Nothing can prepare a person for the level of exhaustion and elation that comes with the early days of parenthood. But helping to fill a friend’s freezer with delicious, nutritious dishes that only take a few minutes in the oven or microwave can certainly help.
A few tips: make sure there’s room in their freezer before you whip up a frozen party for friends. For recipes that serve more than two, consider preparing half to eat quickly and package the other half to be frozen and eat at a later date, or divide a six-serving recipe into three meals by splitting them into two. three containers for two servings. Use containers that you don’t have to return and label them with the name of the dish, instructions, and maybe a little note – something like “You’re doing great, Dad!” or “What a happy child to have you as a mother.” Getting older is a wild and sometimes lonely road. A little Post-it pep talk can go a long way.
Melissa Clark’s take on the classic Italian-American casserole of baked breaded chicken topped with tomato sauce and gooey cheese is cozy and satisfying. You can use pork or veal instead of the chicken, or, if you’re cooking for vegetarians, there’s always eggplant Parmesan or lasagna.
Adapted from “At Home With Magnolia: Classic American Recipes From the Owner of Magnolia Bakery” by Allysa Torey, these cinnamon rolls don’t take as long to make as the traditional kind because they use baking soda and baking soda instead of yeast. Make a double batch, pour one and freeze the other for your future lazy Sunday self.
Recipe: Easy cinnamon buns without yeast
With chicken, rice, and vegetables, Von Diaz’s arroz con pollo is a complete meal (or two) on its own. Boneless chicken thighs work best here – boneless breasts don’t have enough fat or flavor – but you can also use boneless chicken thighs.
Hot Tip: Make friends with Genevieve Ko. Why? Because when you have a baby, she’ll show up at your house with slices of this cake stacked between wax paper in Tupperware. “Frozen, the slices are like fudgy brownies,” she said.
Recipe: Texas sheet cake
Cheesy heaven in a 9-by-13 pan, these Tex-Mex enchiladas from Bryan Washington will make everyone in the house happy. Add a jar of salsa, a tub of sour cream, and other toppings that will keep for a while with your delivery.
Recipe: Cheese Enchiladas
“I’ve made lifelong friends with this soup,” Julia Moskin wrote, and we believe her. Black beans, also called turtle beans, make a complex, silky-smooth broth, so it doesn’t need meat to season like some bean soups. This recipe calls for chipotle chiles, but ground cumin and ground coriander are a milder substitute. Make a batch of cornbread — cut into wedges and wrapped in plastic so they can be frozen and thawed as needed — to go.
Recipe: Best Black Bean Soup
New parents spend a lot of time holding their little ones, so any food that can be easily eaten with one hand — trail mix, muffins, cookies, hand pies, etc. — is a great idea. A recipe Marian Burros received from a reader in 1987, these gorgeous, pillow-soft muffins are tender and sweet, perfect for a 4 a.m. breakfast or late-night snack.
Eric Kim reverse engineered the beloved Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese, which is why we love him forever. It is so rich and creamy that it is a meal in itself. Whatever you do, don’t skip the Velveeta! It contains sodium citrate, which prevents the sauce from separating.
Recipe: Creamy Baked Macaroni And Cheese
Not technically a meal, but for a tormented new parent with only one free arm, a hefty handful of this spicy-sweet mix from Ali Slagle counts. Make two servings: one to snack on now and one to keep in the freezer for later. You can eat it straight from the freezer, but the flavors will be better if you let it come to room temperature first.
Recipe: Hot Honey Nut Mix
Pack as much seasonal produce as you can into this Italian vegetable soup from Sarah DiGregorio for a delicious and nutritious vegetarian meal that will delight new parents who live off dry cereal and takeaway. (Here are also stovetop and Instant Pot versions.)
Make a batch of this David Leite chocolate chip cookie dough (or any other cookie dough for that matter), roll it into balls and freeze in layers separated by parchment or wax paper in an airtight container. When the craving strikes, new parents can bake a cookie straight from the freezer. Write the baking instructions on an index card and tape it to the top of the container.
Recipe: Chocolate cookies
“I make a really big pot of dal or khichdi and put it in quart containers to freeze – always a hit with new moms!” Priya Krishna wrote. She recommends this dal recipe from Tejal Rao. Send along a few bowls of cooked rice, which can also be frozen.
