1
Oct

Make-Ahead Paleo Freezer Meals

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I'm asked all the time which of my recipes can be frozen and reheated or if I have make-ahead paleo freezer meals. Due the nature of my job, with creating new recipes constantly, I don't operate in the make-ahead realm often, so it's always a bit of work to figure it out for you guys! Sitting and planning the 8 weeks of meal plans for Meals Made Simple and all of the make-ahead tips in there was actually the most difficult part of the book for me, because my brain isn't much of the meal planning type. It's more of the creative type that sees something and is inspired to run out to the grocery store and make it on the spot. There's weeks where I'm at the store 4-5 times, especially during book writing!

But with Easton's arrival, I knew I needed to switch gears a bit and plan ahead for the days when meals from friends wore off and when the boys kept me too busy to cook. A warning. It's a lot of work upfront. My best advice for pregnant mommas, or any family really, looking to prep – grab a friend (or 2!) to help you and make a party of it one weekend. It may seem daunting, and finding the time to do it all and clean up afterwards can be difficult, especially if you have other kids, but you'll be so grateful when the time comes!

Everything below comes from my 2 cookbooks, with a couple from here on the blog as well. I'll give you the page numbers so you can find the recipes easily, and the notes to freeze it and the best way to reheat them!

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Stocked in my Freezer

(recipe titles in blue are linked to the blog)

My top 10 Make-Ahead and Freezer Tips

  1. Get a good slow cooker that has 6-7 quart capacity, has a timer, and has a warming function for after the timer goes off. I use this All Clad and have had the same one for years, without any cracks or any malfunctioning. I also love how the insert is wide and not deep, as I think it cooks more evenly. This more affordable version is also great though, and I have used it on vacation.
  2. Stock up on glass containers, which are great because you can freeze and reheat in the same container. Also stock up on ziploc bags, or plastic disposable containers*.
  3. Chop frequently used ingredients ingredients like onions and garlic all at once, and just distribute amount needed to each recipe when the time comes. This will save on cleanup, and watery eyes!
  4. Use fresh, not previously frozen, meat in the dishes. Meat should never be thawed and then re-frozen.
  5. If the dishes are being cooked prior to freezing, cool to room temperature or until the steam has stopped, then cool completely in the refrigerator before freezing. This will avoid freezer burn or excess moisture in the dish when it is reheated.
  6. Choose recipes that freeze well. Casseroles, one-pot meals, soups, chili, and meatballs all stand up to the freezer well.
  7. Choose recipes that can easily be doubled or tripled. I only made single versions of most of these because they are enough to feed our small family multiple times, but all of the above can easily be doubled. I find it's easiest to do an assembly line process for each dish and freezing them all separately.
  8. Label everything with the name of the dish, when it was prepared, and thawing/reheating instructions in case someone else is preparing dinner.
  9. Clean as you go. Everyone is different, and some may prefer to just tackle the massive sink of dishes at the end of the day, but that overwhelms me. If something is cooking on the stove, I try to jump in and clean up as much as possible while I wait. For things like measuring cups and spoons that I may need over and over again, I hand wash them as I go so I can use them as needed.
  10. Plan Ahead. Make a list of the meals you want to make, then make your grocery list. Shop one day, and cook the next so the day isn't too full. Try to organize your list by the department the items can be found in the grocery store (i.e. produce, meats, dairy). If I need the same ingredient for multiple dishes, I write the different amounts needed on the same line in pencil then add it up at the end so I know how much total I need to buy. For instance, if I'm making 4 dishes that call for various amounts of ground beef, I'd write: Ground Beef: 1 pound, 1/2 pound, 3/4 pound and then purchase 2 1/4 pounds

*I don't typically use plastic containers in my kitchen, but I ran out of glass with how much was prepared ahead. To be extra safe, I didn't put any food into the containers until it was cooled.

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Beef Stroganoff (page 150, Meals Made Simple)

Freezing: Cook everything except the squash noodles and make the cashew sauce. Cool completely in the fridge, then freeze everything in a container or ziploc bag.

Reheating: Remove the container the night before and thaw in the refrigerator. Place the meat and sauce mixture into a saucepan on medium heat until hot. Meanwhile, make the squash noodles as it says in the directions (step 4 and 10). Alternatively, reheat on low in a slow cooker during the day and have it ready to eat at meal time!

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Slow Cooker Braised Pork Shoulder (page 184, Meals Made Simple)

Freezing: Complete steps 1 through 5 in the directions up to 3 months in advance. Let cool, then place in an airtight container or resealable bag and store it in the freezer.

Reheating: Thaw overnight. Then, place the meat in the slow cooker insert, cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Add the carrots during the last 2 hours of cooking.

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Peruvian Style Chicken (page 116, Meals Made Simple)

Freezing: I like to freeze this uncooked in a shallow roasting dish and this meal can stay in the freezer for up to 3 months!

Reheating: Let it sit out and defrost for about 20 minutes before putting it in the oven at 425° and roasting for 45 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through.

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Chicken Cobb Salad (page 136, Against all Grain)

This one is a bit different as it's a salad and shouldn't be frozen or reheated. That being said, I like to prep as much as I can, so I cut up all of the veggies and lettuce, cook the proteins, and make the dressing. I store it disassembled in the fridge and ready to be mixed together for an easy meal!

CeleriacHash-011_1024Celeriac hash – Doubled (page 52, Against all Grain)

Freezing: I froze this one cooked, so breakfast could be thrown together easily.  Because we're a smaller family, I froze it in 4 batches  so thawing time would be shorter, and we'd have just the amount we needed for mealtime that day. Once it's cooked let it cool until the steam is gone, then refrigerate until it's cool. Freeze it in ziploc bags, glass, or plastic containers.

