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Sunday, October 5, 2008

I love my freezer!

I really do! The freezer is one of the greatest inventions - it allows me to cook when I want and skip it when I don't. While talking with my Mom & sister this week I realized just how much of a weirdo I am in the way that I cook, but it works for me, so for those of you who have asked questions, here are my helpful (and not-so-helpful) hints.

There are TONS of freezer menus out there, and most come out okay, but they are all just so random! My favorite recipes come from here:
SavingDinner.com  because they not only give you the recipe, but also a shopping guide for everything! Who wants to spend an entire afternoon writing out a grocery list - not me. I just grab one of these (I have the 1st 4 Mega Menus) photocopy the shopping list, add my own needs, and take off!. Later, when I get home, I follow the "quick prep" steps, and chop all the veggies etc.

I usually wait until the next day to do my assembly (simply because the kids need my attention) but within an hour or two I have 20 meals in the freezer (they will keep us fed for well over a month when you figure in all of the nights out, instant inspiration for something "different" and what not), my kitchen is clean, and dinner for that night is simmering in my crock-pot. LOVE IT!

Okay here is what I've learned about freezing - your main enemies are air and water so . . .
  • Make sure that you double bag everything, even if you think you will be using it soon and squeeze out as much air as you possibly can. 
  • Throw your food back into the fridge for at least an hour before tossing it in the freezer - it will freeze better (faster = less ice) after it has been chilled. 
  • Make sure your meat is dry - really dry, before freezing. I often place it in the fridge uncovered for an hour or so - the fridge naturally dries food out, so it is good to go right into your baggies and then the freezer after that. (Don't worry about meat you are bagging with "wet" marinade - it contains salt which changes the point at which it freezes.  Usually marinades won't cause freezer burn.)
  • Cut meat into smaller portions so that it freezes quickly - a large cut of meat will lose a lot of it's natural juices and most of it's tenderness if frozen whole. 
  • Fruits freeze best if you can spread them thinly on a cookie sheet & allow them to freeze individually before re-packaging into baggies. For juicy fruits like peaches, make sure to add citrus juice (for color) and sugar (for texture).
  • Veggies are a pain, and aren't worth the effort - just buy them frozen from the store (they freeze them instantly after picking, actually giving you FRESHER results). To do it at home requires blanching, which I just can't be bothered to do. The exceptions to this are onions, carrots, peppers, etc (stew vegetables), which you intend to allow to cook with your meat, just toss them in with the meat so that everything is ready when you need it. 
  • Sometimes it is worth it to freeze things that don't require freezing - for example, I often pre-measure my flour salt and shortening to make crust and store it with the filling ingredients for my mom's Pork Pie. Now, Flour & salt certainly don't need to be frozen, but it makes my assembly go much faster when I don't have to pull out a recipe at all.
  • Write the cooking steps directly on the bag as often as possible - usually they are simple "toss in crock-pot for 8 hours" or "cook at 350 for 30 min." Why force yourself to pull out a cookbook if you don't need to?
That's it - a few hours of prep for a month of easy dinners. Just thaw your meal in the fridge for 24 hours or under running cold water for 1 hour - cook & eat.

Bon Appetite!

1 comment:

Doris said...

I have got to try this!!