Baby Meal Prep Guide

I have been looking forward to baby prep since, like, I myself was a baby. I love making prepackaged foods with labels and stuff, it’s the same part of me that explodes with excitement whenever I remember that in a few years I’ll get to start packing cute little lunchboxes every day. I currently have enough meals prepped for a good couple of months, including specific dishes for Passover, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and my birthday. (You’re going crazy, says Eggboy. But we’ll see who the crazy one is when he’s eating a nice hot burrito at 3am while holding a screaming baby!) Not every aspect of my impending life as a mother is as ready as my freezer, of course, seriously how do I change a diaper, but since I’ve learned so much and had so much fun preparing all of these meals, here is a post about it!

As soon as I learned of Poppy Seed’s existence, I started a list on my phone of prep-ahead-able foods that I wanted to make and also blog about, since I figured this would be a great way to organize all of the recipes that I wanted to post during my maternity leave. (So a lot of the recipes that are mentioned here will be posted over the next 3-4 months.) My goals for this list were to find foods that were comforting and delicious, but that were also going to pack some nutrition and not be too heavy. I didn’t want to just fill my freezer with hotdishes and mac and cheese, so I made sure to also add things like smoothie packs, veggie dumplings, and spinach-packed meatballs. I also asked Instagram for suggestions and the most suggested things were:

-Handheld foods

-Oatmeal muffins, to aid with lactation

-Everything on Pinch of Yum’s freezer meal guide

-Carby/comforting things like mac and cheese, lasagna, and chicken pot pies (and individual portions of them)

-Soups

-Breakfast sandwiches and burritos

So I compiled my master list! Here it is. Not everything is frozen, some of it is just shelf stable, and there are also lists of other grocery store items that I plan to have on hand as well. I’ve prepped most of these things so far. I have another week before my due date to try to get to the rest of it, but if I don’t we’ll be ok.

Oh and here’s a confession: we recently bought a new freezer that was on sale at Sam’s Club on the premise that it’ll definitely get put to use in the future for cakes, preserving rhubarb, and meal prep for my next 12 kids. So between that, the chest deep freeze that we inherited from Egggrandma, the little shoebox-sized freezer in my Smeg fridge, and the other fridge/freezer that we inherited from other Egggrandma, we have four freezers. 4! Here’s the new one that’s holding most of the meal prep stuff, the other ones are too messy for a photo op.

My Meal Prep Master List

* = recipe coming soon. I’ll post links here as they get posted!

Breakfast:

Green smoothie packs

Cocoa berry smoothie packs (the recipe is in my Instagram Meal Prep story highlights)

Potato bagel breakfast sandwiches*

Chocolate peanut butter oatmeal muffins*

Sarah’s peanut butter granola

Other things I plan to have on hand: avocados, oranges, apples, berries, yogurt, ezekiel/seedy bread, matzo, peanut butter, jam, sliced cheese

Lunch:

Black bean sweet potato burritos*

Mini veggie pizzas

Kale and white bean soup

Veggie dumplings*

Egg and chive dumplings*

Everything bagel mac and cheese

Mozzarella pesto mac and cheese

Other things I plan to have on hand: salad kits, sandwich stuff (COLD CUTS GET @ ME), baby carrots, celery

Dinner:

Wild rice soup

Chana masala

Turkey bean chili and cornbread 

Chicken pot tater tot hotdish

Knoephla soup

Spinach and artichoke chicken and biscuits

Other things I plan to have on hand: salad kids, broccoli/other quick cooking vegetables, Rao’s marinara sauce (my fave!), pasta, rice, frozen cauliflower/sweet potato rice

Desserts, snacks, and occasion things:

Sausage and pancakes on a stick

Taco pizza*

Sarah's chocolate chip cookie dough

Alana’s Furikake snack mix

Cookie salad ice cream*

Homemade peanut butter cake mix

Passover:

Spring veggie white matzo lasagna

Chicken soup

Turkey spinach meatballs

Meatless meatballs (recipe in Molly on the Range)

Lily’s Charoset ice cream

Passover chocolate chip cookie dough

Brisket: I’ll probably only get to this if Poppy Seed is like 2 weeks late, but braised meats, including brisket, do freeze and reheat incredibly well. 

