Frozen meals and recipes to cook for new (and tired) parents
Nothing can prepare someone for the level of exhaustion and elation that comes with the first days of parenthood. But helping to stock a friend’s freezer with delicious, nutritious meals that only take a few minutes in the oven or microwave can certainly help.
A few tips: Before whipping up a frozen treat for friends, make sure there’s room in their freezer to accommodate it. For recipes that serve more than two, consider making half to eat soon and packing the other half to freeze and eat at a later date, or split a six-serving recipe into three meals into packing them in three two-portion containers. Use containers you don’t need returned, and label them with the name of the dish, instructions, and maybe a little note – something like “Are you okay, Dad!” or “What a lucky child to have you as a mom.” Becoming a parent is a wild and sometimes lonely road. A little Post-it pep talk can go a long way.
Melissa Clark’s take on the classic Italian-American casserole of fried breaded chicken smothered in tomato sauce and gooey cheese is cozy and satisfying. You can use pork or veal instead of chicken, or if you’re cooking for vegetarians, there’s always eggplant parmesan or lasagna.
These cinnamon buns, adapted from “At Home With Magnolia: Classic American Recipes From the Owner of Magnolia Bakery” by Allysa Torey, don’t take as long to make as traditional buns because they use baking powder and baking soda. soda instead of yeast. Make a double batch, then gift one and freeze the other for your future lazy Sunday.
Recipe: Easy cinnamon buns without yeast
With chicken, rice, and vegetables, Von Diaz’s arroz con pollo is a complete meal (or two) in itself. Boneless chicken thighs work best here – boneless breasts don’t have enough fat or flavor – but you can also use bone-in chicken thighs.
Tip: Do you make friends with Genevieve Ko. Why? Because when you have a baby, she’ll show up at your house with slices of this cake stacked between wax paper in Tupperware. “Frozen, the slices look like fudgy brownies,” she said.
Recipe: Texas Leaf Cake
Cheesy heaven in a 9 x 13 skillet, these Tex-Mex enchiladas from Bryan Washington are sure to please everyone in the house. Include a jar of salsa, a container of sour cream, and other toppings that will keep for a while with your delivery.
Recipe: Cheese Enchiladas
“I befriended this soup,” Julia Moskin wrote, and we believe her. Black beans, also known as turtle beans, make a complex, silky broth, so it doesn’t need meat for seasoning like some bean soups do. This recipe calls for chipotle peppers, but ground cumin and ground cilantro are a milder substitute. Make a batch of cornbread — cut into wedges and wrapped in plastic so it can be frozen and thawed as needed — to go with it.
Recipe: best black bean soup
New parents spend a lot of time holding their little people, so all foods that can be eaten easily with one hand – trail mix, muffins, cookies, pies in their hands, etc. – are a great idea. These gorgeous fluffy muffins, a recipe Marian Burros received from a reader in 1987, are tender and sweet, perfect for a 4 a.m. breakfast or a late-night snack.
Eric Kim reverse-engineered the much-loved Stouffer’s mac and cheese, and for that, we love him forever. It’s so rich and creamy that it’s a meal all on its own. Whatever you do, don’t skip the Velveeta! It contains sodium citrate, which prevents the sauce from separating.
Recipe: Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese
Technically not a meal, but for a nagging new parent with only one free arm, a big handful of this sweet-spicy Ali Slagle mix counts. Make two batches: one to snack on now and one to store in the freezer for later. You can eat it straight from the freezer, but the flavors are best if you let it come to room temperature first.
Recipe: Hot honey and nut mix
Pack as many seasonal produce as you can into this Italian vegetable soup from Sarah DiGregorio for a delicious and nutritious vegetarian meal that will delight new parents who feed on dry cereals and take-out meals. (Here are also the stovetop and Instant Pot versions.)
Make a batch of this David Leite Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (or any cookie dough, really), roll it into balls, and freeze them in layers separated by parchment or wax paper in an airtight container. . Whenever the craving strikes, new parents can bake a cookie straight from the freezer. Write the cooking instructions on an index card and tape it to the top of the container.
Recipe: Cakes with chocolate chips
“I make a really big pot of dal or khichdi and put it in quart containers to freeze – always a hit with new moms!” wrote Priya Krishna. She recommends this dal recipe from Tejal Rao. Send a few containers of cooked rice, which can also be frozen.
