Dispatch from Tuesday, delivered on Wednesday night
Some things this Friday

Doubling up

I've had grand plans for the better part of week to sit down and write a post about what has been keeping me busy. We've had two sets of houseguests and in between visiting and cleaning and the never-ending laundry, I've been slowly and painfully working on the last two swoon squares and staring at an unfinished pink sweater that needs just a little attention.

And I've been cooking.

I don't know if it is the change of seasons or the beginning of the school year or some other cosmic force, but I've been spending more time in the kitchen. This is more than your average "it's dinner time so let's throw something on the grill and put a salad together". This is "let's see how much we can fit into the freezer" kind of cooking.

I started by poaching one chicken.

I reduced the poaching liquid for stock, put a quart in the refrigerator and froze the rest in 1 and 2 cup portions.


With the meat, I made two pans of Mad Hungry chicken enchiladas - one pan of 8 for dinner that night, the other pan of 8 for the freezer.

Cooking 3

There was still meat left over so I made some Mad Hungry chicken pocket pies. I doubled the dough as I had twice the amount of cream cheese that was needed. I figured I'd freeze the extra pastry for later. After making the first batch of chicken pocket pies, there was still meat left and I had the dough so I made another recipe worth. These 12 pies are now frozen.

Cooking 2

I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies - baked half, froze the other half.

Cooking 4

I made my favorite Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day dough - the peasant loaf. That batch makes enough for four loaves over two weeks. Perfect.

And that was all on the first day.

Cooking 5
Now, I don't want you to think that I spent hours and hours slaving away in the kitchen. I made the bread dough and the cookies while the chicken was poaching. While the cookies were baking, I whipped up the enchilada sauce and assembled them. While the pastry for the pocket pies was chilling, I made the filling. It did take some time, but less than you'd think. And I figure if I'm going to make a mess, it might as well be a big one.

Right now I have a HUGE pot of sauce bubbling on the stove. I'll use some to make a spinach lasagne for tonight and the rest will be frozen in 2 cup portions for later. I'm not good about menu planning so these made-ahead meals are my saving grace on busy nights. All I have to do is remember to pull something out of the freezer that morning, or even the night before if I'm really on top of my game. Add some fresh veggies and that's a family meal with little fuss.

Other ideas I have include doubling up marinades and buying family packs of meat to make one meal for us now and two meals for later. I'm also thinking about making small, individual frozen pizzas for those days when the girls have longer and later sports practices and need a little more to hold them over for dinner time.

Got any good freezer ideas you care to share? Menu planning or big batch cooking ideas? I'm listening.



my big realization this year was that when i cut corn off the cob (for freezing or eating), save the cobs and simmer them to make a corn stock. freeze that. i have two and a half quarts in the freezer now.


you know, I've done lots of pizza dough and pre-baked small crusts for either individual pizzas or for N's lunch box. I've also soaked, cooked, and frozen black beans w/ onions and spices for easy burrito filling. When we were all eating cheese, I'd make a recipe of lasagne and divide it into loaf pans- my fellas aren't big leftover eaters, so one recipe would make 4 meals. Turkey meatloaf, same situation. Going off dairy as a family and meat (just for me) has made these kinds of meal prep ideas harder, but not impossible. Inspiring, Erin!

Katie @ ktmade blog

Please come to my house and teach me how to organize my cooking life like this. I'm in total awe. I love to cook, but even the smallest tasks seem to take forever. And then it's all gone. I'm never organized enough to make enough for leftovers and freezing. So well done.


Mama Urchin

We freeze stock, cooked black beans, baked beans, dal, quiche, soups, pesto, tomato sauce (before I canned it), baked cookies, cooked rice, cooked barley. The baked cookies are great for getting one or two out of the freezer and putting in a lunch box. Defrosted by lunch and there is no batch of cookies sitting around for those who can't resist temptation. The cooked rice saves us all the time when I need a grain to go with dinner.


I make 5-6 lbs of meatballs at a time. I cook them in the crock pot so it goes quickly. I also cook bone-in chicken breasts in the crock pot. I then cut up the meat into cooking portions and freeze. And I usually make stock from the bones. and I always make at least a double batch of rice.

Julie Alvarez

I always have a big batch (it makes for thirty or forty pieces) of soy milanesas in the freezer, separated inside a container by freezer sheets.
Here's my recipe:


I love days like this. I am planning on doing the cookie dough today and freezing some bc it's always nice to have for after school. I also make huge batches of potstickers and freeze them for later.


If you freeze cookie dough do you change the cooking time and temp?

