Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stuff I'll Bet You Didn't Know You Could Freeze

I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of buying in bulk.  However, if you've ever tried to shop that way, you know that you need to find ways to divide-up the loot and stash it in cold storage so that you don't end-up wasting half of it.

While most folks get the idea of freezing leftovers and raw meat, many don't think of other base ingredients that can be frozen for either bulk-buying or for simple convenience of having them ready to cook with.  Here are a few things I freeze quite regularly that I'll bet you never considered before:

  • Cooked Pasta and Rice - Make an entire pound of pasta (or more, if you like) and freeze any excess in a zip-top bag.  When you need some to add to a dish, just smack the bag on the counter to loosen the pieces and take-out as many handfuls as you need.  Add directly to your simmering sauce.
  • Cooked Rice - I often make extra rice and freeze it the same way as the pasta.  The trick, in this case, is to portion it out into meal-sized packages as you can't break it up once it's frozen in a block.
  • Cheese - Cheese actually freezes and defrosts quite well.  The trick is to cut it into smaller blocks or divide it up into portions before freezing and wrap it tightly.  Always defrost in the fridge--not the microwave (it'll melt).  Shredded cheese also freezes well and, if stored in 8oz packages, will usually defrost enough on the counter in 10 minutes to use on pizza.
  • Half-Loaves of Bread -  If you like fresh bread for sandwiches but can't eat a loaf in time, consider freezing half the loaf immediately after you purchase or bake it.  Slices can be removed and toasted directly from the freezer or you can defrost it on the counter or in the fridge.
  • Nuts, Flours, and Grains - Most nuts and whole grains (wheat flour, cornmeal, oats, brown rice, etc.) contain a good amount of beneficial oils and oils go rancid very quickly in a warm pantry during the summertime (or if like me, your pantry is built in front of the chimney).  Put grains into tightly sealed jars or plastic containers and stash them in your freezer or fridge.  The same works for vegetable shortening.
  • Butter - I use a lot of butter for baking, so I buy the big four-pound packs from the discount club.  To keep it fresh, I stash it right in the freezer and take it out a pound or a stick at a time as needed.
  • Dairy Products - Dairy products freeze and thaw in the fridge surprisingly well.  This is a great way to take advantage of larger containers or seasonal sales on cream, sour cream, cream cheese, etc.  Remember that liquid expands quite a bit when frozen, so be sure to leave a lot of air space in the container.  I freeze in mason jars and often leave the lids slightly open until it's frozen and then tighten them up
  • Juices - Like fresh juice but don't drink it fast enough before it starts fermenting?  Freezing half right after you bring it home works very well.
  • Cooked Oatmeal - We like steel-cut oats in our house, but they take a minimum of 20 minutes to cook (even with my pressure cooker recipe).  What I often do is make a double batch and then scoop portions onto a sheet tray with an ice cream scoop.  I freeze them, then move the frozen "oat pellets" to a zip-top bag.  When it's time to eat, pop one into a bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes.  The technique should work for pretty much any cereal that can hold it's shape on the tray, including old fashioned rolled oats, grits, polenta, etc.
  • Peppers - I like red bell peppers when they finally get down to a reasonable price during the summer.  However, they go bad quickly.  I've found that if you wash and dry them very well, slice, then freeze the slices on a sheet pan, you can then move them to a zip-top bag and have peppers to add to dishes like stir-frys.  They will get much softer when defrosted, so consider that when deciding how to use them.
  • Cookie Dough - Nothing tastes better than having fresh-baked cookies without all the work.  When I have a chance, I make-up a batch of cookie dough and then scoop the dough out onto a sheet pan as if I were going to bake them.  Instead, freeze the sheet and move the dough balls to a zip-top bag.  Any time you want a tray of fresh cookies, pop a few onto a pan and directly into the oven...just like Pilsbury, but better!

1 comment:

  1. Love the oatmeal tip! We tend to store the extra servings in the fridge and always seem to toss one on fridge clean-out day.


I welcome comments. However, please be courteous of others when commenting. I always reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.