Chef of the Future

TLDR*: Freezer meals for new moms, or anyone, with dietary restrictions.

Growing up, my mom (thankfully) insisted I learn how to cook, among other things, to ensure my success as an independent adult.  I recall occasionally that when I would cook dinner for the family or make cookies or something, my dad would be encouraging and comment “Chef of the Future” (yes, I heard it with the capital letters). The past week, this came up in my thoughts as I was visiting my family, cooking at my parents’ house, and making freezer meals for my brother and sister in law who are new parents for the second time.  I am now the future “Chef” as well as creating and making future (freezer) meals for my brother and sister in law.  I also hope I can someday inspire my niece and nephew to enjoy cooking!

Me and my niece, Baby O (the new Chef of the Future)

It turns out that Baby O seems to have problems with reflux and has been super unhappy and fussy after feeding, so my sister in law is currently on an elimination diet to see if maybe Baby O has food sensitivities.  So, no gluten, no soy, no nuts, no dairy – challenge accepted!!  I wanted to ensure I met these food requirements, and was also able to make a variety of foods and flavors that would be healthy and full of whole foods. I really enjoyed researching meals that met these requirements, were good to freeze and would either reheat well or cook well in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.

I found that no dairy and no gluten were fairly easy for freezer meals. No nut was also fairly easy but had one unusual snag, and no soy was achievable but also had a snag.  I had to be sure to check ingredients of anything pre-packaged or pre-made.  I wasn’t able to use the tube garlic paste my mom had on hand (every recipe called for garlic and that would have been an easy time saver) but it has milk whey in it.  I also wasn’t able to use pre-made hoisin sauce (which one recipe called for) and most of the homemade hoisin sauces called for peanut butter.  Luckily I was able to find a recipe to make my own hoisin with black beans instead of nut butter (recipe here – I will note that the recipe states that it will make 3 cups; I doubled the recipe to use the whole can of black beans and came up with 2 cups total). I also used coconut aminos every time a recipe called for soy sauce.  I also went really easy on the red pepper flakes/cayenne in the recipes since I didn’t want anything spicy to contribute to the potential reflux; plus it’s really easy to spice up a dish to individual tastes with hot sauce or red pepper flakes upon serving.

Here is the menu I prepared (with links to several of the recipes on Pinterest):

  • Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps – this can be the most complicated recipe – (gluten free, dairy free, nut free, easy to make soy free, see hoisin sauce recipe above if you need soy free and nut free)
  • Freezer to Instant Pot Korean Beef (gluten free, dairy free, nut free, easy to make soy free)
  • Freezer to Crockpot Chicken Fajitas (gluten free, dairy free, nut free, soy free)
  • Turkey Sausage, Sweet Potato, Kale Soup (gluten free, dairy free, nut free, soy free, easy to make alcohol free)
  • Sweet Potato Chicken Curry Casserole (gluten free dairy free, nut free, soy free)
Sweet Potato Curry Casserole

I made modifications to almost every recipe.  I am also waiting for the verdict on how some of these came out, so I will certainly be revisiting this later and giving feedback as well as my modifications on these.  The one I can say for sure turned out really well is the Sweet Potato Chicken Curry Casserole, as this required cooking before freezing (so I tasted as I was cooking).  The original recipe didn’t call for any spices whatsoever, but since the recipe called for sweet potato and coconut milk, I immediately thought of curry!

Below is the recipe I used for the Sweet Potato Chicken Curry Casserole, along with my notes.  Please share your experience with making freezer meals as well as modifying meals to meet certain dietary restrictions; I would love to hear how they turned out!

*Too Long Did not Read

Sweet Potato Chicken Curry Casserole

Sweet Potato Chicken Curry Casserole

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1-1/4 cups Onion, diced
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 to 2 Tbsp curry spices (see recipe below, or use pre-made curry powder)
  • 4 cups Sweet Potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup Carrot, diced
  • 3-3/4 cups Boneless Chicken Breasts, diced
  • 1 Tbsp Cornstarch with 1 tsp or so of water to make a slurry
  • 1-1/2 to 2 cups Chicken Broth/Stock
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ¼ cup Coconut Milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Cilantro for serving (optional)

CURRY SPICE MIX (this will make more than needed for the above recipe) 20190730_151527

Combine:

  • 2 Tbsp coriander
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp powdered cardamom
  • ½ tsp cayenne

 

Directions

  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.
  2. Cook onion and garlic until golden.
  3. Add sweet potatoes and carrot and ½ Tbsp curry spice. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes.
  4. Move vegetables to the edges of the pan and put chicken into center of skillet, add another ½ Tbsp curry spice.
  5. Cook chicken until seared on all sides.
  6. Gradually stir in chicken broth/stock a bit at a time until all is added, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add cornstarch slurry and mix well.
  8. Add remaining ½ to 1 Tbsp curry spice (to taste), lime juice, and coconut milk and mix well.
  9. Allow mixture to cool. Place into a labelled gallon freezer bag, and freeze.
  10. OR, to eat now, add to oiled baking dish and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour, or simmer on stovetop on low for 1 hour.
  11. Serve with cilantro if desired.

SERVING DAY DIRECTIONS

  1. Thaw in fridge.
  2. Put contents of bag into oiled baking dish.
  3. Bake in 400 degree oven for 1 hour until heated through and bubby.

20190730_210643

 

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