Erin | house on hill road

i keep the temperature the same and check it at the regular time. i often add a few minutes, but not much more.

Erin | house on hill road

potstickers are a great idea! my girls love asian flavors, too.

Erin | house on hill road

thank you, julie!

Erin | house on hill road

the crock pot! another one of my favorite time-saving devices.

Erin | house on hill road

i've never thought about rice. i do freeze beans and i am going to try the baked cookies. that's a fantastic idea!

Erin | house on hill road

you can do it! it only takes a few extra minutes to make double. try it. it's kind of addicting!

Erin | house on hill road

i've frozen beans before and i need to remember that next time i put a pot on to soak. thanks, m!

Erin | house on hill road

ok. that's just plain brilliant. thanks, julia.


Your sink looks just like mine right now! I am doing the same thing in prep for baby on the way! I cooked two chickens and also made enchiladas and those hand pies (love!) and a pot of stock and a big pot of stock. Also,unbaked meatloaves, marinating teriyaki chicken, peppers stuffed with quinoa and veg. Also, shells stuffed with ricotta and spinach and sloppy Joe filling. I am also going to freeze a few batches of martha s's oat pancakes,carrot muffins, choc. Chip cookies,bread, applesauce, banana bread, etc. It feels great to look in a freezer full of good food waiting to save your butt on crazy days!! And yes, better to have all the mess at once!


I meant a pot of stock and a pot of soup!


i started doubling (or tripling) everything last year when i got a chest freezer—changed my life! i do quiches (i bake before freezing), beans, grains, soups and stocks (i save veggie ends and pieces and make veggie stock as well as chicken stock). i make the hand-pies with all different types of fillings and send them in mia's lunch. the potstickers in mad hungry also freeze well and are great for lunches. i always do quickbreads (pumpkin, banana, etc) in double batches and slice one loaf and place in between pieces of parchment in a freezer bag. put a slice in with a packed lunch, and it's defrosted by lunchtime. homemade pita or flatbread is great for freezing because you can defrost quickly by putting in the toaster oven.

thanks for all the great ideas!


I've been on maternity leave for the past 5 months but school starts back up tomorrow. I've been stressing over coming home to fix dinner when all I want to do is snuggle my girls! My solution has been 2 nights of crockpot, 1 freezer, 1 leftover, 1 "quick n dirty". That only leaves me Sunday nights to cook. I'll miss it, but not nearly as much as I'd miss them! We're freezing lasagna, ziti, and spaghetti. I have PAGES of recipes to try still. I'm also going to do the black beans and I have a burrito recipe that looks great (no meat) waiting for me. One of my favorite finds is a recipe for baked brown rice. You can make a huge batch and freeze it. It tastes great and I love it because I definitely don't have enough time before dinner to make brown rice after school.




Wow, and I thought freezing shredded zucchini from my garden this week was a big deal! I'm inspired to try out big batch cooking! Lots and lots of great ideas! I know it's simple and I kind of feel silly asking, but what's your stock recipe for chicken and/or veggie? Thx!


inspiring! thanks erin!


I did some meal planning last night, something I never do, save for in my head, and I came up with 5 weeks of dinners, leaving Saturday nights off. I think I'll just shop for 3 days at a time in case plans change. Thanks for these ideas! I've never made MH Enchiladas, may try that one. There's a MH2 on it's way. Cheers, Erin. Hope you're enjoying your solitude; I'm looking forward to mine!

Dawn Suzette

This is very cool.
I have been freezing beans and quinoa. I love the idea, in the comments, of freezing brown rice!
I also have a bounty of banana's found on the discount rack for 1/2 off because of a few black spots... they were perfect when peeled. I peeled and put them on a cookie sheet then into the freezer. Once frozen I bagged them. All ready for smoothies.
Thanks for sharing... makes me want to get back into the kitchen tonight!

Meg Evans

This is just the jump-start I need for menu planning. The kids just started school today, and when extracurricular activities start in a couple of weeks, I'm going to need some meals in the freezer!

Indiana Lori

For years I've used the recipes in "Super Suppers" and "Don't Worry, Dinner Is In the Freezer". Chicken Pot Pies, Corn and Ham Chowder Soup, Herb Roasted Pork Chops...I make everything into 6 dinners at a time. The kids never seem to mind eating Chowder with Cornbread every Wednesday for a month or so! I do a lot of dinner prep when the kids are at school too, and their lunches often contain something we ate for dinner the night before. But I'm lucky: I have 2 girls who inherited Mommy's "I will eat anything" gene. For nights we have to eat dinner in the car (yuck, but it's a reality), I make fruity chicken salad and serve it on pretzel buns. I make up "fancy car dinners" in cake-sized tupperware pans, complete with dessert, that they can hold on their lap and eat.