Here are some general rules for freezing and reheating certain types of foods! They might not be exact for every single recipe (use your nose/your best judgment) but consider this a roadmap to help get you started.

Mac and cheese

How to freeze: Prep up the baking step, transfer to containers, let cool, cover, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Ideal container: Containers that are both oven safe and microwave safe (these 10oz kraft paper cups are my favorite). Glass would also work but you want to be careful with drastic temperature changes, like going from the freezer to the oven immediately (check the manufacturer’s notes) or defrost in the fridge overnight before baking. Foil or metal containers, either individually sized or casserole sized will work but that eliminates the option of reheating in the microwave.

How to reheat individual portions: Oven at 375ºf for 25 minutes covered with foil + 20 minutes uncovered, or until heated through. Microwave for 4 minutes, stirring halfway through. 

How to reheat full casseroles: Oven at 375º for about an hour covered with foil + 15-30 minutes uncovered, or until heated through. 

Example recipes: Everything bagel mac and cheese, all of the mac and cheeses in Molly on the Range

Etc: Here are printable labels for individual portions, they are for Avery labels #6570.

Hotdishes, casseroles, lasagnas, matzo lasagna

How to freeze: Prep up the baking step, transfer to containers, let cool, cover, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Ideal container: Foil or metal, either individual 8oz or 10oz sized or larger casserole sized. Glass would also work but you want to be careful with drastic temperature changes, like going from the freezer to the oven immediately (check the manufacturer’s notes), or make sure to defrost in the fridge overnight before baking. Individual kraft paper cups would also work

How to reheat individual portions: Oven at 375ºf for 25 minutes covered with foil + 20 minutes uncovered, or until heated through. 

How to reheat full casseroles: Oven at 375º for about an hour covered with foil + 15-30 minutes uncovered, or until heated through. 

Example recipes: Chicken pot tater tot hotdish, paprikash hotdish, turkey wild rice hotdish, classic tater tot hotdish

Etc: Here are printable labels for individual portions, they are for Avery labels #6570.

Smoothies

How to freeze: Put all ingredients (minus any liquid) in a freezer safe container, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Ideal container: Ziploc bags are the most efficient because you can squeeze all of the air out of them and store them flat. I use quart sized because I make two at a time, one for me and one for Eggboy, but sandwich size will work for just one. Deli containers or other freezer-safe containers will work too.

How to prep: dump into blender, add liquid (water, juice, milk), if you have a few minutes let it sit so it can thaw just for a bit, gently break up any larger chunks that have stuck together with a butter knife, and blend on high until very smooth. You’ll likely have to use the tamper to help it along.

Example recipe: apple and peanut butter green smoothie

Potstickers

How to freeze: Prep dumplings up to the cooking step and place them on a parchment lined sheet pan that’s dusted with a little flour. Freeze them on the pan for an hour or so until solid and then transfer them to a Ziploc bag or other freezer safe container, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Ideal container: Ziploc bags are the most space efficient, but any freezer safe container will do.

How to reheat: Steam or fry! This is the ultimate dumpling reheating guide!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

How to freeze: Prep dough, scoop into balls, and place them on a parchment lined sheet pan. Freeze them on the pan for an hour or so until solid and then transfer them to a Ziploc bag or other freezer safe container, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Ideal container: Ziploc bags are the most space efficient, but any freezer safe container will do.

How to reheat: reheat pretty much exactly how you would bake them if they weren’t frozen, just add on a few minutes to the baking time.

Example recipes: Sarah’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies

Soup (my old fashioned way)

How to freeze: Cook it fully, let it cool, transfer to a container, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Ideal container: Any freezer safe + microwave safe container. I use these quart deli containers.

