Freezing Food Saves Time
Freezing food is a crucial weapon in my armoury of good food-planning. The more you can cook ahead, or part-prepare your meals when you are not busy, the better you will cope when you are rushed off your feet. Plan ahead for your busiest times and shop ahead for ingredients. Then cook as many dishes as you can in advance.
Now, I rarely cook anything without cooking extra to have on reserve for my really busy days. It is as easy to cook a large batch of something, as it is to cook for just one meal. Freezing food, doubles, or triples the benefit I get from my cooking-time and means that I am much less stressed during the working week. I know that on the days when I am absolutely wrecked, I can get home and take something out that I've already cooked and just heat it up. It’s almost like having someone else serve me up a beautiful meal!
I have lots of tupperware tubs, of all shapes and sizes, for storage, so that when I am only freezing a small amount of something, it doesn’t take up a lot of space.
I also like freezing food leftovers. I hate to waste a leftover, as it may save my having to cook a meal from scratch, on a tiring day. I often use cooked leftovers for pitta sandwiches, or rissottos. When I cook a pot of soup, I use a big toureen and pour half it into upright tubs for the freezer.
When I’m feeling a bit under the weather, or run down and in need of some TLC and extra nourishment, I take out a tub of soup and thank myself for having had the foresight to freeze it!
Tips and Tricks for Freezing Food
When freezing food, never re-freeze anything that has previously been frozen, or contains an ingredient that has been previously frozen.
Once something has started to defrost, you should not re-freeze it.
The most hygienic way to defrost something is on the bottom shelf of your fridge, where it will still be kept cool. This takes a little longer than defrosting at room temperature. Meat, poultry and fish should be defrosted like this in the fridge, especially in hot weather. Make sure the frozen food can’t touch, or drip onto, other food in the fridge as it defrosts. Put it in a big enough dish, or tub to prevent this happening.
Most foods freeze well. However,the process of freezing food, changes the structure of liquids within a food, by expanding them, so anything that has a lot of juice in it, like a strawberry, will go soggy.
When you are freezing dishes that you have cooked, such as pies, tarts, or home-made pizzas, it is a good idea to cut them into portion-sized chunks and wrap them separately beforehand, so you can just take out what you need when defrosting. Portion-sized tin-foil tubs are handy, as they can be put straight in the oven for heating up.
Freezing preserves the food in the state it is at the moment of being frozen. If there are bacteria present, freezing, unlike thorough heating, will not kill them. It merely halts bacteria multiplying for as long as they are frozen. So always freeze food as soon as possible, so bacteria do not have too much time to accumulate.
When cooking foods that have been frozen, make sure they are thoroughly cooked and heated, all the way through to the centre, before eating. This is to kill off any bacteria that are present in the food. Bacteria like warm food, so make sure to heat it right up in order to eliminate them.
Fresh herbs, which wilt quickly, can be preserved when frozen. Wash and chop them first, divide them up into handfuls and freeze and you will always have whatever you need. Likewise fresh ginger. It can really make a dish, but if you don’t cook it all the time, you may not have it in stock when you need it. Peel it, chop it and put it in little clumps in a bag, flat on the ice-tray. Likewise with garlic.
Use your freezer for all those foods that are a little hard to find, like good quality bread! I keep one shelf as a bread-basket, and when I’m in a shop that sells good quality bread, I stock up.
Freezing preserves the vitamins in vegetables. Organic, frozen vegetables can be very healthy and are certainly better than tinned ones, if you don’t have time for much chopping and peeling. Frozen peas, green beans and corn on the cob, are vegetables I always have in stock. You can coat the corn with a little butter, or oil and just throw it in the oven and children love it.
Don’t forget that you can also pre-prepare your own frozen vegetables. If you have a spare half-hour ahead of a hectic week, you will take some of the strain off yourself, if you peel, chop and freeze whatever vegetables you are planning to cook that week.
When I have potatoes, or other vegetables on my vegetable rack, I pre-prepare them whenever I have some spare time and throw them in the freezer. It’s always nice not to have to peel potatoes from scratch when you come home in the evening. Sliced and chipped potatoes never go amiss, so stock up on your cooking capital and fill those shelves!
Use the freezer to keep stock from boiled potatoes, or vegetables. This can be re-used to give extra flavour and goodness when you are cooking risottos, or soups, or anything else that requires stock. Likewise, leftover wine can be frozen to make sauces with.
Remember, healthy eating is enjoyable!
Blessings on your table!
The Good Food Angel.
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