I have made brocoli parmesan soup, and chili, and beef stew. Chicken pot pies, sherried beef, marinating rosemary chicken thighs.


My husband loves these Italian pot pies. I usually end up with more than the recipe says it makes because i use more veggies and beef but its great. I have never tried putting it in one pan but individually they freeze well. I made the topping the day of, my husbands favorite part.


Kendra @ A Sonoma Garden

What great ideas. Yes with school starting next week my mind has turned to routines, simplifying (meals!) and other house things. I've been making beans from scratch and freezing portions in ziplocks along with spanish rice. On evenings we are busy, I just defrost those and cut up lettuce, tomatoes, shred cheese and open up the sour cream and let each person pile up and create their own 'un-burrito'. Cooks Illustrated also had a great recipe for empanadas that were great for feeding the freezer. I'm going to have to break that recipe out and make it again.


That will be so nice to just pull a ready made but home cooked meal out of the freezer! Great idea! I should certainly do this more often! It is just as easy to make a double batch of something.


It must be something in the air....something to do with the end of summer and the creeping up of the cold, autumn days as my mind...and my pots and pans...have been set to very similar tasks over the past week. Refrigerator cookies (large batches for eating and freezing...and so quick and easy!), sauces for freezing, pancakes and brownies and lots of fruit pie fillings...things that can be whipped out on busy, term time days, put in the oven and fill the whole house with the warm smell of home baking....without all the preparation of course! :)


Great post & comments! I am dealing with a non-working oven at the moment with has put a serious cramp in my usual end-of-summer-gear-up-for-fall baking/roasting spree. I do have plans to feed my freezer a bunch of multigrain waffles this week. I like to freeze ripened bananas for quick breads and smoothies, cooked beans (especially black, pinto, and garbanzo), diced/shredded leftover chicken, and tomatoes (peeled, whole, and diced). I usually freeze single servings of soups for quick lunches & dinners. Here's a favorite soup of mine: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/brees-lentil-tomato-soup-10000000249952/


that's a great idea. do you have any specific recipes you use for corn stock?...about to freeze a case of corn tonight!

chris orow

i love freezing strips of chicken breast or fillets with a clove of garlic, olive oil, pepper and either ginger and sesame oil or chilli and lemon in freezer bags. takes so little time to defrost. I've even put the semi-defrosted chicken in the oven on a medium to high heat for a little longer (maybe 45 mins depending on the amount and thickness of the chicken). I've also marinated it in yoghurt and garlic and frozen it. After defrosting, pat with breadcrumbs and oven bake or shallow fry as an alternative to nuggets. A freezing tip from Nigella Lawson which has stood me in good stead :)


Recent fave has been meatballs (not cooked). I throw them in a crockpot with a jar of sauce and some onions and they become the topping for pasta or the filling for meatball subs served with a salad. Yumm. I freeze diced cooked chicken which thaws in a pot of warm water in no time and becomes the base for enchilladas, chicken salad, some favourite casseroles, pasta sauces, stir fry etc. Also freeze cooked, diced sausage for a super quick sausage and peppers dinner. Frozen Grilled pepers get added to pasta sauces, or sandwiches.


Frozen soups, chicken, meatballs, challah, baked cookies...my freezer is actually pretty small and I'm thinking about getting a small stand-up deep-freezer to store more : ).


Funny you should post about this... I have been in the make and freeze mode as well! We're heading into regatta season (son is a competitive sailor) and it is such a crazy season for us. Love Pam Andersons, One Pot Meals. Made the Carnita Beef yerserday and froze 2/3 of it into mason jars, as I try not to freeze in plastic. this was a HUGE hit with grilled peppers and onions for fahittas. I aso made Pioneer Womans Chicken Spaghetti and divided that up into 3 freezable containers. Barefoot Contessa's Mexican chicken soup is a real hit as well. Loving all the ideas!!!

Mama Urchin

You know how they sell the cooked rice in the freezer section of the store? It's just like that. I dump it out in to a pyrex with a lid and cook it for 3 minutes or so in the microwave.


You've started a great conversation here, Erin! I have to admit that I hate the "what's for dinner?" question. Mostly because I don't know what's for dinner! (shame on me!) Your post has inspired me to start thinking about dinners before our sports schedules start dominating our time. Thanks for that!!

