We don't eat like normal people around here. Oh sure, we eat recognizable food — we're not 3D printing our meals or anything — but because of the particular needs and demands of our jobs, our schedules are a little out of whack. I work from home as a food writer, recipe developer, and photographer; he works during the evenings as an editor for a major online sports media company. There's always a ton of food (and leftovers!) in our house, but we're not always both around at the same time to eat it.
And in this sense, I suspect we're more in line with what's happening in a lot of kitchens and dining rooms around the country. Not everyone is sitting down to eat the same thing at the same time, and not everyone wants to eat the same thing at the same time. While it would be understandable to throw up your arms and call for takeout every night, it's not impossible to come up with a meal plan that keeps everyone happy.
Rather than prepare two or three different meals every night to suit both our tastes and schedules, my strategy is to keep a stock of freezer-friendly meals on hand. That way, there's always something appealing and filling for Dan to take to work — this guy needs a hot meal at 9 p.m. — or to eat at home on days when he's not excited about having my latest cooking project for dinner.
The recipes in this series are all tried-and-true favorites that get the thumbs-up from my picky-eating other half. They're all designed to be portioned out and frozen, but each can be made and eaten fresh too!
5 Freezer-Friendly Meals for Busy Nights
Your Meal Plan
All the recipes in this meal plan can be eaten right away for dinner or they can be frozen for up to three months.
Scallion Pancakes Pierogies: Freeze these in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid. Freeze for up to three months. They do not need to be thawed before cooking, and you can cook just as many as you want for dinner, leaving the rest in the freezer.
Cheeseburger Hand Pies: Freeze these after fully baking them. Reheat in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes or in the microwave for three to four minutes.
Chicken Chile Enchiladas: This casserole can be frozen either unbaked or after baking; if you freeze after baking, you can freeze it in individual portions. The casserole doesn't need to be thawed before cooking. Uncooked enchiladas can be baked for 45 minutes at 375°F; already-cooked enchiladas can be warmed at 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes; individual portions can be reheated in the microwave for three to five minutes.
Jalapeno Popper Pierogies: Like the Scallion Pancake Pierogies, these can be frozen in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and frozen for up to three months. If you're cooking them right from the freezer, boil them first, then dip in egg wash and cornmeal before frying.
Chunky Italian Wedding Soup with Pasta: Freeze the soup after adding the greens, but before adding the pasta and eggs. When ready to eat, thaw, bring to a simmer, and continue with the recipe.
Your Shopping List
To buy at the store:
- Red bell pepper (1 medium)
- Jalapeño chiles (4 medium)
- Celery stalks (2 to 3 large)
- Carrots (2 medium)
- Yellow onion (1 small)
- Escarole or spinach (1 head or bunch)
- Shallot (1 large)
- Garlic (2 cloves)
- Ginger (1 half-inch piece)
- Scallions (1 bunch)
- Eggs (8 large)
- Boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 pound)
- Chicken breasts (2 to 3 breasts, or 1 pound cooked, shredded chicken)
- Ground beef (2 pounds)
- Pie crust (2 9-inch pie crusts, or make homemade)
- Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (1 cup)
- Cream cheese (1/2 cup, or 4 ounces)
- Cheddar cheese (6 tablespoons shredded)
- Parmesan (1/2 cup finely grated)
- Your choice of cheese mix for the enchiladas and jalapeño poppers (3 1/2 cups shredded)
- Chicken broth (7 to 9 cups)
- Small pasta, such as acini di pepe (8 ounces)
- Diced tomatoes (1 28-ounce can)
- Hatch red enchilada sauce (1 15-ounce can)
- Diced green chiles (1 4-ounce can)
- Taco-sized soft tortillas (8-count package)
- Unbleached all-purpose flour (3 cups + 2 tablespoons)
- Italian-style bread crumbs (1/3 cup)
- Corn flour (1/2 cup)
- Ground cornmeal (1 cup + 2 tablespoons)
- Hot chili sesame oil or garlic-chili paste (1/2 teaspoon)
- Distilled white vinegar (2 cups)
From your pantry (check that you have enough):
- Vegetable oil (2 tablespoons)
- Olive oil (2 tablespoons)
- Sesame oil (2 tablespoons)
- Unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)
- Black pepper (1 teaspoon)
- Kosher salt (4 tablespoons)
- Crushed red pepper flakes (1/2 teaspoon)
- Garlic powder (1/2 teaspoon)
- Onion powder (1/2 teaspoon)
- Soy sauce (3 tablespoons)
- Rice vinegar (3 tablespoons)
- Ketchup (3 tablespoons)
- Sweet relish (2 tablespoons)
- Yellow mustard (1 1/2 tablespoons)
- Worcestershire sauce (a few shakes)
- Light brown sugar (1 tablespoon)
- Granulated sugar (2 teaspoons)
- Honey (2 tablespoons)