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Stocking the Freezer: Dos and Don'ts


22tango
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eGullet member SethG started a similar topic. Though he did want to try and cook things he'd never cooked before because he had the time to do so, there were some posts pertaining dishes that could be frozen.

"Home for a couple months, How should I get my cooking fix?"

I am sure there have been other similar topics and, hopefully, someone will provides links to help you out.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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  • 10 months later...

So after a few blissfull months of unemployment, in which time constraints have not even been a blip on the radar when it comes to dinner plans, I'm faced with the prospect of going back to work. Full time with a 40 minute commute on either end. Goodbye to Wednesday night braised lamb shanks and lazy Thursdays spent coddling a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. Hello to coming home hungry, tired, and needing dinner quickly.

Part of the solution will be freezer cooking and good planning. I think I'm a decent freezer cook already. I have a chest freezer, and the list on the side indicates it's stocked right now with things like macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, lasagna, meatballs, individual pot pies, cabbage rolls, various soups/stews/chilis (all homemade), as well as the expected broth, butter, and various kinds of meats. I know the proper procedures for freezing, and I have a foodsaver.

What I want is to eat well a few nights a week just by pulling something out of the freezer (and rounding it out with a salad/veg of some sort), and I feel like this is an area where my usual kitchen creativity fails me somewhat. I really just need new ideas. So tell me what's in your freezer arsenal, your secret stash of frozen goodness, your very best tried and true recipes that freeze well. I'm cooking for myself (and occasionally for the boyfriend), so individual servings are a plus. The OAMC forums I check out from time to time tend a little more towards cream of _______ casseroles than I'd really like. I want delicious, high quality freezer friendly ideas.

I couldn't find a topic specifically devoted to this, so forgive me if it's been done before.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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During the holiday season I am just not going to be making chocolate for 10-12 hours, and then come home and make a nice dinner.

This year I planned ahead and now my freezer to stocked with some wonderful items that I just have to take out and reheat:

  • Moussaka (not really moussaka but very similar lamb and eggplant casserole)
  • Pork Daube (from The Cook's Book - a very nice Pork stew; frozen in FoodSaver bags and boiled to reheat. Just add some rice and maybe a green salad).
  • Meatballs (just open a quality jar of pasta sauce and simmer; add pasta; very simple)
  • Vietnamese Chicken Thighs (by Kerry Beal, see elsewhere on eGullet)
  • Spanish Chicken
  • Lentils with Caramelized Onions
  • Squash Soup

Really, any kind of soup or stew should work well.

HTH

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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Jen,

Congratulations, belatedly! I didn't know you had been a "lady who lunches" or I would've rung you up. Condolences on rejoining the workforce, but all good things must come to an end. :wink:

You *are* the freezer queen (as we got a glimpse of in your blog week) but a couple of things I love finding in my freezer that aren't on your list:

tamales

stuffed pasta (ravioli, tortellini and the like)

bierochs

pizza crust

All of the above can result in what, in my world, passes as a great dinner (not just, ugh, it's easy) and all can be done on a semi-energetic Sunday afternoon.

I've been thinking of having a "tamal fest" for the season. Many hands make light work and putting a few gross of them in the freezer would make winter less daunting. PM me if you have the time/inclination.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Well, I was in the middle of typing a mediocre response to the "KC sunflower lady" ( there she is: dividend) when the thread vanished! A merging of topics occurred behind my back right under my nose.

Now I'm reading about many expecting parents who are wondering what to stock in the freezer prior to B-day. Although some of your kids are probably in school by now, congrats and mazal tov to JohnRov, Malawry, bavila, daniellewiley and 22tango.

Back to freezer food . . .

I like to get one of these:

gallery_42214_4635_25569.jpg

and then chop, fillet, season and vacuum bag:

gallery_42214_4635_15705.jpg

Its true frozen seafood is rarely as good as fresh. I find this way to be cost-effective and I can control portion sizes, bonelessness, seasoning, etc. I have tried freezing cooked salmon - not so good. The more I cook, the more I realize its almost always preferable to get your groceries as unprocessed as possible.

edit to add: dividend Jen, I really enjoyed your blog this past summer.

Edited by Peter the eater (log)

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Eg member Pookie is having a baby in January. We got together a couple weeks ago and made Ina Garten's Turkey sausage lasagna, Italian wedding soup, Chicken tetrazzini and Spinach pie( aka spanikopita).

I'm not a fan of frozen food, but the spinach pie was great and I couldnt tell it had been previously frozen. The tetrazzi didnt do it for me, the soup froze wonderfully and we ate the lasagna on the night we made it. I did freeze a few pieces though that I'm sure will defrost fine.

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I find it's difficult to get enough freezer space to store entire ready-to-eat dishes, so I freeze things like meat/chicken/fish in a marinade, or very tiny meatballs that can be quickly tossed into soup or pasta.

If you eat miso soup, you can mix the miso with cut vegetables and freeze them in appropriate sizes, reheat in Japanese stock and you're done! Vegetables like negi and cabbage actually taste better that way than freshly prepared. Mix some fine shaved bonito into your miso/vegetable wad and you can even make your soup with hot water instead of dashi.

