run out of womb

... learning how to be a mum from scratch

Sunday 29 January 2017

Easy, freezable, make-ahead toddler meals

I love cooking, but coming up with endless ideas plus juggling busy-at-work weeks with tiny man's voracious appetite means I've come to be one of those freezer-obsessives. We don't have a big one - but it's Jenga-style filled with ickle tupperwares that I can pull out in the morning and be 40-heat-up-seconds ready for supper that evening.

I'm freezer-lazy: where's the benefit of bulk-cooking bolognese/tomato/cheese sauce etc, if you've still got to boil up some pasta that's another 15 minutes.. So I prefer stews, pies, bakes: I like all-in-ones. Luckily, so does tiny man.

So here are 10 of our favourite easy, big-batchable recipes for toddler meals - and how to freeze them. Enjoy!

1. Pizza pockets: I found this recipe on this great Yummy Toddler Food site and it's both easy and possible to have a toddler help you make them: perfect. You split a batch of whole wheat pizza dough (like this from Waitrose, or homemade) into golf ball sizes, flatten into a disc (toddlers do this v well..), then put a stingy tablespoon of frozen peas and another of grated cheese on one side, rub water around the edges, then fold up and over and press the edges together to make a half-moon shape. Poke holes in the top of each, then bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes. Store in a freezer bag (with as much air removed as possible) for up to 3 months.

2. I make a lot of fish pies, and freeze them in ramekins. Mainly because I hate fish (I know... I wish I loved it), and like tiny man (who luckily loves it) to eat it a lot without me having to cook it a lot! I started with this Annabel Karmel recipe but now I make it up as I go along, depending on what the fishmonger has in - generally steaming fish and chopped carrots, peas, mushrooms and any other veg in my fave Avent blender, stirring in fresh coriander or basil, then making up buttery mashed potato for the topping. I usually make eight in one go, pop them into in individual ramekins, bake for half-an-hour, then freeze so they can be thoroughly defrosted and heated through, and are then ready,

3. Shepherds pie - mine is based on this big family recipe (so it makes 10-15 toddler meals, I slice up the baked dish and freeze in portions) - I omit the stock and just add more fresh herbs, and use either lamb or beef. 

4.  Lasagna - I make this in a huge baking dish and then, once cooked and baked and cooled, I cut it into individual portions and freeze these, covered in clingfilm. I vary the recipe depending on what vegetables I have in, but usually follow Mary Berry's recipe roughly - it's a bit of a faff but I love it too and it makes loads so the family can eat it for two meals.

5, 6, 7. So I know I dissed this just before - but I DO make up big batches of tomato sauce, bolognese, cheese roux etc and freeze in single portions in small freezer bags. Mainly because of the wonder ingredient that is couscous: ready in 3 minutes, without a stove etc - just stir into your defrosted sauce. These cheese, bolognese and tomato with hidden veg sauces are all popular - just bulk up to increase the portions, as required, and freeze once cooled down.

8. Hands-off beef stew: this recipe literally takes five minutes' of chopping and then everything cooks away whilst you can do something else. After baking, I freeze in individual ramekin-type bowls, covered with clingfilm. 

9. Vegetable fritters: the best thing about these? You can defrost them in the toaster. So quick and really easy. After cooking them, I freeze between pieces of parchment paper so they're easy to store in a stack in the freezer. The recipe makes me about 15, and my toddler eats about three in a meal - he loves them with Greek yogurt. (I don't sprinkle the salt over the top that the recipe suggests.)

10. Chicken casserole: I usually double or even treble this great Little Dish recipe and make enough for a family supper and individual portions for the freezer too - it's really herby and tasty. 

What are your faves for great make-ahead meals? Please share recipes/links below.


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