"I had never made a meal to freeze before and didn't known the logistics...like are you supposed to cook it first? and do you just take it out of the freezer and cook or reheat in the oven? "
I will try my best to provide some more details on how I do my make-ahead-meals for the freezer. If any of you have any more questions and/or your own tips, please leave a comment for all of us.
For each meal that I make to put in the freezer, I do cook the ingredients and assemble the dish ahead of time, but I don't bake it. For example, when making baked ziti, or any pasta dish, I brown the meat with onions and garlic and add the sauce, cook the pasta, and arrange in a freezer safe baking dish or container, then mix in some mozzarella cheese and Parmesan. I do not bake it. I then cover it very tightly with aluminum foil and freeze. When it is time to bake, I will either pull it out the day before and begin thawing in the refrigerator or if its last minute, I will thaw in the sink with warm water or place in microwave to defrost (if the baking dish can be put in there). Once it is thawed, I bake accordingly, sometimes adding a little more cheese on top. Even if its not completely thawed, you should be fine to bake it, it just may take a little longer. I have done lasagna before too and I have actually put a frozen one in the oven, however it takes almost 2 hours to bake. Make sure it is very hot and completely heated all the way through!
One thing I had concerns about was if I had frozen meat, say chicken, can I defrost it and cook it for a casserole, and then freeze the casserole. And I have found out, yes you can, and there are no health risks. Its when you have raw meat that was frozen, and you thaw, and then don't cook all of it, that you don't want to refreeze that remaining raw meat. There is a higher risk of bacteria contamination. (Disclaimer-this info. is not researched, just from my scientist husband. We do not claim to be experts on the subject). We have not had any problems cooking our meat that was once frozen and then mixing it with all the other ingredients for a meal, and then freezing again.
For my meals like sloppy joes, pulled pork, turkey burgers, black bean burgers, I prepare these all ahead of time, cook them, and then freeze. At Costco, I have found these wonderful heavy-duty glass dishes that are microwave, oven, and freezer safe. They come with nice lids too. The lids can't go in the microwave or oven. I will try to post information on these sometime in the near future. For my burgers, I wrap each one in some plastic wrap, then place 2-4 in a Ziploc freezer bag to prevent freezer burn. Then I can pull these types of things out of the freezer, pop in microwave to defrost and then heat. Sometimes, I will put the sloppy joes or pulled pork into a sauce pan/skillet and heat up on the stove top.
I make pancakes ahead of time and then place 4-6 in a Ziploc quart size bag and freeze. These are great to then pull out and heat up in the toaster. I made a triple batch on Friday of the whole grain ones and now we have a bunch in the freezer to use for breakfasts. Like I mentioned in my first post, I have had great success making chocolate chip cookies ahead of time and freezing them. I have never frozen the dough, though I know people who have.
For my wheat pizza dough (which I have nearly perfected after a year now of making), I mix the ingredients, knead it accordingly, and spray a Ziploc bag with cooking spray, and place the ball of dough in there and freeze. When I want to make it, I defrost for 24 hours in the refrigerator, then place in large bowl, cover, and then let it rise in the oven (not on), for 45-60 minutes. Then I roll the dough out and make it according to the directions. (I will be doing a post about my homemade pizza again soon for those of you interested--its delicious!) Some people have told me they let theirs rise before freezing and have had success, but that is not what I do. Any thoughts?
I hope this is helpful information for any of you who are interested or new to freezer cooking. If any of you have experience, please leave your tips and/or suggestions in the comments section. Oh, if you like my blog, you can become a follower by clicking the link on the home page. Happy cooking!