Easy things to cook that freeze well and reheat well for consumption throughout the work week?
August 1, 2005 8:56 PM   Subscribe

Easy things to cook that freeze well and reheat well for consumption throughout the work week?

I work nights and as such have my free time split with 9 hours of work in the middle plus a 36 minute drive each way to work. This doesn't leave me much time to cook and until Sunday I'd been eating out once a day, which has become unsatisfying.

I'm looking for (preferably) easy food to cook that freezes well for thawing and consumption either at work or home during the week. I'd say refridgeration alone is okay, but I'm kind of picky about food that's been in the fridge and has condensation.

I was thinking about making a huge-ass batch of sphaggeti or taco meat, among other things. Does sphaggeti freeze well? Did I spell it right? The spell checker says 'yes'.
posted by angry modem to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
ru486. right.

Chili is really easy to cook and freezes well. And you can jazz it up with stuff as the mood takes you. I don't know about spaghetti. You could cook up a bunch of red sauce, freeze that, and then just cook the pasta when you want to eat it. Also stews, soups etc.
posted by gaspode at 9:18 PM on August 1, 2005

Boiling noodles is hard to do at work. I'm really looking for things that go great in tupperware and won't come out tasting like the crap in the vending machine after I microwave it.
posted by angry modem at 9:26 PM on August 1, 2005

Make a big ass pot of soup, whatever kind you like. I like lentil minestrone and pea soup, but there are millions of recipes out there. You can freeze it in meal-sized plastic containers and enjoy hot, nutritious meals wherever there's a microwave. Take a couple slices of good bakery bread along with it and you've got a feast.

The spaghetti sounds awful (it usually reheats into a soggy, wormlike mess), but the tacos sound like they might be good.
posted by letitrain at 9:32 PM on August 1, 2005

Pasta doesn't usually freeze well. Pasta sauces, however, do, and I've had no complaints about making pasta one night, and microwaving it the next day as leftovers.

I'd make the meat/veggie/savoury stuff and freeze it, then cook rice/pasta fresh, reheating as required.

I like to bake chicken breasts with various vegetables like cut up peppers, mushroom, onion, zucchini, brocolli, potatoes, whatever, with garlic and herbs. I can make a fairly big batch of that, then eat it either hot (microwaved) or cold for lunch at work.

Some weeks, it's a tuna sandwich on 12 grain bread, though.
posted by Savannah at 9:37 PM on August 1, 2005

You're from Minneapolis --- How could you forget about hotdish?
posted by nathan_teske at 9:38 PM on August 1, 2005

Oh sloppy joe mix also freezes well and seems to keep forever.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:40 PM on August 1, 2005

I make big batches of spaghetti sauce, chili, chicken soup and beef stew in my Crock Pot on Sunday, then let it cool and freeze it into individual servings. That way I can make pasta fresh, nuke dinner, and be ready to go quickly during the week.
posted by hamster at 9:42 PM on August 1, 2005

My wife and I have several recipes we routinely use for this, and found that this method of cooking, especially if we can make more than one dish at a time, is the best for variety, as well as saving time and money:

Chicken Kiev
Chicken Parmesan
Chicken Picatta
Enchilada Torte

.... other various leftovers.

We have found that pasta is not a problem in the freezer.
posted by cahlers at 9:46 PM on August 1, 2005

You're looking for "easy" food to cook, but does that also mean "quick" to cook?

I often prepare meals in advance on the weekend and freeze it for the week ahead. But often it's the kind of food that takes a while to cook initially. My five favourites are:

1. Curry. Any sort, but the "english" style curries are probably easiest to set and forget. Just dice up some meat and veggies, brown them in a pan, throw in some curry powder and other spices to taste, some stock, and a tin of puree'd tomatos. Simmer away for a few hours, and freeze.

2. Casserole. As above, really, but with more european spices rather than curry (throw in some instant gravy powder, it works well). Once again, let it simmer for a long, long time, or put it in a pot in the oven so the meat is nice and tender. Freezing and microwaving seems to enhance the flavour.

3. Pasta and sauce works very well, especially "red" sauces. A tip is to mix the pasta and the sauce in together before freezing, because cooked pasta on its own seems to go a bit funny when frozen.

4. Nasi goreng. Essentially, hard-core fried rice, with lots of flavourings and meaty ingredients. Essentially, boil some rice, and fry up some thinly sliced chicken / seafood / whatever with lots of spices (cumin, paprika, and especially coriander). Throw the boiled rice into the frying pan, mix it up, and you're ready to freeze. You can buy little sachets of Nasi Goreng seasoning mix from asian supermarkets, and they're great.

5. As others have said, soup. A nice, thick soup. Leave some lentils, chickpeas etc. to soak overnight. Throw them in a big pot with loads of chicken stock, and get it boiling. Then throw in some bacon bones (cheap), and whatever diced vegetables you can get your hands on - potato, leek, celery, carrots. Plenty of salt, pepper, herbs. Boil the hell out of it until it starts to get thick, pull out the bacon bones and freeze.
posted by Jimbob at 9:47 PM on August 1, 2005

A similar thread that is by no means identical, but may nonetheless be helpful.
posted by stet at 10:22 PM on August 1, 2005

Squash comes out of the freezer in pretty good shape if you don't over-cook. Ever tried spaghetti squash in place of pasta? Cut in half length-wise, de-seed, place half face-down on a plate, microwave 5 - 7 minutes, scrape out 'strings' with a spoon.
posted by scheptech at 10:26 PM on August 1, 2005

Hmm. My experience is that most pasta, casserole, stir-fry, soup, chili and salad dishes keep well in the fridge for 2-4 days, without the need for freezing. Refrigeration is much less harsh on food, so I'd try to use it instead of freezing as much as possible.
posted by mediareport at 10:30 PM on August 1, 2005

I usually make a huge pot of homemade chicken soup and freeze it into personal size portions (like in ziploc plastic containers). The soup actually freezes really well and homemade chicken soup is delicious. (Try the recipe from the Joy of Cooking which, by the way, is an excellent cookbook for simple and time-tested recipes.)

