In our quest to get more done with less funding, many disabled are needing to increase their independence and decrease the amount of time they hire paid carers for.
One of the ways that can be done is with meal preparation and cooking. I, like many physically challenged and disabled, struggle with standing in the kitchen for an hour or so to prepare and cook a meal for my family. Without any energy come dinner time, it gets boring eating only sandwiches, tinned soups, eggs, breakfast cereals and yoghurt for the evening meal.
I wanted more nutritious options than typical TV dinners, tinned meals and frozen meals could offer. So I looked for “make ahead” and “freezer cooking” recipes. With a little pre-planning and organisation, meal preparation can be done in advance and stored ready to pull out of the freezer and cook easily.
Obviously, preparing fresh vegetables does tend to be the cheaper option, especially when you use vegetables that are in season, etc. When I could get home help in to cut up and prepare the vegetables, I could get 30 servings from 5 meals in 2 hours. But as funding was cut back, we needed to look for the most nutritional way that is also energy conserving for us.
This is a make-ahead freezer recipe I adapted from Denise's recipe from: https://sweetpeasandsaffron.com/make-ahead-one-pot-black-bean-fajita-pasta/
I started cooking this unmodified to feed 2 active tweens and myself. It was great as it combines our love of spicy Mexican flavours with or other love pasta. Until they got older and their appetites grew faster than them, it gave us leftovers for a second meal. I would split into 3 plastic takeaway single serve containers (approx 600-700ml size). It froze and reheated well, I would store labelled, in a freezer for up to 3 months and reheat from frozen in just 6 minutes in the microwave.
Then I realised that by purchasing prepared and frozen vegetables from the supermarket, I could cut down meal preparation time significantly. (Capsicum is only available in Frozen, Peas, Corn and Capsicum mix. So I now add peas to the recipe. It might make it less authentically Mexican but it adds another vitamin source and it is pasta after-all).
This can be vegan or vegetarian depending upon your choices of cheeses and stocks or broths.
Mix all of the above together. Can be frozen for up to 3 months or kept in fridge for up to 3 days.
To thawed mix; Add 2 cups of stock or broth and 2 cups of small pasta shapes in a medium pot. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid for last 5 minutes to reduce sauce (if needed). Stir through 1 cup grated cheese.
SERVE seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and/or with fresh coriander/cilantro and lime wedges.
If making into uncooked single meals divide Assembled mix before cooking into 8 freezer-to-microwave containers. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw then add ½ cup of stock and ½ cup of pasta.
Cook covered in microwave for 10 minutes at 800 Watts power, Stir twice during cook. Add 2 Tablespoons of grated cheese. Stand 5 minutes covered. Stir and serve.
*Variation is to add diced chicken for the meat lovers. I would suggest 1 diced chicken breasts for each can of Black Beans be added to the Assemble Mix, and combine before freezing.
Optionally add: salt and pepper, cilantro/coriander and lime wedge to taste.
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