Busy fall days are in full swing around our house. School’s in session, kids have homework, sports, music lessons and plenty of other activities that keep families running. It’s time to think about time-savings in the kitchen.
One of the ways you can plan for a good meal is to make a double batch of family favorite. Have one tonight and freeze the other for an evening later in the fall.
You might already be on the path to being a great freezer cook and not even know it. Ask yourself: Does your family eat a whole pan of lasagna or just half? Doesn’t that favorite soup recipe make enough for two — or three — meals? If so, we’ve got some tips for helping you freeze portions for later.
First, though, you might wonder what really freezes well and what doesn’t. Here are some easy tips to follow.
When it comes to soups, good ones to freeze are bean soups like the White Bean Soup we share here. Also, rice-based soups made with wild rice and brown rice, broth-based soups, meaty soups and chili and pureed soups that don’t contain any or much dairy are great.
Here’s an important tip: If your soup includes noodles, don’t add them until you reheat the soup. They can get mushy when they thaw in soup. And always have a handful of fresh herbs, croutons and toppings on hand and ready to go. Don’t freeze soups with a lot of dairy or potatoes because they will change texture and separate when thawed. Soups thickened with cornstarch or eggs sometimes reheat thin and watery, so avoid them as well.
The best way to store soups and stews is to divide them in smaller portions. First, label the bag with the name and date. Add cooking instructions, too.
Next, measure out portions — for the family or for individual meals. Take a resealable freezer bag suitable for the amount you are freezing and place it over a bowl or glass. Cuff the bag around the top of the container and ladle in the portion of cooled soup or stew without overfilling it.
Finally, to save space, lay bags flat on a baking sheet to freeze. Once frozen, remove the baking sheet.
Casseroles dishes are great to make and save. A long-time favorite recipe that makes great use of late-summer veggies is the fresh vegetable lasagna from the late Delmer Robinson’s cookbook, “From the Hills.”
To freeze a casserole, make the meal in a disposable aluminum pan. If you are dividing a recipe, make two casseroles, using smaller casserole dishes. You can either cook the casserole or freeze it uncooked.
If it’s cooked ahead, make sure you allow it to cool completely before wrapping with a double layer of aluminum foil. If it is uncooked, wrap it the same way. Remember to label and date the food and add cooking/reheating instructions.
If you’re looking for quick and easy recipe that can serve one at a time, double up on your next burrito recipe and store them individually wrapped in the freezer.
Lastly, make a list of what you’ve got in your freezer so you’ll remember what great meals you’ve got tucked away for that day when you want to get something out of the freezer and into the refrigerator to thaw. Then all you have to do when you get home is preheat the oven and cook dinner quickly.