Serves One

September 16th, 2013 · 30 Comments · Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Quick

It will not come as a surprise to anyone out there that I love my freezer. There is no greater mom-porn moment for me than transferring a big batch frozen pork ragu to the fridge before work, knowing that by the time I walk in the door at dinnertime, it will be thawed, and all I have to do is boil some rigatoni to make dinner happen.

But recently, I’ve started to do things a little differently, and I know this might be a hard concept to get your head around, but it has made me love my freezer even more. Why? Because I’ve started to freeze in single-serving batches.

Now, you might be wondering, this is a blog devoted to family dinner. In theory, the four of us are always sitting around the table at the same time eating the exact same thing. When on earth would we have any use for a single-serving meal?

I am so glad you asked! Three scenarios come to mind immediately:

Scenario 1: Babysitter Night
The grown-ups are going out to dinner, the kids are staying home. Having single-serve homemade meal at-the-ready makes it much easier to not reach for the Trader Joe’s frozen chicken pot pies, which are ridiculously addictive (read: salty), but let’s face it, not exactly healthy. As for cooking a fresh meal for them before I go out to dinner? Nuh-uh. That’s the whole point of going out — so I have a night off
What to have at the ready
: Four or five turkey Meatballs (frozen in a little sauce) and a baguette that’s been sliced up into sandwich-size pieces. Both in BPA-free ziptop bags. Combine for Turkey Meatball Sandwiches (pictured above).
To reheat meatballs: Run bag under slightly warm water to get started on thawing, then dump into medium pot over low heat with a little water, covered. Usually ready in about 15 minutes.

Scenario 2: Entertaining Families
When we’re having people over, we do our best to find out ahead of time who’s kosher, who’s Paleo, who skips gluten, whose vegan, which kid has sworn off pig this week — but it’s hard to keep up with all the dietary restrictions these days. It’s nice to be able to pull something homemade out of the freezer and tell the guest “It’s no problem at all! Now go have another glass of wine.”
What to have at the ready: Minestrone, frozen in single-serve batches in BPA-free ziptop bags. If you skip the bacon, it’s the most indulgent vegetarian (vegan actually) meal I know.  The only problem is that it might end up showing up the main event.
To reheat: Run bag under slightly warm water to thaw, dump into medium pot over low heat with a little water, breaking up as much as you can. Cover. Usually ready in about 15 minutes.

Scenario 3: Protester at the Table
As you know, I’ve never been much of a stickler for the rule that everyone has to eat the exact same thing at dinner. I’ve served Abby a peanut butter sandwich while the rest of us eat steak (she no longer eats beef), I’ve served Phoebe a PJ Frozen Burrito while the rest of us eat pasta (she has never eaten pasta). I’ve heated up a Trader Joe’s frozen pizza for the girls when it’s late and all I want in the world is fast, farm-fresh omelet with good cheddar (neither of them will touch eggs). My philosophy, which you will not find validated in any picky eater expert book (nor by any parents of 3+ kids), is basically “If it means the dinner table is a pleasant place, and you’re not short-order cooking every night, well then who the heck cares if you have to spread some PB&J on bread?” Having a serves-one dinner in the freezer just lets you upgrade that PB&J a bit.
What to have at the ready: Chili and Cornbread Freeze single serve batches of chili in individual BPA-free ziptop bags. For the cornbread, cut into squares and store all of them in one large ziptop freezer bag.
To reheat: Run bag of chili under slightly warm water to thaw a bit, dump into medium pot over low heat with a little water, breaking up as much as possible. Cover. Usually ready in about 15 minutes. To reheat cornbread, wrap in foil and heat in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes.

I am your loyal freezer meatballs, ready to serve when you need me.

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Back-Pocket Bolognese

September 20th, 2010 · 21 Comments · Chicken and Turkey, Dinner, Pasta, Pork and Beef, Quick

OK, Valerie….I mean Readers….Meet Turkey Bolognese. This recipe has been in the rotation in our house for almost two decades. It was the sauce we cooked together in Andy’s first apartment (in 1994, in Brooklyn, when the only restaurant on Smith Street was The Red Rose) and the same one he made when we first came home from the hospital with a new baby — which we then stored in freezer bags alongside bags of expressed breastmilk. It is not only forgiving with measurements, but with schedules, too. It’s workable on a weeknight if you have a 40-45 minute window (about half that is hands-on time) or, if you wake up on a Sunday feeling particularly SuperMommish, you can cook up a batch to freeze and cash in on later in the week. (more…)

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