Freezer food.
July 28, 2008 12:27 PM   Subscribe

I would like some recipes or meal ideas that, when cooked, will last for a long time.

Lately (mostly because my fridge is usually empty) I've been looking for food ideas that will keep for awhile. I'm getting a little tired of making one or two dishes and eating them for an entire week. I'd like to have maybe a dozen different things stocked in my freezer/refrigerator that I can pick from and reheat.

So the question is - what foods can I cook a whole lot of that will freeze well or keep in the refrigerator well for quite a long time? "Long time" being over a month or two. I eat just about anything, so throw me your best of everything. I already have tomato sauce, chili, and soups down, though.
posted by backseatpilot to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 93 users marked this as a favorite
Chicken pot pie - make filling, put in casserole dish, and freeze. When you want it, mix a batch of Bisquick and pile it on top and bake. Or use phyllo pastry or regular pie crust.

Enchiladas. Chilaquiles.

posted by Miko at 12:40 PM on July 28, 2008

What are you using to store food in the freezer? If you use a vacuum sealer, you can keep lots of stuff in individual serving sizes in the freezer for quite a while.

Growing up, my family was vacuum-sealing crazy. Some examples of food we made and froze:

-turkey dinner (after Thanksgiving, put a few slices of turkey, some mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing in a bag, seal, and presto--turkey dinner in April instead of the 3 weeks following the holiday.)

-Lasagna & stuffed shells (my dad would make an insane amount of these two dishes, and again, freeze in individual portions)

-various stir-fry meals

What do you like to eat?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:41 PM on July 28, 2008

Stews freeze wonderfully (but avoid freezing potatoes, as they get watery and weird after thawing). Pasta sauces, being more or less equivalent to stews, also work. Most soups freeze well too.
posted by Quietgal at 1:02 PM on July 28, 2008

This is a tangential answer, but I like to do easy meals this way:
  • Make a huge pot of rice each week and keep the uneaten portion in the fridge.
  • Buy a whole bunch of the ready-to-eat Indian meals (which I use as a side dish) that you can get at any Indian grocery and at many mainstream super markets - they're
  • Buy a giant bag of frozen chicken breasts or fish filets, which the markets near me carry in their bulk frozen sections
Then each night I simply boil/bake/fry/microwave a breast or filet, heat up some rice, and select and heat up one of the Indian dishes. It makes a pleasant meal.

I've also found bags of frozen "chicken finger" sized pieces of chicken, which cook very quickly in the saucepan or microwave. And of course there's lots of things you could replace the Indian dishes with, I just like those because they're quick and there's such a large variety of them.
posted by XMLicious at 1:05 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Burritos! They'll freeze forever. I make a simple black bean, fresh corn, spinach, squash, cheese burritos (onion, jalapenos, garlic, cumin etc during the process of course) and freeze the 5-6 I dont eat. Makes for a great nuked meal when you're too tired after work and think, "Oh man! I have frozen burritos!"

Also, a couscous salad will last for quite a while just in the fridge (covered/sealed). Couscous, sun dried tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, cilantro, garlic, maybe a little goat cheese - as long as you leave out the oil and the vinegar before serving, it will last a week easily.
posted by elendil71 at 1:09 PM on July 28, 2008 [5 favorites]

Green, leafy vegetables tend to get left out of these types of schemes, so my gift to you:


Cook it to just this side of doneness, freeze it, and it thaws brilliantly. Unlike lettuce.
posted by amtho at 1:12 PM on July 28, 2008

Pesto freezes marvelously. Plenty of different types of pesto you can make as well for variety's (and experimentation's) sake.

It can used to make the traditional pasta, but you can also mix it with all sorts of things- having a tub of it in the freezer gives you a lot of flexibility. Pesto with couscous works well for example.

I use icecube trays to keep the pesto in separate servings, not necessary, but convenient.
posted by Caius Marcius at 1:44 PM on July 28, 2008

Lentil soup:

fry up some (2? these quantities are very flexible) onions, add some chopped-into-circles carrots (6 carrots?) plus celery and/or peas and/or anything else tasty; fry until onions start browning.

Add a couple of (uncooked) potatoes chopped into chunks.

Add about cupful of red lentils (more or less, depending on how think you like your soup -- I like to be able to stand on mine.)

Add stock to cover, with salt and pepper to taste. (Quality stock cubes work fine.)

Bring to boil & simmer gently until thick and potatoes are cooked. Yum.