How to reheat: Microwave on defrost for a few minutes until soft and then microwave on high or pour into a pot and heat on the stove until heated through. Or defrost in the fridge overnight and microwave on high or reheat on the stove until heated through.

Example recipes: Knoephla, Kale and white bean soup, pita ribollita

Soup (if you’re working with an Instant Pot or slow cooker)

See Pinch of Yum’s post. These recipes are so clever and delicious looking!

Meatballs

How to freeze: Cook them fully, let cool, transfer to a container, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Ideal container: Ziploc bags are the most space efficient, but any freezer safe container will do.

How to reheat: Stovetop- Simmer in red sauce until heated through. Oven- place on a sheet pan and cover with foil. Bake at 350º for about 15-20 minutes, or until heated through.

Burritos

How to freeze: Cook them fully (err on the side of keeping a bite in your veggies since they’ll continue to cook when reheated), wrap in parchment held together with tape or a rubber band or in plastic wrap, place them all in Ziploc bag, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.

How to reheat: Wrapped in parchment (remove tape or rubber band if that was on there) or a paper towel, microwave for about 2-3 minutes (for a burrito made in a standard 10” tortilla), flipping once, until heated through. If you have the time/energy, it’ll be even better if you then grill it in a pan on both sides until browned and a little crisp. 

Pizza

How to freeze: Prep up to the baking step and place on a parchment lined sheet pan. Freeze for an hour or so until solid and then wrap in plastic wrap, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.

How to reheat: Remove plastic wrap, place on a baking sheet, and bake at a slightly reduced temperature (about 25º lower than the regular/non-freezer directions) until cheese is splotchy and the crust is golden. It will be a good few minutes longer than the regular/non-freezer directions, keep a close eye on it. 

Example recipe: Mini veggie pizzas

Muffins

How to freeze: Bake them fully, let cool, transfer to a container, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Ideal container: Ziploc bags or plastic wrap are the most space efficient, but any freezer safe container will do.

How to reheat: Microwave until heated through or defrost at room temp.

Breakfast Sandwiches

Breakfast sandwiches are hard!! I have one that I’ll be making on Girl Meets Farm in a few weeks that literally kept me up at night because figuring out a pre-cooked egg situation that would heat up at the same rate as the bread was a journey. Basically, if the egg is too thick, then the bread will be rock hard and overcooked by the time the egg is heated through. My solution: use a bagel, which is very sturdy and can withstand a longer amount of time in the microwave, and a layer of egg that is on the thinner side. Also go with bacon or Canadian bacon instead of a thick pieces of sausage. Reheat wrapped in parchment. My full microwaveable breakfast sandwich recipe is coming soon!!! 

Another option: the breakfast bourekas from Molly on the Range. They freeze and reheat in the microwave or toaster oven beautifully. 

Cauliflower Fried Rice

This is still in testing mode for me but as I was making some for dinner the other night I realized that cauliflower fried rice would be a really easy and healthy dinner to have in the freezer. I buy Green Giant’s cauliflower/sweet potato rice mix from the freezer section and all it needs is about 5 minutes in a skillet, so I figure that combining it with other finely chopped or small vegetables (alliums, kale, broccoli, peas, corn), pre-cooked proteins (scrambled eggs, cooked chopped bacon, chopped ham, cooked ground sausage, etc.), and flavorings (grated fresh ginger, soy sauce, kimchi brine, sesame oil, sriracha, black pepper, etc.) would make an easily reheat-able meal in a bag that you could just dump in a skillet, heat, and eat. That makes logical sense right? I’ll tell you how it goes!

Resources

Labels- It’s important to label everything with the date and the contents! Even if you’re 100% positive that you’ll remember, you want to be prepared for sleep deprivation brain and also make it easy for visiting friends/family members to heat stuff up if they’ve offered to help. A sharpie marker and masking tape does the trick, or you could make labels on the computer (Avery makes it really easy to make customizable labels).

