My husband's brother and his wife have a two-week-old and can't find time to cook. When can we make for them?
February 19, 2010 12:15 PM   Subscribe

My husband's brother and his wife have a three-week-old and can't find time to cook. What can we make for them?

I've dug through some similar threads but most of those seem to focus on making meals that are easy and/or fast which is not a problem for us.

I'm looking for foods that we can cook in good size batches that can be either frozen or refrigerated and then re-heated in either the microwave or oven.

My husband has plenty of time to cook during the day and isn't intimidated by any culinary challenge. We would like to keep the ingredients reasonably inexpensive, they aren't vegetarians, and don't have any food related issues that we're aware of. They enjoy various Asian cuisines (she’s Korean), foods with lots of different levels of spiciness, and comfort food.
posted by Coffeemate to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Lasagna and other casserole type dishes can be frozen in portions and then reheated quickly.

This one is popular in my house.
posted by madajb at 12:20 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Lasagne has always been our standby for such situations; we typically get foil pans that are half the size of a regular lasagne pan (9x9 in square or so) and divide the recipe between them; my wife has been known to triple the recipe to get 6 pans total which can be heated up immediately, refrigerated for a few days, or frozen for a month or more. Dividing it up ensures that they aren't eating leftovers for two weeks. Spaghetti sauce, stews, and chili are other standards for freezing large batches of, divided up in convenient sizes.
posted by TedW at 12:24 PM on February 19, 2010

Agreeing with madajb, make two or three big batches of dishes, and then portion them into 3 or 4 servings so they can take them out of the fridge/freezer and reheat.

Going with what you said about their tastes: I'd suggest chili, Thai/Indian curries, practically any kind of soup/stew but especially something like mulligatawny. Those are just off the top of my head.
posted by dnesan at 12:25 PM on February 19, 2010

How about some sort of baked penne with vegetables? To make it a little more nutritious while not sacrificing flavor, you can use whole wheat penne. I love making a giant pan of it (like a 9x13 dish), eat it for a few days, throw the rest in the freezer and it reheats well enough.

Basically I just cook the penne until slightly underdone, prepare a large amount of tomato sauce for it with added ingredients like sauteed garlic, onions, mushrooms, peppers. And include some sort of cheese to layer in. Sometimes I like to mix mild cheddar and feta, and use a lot of oregano and maybe some other Italian herbs.

So I layer all those things in the dish. On top of all that I'll sprinkle on some sliced raw veggies like mushrooms and tomatoes, sprinkle some additional cheese and bread crumbs and more herbs on top and drizzle a little olive oil over that. Bake at 375 until the cheese is melted and the vegetables on top look nice and roasty. yum.
posted by wondermouse at 12:31 PM on February 19, 2010

I came in to suggest stuff like stews, sauces and curries. It's easy for them to throw on a pot of rice or pasta to go along with it and vegetables. tips here for portioning liquids.
posted by sunshinesky at 12:32 PM on February 19, 2010

Oh my, the link didn't work. Here?
posted by sunshinesky at 12:33 PM on February 19, 2010

Make them some really good chicken stock, reduced until it is very intense. No salt. Freeze it in 1 cup portions in ziplock bags. They'll thank you the next time all three of them catch a cold at the same time and are desperately in need of some healing chicken soup!
posted by Eshkol at 12:37 PM on February 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

I make a big batch of baked bbq meatballs and cheesy potatoes. I throw in some hot dog buns so they can make meatball sandwiches if desired - sometimes when you're holding a baby food that can be held in one hand is nice. Both of these dishes are easy to make.

A breakfast casserole would also be nice and different.
posted by Ostara at 12:41 PM on February 19, 2010

Another thought is to send over a dozen hefty, substantial muffins so they can have a quick nutritious breakfast or lunch on the run, or as they sit and feed the wee one. Lots of nuts and seeds and fruit and so on. Fast, tasty, nutritious, for all that energy they're going to need.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:42 PM on February 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seconding TedW.

Thick pancakes freeze surprisingly well if individually-wrapped to prevent them sticking to each other; I do this sometimes when I know I'll be too busy for cooking breakfast, and then I heat them up by sticking them in the toaster (the oven also works for this).

