Give me your best freezer meals, please!
December 28, 2017 9:25 AM   Subscribe

I'm part of a Meal Train for a school family that's had a big disaster. We've specifically been instructed to make large (like 9x13) casseroles that are to be delivered already frozen. There are no food restrictions for the family. Please point me to specific recipes I can make.

This isn't my usual style of cooking, so I'm a little lost. I need to cook two of them (would be nice for them to be two different ones) and I've already been told that they've collected several pans of baked ziti so I'm trying to avoid that.

Also, I'm not an intuitive chef, so I really want to follow a recipe.

I don't think it makes any difference if it's something I bake then freeze, or merely assemble + freeze, to be baked later. I just need something that's not too hard on my end, and deeply easy on the other end -- like, just pop it into the oven for X amount of time.

Lastly, we've specifically been instructed to deliver "a meal in a casserole dish," not separate components to be assembled later.

Suggestions, please?
posted by BlahLaLa to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
chicken spaghetti is a reliable choice, albeit more noodles.

these meatballs are great. you could add a frozen potato dish to it for a full meal.
posted by domino at 9:45 AM on December 28, 2017

My family really likes Chicken Divan, in fact, I just made it last week for my Mom, who's recovering from shoulder surgery. I use chicken thighs rather than breasts because they are tastier (IMO) and they are more forgiving when cooked.

We also like Shepherd's Pie (I prefer peas to beans in mine) and Chicken and Biscuits.

Pioneer Woman's site, Tasty Kitchen, has a wealth of casseroles, if you want to browse.
posted by sarajane at 9:49 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

You are looking for hotdish. The formula is very open to interpretation. Tuna Noodle Casserole is classic, and while salty, is very hearty and comforting.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:50 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I cannot cook for the life of me and can easily make this corn casserole. Size isn't exactly 9x13 but we've made it in many dishes. My only advice, make sure yours is tall enough so it doesn't bubble over. And suggest greasing the pan.
posted by TravellingCari at 9:50 AM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I tend to wing things, but I added in my base recipes from thekitchn and the old gourmet magazine (as these are all tested and I find pretty accurate), so here's a few non lasagna/ziti ideas to get you started:

1. chicken pot pie in large flat form (double the recipe for a casserole). very good frozen and reheated later; you can do premade biscuit crust only on top (or this SUPER SIMPLE drop biscuit) . I like to make the pot pie sauce a little thicker than it needs to be when freezing (add an extra tablespoon of flour) since the freezing/reheating sometimes makes things soggy. I also load mine up with veggies

2. enchiladas! can also be made with beef or pulled pork filling

3. meatballs with egg noodles and broccoli. (you can rig this up with ikea or costco meatballs + sauce packet+ frozen broccoli) this recipie looks close to what I make (I use ikea meatballs and ikea gravy)

4. Fritatta!

I use a lot of broccoli in my casseroles as I find it holds up well to the cooking process; I don't like to lean on greenbeans as much for stuff that needs to be reheated.
posted by larthegreat at 9:51 AM on December 28, 2017

Enchiladas freeze pretty well with or without sauce; here's a guide. There are a million enchilada recipes online, so I'd just choose a type (like chicken, beef, black bean, etc.) and then pick one of the top Google hits for that type. And you can use store-bought enchilada sauce to simplify things.

This vegetarian chili is easy to make and reheats really well. The recipe makes a lot, so depending on the size of the family, you might want to freeze it in two or three separate containers.
posted by neushoorn at 9:53 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I saw your question and the one just before at the same time - this roasted chicken / butternut squash / sage lasagna in the other thread freezes well and kids love it too. Definitely bake then freeze, and I recommend using a disposable aluminum roasting pan. This is very kind of you!
posted by mireille at 9:53 AM on December 28, 2017

We make Mexican lasagna - layer tortillas, beans (cooked with spices or taco mix), onions, peppers, cheese, salsa, etc - top with cheese, freeze. Like enchiladas but easier because you don't roll them.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:13 AM on December 28, 2017

Response by poster: What makes me nervous about some of these recipes is that they don't explicity say, "Reheat the frozen casserole for X amount of time" or "Defrost then bake at X for X time." How do I interpret those on my own?!?
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:23 AM on December 28, 2017

Shepherd's Pie: taco beef, then a 1:1 mix of corn:canned creamed corn, top with mashed potatoes and grated cheddar.
Got leftover ham? Potatoes au gratin with ham. Layer thinly sliced onions, sliced potato, pieces of ham, swiss or other cheese in baking dish. top with cheese. Add milk to 1/2 way up dish.
A couple quarts of chili, and equal amounts of cooked rice or noodles (chili on noodles is really good) and grated cheese, sour cream, corn chips.
Chicken/ turkey pot pie is any good chicken/turkey stew with a crust on top. Great way to use up a rotisserie chicken.
Tuna noodle casserole. Tuna, noodles, cream of mushroom soup. add a package of frozen peas to go with.
Casseroles are comforting, but whatever you make, add a vegetable dish or make a simple salad of greens, grated carrots, red onion and deliver it with a simple dressing. Even cole slaw is really nutritious if you don't smother it in dressing, and it keeps well.
posted by theora55 at 10:35 AM on December 28, 2017

How do I interpret those on my own?!?

Casseroles are very forgiving. "Defrost then put in the oven at 375 for an hour or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out hot" should cover pretty much any casserole on earth.
posted by Diablevert at 10:40 AM on December 28, 2017 [15 favorites]

Also, be sure to make them in the disposable (recyclable) aluminum foil pans you can buy at the grocery store. Keeps the family from having to go to the trouble of returning the pan. They are very inexpensive, and SO worth the convenience.
posted by raisingsand at 10:50 AM on December 28, 2017 [14 favorites] King Ranch Chicken!
posted by 8603 at 11:02 AM on December 28, 2017

I really like this Crusty Baked Cauliflower and Farro from Smitten Kitchen:

I always do the cauliflower in the oven rather than the stove, just because it seems easier. It's explicitly tagged as freezer-friendly. She recommends freezing before baking, but doesn't give an explicit time to bake post-freezer, just until brown and crispy. A few commenters report doing this successfully (ctrl + f "freez"), although I haven't personally frozen this one. It is quite tasty, and a little different from the usual pasta-style dishes they may be getting.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:56 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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