Everyone, it seems, wants to know how ever am I going to manage with just my husband once the baby is here. To be honest, I'm not sure what they're talking about, because most of my life, I grew up around women who didn't have their mothers or aunts or friends or hired help around to smooth the transition to motherhood. What they did have, however, was a steady stream of meals, brought from Bible study ladies, good Sunday School women and the like. It's a wonderful tradition, bringing a new family meals for the first week or two. Some of the expat women coordinate a similar act of love here in Rio as well, and I'm sure when little G finally arrives, we'll get to taste the bounty of other people's kitchens. But that only lasts for so long.
And I think I might not want to think about cooking for a good month or two.
I have a bit of OCD in me. I really, really like pre-planning. I will mentally pack for a month before a trip and obsessively pack and re-pack my suitcases in the week (or two) beforehand. I've been making lists of what will go in the hospital bag for the past month...so it shouldn't be a surprise to know that planning what's going to feed us while I learn how to care for an infant has been, uh, on my mind. :)
I also really, really like food. The thought of tuna fish and ramen noodles as staples of our future diet is cringe-worthy. But this is not the best time for me to think about going into cooking overload, being 8 months pregnant!
So, instead of slaving away in the kitchen on my insanely bloated ankles and feet (seriously, people, I think if you stuck a pin in them I'd deflate like a funhouse balloon), I hired a cook for two days of intensive freezer stocking. Day 1 went smashingly well.
I did the grocery shopping, and put together a menu, with recipes and translations. She did all the work, bless her heart, and most of the cleanup. It was awesome! The house smelled so good all day, of onions and pumpkin and chocolate chip cookies…
To save space, I tried to use ziplock bags rather than plastic containers wherever possible. Even for sauces; I just squeezed the air out, carefully, then sealed well and laid them one on top of another to freeze flat. Some of the dishes were pre-cooked; others were simply assembled and frozen. For casseroles and main dishes, I bought several of those throw-away aluminum pans and then for extra freezer protection, slipped the filled and sealed pans into ziplock bags. Once you see the menu, I think you'll agree with me that it's pretty amazing there's still space in my freezer (as well as all the regular contents of my freezer: cheeses, mushrooms, pre-cooked bacon, coffee, ice cubes, beer mugs and etc...)!
Here's the menu:
Homemade pasta (1 kilo of flour, 10 eggs) which made three separate dishes, plus enough leftover pasta (shaped into spaghetti/fettuccine shapes) for 2 extra meals:
1. Spinach/ricotta/pine nut ravioli (6 dozen or 4 servings)
2. Pumpkin/ricotta/sage ravioli (6 dozen or 4 servings)
3. Pumpkin/spinach/goat and cream cheese lasagna (3 pans, about 8 servings, total)
4. Beef and bean enchiladas, sauce-free. There was a bit of a mix-up with this one, as she misunderstood and mixed the sauce in with the filling. But we'll just dump a little tomato sauce over the top when baking and they shouldn't suffer at all. (I think this made 14 enchiladas, or 7 servings )
5. Spinach cream (two quart ziplock bags full, plus a smaller container to eat through during this week)
6. Homemade tomato sauce (two quart ziplock bags full)
7. Meatloaf (three pans, I think, like the lasagna, some 8-10 servings)
8. Cauliflower and collard greens egg cake (one full cake should be at least 8 servings)
9. Chocolate chip cookie dough, shaped into rolls and frozen (4 logs, maybe 6 small cookies per log)
That works out to about 40 servings, or 20 separate meals! And that's just day one! A lot of this, granted, will be quick lunch options for me, or midnight snack stuff rather than full, one-dish meals for the two of us. I'm especially happy about breakfast foods that are ready to go. We've already made and frozen over a dozen waffles, and the egg cake will be a nice addition to the insta-breakfast options.
Because my freezer is starting to fill up, I think I might scale back my ideas for next time. I already have frozen ziplocks of precooked black beans (great for soup, or black bean burgers on the quick), and some homemade chicken patties in the freezer, so I think we'll just make Cajun-style fish cakes, a couple of veggied-up chicken pot pies which are my guilty comfort food (ahh, Ina Garten!), and more sauces. If there's room, we'll freeze bagels and muffins, too.
If anyone is interested in the recipes, I can post them over on my cooking blog; just drop me a line or a comment so I know which ones to do! And I'm still compiling ideas for day two, so if you have a killer recipe that freezes well, or ideas of what would be great to have on hand during the first weeks of life with a new baby, please do share!