Gearing Up For The Deep Freeze
I know, summer only ended five seconds ago. However, I took advantage of the Labor Day sales and invested in a chest freezer for our cellar. It’s something I’d been thinking about for a long time since our freezer is always packed and I figured that the end of the summer (hello tomatoes and cooler temperatures!) was the best time to make the leap. I’m looking forward to preserving some of the amazing summer produce that’s still around and stockpiling foods for easy meals.
I have been in this phase for weeks now where the last thing I want to do after work is cook dinner. It’s led to lots of nights spent grazing or indulging in Conor’s preferred menu of meat, carbs, no veggies. I’m on a mission to have healthier and easier options at my disposal. I’d much rather spend a weekend afternoon prepping and storing in order to make weeknight meals easy and quick. In preparation, I’ve been researching foods that keep well in the freezer and picking up some supplies to make the process easier now that I have more real estate to work with. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the things that are tried and true for me.
What I Freeze Now
Here are a few of my favorite standbys that I’ve tested in the freezer time and time again. There are always a few containers of these kicking around the icebox:
Don’t forget about Kim’s Frozen Burritos!
When I’m really on top of my game, I also freeze containers of chopped carrots, onions, and celery (mirepoix, if you’re fancy) to throw into soup. I also freeze tomato sauce but I don’t have a recipe since I just kind of make it up as I go every time. Don’t tell your Italian nana.
What I Freeze It In
On the storage front, I’m a huge fan of these pint-sized (literally) glass containers from Crate and Barrel. You can get a dozen of them for $19.95, they’re glass instead of plastic, and they’re microwave safe. I use them to freeze individual portions of soup and take them to work for lunch. I got a set two years ago in my wedding registry and have only lost one to breakage since then. They lids have held up really well in the dishwasher too.
While I really want to make the transition to all glass storage containers (as a frequent microwaver or leftovers, the idea of chemicals leaching into my food really freaks me out), it’s hard to throw away perfectly good containers. I also have a set of quart-sized plastic containers that I use for stock, pre-chopped veggies for soup, and dinner portions of soup and tomato sauce for Conor and I.
Tip: When buying containers, pay attention to the sizes they come in so it’s easier to incorporate you’re frozen goods into recipes later. I usually freeze my stock in quarts (4 cups) since that’s what most soup recipes call for. The pint size containers hold two cups (or half a quart) which are good when smaller amounts of liquid are needed for sauces, etc. If your existing containers are funky sizes, you can fill them using a measuring cup and mark the sides with a permanent marker to make it easier.
What I Want To Do More Of
I usually have frozen chicken breasts and fish on hand but now that I’m going to have more space, there are a few things I want to do to step up my game.
1. Freeze meats in marinades. Throwing proteins in a ziploc bag with marinade and then freezing is something I’ve tried before and is a great time saver. I love the pre-marinated pork loins from the supermarket but I’ve read that they can be pumped up with saline solution. Gross. I’ll make my own, thanks.
2. Freezing herbs in ice cube trays or muffin tins. This is one of those tips I see on Pinterest all the time. Chop up herbs (a food processor is even quicker if you’re doing a lot!) and freeze them in olive oil or water. Once frozen, toss them in a container or a freezer bag so they take up less space and are ready to be tossed in the pan/pot/your fancy cocktail . I might scout out some yard sales to see if I can pick up the trays on the super cheap.
3. Freezing for party prep. Conor and I host a Christmas party every year and I’ve always wished for more freezer space in the weeks leading up to it. Now I’ll be able to make more in advance, freeze finger foods on baking sheets and then consolidate in containers, and cut my day-of cooking time way down. I guess people will expect better decorations now.
So tell me, any tips that you use to maximize your freezer? Recipes that you love? Are all you urban dwellers rolling your eyes at me and wishing I’d get out more? The suburbs have their claws in deep, my friends.
For more kitchen must-haves, check out my list of Essential Kitchen Tools.