Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Some freezer meal info

Notes on making freezer meals

* Dried herbs freeze better, impart a more pungent flavor, and will rehydrate when cooking
* If not freezing, fresh minced garlic is best
* If you are cooking food to serve 10-15 minutes later, or more, cover with foil and expect the internal temp to rise 5 degrees per 10 minutes as it rests. If necessary, adjust accordingly.
* You can refreeze meat if it is in a marinade or casserole
* Raw or cooked meat, poultry, or casseroles can be cooked or reheated from the frozen state. It will take approximately one and a half times longer than the usual cooking time for food that has been thawed.
* It is better to undercook, or cook just until tender, all types of rice to be used in freezable dinners. They will finish cooking when dinner is reheated.
* If you plan to freeze cooked pasta dishes, do not fully cook the pasta. It should be a bit chewier than al dente.
* Bottled lemon juice in a freezer recipe is just as good as fresh and easier.
* If you need more pans, line your baking pan with foil, build your casserole, and freeze it. Remove the frozen casserole from the pan, wrap it with another layer of foil, and place it back into the freezer without the pan. When ready to thaw and bake, unwrap the foil, and place the dinner back into the original baking dish.
* It’s a good idea to allow 2-3 days for thawing in the refrigerator and then be sure to cook and consume the meal within the next 3-4 days.
* Cook large batches of chicken at once. Boil a large pot of water and add boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a teaspoon each of garlic powder and lemon pepper. Return the water to a boil and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Cook more than you need for your recipe and freeze the remainder in resealable freezer bags for later use.
* Cook large batches of rice at the same time. Cool in the refrigerator, uncovered, in a shallow pan and place in freezer bags to freeze. A good rule of thumb is to put 2 parts cold water to 1 part rice in a saucepan over high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Leave covered and remove from heat. Let it sit, covered, about 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. The rice will not be quite done- tender, but not completely soft.
* When converting a regular recipe to a freezer recipe, use extra liquid, stock, or milk
* Frozen dishes with larger chunks of veggies taste better reheated than ones with smaller ones.
* Cookies and cakes can be made ahead of time and frozen, baked or unbaked
* Muffin batters can be made and poured into paper-lined muffin tins. When they have frozen, remove the liners and place the frozen ‘muffins’ in a freezer bag. When time to cook, you can cook from frozen by reducing the original cooking temp by 25 and adding about 30 minutes to the original cooking time.
* It is best to double bag frozen meals. This helps prevent freezer burn (which only creates dryness) and will contain any leaks as the meal defrosts.
* Recommended freezing times are for quality, not safety (referring to the freezer meals)
* Always double-wrap baked items when freezing to help ensure freshness and taste.
* You can flash-freeze cookie dough by placing formed cookie balls on cookie sheets in the freezer for 10-20 minutes. Then remove and place in freezer bag. For slice-and-bake cookies, form dough into logs then wrap tightly in plastic wrap (seal ends well) and place in freezer bag.
* When making meals in freezer bags, it is a good idea to lay it flat when freezing so that it stores well. Some recommend placing in a baking dish stacked on each other while they freeze to ensure the shape stays flat and any potential leaks stay contained until frozen.
* Wrap leftover fresh cilantro in plastic wrap and put in a small freezer bag. Add directly to your recipe when needed.
* After squeezing juices from citrus fruits, store and freeze the leftover halved rinds in a freezer bag. You can grate the frozen rind directly when a recipe calls for fresh peel or zest.
Fresh ginger grates easily when frozen and keeps a long time. Wrap it in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag.

Foods that freeze best:
uncooked proteins
fresh carrots, zucchini, onions & celery- do not use fresh potatoes!!!
Starch-based dishes dry out more quickly than protein-based ones when frozen
Butter and yogurt-based spread will freeze but cream cheese will dry out unless blended with other ingredients
Substitute cream cheese or sour cream if a recipe calls for mayonnaise (or heavy cream) as a base for a sauce. They both freeze better.

Comparable Crock Pot cooking times
Conventional recipe in 350 oven -->crockpot on low-->crockpot on high
15-30mins--> 4-6 hrs--> 1 ½-2 hrs
35-45mins--> 6-10 hrs--> 3-4 hrs
50mins-3hrs--> 8-18 hrs--> 4-6 hrs

Keep in mind when making freezer meals that it is an easy and quick way to bless the lives of others. They are great for new moms, single moms who may not have a lot of time to prepare meals, bad days, the elderly, and those dealing with sickness or death. This is why it is particularly nice to make multiples of a recipe, especially if you have the room or a friend to share with.

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