In pint-sized lidded containers (e.g. sour cream tubs) for convenient portion control the soup keeps well for a long time in the freezer. Serve with fresh baguette, shredded cheese, sour cream, anything you fancy.
posted by anadem at 1:46 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ground beef reheats well. Season it while you're reheating it, if you want more variety. I would go for 95% lean, the fattier it is the easier it is to reheat it without getting dry meat.

You should get various frozen veggie mixes, frozen peas, whatever. Experiment with lots of seasonings. Add some pasta and you're golden.

You can also make frozen veggies with curry blocks, yum, and then freeze them again.

I would suggest making rice to order--it tends to go yucky really quickly with no outward indicator of its yuckiness. Besides the horrific food poisoning.

Frozen smoothies can be a good meal replacement. Plain lowfat or whole milk yogurt, whatever fruits you have lying around, and bananas OR a few tablespoons of honey. Freeze, then defrost in fridge. I find that fat-free yogurt isn't as satiating and I end up drinking a lot more.

Good luck!
posted by sondrialiac at 2:25 PM on July 28, 2008

Pot pies, Shepherds pies. Garlic bread. Pesto. Eggplant parmesan. Hommous. Burritos, Chimichangas. Lamb chunks stored in gravy.
Threads like this make me so hungry.

posted by not_on_display at 2:28 PM on July 28, 2008

Best answer: You can actually cook rice, wrap it up in plastic wrap (individual portions) while it's still warm, dump it in the freezer, and heat it back up in the microwave later on. It doesn't dry out like it seems to tend to do in the refrigerator if you do it this way.
posted by that girl at 2:37 PM on July 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

Stews and stock.

With stews, it's possible to extend a season, so to speak, so that I can eat red deer venison in March or April (where I am, those months are chilly enough that you still want a hearty stew in the evening!).

With stock, if you freeze it in ice cube trays or bag up small portions, you'll be amazed at how often it comes in handy. Especially if you've got a few decidedly unpromising ingredients and want to eat right now - eg. totally inauthentic Vietnamese Pho-style soups just require heating up some beef stock/water and whacking in noodles/fresh herbs/chili sauce/leftover shredded scraps of meat. If I could remember which TV chef gave me the idea of freezing stock, I would send them a bunch of flowers right now - for the lazy cook, it really is the best invention ever!

With that fake Pho in mind, I reckon it's best to freeze stuff that you can add to or dilute or change with fresh ingredients (even if it's just slicing some fresh veg into a frozen stew). I realise this is a bit more work than just picking and reheating, but in my experience you get bored of the stuff you've frozen if you just eat it 'straight' all the time.

Also, it's a completely off-topic, but try hunting down some ultra-simple recipes - pasta with some chilli flakes and thinly sliced garlic warmed in olive oil is bloody delicious, only uses stuff from the cupboard, and takes the same amount of effort as reheating something from the freezer.

Sorry to go on, but as someone who a) lives alone and b) is really very lazy, quick easy food is a subject close to my heart!
posted by jack_mo at 3:11 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's a book called Once-A-Month Cooking that may interest you. Now the idea in the book is that you spend one Saturday a month cooking the whole month's dinners (efficiently because, for example, you chop all the onions in one go, or brown all the ground beef in one pan, etc.). Even if you don't want to take it to that extreme, the recipes are useful for what you want to do. Googling for "once a month cooking" will find you additional recipes that others have come up with.
posted by winston at 6:51 PM on July 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Now that I actually scroll down on the page I linked to, I see there are links to many other freezer-food cookbooks there too.
posted by winston at 6:53 PM on July 28, 2008

I'm soaking some black beans tonight so that tomorrow I can make a good sized batch of black bean burgers. We'll eat two for dinner tomorrow night, and then I'll freeze the rest of them for a quick meal when I don't feel like cooking. I just toss the frozen black bean burger on my pizza stone for 4 or 5 minutes each side.

I also toss them on our grill when I'm not in the mood for veggie kabobs.

