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Stuffing the Freezer


porcupine
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So, let's say the you were going to be without a kitchen for 2 months or so, but you get to keep a freezer and your stove in the laundry room. And let's say you're not looking forward to prepping meats and vegetables in the utility sink, or having tomato sauce splattering the clothes drying rack. But what if you don't want to (or can't afford to) eat out for every meal?

What items would you cook before the kitchen demolition, to store in the freezer and warm in the oven for dinner (or breakfast)? Help me brainstorm here. Lasagne is already on the list. So are muffins, scones, coffeecake, pecan sticky roll dough... okay, I think breakfast may be covered. But how 'bout dinner?

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We have a freezer full of hearty homemade soups that we eat for dinner when there is no time to cook that we enjoy paired with a big crusty loaf of bread. I froze a whole bunch of potato latkes a while back; they survived the ordeal ok when reheated in the oven. Bacon for BLTs also freezes well when par-cooked and reheats well in the oven.

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Macaroni and cheese freezes very well (OK, that's a variant of lasagna, but still :angry: ...)

Make some roasted cuts of meat, slice and freeze in meal-size packets. Roast beef, chicken, turkey, and ham (which often comes pre-cooked anyway) all work well and don't necessarily require reheating.

Echo the soup/stew and pasta sauce sentiments.

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Pre-cooked rice and pasta placed in individual freezer bags works well if you are only cooking for one or two. Add that to whatever sauce you've got going on. I've frozen a torta (sp?). It's an egg/potato thing that could be a variation on breakfast. I was fine with it but it wasn't perfect. Maybe it would work better to be defrosted in a microwave oven and then heated in a toaster oven

If you are in the know, southern specialties take well to freezing and reheating such as red beans and rice, jambalaya, creole with either shrimp or fish....

To add to the soup/stew suggestions, some are more balanced than others: Beef Barley Soup and chicken/lintel come to mind as particularly balanced.

Good luck!

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Cappellini along w quarts of brodo :angry:

My family ate all the brodo this year - I didn't make enough. :lol: But I do have cappelletti filling in the freezer...

But thanks for the suggestions, everyone! I had no idea macaroni and cheese would freeze well. And I love meals in a bowl, so chili, stew, soups, jambalaya (I have 2 andouille sausages in the freezer - whoo-hoo!), all sound great.

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Pardon if I throw in a question, but this whole idea of freezing sounds great. So what's the best way to freeze and reheat many of these items? For example, I imagine rice and pasta might stick together after freezing. And as for reheating, do you just throw it in a microwave or a pan and let it go or would you do something like boiling in a bag?

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Pardon if I throw in a question, but this whole idea of freezing sounds great. So what's the best way to freeze and reheat many of these items? For example, I imagine rice and pasta might stick together after freezing. And as for reheating, do you just throw it in a microwave or a pan and let it go or would you do something like boiling in a bag?

A great Italian chef I know taught me a trick many years ago. Freeze individual portions of your dish, whether mac & cheese or soup, in ziploc® freezer bags. Lay the bags flat in the freezer, one on top of the other, to freeze initially. Once frozen the bags may be dispersed throughout the freezer and retrieved as necessary.

I learned a very hard lesson this fall... generic and store brand freezer bags are not made of the same material as ziploc bags.

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Thanks for all the suggestions. Already I have coffee cake, turkey vegetable soup, lasagne, chicken pot pie, homemade marinara, and shepherds pies in. In the next few days I'll be adding posole, cornbread, jambalaya, refried bean enchiladas, macaroni and cheese, and some vegetable gratins. And a cherry pie (froze the cherries last summer). And some cookies.

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Resolution redux: use the freezer more.

RIght now I have a little vacuum sealer and typically freeze nuts, leftover sauces, and some produce from the garden, typically cheiro peppers, mirepoix, and leeks. I find that a short stint in the microwave is just as good as blanching, and the leeks are sautéed in butter before freezing. The butter also lives in the freezer as does tomato paste frozen in ice-cube trays.

My grandmother had two big chest freezers that got filled with produce every summer after they traded cold storage for pressure canning. We got sent out to the shop before every big dinner or baking marathon to pull out creamed corn, butter beans, pole beans, tomatoes, okra, pecans, pies, zucchini bread, etc., not to mention the sides of beef, bacon that got cut with a hacksaw, fish in blocks of ice... When she got a dehydrator, bags of figs and pears went in too. Preservation was a way of life, and you ate from what you put by. I don't want to go quite that far, and my little garden wouldn't fill the freezers that her fields did. The question in my mind is, however, if I had a little chest freezer, and took the time to stock it, would we eat at home more? I'm thinking less hassle and better health.

The question then is, how do you use your freezer? Have you found particularly good containers that don't crack from the cold? Do you make huge batches of sauces and pull them out when you have a late night? Please share. :)

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I love putting individual servings in the freezer. It's so convenient for a quick meal. Each weekday morning, I just grab something from the freezer to bring to work for lunch.