Consider things like frozen sandwiches that will be easy to grill and eat with one hand in desperate moments...and go easy on ketchup...I'm embarrassed to recall how my first baby's bald head looked after I'd finished yet another meal trying to eat with him always wide awake and on my lap! laugh:

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  • 1 year later...

I have been on a freezer frenzy, making lots of stuff ahead of time, vacuum-packing it, and sticking it in the freezer for later consumption. I can attest to the high quality of blended soups, tomato sauces, chili, meatballs, macaroni & cheese, among other things. I can tell you that stuffed cabbage is an unmitigated disaster, that vegetables in soup, tofu sticks in braising liquid, and other high moisture items lose their texture upon being defrosted, and that beans must be undercooked slightly if you want them to retain any shape.

There's a ton of good ideas in here, but I'm also looking for guidance on what else I should NOT freeze.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Chris, I've had good luck freezing cabbage rolls,But I can see that a large vegetal item like a whole stuffed cabbage could be a problem. In fact, when freezing items I think that size matters: keep the items and the portions small, to prevent overcooking at warmup.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Chris:

Do not freeze a frittata. Big yuck.

But, in the success department, I have frozen pre-cooked components. For example, I happened on a large (very large) bunch of leeks at the farmer's market. I had the time and inclination to clean and saute them, but not the inclination (nor the potatoes) to make potato leek soup, so I simply froze the sauteed "mise." Works like a charm if frozen in one-batch amounts. I've also done this with sauteed celery, carrots and onions. They take but a moment to thaw, and often make the difference between a home-cooked meal or take-out on a chock-full evening.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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we have two kids, 6 and 2 and my memory of those days is fading fast, but I did not cook anything in advance. Both kids were good sleepers, mom was tired too so she hung out with baby in bed or on the couch and I had more time to cook than ever. Especially with #1. We had the good fortune that my wife could take quite some time off after each baby, and that both were such good sleepers and otherwise just happy campers. Sure, in the beginning you're up several times for feeding and all that, but nobody says dinner has to be at 6pm either, just work food into your schedule where it fits.

Of course, that's just our story.

For freezer, I'd see that I have enough chicken breast, one or two per pack. Those thaw in no time in a sink filled with cold water, if you forget to pull something out the day before.

Pasta sauces of all kinds

Pesto! Costco sells a really good one, I'd suggest to pack it in smaller portions in ziplock bags and freeze those.

Ravioli etc (again costco) can be thrown into the boiling water while still frozen.

Yes, I'd have frozen pizzas in there too.

Stock, make a bunch of chicken stock, freeze it in portions. Great for almost anything.

Fish can be great too, super fast to cook. (but there was plenty time for one of us to go to the store for fresh fish)

Soups? I don't know. We had some and never made them, my wife wanted more light stuff than heavy homey things.

Also be prepared NOT to like certain things anymore all of a sudden. My wife does no longer like red or green peppers (the sweet ones) anymore, nor does my son who was born first. She did not have odd cravings (chocolate dipped pickles etc). Different for everyone.

I'd make sure you have the basics, have some comfort foods from the past (mac&cheese, chicken-noodle soup, gummy bears, chips) in boxes, bags, and cans and get delivery/take out menus if you want to treat yourself or are just too wiped out. And it'll be nice for your of you to go run the occasional errand too. But unless you really like casseroles, I'd stay away from them. We got some as gifts and did not find the idea of them very appealing.

Oh, and congratulations and good luck! Enjoy the time with your little one, it's special and way too short. S/He will be asking for car keys sooner than you can ever imagine :-D

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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I made duxelles this afternoon to use up some mushrooms in late middle-age and a couple of tablespoons of sherry left in a bottle. Into the freezer they went, packed flat in a freezer bag so I can break off bits. And then I thought of this topic ...

(I used Julia's recipe from "Mastering" -- the book so old and well-used it's lost its front cover.)

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I'm very new to the whole 'stock the freezer' thing - but am very excited about the onion confit and rogan josh curry I've stashed away so far! Looking forward to experimenting over the coming months... but am wondering if anyone can share some dos / don'ts regarding freezing cheese? I seem to recall seeing elsewhere on EG that parm freezes well - but I'm guessing I might have varying degrees of success with other cheeses depending on moisture level?

I think I'll toss the leftover Comte from my first batch of onion soup into the freezer w/ the leftover onion confit and see what happens! That way it will be on hand for next time - and it'll end up broiled anyway, so might be ok? I'm guessing that wouldn't be the case for, say, a half-eaten Epoisses on the other hand... ;-) Would be very interested to hear about others' experiences freezing various cheeses!

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Do not freeze things with cukes in them!

If I have lemons and limes I'm not going to get to before they shrivel and die, I freeze them. The zest and juice is just fine.

You can also juice the fruit and freeze the juice in ice cube trays.

