One of my oldest and dearest friends, Dellie, is now very, very pregnant. Back when she was just very pregnant, she and I spent a day cooking up a storm, filling a freezer with healthy, delicious meals in anticipation of a now not-so-little peanut that may or may not occupy most of her waking hours.
By now you know that I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of cook. I shop without a clear agenda, and I frequently figure out what’s for dinner by poking my head in the fridge when I get home from work and seeing what looks best. Not so with Dellie; she is the planner’s planner. And in advance of our big cooking day, she had made a master spreadsheet listing every recipe we had chosen and the quantities of every ingredient they called for. She had visited three grocery stores to procure the items we needed. She’d even prepped a few key elements of dishes in advance, so we could hit the ground running as soon as I arrived. That woman, I tell you: she is a force.
For those of you who are curious as to what we made, I’m sharing the list here. I think it’s a fantastic starter list for folks looking to stockpile meals before the birth of a child or another big event. We picked things that freeze and reheat well, things that won’t be too fussy to pop in the oven at the end of a busy day.
We certainly weren’t the first to fill up the freezer;Â Merrill Stubbs from Food 52Â did the same thing before she had her beautiful daughter, Clara. She cooked a mix of one-pot meals and freezable components (like taco filling) that could be assembled with relative ease later on. We stuck mostly with the former, to make things as stress-free as possible.
Here’s our master list:
- Chicken Tikka Masala (Food 52)
- KnishesÂ with lentil-lamb-raisin filling instead of potatoes (Smitten Kitchen)
- Pulled jerk chickenÂ (NDP)
- Tuxedo chiliÂ fromÂ The Runaway Spoon, usingÂ turkey and adding some kale (Food 52)
- Baked ziti with bison-tomato sauce (mostly riffed)
- Quinoa salad with mirepoix, ground turkey, kale, and tomatoes (again, riffed)
And in case you were curious about our space-estimating skills, we filled the freezer precisely to its capacity:
I left Dellie and Jeremy’s house smelling intensely of meat (just ask the folks who picked me up – sorry guys!), but knowing that D and J had at least a month’s worth of meals, ready to go.
Since no meal is complete without at least a little something sweet – and since parenthood means many late nights – we also made two trays of these granola bars to stow away.
Yes, these granola bars are raw — in the sense that you don’t bake the bars – not in the sense that nothing has been heated. You actually toast most of the ingredients before mixing them, to amp up their flavor. Raw or cooked, they’re the best granola bars I’ve ever made (and I’ve made my fair share).
Dell and I agreed that these granola bars were lighter and crunchier than others we’d made; puffed rice is the key. They also hold up to travel and time much better than my belovedÂ raspberry barsÂ or my other favorite granola bars. After licking the bowl at Dellie’s, I got home and promptly made a pan for us. When my heavy travel kicked in, I packed up about 10 bars into a zip-top bag and tossed them into the bottom of my purse, where — despite lots of banging around — they stayed intact and delicious for two full weeks. I can’t think of a better travel snack.
Really Good Raw Granola Bars
Adapted slightly from Sara’s Granola Bars on Food52
I took out the sunflower seeds, which I don’t really enjoy, and added more of everything else. I also swapped cranberries out for dried cherries, because dried cherries are just better. Other than that, it’s all the same. It’s all really good. -R
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/3 cups raw sliced almonds
1 1/3 cups raw pumpkin seeds
3 1/3 cups brown rice crispies (you can substitute regular rice crispies or puffed rice)
1 cup dried apricots, sliced thinly
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup almond butter
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Toast the oats, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. It’s fine to put them all on the same pan, but make sure you separate them on the pan, so that when one is done, you can remove it and leave the others to continue toasting. The pumpkin seeds took about 7 minutes, the oats and almonds about 10 (though almonds will depend on how thinly they’re sliced).
When all the items are sufficiently toasted, toss them with the brown rice crispies, apricots, and cherries in a large bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the almond butter and honey just to get melty, not cooked. (This is your glue and if it boils or even comes close, it gets hard and impossible to stir once it cools.) Stir in the salt and cinnamon, then pour over the granola mixture and stir. You want to get everything mixed together and sticky without crushing the crispies.
Turn the mixture into a 9×13 baking dish lined with parchment and press the mixture evenly and firmly, trying not crush the crispies too much. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours. Cut into 2-inch squares before serving.
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That is one mighty impressive-looking freezer. What an amazing friend you are!
I clicked for the granola bars and got all these amazing freezer food recipes. You are the gift that keeps giving!!
Where can we find the lentil lamb filling for the knishes? Do we have to be very, very pregnant for you to come over? â˜º
Leslie – alas, I only visit very, very pregnant people. 🙂 The lentil lamb filling was riffed, not based on a recipe. I’ll tell you what I did, though —
– cook a big pot (2-3 cups?) lentils.
– put diced onions (2) in a big shallow pan with some olive oil until sizzling and starting to turn brown around the edges
– push the onions to the side of the pan and add 2 lbs. of lamb (not lean). break it up into chunks as it cooks, but give it room and time to get browned. that’s your flavor.
– add plenty of salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, cayenne, coriander, cinnamon, and any other flavors in the warm-autumn-indian range.
– add 1 cup raisins (gold or red) and stir to combine.
– when lamb is cooked, mix into lentils; taste and add more spices and salt if necessary.
– eat as is or tuck into knish dough, pasta, rice, etc.
that’s amazing! 🙂
i have only a tiny freezer but i managed to pack in 7 or 8 meals which came in so handy after out little one was born and the mealtrain ended!
I just started eating gluten free and dairy free, so these are great!! Have you ever tried using agave nectar instead of honey? Also, I used sunflower butter because it was in the house and it was awesome!!
Hope all is well with you!
Rivka, I made the granola bars with emendations for my diet: I used maple syrup, sunflower seed butter, pepitas, no nuts. I’d never used brown rice crisps in granola before. It’s delicious and a great travel food, which I’m always in need of. Thanks! See you in August!