5 Recipes for Meals that Keep Well

By: Alia Hoyt

Freezer food may not seem all that appetizing, but it tastes much better when you make it yourself.
Freezer food may not seem all that appetizing, but it tastes much better when you make it yourself.
Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Thinkstock

I adore cooking -- I just prefer to minimize the effort and mess when I have small children under my feet (which is pretty much all the time). Make-ahead meals that refrigerate or freeze well are favorites of people with hectic lives, and they certainly save me time and hassle. Plus, meals prepared at home have fewer preservatives and usually taste better than the frozen dinners available at your local grocery store.

There are many techniques for make-ahead meals. Some cooks prepare double batches and then eat half that day and freeze the rest for a future dinner. Others spend weekend afternoons preparing food weeks or even months in advance. Most meals can be refrigerated for three days. By comparison, you can freeze food for longer periods of time, but the dish will start to lose its flavor after 2 to 6 months on ice.

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All you need is a little bit of advance preparation to avoid a life full of takeout and expensive delivery pizza. Keep reading for our favorite freezer-friendly meal options.

5: Meatloaf

A large pan of meatloaf is enough to serve two families, easily. Rather than let leftovers go to waste or force yourself to eat the same thing for the next few days, freeze the extras and enjoy them at a later date. Chances are the meat, spices and veggies you incorporated into the original recipe will heat up even better the second time around. Once you defrost and microwave your loaf, all you need to create a full meal are a couple of potatoes to bake in the oven and some frozen or canned veggies.

This recipe for Home-Sweet-Home Meatloaf requires only tomato sauce, brown sugar, sirloin beef, diced tomatoes and two eggs, beaten. Many chefs incorporate veggies like green peppers and onions into their meatloaves for extra flavor. Even better, this dish can be frozen for up to 6 months, giving it one of the most impressive shelf lives of all premade foods.

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4: Pot Pie

Not only are pot pies easy to make and delicious, they also keep well.
Not only are pot pies easy to make and delicious, they also keep well.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

What's not to love about a homemade pot pie? The flaky crust, creamy sauce and smattering of veggies and meats in a typical pot pie are adored by both children and adults. Plus, they defrost every bit as well as they cook the first time around! Choose from turkey, chicken or beef as your meat of choice, and prepare to start baking!

This recipe for Chicken Pot Pie calls for ingredients such as cubed chicken breast, half-and-half, flour, refrigerated crescent rolls (some recipes use biscuits or pie crusts) and a smattering of spices. Veggies are variable, with carrots, celery, peas and mushrooms being common choices. Tailor your own exactly how you want it, and enjoy it not once, but twice! Just eat one and freeze the other. When you're ready for the second batch, defrost it in the refrigerator overnight, then pop it in the oven before dinnertime the next day.

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3: Chicken Tetrazzini

Pasta dishes are popular make-ahead meals, and for good reason! Chicken tetrazzini is amazing the first time around, but it actually tastes even better reheated, regardless if it's been refrigerated or frozen. Like other casseroles, chicken tetrazzini can be stored for up to 6 months in the freezer.

This recipe calls for vermicelli or thin spaghetti, sliced mushrooms (canned or fresh will do), chicken broth, milk, flour, salt, Parmesan cheese, sour cream and boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I've substituted the milk with whipping cream when I've longed for a richer dish, and I've used evaporated milk when counting calories.

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If your plan is to freeze this delicious concoction, simply prepare it as you would normally, then pop it in the freezer instead of baking it. All that's left to do is defrost and heat when you're ready to enjoy a truly scrumptious meal.

2: Chili

Ah, chili -- it's a warm and friendly dish that goes well with cornbread or on top of hot dogs. Because it's often made primarily from ground beef, beans and tomatoes, chili is a cinch to make in large quantities, providing plenty of extras for freezing.

Fortunately, even a freezer can't take the spice out of chili. In fact, it'll come out of hibernation with every bit as much zing as it had in the beginning. Then, all you need are corn chips or the aforementioned cornbread to have a complete, filling and protein-rich meal.

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There's an incarnation of chili to suit absolutely every appetite. In fact, it's difficult to duplicate a recipe exactly because it's always so tempting to add to or change the ingredients. This recipe for Southwest Chili requires red kidney beans, great northern beans, chopped green chilies, cumin, cilantro, chili powder, onions and a couple of large, chopped tomatoes. Spices and bean selection can be adjusted to taste, so if your family practically drinks hot sauce, feel free to go a little wild and crazy with your chili's flavor.

1: Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplings is as delicious as it is easy to save for a future meal.
Chicken and dumplings is as delicious as it is easy to save for a future meal.
Brian Hagiwara/FoodPix/Getty Images

I highly suggest giving my family's chicken and dumplings recipe a whirl the next time you need warming up. If you're planning to freeze it, you can make it as listed below and then complete the dumpling portion once it's been defrosted. This recipe makes 8 to 10 servings can be stored in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.

Chicken and Dumplings

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1 whole fryer chicken

2 cups of baking mix

2 or 3 potatoes

2 or 3 carrots

1 cup of milk

2 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions: Put chicken in large pot, cover with water and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook until done (about 30 to 40 minutes). Remove chicken from pot. Once cool, remove skin and meat from the bones and set aside. Skim as much fat as possible from the chicken broth.

Peel and chop potatoes and carrots into small pieces. Add to broth and bring to boil. Dissolve cornstarch into 1/3 cup milk and add slowly to the broth. Add chicken and cook until vegetables are done. Top with dumplings.

Dumplings:

Combine 2 cups baking mix with 2/3 cup milk. Stir well and drop by standard spoonfuls into boiling broth. Cover and cook over medium 10 minutes; uncover and cook for another 10 minutes.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • All Recipes. "Freezing Foods: A Real Time-Saver." 2011. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/freezing-foods-a-real-time-saver/detail.aspx
  • Martha Stewart. "Cook From Your Freezer." March 2010. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://www.marthastewart.com/265438/cook-from-your-freezer
  • Meyer, Hilary. "Cooking evenly is a secret for a top-notch casserole." Pittsburgh Live. Oct. 30, 2011. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/lifestyles/fooddrink/s_764342.html
  • Rachael Ray Mag. "Reheat and Eat: Top 20 freezer-friendly recipes." Shine. Jan. 5, 2011. (Nov. 2, 2011) http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/food/reheat-and-eat-top-20-freezer-friendly-recipes-2436706

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