As an expectant mom, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of lots of unsolicited advice about what to expect once baby arrives. You know all those rumors that you’ve heard about how exciting, and tiring, having a new baby in the house can be — sorry to be the bearer of bad news here, but it’s all true! You are going to have your hands full, and, you will probably also be very sleep deprived for the first few months of your baby’s life!
Planning and Preparing Ahead May Save Your Life!
For this reason, many expectant moms use the later months of their pregnancy to prepare for baby’s arrival. In addition to getting the nursery ready, a lot of moms use this time to prepare, cook and freeze several weeks’ worth of meals for their families.
This way, you just need to pop the meal in the microwave and reheat it before serving, instead of having to spend hours in the kitchen, cooking, before you can eat. This really is a good idea that will save you time and energy, and possibly your sanity, once baby arrives.
The Freezer Can Be Your Friend or Foe – Tips to Avoid the Pitfalls!
There are a few things to keep in mind, however, when freezing meals that you plan to reheat later. The following tips and tricks will help to ensure that the foods that you are preparing now will be delicious and healthy to reheat and serve later.
Avoid Icy Lumps of Mystery Fruit
Fruits such as sliced apples, pears and pineapple, grapes and all types of berries usually freeze well, but placing all of them into the same container to freeze at the same time often leaves you with icy balls of misshapen fruit
You can avoid this by freezing fruit individually in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and adding them to the same container once frozen. Another option is to thread individual fruit pieces onto bamboo skewers and then freeze the fruit kabobs in a single layer. Just add them to your storage container once frozen. These treats can be enjoyed thawed or still partially frozen, and are a great one handed snack for breastfeeding moms.
Avoid Sogginess by Undercooking
What’s worse than icy lumps of fruit? Clumps of glue! You can avoid this by undercooking pasta and rice in dishes that you plan to freeze and reheat later. Pasta and rice should still be firm, and thoroughly drained, before you freeze it.
Of course, you wouldn’t want to do the following with casserole dishes such as lasagna, but if it’s a pasta dish such as spaghetti or another pasta bake, you can also freeze the sauce and other add-ins together, separately from the pasta and rice. Simply stir all of the items together once the pasta, sauce and stir-ins have been thawed and reheated separately to banish those dreaded congealed, gooey lumps!
Use Care When Freezing and Thawing Leafy Greens and Other Veggies
Leafy greens freeze well if you will be using them in a cooked dish, such as chopped spinach that you would then use in a quiche or lasagna. Lettuces and other leafy greens do not freeze and thaw well if you plan to eat them raw, as they quickly become waterlogged when thawing and lose their crunch. So, refrigerate, rather than freeze, leafy greens that you want to eat in salads.
Similar advice applies to other vegetables with high starch and/or water content such as green peppers, carrots, celery, cabbage and onions. Freezing works well when they are frozen in cooked dishes, but their texture and taste is often unappetizing if you freeze and thaw them to eat raw.
Potatoes are another vegetable that does not freeze and thaw well when it is frozen and added raw to a recipe.
The Texture of Tofu and Other Foods Changes When Frozen
Freezing changes the texture of many foods, and tofu is no exception. In the case of tofu, however, the change can be very helpful as freezing dries tofu out and can make it firmer and spongier. If you plan on cooking and freezing a stir-fry to reheat later, remember to drain, and then marinate and/or slice tofu into its desired shape before you freeze it.
With the exception of ice cream, raw milk, and foods that contain milk, may separate and take on a watery, runny or lumpy texture once thawed. Similar to leafy green vegetables, you may want to avoid freezing milk containing foods that you wish to thaw and eat raw.
While cheeses will become more crumbly when frozen and thawed, this usually does not affect the taste in a bad way as long as it’s in a dish that will be reheated before it is eaten. Try to reheat foods that contain milk and milk products slowly, and stir them frequently throughout the process, to help them regain their original taste and creamy texture.
Freeze Garnishes Separately
Have you ever noticed that sometimes, when you reheat everything together, the topping loses its crunchiness, which sort of defeats the purpose of having a topping or garnish?
If the recipe calls for a garnish such as green onions, herbs, or bread crumbs, go ahead and do the chopping and other prep work. Just freeze and store the toppings separately from the main portion of the meal. Later, just thaw your topping and add it back to your dish once it’s been reheated.
An Important Note About Breaded and Fried Foods
Most breaded and fried foods, for example, fried chicken, French fries, or onion rings, will no longer be crisp and crunchy after it’s frozen, thawed, and reheated in the microwave. While you may be able to recover some of the crunch by reheating items like these in a conventional oven, the inside will likely become much softer. Some find this change in texture unappetizing.
Professionally prepackaged foods use many preservatives and other chemicals to help fried foods retain their crunchiness when frozen and reheated. Unfortunately really isn’t possible to reproduce this effect at home.
If you love fried foods, you can still save a fraction of your prep time by going ahead and pre-breading the item, and then flash freezing it in a single layer and storing it once frozen. Now the item just has to be placed into the pan or fryer and cooked.
You Can Never Have Enough Single Serving, One Handed Meals and Snacks
Whether or not you breast feed, your arms and hands will be occupied most of the time holding your baby during the first few weeks, so having a lot of single serving, one-handed snacks and meals on hand will truly be a blessing!
Breads and meats freeze well and can be eaten with one hand. This makes sandwiches, wraps and pita pockets great choices. Prepare these items ahead of time and freeze in single serving size so that they are ready to eat, hot or cold, when you are hungry. Just leave off the condiments such as mayonnaise until after you’ve thawed your treat.
Both raw and cooked eggs also freeze well, as long as they are not stored in the shell. Hard boiled eggs can be frozen, thawed and eaten by themselves, or made into egg salad spreads to be enjoyed on bread, toast or crackers. Even scrambled eggs and omelets retain their taste and shape well in the freezer and can be eaten cold when thawed or reheated quickly.
Nuts and baked goods such as cookies, cakes and pretzels also keep well in the freezer, and can be divided and frozen into individual serving sizes to make it easier to eat and keep up your energy levels.
Some expectant moms worry that if they make up too many snacks, or even full meals, that some will go to waste, but this is rarely ever the case. Once your baby is here you will be so busy that it is far more likely that you will be thankful for everything that you were able to cook and prepare in advance that saved you time.