Today marks 33 weeks of pregnancy for me. Yay! Only three more weeks and I will be considered "full term." I cannot begin to tell you how weird it is to have made it this far, and have no complications whatsoever at this point, after all we went through in November and December. TWO fetal surgeries, first to fix twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome and to separate the fates of the boys should one die (as he, sadly, did three weeks later), and then a second surgery to patch my ruptured membranes.
I have held off getting ready for the baby's birth for a number of reasons. First, I was worried he was going to pass away like his brother, not an unlikely scenario. I still worry about that - for no known reason, absent of any medical or scientific explanations, even perfectly healthy surviving twins have a much greater chance of suddenly and inexplicably passing away in the womb. Personally, I think losing their other half is just too much for their little hearts to handle.
Secondly, I figured that if I held off preparing for birth until it was actually safe to go into labor, it would mentally help keep me from going into premature labor. This was a very real concern when my water broke at 18 weeks, and didn't stop leaking for almost a month, even after surgery to patch the membrane. At this point, this really is no longer a concern, and less and less so as time goes on. In fact, I have a feeling I may go overdue with this little one, something I certainly want even less than any other time. Once he is full term, I'd rather he came as soon as possible, so I can stop worrying, and we can just close this chapter and move on.
This past week, with the temperatures rising, my fatigue increasing, and time running out on the remainder of this pregnancy, I started preparing for the inevitable arrival of this little one. Part of that is planning, and then precooking and freezing meals for after the birth. I absolutely LOVE having about 4-6 weeks worth of meals fully cooked and ready to go, which will not only cut down on time spent in the kitchen, but also on trips to the grocery store.
In fact, my "Spend Zero in March" challenge was largely motivated by the fact that my freezers are bursting, and I realized I did not have enough room to spare to freeze hardly any ready meals.
I should add here that my husband and mother-in-law are both incredibly helpful whenever I have a baby, and would gladly cook for the family. But it's just easier for everyone involved when we can simply shelve that chore for a few weeks. I have a hard time sitting back and doing nothing while everyone around me is doing my work for me. And let's be honest - they just don't cook the way I do! ;) Likewise, the ladies in our church are wonderful about bringing meals to families that just added a new baby, or are going through a hardship such as illness, etc. With this pregnancy alone, they have already brought meals to our family for at least 3 weeks. I don't want to take advantage of their generosity and time any more if I can help it by pre-freezing meals. Plus, our family eats as much at one meal as others eat in several days, making it quite expensive to take dinner to us.
Here is a list of the items I am hoping to cook ahead of time. The list is not complete, yet - I would like to find a few new recipes that my family will love, and that are freezer-friendly. But there is enough here to keep me busy until I come up with more meal ideas.
cinnamon raisin bread
chocolate chip orange scones
Lemon poppy seed muffins
cinnamon crumb coffee cake
topping for fruit crumble (use canned peaches or cherries)
German apple cake w/ yogurt glaze
croissants (ham & cheese, plain, chocolate)
cream cheese danishes
not premade, but easy to throw together:
toast (w/ butter, honey, or PB)
yogurt parfaits w/ fruit and granola
Easy lunches (if there are no dinner leftovers):
ready-to-grill cheese sandwiches
meat, bean & cheese burritos
shredded cheeses (for omelettes, quesadillas, pizza)
ham and cheese pinwheels
not premade, but easy to throw together:
salad (w/ ham, eggs, cheese)
spaghetti sauce (make spaghetti fresh)
meatballs in sauce (make ziti fresh)
meatloaf, gravy, mixed veggies (make potatoes fresh)
chicken and dumplings (ready to cook in crock pot)
taco pasta bake
orange chicken (ready to cook in crock pot)
cookie dough balls (ready to bake)
oatmeal cookies for lactation
pizza dough and sauce (for pizza, bread sticks, calzones, mozzarella sticks)
tortillas (corn & flour)
breaded mozzarella sticks
Yesterday, I was able to bake French bread and turn it into garlic bread, pre-make and freeze the dough for about 6 dozen cookies, bake a double batch of pecan tassies and freeze most of those, and assemble 5 quiches, four of which went into the freezer.
Note on changes I made to the recipes: Cookies: cut the sugar and chocolate chips in half, use white and dark chocolate chips, and use whole wheat pastry flour in place of white. Quiche: use smoked mozzarella, sharp cheddar, and creamy jack for the cheeses, add smoked turkey breast and broccoli to the filling; make my own pie crust. French Bread: use 3 cups all-purpose white flour plus 1/4 cup gluten in place of bread flour, and also omitted the whole wheat flour since my starter is 100% whole wheat and I wanted the crispy crust and fluffy crumb that only white flour can provide. My sourdough starter is very active, and some of the kids don't like the sourdough taste to be too strong, so I only let my dough rise for 6 hours.
Today so far, I have made a huge batch of spaghetti sauce, most of which will be frozen, as well as several family-size servings of chow mein. In my big crockpot, about 5 lbs of chicken breasts and thighs are simmering away, covered in salsa and cilantro pesto. Tonight, when it is cooked, I will shred the meat to use in a couple of different dinners such as tacos, enchiladas, etc.
By making double batches of meals we are currently eating, and combining recipes that use similar ingredients so I can chop and dice everything at once, cooking extra really does not take much longer than my daily cooking.
What are your favorite meals to precook and freeze? Please share in the comments below! I am still looking to bulk up my meal list, and welcome any good suggestions.