DIY Frozen Dinners and a Heart-Shaped Pizza

heart pizza

The calendar tells me it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow – I wouldn’t believe it, but it tends to be righter than me – which requires parents to produce heart-shaped foods for their offspring. If this sounds like you, here’s a tip: you can cut soft pitas with scissors into hearts to make heart shaped pizzas.

In other news, my mother in law is back home from the hospital, her broken right arm in a sling. (She’s OK with me sharing this news, and in fact would love for me to share my iphone photos of her epic purply-black bruise with friends far and wide, but that’s not exactly food blog fodder.) She’s right-handed, of course, which means learning to do everything with her left, including eating, and there won’t be much cooking for awhile. So my dinnertime decision making has come to factor in what can do double duty as future meals for her, too.

Frozen meals

I roasted a pork loin for dinner one night, then sliced the remainder and divvied it between 6 shallow rectangular dishes that have been in my basement for years, without much practical purpose. (I’m sure there are plenty of small lidded baking dishes out there, but I don’t want her to struggle with a sealed lid – plastic wrap is far easier to remove.) I filled the gap with some leftover cooked rice and frozen mixed vegetables, which I must note are her favourite – especially this “California” blend of broccoli, carrots and cauliflower. (She was over the moon about the hospital food, and wondered what all the negative fuss was about.) I added the requisite TV dinner gravy and a pat of butter on the rice/veggies, covered and froze them, and the entire process of assembling 6 meals took 10 minutes.

chicken Collage

On the night I made chicken and sausages for dinner, I tucked a few extra thighs in a baking dish generally reserved for baked artichoke dip, alongside a few halved potatoes, drizzled the lot with olive oil, added thyme, salt and pepper and baked it alongside. A second batch of one-pot mac & cheese was doled out into ramekins – $1 for 2 at Dollarama – to freeze. Ditto tortellini doused in bottled tomato sauce, then dumped into a casserole dish and a couple individual baking dishes, scattered with cheese, then baked – the big one for us, small ones for her.

Chickpea Curry

There was a curry made for a story with sauteed onions, red pepper, ginger, garlic, a big spoonful of curry sauce, a can of chickpeas, a bit of leftover roasted chicken, a glug of salsa, a big handful of chopped fresh spinach and another of cilantro and a can of coconut milk, with a big pinch of salt, simmered down until thick. It was so good we ate the whole thing by the spoonful, standing at the stove. It would have made a great freeze-ahead meal, if not a little exotic for this particular patient.

Of course you don’t need someone to break their arm to do this; if your leftovers are often left to languish in the fridge, freezing them in individual servings to bake or nuke later seems to make them somehow intentional – and more palatable to anti-leftoverites.


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25 comments on “DIY Frozen Dinners and a Heart-Shaped Pizza

  1. Lana
    February 14, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Happy Valentine’s Day, Mrs.V!! You are SUCH a good daughter-in-law. Those meals all look yummy. xo

  2. Susan
    February 14, 2013 at 8:02 am

    You are a good person. Next time I break my arm I’ll be sure to let you know. 🙂 Happy Valentine’s day!

  3. CathyH
    February 14, 2013 at 8:06 am

    You are so thoughtful! I know that the best gift when one is recovering is the gift of food. I have been the recipient and also the provider of home cooked meals many times.

  4. Shelley Taylor
    February 14, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Brilliant! I just picked up some frozen dinner-sized containers at Costco not knowing how I would use them. Now I will follow your lead and freeze for a rainy day!

  5. Laurie from Burnaby
    February 14, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Happy Valentine’s Day, Julie!
    Best wishes to your mother in law.
    I freeze left overs, too, and put them in the freezer to take out later when I don’t have time.
    What a wonderful thing to do when someone’s mending an arm.