Reheating: Remove it the night before from the freezer to thaw in the fridge. If you forget to do that, just dump the contents in a skillet and heat it over medium heat until heated through.

Frying eggs to go on top is simple to do with Easton in my wrap, or it's something even Ryan will do which says a lot because he hates to cook!

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 Enchilada Sauce – Doubled

Freezing: After the sauce cooled, I kept one in the fridge and put one in freezer in plastic container.

Reheating: Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat in a saucepan over medium heat. If it's too thick, thin it with a little bit of water until it's reached the consistency you want.

I always have sweet potatoes and ground beef on hand to make my Enchilada Stuffed Sweet Potatoes! I will also use the sauce over some leftover shredded chicken on a bed of lettuce for a super quick lunch.

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Mexican Chicken Chowder (page 92, Against all Grain)

Freezing: I froze this fully cooked, and using homemade Chicken Stock to help my body heal after delivery. I figured I'd be eating these as quick lunches during the week, so I froze it in 2 batches to make thawing and reheating quicker.

Reheating: It's easiest if you pull it out the night before and thaw it in the fridge, but if you're short on time, you can run the container under some hot water to release it, then just dump it frozen into a saucepan and reheat over medium until heated through.

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Tom Kha Gai Soup (page 98, Against all Grain):

Freezing: Again, I assumed I'd be eating this as quick lunches during the week, or serving it as a starter for Ryan and I, so I froze it in 2 batches to make thawing and reheating quicker. After it was cooked, I cooled it until the steam was gone, then refrigerated until it was cool. Then froze it in 2 batches.

Reheating: It's easiest if you pull it out the night before and thaw it in the fridge, but if you're short on time, you can run the container under some hot water to release it, then just dump it frozen into a saucepan and reheat over medium until heated through.

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 Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies, doubled (page 258, Against all Grain):

These are mini-sized cookies that I made for Asher to have a treat, but I had no idea just how many of these I would eat after delivery! It's been a little out control, honestly! I grab them when I'm starving an Easton is screaming to eat. An apple or a banana would be a better option, but these are way more filling and satisfying. :0)

Freezing: Cool them completely, then freeze them with a layer of parchment paper between them. You can also freeze the dough as a log so you can have freshly baked cookies!

Reheating: We don't! They're so good frozen!

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Nut-Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Nut-Free Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (Cookery exclusive)

I did these as minis, because 1 is enough sugar for Asher in the morning! They take about 12 minutes to bake.

Freezing : Let them cool completely then freeze in a ziploc or a resealable container.

Reheating: I take a few out at a time and keep them in the fridge so they're ready to be eaten. If you want to eat them directly from the freezer, throw them in an oven or toaster oven on 350 degrees for 10 minutes to thaw and heat.

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Homemade Bone Broth (page 316, Against all Grain, page 242, Meals Made Simple)

I wanted to have a stash of broth at the hospital instead of having to sip on their fake broth, so I made a ton of bone broth prior to delivery.

Freezing: I put the broth in the fridge overnight then skim off the fat an ladle it in silicone muffin molds on a rimmed baking sheet. Press plastic wrap overtop then carefully place the tea in the freezer. Pop the Bone Broth Pucks into a bag and store in the freezer.

Reheating: Place the frozen pucks into a saucepan over medium-high and heat until melted and heated through. To cook with the pucks, just throw them into the pot frozen and let them melt and cook with your soup or sauce. My muffin tin is exactly 1/3 cup per cavity, so I know how much I'm using without having to thaw and measure it!

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Allergy Free Breakfast Cookies (page 54, Against all Grain)

Freezing: Cool them completely, then freeze them with a layer of parchment paper between them. You can also freeze the dough as a log so you can have freshly baked cookies!

Reheating: We don't! They're also good frozen! If you'd like to eat them warm, which will also be lovely, just throw a few frozen cookies into an oven set to 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

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Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies 2.0 (page 280, Meals Made Simple):

I like to have these nut-free cookies to throw into Asher's lunch as a treat, since his school is nut-free.

Freezing: Cool them completely, then freeze them with a layer of parchment paper between them. You can also freeze the dough as a log so you can have freshly baked cookies!

Reheating: We love these frozen actually because they're really crunchy. I also just throw them into Asher's lunch frozen so they're thawed by lunchtime.

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Chicken Zoodle Soup (page 198, Against all Grain)

Freezing: I put everything but the zucchini and broth in a ziploc and froze it raw.

To Cook: I take the bag out the night before and thaw it in the refrigerator. Then in the morning, just dump the contents of the bag into the slow cooker and add chicken stock!

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Chicken Nuggets– Tripled

These come in handy when grandparents or babysitters are with Asher, or quite honestly when I feel like chicken nuggets! Freezing and reheating instructions are at the bottom to the recipe!

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Grain-Free Meatballs

I made these mini-sized in hopes of putting a few in Asher's lunchbox with some sauce to dip them in. We will also use them for dinner.

Freezing: Brown the meatballs and cook them mostly through. Cool then freeze them in a single layer.

Reheating: Thaw desired amount of meatballs the night before. Place in the sauce and heat over medium heat until cooked through.

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Grain-Free Lasagna: This one is from the blog and has dairy in it, but I have a dairy-free version in my book Against all Grain on page 168!

Freezing: This is assembled as called for in the recipe but un-baked.

Reheating: I take it out the night before to mostly thaw it, then just bake as called for in the recipe. It may take a little longer to bake than called for if the center is still very frozen, but that will depend on your pan size and how long you thawed it for. Look for bubbling edges and insert a knife into the center to see if it's heated through.