Earthworm Living


Frozen Lunches (Dairy-free)
February 2, 2010, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Cooking

Frozen Lunches (Dairy-free)

One day when I was looking at the ingredient lists of the meals in the frozen foods isle, I was trying to find one that both didn’t have any dairy in it and also looked appetizing. That’s when I had a “lightbulb moment” and decided that I could easily make my own frozen meals. Because I would be reheating my frozen lunches in a microwave at work, I wanted to avoid using plastic containers as much as possible. So, I found these perfect CorningWare bowls.
Oh wonderful CorningWare, thou hast been my dear friend for my whole life, and I will forever remain loyal to all of thou’s stoneware goodness. 🙂 They are 15 oz. small, oval bowls from the French White collection, and they’re the perfect size for a single lunch. If you fill them almost all the way up it’s just enough food for a single meal, and there is no worry about over-filling or over-eating.
All of these lunches are 100% dairy free. There are many repeating themes in my frozen lunches primarily because 1. I have my favorites, 2. some foods yield more leftovers, and 3. some foods freeze and reheat better than others. You will see many times: baked chicken, white rice, noodles of many shapes and sizes, mixed vegetables.

 

Vegetables
I mix the mixed vegetables myself. I have not been able to find an affordable mix of vegetables that I both like and that also do well in my frozen lunches. So I usually end up with several small bags of frozen, individual vegetables. Then I dump them all into a large 2.5 gallon zippered baggie for mixing. Typically this mix consists of carrots, green beans, yellow “green” beans, peas (eliminating the ubiquitous corn and lima beans that so often appear in the premixed bags). I have found that squash, zucchini, and other similarly soft vegetables don’t stand up well in the microwave when subjected to the amount of time needed to thaw and heat the rest of the lunch. It is worth noting that when preparing the frozen lunches the vegetables are added raw. They are cooked when reheated.
 

Carbohydrates
Rice of all sorts is a great side for frozen lunches. If you drizzle a little chicken or vegetable broth on the rice before freezing you will find that it is extra tasty upon reheating. The same goes for if you are using noodles. One important note about using noodles is that your noodles MUST be al dente when you freeze them. Otherwise, they will be grossly soggy after reheating. Baked, mashed, and boiled potatoes and sweet potatoes also do nicely in the frozen meals. Although I must note that if the potatoes are already over boiled when you freeze them they will become more-so after reheating them.
 

Meat
Chicken often makes an appearance in many of the meals. This is because we cook it often and often have leftovers. Baked whole chicken, boiled chicken in vegetable or chicken broth, and baked boneless chicken in Italian Dressing are a few of the ways it will appear in my frozen lunches. Meatloaf made with shredded zucchini and squash also reheats quite well…so well, in fact, that my mouth is now watering just thinking about it. Brisket, honey baked ham, and turkey will also make an appearance whenever they find their way on our menu. One thing about the meat in the frozen lunches is that after freezing and reheating the meat can become more dry. Therefore, the juicier it is when frozen the yummier it will be when reheated.
 

Combinations
We also do some combination meals like spaghetti. When doing spaghetti I have learned a trick or two about avoiding overflows, messes, and stains. If you put the spaghetti ingredients in the lunch box in a certain order then you can avoid some of what I mentioned. Bottom layer is marinara, middle layer is ground beef, top layer is of noodles. This way the marinara can’t overflow or stain the rubber lid. Another combination that I do fairly often is pot roast. I have found that in order to avoid having a lunch that is all potatoes or all meat, it is wise to try to separate out the meat/carbs/veggies from each other when packing the CorningWare.

Reheating
Cooking times can, of course, vary based on the method of reheating, if it was frozen or thawed, and how dense the food in the meal is. Most of my experience is with reheating these meals at lunch in the microwave at work, but the French White CorningWare collection is also oven safe. If the lunch is frozen it will typically take 4-6 minutes to reheat. If the lunch is thawed then it will typically take just over 3 minutes because you need enough time to cook the vegetables that started out raw.

I have chronicled many of my lunches from the past as examples and ideas for others. You can make you own by filling the containers with whatever leftovers you have. One night you may have a lot of meat left over and another night you may have enough sides left over. Between the 2 nights and a bag of frozen vegetables on hand you can easily create a few day’s lunches quickly and easily. You can also purposely cook big with plans of making several lunches. I have also employed some OAMC (Once A Month Cooking) techniques for restocking my freezer when we’re heading into a busy time.

Baked Chicken, Broccoli, White Rice
Baked Chicken, Boiled Potatoes, Mixed Vegetables

Baked Chicken, Fettucine Noodles, Mixed VegetablesFrozen Baked Chicken, Fettucine Noodles, Mixed Vegetables

 

Frozen Pork Tendeloin Roast with Carrots, Onions, Celery, and Potatoes

Frozen Meatloaf, Vegetable Noodles, Mixed Vegetables
Meatloaf, Vegetable Noodles, Mixed Vegetables

Baked Chicken, Boiled Potatoes, Mixed Vegetables
Frozen Baked Chicken, White Rice, Mixed Vegetables
Boiled Chicken, Spiral Vegatable Noodles, Mixed Vegetables
Meatloaf w/ vegs, White Rice, Mixed Vegetables
Meatloaf w/ vegs, Vegetable Cavatappi, Mixed Vegetables

 

Unmixed Linguini, Ground Beef, Marinara
Layers of Linguini, Ground Beef, Marinara
Mixed Linguini, Ground Beef, Marinara
Baked Chicken, Campanelle, Mixed Vegetables
Italian Dressing Baked Chicken, Gemelli, Mixed Vegetables
Italian Dressing Baked Chicken, Fusilli, Mixed Vegetables
Honey Baked Ham, Angel Hair cooked in broth, Mixed Vegetables
Ground Beef Patty, White Rice, Mixed Vegetables

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