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    You are in: Home / Community Forums / Cooking on a Budget: OAMC, Make Ahead, Freezing & More / Homemade TV dinner-type meals ?'s
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    Homemade TV dinner-type meals ?'s

    New England Clam Chowda
    Sun Apr 20, 2008 2:05 am
    Semi-Experienced "Sous Chef" Poster
    I am not unfamiliar with freezing foods but haven't tried freezing individual whole meals and have a few basic questions.

    Would like to attempt to prepare & freeze meals [dinner; she get's Meals-On-Wheels for lunch] for my elderly mom who lives alone but has difficulty navigating the kitchen safely. Diet restrictions include Adult Type II diabetes. My mom likes most foods but doesn't care for spicy, fried or anything she deems "greasy" (subject to interpretation, lol); she also doesn't like and cannot tolerate salt. She's not a huge fan of breading, heavy sauces/gravies; likes her food "straight up", usually.

    I would like to use those individual waxed cardboard TV dinner type trays or something smaller, perhaps with two compartments [so she doesn't have to deal with clean up]. For the life of me I cannot find out where to buy these. I tried a web search but either I am not using the right keywords or am doing something wrong as I cannot find a source.

    I have questions on exactly how to prepare meals. Do you undercook slightly before freezing? I've tried freezing mashed potatoes and they always end up watery after thawing. I usually use 1 or 2% milk; could that be the problem? How do you put together a meal (meat/chicken, a veggie and a carb--rice/potato/pasta) and have everything be cooked propertly once you reheat the meal? Nothing worse than dried out meat/chicken served with undercooked or mushy veggies, etc.

    Any instructions, tips, suggested reading, etc appreciated. One-dish meals (casseroles, stews, etc) are fine although would like a nice variety. I don't need recipes as much as I need the how-to instructions or which foods are better choices than others. My mom is able to use the microwave (knows how to adjust the cooking level). Boil-in-bag type foods would be OK (I have reheated frozen chili quite nicely this way if I froze it in Seal-A-Meal bag; soup too). If her arthritis is acting up, it is hard for her to safely remove items from a hot oven.

    For someone [me] who has been cooking for over 40 years, this 'project' has me confused. I am experienced in canning, dehydrating, and freezing individual foods but not whole meals.

    Thanks in advance for any pointers.
    Sun Apr 20, 2008 6:53 am
    Forum Host
    I did find Chinet brand disposable food trays at Intawares, which, I'm not sure if that's what you're looking for. There are also "foam cafeteria trays" but I'm pretty sure that's not what you want either.

    There appear to be some divided paper cafeteria trays, too, but, like you, I'd be stumped as to how to get everything heated properly and at the same time. icon_confused.gif

    Problem - they're sold in lots of 500. icon_eek.gif

    My thought would be to freeze items individually in the smallest available containers and wrap either in plastic and foil and/or vacuum seal - maybe a variety of entrees and sides. icon_question.gif Sort of like a mix and match. icon_question.gif icon_question.gif

    In the alternative, what about the Hefty brand plates - those Serve N Store plates? Of course I can't find them right now, but I could have sworn I'd seen divided ones - or something right next to the Hefty brand in the store. icon_rolleyes.gif The advantage of those (besides being sold in packages of fewer than 500!) is that they could potentially be re-used.

    Sorry I'm not an awful lot of help, am I? icon_confused.gif
    Sun Apr 20, 2008 7:58 am Groupie
    I'm sure one of the experts will be along to help flesh out your answers soon as far as the tips and tricks, but something I could give some help on:

    I think you're definitely on the right track as far as slightly undercooking the food, especially if the dish is destined for the microwave. Pasta especially is best if slightly undercooked (REALLY al dente icon_lol.gif). Softer veggies (like corn, peas, green beans, summer squashes, and the like) I wouldn't cook at all, or not beyond a quick blanch. Harder stuff like broccoli, carrots, and winter squashes, I would blanch, but still leave way undercooked. Probably the only thing I would really cook would be if you wanted a carmelized flavor (like onions). This should help keep the veggies from being mushy when nuked alongside an entree.

    I can't help you on the mashed potatoes, but maybe roasted potatoes, instead? Potatoes are one vegetable I have learned needs to be at least seriously partly cooked before freezing, the hard way! icon_smile.gif
    Sun Apr 20, 2008 8:24 am Groupie
    I know I'm jumping on the bandwagon here but I was reading a similar thread on the British forum and wondered if you guys could help this lady too?
    Sun Apr 20, 2008 10:13 am Groupie
    You can find these kinds of containers at online sites:

    They do have sectioned ones as well. They are pricey, but my understanding is that they hold up rather well. You can freeze and microwave in them and they are dishwasher safe.

