Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Reheatable Meal Ideas

With Jim in one place for the first half of the week and me in another, there are some unique cooking challenges to be overcome. Despite my best intentions, I've found myself in the same predicament as last year with no neatly labeled meals in the freezer. To combat this, I take a serving from each meal I make on the days he isn't here and freeze it. When he leaves us, he takes the frozen, single portion meals with him.

He also leaves with premade breakfasts. Last week he had homemade granola. This week he took home banana bread. In the past he's taken home pancakes and vegan French toast, which reheat nicely in the toaster oven.

This basic concept could be useful to people in other situations as well, for example people who work opposing shifts. (I know several people who work shifts opposite their spouses to avoid day care costs.) Sometimes its just so convenient to have a ready to heat meal. Why shouldn't the frugal among us, who haven't mastered the art of once a month cooking, enjoy this convenience as well?

I'd love to give once a month cooking a try, not because I want to eat from the freezer for a whole month but because the convenience of having reheatable meals. I haven't been that thrilled with the recipes I've found so far. Check out this post to see some examples. One of my summer goals is to organize the pile of recipes that are in a pile and the ones that are shoved (barely) into a binder. I'll be looking through these recipes with an eye on ones that would be suitable for freezing. It should be an amusing task since some of these recipes date back to my earliest days as a vegetarian.

If you're new to freezing foods, check out the current issue of The Home Economiser newsletter. There's a great article on freezing food that explains the hows and the whys of it all. I really recommend this newsletter. I think Annette & Steve pick up where Amy Dacyzyn left off.

3 comments:

AnnMarie said...

Your granola link doesn't link to granola...... I second the Home Economiser rec'd. I get the newsletter and really enjoy it!

Ruthie and Russell said...

Katie,

I'm writing amid piles of moving boxes, but I really wanted to contribute! :) I've been trying bulk-cooking and freezing meals since I started working full time and I've found some things that work really well. Here are my observations/ideas:

Chili freezes great, and you can freeze a pan or cornbread to go along side, or make one fresh when you reheat the chili (or make rice or baked potatoes or whatever else people serve with chili), same thing goes with bean soup (like black bean with chipotle)

Marinara sauce, already with chunks of veggies and tvp and mushrooms, freezes well. Then you can just cook the pasta fresh when you're defrosting the sauce.

Homemade veggie burgers freeze excellently, so we usually make 10 or 12 at a time in the oven. You don't have to fully brown the ones you'll be recooking later. This is great, because we used to live off frozen veggie burgers, and missed the convinence of it, but even the cheapest of those was like $2.50/four! We now make our organic bean and grain veggie burgers with left overs, I figure they cost less than $0.25 each. They taste a million times better, too.

We also make extra bean/grain/nut loaf (red lentil loaf is good for this) and once its chilled we slice it and flash-freeze the individual slices on a cookie sheet, then stack the slices in a container. When you reheat this you can eat it with mashed potatoes and veggies or on a big sandwich, so consider that when you think of how thick to slice it.

We freeze some cooked beans with no liquid (like kidney beans, which I defrost and throw into our vegan mac and cheese) and some with their own juices, like black beans, to eat on rice with veggies. We also regularly cook and mash very big quantities of pinto beans, because I LOVE refried beans on corn tortillas. What can I say, I'm from San Antonio. :)

I like to get ideas for stuff by looking at the frozen food section of the natural food store and the grocery store. Even the nonvegan meals can give you ideas.

One idea of mine is to make mass quantities of bean-balls for spaghetti with simple tomato sauce or for more exotic dishes like bean-ball subs and hawaiian bean balls over rice (I saw a recipe like this for meat balls in Betty Crocker and I really want to try it.)

I'd also like to freeze big quantities of baked breaded tofu nuggets for dipping or serving with rice and veggie pilaf.

Other ideas I've had are for pre-preped frozen burritoes, and other filled-breads like samosas. Also making double-batches of enchiladas or lasagna, and freezing half. My only problem with that is I'm not sure how long to cook the frozen portion.

Hope this helps! Some day I really will do a OAMC session, but for now I've just done big batches of food I'm already making. And I mean BIG. I made our pressure-canner full of chili before. So, yeah. :)

Next time I post to your blog we should be in Montana! :-)

Katie said...

Annmarie,
Oops, I'm not sure what I was thinking when I created that link. It should be fixed now.

Ruthie,
I thought the move should be happening soon. Thanks for taking time to share your ideas, they're great. I need to plot it all out on paper and really go for it. Good luck with the move!