One of my goals before Baby J makes her debut is to get my freezer filled. I’ve talked to quite a few parents, and other than the standard “sleep while you still can!” advice, the nugget of wisdom I’ve been hearing the most is how helpful it is to have a stash of pre-made food in the freezer for those first few weeks and months with a newborn. This is especially important with where we live—it’s not like we can just run out and get takeout or order delivery—if you don’t cook in the country, you don’t eat. And since you all know that I love freezer cooking, this task seemed like an obvious one for me to tackle over the next few months.
Unfortunately though, I just don’t have the stamina or energy to do marathon freezer cooking sessions like I did pre-pregnancy. So instead of stocking the freezer over a single day, my goal is to slowly fill my freezer over the next few months by adding a few dishes every week. Some will be specially made to fill the freezer, others will just be extras leftover from doubling or tripling dinner recipes. I thought it might be fun to show you all what I’m making each week. Feel free to suggest your favorite freezer-friendly recipes and I can slot them into my plan over the next few weeks. Alright, onto this week’s work . . .
With the nasty weather we had this past weekend (please tell me that was the last winter storm of the season!), I was all about some homemade, cheesy, gooey mac and cheese. Craig isn’t eating gluten or dairy right now for health reasons, so I had a ton of mac and cheese all to myself!
I used this recipe, quadrupled it and baked up a bit of it for dinner. The remainder, I popped into three, aluminum foil-covered square baking dishes. I froze them, and then once they were solid, popped out the wrapped mac and cheese blocks up and then stashed them into gallon freezer bags. They’re now ready to just pop back into the square baking dish when it’s time to cook. They’ll make a great main dish with a simple salad on the side later down the road.
The mac and cheese fresh out of the oven was awesome, and I expect it’ll be just as good baked out of the freezer. I know some folks have issues with freezing pasta-based dishes, but I’ve found that just as long as I cook the pasta just shy of al dente, it ends up working just fine out of the freezer.
Other than the mac and cheese, this freezer session was all about using up fruit on its last leg. We’ve been nursing our apple stash since the fall (did you know that in the right conditions, with the right varieties, apples can last months and months in storage?), but they are starting to turn—and no longer very good for fresh eating—so it was time to turn the bushel-or-so we had left into some cooked goodies.
First on the docket for the apples was freezer apple pie filling. Pre-made apple pie filling is a pretty common beginner recipe for canning, but I really couldn’t be bothered to head to the basement and pull out all my cleaned and stored canning gear, so I instead decided to freeze it up using a double version this recipe (reducing the sugar, plus subbing in some maple syrup and brown sugar, reducing the water, upping the spices). I ended up filling five quart-sized bags—which are perfect for an 8″-9″ pie.
Stashing apple pie filling may seem like a weird way to prep for baby, but since Baby J is coming in the summer, and summer and early fall in our family is chock full of pitch-ins and parties, having an easy-to-make, delicious dessert to bring will be awesome. If I’m feeling particularly advanced, I can whip up my own pie crust and have a pie in the oven in a few minutes. Or, if I’m looking for something easier, just put a crumble topping on it and call it good to go. And, if nothing else, we can use it on pancakes, ice cream or oatmeal. Plus, it’s just a great way to plow through a ton of sad looking apples.
Dinner seems like the thing that most freezer cooking focuses on, but I want to hit up all meals, and these muffins are going to be perfect for breakfasts and snacks. Of course, most muffin recipes are really just cake disguised under another name, so I tried to make these a bit healthified. I started out with this recipe, and changed it by using all whole wheat flour, cutting the sugar in half, using kefir instead of buttermilk, coconut oil instead of canola oil, plus adding a cup of raisins. I also added a ton more chopped apples than the recipe calls for (gotta get rid of those apples!). After doubling the recipe and adding more apples, I ended up with about three dozen regular-sized muffins. After they cooled, I stashed them a dozen to a gallon freezer bag and froze them. All they take is a quick trip in the microwave for 30 seconds, wrapped in a paper towel, to be warm and as good as fresh baked!
These are so great! Even though I reduced the sugar, by adding more apples, the muffins still taste nice and sweet. And the soft-baked apple chunks make it feel like you’re biting into apple pie. Yum.
Another fruit I had to use up was a whole bunch of past-their-prime bananas. I sent out a call on Twitter for the best banana bread/muffin recipe out there, and got lots of amazing suggestions! In typical me fashion, I didn’t end up using one particular recipe, but kinda merging a few ideas from different places. The closest recipe I can find to what I ended up doing was this one from King Arthur—although, I used more mashed banana, less sugar, all whole wheat flour, and no cinnamon chips. I also used the leftover crumb/streusel topping from the apple raisin muffins. Because streusel is never a bad thing.
These are quite possibly the best muffins I’ve ever had! With the chocolate chips, they’re definitely more of a dessert muffin, so I’ll probably stick to the apple raisin muffins for breakfast, and keep these guys around for an afternoon pick-me-up with a mug of coffee or tea.
I think that’s a pretty good start to my freezer fill-up! Again, if you have any suggestions of your favorite go-to freezer meals, I’d love to hear them and try them out.
Happy March, friends! Even though we’re supposed to get our worst winter storm of the year tomorrow (ugh!), I’m really hoping that March not only brings the official start of Spring, but the actual physical start, too. Here’s to hoping that by the time I post April’s calendar we’ll all be wearing sundresses, looking at pretty flowers and enjoying the sunshine!
If you’ve never downloaded one of my wellness calendars before, these little guys have a daily wellness-focused challenge. When you put them all together, you’ve got yourself a great start to a healthy month! I like to believe that a healthy lifestyle is built off of a lot of small, daily healthy decisions, and this calendar helps you get there. Oh, and it’s totally free!
Download the PDF, print it out and hang it up so you can see it daily. Enjoy!