Author Topic: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips  (Read 4387 times)

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Danismom

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Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« on: April 06, 2012, 09:59:11 AM »
I've been wanting to try out freezer cooking for a while.  The concept is pretty straightforward.  You set aside some time (a few hours or a day) once every month (or two weeks depending on the size of your freezer) to prepare meals that you can freeze and then reheat later.  Doing this, you can just pop a meal in the oven and have a home-cooked meal in a flash with no prep on those busy days that leave you exhausted. 

I love the idea.  I haven't done it yet.  So please post your favorite recipes, tips, and tricks.  What does a newbie to freezer cooking need to know?  What did you learn the hard way?  What is your best advice and what are your go-to recipes?

For example, if I stick a casserole in the freezer, when do I need to take it out for dinner?  Do I take it out Monday morning for dinner Monday night or do I need to plan further ahead?  How long does it need to cook before going in the freezer and how long after I take it out of the freezer?  I'm lost here.  I love my mom but she didn't do ANYTHING like this.

Nibsey

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #1 on: April 06, 2012, 10:45:26 AM »
I live from my freezer. Personally I never freeze all the meal. For example, I'd freeze the filling for fish pie but add the potatoes after I've defrost the filling. Similarily I'd freeze pasta sauce but not the pasta. IMO in makes everything taste fresher.
Veg depends on your freezer. I find mushrooms get leathery if I freeze them unless they're in a sauce.
Actually now that I think about it, alot of the things I freeze are sauce based, like soups, casseroles, pasta sauces.
What have I learned the hard way? When in doubt, throw it out. And put the date on when you've made something because otherwise if you discover a bad batch of something you've made you have to throw out all of whatever iit is nstead of just the batch you made that day.
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MacadamiaNut

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2012, 11:12:44 AM »
I freeze spaghetti sauce religiously.  It takes so long to make and there's so many ingredients that it's not something I want to make over and over again.  I also always make too much.  I also freeze leftover spaghetti.

The sauce, I spoon it into the small round half cup (4oz) Gladware containers and pop into the freezer once cooled down.  They are perfect one serving size for sauce. 

I freeze pasta in Ziploc bags.  You have to make sure to cook the pasta to al dente because you are going to expose it to heat again after freezing. I toss it in a little olive oil before freezing to get rid of any clumping.  I usually put two servings per bag.

I just run the spaghetti over some hot water and it slides right out and then I plop it into a pot of boiling water.  While that's happening, I just pop the top of the Gladware (leaving it on, though to cover for splatters) and defrost the sauce in the microwave and then warm it (also in the microwave).  It takes about 5 minutes for the whole process and I've got a lovely plate of spaghetti any time I want.  :)

I wish I had some in my freezer right now but alas, I didn't make another batch since it ran out.

OH, I also forgot to mention, I wash and reuse all the Gladware and Ziploc bags.

A little off topic, but I also freeze bread.  I could never finish a loaf of bread before it goes moldy so I do this is out of necessity.
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buvezdevin

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2012, 11:20:33 AM »
Much like Nibsey, most things I prepare and freeze are sauces, soups or chili.  When I am making such for a meal it is usually not much more effort to make a big batch rather than a small batch.  There are just two of us in this household, so I also freeze such things in single or double sized portions.  It really does help us to have ready, go to items which can be reheated and voila, meal is ready, particularly for times we are really busy or just don't feel like cooking, beyond boiling pasta, or making a salad to go with soup.

While I also don't generally freeze pasta, I have an exception.  When I make stuffed pasta shells, I make a big batch.  From the batch of stuffed shells, I use whatever we want for the immediate meal, and I freeze the rest.  Later on, I pull the number of individual frozen shells from the big container in the freezer, cover those with sauce (which may have also been frozen but has been thawed), put that in a 350F oven (with or without shredded cheese on top of the sauce), and 45 minutes later, dinner is ready to serve.
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Namárië

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2012, 11:39:54 AM »
I'm big on making a huge batch of food and freezing things for later. Things that I find I dislike after being frozen include non-mashed potatoes, pasta, celery, and anything with a delicate flavor. Also, the structure of dairy products usually changes in the freezer—things that rely on creaminess sometimes get a little lumpy. Never freeze cream cheese. Ugh. <--learned the hard way.

