Postpartum Freezer Meal Prep: Twice-Baked Potatoes

In a fit of nesting, I decided to start scheduling a weekly cooking session dedicated to stocking the freezer with healthy-ish meals to keep us nourished in the few weeks following the arrival of Baby 2. (Informally, my first freezer meal was breakfast — that is, Moose Muffins.)

This week, I prepped some healthy-ish twice-baked potatoes. I love twice-baked potatoes, because they’re quick and easy to make, versatile, universally yummy and they freeze well. They’re also easy to eat: I confess to eating them one-handed like a taco in the days following Baby 1’s birth.

This time around, I stuffed them with mixed baby greens, white beans and cheddar cheese.

Hollowed baked potatoes
Baked potatoes, then allowed them to cool enough to handle. Halved and used a tablespoon to scoop out the innards into a bowl.
Mashed potatoes with beans
After mashing the potatoes, I mixed in shredded cheddar cheese and navy beans.
Mixed greens and potatoes
Mixed in some baby mixed greens.
Twice-baked potatoes
Refilled the potato shells with the mixture
Twice-baked potatoes
Added some more beans on top.
Cheesy twice-baked potatoes
Topped with more cheese, of course!

Here’s a quick and easy recipe with recommendations for variations.

Freezer Friendly, Healthy-ish Twice-Baked Potatoes

  1. Bake potatoes (I think I did 425 degrees for an hour or so in the oven.)
  2. Allow them to cool for at least 15 minutes, or until you can handle them without injury. I do find the scooping and mashing goes a little easier when everything is still warm, though.
  3. Halve the potatoes. Use a tablespoon to carve out the insides, leaving a decently thick shell to hold up to the filling.
  4. Mash the scooped-out potatoes with salt to taste. Then mix in your choice of fillings (see below for some combos).
  5. Refill the shells with the potato mixture. Top as desired (again, see below!)
  6. If you want to eat them right away, pop them back in the oven until they are thoroughly reheated and the cheese topping is browned to your liking. For freezing, I like to freeze them first on the cookie sheet on which I assembled them (so the cheese sticks to the top) and then move them to their final storage container.
  7. To reheat from frozen, preheat the oven to 400 or so and bake them for 35 minutes, or until they’re heated through and the top is browned.

Twice Baked Potato Combinations

Beans and greens

Mix mashed potatoes with: cheddar cheese, cooked white beans and greens of your choice. (I mixed in whole, raw baby mixed greens because I think the second baking time will cook them just fine. Spinach also would be fine raw, as I think would Swiss chard, if you took out the stalks. Hardier greens, including chard stems, kale, or cabbage, should be sauteed or blanched first.) Top with: extra beans and cheddar cheese

Taco potatoes

Mix mashed potatoes with: Cooked ground turkey or beef with your preferred taco seasoning, diced pickled jalapenos, shredded Mexican cheese or queso fresco.  If you’re not worried about them looking a little pink, mix in a little of your favorite salsa, too. Top with: Crumbled queso fresco/shredded Mexican cheese, extra meat, black olives. (Plan to serve with diced avocado and/or fresh salsa.)

Bacon Broccoli

Mix mashed potatoes with: Chopped, steamed broccoli, shredded cheddar cheese (I’d do sharp white cheddar for this one), and sauteed onions. Top with: Crumbled bacon and more cheddar.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Mix mashed potatoes with: Shredded cooked chicken, jarred tikka masala sauce, cilantro, and maybe some chopped, roasted vegetables of your choice or even chick peas. Top with: Probably nothing? I can’t think of a cheese that would go well on top, but you could garnish with some fresh cilantro after you cook them. All credit goes to my friend Marissa, who recently recommended Indian food with mashed potatoes instead of rice. Not something I would have thought of on my own, but DELISH!

All right, readers… let’s crowd source. Any other combos you’d try for twice baked potatoes? Let me know in the comments!

 

Postpartum Freezer Meal Prep: Twice-Baked Potatoes

Cooking with Toddlers: Moose Muffins

We recently checked out from the library If You Give a Moose a Muffin, and The Toddler loves reading it (along with the OG If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.) While I haven’t posted a recipe here in about 100 years, we just succeeded in a small baking experiment that works for killing some time, delighting a toddler, connecting literature to real life and prepping breakfast for the week, all in one.