    Here's the link where I found them, but I'm sure you can search for them on other sites to compare prices.

    The name of the containers is versatainer.

    Hope this helps!
    Sun Apr 20, 2008 10:45 am Groupie
    Check out this thread...
    Ever wonder what 20 dinners look like?
    I'll need to look for the other one I was thinking about but I've got a full day going!....I'll be back later icon_smile.gif
    Sun Apr 20, 2008 10:49 am Groupie
    I'm always looking for ways to freeze potaotes ~ here are some that may work for you:
    anne in apex
    Sun Apr 20, 2008 12:16 pm Groupie
    Do you have the chain If It's Paper in your area? They are sort of a party supply, but they also have kitchen/catering/restaurant supply type stuff, and not in lots of 500.
    Sun Apr 20, 2008 4:25 pm Groupie
    just a quick note on the mashed potatoes. i freeze mine all the time, they are watery until you get them really really hot, then a quick stir and they're great. not sure why, but i do it all the time. i use 2% milk too. HTH icon_smile.gif
    Wed Apr 23, 2008 2:06 pm Groupie
    Maybe you can get the small gladware or similar container and put individual servings of meat, veggie and starch then put one container of all three in a gallon baggie. That way she can thaw everything at once, but cook each item individually?
    Plus those containers and the baggies as well you can reuse.

    I've never tried potatoes, but rice freezes well the key is to cool it quickly after cooking by rinsing in cold water. Frozen veggies would also be an option, very easy to reheat without precooking.
    Sun May 04, 2008 4:15 pm Groupie

    I did a quick look around, and found these. They come in packs of 500. BUT...they CANNOT be put in a microwave or heated. The chemicals can get into the food, and it can be dangerous!

    You may want to look into these...they're called versatainers.

    They are more expensive, but they are microwaveable. Does your mom have a dishwasher? These are called rock n serve from tupperware. The divided dish can hold food, be refrigerated, microwaved, and the tupperware can be put in the dishwasher.

    Hope this helps!
    Chef# 616082
    Mon May 05, 2008 11:29 am Groupie
    I make lunches for my husband to reheat in the microwave everyday.
    He used to microwave in the plastic container I freeze them in but I have since bought a pyrex casserole with a lid to use to reheat because of the heated plastic scare.
    One dish casseroles are my husbands favorites since they reheat the best. I make a variety of rice casseroles (I use brown rice that I precook and keep in serving portions in the freezer so it's as handy as white rice), regular and mexican shepherds' pie, chili with and without pasta in it, spagetti, chicken pot pie. Strata's reheat nicely if they are bread based I find.
    In the summer I always keep a couple of hardy salads in the fridge. If you use an oil and vinegar type dressing they last for days are very tasty and healthy. We prefer a greek quinoa, brown rice with south west flavors, and pasta with ham cheese and a variety of veggies. We grill a bunch of chicken breasts at a time so one of those with a salad is a complete meal.
    Pizza and calzones reheat well in the oven and can be made from a variety of ingredients. Our favorite calzone is made with ham, brie and apples.
    If you're Mom has arthritis she might want to limit her nightshade vegetables (potato, tomato, peppers and eggplant) as recent testing as shown that they can contribute to arthritis.
    Fri Nov 30, 2012 9:05 am
    Newbie "Fry Cook" Poster
    Want to freeze mashed potatoes?? Get a food saver!! You can freeze just about anything in them and the food can be reheated in many ways. I make extra mashed potatoes, fully seasoned and seal in food saver type bags. They lay flat in freezer to save space. When it comes time to use them, I can defrost and use, microwave in the bag or drop the bag in boiling water to heat the contents! Works everytime! I do this with soup, burgers, steak veggies, leftover turkey and ham, etc. Hardly takes anytime to defrost and tastes great! When we go camping, I make roast dinners, or whatever and all we do is drop bags in boiling water and eat!!

    I am currently looking for dishware so I can make TV dinners and then seal the entire plate in food saver bags. Oh, by the way, the bags are reusable!!
    Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:06 pm Groupie
    I've found sectioned plates and a variety of other "disposable" freezer containers at Good service, and you can order the quantity you want - they don't require case quantities. I've run their "disposables" through the dishwasher and used them more than once.

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