Dishes that freeze really well: chili, shepherd's pie, most soups, pot pies, pulled pork, lasagna (which breaks the pasta rule, but I freeze it with the pasta uncooked), meatloaf, and rice and beans (which is also quite cheap!)

This recipe: http://springpadit.com/taffy54/recipe/makeaheadheartymeatlasagnaamericastestkitchen is the absolute most delicious lasagna you will ever have, AND it freezes well. You can even make several smaller ones if you have less people to feed (it goes a long way). If you can find it, use meatloaf mix (a combo of ground pork, veal, and beef) instead of the ground beef & sausage.

Always date things. I use a dry-erase marker to date my tupperware so that I can just wipe it off and reuse it. Also, try to freeze things in the portion they will be eaten in (as in, if it's just you, freeze them in single serving units. If it's your family of 5, freeze in family-of-five-size units.)

I do double portions, and usually take it out of the freezer the night before I am going to cook it—it's become a part of my nighttime routine. :) Never tried mornings because I'm always too groggy to remember! :P

Oh! And keep baking soda in your freezer! After food has been in there a while it starts to taste like freezer, and the baking soda helps.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2012, 11:41:36 AM by Namárië »
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DavidH

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2012, 12:56:45 PM »
The main thing is think before you freeze.  Things like certain pasta sauces, soups, stews, caseroles, freeze very well and are relatively unaffected.  I don't think custard would freeze well since it is dependent on the texture. 
You don't need to freeze the entire dish.  For example, if you like chili over rice or chili over nachos, you will have more success with freezing just the chili and assembling the other ingredients later.
Label what it is and when you froze it since freezing doesn't mean things keep forever.  Some things, for example, tomato sauce and chili look similar frozen so labeling helps.
Freeze the amount you want to eat at one time so you don't have to defrost the entire batch to get one serving.  Cutting a lasagna into portions or separating chili into single servings can be helpful.  You can always defrost multiple containers if you need more.  Ice cube trays are good for single servings of things like pesto sauce where a little goes a long way.
Freezing some things can dehydrate them, so you may need to add water to chili or sauce if it's too thick after defrosting. 

Ms_Cellany

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2012, 01:10:32 PM »
Potatoes don't freeze well, even in soups.
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Mikayla

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #7 on: April 06, 2012, 01:16:41 PM »
I think you've gotten some great ideas here.  The one thing I don't agree with is about freezing rice.  Unlike pasta, I've found it freezes just fine.  I'd make it fresh if it was a side dish, but as part of a casserole, it's fine.

My only suggestion to add is get some good containers that truly do survive the freezer to microwave trip.  Sadly, I can only report on the ones that don't, and it's that Rubbermaid line specifically made for freezer to nuke.  Every one of them cracked for me.  Maybe others can provide ideas.  I don't like the disposable containers for this. 

Finally, on Macademia Nut's comment about freezing bread...Yes!!  It took me forever to learn this, and now I'm trying to teach my roomie, who is one of those people who keeps it refrigerated.  This does nothing to preserve freshness.  Keep it in a cupboard and then put directly in freezer.  There's almost no bread that suffers from this.

Namárië

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2012, 01:21:31 PM »
I also freeze my bread. I like it toasted anyway, so the texture difference isn't really noticable.

Also, I just learned that hummus doesn't freeze that well. A lumpy lunch for me today. :(
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apple

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2012, 01:38:29 PM »
I use ziplock bags a lot in the freezer - they take up less space than plastic containers. The bags labeled "freezer bags" are thicker and better for freezing than those labeled "storage bags".

Some things that freeze well:
*Rice, couscous

*Mashed white potatoes and sweet potatoes (white potatoes separate in the freezer, but if you microwave them and stir a couple of times, they come together fine)

*Whole milk, skim milk (shake after defrosting). Cream and buttermilk - not so well.

*Muffins, scones, any bread, cakes, cookies, fruit pies

*Casseroles. I usually cook before freezing, but you can freeze them uncooked as well.

*Soups, chili, stews. I omit potatoes and pasta from soups, and add them when reheating.

*I stock up on chicken and meat when it's on sale. I usually repackage it into the amount for one meal and wrap in plastic wrap, then foil.

*Be sure to leave some head room - 1/2 inch or more - when freezing liquid (like soup, milk, etc.) because liquids expand when frozen.