Moose Muffins - inspired by the children's book
Moose muffins! Very little added sugar, no added oil, contains both fruit and vegetables, and best served with a good book 🙂

If you’re anything like me, it also provides your young baker a lesson in flouting the specific measurements of any given baking recipe and enjoying or suffering the consequences. (Fortunately, this turned out pretty good!) I’ve never been one to closely follow a recipe, so consider this a basic roadmap from which you can detour depending on what’s in your pantry and what your family likes to eat.

The Toddler gobbled a few mini-muffins up as soon as they were cool enough to eat, and seemed pretty impressed that his pouring and mixing turned into food. He even helped clean up afterward!

I kept these pretty low-sugar so I wouldn’t feel guilty about serving them for breakfast and didn’t add any oil (though I use whole milk/yogurt in my muffin recipes and entire eggs.) I do find that the no-oil muffins I make tend to stick to the muffin cups/tins more than usual, so don’t be afraid to be a little liberal when greasing them.

Finally, thanks to The Husband for being a second set of hands during this activity; it’s doable with just one adult, but a nice weekend-morning family activity. (If you’re doing this solo, try to gather everything up before your little one is waiting anxiously to get started or you may run out of attention span.)

Moose Muffins - baking with toddlers (The Last Mommy Blog)

 

Moose Muffins

Makes 12 regular muffins and 12 mini muffins

Dry ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • pinch of salt

Wet ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of raisins (we used golden raisins)

Directions

  1. Read If You Give a Moose a Muffin with your toddler. Ask, “Would you like to bake some muffins for a moose?!” If they respond enthusiastically, “Yes!!!!” proceed. If not, try again some other time.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. Strap your toddler in to a booster seat/high chair at the kitchen table so they can’t run amok with ingredients, and then pile everything up just out of their reach. Gather a wet ingredients bowl, dry ingredients bowl, a teaspoon, your measuring cups, muffin tins and muffin liners.
  4. Have your toddler line your muffin tins. (We don’t have mini muffin liners, so I swiped at the mini muffin tin with an oil-soaked paper towel.) See note above about these being sticky; feel free to grease the muffin liners themselves to avoid this.
  5. Put the dry bowl in front of the toddler and measure out each ingredient for him and let him dump the measuring cups into the bowl and stir in between. To make it even more educational, do lots of counting: “This is one cup of flour.” “We need two scoops of baking soda.”
  6. Do the same with the wet ingredients, cracking each egg into the measuring cup and letting him dump, etc.
  7. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet (or is it vice versa?Whatever muffin recipes usually say.) Try not to over-mix. Fold the raisins in last.
  8. You should probably do the scooping of the muffin batter into the papers/tins, but count while you do it.
  9. Bake muffins. The mini muffins were done in about 12 minutes, and the standard-sized in about 20-22 minutes, but your mileage may vary.
  10. Allow to cool, serve with blackberry jam! (Consume while re-reading If You Give a Moose a Muffin.)

Substitutions and variations:

  • Finely chopped walnuts would be really good in this (if your kid is of the age to eat such things.)
  • Swap out some or all of the applesauce for pumpkin puree; switch the shredded zucchini for shredded carrot. (I’d also probably switch to regular black raisins for this alternative.)
  • Don’t like raisins? Use frozen blueberries! Or chocolate chips! Or nothing!
  • Don’t have zucchini? Shred a fresh apple instead to make these extra-appley. I’d swap out the allspice for ground ginger in this case.
  • If we had any plain yogurt in the house while I was making these, I would have used that instead of milk.
Cooking with Toddlers: Moose Muffins

Feeding and care of new moms

Weeknight meal wednesday.jpg
I know. It’s Thursday. Don’t care.

As soon as The Baby wakes up from his morning naps (which, I hate to admit, he’s been sleeping through far better since my recent acquisition of yet another Amazon Prime impulse buy. He definitely likes to have his arms up by his face but can’t sleep when he can fully flail. Thank you, Amazon gods. Take all my money and all my hypocritical proclamations about anti-consumerism. P.S. Thank you also, Amazon gods, for the gift of a baby jail. The Baby hasn’t chewed on any electrical cords since its delivery!)

I cannot get through one sentence without a major digression.

Anyway, as soon as The Baby wakes up, he and I are headed to Cleveland to bring food and fun to my good friend and fellow new mom, who celebrated the recent Cavs championship win by going into labor.

Having recently been well fed and cared for by my friends in my own early weeks postpartum, I thought I’d share a delicious, easy meal that is one of my faves and travels/keeps well. It’s not Wednesday, I know, but I made this last night, so it’s still a Weeknight Meal Wednesday.