Recipe: Toor Dal (split yellow pigeon peas)
This quick shrimp fried rice from Eric Kim cleverly uses one of our favorite shortcut ingredients: frozen veggies. You can also make it with boneless chicken pieces, but adjust your cooking time accordingly. To reheat frozen rice, add a splash of water and stir the rice to break up pieces, then heat gently in the microwave or on the stovetop until heated through.
Recipe: Shrimp Fried Rice
Chili is an almost perfect food for sharing. This one, from Pierre Fraey, is easy to make in large batches and to adjust spices for different taste buds. It also tastes better the second day, freezes like a charm, and can be reused in a topping for baked potatoes, nachos, or chili dogs.
This lemon tart from Yossy Arefi is the ultimate lemon tart. It contains the skin, juice and pulp of the fruit, so it’s soft, moist and deliciously lip-puckering. Bake it, slice it, then wrap the slices individually before freezing so tired parents can thaw a few slices when they need a little sun.
Recipe: Lemon Bundt Cake
Divide Alison Roman’s chicken pot pie recipe into two smaller pans before topping with pastry and baking. Once cooled, wrap well with plastic wrap and foil and freeze. Ta-da! Two meals for the new family.
Recipe: Frying Pan Chicken Potpie
Crumbled Ritz crackers are the secret to these rich, tender Kay Chun meatballs (as well as plain breadcrumbs or even old-fashioned oats). Once baked, put them between parchment and freeze. Stir the sauce together in a small lidded jar — two parts soy sauce to one part distilled white vinegar, sliced scallions, and red pepper flakes if you like — and pair with a salad that will keep for a few days, such as Genevieve’s kale. Ko salad with plums.
If you want to contribute, but don’t have the time, this is the recipe for you. Rub a boneless pork shoulder with a simple spice rub, toss in a slow cooker, pour over a can of Dr. Pepper, root beer, cola or birch beer and let it cook on low until the meat collapses and shreds easily. Toss with your favorite barbecue sauce and stack it in a large Tupperware container. Grab a pack of sandwiches and a tub of slaw from the store and voila, you’re the best friend ever.
Recipe: Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
These Kay Chun bean and cheese burritos are a cinch to make and they freeze beautifully. Make a double batch, wrap them individually in foil and put them in your exhausted friend or family member’s freezer. If you have a kid, ask them to decorate each wrapped burrito with cute pictures and messages using a Sharpie.
Recipe: Bean and Cheese Burritos
Homemade bread is balm for the weary soul. Bake a few loaves of Jim Lahey’s famous no-knead bread, then do what Emily Weinstein does: slice, toss in a resealable plastic bag, and freeze. When they want a perfect piece of toast, all they have to do is toss it in the toaster. (You can also reserve half so they can eat fresh with the pot of soup you bring with you and slice and freeze the other half.
Recipe: Bread without kneading
Savory and sweet with a hint of salty olives and crunchy almonds, picadillo is a Cuban beef and tomato dish that is delicious to eat. Krysten Chambrot, associate editor of DailyExpertNews Cooking, said her mother filled her freezer with it when she was in college. “I ate it for months and was so grateful,” she wrote. “It’s literally the coziest thing in the world for me.”
Homemade chicken soup is always a good idea. Sarah DiGregorio’s lemony riff is a “fix-it-and-forget-it” version that comes together in a slow cooker, so it’s mostly hands-off. When it’s done, divide it into a number of different containers – one for now and one for freezing – and don’t add the tortellini just yet! Cook separately until just al dente and put in a separate container so they can be added to the soup if needed.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken Soup
We’ll say it again: make them food they can eat with one hand. This hearty, chocolaty granola from Ali Slagle is a perfect fit and can be eaten by hand, in a bowl with milk or over ice. For those with a sweet tooth, you can add mini chocolate chips or Cocoa Puffs granola after the granola has cooled.
Recipe: Large Cluster Chocolate Granola
“Soft serve ice cream. A freezer full of ice cream is a wonderful thing,” wrote Pete Wells, when asked what freezer-friendly dish he likes to gift new parents. We’re pretty sure he meant he wanted to order several pints (Jeni’s and Graeter’s are staff favorites), but a slice of Melissa Clark’s homemade salted caramel ice cream would feel like a real luxury.