Filling the Freezer Pre-Surgery {Large Family Cooking}

I’ve been trying to think of ways to make life a little easier during and after Apollo’s surgery. There is only so much I can do. I can’t be in Seattle with Apollo and here at home at the same time. Things will inevitably be somewhat chaotic. I will be more tired than ever when I return home I’m sure. But one thing I can do is make meals ahead.

As soon as breakfast was over this morning I put my team of pint-sized kitchen helpers to work chopping vegetables.

And got my big kids started on school.

We’re just sitting down to eat lunch and I already have: 3 pans of lasagna, 4 trays of chicken enchiladas and two big tubs of chicken gumbo in my freezer. I also cooked two batches of  ground beef to have on hand and have chicken breasts cooking in the crock pot to make chicken curry this afternoon.

The chicken enchiladas are a family favorite. I’d share the recipe but I don’t really have one. I can tell you how I make them though. First I cook chicken breasts in the crock pot. Once they are done, I shred them and add cheddar and mozzarella, olives, salt and pepper. Sometimes I add rice (which I did this time).

Next I lightly fry corn tortillas (to make them flexible). I fill each tortilla with plenty of filling and line them in  the pan. Next comes the best part…

Homemade cheese sauce!

First I make a white sauce (from scratch) then add tons of cheddar cheese, green chiles, salsa and some Frank’s Hot Sauce. I pour this over top of the enchiladas, and voila’ ready  be baked or frozen.

Now I’m trying to think of more ideas to do another batch cook next week. What are your favorite freezer meals?

{The cardiologist was presenting Apollo’s case to the surgeons this morning at 7 am. I am really hoping to hear about a possible surgery date this week}

37 thoughts on “Filling the Freezer Pre-Surgery {Large Family Cooking}

  1. I almost always make a huge batch of spaghetti sauce and freeze most of it in meal-size portions so all I need to do is cook the pasta and make the salad for a quickish dinner. Same thing when I make cookies. I make the dough into cookie-size balls, freeze them on the baking tray, then pack them in freezer bags to be thawed and baked as needed. Way less tempting when they’re still frozen raw dough and just bake as many as needed. Almost always make extra soup to freeze for another time. I’ll try to do up some spag. sauce for you guys soon, to have in your freezer for recovery time. Let us know what you hear. Love ya, Karen

  2. I love to cook and freeze. Cooking and baking are very relaxing for me. Things I cook, bake, and freeze: lasagna, baked stuffed shells, tomato sauce, chicken soup without the pasta, lentils, stuffed peppers, stuffed potatoes, breads from scratch including all the white breads, squash bread, pumpkin bread, pound cake, etc., muffins, pizza, sliced turkey breast with stuffing and gravy (layer it before freezing), pies. I’m sure there’s more but that’s all I can think of at the moment.

    • I’d love some advice I’m a single mother of 4. We ate always on the go and it’s really difficult to come up with new ideas and some recipes that my oldest and picky eater, will actually like/eat..

      He doesn’t like sauce on anything! Nothing can touch if it touches at all he will not eat. He will not touch ground beef, turkey, or chicken..
      He only likes pork chops whole piece, “whole breast” nothing can be shredded and he also likes stake.. plain spaghetti noodles, egg noodles,tuna helper, and that’s basically it. Besides plain meal and salad which is only lettuce, cheese, and ranch.

      I’ve been wanting to pre make freezer meals for those nights I was 12 hour shifts and am just exhausted by the time I get in with them to start dinner.. I’ve been searching and searching for recipes that might be able to help me but I am always finding nothing.. help please any ideas would be great!

  3. We only bake and freeze enchiladas and lasagna. I would like to get better at doing it though. So nice to be able to just throw it in the oven and have a meal.

  4. This is a little outside the box, but I love to have breakfast foods in the freezer! Muffins are so easy to do – make your favorite muffin batter(s), line up foil baking cups on a cookie sheet, and fill the cups with batter. Freeze **unbaked** while on the cookie sheets, then transfer to freezer bags when frozen solid. When ready to bake, put the muffin cups (still frozen) into a muffin tin. 18-22 minutes at 400 for any kind of muffin does the trick! The baking time is exactly enough time to also boil some eggs if you start the water when you preheat the oven. This is a nice, hot, yummy breakfast that doesn’t leave a mess and will also work for lunch or even dinner in a pinch.

    • Kate, I did that years ago when my children were little. Now Tilly makes breakfast (and before her it was Judah). We go through 4 dozen muffins when we have them for breakfast, so we rarely freeze ahead…Great ideas though! I should do a few “breakfast” casseroles that we could eat for dinner.