It's also one of the few vegetarian things that my meat-and-potatoes friends have asked me if they can try one. And then like it.
posted by ugf at 7:02 PM on July 28, 2008

Tamale pie, from Laurel's Kitchen. I double it and bake it in a 9x13 pan and it lasts just short of FOREVER.
Also, gumbo.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:26 PM on July 28, 2008

Channa Masala. Thai Curry, with whatever vegetables and meats you like. Brunswick Stew.
posted by scose at 10:54 PM on July 28, 2008

Response by poster: These are some excellent ideas, thanks! I love the frozen burrito idea, I'm going to try that this weekend.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:13 AM on July 29, 2008

Curries freeze really well, and it's easy to make a ton of curry at once. I recommend Vindaloo, Saag Chicken, and Rogan Josh for freezing, but anything that's saucy and heavy on meat and/or lentils will freeze wonderfully. The drier curries (like Balti and Chicken Tikka Masala) can also be frozen, but they tend to dry out if they're in the freezer for more than a couple of weeks.
posted by vorfeed at 10:08 AM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

ugf: Got a good recipe for black-bean burgers? Would love to try.
posted by jckll at 8:18 AM on July 30, 2008

Sorry, cklennon, I didn't see this. Thanks for the MeFi Mail!

Here's a short novel on this, followed by a summary:

I mostly make it up on the basis of what I have onhand.

I've found it has worked best when I use some shredded cheese as well as an egg or two. They hold together better, especially if you want to throw them on a grill later. If not, I toss them on my pizza stone in the oven - warming them up in a microwave makes them mushy, which I don't like.

If you are soaking dried black beans, I use about 2 cups worth (if I'm going to go to all this trouble, I might as well make a good amount to freeze). If not, two cans works just as well, rinsed.

If you are using the dried ones, and you've soaked them for 8 or so hours, follow the directions to cook them (usually something like boil for an hour). The canned ones can just be tossed in at the proper step.

I dice an onion, and saute it in some olive oil until it is soft. Because you'll be adding a bunch of stuff to this, a good sized stock pan works pretty nicely. Then I mince 3-4 cloves of garlic and toss that in (you might want to adjust that, I love garlic, and chop up enough that I feel like I will taste it. I probably actually use more than that.). Saute that for a minute or two.

Add seasonings that sound good to you - I change it every time. I have a spice mix called Baharat I use sometimes. Other times, I'll just toss in some dried parsley, paprika, maybe a little celery salt, I really do play it by ear. I have no idea how much I use, I go by sight and smell on this. Salt and pepper, definitely.

Add the black beans, give it a good stir. Remove it from the heat. If you have a potato masher, use that to mash up the black beans. If you don't, use your spoon, I did that until I gave up and bought a potato masher. You don't necessarilly want a paste or anything, just mash it so that mostly it's half-beans or so.

Add 1 cup shredded cheese. I've used mozzarella or cheddar, and I usually add a bit of shredded parm in it. I wanted to use feta last time, but I was overruled.

Add breadcrumbs, about 1 or 1 1/2 cups. I actually often use panko because I like how it fries much more.

Break two eggs over the top of that.

Mix it all together.

Get out some waxed paper, put it on a plate. Form patties out of the mixture, and put wax paper between each layer. Put the whole thing in the fridge for 30 minute or longer (this makes it easier to fry I've found, it stays together better).

Get out your frying pan, and put 1/4 inch or so oil in there (I've been using Canola as to not waste my olive oil, but I've used olive oil, peanut oil, Canola...) and heat it on medium, medium-high.

Take out enough of the patties to fill the frying pan. Sometimes I'll dredge them in cornmeal because it adds a different texture to the outside, sometimes I don't.

Fry each side until it looks right (slight brown crust), about 5 minutes or so. Remove, grab some more patties and keep going.

I reuse the wax paper when I freeze them to help pry them apart easier. After they cool, I just shove them in freezer bags or pyrex containers in the freezer, and take a patty out to toss on the grill or in the oven for a quick dinner.

Other things I've enjoyed adding to the burger mix are diced jalepenos, or grinding up some nuts until they are powdered.

Sometimes we eat them just like a burger, sometimes we'll toss slices of avocados, sour cream & salsa, I've crumbled them up after reheating to make tacos. Just nice things to have onhand.


Short version:

2 cups black beans, cooked
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups panko or bread crumbs
1 cup shredded cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, whatever)
2 eggs
Canola oil (enough to fry patties)

1. Cook beans.
2. Mash beans.
3. Saute onion in stockpot, adding garlic during the last 30 seconds.
4. Add seasonings.
5. Mix bean mash in with onion and garlic.
6. Add panko, cheese, eggs, and mix.
7. Form patties, and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer.
8. Fry patties.
9. Freeze the ones you aren't eating that night!
posted by ugf at 11:04 AM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

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