Monday, November 18, 2013

Simplifying Supper: Foods that Freeze

Hello friends!  I am excited to hear that so many of you have enjoyed this series on Simplifying Supper.  I have loved hearing your stories of creating and updating your recipe binders, as well as establishing meal planning stations within your kitchen cupboards.  If you haven't had a chance to read the previous posts from this series, you can catch up here, here and here.  

I am finishing up my posts on Simplifying Supper by sharing with you some of my favorite foods that freeze.  My freezer is one of my best friends in the kitchen.  I know lots of families who stockpile their freezers with make-ahead meals like lasagnas and enchiladas, and while I do this as well, I primarily use my freezer for keeping things that I don't want to go to waste and items that I access on an everyday basis.  Here are some of my favorite freezer finds:

Smoothie Ingredients:   Greek yogurt adds both protein and creaminess to my smoothies.  I use a 2 TBS scoop to spoon the yogurt onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Once frozen, I transfer the yogurt to a Ziploc bag.  Sliced bananas can be frozen in the same method (cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, transfer to Ziploc bag).  When it comes time for smoothie making, I can grab most of my ingredients (yogurt, bananas and mixed berries) directly from the freezer and just add protein powder and water.

Scoop Greek yogurt onto a cookie sheet and freeze to use for smoothies.

Waffles/Pancakes:   Whenever I make waffles or pancakes, I make a large batch and continue cooking until all the batter is gone.  Whatever we don't eat gets frozen and saved for another day.  Place the leftover waffles (or pancakes) on a cookie sheet, using parchment paper between each layer to keep them from sticking to each other.  Once frozen, pop the waffles into a Ziploc freezer bag and use the toaster oven to reheat when needed.  (Need a good waffle or pancake recipe?  My current favorites are  Whole Wheat Waffles and Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes.  Both recipes are easy and delicious.)

Muffins:  We love to make our own homemade muffins to have on-hand as a quick grab-and-go snack.  After the muffins have been baked and cooled, I once again use my ol' cookie sheet lined with parchment paper trick to freeze them and store them in a Ziploc freezer bag.  A few seconds in microwave is all it takes to make them warm, soft and ready to munch on.

Bacon:  If you are like me, you love bacon but don't choose to eat it every day.  To keep my bacon lasting longer, I start by rolling each piece jelly-roll style.  I then freeze the bacon by -- can you guess?  Yep, cookies sheet lined with parchment paper followed by Ziploc freezer bag.  
Tomato Paste:  Don't you hate opening a can of tomato paste when the recipe only calls for 1-2 TBS  Spoon the leftover paste into an ice cube tray and drop it in the freezer.  Transfer to a Ziploc bag once frozen and pull out a small cube of tomato paste whenever you need it.  (This same method can be used for chipotle chilies in adobo sauce.   I use my immersion blender to blend the chilies with the sauce and then freeze the leftovers using ice cube trays.)

Butter:  I am sure I am not the only one who has had to run to the neighbor’s house mid-way through baking cookies to borrow a stick of butter.  By stashing a few sticks of butter in your freezer, you will always have extra on-hand when you need it.  

Fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil):  Most recipes only call for a few teaspoons of chopped fresh herbs, but you have to buy the whole bunch -- and those babies are pricey!   Freeze what you don’t use in ice cube trays, covered with a bit of water, and then transfer to freezer bags.

Soup:   Recently, thanks to Pinterest, I have found a new method for freezing soup.  I line my muffin tin with silicone liners and then pour in my soup.  Each muffin liner will hold about 1/4 cup of soup.  Once frozen, I remove the liners and transfer the frozen blocks of soup into a Ziploc freezer bag.  When I feel like eating soup, I can choose how many blocks of soup to heat up depending on the number of servings I need.  

Tomato-basil soup ready to go into the freezer.  

One more food I love to freeze is pesto sauce!  And it just so happens, I have a pesto recipe for you today that is healthy, yummy and perfect for the freezer.  Enjoy!

Light Pesto

2 TBS toasted pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
2 3/4 cup fresh basil (one large package from the grocery store)
2 TBS Parmesan cheese
2 tsp lemon juice
3 TBS olive oil

In a food processor, mince together pine nuts and garlic.  Add basil, Parmesan, and lemon juice.  With the motor running, slowly pour in olive oil.  

To freeze, ladle 2 TBS spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Once frozen, pop the frozen pesto discs into a Ziploc bag and use whenever you need it.