I adapted this recipe from Pinch of Yum the first time I made it, and it has become one of my staple recipes. Its many, many iterations are all over Pinterest, so it’s not exactly a novel idea but I FREAKING LOVE IT. It’s extremely adaptable, super healthy and easy enough to make even if you have a six month old.

Butternut Squash Shells & Cheese with Chicken and Tatsoi

This recipe made two 9″x 9″ casseroles worth of dinner (one for my family and one to give.) Halve just about everything if you’re less hungry (though you can always freeze half!)

Ingredients

  • One large butternut squash
  • One large/two medium onions
  • 2 lbs of short cut pasta (I used shells)
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 big bunch of tatsoi (this came in my Fresh Fork bag last week. You could also use kale, swiss chard, broccoli or another green of your choice. This was delicious!)
  • Milk (maybe 2 cups? Did not measure)
  • 1 block of meltable cheese (I used Monterey Jack), shredded
  • A dollop of spicy brown mustard
  • Dried thyme
  • Garlic powder
  • Kosher salt & black pepper to taste
  • Butter/canola oil

Directions

Cut your squash and roast it. I think I did 350 for about 45 minutes, with the squash cut into disks. I also have success cutting the squash in half vertically, sticking each half face down in a baking dish with a little water underneath for steam, and cooking, but I wanted a little roasty flavor on thse because that one circle ended up being a snack for The Baby.

I also took this time to cook three chicken breasts, seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme. Once they’re cool, you can chop them up into bite-size pieces and set them aside/stick them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to put everything in the oven.


While the squash is cooking, now is a good time to shred your whole block of cheese. This can be done a little in advance because you need to be able to handle the squash, so allow it to cool a bit. Some recipes tell you to peel & cut up the raw squash and steam/cook it on the stovetop, but I’m not about to spend time peeling a raw butternut squash. Moving on.

Chop up your onions (slices are fine because you’re going to end up pureeing the whole thing) and sweat them out in some butter, thyme and kosher salt. (I sadly used all my butter to make an upsettingly decadant cookie dough snack while I cooked lactation cookies, so I had to use oil. Butter is better if you’ve got it.)

Get your pasta water on to boil. You will want your pasta to be piping hot and ready to go when the sauce is done to help incorporate the cheese. Undercook it just a little so it doesn’t get too soft in the oven later.

Once the onions are very sweaty/leaning toward caramelized, add the squash. Once everything is good and soft, it’s time to buzz it up with milk and a tablespoon or so of spicy brown mustard in your favorite food processor-type gadget. I use a Nutribullet, which isn’t quite big enough for the whole thing so I do it in two batches. The consistency and color will approximate the nasty fake cheese in a delicious boxed shells and cheese.

Drain the pasta, return it to the pot and add the squash puree. Begin to mix and stir in about half the shredded cheese. This is about the time I thought to cook up some greens to add, but any time before this step is good, too! I cooked the chopped stems in a little oil and then steamed the leaves, making sure they weren’t too water (but as the shells were a little under and everything goes in the oven, it’s not a big deal if there’s some extra moisture.) Add the chopped chicken and stir everything up. If it looks a little dry, add a few splashes of milk.

Grease two 9″x9″ (or 8″ x 8″? I dunno, square) *baking dishes. If you’re eating yours for dinner, preheat the oven back to 350. Split the pasta into the two baking dishes. Bake the one you’re eating now, covered in foil, for about 30 minutes. You can uncover for the last few minutes to brown the cheese, if you life. I like to write cooking instructions on the foil of the other one to make it super easy.

*I broke one of my cardinal rules of dropping off postpartum dishes, which is Thou Shalt Not Create More Dirty Dishes for a New Mom. I had a bunch of foil baking pans perfect for such occasions but lost them somewhere in the move, I guess. Don’t be like me.

Here’s the finished product! And a bonus photo of the lactation cookie dough I ate by the fist-full made to go along with it. I did not stray in any intentional or beneficial way from this recipe, so just go there and check it out. These are so, so delicious (and effective, in my experience.)

 

Baby’s awake, time to pack up the car… and meet his new friend!!

Feeding and care of new moms

Weeknight Meal Weds: Black Bean Burgers

Weeknight meal for new moms: black bean burgersFinally, the return of my extremely popular not-really-recipes food series for haggard new parents. I hope you all weren’t starving in the meantime!