I have a rule of thumb that if it can be cooked in a crock-pot, it is probably good for freezing and re-heating.

For just reheating out of the fridge, you have a lot of options. Most meat dishes will work pretty well to freeze and re-heat; if I know I'm cooking meat for re-heating, I cook it to a slightly lower level of done-ness so that it won't get all dried out and jerkified upon reheating. One of my favorite dishes to cook for re-heating is choucroute (usually I put a couple different kinds of sausage, some ham hocks or bacon, potatoes, some beer, bay leaves, and sauerkraut; there are a lot of different choucroute recipes floating around though). Never tried freezing it, but it's definitely good in the fridge for several days.

I also like to give time-strapped people food that tastes good cold or at room temp, in case they have about 10 minutes to stuff some food in their face and don't have time to stand around microwaving it. Two of my favorites that are a bit Asian-inspired are cold soba noodles with peanut sauce, and salads made with grilled or broiled chicken, mango, and julienned vegetables dressed with a bit of mirin and soy sauce.
posted by kataclysm at 12:45 PM on February 19, 2010

Single serving items.

Please don't bring lasagna. Everyone will bring Lasagna. When I broke my leg last year we got nine Lasagnas (and one chicken pot pie).

100 Make Ahead meals
(Its a blog)

Make Ahead Meals from Good Housekeeping

Cook's Illustrated also has a really good make ahead cookbook.

Again, though, if possible try to freeze them into single (or duo) servings. Don't make a pan big enough for six or eight, because then they'll have to eat the whole thing.
posted by anastasiav at 12:50 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can make a big batch of Gumbo and it freezes well in portion sized bags/tupperware.
posted by ghharr at 12:52 PM on February 19, 2010

When my friends had a baby a few years ago, I made them a bunch of quiches, which was well-received. Quiche is nice because it can be healthy, it's filling, easy to eat, and can be stored in smaller servings. Just make sure that any veggies that go in get cooked well first and drained of excess water, or you will get watery quiche that doesn't freeze well.
posted by lunasol at 1:14 PM on February 19, 2010

Big pots of stew are really good frozen in small portions.

Chili in particularly freezes quite well.

Beans and rice is another good stand by choice of something that a lot of can be made at once, keeps very well for several days, and is hearty and tasty.

Homemade burritos can freeze well, too.

I'd also suggest risotto dishes. They don't freeze quite as well, but if you're bringing food by on a relatively regular basis, you can make one to last a couple of days and then bring another dish, etc. And when I make tortellini salad, I find there's usually enough left over for lunch the next day, as well if you wanted to bring them a cold dish.

Muffins surprisingly freeze quite well, too. You wouldn't think they do, but they do.
posted by zizzle at 1:34 PM on February 19, 2010

Along with the food, come over and offer to hold/entertain the baby for them so that both of them can sit and eat a full meal every so often.
posted by stefnet at 2:25 PM on February 19, 2010

What a nice thing to do! I always make meatballs or short ribs for parents with a new baby. You could make several batches of meatballs -- swedish, sweet-and-sour-with-cabbage, italian (I looked for one with white wine in the sauce, as I think it's tastier), curried*.

This may be an old wives' tale, but my mother (who grew up in India and eats raw chilies) told me to be careful with super-spicy foods when I was nursing, on the theory that the baby would reject the milk. I wonder if Koreans similarly avoid hot stuff when nursing, as I know their cuisine uses a lot of chilies, too.

The one thing I would avoid is potatoes, as they seem to have a terrible texture when defrosted.

