If you like cooking, the last few weeks of pregnancy are a great time to fill the freezer with food for after the baby’s born. Especially if (like me first time round), you have a baby who decides to come out very late and therefore a lot of time to kill before they arrive.
Before I had George, I didn’t fully appreciate why everyone recommended this tactic, but then in those first few days and weeks, I would find myself suddenly ravenous, yet trapped on the sofa feeding a newborn and without the mental capacity to even decide what I wanted to eat. It was also helpful in those first few months to have something to throw in the oven when I’d had a bad day and couldn’t face cooking.
I suggest only making food that you absolutely cannot wait to eat. There’s no point making a cottage pie if you don’t love cottage pie and then feeling guilty as it sits in the freezer waiting to be eaten. You also want to make food that defrosts quickly or can be cooked from frozen. The last thing you want to do is to have to remember to take something out of the freezer in the morning for dinner. Unless you have lots of space and tupperware, I would buy a load of freezer bags as they take up less space. For things like lasagne or cottage pie, you could even use disposable foil trays.
I also try to add vegetables where possible so I don’t have to think about cooking vegetables later (or more likely, feel guilty for not eating any vegetables). I add sweet potato or chickpeas to curries, or a (drained) can of cooked lentils to bolognese. Sweet potato mash is also delicious on top of cottage pie.
Here’s what I’ll be filling my freezer with in the next couple of weeks:
Hidden veg pasta sauce
The idea is that you make a simple tomato sauce, add in lots of different veg – courgette, pepper, butternut squash, etc and blend until smooth. It’s a great way to get kids (and adults) to eat vegetables and it tastes really good. You can make it more interesting by heating chilli flakes and pine nuts in a little olive oil and drizzling it on top or stirring cooked sausage, chorizo, bacon, prawns, or leftover roast chicken into it. I use Jamie Oliver’s recipe.
Curry is another one of those wonderful dishes that actually improves with age when frozen. I’ll be making this chicken and chickpea curry (with chicken thighs), but my slow-cooker beef curry is also delicious and you can add sweet potato to make it a bit healthier. See also: stews and chilli.
Pudding is very important in our house – especially so when I’ve just had a baby – so it’s important to me to have some homemade sweet treats ready and waiting in the freezer.. I’ve made a couple of these outrageously good crumbles (with just frozen blueberries) and have to restrain myself from cooking one every night.
Apparently, you can freeze all kind of baked goods, but I’ve never been convinced that they survive defrosting very well. So I tend to make cakes that can be toasted from frozen then slathered in butter, like this coconut bread. Banana bread works well too. Once your cake is completely cool, cut it into thick slices and freeze with pieces of greaseproof paper in-between each slice. That way you can take a slice out whenever you need one. My secret weapon is also these pains au chocolat from Waitrose that you can bake from frozen.
Freeze scoops of cookie dough on a baking tray for a hour or so, then transfer them to a freezer bag. They can be cooked from frozen – just leave them in the oven for a few extra minutes. This is my favourite chocolate-chip cookie recipe.
I would also advocate having as many people as possible around you who can cook for you. My mum came to stay with us for a week when George was born and it was amazing! She cooked, cleaned and did all the washing up. My friends were great, too – they always brought food (and cake) with them when they visited and some wonderfully thoughtful friends even sent us a delivery of Cook ready-meals, which came in very handy.
Did you cook up a storm before you had your babies? Do you know of any more recipes that freeze well?