*Blueberries, blackberries and cranberries freeze well. Put them on a cookie sheet and flash-freeze; when frozen, put in a freezer bag. This keeps the fruit separate; it won't clump up and you can remove just as much as you need. I put them frozen into cobblers and muffins.

apple

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #10 on: April 06, 2012, 01:47:07 PM »
You might want to try some freezer cookbooks. I started by checking cookbooks out of the library to see if I would really use them. Here are a few I really like:

Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer, and More Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer

Make-a-Mix Cookbook

Fix, Freeze, Feast



DavidH

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #11 on: April 06, 2012, 05:12:43 PM »
I've found that for freezing chicken breasts, wrapping in wax paper and then putting in a freezer bag with the excess air pushed out works well too.

For freezing berries, the taste is great, but I've found the texture suffers if you want to eat them plain afterwards.  I can see how they would be fine for cooking though.  If there's a trick to keeping the texture, I haven't found it yet.

EmmaJ.

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #12 on: April 06, 2012, 06:20:29 PM »
I've been doing the batch-cooking on weekends for years now.  My strongest recommendation is buy a Food Saver.  It's worth its weight in gold!  There are many types on the market but I bought a simple one without all the bells and whistles.  I've never had any food become freezer burned or tasting "off", and it's perfect to freeze meals in single portion sizes.

Another hint - label your packages!  I make spaghetti sauce, chili, picadillo, sloppy joes and they all look alike after freezing.  And keep a inventory list near the freezer.  You can tell at a glance what is available.

I freeze everything in single portion size so it's easy to grab a package of something for your lunchbag, or if you and your spouse each want something different.

Some of my favorite things to freeze:  Rice, sweet potatoes, fresh shucked corn, green beans, pierogies, meatloaf (made in muffin pans for perfect single size), sweet & spicy chicken, pulled pork, skirt steak, picadillo, soups (broth based, not creamy ones), pot roast. 


robobecky

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2012, 07:32:05 PM »
I don't know how much homemade stuff you make, but I've frozen chocolate syrup, BBQ sauce, ketchup, and marshmallow creme with no problems-they were all homemade, so I don't know if storebought would be any different.  One thing that did not freeze well was the homemade salsa :P  I'm just glad I looked closely at it before I dumped it on my meal.

I second the others that spaghetti sauce freezes really well, although I don't really care for frozen, precooked pasta itself.  I've also frozen garlic mashed potatoes, and pretty much any already cooked meat.

Crockpot meat that has been shredded and frozen in the juices is really good as well.

SisJackson

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Re: Freezer Cooking Recipes and Tips
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2012, 09:12:57 PM »
I do a lot of freezer cooking and prefer the kind of cooking where you assemble, then freeze, then thaw, then cook.  I don't much care for reheated foods, but that's a personal preference.  I mostly do batch cooking where I triple or quadruple a recipe and throw the extras in the freezer because it's usually not much more effort to make four times the recipe than it is to make one.  I like to do this especially when there's a particular kind of meat that's on special.

I like putting meats into a marinade before freezing.  Then, the day before I want to cook them, I just move the bag into the fridge and in about 24 hours I have thawed, marinated meat ready to cook.  I've done a ginger-soy one that goes great on pork, and a Tex-Mex type marinade for fajitas or tacos on chicken or beef.  I freeze everything flat on a cookie sheet in an unsealed Foodsaver, and when firm I suck-and-seal so that the bags can be stored upright in my freezer drawer.

Another of my favorites to freeze ahead is meat loaf - I've got a few recipes I like, and all of them have frozen well.  I mold them into a football on a length of foil on a cookie sheet and pop them into the freezer raw until they firm up enough to pop into a Foodsaver bag.  I thaw these for 1-2 days, and then bake as normal.  If they need a sauce for the top, I prepare that and freeze it also, its bag clipped to the meat loaf bag.

I frequently put together a couple of Chicken Marballa batches and throw them in the freezer - that old Silver Palate recipe requires overnight marinating anyway, so it's easy to just throw one into the freezer in a Foodsaver bag and the other into the fridge to bake the next day.  Other great options are enchiladas, calzones, and stuffed pastas like canneloni and shells.

There are a few things I freeze cooked - meatballs, soups, stews and chili - but mostly I like to cook after freezing/thawing rather than just reheating.