04 September 2010

freezer cooking 101

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First and foremost
, there is no "correct" way to cook for the freezer. There are definitely some things that make it work better... BUT the key is figuring out what works best for you and your family. This here internet makes it easy to find tips, but sometimes it can be overwhelming.

To start, make sure you have the proper materials to freeze in. Always use actual freezer bags (vs. regular zip-locs) for freezing food - it just makes sense. Bags work great for almost everything. They are ideal for soups because you can fill them and lay them flat - they take up very little space and thaw quickly. Bags don't work for everything though. You can also use aluminum pans for freezing casseroles...and of course, foil for covering them. This is especially handy if you might potentially give away a frozen meal, then you don't have to worry about getting a dish back. You can also use plastic containers (like GladWare) which are great for cookies, because they don't get all banged up in them. And have a sharpie ready. Its always easier to write your directions out (on the bag or the foil) BEFORE you put the food in its container.
As for recipes. Look for ones that include directions for freezing, and include directions for cooking from frozen (or after freezing). The internet provides enough options that you should never have to guess about if something is going to work or not. You can use words like "freezer cooking" and "once a month cooking". Pick things that you would normally want to eat. Just because you find a freezer recipe for seafood casserole doesn't mean you should give it a try. Especially if you hate seafood. You know?
What's worked for us?

If I am making something like chili or lasagna I almost always freeze a 2nd meal for us. We aren't good at eating up leftovers immediately. Lasagna is easy to divide into two pans from one batch (once our boys start getting bigger appetites, this won't always work). Most 13x9 casserole recipes can be divided into two 8x8 pans. Just make sure you can find directions for freezing it (just google the same recipe name and add "freezer directions" to your search and see what you find.)

Start simple. Brown twice as much (or three or four times) ground beef as you need for tonight's recipe. Use what you need and let the rest cool. Then freeze about 1 lb* in each zip-loc for the next time. Having pre-cooked ground beef in your freezer makes throwing together a crock-pot of chili or sloppy-joes a snap on a week-day morning! (* most ground beef recipes call for 1 lb.)

You can do the same thing with chicken. If you bake chicken, throw a few extra breasts in the oven and dice those babies up after they've cooled. And if you should happen to cook a whole chicken (or buy a rotisserre one) shred those leftovers and freeze them - measure them in 1C increments and freeze. Most cooked chicken recipes call for a measurement rather than a weight. These are great basics for lots of recipes.

Breakfast foods aren't always on the radar for the freezer. We have a griddle, so I always make extra pancakes or french toast. It works best if you flash freeze these individually on a cookie sheet or something and then put them all in a bag after they are frozen. (I've layered them with wax paper before as well, but the flash freezing works best.) I pop the french toast in the toaster to heat it up or throw them in the microwave for 20 seconds or so. Nice, simple, hot breakfast!

A couple recipes we like:
Make Two Macaroni and Cheese
Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
The Best Meatballs (flash freeze these individually as well, and then put them in a large zip-loc so you can just use what you need per meal. These work for meatball subs too)

What hasn't worked?

When I randomly freeze things improperly. I froze a batch of muffins in a bag. All the muffins had ice crystals all over them. They had soggy patches when I thawed them. This week I found directions for freezing muffins by individually wrapping each one in plastic wrap then putting them in a large ziploc.

Freezing recipes we don't like. They usually end up in the trash. Its worth it to give the recipe a try before making enough to freeze.

Forgetting things in the freezer. Move stuff around often so you remember what's in there. keep a list of what you've got in there.

1 comment:

  1. You rock, girl. You know how much I heart freezer cooking!!!! What a great post!!!!

    I never knew the trick about the muffins. Thanks for that tip!!!