      • If you made the super large sized muffins (about two times regular size) and made bran muffins, would you still go through that amount? I am in awe and I have a family of 10 total. Although here is the kicker: My oldest is 12. I don’t know how we’re going to afford for them to all hit adolescence!!! I just started freezer cooking this year. January 1st, my husband and I spent 13 hours in the kitchen. It was more than exhausting. Now, I keep forgetting to thaw the dishes we froze! I look forward to more kitchen help as my kids grow (12,9,8,5,4,1.5, one on the way). Right now, I have a hard time relinquishing all control to the 8 and 9 yo’s, as it always creates more mess and takes more time than doing it myself. However, I’m getting better and better and letting go thanks to reading blogs about other large families! :-)

        • I don’t know the answer to your muffing question. Two years about we went through four dozen for breakfast, now we only go through about three. Baking muffins is quick and easy though, so we rarely do that ahead of time. Hang in there, you will find your groove for freezer cooking. I have been through several different methods and finally have one that works for us. As far as your kids, I know they may not be much of a help now, but they will be, I promise. Last Sunday I spent the afternoon at my parents and Jubilee (age 11) made soft tacos for dinner, all by herself. Consider your kids in the kitchen an investment for the future.

  5. This is our favorite freezer meal. I usually double it to make a bunch of freezer meals.

    Cheesy Rigatoni Bake

    Ingredients
    1 package (16 ounces) rigatoni or large tube pasta
    2 tablespoons butter
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 cups milk
    1/4 cup water
    4 eggs, lightly beaten
    2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
    2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
    1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

    Directions
    Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour and salt until smooth; gradually add milk and water. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.
    Drain pasta; place in a large bowl. Add eggs. Spoon into two greased 8-in. square baking dishes. Layer each with one can of tomato sauce, half the mozzarella cheese and half the white sauce. Sprinkle each with half the Parmesan cheese.
    Cover and freeze one casserole for up to 3 months. Bake second casserole, uncovered, at 375° for 30-35 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160°.
    To use frozen casserole: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Cover and bake at 375° for 40 minutes. Uncover; bake 7-10 minutes longer or until a meat thermometer reads 160°. Yield: 2 casseroles (6 servings each).

  6. Another idea, make pizza dough and freeze it. You can even freeze it flat if you want. Then bake it, top it with whatever toppings you like and melt the cheese in the broiler.

  7. Here is another freezer favorite:

    Rice Sausage Casserole

    Ingredients
    2 packages (7.2 ounces each) rice pilaf
    2 pounds bulk pork sausage
    6 celery ribs, chopped
    4 medium carrots, sliced
    1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
    1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
    2 teaspoons onion powder
    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/4 teaspoon pepper

    Directions
    Prepare rice mixes according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the sausage, celery and carrots over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
    In a large bowl, combine the sausage mixture, rice, soups, onion powder, garlic powder and pepper. Transfer to two greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dishes.
    Cover and freeze one casserole for up to 3 months. Cover and bake the remaining casserole at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
    To use frozen casserole: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake as directed. Yield: 2 casseroles (6-8 servings each).

  8. Here’s our freezer friendly/big batch cooking favorites:
    Shepherd’s Pie
    Baked spaghetti
    Salisbury steak
    french dip sandwich kits(make aujus, marinate meat, bag in meal size portions, put that bag, plus buns & cheese in larger bag for grab & go ease)
    french bread pizza kits(assemble ingredients in individual portioned bags, then toss them in a big ziplock with the pre-sliced bread)
    Meat loaf (mix the usual recipe, freeze raw, in a foil pan, in a ziplock)

  9. What carbs do you eat? If you do spuds having them in the freezer (nearly cooked) will cut down on washing and cutting time for whoever is doing the cooking.

    I only skimmed the other suggestions, but quiche is one I don’t remember reading.

    I love the facial expressions in the photos too. :-)

  10. What about some chili, spaghetti sauce, maybe some taco meat already made up (you could freeze the cheese also). I’ve only done lasagna once and it didn’t turn out right when I went to eat it. Praying that you’ve got a surgery date and all goes perfect!

  11. Black-eyed peas with tomatoes, peppers and ham.
    Beef stew.
    Black bean soup.
    Barbecue anything (we often do it with pressed tofu and homemade bbq sauce — saute 1 onion in 1/4 c butter, add1 c tomato sauce, 1/4 c Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp black pepper, a pinch of sugar), serve on toast.
    Do your enchiladas work okay in the freezer? For me, the tortillas always get too mushy. But I don’t fry them beforehand — maybe that helps.

  12. These are the posts that first got me hooked on your blog! You taught me how to do freezer meals years ago. We love any meats with marinade, and soups, and just about anything from Fix, Freeze, Feast! Good thinking on your part, before the surgery. We have been praying here in Colorado for God to cover your son, as well as the whole family.

  13. Just thought I would put my two cents, I noticed you said you fried your tortillas to make them flexable. What we do is throw them in the micro in a bag for about 20 sec and that softens them nicely. Praying for Apollo. I’m currently studying the heart in my Anatomy class in college.

