Jessica Fisher is a busy mom of six children, ranging from kindergarten to high school. Homeschool mom by day, freelance writer and blogger by night, she writes two popular blogs, LifeasMom.com and GoodCheapEats.com. Jessica has written online for The Kitchn, Life Your Way, Money Saving Mom, $5 Dinners, and Simple Mom and in print for more than 85 regional parenting publications in the U.S. and Canada. She lives with her husband and children in San Diego, California and is an avid home cook. She is also the author of Not Your Mother's Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook.
Introduction: This is Not
Your Mothers Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook Dinner time.
The phrase can evoke memories of lively voices, cozy suppers, and candlelight; images of forks chasing the last morsels of this or that on the plate; flavors blending in a happy symphony; satisfied hearts and tummies. Contentment. But the notion of dinner time can also bring to mind that frantic feeling when you come home tired, the dog is barking, the phone is ringing, and the entire household is clamoring, "Whats for dinner?" Stress. You grope for an answer. Fast food? TV dinners? Canned soup? These are all quick fixes, but at what cost? All have excess sodium and additives, dubiously sourced ingredients, and questionable taste. What can you do to make mealtimes more enjoyable without resorting to less-than-best menu options? How can you make contentment, not stress, the norm at dinner time? Turn to your freezer -- what Alton Brown calls "the most potent food-preservation device ever devised. That precious appliance can save your bacon when it comes to putting healthy, wholesome meals on the table in record time. Ive been preparing make-ahead and freeze meals for 15 years now, since I was a young high-school teacher with no one to feed but my husband and myself. Today I cook for a small army of eight: me, my husband, and our six children, aged tot to teen. And while I have my fair share of "Calgon, take me away" moments, mealtimes are usually pleasurable at our house. Good eating has always been part of our family culture, from enjoying upscale Santa Barbara restaurants during our dating years to laughing as our first-born, at 10 months, devoured peach salsa from a spoon to grilling pizzas today on the backyard barbecue for a pack of famished children. For us, mealtimes are an event.
And while I love to cook, as a work-at-home mom, I also like to enjoy time with my family. Making many meals ahead of time allows me to have the best of both worlds. I regularly spend focused time in the kitchen, cooking up a storm and stashing the results away in the freezer for later use. The outcome? Perfect homemade convenience foods that serve us well, without undue stress.
In as little as an hour a week, you, too, can stock your freezer with make-ahead meals and meal components that are tasty, filling, healthy, and budget-friendly.
But don’t worry: These are not your mother’s—or your grandmother’s—frozen casseroles. Drawing on modern technology and a global food market full of diverse ingredients, the recipes that follow feature a wide variety of flavor profiles and cooking methods. They appeal to modern taste buds, and they can all be prepared in bulk to help you save time in the kitchen. These meals will put the lively voices and cozy suppers back into your dinner times.