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Posted by Maxine Cleminson - - 2 comments

I aspire to feed my kids fresh, homemade food every day.  Not that we don't indulge in the occasional fast food or ready-made option, but I do prefer to serve them food that I have made myself.  Home-cooked food tastes better, is healthier and costs less... but when you're a busy parent or have a day job, sometimes life makes this ideal unattainable.  Finding an hour to lovingly prepare and cook dinner when you have squabbling kids to referee, homework to supervise, groceries to unpack, play dates to entertain, after school clubs to attend and the dishwasher to unload is a challenge! So I have been on a bit of a mission to stock my freezer with my own home-cooked 'convenience meals'.  A couple of hours spent at the weekend can provide me with a months' worth of ready prepared dinners that simply need defrosting and cooking or reheating.  Perfect for those days when time is short and the kids are hungry NOW!

I have purchased small freezer containers that can hold 3 child sized portions and after a big cook up I fill, label and freeze mini meals for later use. Meals I have found that work well for this purpose include:
  • Bolognese sauce - just defrost and reheat in the microwave while cooking the pasta - dinner in just 10 minutes!
  • Cottage or shepherd's pies - either defrost and reheat in the microwave or cook in the oven (if in an ovenproof dish).
  • Fish goujons (that's posh fish fingers/sticks to most) - freeze breaded strips of fish uncooked, then shallow fry or bake from frozen.
  • Chicken nuggets - as for the fish goujons.
  • Meatballs - I freeze these cooked and then they just take a quick zap in the microwave to be ready!
  • Mashed potatoes - this freezes, defrosts and reheats well and is a quick accompaniment to many dishes without having to peel and boil the potatoes from scratch!
  • Lasagna - freeze unbaked portions of lasagna in foil trays and then bake from frozen.
  • Canneloni - as for lasagna. 
My boys are quite partial to pot pies and so I was suddenly struck with the idea to create small, child-sized individual pot pies to cook from frozen.  For this purpose I needed freezeable, yet oven-proof small pie dishes... inspiration came in the form of disposable foil muffin trays!  My local supermarket had a sale on these disposable foil trays after the Christmas holiday season, so I decided to stock up!  And this is the result!  A perfect mini pot pie for a little one's dinner... home cooked, tasty, healthy and nutritious... and ready to eat in 30 minutes (just unwrap from the freezer and bung in the oven... ta da!).  Perfect for a busy evening!

You will need:

  • A disposable foil muffin tray.
  • Shortcrust pastry (either your own recipe or ready rolled)
  • A rolling pin and circular cookie cutters.
  • Pie filling, cooled - our favorites include minced beef and onion, chicken, ham & sweetcorn or steak & ale.
  • Egg wash.
  • Baking parchment.
  • Foil.

Firstly, I cut the foil tray into strips of 3 ... I have 3 kids so this means I can grab a strip and stuff it in the oven and I have dinner sorted. But you could cut them into singles, pairs or whatever combination suits you. A word of warning, the edges of cut foil are quite sharp so take care not to cut yourself!

Using a large circular cookie cutter, cut rounds of pastry to line the base of the individual muffin cups. Spoon a generous amount of cold pie filling into each pastry cup.

Using a slightly smaller cookie cutter, cut another round of pastry to top the pie. Press the edges with a fork to join and create a few small slits in the top to allow air to escape whilst cooking.

Brush the top with a wash of beaten egg.  I made a variety of different sized pies for different occasions. 

Then wrap your pies ready to freeze. I did a layer of greaseproof baking parchment, followed by two layers of foil (to prevent freezer burn). Label them with details of the contents and a reminder of how to cook (I did this for the occasions when Him Indoors is on dinner duty!).

The pies are best when cooked from frozen and can stay in the freezer for a couple of months. I found that 350'F for approximately 35 minutes was about perfect, but just ensure that your pies are cooked fully all the way through!

2 Responses so far.

  1. norah says:

    found you through pinterest. i love 'mini' anythings, and am a huge fan of pot pies! thanks for the idea!!

  2. Mama Max says:

    Hey Norah! Thanks for commenting!! I'm a big fan of 'mini' stuff too... you should try mini-cheesecakes!!!! http://www.mamawithideas.com/2012/03/review-norpro-mini-cheesecake-pan-and.html

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