Something I have done for a while and find others are starting to do, is make a big batch or batches of food and eat some and freeze some.
This is very helpful for those who cannot be in the kitchen every night/day or whenever. As well as those who are cooking for few but want good food. So make that complicated dinner, and freeze what you can to enjoy another night. Freezing helps break up the need to eat the same dish every night so it doesn’t go bad.
In my opinion, the below are not for freezing:
- Cooked quality Beef (or game/veal) steaks (stew meats are fine to freeze because they are cooked and cooked.. can’t go wrong there)
- Cooked Pork
- Cooked Bacon
- Cooked Pasta
- Cooked Shrimp (shrimp fresh frozen is ok, and it only takes a few minutes to cook if that)
They just don’t defrost well and when you reheat (particularly beef) it loses soo much flavor. I am a rare to Med-Rare beef eater. It only takes a few minutes to prepare it for eating, so no need to freeze after cooking. Freezing raw fresh bought of the above is perfectly fine.
In my opinion, the good things for freezing:
- Sauces (most cooked on the stove sauces, a hollandaise sauce or the like not so much)
- Blanched veggies (method of “flash” boiling for a couple of minutes, then plunging in ice bath to keep their natural color and nutritional value)
- Cooked Mushrooms
- Ham, or ham type products – I regularly purchase cured ham, dice and freeze, then pull out what I need for toppings, etc..
- Herbs preserved in oils or fat (butter)
- Tomatoes & peppers. Mind you there are different ways to freeze them and depending on how you prepare them before freezing depends on your outcome when defrosted. Any herb, produce frozen fresh without being cooked, blanched, preserved in oil, etc.. will defrost as slightly mushy. That is due to the membranes in the product breaking down. Most fresh veggies/fruit has high amounts of water. This water freezes and pushes the boundaries of the membranes, which weakens the internal structure of the item, resulting in a “mushy” result after defrost. This is normal and perfectly fine as long as you are aware of this effect and plan for its use. Ie: They are now perfect for sauces, soups, etc.. They, however are no longer ideal for that delicious crunchy fresh salsa you may have planned. But what the heck – that is why we have food processors.. you can still make that salsa, just it will be pureed, not chunky!
I have spent weekends making batches and batches of a variety of food. Enough to last my son and I for over a month of dinners. The benefit, its fast and easy. I still make fresh food. But in lieu of take out or delivery, I can reach in the freezer and pull out a great dinner.
Ideas for meals to freeze:
Some of the dishes I make are below:
- Beef Stroganoff
- Chicken Piccata/Lemon Garlic Chicken
- Braised beef Stew
- Blanched Veggies
- Quiche (or fritatta)
- Potatoes (many different kinds)
- Homemade tomato sauce
- Homemade meatballs
- different sauces (Dijon cream sauce, Dill Sauce, Wine reduction sauce, etc..)
- Stuffed Risotto Rice Balls
- Fried/baked Items: Coconut Shrimp, Crab Cakes, Vegan/Vegetarian Crab Cakes, French Fries, Scallops, Fish Cakes, Fish Fry, and my son’s favorite – homemade Corn Dogs, the list goes on
- Anything that comes to mind can be wrapped in puff pastry, baked then frozen
- Left over Pizza delivery
- Stews of any kind
Prep ahead freezing raw protein, the process of defrosting over night will marinade the ingredients in time for dinner:
- Marinated Skirt Steak Marinated Shrimp
- Marinated Salmon,white fish, etc..
- Marinated London Broil
- Marinated Chicken
- Marinated Pork
Some marinades (approx. amt for a qt sized zip lock bag):
South of the border: handful Torn Cilantro leaves, 1/4 cup olive oil, juice of 1 lime/lemon, 2 smashed garlic cloves, 1 TBS peppercorns, pinch or two of salt
Asian Flair: handful Torn Cilantro/Parsley/Celery leaves, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 TBS sesame oil, 1 TBS Rice Vinegar, 2 TBS soy sauce or teriyaki, 2 smashed garlic cloves, .5 TBS peppercorns (splash of beer or white wine optional)
Garlic and more Garlic: 4+ cloves garlic crushed, 2 pinches salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 lemon juiced, 1 – 2 TBS white wine, whatever fresh herb you have on hand
Lemon: 2 cloves garlic crushed, 2 TBS white wine, 1/4 cup olive oil, juice of one lemon, 1 TBS lemon zest, .5 TBS black pepper corns, 2 pinches of salt.
More options to come in a later blog, but any of the Pesto ideas in my earlier (What do I do with all those left over herbs) blog will work as well. This is just to get you started.
How To Freeze:
To freeze, I use the quart sized ziplock freezer bags (or cut to size Food-saver bags). You have easily fit 1 – 3 servings.. but stick to two servings so when you defrost, you don’t end up tossing because you have too much.
Why I like plastic freezer bags? The number one reason I like them is they are available to everyone and gives the ability to squeeze out all the air. This is important and makes them a better freezing vessel than Tupperware or container.
Having air in the container will allow crystallization to occur on the food leading to freezer bite or that of flavor once you defrost.
It is best to defrost ANY item in the fridge first, a minimum of 24 hours. However, the point of making ahead is so you can just go in the freezer and heat that day. You can with the zip lock/ Food-saver bags.
There are three ways to defrost and heat:
- Take the frozen item out and put in the refrigerator to defrost over night. When ready to reheat, reheat over med or med-low heat on the stove in a pan or pot depending on what you are reheating.
- In a pot of hot water on the stove simmering. This takes some time. You then need to remove and head in a skillet or sauce pan depending on what you have. This will give you the best result… however, as stated, it is slower
- Pop the sucker in the mic, provide a vent hole, and microwave on low power until mostly defrosted. Transfer to a plate/bowl or proper vessel, and finish off the re-heat in no higher than med (5) power. Stir occasionally.
This is in answer to a question posted by my sister.
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