When the pandemic first started roughly a decade and a half ago, I was gung-ho to cook anything and everything I could think of. Being stuck at home meant tackling projects I’d been putting off for years and it was a little thrilling. Gluten free sourdough? Sure, I jumped on that bandwagon. Every kind of Rancho Gordo bean cooked every kind of way? Clearly I wasn’t the only one thinking that way. Homemade Pickles? Several batches. But now that I’ve been stuck in the house with my husband and toddler for a year, I am way too burned out to cook elaborate dinners. Instead, I’ve been leaning heavily on my easy healthy meals from the freezer to get my family fed and keep what’s left of my sanity.
Best 3 Healthy Meal Ideas
Straight From Your Freezer
1. Homemade Chicken Stock
Is it a meal? Not exactly. But it becomes the best soup in a matter of minutes with whatever leftover veggies, proteins, and starches that are lying around the house. I made a big batch with frozen chicken carcasses last spring and froze it in leftover not just pasta sauce containers. Now I can go fridge diving at 6pm on a Wednesday night and still have a cozy soup for supper that the whole gang will happily eat. Need some inspiration? Check out our Minestrone or our White Bean with Broccoli Rabe. P.S. Our go-to chicken stock recipe is from culinary Queen Ina Garten.
2. Fried Rice from Frozen Rice & Veggies
When I make a dish with rice, I almost always make extra to freeze because day-old rice makes the best fried rice. Freshly cooked grains are too starchy and soft to fry up – if you use that, the result will be mushy and pasty. Gross. Keep it in your freezer with some frozen veggies and you can have a quick and healthier alternative to takeout faster than the delivery could get to your house. Not sure where to start?
Defrost your veggies and rice ahead of time (never throw frozen food into hot oil). Dice any veggies or proteins and make a quick sauce with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Then heat a neutral oil, like canola or grapeseed, on medium-high in a non-stick pan. Cook a couple of scrambled eggs then remove from pan. Add more oil. Cook some aromatics (shallots, onion, ginger) in the oil until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Push to the side. Add in the vegetables, and protein and let brown without stirring, about 30-45 seconds. Then add the rice, sauce, and eggs and stir fry for another couple of minutes until hot. Top with scallions, cilantro, sesame seeds, and/or hot sauce (like sriracha or this chili crisp.)
If you want to follow a full recipe, we recommend that you riff on this one.
Meatballs are the epitome of comfort food for me. My mother made them exactly once a year when I was a kid, and I would look forward to that day all. year. long. Now that I have to make them for myself, I understand her hesitation – messy, laborious, and time consuming is not a combo I’m usually looking for. BUT, I still love them, so when I do make them, I always make a double batch and freeze half. Toss them in some sauce and make into a meatball sub, or cook some pasta and serve with a salad. Luxurious, comfort food dinner ready in 20 minutes. I make mine fried in EVOO the way my Sicilian mother-in-law taught me, but they’re great lightened up too. These chicken-quinoa-herb meatballs are perfect for spring… which I hear is just around the corner.