*I found nothing online that looked great for this, but I just put a little allspice and minced onion in the meatballs and then ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin, and coriander and a ton of very well-browned onions, with water and tomato paste, for the sauce. I usually add chunked potatoes, too, but if you're freezing it, don't.
posted by palliser at 2:27 PM on February 19, 2010

I agree with everyone's suggestions, but I'd be willing to bet that your in-laws will start missing fresh veggies soon. What about bringing a big salad with you when you drop off the casseroles and such?
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:40 PM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

In this situation I make a big pile of curried rice with chicken and divide it into one-quart Ziploc bags each of which makes a delicious serving of lunch or dinner, or dropped into chicken stock makes a fantastic soup. It's a little spicy, super-easy to heat up, and really really filling and delicious:

In a large pan that you can cover, sauté 5 cloves of sliced garlic and 5 or 6 chopped yellow onions and maybe a chopped green pepper in olive oil till soft, with a big handful of minced parsley and 1 Tsp each of dried oregano and basil, and 1 tsp each salt and pepper. Add two chicken breasts, sliced thinly across the grain, and stir till they look cooked. Then add 4½ cups of chicken stock and 1 Tsp of curry powder, cover, and raise the heat till it boils. Add 2 cups rice, drop the heat to low-medium, and simmer covered till all the broth is absorbed. Let sit 5 minutes.

It's even better with some red onion and rosemary jam on top:

Sauté thinly-sliced red onions and a handful of fresh minced rosemary in olive oil until soft, then add equal parts good balsamic vinegar, some sherry or white wine, and Coca-Cola, and the juice of half a lemon and cook down over medium heat till it's all gooey.
posted by nicwolff at 3:23 PM on February 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

A chest freezer is relatively inexpensive and will help with all the bounty of frozen goods they will be receiving.
posted by pointless_incessant_barking at 6:11 PM on February 19, 2010

Don't Forget Soups! Ham-and-bean is great and reheats well. Split pea is another useful thing to do with ham stock, if your people will eat it.

Lentil-n-tatie-n-mushroom stew (recipe here) is great and reheats very well.

Chicken or turkey rice (or noodle) is good and most people like it. Beef-vegetable is also quite popular and should go over well.

Potato-leek soup is fantastic and easy (recipe">here), tastes a lot more impressive than it has any right to taste. It doesn't freeze terribly well but will last a week or so in the fridge if you omit the cream, which I usually do in an effort to not have to buy new, larger pants.

For all soups, if you package in serving-sizes (try zipper seal bags, laid flat to freeze -- they stack better that way in the freezer and thaw out very quickly due to large surface area) then it's a snap to defrost only what the household needs at any one time. This is helpful from a time standpoint and also from a food safety standpoint.

If you think they will eat curry, dal (legume/lentil) curries are quick and easy and nourishing and reheate in an outstanding sort of way. I'm partial to Raghavan Iyer's book 660 Curries for inspiration on that front.

Chili and cornbread (as a side) can be either vegetarian or with-meat, makes a nice change-up for you.

Best of luck!
posted by which_chick at 6:55 PM on February 19, 2010

French-Canadian Toutiere (spiced ground meat pie). It is hearty, can be finger food if they don't want to do lots dirty dishes, you can slice off as little or as much as you want, and it supposedly keeps for three months (!) frozen. You don't even have to thaw it before reheating, either.

There are tons of recipes for it online. Mine is a messy amalgam of Chowhound descriptions and AllRecipes, IIRC. I will post it as soon as I'm not on my damn little phone.

I made it for my friends who just had a baby because of the sneaking suspicion what lunasol described was going to happen--didn't want to give them their 9th lasagna or casserole etc.

A Mefite a while back posted a sweet potato and peanut butter stew that I tried that was delicious and freezes well. I'll find the comment link when I post the toutiere recipe.
posted by ifjuly at 9:16 AM on February 20, 2010

Wow. It does indeed seem impossible for me to post a single iPhone-typed comment without typos--it's Tourtiere. Here is my recipe and a couple pics to give you a sense of it (warning: self-link to livejournal; if this kind of self-linking is no longer allowed, mods please delete and I will post it inthread; just didn't want to clutter it up, and last I checked in comments answering questions it was alright). You don't have to make your own crust at all--you could easily use one from a box--I just do because that crust seems foolproof for me and is crazy delicious (from all the, uh, fat I'm sure).

And here is special-k's Sweet Potato Peanut Stew. Really easy, flavorful, and storage-friendly.
posted by ifjuly at 10:31 AM on February 20, 2010

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