Iron-rich/protein-rich vegan freezable meals!
August 7, 2013 8:16 PM   Subscribe

My sister just had a baby two weeks ago and is breastfeeding, and I'm taking over cooking dinner for her, her husband, and me while I'm visiting. I'm looking for quick-ish, iron-rich vegan meals I can make for them that I can also make extra of to freeze for when I'm not around. Also taking suggestions for brands and types of pre-cooked meat that are healthy, good, and commonly available.

Okay, so:
-I'm a vegetarian, have been for half my life, have no idea how to cook meat and get skeeved out by raw meat. I usually wouldn't consider buying meat at all but I love my sister and am totally down to buy meat it helps her sustain her new tiny human. I would prefer not to deal with raw meat if I am cooking meat, and would be happiest with something I could just microwave and put on the table.
-My sister is breastfeeding, needs protein and iron due to breastfeeding, is lactose intolerant. Does not like lentils.
-Her husband eats anything, has mentioned some blood sugar issues that make me think low-GI is better.

I can cook lots of veggie things (chili, tamales, bean burgers) well and will be leaning on them, but I also use a lot of cheese in my cooking and am the kind of lazy vegetarian who will eat plain lentils for a few meals a day, which doesn't always fly with meat-eaters. What are recipes that are
-freeze well and are easy to make in quantity
-healthy, iron-rich, protein-rich
-dairy-free and vegetarian?

Both recipes and just names of dishes are welcome.

Also, what are healthy options for pre-cooked meat I could buy (at either a local co-op or a Harris Teeter) and just throw in the microwave as a side dish? Extra bonus if the animals are all happy/free-range/organic whatever to suit my delicate flower sensibilities.

Thank you for your help! I feel like variants of this question are always being asked but my crappy hotel wireless is restricting my ability to search and "vegan" didn't turn up much.
posted by c'mon sea legs to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Does she have a slow cooker? I suspect the easiest solution would be crock pot stews and chili. If you can stand meat enough to transfer raw meat from a package to a crock pot, you don't have to brown the meat first (like in this recipe), though it tastes a little more optimal if you do. A stew would probably last her and her husband over several meals and can be supplemented by rice and veggies. She's going to need a lot of calories and a lot of protein so--considering her dietary restrictions--that's probably your best option.

Also, lasagnas and casseroles are pretty classic for this situation for a reason.

Pre-cooked meat is going to stick you with options that are super high in salt or limited in quantities, though one option is getting a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. I've found those can be stretched out over a few meals--eaten hot, leftover chicken in salad or on sandwiches, then boiled to make homemade chicken soup.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:43 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Trader Joes has precooked chicken chunks/pieces type things that are super easy to throw in a stir fry (they just have to be heated through).
posted by kylej at 9:19 PM on August 7, 2013

Way to be an awesome mother's helper!

peas and spinach and garlic and salt and rice

seconding chilli and lasagne

thai tofu yellow curry (stick with mild curry for baby's sake)

acorn squash with stuffing inside

carrot soup

make muffins with lots of nuts and dried fruits (and substitute agave for sugar)

If you are going to just throw the meat in the microwave, try to get the meat that has been seasoned or comes in a sauce. Lamb is particularly good for new mothers.

And note: very iron rich diets for mama can change the color of breast fed baby's poop from orange and mustardy to green. And some babies don't like lots of broccoli, cauliflower, and kale - makes them gassy.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 9:23 PM on August 7, 2013

Hummus has a pretty high iron content! This is my favourite recipe, although it's a lot more work intensive than using canned chickpeas. I've also mixed this up with cilantro + jalapeƱo, or chipotles, or various fresh spices/greens. I have successfully frozen it, but you do need to mix it up with some more olive oil after thawing.

This fried rice recipe is also really good - it has edamame and egg. You can make it easier by not roasting the poblano peppers and/or subbing other tasty vegetables in there. I think it would freeze okay but maybe get a bit dry.

I would try soups like curried tomato (delicious with rice + poached egg). Oh! Thinking of soups - miso soup! Simple to make, lots of iron and you can totally throw in more veggies, but I wouldn't freeze it.

From my meat-eating days, I used to grab free range chicken breasts and leave them in a marinade of pre-bought salad dressing (something low sodium is best, my favourite was a sundried tomato balsamic thing) for an hour or so, and throw them on the Foreman grill (frying pan if you don't have a grill). I even started freezing the chicken individually in ziploc bags with the marinade, so that they would soak up the flavour during thawing.

