Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Make Your Own Homemade TV Dinners!

My last two posts were about cooking up enough Chinese food to last you through the Year of the Dragon.  Now what to do with it all?  These leftovers and most others can be easily frozen to make your own homemade TV dinners.  Some foods heat up better than others and you can always adjust cooking times on the front end to increase the quality of the final product.   

First you'll need to stop by your local grocery and pick up some tupperware containers.  When I cook, I try to make about 6 portions; 1 to eat that night, 1 to refrigerate, and 4 to freeze.  

Now stay with me here because this is going to get a little complicated.  Wash the tupperware.

Make sure all of your leftovers are room temperature or cooler.  

Put the leftovers in the tupperware.  Put them in your freezer.  Done and done.  I would recommend buying a small deep freeze if you are going to start doing this…these containers will really stack up after a while.

I've got about 20 dinners in my freezers right now... 8 or so different options.  

These dinners are usually 16-20 ounces and I reheat them for about 8 minutes.  5 minutes covered then stir and heat uncovered for the last 3 minutes.  If the bottom of the tupperware isn't hot after 8 minutes then continue heating for an additional 2-3 minutes or until it gets hot.

Here are the foods that I've frozen and the results: 

Broccoli Beef, Chicken Lo Mein or Szechuan Chicken, and Rice
Reheats very well.  Undercook the veggies slightly on the front end to avoid sogginess.  

Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans.
Cook the green beans a little less on the front end. The chicken won't be crispy like out of the frying pan but if you reheat uncovered longer then it will crisp up more.  You can add a tablespoon or two of milk to the mashed potatoes to get them creamy again.

Shake and bake pork chops, green beans, rice and mashed potatoes. Basically the same as above.

Pot roast with potatoes, carrots, onions and green beans.
Once again, undercook the vegetables slightly so they don't get soggy during reheating.  

Chicken parmesan, cheese ravioli, and fettucuini alfredo.
Reheats very well.  If you used a lot of oil or butter in the original dish, you may want to use a paper towel to absorb some of the excess grease when reheating.

Chicken and rice bake (any variety, this is the Indian recipe previously posted)
Reheats very well.

Beef stew
Reheats very well.

Homemade hot pockets.
This one hasn't worked out as well.  I don't have a homemade "crisping" sleeve like Nestle.  So I'm trying to find the balance between under-heated soggy crust and over-heated hard crust.  It may not be worth freezing this one.

Hamburgers and chicken sandwiches (bun and all) and breakfast sandwiches.
You can add bacon and cheese to these before freezing. Wait till all the ingredients are cold then assemble and then freeze them.  Reheat the sandwich first (covered) for 2-3 minutes and then add fresh veggies afterwards if you'd like.

That's all I've done so far but I've had great success.  Also, some of these have been in the freezer since October and November and still taste good when I heat them up 3-4 months later.  No freezer burn yet!

I will continue to do this for a couple of reasons.  1. I like my own cooking but don't always want to cook every night.  Actually I'd probably cook every night. I don't want to clean every night! 2. Most TV dinners are full of sodium.  You can regulate the salt content of your own home cookin' !  3. TV dinners are cheap because the ingredients in them...especially the meat is low quality.  You probably won't save any money this way, but you are eating high quality food (if that's what you bought in the first place) !

Start small...give it a try!


  1. My advice: invest in a FoodSaver or vacuum sealer. You can make individual vacuum-sealed portions that will freeze and keep forever, and when you're ready to reheat them you can just drop the vacuum package straight into some boiling water and reheat them that way, or cut them open and reheat them in the microwave. Plus it will save you a ton of cash on stuff like produce, which will last forever, and you can marinate meats in 30 minutes instead of hours as well as do a lot of other cool stuff. If you've got a deep freeze, you should have a vacuum sealer. A good-quality one will only set you back about $75-100 and they are well worth the money.

    1. I love my FoodSaver. Eliminates freezer burn and those icicles on your food. Plus the food lasts longer. I make 2 weeks of food for lunch and dinner.

  2. This is the one Kim and I have, and that thing is baller. We only paid $80 for ours though because we got it on some kind of 2 or 3 day only crazy sale. Still worth it even at $150 though.

  3. I have to give this a try, it all looks so good!

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