A couple of people have asked about my pre-baby casserole cooking. It’s an idea I got from… I don’t know where. My friend Mary Carmen? Pinterest? The internet at large? Regardless, it strikes me as brilliance. We have a chest freezer, I like to cook, and we have a baby coming. Put those together and you end up with a freezer full of casseroles so that we can eat easily when we’re insane with baby.
One of the questions was “What are you making?” and one was “Do you have recipes?”. The answers are below!
So far, I’ve made the following, one or two each evening, a few evenings a week:
- Italian Sausage. Justin bought a big package of these, and we divided them up into smaller freezer bags, 2 per bag. Easy to defrost and cook on demand.
- Smoothie packs, x10. A banana, a cup of blueberries, a cup of frozen mixed fruit, and a tablespoon of frozen orange juice concentrate, to make it easy to dump into the blender with yogurt, protein powder, or whatever the desire of the day is.
- Stromboli, x2. There’s no recipe for these; buy pizza dough. Make it into a rectangle. Layer with stuff. Roll up. Freeze. Bake later. So far, I’ve made one spinach and cheese, and one pepperoni and cheese.
- Mexican chicken casserole, x2. I used this recipe, but cooked the chicken first.
- Shepherd’s Pie. I pretty much made this up, because, Shepherd’s Pie. I cooked the ground beef with onion soup mix, worchestershire sauce, and chicken broth, and Justin requested peas and carrots as the veg layer. There would be two of these except we ate one for dinner the next night…
- Penne with meat sauce, x2. Again, no recipe. I made a double batch of meat sauce, which in my case is ground beef, onions, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasoning, and mixed it with penne and ricotta, and topped it with mozzarella.
- Sweet potatoes with cranberries. This recipe. These are in a ziploc, so that they can be put into the slow cooker on the day we want to eat them.
- Sweet potatoes with pecans. This recipe. Same deal.
- Pork roast with apples and sweet potatoes. No recipe. We had a 5 lb pork shoulder, and I carved 2 lbs off it and dropped it into a ziploc along with chopped onions, apples, and sweet potatoes. This one is also designed for slow cooking, with the addition of apple cider on cooking day.
- Pulled pork, x2. The other 3 lbs of pork went into the slow cooker, with apple cider, seasoned with pork rub. Once it was cooked I shredded it and divided it into quart freezer ziplocs, and tossed them in the freezer.
- Cheesy hashbrown casserole. The classic. Except, I always skip the canned soup and just add more of other dairy.
- Beef ravioli in red sauce, x2. Not so much a recipe, but basically this. I added ricotta, because I could.
- Creamy chicken and tortellini, x2. Tonight’s addition, inspired by this. I layered cooked cheese tortellini, chopped vegetables (broccoli, snap peas, carrots, mushrooms), and chopped chicken into trays. Then I poured sauce over the top, a mixture of jarred alfredo, chicken broth, seasoning (including my always-in-creamy-things nutmeg), and topped it all with shredded parmesan.
I still have the ingredients for and intentions of making these:
- A way less Paula Deen-ed version of broccoli chicken casserole.
- Mushroom quinoa casserole.
- Artichoke, chicken, spinach lasagna
- Loaded twice baked potatoes
- A batch of meatballs to freeze.
- Macaroni and Cheese.
- Stromboli. Justin has requested 2 more pepperoni.
- Pumpkin oatmeal
- Breakfast egg puffs
- Snack foods: Homemade Larabars, almond snack bars, spiced nuts.
- More smoothie packs.
To prep for doing all of this, we went to BJs and spent about 3 months worth of our bulk food budget in one night. Two big carts of bulk cheese, meat, frozen veg, canned veg, and a case of chicken broth… and I’m just working my way through them. We also bought gallon freezer bags and 18 aluminum baking trays, and already had a big roll of aluminum foil. Crockpot meals have gone into gallon bags, and casseroles have gone into trays, covered with foil. Everything has been labeled in sharpie, with cooking instructions so that Justin and I can just shove them into the oven or crock pot. I started the whole thing by broiling a giant package of chicken breasts and stashing them in the fridge in a ziploc bag, pulling out what I need for each recipe as I cook. It’s taken about an hour each night that I do some of it, at most, with pretty easy clean-up as I go. Our only real challenge has been staging; the chest freezer is currently full of ingredients (though that’s declining as I work), so there’s not much room yet for the finished products. However, we’ve had a huge cold snap going on, so we’re basically flash freezing casseroles out in the garage, to be moved into the chest freezer as we make space.
So, here’s hoping it works out as well as I’m envisioning! It’s definitely using up my nesting impulses in helpful ways. 🙂