A freezer full of prepared meals can be a busy mom’s lifesaver. Known as freezer cooking, preparing meals ahead of time and freezing them can simplify a busy dinner hour immensely. As you consider using this menu strategy, opt for easy to freeze meals to ensure that the foods you pull from the freezer are tempting and tasty. When you heat these meals, add a tasty salad with creamy dressing for a fresh element.
Not For the Freezer
While most ingredients you would probably add to your meals will freeze and thaw nicely, there are certain foods to avoid placing in the freezer because they will not thaw well. Do not freeze raw potatoes (they become black in the freezer), sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise, gravies made with flour, lettuce and completely cooked pasta (it gets mushy after thawing). By avoiding recipes with these foods, you can ensure freezer-cooking success.
Freeze pasta meals by undercooking the pasta before freezing. Undercooked pasta will not disintegrate after thawing and you can finish cooking it as you heat the meal. Try a spaghetti casserole, lasagna, baked ziti, turkey tetrazzini or macaroni and cheese. After preparing the recipe and the half-cooked pasta, transfer it to a casserole dish that is both freezer- and oven-safe. Seal the dish with a lid or wrap it tightly in aluminum foil, label it with the contents and the date and place it into the freezer. When you’re ready to use it, simply remove the dish from the freezer and place it directly into the oven to bake until it heats through.
Rice dishes are especially well suited for freezer cooking because they thaw well. Make stir-fry, stroganoff, Spanish rice, enchiladas with rice or a black bean and rice casserole. Place the finished casserole into a casserole dish and freeze it using the same technique you used for freezing pasta dishes. Transfer the frozen rice dish directly from the freezer to the oven when you want to serve the casserole.
Soups and Stews
Soups and stews freeze well also, with creative freezing techniques. After making up a chicken and rice soup, hearty chili or beef stew, cool it down slightly and then place it into the refrigerator until it becomes cold. Pour the cooled soup or stew into a gallon-size plastic freezer bag, filling it about half-full. Squeeze out the excess air, seal the bag carefully and write the contents and the date on the bag. Double bag the soup to avoid accidental leaks, if you desire. Place filled bags into the freezer flat, enabling you to stack them neatly. When you wish to use a bag of soup or stew, thaw it in the refrigerator until it becomes liquid again and then reheat it in the microwave or on the stove top.
- "The Everything Freezer Meals Cookbook"; Candace Anderson; 2010
- Good Housekeeping: Double-Duty Dinners: Make-Ahead Recipes
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