Containers- The Webstaurant Store is my go-to for deli containers and kraft paper containers because they have tons of options and you can buy them in bulk. Most grocery stores also have a wide selection of foil containers. And of course trusted brands like Pyrex and Rubbermaid make great covered containers and covered casserole dishes.

Freezer guides- Pinch of Yum’s freezer guide! Also the Kitchn has a lot of freezer tutorials, and if you Google “how to freeze such and such,” you’ll usually find tons of results!

My Instagram meal prep story highlight- I’ll be posting more recipes and tips over the next few months here!

Phew! Ok I think that’s it! Since I’m about to go on maternity leave, I might not be able to answer many prep-related questions but I hope this guide helps!!!!

-Yeh!

photos by chantell and brett quernemoen

mini <3 whole wheat veggie pizzas (freezer friendly!)

I have truly lived out my wildest fantasies this week by baking Valentine’s cookies all day, watching ice skating on the tv, and not even being allowed outside. Windchills in the negative 60s meant that going outside was dangerous (!!!), and so like it’s one thing to have a random free weekend to stay inside and bake all day, but literally having no choice but to stay inside was the cherry on top of these past few days. I haven’t left the house since Saturday. I’m so cozy. My best friend is my microwaveable heating pad and our kitchen table is covered in five types of cookies. I’ve slept better than my whole entire pregnancy combined*. I mean, Hawaii was awesome and all but a snowy week with highs in the -20s?? An extremely close second.

*I definitely just jinxed this by typing it out, right?

So a great week needs to end with a great pizza night, right? This here is a veggie pizza that’s become our go-to, our ~house veggie pizza~ on the family pizza menu. It’s whole wheat, loaded with greenery, and not too heavy, dare I say it’s almost healthy?! We started making it during weeks when we had one too many heavy dinners and then got to Friday and didn’t feel like having pizza that was going to make us feel like poo. So we got in the habit of emptying out our fridge of all of the vegetables and piling them on a whole wheat version of our favorite thin pizza crust (based on Amy Thielen’s cracker crust pizza from New Midwestern Table), which is super easy to make and delightfully chewy. The things that make this pizza great are the nice big pinches of salt that go all over the veggies and the crust (you’re going for visible salt crystals on the crust, ok?), and the order that everything goes on. I like some mozzarella on the base to hold together all of the smaller chopped veggies, like the peppers and tomatoes, and then a little more on top of the kale, to hold it on and to help it get crispy. The kale on top bakes up crunchy and salty like kale chips, it’s excellent. Bonus points if you sprinkle this pizza with ranch seasoning or dip it in ranch dressing.

Obviously, since it’s the season, these lil pizzas are heart shaped. But of course you could make circles, or one big circle, or one big rectangle, or a trapezoid, etc. And they are freezer friendly!! From here on out, many of the recipes I’ll be posting will be freezer friendly since i’m preparing for you-know-who and filling our freezer with easily reheat-able, ideally one-handed meals.

Ok that’s all for now! Happy almost pizza night, fronds!


mini heart whole wheat veggie pizzas

makes 6

Ingredients

Dough:

1 c (130g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 c (130g) whole wheat flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp sugar

3/4 c (178ml) water

1/4 c (50g) olive oil


Toppings:

Olive oil

1/2 c (120g) red sauce

8 oz shredded mozzarella 

2 big cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 oz (about 1 c) chopped kale

2 oz (about 1 c) spinach

Optional salty meat: prosciutto, pepperoni, cooked sausage, etc.

Kosher salt and black pepper

Parmesan, for topping

Crushed red pepper, for topping

Clues

To make the dough, whisk together the flours, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir in the water and olive oil. Once combined, turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, adding additional flour if it gets too sticky. Form into a ball, cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel, and let sit for 30 minutes (this is when I chop up all of my toppings). 

