It is no secret that babies keep you busy. You get into a cycle of feeding, changing, bouncing, soothing and rocking to sleep that repeats all day (and night) before you realize that you haven't brushed your teeth, hair or had a real meal all day. If your baby is really small you might never make it out of your jammies. Then there is the dinner issue. You might think of what to have but the time and energy to execute the plan seem to evaporate as the day wears on...out comes the take out menu.
Before I had my son I did a full day cooking and freezing extravaganza, so I had options other than take out and convenience foods. This time around I don't have a full day without a toddler to go nuts in the kitchen (and if I do have a full day without toddler I don't want to cook). I have decided this time to cook double batches of dinners I am already making. Doesn't take much longer, just buy double ingredients then there is a meal to freeze and enjoy post baby number two (who is set to arrive in about seven weeks!). Now you don't have to have a baby on the way to use this idea. We all have busy lives where making dinner from scratch day in and day out is not always possible. It feels like an amazing trick to pull something healthy and homemade out of the freezer.
I started my freezer filling quest with Black Bean Quinoa Chili.
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (19 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 green bell pepper, cut into bit sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into bit sized pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into bit sized pieces
1 tablespoon chipotle chili sauce (or other hot sauce)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup corn, fresh, frozen or canned
1 handful cilantro, chopped
Perfect for a cold, windy night. I served it with a dollop of light sour cream and some homemade cornbread (recipe here, I reduced the sugar to 1/4 cup). Very hearty for a vegetarian chili given the black beans and quinoa, not to mention high in fiber.
This freezes well. I like to freeze in large zip top freezer bags, that way I am not tying up all my containers in the freezer. They also tend to fit better in the freezer. Make sure your food is cooled completely before putting in any plastic. The food safe way to do this is to plug your sink and put your pot of food in and fill the sink with cold water and add some ice. You may have to re-fill with cold water to cool effectively. Give the food a stir so you don't get a hot spot in the middle. Once cooled add to desired container and write the date and what's in it. Once frozen it can be hard to tell what's in there.
I doubled the recipe and had enough for a dinner for us, a dinner for our freezer and a dinner delivered to our friends that recently had a their first baby. I am a big believer in food drop offs for new parents. Don't think my freezer will be too full....hint, hint ;)
Tiffany McFadden, RD