One last freezable meat meal: stuffed bell peppers. My old recipe was very similar to the slow cooker version on the website, but some of the others look tempting too.
posted by Paper rabies at 10:09 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Trader Joe's has frozen hamburger patties (also salmon and other frozen meaty stuff) that is easy to manage. Ask Husband to help you pre-cook some meat, or cook any specific meat like hamburger, chicken, fish.

Make really nice vegetable dishes to freeze for later. Throwing a couple of seasoned boneless chicken breasts on a hot pan is easy, but being able to pull out squash sauteed with onions and mushrooms is awesome.

When I was nursing, I ate a lot, and calories were swell, so pasta and grain dishes are fine. You could cook things that you like, and they could add chicken if they wanted extra protein.
posted by theora55 at 11:01 PM on August 7, 2013

If you're willing to deal with very minimal contact with raw meat, you can take whole chicken breasts and boil/simmer them in a pot of salted water for about 30 minutes, and they will be ready to eat in a variety of different dishes (cold in salads, shredded in taco's, sliced with a nice teryaki sauce, etc.). No bones to deal with and super easy to do.

You can make large batches of brown rice in the oven (1&1/2 cups brown rice mixed with 2&1/2 cups boiling water in a 9X9 square pan, add a pinch of salt, cover with foil, and put in a 375 degree oven for 1 hour), it comes out really nicely and freezes well. I will sometimes make a bunch of rice and chicken and combine them into single serve sized freezer bags. It makes for a very easy meal, and with a bit of olive oil and the sauce of your choice, is healthy and delicious.
posted by markblasco at 11:52 PM on August 7, 2013

Trader Joe's definitely has great pre-cooked frozen meats/seafood, but Harris Teeter should have a solid selection of stuff too. My own carnivore likes the lightly-breaded, fit/healthy chicken breasts that I think are from Purdue (white bag, green too.) No fuss, just heat up in the microwave, garnish with cheese or sauce or cut up for a salad/wrap/taco.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:37 AM on August 8, 2013

I made a double batch of this sweet potato & black bean chili for a friend who had twins. Freezes well, makes a ton, and I think it fits all your requirements.
posted by lyssabee at 5:56 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Rice and beans, though not particularly sexy, freeze well and can be doctored up with lots of sauces and toppings. I'd do what markblasco suggested above for freezing brown rice, and freeze some black beans separately. I use Diana Kennedy's bean cooking method (except I use olive oil instad of bacon fat!) for black beans, then freeze them flat in ziplocs in 2-cup quantities. Have a variety of salsas available for doctoring, and you're most of the way to tacos, burritos, enchiladas, etc.

This chilaquiles recipe is great and super flexible. I usually just use corn tortillas rather than chips. You can leave the cheese out (though perhaps she can eat well-aged cheddar? My lactose intolerant MIL can eat this naturally lactose free Cabot cheddar).

Soups are great for freezing. Some of my favorites are chili, mushroom barley soup and veg split pea soup.
posted by Empidonax at 6:50 AM on August 8, 2013

A friend brought us a quinoa, black bean, & sweet potato salad as a post-baby meal and it was amazing. Fresh, filling (but not heavy), & the leftovers tasted even better the next day. Such a nice change from the pans of lasagna everyone else dropped off.

These recipes look similar to what we had.
posted by belladonna at 7:00 AM on August 8, 2013

As a vegan who misses macaroni and cheese, I have found two spectacular alternatives:

This cauliflower sauce over pasta and then baked (sub soy milk, of course). This sauce is truly amazing.

Butternut Bowties (skip the cheese and sub soy milk; also use canned butternut squash puree - or sweet potato or pumpkin - instead of wrangling a real squash.)

Both are easy and tasty pasta dishes that can be made in bulk and frozen in portions for easy meals.
posted by ainsley at 10:25 AM on August 8, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you all for the ideas! So far I've done:
quinoa/black bean/sweet potato salad (big hit)
vegan enchiladas (good, protein w/tofu but kind of a weird sauce)
black bean and corn tamales (time-consuming but big success and freezable)

and picked up
a package of bbq beef from trader joe's
chipotle chicken skewers from trader joe's
and a rotisserie chicken

as well as various hummuses, snacks, and veggies. I'm also a big kale person, so appreciate the advice to avoid it!
posted by c'mon sea legs at 3:49 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

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