If baking immediately, preheat the oven to 475ºf.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 6 pieces and roll them out into thin 1/8” rounds or heart shapes (SEE GIF) and then crimp the edges to make a crust. Place them on the baking sheets and brush with a thin layer of olive oil. Top with sauce (a heaping tablespoon per pizza), most of the mozzarella (leave about 1/2 c for the top), the garlic, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, meat (if using), spinach, kale, another little drizzle of olive oil, remaining mozzarella, a few good pinches of salt (don’t forget to salt the edges!), and a few turns of black pepper. Bake until the cheese is splotchy with brown marks, begin checking for doneness at 10 minutes. To serve, top with lots of grated parmesan and crushed red pepper. Enjoy!

To freeze these, do everything up until the baking step. Instead of putting them in the oven, freeze on a sheet tray for a few hours until the crust is firm, then wrap tightly individually in plastic wrap and place back in the freezer for up to 3 months. Bake on parchment lined baking sheets (straight from the freezer) at 450ºf for 12-15 minutes, until the cheese is splotchy with brown marks. To serve, top with lots of grated parmesan and crushed red pepper. Enjoy!


-yeh!

photos by chantell and brett!

This recipe was created in partnership with Our Family!

lemon poppyseed olive oil muffins

In my experience, muffins have the ability to be really really bad or really really good. The ratio of bad to good muffins in this world is something depressing, like 2:1, and their lack of nutritional value doesn’t ever work in their favor too. Like, if you’re going to eat that much junk for breakfast, why not go all the way, add a little more sugar and have a slice of cake, you know? I mostly avoid the risk of eating muffins except for when it comes to two equal and opposite specimens: the mini lemon poppyseed kind that come in clear plastic packages in the bakery section of the grocery store that I would devour by the dozen as a wee one, and the large triumphant muffins from Blue Sky Bakery in Park Slope which will be the last remaining muffins on earth once everyone realizes that most muffins blow hard. Both of these muffins transcend the universal muffin problem of what to do with the muffin bottom once you’ve ripped off, buttered, and eaten the lesser evil muffin top, for the grocery store lemon poppyseed muffin’s homogenous squishy texture from the outside in makes the top no different from the bottom, and Blue Sky’s oft filled muffin bottoms read like moist sour cream coffee cakes. 

And here’s a third muffin option that combines my lifelong love for lemon poppyseed with my tendency to root for the underdog: it’s a topless muffin. A stubby breakfast cake that’s moistened with olive oil, beefed up with almond meal, and is as good as a muffin top. It works because parchment muffin liners are nary seen in this recipe, therefore allowing the outer edges of the muffin to get caramelized and crusty, just like a top would be. So it’s kind of like this whole thing is a muffin top with a shape that’s easier to grab onto. And are they kind of just an unfrosted mini cake in disguise as a more socially accepted breakfast food? Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what they are.

Jumbo muffin tins (7.1 ounce capacity) make these muffins the perfect size. (I don’t recommend making them in standard cupcake tins, as the small size doesn’t allow for the full effect. In a pinch, using a 9” cake pan will work, but plan for more baking time.) These muffins are just as good the next day so add these to your list of brunch things that can be made ahead of time. Serve them with a light dusting of powdered sugar, and perhaps some yogurt and berries for a sweet simple breakfast.


lemon poppyseed olive oil muffins

makes 12 jumbo muffins

ingredients

1 1/2 c sugar

2 c flour

3/4 c almond meal

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

4 tsp poppy seeds

4 tsp lemon zest

3 eggs

1 1/2 c olive oil

1/4 c lemon juice

3/4 c whole milk

1 tsp almond extract

Powdered sugar, for serving

clues

preheat the oven to 350ºF. coat 12 jumbo nonstick muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside.

in a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, almond meal, salt, baking soda, baking powder, poppy seeds, and lemon zest. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, lemon juice, milk, and almond extract. add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. distribute the batter evenly amongst the muffin tins and bake until the edges are deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes. 

cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. run a small offset spatula around the edges and remove to the rack. serve warm or cool completely and then serve. dust with powdered sugar before serving.


-yeh!