Kind of a good-news/bad-news situation here.

The bad news: This is varsity-level effort for new parents. Something I’d recommend you work on during a Sunday afternoon while you have some extra help with the baby. (What can I say? I never thought the day would arrive, but it does start to get easier to cook when your baby can crawl under the couch entertain himself on the floor for awhile.)

The good news: Make a batch of these, pop them in the freezer and you can have several easy weeknight meals. The other good news: They’re super healthy and really tasty. The other other good news: This is a baby led weaning-friendly recipe.

The other bad news: This is a great example of what I refer to as “improv cooking” which means I didn’t measure anything and used leftovers in the recipe, so… good luck. Be creative. You’ll be fine. I adapted my recipe from the Pioneer Woman who clearly pays closer attention to her cooking than I do (and has stronger forearms and/or forks).

Black Bean Burgers (Good Enough for Baby)

Ingredients

  • About 1.5 cups of cooked black beans (If you’re feeding this to your baby, cook the beans yourself so you know there’s no added sodium, as babies can’t have salt and canned beans are super salty.)
  • 3-4 slices of bread (check the sodium content in your bread, too)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small onion
  • About a half cup of leftover mashed potatoes (optional)
  • 1 small beet
  • Dried herbs of your choice – I used oregano and thyme
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder or chopped fresh garlic
  • Kosher salt (just for your portions)

If you’re eating the burgers tonight, you’ll also need

  • Washed baby spinach
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Hamburger buns
  • Mustard, ketchup, etc.

Instructions

Black beans

Drain your cooked black beans. Don’t rinse them. (If you’re using canned beans, remember this probably isn’t a good BLW meal, because of salt.)

mash black beans

Mash them up in a bowl so they’re still chunky but smashed enough to stick together well. The Pioneer Woman used a fork but I guess my arms aren’t strong enough for that.

DIY breadcrumbs

Meanwhile, toast some bread. I used four pieces of whole wheat bread, but three of them were butts. Making your own bread crumbs is another good way to control salt, but if you can find low sodium breadcrumbs (and I’m leaving it entirely in your hands to do your BLW/sodium research), skip this step. (If you don’t like the state of my toaster oven, you should see my office hahahaha someone please come clean my house.)

breadcrumb grind

Let your toast cool off a few minutes so it doesn’t steam up, then grind it up in a food processor/bullet/etc.

black bean burger mix

Add to your black beans: The breadcrumbs, the herbs and garlic, a half teaspoon or so of chili powder (The Baby seems to like a little spice, but I didn’t go nuts on this recipe), the egg, a shredded small beet and a shredded small onion, and if you have it, some leftover mashed potatoes. (Mine had sauteed onion, zucchini and peas in it from some zucchini boats I made the night before. Salt reminder goes here.)

mixed black bean burger

Mix well and let sit for a bit. (The beets make it look like bloody red meat a little, don’t they?)

salt and blw

If you’re giving some to baby, pull out a portion to leave unsalted, then add kosher salt to yours.

burgers sizzling

Heat a cast iron skillet and add a little canola oil (I also used some butter – aim for unsalted, said the broken record.) I’m getting used to a new stove (backdoor brag) so I got the pan a little too hot. Don’t be like me. Cook your burgers thoroughly on both sides. If you’re planning to freeze any, turn the heat down so they’re good and cooked but not super browned.

black bean burgers dressed

To serve, melt some cheese on your burger, then put it on a bun (or two pieces of bread if you’re improv cooking and don’t believe in grocery lists). Add mustard and baby spinach and enjoy.

baby's black bean burger

Here’s The Baby’s portion. The cheese helped hold it together a little, and because I was cautious about how much salt was in the burger itself (and he didn’t have anything else with salt in it that day) I didn’t feel nervous giving him any.

freeze black bean burgers

I froze the leftover portions first on a cookie sheet then wrapped them up and put them in a freezer bag. I’ll just turn the pan on nice and low and cook them from frozen the next time we eat them.

Bon apetit, my dear mamas. I know this is a more time-consuming recipe, so if you can’t pull it together, may I offer an alternative *recipe from my earlier days:

3 string cheeses, eaten on the couch while nursing. Three heaping tablespoons of frozen yogurt, eaten in front of the refrigerator. No more than two high fiber cereal bars, eaten in front of the computer while the baby naps. One very well-earned bottle of your favorite IPA.

*Not suitable for BLW.

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Weeknight Meal Weds: Black Bean Burgers