  6. Mar Hein
    February 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Thanks for all your recipes & wonderful ideas. yes re-packaging leftovers & then having them for lunch works great! been doing that for more than 40 years. lol
    also i wish the doctors would tell people this: when bones are broken-double your calcium intake. calcium taken at night with Vit D3 & magnesium is the best. it works wonders-i had bones heal faster in 2 weeks after a Dr told me to double my calcium than they had healed in 4 weeks. :))

  7. Nurse Jennifer
    February 15, 2013 at 6:42 am

    WOW! Looks delicious. Puts my little store bought frozen dinners to shame! Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. crystal
    February 15, 2013 at 7:54 am

    My mother in law goes in for brain surgery on Wednesday, so was looking for some meal inspiration for an unadventurous palette to set her up for her recovery at home. Yours is always the first site i go to when trolling, and low and behold – You never disappoint! Thanks Julie!

  9. suzanne
    February 16, 2013 at 5:24 am

    I’ve been doubling up on recipes and freezing family size meals in zippered freezer storage bags. I put them in a large square box until they are frozen. They stack nicely in the freezer. I also use small plastic bags for individual meals, frozen in the microwave box my son takes to work. He unpacks one into his box in the morning and it is thawed for reheating by noon. Keeps the rest of his lunch cold too. Just remember to label everything with a permanent marker to avoid mystery meals.
    Keep the good ideas coming!

  10. Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie)
    February 16, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I keep frozen meals, usually soups and stews, for the days I am a substitute teacher with no notice. I see potatoes in one of your dishes. I have never been lucky freezing them. Any tips?

  11. Julie
    February 17, 2013 at 8:59 am

    Sarah – the roasted chicken and potatoes wasn’t frozen, just a mini version roasted alongside and brought over to her. Roasted potatoes definitely don’t freeze well!

  12. Beverley M
    February 17, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    mmmm the curry dish sounds yummy

  13. Neely
    February 17, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Ha ha — so hilarious and true about valentines day requiring parents to cut heart-shaped food for their offspring! For lunch I packed my kids’ peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cut them into heart shapes — my husband was watching me and gave me that “what in the world are you doing look?”

  14. sharon
    February 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Whenever you talk about your mother-in-law you make a swipe about her lack of food acumen, as compared to you. You’re racist.

    • Julie
      February 19, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      Yikes. Not at all. It was by no means a comparison of her tastes to mine, I was just pointing out that she loves these frozen mixed vegetables, which is why I bought them specifically to put in her meals. It’s not something that commonly shows up on our dinner table, so I didn’t want anyone to think I was cutting corners – that frozen veggies were fine for her but not for us, or anything like that.

  15. Voula Martin
    February 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I think its lovely that you are making meals for your mother in law while she is not able to do so herself and specifically incorporating her favorite foods into the frozen meals shows a good deal of thoughtfulness.

  16. Kathleen
    February 19, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    How is catering to someone’s individual preferences and tastes racist? I fail to see the comparison. That comment is extreme and inflammatory at best.

  17. Leslie
    February 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Individual dishes certainly do make leftovers look more palatable than plasticware! I will have to keep that in mind as I am an anti-leftoverite

  18. Lisa
    February 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Great idea… we end up with all these little containers of leftovers, but I love your idea of putting them together as meals.

    So thoughtful of you to make extra for your mother in law and to include her favourite choices.

  19. LC
    February 19, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Sharon is it racist because she only used orange & green vegetables and excluded all other other colours or is it racist because you are crazy?

  20. merry120
    February 19, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    What a great idea! These would be great to have in the freezer for when I go away for my husband or to share with neighbors when they are sick, etc. Such a thoughtful thing & much easier than I had built it up in my head.

  21. Barb
    February 22, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I spent the last couple of years doing frozen (and fresh) meals for my mother. Surgeries left her with no teeth or dentures, so I also had to finely chop or puree as well. It’s a rewarding challenge to make a meal enjoyed by a loved one – since her death, I’ve been doing some for my sister who is a full time student. I made my kid’s lunches even on into university & college, just because I loved doing it.
    I’ve never commented before, but I love your blog and recommend it to all my foodie friend.

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