When we announced Casserole Week I was instantly deluged with requests for casseroles to freeze. Casseroles have this reputation for being easy to make ahead and easy to freeze. I actually don't do this very often; I try to make casseroles that are so easy and quick to put together that you don't have to make them too far ahead. No, when I freeze food for easy meals later, I take a different approach. I take a few days of leftover food and make what I call a freezer casserole.
The idea behind this is simple. I often make individual dishes throughout the week that go well together. For instance, the plate above has cooked beans, some pulled pork from the slow cooker, and salsa made with tomatoes from the garden. I made all of these things for separate meals one week last summer.
I realized that they all went really well together, and yet I didn't have time to eat them all up. So I took a freezer container and layered the beans in the bottom, then put the pork on top. The little bit of salsa I had left over went on top of everything else. I covered the container and stuck it in the freezer.
A month later, my husband and I came back home from a long trip. I had nothing fresh in the house to eat, but I defrosted this layered container of leftovers and had a delicious, cozy meal.
Since then I have found that many meals or separate dishes freeze well, and more to the point — freeze well together. That pot of rice from one meal, plus short ribs from another, and that last bit of red wine sauce? Layer 'em up. Or the one piece of veggie lasagna, and the braised cabbage you made way too much of? Throw them all together. Beans freeze especially well, as do rice and some pastas. All braised meats and most braised vegetables (especially squash) also freeze very nicely.
This approach works better with the way I cook, personally. Usually when I freeze something I only have the space for a small container; I'm not cooking a large meal ahead of time for my family. So it makes sense to layer little bits of leftovers (each of them not enough for a full meal), get them out of the fridge, and store them up for a quick and complete meal later.
Do you do anything like this? What do you throw in your freezer for quick meals later?
Or perhaps you are more intentional (and organized!) than I am? Do you cook ahead and freeze meals a week or a month at a time? If so, what meals are your favorites to freeze?
(Images: Faith Durand)