I cook on the weekend and freeze into individual portions. I'll also freeze restaurant or takeout leftovers in individual portions if I don't want to eat the leftovers the next day. For specific foods:

Pre-cooked rice and pasta placed in individual freezer bags works well if you are only cooking for one or two.

I do this all the time. I have a rice cooker and make short grain rice. Alot of times, I just need one or two servings of rice. So I make a full batch of rice in the rice cooker, let it cool, then put individual servings into plastic sandwich bags. I then put the rice-filled sandwich bags into a Ziploc gallon sized freezer bag and plop it into the freezer. (Ziploc freezer bags are great.) So when I want rice, I just take it out of the freezer, unwrap the lump of rice, and microwave it.

I also freeze individual servings of pasta without sauce. The pasta does stick together when frozen, but it's fine when microwaved.

I make a big batch of sauce too and pack that into individual servings separately from the pasta. (I have lamb ragu in the freezer now.)

For sauces, I use plastic containers like the disposable Glad ware containers. I've found that if you drop the container while frozen, it'll crack or break, but otherwise, they've worked fine. The food does get a frost on top, but it hasn't affected the taste (I tend to eat the food within a few months).

Other things I make and freeze in individual servings include chili and grilled chicken thighs (to make sandwiches or have with rice).

If you make cookies, you can also freeze individual balls of cookie dough. (I use a cookie scooper, like a mini ice cream scoop, when I portion out cookie dough). Then you can just take out however many you want to bake.

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Now that our daughter has moved out of her room, unlikely to return for other than short visits, J. has been urging me to put a small chest freezer there. (We have no basement or garage or any other suitable space.) I hesitate primarily because of the heartbreak of power outages.

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We live by our freezers. I have to stop myself from making more sometimes because they're stuffed!

Interesting things I freeze:

Demi Glace (from Society Fair)- I buy it buy the quart at SF, and for $8, I find it a true bargain and don't think I could make it at home for less. It's gelatinous and can be chunked into portions that I wrap in plastic wrap and place in a plastic baggie. I lay it flat in my kitchen freezer and grab a portion for soups, stocks, braises etc.

Tomato paste- I buy the small cans (Contadina?) by the case and once open and partly used, I wrap the rest in plastic wrap like a log. It freezes beautifully and I slice it like coins to add to my cooking. This is just too easy to do vs. the convenience but $$ of paste in a tube.

Rugelach and biscotti- in air-tight container lasts for months

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If I had that type of freezer I would buy more meat directly from a farmer/butcher. Right now my Aunt buys me and my brother and herself cows, sheep and we all pull from her freezer when we have room. But then you still have to remember to thaw them :)

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...I hesitate primarily because of the heartbreak of power outages.

A chest freezer will hold for as long as three days, if it is full. We are very lucky here (knocking on wood) and have had our longest outage at 24 hours during the past five years in this house. I'm thinking it's worth the risk, particularly because I won't freeze any meats.

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Hot freezer tip.  (Sorry.)  IKEA has some great ice cube trays right now that are the perfect square shapes (square prisms?) for filling freezer bags with little portions of whatever, and the filled bags will then stack perfectly upon one another.  Each cube is one tablespoon.

I've already started packing the roasted tomatoes in the freezer, and the yellow crookneck squash got ahead of me enough that I have a quart bag of par-sautéed pieces put away.  I'm going to search the interwebs to find out if I can roast then freeze halved acorn squash for stuffing later.  Even if I don't find someone who's tried it, I've got five on the counter and another eleven on the plants (yikes), so I'll happily do the trial on that one.  Happy freezing!

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Can you explain the "roasted tomatoes" in the freezer?

What do you start with, what do you end with and what do you do with them?

Thanks!  I harvested 10 flats of tomatoes over the weekend and am currently buried.

When I get enough tomatoes to fill a half sheet pan, I slice big ones about a centimeter thick, halve small cherry tomatoes, and cut a slit in the side of the sungolds, toss everything with salt and olive oil, and roast in the oven until squishy with some black spots on the skins.  That's an hour and a half or two, maybe, at 350 degrees.  It will smell amazing in your kitchen.  I leave the pan in the oven while it cools off, then put the cooled tomatoes into freezer bags.  One pan of fresh tomatoes makes about a pint bag of roasted cherry tomatoes, and closer to a quart of beefsteaks, depending on how big they were and how dry you cook them.  It's not an exact science, by any means.

A bag of roasted tomatoes stirred into a risotto in February when the snow is creeping into your veins, it's a glorious thing. They can also be put through a food mill and made into a really flavorful pasta sauce - just add red wine and finish with cream.  If you like the skins, hit it with the Bamix for a decent texture.  If you have an overabundance, I would make and can or freeze Ina Garten's roasted tomato soup.  Don't use the store-bought in the recipe - just add more of yours.  I've got one jar left from last year, and it has been wonderful.   Good luck!  That's a lot of tomatoes!

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