Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You're as cold as ice...

My foray into freezing began during my first pregnancy. I was told by friends, books and the Lamaze teacher that I should stockpile a bunch of meals in the freezer so that I wouldn't have to cook after I gave birth. It was actually my wonderful, adorable hubby who made a couple lasagnas and froze them for us a month before our due date.

When my son started solid foods I began making large pots of vegetable mush and freezing it in ice cube trays. As our family grew so did our trips to Costco. We needed large quantities of toilet paper for the house guests and of course diapers by the gazillion. I started finding things there like frozen jumbo shrimp and chicken breasts sealed in pre-portioned packages. They have become mainstays in my freezer. Now that I have two young children I stock up on waffles and frozen turkey breakfast links. I've come to see the beauty in having a second freezer in the garage. I finally understand why my mom always has a hundred different things in hers! I get it now!

I've also learned to cook in large portions so that I can freeze half of it. It doesn't take much more effort to make a larger portion of something and freezing half means you aren't stuck eating the same thing for the next three days. A month or so later, you have a fabulous meal all ready to go.

In my experience, I find that taking the frozen dish out of the freezer a couple days in advance and letting it defrost slowly in the fridge is the best way to do it. Nuking a dish right out of the freezer takes a heck of a long time and it does something funky its consistency. Tonight I revisited the lobster mac and cheese. I had taken it out of the freezer a couple days ago and put it in the fridge to defrost. Instead of just microwaving it, I scooped some into a gratin dish and baked it with some panko bread crumbs sprinkled on top. Amazingly, it tasted no different than when it was freshly made.

So here is a list of "Foodism For The Busy Mom" meals that I think are freeze-worthy. I've described how I reheat each dish (dish should be defrosted first!).

Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, Mini Meatloaves -meatloaves seem to be invincible; in this case I find that microwaving individual slices works best; don't over-nuke though or it will dry out
Turkey Chili -you know how it is, chili just seems to taste better over time; microwave individual bowls or heat up a larger portion in a pot on the stove
Buttermilk Pancakes, Ricotta Pancakes -these I actually just microwave right out of the freezer
Lobster Mac & Cheese -freeze right after you mix all the ingredients together, the sprinkling of bread crumbs and baking steps happen after you defrost it and right before you serve it
Spinach & Artichoke Palmiers -I froze some of the spinach/artichoke filling. Then defrosted it and assembled the palmiers when guests were coming over. They turned out great and tasted no different than the original batch. The guests couldn't believe how quickly I whipped up these hors d'oeuvres!
Turkey Sausage Lasagna -freeze after you assemble the lasagna, the baking in the oven step happens after you defrost it and right before you serve it
Beef Stew -after you have defrosted it, reheat slowly in a pot on the stove