are Balsamic People. I don’t know what is wrong with those people, but if you’re one of them, you can move right along and I will pretend you didn’t just diss one of my favorite vinegary condiments.
Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder: This has become a famous soup around my house from my favorite cookbook, Southern Living All-Time Favorites. The cookbook is filled with family-friendly meals and everything I’ve ever made from this cookbook has gotten much approval from friends and family (I never hesitate to use any recipe from this book on guests because I know it will be a home run).
Stromboli: This is another Helman family favorite, although I am attaching a random Stromboli recipe for you and not the official Helman recipe. Not because we are top-secret recipe hoarders, but because we keep this so basic, a recipe doesn’t really exist.
Helman method: Buy pre-made dough from the bakery; roll it out flat; put in toppings (could include pepperoni, Italian sausage, deli turkey, and any type of shredded cheese you could want); roll it into a huge jelly roll; gently cut a few slits along the top just so it can expand in the oven; bake for 20ish minutes at 425ish degrees (see? This is why I give you guys real recipes to follow most of the time); my dad likes to scramble up an egg and give it a light egg wash with 5 minutes left in the bake time; once fully cooked (golden in color and dough looks fully cooked), remove from oven, cut when it’s cool enough and enjoy. If you are a local reader, Martin’s Supermarket carries pizza dough balls in their refrigerated bakery section near the donuts, or you can ask for it in the bakery and they will grab you one out of their freezer. Ultimate cheater tip: go to a take-and-bake pizza shop and just ask if you can buy a crust. It’s uncooked and already rolled out and ready to fill. Voila. If you are freezing your stromboli, then cut it into your pieces after baking and throw it in a freezer bag. All you need to do is thaw and microwave it to reheat.
Kodiak Muffins with Blueberries: Kodiak protein baking mix is a delicious and diet-friendly baking mix that you can use for all kinds of recipes. On the back of the box, they have a Power Muffins recipe which I used for this freezer batch, but I added about a cup of blueberries to mine to jazz them up a bit. Good post-baby/weight loss snack or breakfast.
Sweet Potato Chili: We’ve talked about this recipe before and how amaze-balls it is. Whip up a full batch, eat what you can and freeze your leftovers for a lunch or dinner down the road like I did.
Pesto Ranch Crock Pot Chicken: I have used thighs and breasts for this because I make it all the ever-loving time, and it’s great either way, but really for the best flavor you can’t beat the thighs. And it’s like 3 ingredients. And made in the crockpot. You guys, this recipe has basically achieved enlightenment. Serve those juicy thighs whole or shred it all up.
SOME HELPFUL FREEZING TIPS:
- If you make a meal, don’t be afraid of freezing your leftovers. Sometimes you have great quality food leftover but you’re not in the mood to eat it again that week. I get it. Which is why you dump that leftover chili right into a tupperware container and freeze it, thaw it and eat it a month later when it sounds good again.
- Freeze whatever you can in Ziploc Freezer Bags and then lay them flat to freeze. This allows things to fit nicely in your freezer.
- Freeze whatever else you can in disposable containers. 1) Less mess, 2) you won’t totally tie up your whole tupperware collection at once.
- Label, label, label. If you don’t label your food as you put it in the freezer, it’s easy to look at it down the line and go, “Um, what is this nasty bag of frozen vomit?” (sorry for the visual, but for instance, pulled pork isn’t exactly appetizing to look at when it’s frozen into a blob). Don’t only label what the item is, but how to reheat/cook it and also what date it was prepared. You’ll want to use your food in the freezer within 3-12 months depending on what it is. Use this Real Simple freezer guide if you’re wondering where in that timeline your food falls.