Recipe: Toor Dal (Yellow Split Pigeon Peas)
This quick shrimp fried rice from Eric Kim cleverly uses one of our favorite shortcut ingredients: frozen vegetables. You can also do this with pieces of boneless chicken, but adjust your cooking time accordingly. To reheat frozen rice, add a little water and stir the rice to break up any lumps, then heat gently in the microwave or on the stovetop until heated through.
Recipe: Shrimp Fried Rice
Chili is an almost perfect food to share. This one, from Pierre Franey, is easy to make in large batches and adjust the spices for different palates. It also tastes better the second day, freezes like a charm, and can be reused as a topping for baked potatoes, nachos, or chili dogs.
This lemon cake from Yossy Arefi is the quintessential lemon cake. It contains the zest, juice and flesh of the fruit, so it is tender, chewy and deliciously puckering the lips. Bake it, slice it, then individually wrap them before freezing, so weary parents can thaw out a slice or two whenever they need a little sunshine.
Recipe: Lemon Bundt Cake
Divide Alison Roman’s recipe for chicken pot pie into two small pans before filling with batter and baking. Once cooled, wrap well with plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and freeze. Ta-da! Two meals for the new family.
Recipe: Skillet Chicken Pot Pie
Crumbled Ritz Crackers are the secret to these rich, tender meatballs from Kay Chun (but regular breadcrumbs or even old-fashioned oats work too). Once cooked, layer them between parchment paper and freeze. Mix the sauce in a small lidded jar – two parts soy sauce to one part distilled white vinegar, sliced green onions and red pepper flakes if desired – and serve it with a side salad that will keep for a few days like Genevieve Ko’s kale plum salad.
If you want to contribute something, but don’t have the time, then this is the recipe for you. Rub a boneless pork shoulder with a simple blend of spices, put it in a slow cooker, pour over a can of Dr. Pepper, root beer, cola or birch beer, then cook over low heat until that the meat falls apart and shreds easily. Toss with your favorite BBQ sauce and pile into a large Tupperware container. Pick up a packet of buns and a container of coleslaw from the store, and voila, you’re the best friend ever.
Recipe: Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
These bean and cheese burritos from Kay Chun are easy to make and freeze beautifully. Make a double batch, wrap them individually in foil, and place them in your friend or family member’s depleted freezer. If you have a child, have them decorate each wrapped burrito with cute pictures and messages using a Sharpie.
Recipe: Bean and Cheese Burritos
Homemade bread is balm for the weary soul. Bake a loaf or two of Jim Lahey’s famous no-knead bread, then do like Emily Weinstein: slice, then toss in a resealable plastic bag and freeze. Whenever they want the perfect piece of toast, all they have to do is put it in the toaster. (You can also reserve half for them to eat fresh with the pot of soup you bring, and slice and freeze the other half. How about you!)
Recipe: No-knead bread
Savory and sweet with hints of salty olives and crunchy almonds, picadillo is a Cuban beef and tomato dish that is a delight to eat. Krysten Chambrot, associate editor of the New York Times Cooking, said her mother filled her freezer with it when she was in college. “I ate this for months and was so grateful,” she wrote. “It’s literally the most comfortable thing in the world for me.”
Homemade chicken soup is always a good idea. Sarah DiGregorio’s lemony riff is a “fix-it-and-forget-it” version that comes together in a slow cooker, so it’s mostly hands-off. Once that’s done, split it into two different containers – one for now and one for freezing – and don’t add the tortellini yet! Boil it separately until al dente and include it in a separate container so they can be added to the soup as needed.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken Soup
We say it again: make them food they can eat with one hand. This big chocolatey granola from Ali Slagle does the trick and can be eaten without hesitation, in a bowl with milk or over ice cream. For those with a sweet tooth, you can add mini chocolate chips or Cocoa Puffs cereal once the granola has cooled.
Recipe: Big Cluster Chocolate Granola
“Ice cream. A freezer full of ice cream is an amazing thing,” wrote Pete Wells, when asked which freezer-friendly dish he likes to give new parents. We’re pretty sure he meant ordering several. pints (the Jeni and Graeter are staff favourites), but some of Melissa Clark’s homemade salted caramel ice cream would look like real luxury.