Also, you might want to try something like ratatouille, which is basically just zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant with some herbs cooked in a pot for a few hours. And, like I said, it freezes really well into individual portions.

The best bet for freezing is to try and not freeze cooked meat (which tends to get chewy) or starchy foods like potatoes (which kind of goes against my chicken soup recommendation, except that the liquid in the soup for some reason protects the meat and potatoes from freezer burn).

Also, I don't know what your cooking situation is, but I like to make a bunch of hamburgers into patties and freeze them, uncooked, in individual ziploc baggies so they don't stick together. Then, if I ever feel like a hamburger, I just thaw it under some lukewarm water and slap it on the George Forman grill. You can actually freeze hamburger buns pretty easily too. Try putting some chopped green pepper, onion, cheddar cheese and garlic into the burgers when you make the patties. Yum.
posted by ebeeb at 10:33 PM on August 1, 2005

Uh, sorry about the wrong ziploc link.
posted by ebeeb at 10:35 PM on August 1, 2005

I usually do this: make a load of sauce or a chilli that I then reheat during the week. On a daily basis I steam some fresh veggies to go with it so I get something hot, quick and nutritious; it only takes about ~20 minutes to knock out a meal each day. I guess this won't be any good for work (unless you steamed extra veggies and then reheated them at work in the sauce), but is great at home.
posted by TheDonF at 11:27 PM on August 1, 2005

/Ya know, Matt really oughta do a MeFi cookbook. Seriously.
posted by RavinDave at 12:15 AM on August 2, 2005

Shredded beef, chicken, or pork is great to have around. I like to get a chuck roast, pour a bunch of enchilada sauce and a small can of diced green chiles on top and cook it for a few hours until it shreds easily. Second to that is pork with barbecue sauce. Both freeze well and taste dee-licious.
posted by stefanie at 12:52 AM on August 2, 2005

There are at least a couple of books that are specifically on freezer meals: Here's one, and there are more in the "customers also bought" section.
posted by Jeanne at 4:25 AM on August 2, 2005

I do this all the time. Mostly for eating in the evning when I get in but sometimes for lunch. I make loads of soups and freeze them in old margarine pots - just the right size for lunch.

Best soup recipe - chickpea, chilli and bacon.

Take some chickpeas some bacon a tin of tomatoes or two. Fry the bacon lightly in olive oil. Add everything else. Boil lots. Add a fresh red chilli. Blend until it looks like soup. Add stock it it's too runny, add more chick peas/tomatoes if it's too hot.

It's one of those hearty soups which are just perfect during winter.

Dahl is great. It is good on toast, as well as with rice. Casseroles are good.
posted by handee at 5:30 AM on August 2, 2005

Rice and beans, easy to make, freezes well.

My recipe:
Heat oil in pan;
put in chopped onion, cook 3 minutes;
add chopped garlic, red pepper flakes and thyme (yes, thyme), cook 1 minute;
add 2 cans black beans one drained, one with liquid-cook on low until rice is ready.

You can season the beans with hot sauce (preferred: Goya Salsa Taqueria because it has that smoky taste we all love), shredded cheese, etc.

If you make extra rice you can use that for fried rice.
posted by OmieWise at 5:59 AM on August 2, 2005

If you don't have a George Foreman grill, go get one now! Those puppies are amazing for quick meals when you get home. The markets are filled with interestingly-flavored chicken sausages these days - slice them in half length-wise, slap on the grill and make a salad and you have dinner (or lunch) in literally five minutes. Burgers and fish steaks take no time either.

Don't freeze pasta! Except for lasagne, it just doesn't work.

You can freeze red sauces or keep them in the fridge - then boil up some pasta just before heading off to work, mix it with sauce in a plastic tub and have a good work meal.
Soups and chilis are great too, as others have said.

Also check out this thread - I just made one of these and oh. my. god.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:00 AM on August 2, 2005

Pasties are readily available in Minneapolis. They freeze very well and can be taken anywhere.
posted by unixrat at 6:28 AM on August 2, 2005

A suggestion about the george foreman grill ... if you do buy one, make sure you get one with the removable hot plates. It makes a laborious chore of cleaning them simple. You can even toss them into the dishwasher.
posted by crunchland at 8:23 AM on August 2, 2005 [1 favorite]

I vote chili:

1 lb browned ground meat (beef or turkey)
1 small can tomato sauce
2-3 cans chili beans
1 Tbsp Chili powder
1 Tsp cumin powder

That's the basic recipe. Amounts are approximate. You can add all sorts of extras to adjust for your own tastes:

beer (1/2 bottle), jalapenos, other kinds of beans, garlic, onions, spices (basil, oregano, etc.. ), Rotel tomatoes (canned)

Once you have a combination you like it's simple to make a huge pot and freeze it in small containers.
posted by jockc at 4:30 PM on August 2, 2005

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