One thing I do already freeze at the beginning of the school year is banana breads. I have a stock of really ripe bananas in the freezer that I pull out the first week of school and make mini loaves to freeze. I find these to be perfect little thank you gifts for teachers, support staff, and friends throughout the first half of the year.

The question I have for you (and this may be silly) is what type of containers do you use for freezing these meals? I'm sure you've found something that prevents freezer burn while maintaining freshness. glass? plastic? freezer bags? Can you share your tools with us?

Thanks for sharing!


I just requested these two cookbooks from the library. Thanks, Indiana Lori!


Love this and late to it, but besides all the double up casseroles and sauces, my all time favorite fast food from the freezer is pounded flat chicken cutlets. Freeze on plastic wrap in layers and then in freezer bags with however many you think you'll cook at once. They thaw in an instant (in the freezer bag) in a sink of warm water. Our favorite way to eat them is sauteed quickly in a little olive oil with a pan sauce made with capers and white wine (or vermouth), finished with butter. There is a name for this that I forget. One nice thing about pounded flat chicken is that if you are a work outside the home type is that you really can go from walk in the door to dinner on the table in about 30 minutes. (Unlike a lot of freezer stuff, which needs 45 minutes or so in the oven to reheat even if it has been thawing in the fridge all day.) We also make the chicken pot pie "base," the stew basically, and freeze that. Just thaw, top, heat and you're done!

Kim S.

Do you freeze them in the ramekins?


My freeze ahead meal is chicken and leek pies that I make in muffin tins with puff pastry. So delicious and just a take and reheat.

I live in Australia, Bill Granger (Aussie chef) has an amazing chicken and leek pie recipe. So good in the cold weather too.

Love your blog- I have never posted before but love reading about your life.


I'll have to read the comments. I have been stocking up too and ran out of freezer room. Here is my favorite easy eat some now, put some in the freezer recipe:


sorry to reply so late! here are the instructions i used for corn stock: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/corn-soup-recipe.html (6 cobs to 7 cups water. simmer for about 30 minutes. easy peasy!)

Kathleen K

This is my favorite stock up recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/michael-chiarello/super-quick-minestrone-recipe/index.html, but I also make enchiladas from this recipe: http://www.marthastewart.com/313621/tex-mex-beef-enchiladas and I make English Muffin Bread from my Grandmama's recipe and freeze one loaf sliced to make toast (it makes two loaves). I also make manicotti and stuffed shells and freeze those on a cookie sheet for 1/2 hour pull them off and stick them in a plastic bag and freeze the sauce separately then I just pull out what I need and bake those. We also will buy a big package of pork tendorloin, cut it up into 1-1.5 lb. packages and marinate that in our favorite Wegmans marinade for 1 day in the fridge then stick it in the freezer. We do our chicken cut up in skewer sized pieces with Lupo's spiedie sauce (upstate NY thing) and do it the same as the pork. Someone asked how we store things in our freezer and we have a Food Saver which is a wonderful thing and allows us to store so much easily. :) Thanks for the great ideas!


Hi Claudia! I was inspired to answer for Erin. Stock is awesome. You can start with raw chicken, add water to cover and simmer it with carrots, onions, a stem or two of parsley, parsnips and some dried thyme. I simmer it all for HOURS (like, at least 6), adding more water as it evaporates. When it's a great golden color, I strain it through a fine strainer, throwing out the vegies. Then you can either make it into soup or use the cooked chicken for something else (burritos, chicken salad...) or freeze it. You can also save the carcass (ew. gross word) or random bones from roasted chicken. That works really well too and the flavor is even better. For veg stock, just throw vegs like carrots, celery, parsnips, onions, mushrooms, etc. in a pot the same way as you did the chicken.

Erin | house on hill road

Thank you Jen!
I'll add that I often poach a chicken by placing it in a large pot and covering it with cold water. Once it comes to a boil, I reduce it to a simmer and cook the chicken for 50 minutes. When the chicken is cooked, I remove it from the pot and continue simmering the water/stock until it has reduced by at least a third. It makes a lovely stock.

Laura Zarrin

Thanks for this post! I'm not really into cooking, but with my business picking up, we need to stop eating take out! I'm compiling a plan and a list now. I just ordered Mad Hungry--it looks perfect. Thank you!


I just tried the rice over this last month - works really well. Also, chicken with marinade so it is ready for stir-fry, roast with beef stock, to make philly cheese steaks, chicken strips... I've been a lot of freezing ahead and over the last week and a half I've pulled out 4 meals worth - minus a few sides. Perfect for the busy school days and event-filled evenings. :)

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