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I'm also trying to get the hang of stocking my freezer. Ordinarily the only things I ever make purposefully to freeze are pestos and herb butters to get me through the winter. I'm going to try the duxelles, onion confit, and curry pastes. I've also had good luck freezing whole soft rind cheeses when I've found myself with an abundance. Definitely save the rinds from depleted wedges of parmesan cheese--throw them into simmering vegetable soups, tomato sauces, or stews for great flavor and extra body to the broth/sauce.

One thing I've found is that the components of many dishes freeze well, while the final dish does not. Leftover cooked and uncooked seasoned meat fillings for cabbage rolls, stuffed pastas, etc. are great to save. Not an instant dinner but lets you pull together an otherwise time-consuming dish quickly. Seasonings usually need to be adjusted, though.


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Well, my opinion is that the second best thing is to have sauces frozen. Even husbands like me can make rice or pasta or polenta to go with a good sauce.

The best thing for those new baby times (but it depends on the community) is for someone to take up the reins and organize meals for the family (at least for the first two weeks). We've done a number of sessions of delivering fresh cooked meals (or cooking them for them) at peoples' homes.

Yeah, it seems like a bother, but not once you see the smiles. Plus, it's either a payback for things done for you in the past, or good karma for the future.

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as for freezing cheese, I'd only do that with hard cheeses that I intend to use in sauces, pizza, pasta etc. Not something I'd plan to slice and eat on a sandwich or serve on a cheese plate.

I have family in Regio Emilia where all the good stuff comes from. When they visit they usually bring a big piece of the best parmesan with them. We used to shred it all up and pack individual packages in baggies to freeze, that seemed to work well and you had instant cheese to put on your pasta. I have not done that in years, as you can't bring cheese into the US without a hassle, I now buy it at Costco. they have the real stuff, though it's much harder than the one my uncle used to bring us, and they also have one made in the US (Wisconsin I think?) that's quite good and a lot cheaper, but you have to buy a much larger piece. Might try this shred and freeze thing again with it, see if it's actually working as well as I remember from way back when :-)

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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One thing I've found is that the components of many dishes freeze well, while the final dish does not.

On the other hand, one thing I've learned about myself is that, if I freeze applesauce, I'm much less likely to thaw it in order to make applesauce gingerbread than I am to thaw and eat an applesauce gingerbread that's already been made. Ditto pumpkin puree (except it's pumpkin muffins or loaf, rather than pumpkin gingerbread). But maybe that's just me...

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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On the other hand, one thing I've learned about myself is that, if I freeze applesauce, I'm much less likely to thaw it in order to make applesauce gingerbread than I am to thaw and eat an applesauce gingerbread that's already been made. Ditto pumpkin puree (except it's pumpkin muffins or loaf, rather than pumpkin gingerbread). But maybe that's just me...

It's not just you. :biggrin:

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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One thing I've found is that the components of many dishes freeze well, while the final dish does not.

On the other hand, one thing I've learned about myself is that, if I freeze applesauce, I'm much less likely to thaw it in order to make applesauce gingerbread than I am to thaw and eat an applesauce gingerbread that's already been made. Ditto pumpkin puree (except it's pumpkin muffins or loaf, rather than pumpkin gingerbread). But maybe that's just me...

Good point, very true, so long as I remember to make enough extra applesauce gingerbread to freeze some. I'm bad about making extras of finished dishes, better at stocking my freezer with the building blocks.

BTW, I've never heard of applesauce gingerbread and would love a recipe. Sounds scrumptious.


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Thanks all for the cheese tips - sounds like I should be ok as far as broiling on the top of french onion soup is concerned!

Just added some rocket pesto to my freezer stash... I'm definitely taking the 'building block' approach for the most part, although I'm thinking of trying to make (and then freeze) ma po tofu this weekend. Any good/bad luck freezing tofu?

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Tofu, well, you can freeze it, but it won't be the same. I wouldn't ever freeze tofu again (been there, done that). It gets very "curdy." Why not freeze the Ma Po and add the tofu when you reheat it?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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  • 4 weeks later...

In addition to the usual suspects already mentioned (e.g. pesto, tomato sauce, curry pastes, chili (beef & chicken versions)and thick vege soups like squash and tomato), I've successfully frozen pureed mushroom soup (without the cream finish - add that when reheating), Chinese chicken & corn soup (shred the chicken and leave out the beaten egg to be added when reheating), homemade hamburger patties (separated by wax paper), meat-based potsticker/dumpling stuffing, cookie batter and egg whites; all mostly in freezer bags.

In the "not home-made" department, I like to have on hand frozen baguettes and puff pastry, edamame (shelled - for salads, and unshelled - for snacking), frozen raspberries and mangoes (for almost-instant desserts), shrimp and mussels, a packet or two of frozen chopped spinach and mixed vege, and several frozen standbys from Trader Joe's: fish fillets (e.g. cod and sole), a tarte d'alsace and chocolate croissants :)

BTW, I freeze my home-made stock in ice-cube trays (I use the ones that have a sliding cover - I think they're made by Oxo). I'm also not a big fan of the microwave, so I tend to reheat on the stovetop or in the oven.

P.S. Love the idea of prepping and freezing little packets of mirepoix!

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