Thursday, April 29, 2010

Storking the Freezer Party and Baby Shower 101

I wanted to post this blog entry on how to have a baby shower for expectant mothers where guest focus on cooking freezer meals. It's something I have enjoyed doing and I know I have seen a lot of new mothers find a little bit of sanity.My amazing friend Kendra has an outstanding blog and I am excited to be a guest writer on My insanity. The full story should be up on her blog in about a week, but as I imagine there will be a lot of new visits to this blog as there often is after a new segment hits Fox 10, I thought I would post it here as well.

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 wasn'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?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 accommodate the meals until the time the meals can be transferred to the mom-to-be's home.
  • How many children in the family? Age 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 procedure. 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:
Freezer Friday
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 ingredients 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:
See: How to Make a Freezer File 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 ingredient 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 unnecessary 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...

The day of the shower, I set up specific cooking stations in the home:

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 utensils. 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 extreme 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.

At the end of the party, the expectant mom is given a list of all the meals that are in the freezer. I've seen a lot of cute magnets attached to lists for these presentations. The list is placed on the door of the freezer and gives a wonderful reference of what is in the freezer. The only secret is to be sure as meals are taken from the freezer, they are crossed off the list. This will save a lot of time and brain power, those precious commodities that seem to escape new moms when sleep deprivation sets in.

Party favors for guests usually consist of jars of spices to take home with a cute raffia ribbon and the note attached:
"Thank you for helping with the new "seasoning" of my life.
There you go.
About the author:
Chef Stephanie Petersen is a mom, cooking instructor, food blogger, and enthusiastic encourager of all she meets. She can be found at


aswesow said...

Best idea since diaper cakes!

Chef Tess said...

Ha! And it tastes a whole heck of a lot better than diaper cakes too!

Shae Ko said...

Oh, to live in Arizona still and be the recipient of such bounty! It doesn't really matter, though, as you did train me well and I've been building up my freezer meals in preparation for July all on my own. Thank you again for helping me be more self sufficient.

Chef Tess said...

Shae, ahh my girl. I thought of you as I wrote this and am so very excited for the new little one coming to your home. Now I'm getting misty eyed. I wish I could be there to see that new little angel. God is good...even when we don't understand the trials. You are already a mother to so many! That little miracle will change things forever, but you know that already. I sure love you!

Christine G said...

You don't have enough spices! Need me to bring you over a bin-full or two? I looooove the idea of a freezer meal baby shower for someone who doesn't need clothes or blankets! Such a clever idea! Thanks for your freezer meal tips! I cooked a huge batch of chicken breasts a month ago and love not having to cook chicken every time I need it in a recipe!

Chef Tess said...

Christine...Oh I do believe I could use a box of know where I am girl!

Nicole said...

This is, hands down, the best idea I have EVER seen. I would love to have someone throw me this type of baby shower. However, since that won't be happening, I'll do one by myself, for myself! Is there anyway I could get ahold of your master recipe book? :) Wow- you are amazing!

Chef Tess said...

Thanks Nicole! So sweet. We are working on getting all the master recipes logged into a book form. That's our next major project! I'll be sure to let everyone know when that happens. In the meantime, look at Freezer Fridays for some good ideas along with some of the other freezer meals I did before I actually gave the meals their own special day. Come back...I'll have more for you always!

Nicole said...

That is some really good news! Any chance it will be done by Thanksgiving? My sister in law has twins coming in November and I have one due in December. I could really use your expertise with the recipes.

Lisa Marie Fletcher said...

I just stumbled onto your blog post here through Pinterest and I LOVE THIS IDEA!! It would make a huge difference for a new mom and would make a fun interactive event for everyone involved!! Thank you for sharing!!