  14. I’m a big fan of lentils…for freezing, I like: lentil chili, barbecue lentils (lentils, bbq sauce, sausage…better than pulled pork), lentil stew (lentils, broth, fruit of your choice – or veggies if you prefer), and taco lentils (lentils and taco seasoning…use as you would taco meat for a variety of mexican inspired dishes). I tried to make curry lentils once, but it didn’t work out…the recipe needs refining.

  15. White Chili would be a great freezer food. A batch to serve 8 would be:
    1 pound diced chicken breast
    3 cans navy, great northern, or butter beans ( or one of each) or you could use the equivilant with dried beans, cooked.
    2 cans white hominy
    1 can rotel or green chilis
    2-3 chopped jalepenoes
    1 1/2 cups hot water with one chicken bouillon cube
    We like to serve this over rice and sprinkled with cheddar cheese.

  16. I don’t often cook for the freezer, so I have nothing to add as far as recipes, but I do have a comment….I LOVE that Lego is so much a part of your kids’ lives that they show up even in a post like this! ;)

  17. Chicken pot pie freezes very well, also bean soups. I do not like to freeze noodles, so freeze chicken noodle without noodle and just bring to boil/add noodles. Homemade mac and cheese is pretty good if the noodles were al dente, then bake when thawed. I also learned you can make roast and freeze it covered well in its juice and it doesnt get freezer burn, and its tender when you thaw it. Good luck to you all, I will be praying for you.

  18. We don’t often freeze big meals for the family, but we do freeze left overs in single serve portions for quick meals. We almost always have soup and stew in the freezer though. We also pretty much always have hash browns, chicken nuggets and fish fingers in the freezer for emergencies (yes, they are expensive and unhealthy, but they are good for a treat when Mum is just too tired to cook). We also have lots of tins of spaghetti, creamed corn and baked beans for on toast, when dinner plans go out the window. I guess quick dinners for 5 people are a lot different to quick dinners for 13 :)

  19. meatballs r great! Mix up and then put on a tinfloil lined cookie sheet and brown under broiler. Then freeze on a cookie sheet till frozen then freeze servings in a freezer bag!!

  20. You are incredible!! Those enchiladas look great! I love freezing my super hearty pasta sauce, turkey chili, creamy butternut squash soup and my rosemary beef stew! Great, now I’m hungry!:)

  21. Several of what we freeze has been mentioned, but I’ll list them anyway so that my brain will remember everything else.

    Chili – chocolate chipotle chili and turkey chili
    Meatlaof – raw, thaw and cook
    beef stew – your choice of recipes. Cook then freeze.
    diced chicken with sauce – this maybe a Lime Chipotle sauce, orange sauce, curry sauce, bbq sauce, …. I like diced chicken and sauce. It is so versitile.
    meatballs – either plain or in sauce – or perhaps freeze the sauce. Recently made an egg-lemon sauce to go over mint meatballs. A bit advanced but yummy. Not sure how egg-lemon would freeze, so maybe that isn’t a sauce to use in this situation.
    chicken stir-fry – cooked perhaps so it can just be warmed up. I’m okay with a bit softer veggies.
    steak (beef) pita sandwiches – cook and slice the beef ahead of time. The day of, just cut up veggies and serve. Could use tortillas and make a burrito out of it.
    bread – either regular sandwich bread or “special” breads like zucchini, green tomato, etc. Just cook, wrap with plastic and foil and freeze.
    Pre-chopped onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc. I actually put together my own omlete bags of left over sliced/diced/chopped veggies. I just dump the bag out into the pan to cook/thaw while I get the eggs scrambled and toast started.

  22. Dealing with sickness can definitely be burdensome on families, especially when one member is forced to abandon certain duties to better care for the loved one who’s suffering. Your idea to prepare meals in advance is definitely a good one, as that allowed you to spend more time taking care of your son and less time worrying about how your family. When my grandmother was going through cancer treatment (in Houston, TX and Kansas City, MO), my mother would leave us for a few weeks at a time to be with her. And knowing that with just my dad looking after us, we’d end up eating fast food every night. So she prepared a few freezer meals for us and planned out other simple meals for us to make while she was away. This was great because we were still able to have one of Mom’s home-cooked meals, even when she wasn’t with us!
    Also, as far as having a sick child goes, we know the feeling. When we (my four siblings and I) were younger, one of my younger brothers was very sick and was hospitalized for months due to something that was eating away at his brain. (Though the doctors said he’d probably never walk again, he’s now 19 and almost perfectly healthy.) It can be very difficult to handle, especially when there are other small children at home. It’s important that the other children understand what’s going on with their sibling and recognize that their sibling needs some extra special attention. Siblings in this case should be told how important it is that they help out around the house at this time. It may be frustrating to be giving so much attention to one child, but letting the others know how appreciated all of their help is will make it easier. My blog on life in a large family can be found at http://www.lifeinalargefamily.wordpress.com
    E-mail: sjcordonier@gmail.com

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