I remember how naive I was when expecting my first baby. I didn’t know what I was in for, and that may be better. As a chef and a mother, one of my favorite services to offer is that of making freezer meals for expecting and new mothers. I don’t know how anyone else’s has done with motherhood, but for me it has been, by and far, one of the most challenging, passionate, and sometimes nerve racking experiences of my life. I never expected to be stretched (in sooo many ways…) and sleep so very little. For many, the first few weeks and months of having a new baby in the home are the most incredible…and eye opening. It isn’t a vacation, though having a new one around is a blessing. It doesn’t go without work, most of which is unseen by others. Keeping that in mind, offering a baby shower to a brand “new-new” mom is always wonderful. What about baby showers for those mothers who are expecting their third, fourth…or tenth baby. What about the joy and sometimes fear that accompanies that new child? One solution I have found is offering a “Stork the Freezer” Party and Baby Shower.
When I call the expecting mom, the first thing I do, is introduce the idea of freezer meals to the mom and ask if that is something she would be excited about. Usually there is a few questions I like to ask:
- Would the mom to be prefer to have the cooking party at her home or someone else’s kitchen?If they have it somewhere else besides their home (which is always nice) be sure the location will have adequate space in a large capacity freezer to accomidate the meals until the time the meals can be transfered to the mom-to-be’s home.
- How many children in the family? Age matters…be specific.
- Are there any restrictions in their diet? (ie allergies, vegetarian and so forth)
- Do they have a large storage freezer or just a standard freezer? This will determine how many dinners and what size you can offer her.
Present some menu choices. I tell her to pick 5-7 meals. She gets a nice printed menu to pick her meals off of, as well as an idea of side dishes she could or would need to make if you are offering those.
Try to fill her menu with several different meals that you know you can cook. Try cooking the menu choices yourself before the shower, or at the very least, be confident you know how to put it together. Another option is to assign “meal captains” to head up each meal during the cooking proceedure. This will ease the burden on the hostess from having to supervise all the cooking.
Offer meals that would most appeal to her family.
If the family is not in any way “gourmet” then offering the French chicken wouldn’t seem right. If they have kids that go to school and need lunches, offer items that can also double as quick lunch grabs for the kiddos (like pizza muffins and homemade hot pockets).
I list menu choices from here:
Chef Tess Bakeresse: Freezer Meal Ideas meat
freezer meal ideas pasta toppers
Freezer Meal Ideas Pizza
freezer meal ideas Quiche
freezer meal ideas potatoes
freezer meal ideas rice topper
freezer meal ideas stews
This is how she “registers” for what she would like. This is done about a month before the baby shower. When I send out invitations, I present the menu in the actual invitation. I also mention it is still okay to bring other baby items for the new mom. Obviously she will need essentials along with meals, however I emphasize that the main goal of this shower is to take some pressure off mom-to-be so she can focus on the “family-at-larger”. Guests wishing to shop for the menu registry are invited to call me (or email me) for a list of ingedients they can pick from. OR they can feel free to just bring a pre-made frozen dinner that they made or purchased (in this way it really expands what the mom receives and how long the meals last).
Make a Master Recipe Book:
I use a three ring binder that pages can easily be removed from. This is almost like a scrap book with each recipe on a separate page, with ingredients listed as well as clear cooking instructions. Each page should be put in a page protector to avoid spills from damaging the pages the mom will need. This will be presented to the mom after the shower and serve as her reference should something go wrong and she needs to see the cooking instructions. This is also fun to do a week or so after the shower and insert pictures of people helping make this meal.
Long before I expect calls or emails, I break down the ingredients for each recipe and each guest is assigned an ingredient or two to bring, depending on what they can do. In this way, everyone is not only involved in the preparing of the food, but in the cost of the meals. They feel a great desire to show up for the shower because they are bringing a key ingedient as well. Be sure to mention how excited we are to offer this cooking service to our expecting mom and that we love and appreciate the guest’s willingness to assist. Be very specific that though we love having little helpers along, that this shower is going to involve a lot of knives, hot objects and cooking and to only bring older children who can assist. This will help the hostess avoid any unnecissary liability. If someone does bring a smaller child, be gentle. This may be the only way the guest can come to the shower. Use tact, love and appreciation…always.
Sometimes people can’t stay and cook, but they can bring ingredients. Some guests don’t consider themselves “cooks” but they don’t mind cutting vegetables or helping to label freezer bags or containers. I always have a few back up spices just in case some of these small details are forgotten…
Station 1: One large table for cutting, peeling, and chopping vegetables for the recipes I call it “The Chopping Block“. Specify that only adults are allowed to use knives.
I have 3-5 large cutting boards, knives, and a list of all the items that need to be cut, and how big or small. I have several bowls there, one for each kind of vegetable that needs cut. If a few of the recipes call for chopped onions, I have the full amount for all recipes get cut at the chopping block.”
Station 2*: One large table for prepping freezer containers
“The Glue Kids on the Block”:
This table has freezer bags (quart and gallon size) and the number of bags needed for each dinner. Some meals are casseroles and they will also have the containers there for those. If you don’t print labels on your computer (I suggest it), then the people here have to hand write all the cooking directions on the bags/containers. It’s a much better idea to just have the labels done and ready to stick. I also suggest getting clear packaging tape to cover seal over the printed labels once they are on the bags and containers, as this will keep the ink from bleeding in the freezer due to moisture.
*This station is optional if the hostess prefers to label and organize all the containers before the day of the shower and have more time for guests to cook.
Station 3: the kitchen: “The Fire Station”
In the Fridge:
The day of the shower, be sure there is ample space in the freezer by removing bags of ice, boxes of ice cream…whatever is not totally necessary for survival of the freezer dinners. Also, clear several shelves in the fridge for the cooked food to chill before putting it in the freezer. It will be 100% necessary for all food, once cooked and put in freezer size containers, to be chilled before freezing. This lowers the chance of your expectant mom’s family getting food born illness from improperly cooled foods. I always set the freezer for the coldest setting the day of the shower…and let the mom know that she can set it back to it’s normal setting 24 hours later. It is very very unwise to stack warm bags of freezer meals on top of each other in the freezer, as this will make a horrible breeding ground for bacteria. Use caution and judgement when stacking the freezer.
In the kitchen:
Have all counters clean, sanitized, and clear of any unnecessary clutter. You will need several large frying pans, stock pans, baking sheets, containers with measuring spoons, cups and cooking utinsels. I also stock several stacks of clean kitchen towels, wash clothes, and “sanitizing buckets”. A sanitizing bucket will ensure that cooking surfaces stay clean. They are made with one gallon of hot water and a tablespoon of bleach in them. After food comes in contact with counters, be sure to wipe them down freely with the sanitizing solution. Note:*If small children do show up to the shower, use exteme caution in having sanitizing buckets out. The little ones can drown in a very small amount of water.
Cooking begins as soon as the ingredients arrive to make the items. If for instance, there are three chicken dishes, and they all have just different sauces, it is easy to bake all the chicken at once, then divide the meat in different bags and add the sauce to the bags. For more detailed instructions see:Chef Tess Bakeresse: Freezer Chick…
As the shower winds down or as the need for refreshments arise, I usually bake several pans of the Freezer to Oven Ready Cinnamon Rolls or offer them as another freezer option for the expectant mom. It is nice to have a few random breakfast items as well. The nights ahead will be long.
Party favors for guests usually consist of jars of spices to take home with a cute raffia ribbon and the note attached: