I’m trying (really hard) to eat better. I realized one of the things that makes it more difficult to achieve that goal is lack of preparation. Most often, it’s not a craving for unhealthy foods (except smarties- working on that) or that I dislike the taste of healthy foods- it’s simply time and prep. So I am chopping, freezing and using my little menu book I found at Michael’s ($4.00) to create a weekly menu so I don’t have to think about about it. Whatever it takes.. 😉
I came across this handy list/blog post over at ohsheglows.com . This blog is a great resource for healthy meals (voted best blog 2014 by Veg News and best healthy cooking blog by The Kitchn)
I’ve had several requests lately for freezer-friendly meal ideas. It must be that time of year! With our little bambino on the way in a couple months, I’ve been making a list of meals I’m going to try to make in advance to stash away in the freezer. It will be a miracle if I can even get through a third of this list below (considering I have no working oven until late August…minor detail, hah), but I included plenty of options so you have some variety to choose from! The recipes at the top of my “must-make” list are: My Favourite Vegan Chili; Spiced Red Lentil, Tomato, and Kale Soup; Pumpkin Gingerbread Snack Bars; Summer Harvest Tortilla Soup (from OSG cookbook); Crowd-Pleasing Tex Mex Casserole (OSG cookbook); Feel Good Hearty Granola Bars; veggie burgers/balls; Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ‘Larabars’; and my Indian-Lentil Cauliflower Soup (also from OSG cookbook). That should be a good start!
First a few Q + A’s…
What to freeze in? I switched to glass, BPA-free freezer + oven-safe containers last year, so I always use those for freezing (I use these Pyrex containers). The added bonus is that you can bake thawed casseroles/enchiladas right in the very dish! Yay, for less dishes. I also use Glasslock containers, but those are not oven-safe, fyi. Lastly, I use freezer-safe zip bags for foods like granola bars, granola, and cookies. I always rinse and reuse the bags when I’m done with them to cut down on waste and save money (those things are expensive). Mason jars (for canning/freezing) also work well. Tip: We also use freezer bags for freezing bananas for smoothies. At any given moment you can find about 2 bags stuffed with peeled bananas in the freezer!
How to freeze? As for the method I use to freeze things, it’s pretty basic. I’m a big fan of what I call the wrap + seal technique (totally just made that up), meaning that I wrap the cooled food first (usually in tin foil or other freezer-safe bag) and then place the wrapped food in the glass container and lock/seal the lid. I like that it has two layers of protection from freezer burn. This method works great for single-serving foods like veggie burgers/balls, burritos, or snack bars. If it’s a liquid-based dish like soup, pesto, sauce, casserole, or chili, I will pour it into the dish and then sometimes put a layer of wrap on top of it. Press the foil/wrap down to prevent freezer burn from forming and then secure the lid as usual. It helps to leave an inch of so of space at the top to allow for any expansion. For those who don’t want to use foil or wrap, you can try wrapping with parchment paper and securing with baking twine or something similar.
How long to freeze for? Ah, the million dollar question! I find this depends on the type of food and your freezer. I’m pretty sensitive to the dreaded freezer-burn taste, so I try not to freeze things for longer than a month or two in my regular (fridge) freezer. It’s really just trial and error though. You can get more mileage out of certain dishes and less with others.
For the recipes that don’t make a very large serving, I like to double or triple the recipe whenever possible. I haven’t tried freezing every single one of the recipes below, but I’ve tried a lot of them. Generally speaking, these categories tend to freeze quite well.
I encourage you to share your freezing methods in the comments! I’m certainly not a freezing pro and welcome all your tips. Update – there are now a ton of great freezing tips in the comment section! Be sure to check them out.
Veggie Burgers + Balls
When it comes to veggie burgers and bean balls, I now prefer to cook them first, cool completely, and then use the wrap + seal freezing technique I mentioned above (wrap individually in tin foil and then place them all in a glass container). When ready to eat, thaw on the countertop or in the fridge and reheat on the skillet with some oil or in the oven on a baking sheet. I find cooking the burgers/balls first and then freezing helps the patties stay together better.
Soup + Chili
Liquids like soup and chili are freezer-friendly superstars! Most will do just fine. After cooking the soup, let it cool completely, and then place in a freezer-friendly glass container leaving a bit of space at the top for any expansion that might occur. Sometimes I add a layer of tin foil on top of the soup to prevent freezer burn.
Pasta Sauce + Pesto
Sauces and pesto’s tend to freeze nicely too. I only freeze the sauce and rarely ever freeze the sauce mixed into cooked pasta or other noodle (it tends to get soggy for many dishes). I use the same freezing method as written above for soup/chili. You can even freeze sauces/pesto’s in smaller portions (for “two” is a popular one around here!), so you don’t need to thaw the entire batch for just one meal. Try freezing pesto in silicone muffin trays for easy removal. Once they are frozen, you can pop them into a reusable freezer-safe zip bags to save freezer space.
I haven’t tried freezing these two below yet, but if you have please leave a comment!
Enchiladas + Burritos + Casserole
I freeze the Tex Mex Casserole in an extra large oven/freezer-safe glass dish with a layer of tin foil pressed tightly on top of the casserole to prevent freezer burn. Tips: For this specific casserole, I skipped the 15-20 minute oven cooking because I knew I would be cooking it after thawing. I let the skillet mixture cool before adding it into the container. I also waited to add the corn chip garnish until just before baking so they didn’t get soggy. When you are ready to eat it, thaw it completely (this takes well over 24 hours in the fridge – FYI), remove the tin foil, sprinkle on the corn chips, and pop it in the oven at 350F for about 30 minutes. Easy! Serve it with sliced avocado, cashew sour cream, sliced green onion, salsa, etc. As for enchiladas, people have told me they had success freezing the entire lot all at once, thawing, and baking as instructed. I would wait to make + add the cilantro avocado sauce until just before serving since it’s avocado based. For burritos, you can wrap them up individually in tin foil or freezer bags and freeze for quick grab and go meals.
Crowd-Pleasing Tex Mex Casserole (from The Oh She Glows Cookbook, page 149)
For cookies, I bake them as directed, cool completely, and then freeze in freezer-safe zip bags. Some people also have success freezing the portioned cookie dough on a baking sheet and then popping the frozen dough balls into freezer baggies. Then you can thaw on the counter and bake as usual. I’ve also included a link to my recent granola bar recipe – I tested freezing these and they lasted for over a month in the freezer which I was very happy about! They make a great snack and I love that I can thaw one bar at a time as I need them. Lastly, granola always freezes well. My favourite granola is on page 31 of my cookbook.
Ultimate Nutty granola Clusters (from The Oh She Glows Cookbook, page 31)
This list is by no means inclusive of all the freezer-friendly recipes on the blog over the past 6 years. If I’ve forgotten any good blog recipes that you’ve had freezing success with, be sure to let us know in the comments! The more the merrier.