March 4, 2011

This Week’s Freezer Cooking: Chicken

Last year when I went back to work full-time I decided that freezer cooking would save me a lot of time. I have done a little freezer cooking before with freezing leftovers and such but now I try to be more intentional about it.

Sometimes freezer cooking depends on my level of energy or time that I have but many times it depends on sales.  Whenever I see a good deal on ground beef I know that I can precook and preseason the meat for quick dinners.  The same goes with chicken. 

Last week Harris Teeter had their whole chickens for only $.59/lb.  I went on Monday before the sale ended and purchased two chickens.  I boiled the chickens, picked off the meat, and put the torn chicken into meal portioned containers.  Here’s the fruit of the labor:

I ended up with enough chicken for at least four dinners.  With this chicken I can make chicken casserole, chicken pot pie, chicken and dumplings, chicken enchilada chili, chicken stew, and many other dishes. 

Cooking with sale items saves time and money.  Do you cook for the freezer?


May 11, 2010

Goya Adobo Seasoning

Before I start sharing some of my favorite Mexican recipes with you, I have to tell you about one of our favorite seasonings . . . Adobo by Goya

To make all your dishes taste their very best, make sure you shake on Goya Adobo before cooking. Adobo’s perfect blend of garlic, oregano and other Latino spices is the perfect seasoning for all your meat, poultry and fish dishes. A simple shake is all it takes.

My husband and I have been using Adobo seasoning for at least 12 years. We even use it on non-Mexican recipes.  It can be purchased at most grocery stores, including Food Lion, Wal-Mart, and Harris Teeter. Look for it in the Mexican food section. Although Adobo is available in several varieties, we choose to use the one with or without pepper. You can see all of the Goya Adobo varieties.

Which Mexican seasonings are your favorites?

image from goya


April 26, 2010

How to Freeze Berries

Last year, a farm in North Carolina had pick-your-own blueberries for only $1/lb.  As you know, that was a great deal. My family went to the farm several times and picked enough blueberries to eat during the summer, to make jelly, and to freeze for later use in cobblers and such.  Just last week I used up another bag while making blueberry pancakes for my kids.

I picked up a few packages of strawberries at Aldi last week for $1.19 and then a few more at Walmart this week for $1.  I’m stocking the freezer for later.  Since berries are such a great price right now, I thought I’d give you some tips on how to freeze them. 

You will need:

  • fresh berries
  • a pan or tray that will fit in your freezer
  • spatula
  • strainer or colander
  • storage containers or freezer bags

1.  Start with the freshest berries. Cut off any bad spots or toss rotten berries.  Remove any stems.  (Some say not to wash blueberries before freezing because it makes the skins tough. I didn’t notice a difference though.)

2.  Thoroughly wash the berries. Let them sit in a colander to drain the excess water.  (I let mine sit about 30 minutes.)

3.  Spread a single layer of berries onto a cookie sheet and pop them into the freezer.  Leave them overnight.

4.  The next day, pull the cookie sheet from the freezer.  Use a spatula to pop the berries from the pan.  They should come off of the pan fairly easily.  If not, let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.

5.  Put the berries into freezer bags, reusable containers, or airtight bags. (Unfortunately, I don’t have any of the vacuum seal bags.)

6.  Put the frozen berries back into the freezer until ready to use.

Now whenever you need berries, you can open your container and pull out as many as you need.  Sometimes I just dump them out from the freezer bag or reach in to the container and pull out a handful. They are handy for throwing into a cobbler or pancakes.


April 8, 2010

25 Tips for Freezing Food

One of the time saving devices I have been using more often is freezing foods.  If you were to look in my freezer right now, you would find some already made burritos, premixed meatloaf, homemade chicken broth, precooked ground beef, and more.  Premade and premixed foods can save you both time and money.  I’m a fan of both of those; how about you? 

Before you begin freezing lunch size portions and premade meals, there’s a few freezer tips to consider.

1.  Cool foods before placing them in the freezer.

2.  Store frozen meals at 0 degrees F, or colder.

3.  To keep bacteria from growing, thaw foods in the refrigerator.

4.  If you thaw meat, you should cook it before you refreeze it.

5.  Label freezer packages with content, date, and cooking instructions.

6.  Pack foods in freezer and microwave safe containers.  This will save time when going to reheat the foods.

7.  If you want to freeze something in glass, make sure you use glass that is tempered or specificially labeled freezer safe.  Mason jars are probably the best glass to use in the freezer.

8.  Squeeze out as much air as possible.  If you are using glass, completely fill the container.  If you are freezing sauces, soups, or stews, leave a little room for expansion of the liquids when they freeze.

9.  Wrap foods well to prevent freezer burn.   Freezer burn is the dehydration of foods.

10.  Repackage meats from the grocery store before freezing, or place the entire package in a freezer safe container or freezer bag.  The plastic wrap on the meats will allow oxygen to get to the meats and enable foods to become easily freezer burned.

11.  You can freeze fruits with or without sugar, but freezing them with sugar will help retain the texture and color.  Use citric or absorbic acid on lightly colored fruits  such as apples and peaches, to keep them from discoloring.

12.  Blanch or steam all vegetables and cool them quickly in ice water before freezing.  This will save the flavor and texture of the vegetables.

13.  Slice bread and half bagels before freezing so that you can easily remove the slices you need.  Slip the bagel halves in freezer bag back to back to prevent them from sticking together.

14.  Cool pancakes and waffles before freezing and put a sheet of wax paper inbetween each one.

15.  For quick, single-serving lunches, freeze foods in individual portions.

16.  When making casseroles, line the bottom of the casserole dish with foil.  When casserole is cooled, lift it from the pan with the foil and place in a freezer bag or container.

17.  Freeze casseroles unbaked or baked.  Allow additional baking time for frozen casseroles. 

18.  When cooking a casserole, use an instant read thermometer to check the center.  It should reach 160 degrees F.  If not hot enough, continue to bake the casserole and check it every 15 minutes.

19.  If a casserole recipe calls for cheese topping, freeze it without the cheese.  Add the cheese during the last 10 to 20 minutes of cooking.

20.  I prefer to freeze my broths in one quart plastic containers.  Another convenient way to freeze soups and broths is to use plastic ice cube trays.  Let the soup or broth cool and then fill the ice cube trays with the liquid.  After it is frozen, pop out the cubes and place in a freezer bag.  Later you can pull out as many as you need.

21.  Recipes with a condensed-soup base usually freeze well.

22.  Do not stack food that has not been frozen. Wait until the food has been completely frozen before stacking it.

23.  To prevent waste, keep track of the foods that you have.

24.  For best quality, use foods within three months.

25.  If the power goes out, frozen food can remain frozen for a few days.  Keep the freezer closed and cover it with blankets, keeping the blankets away from the compressor.

What tips do you have for freezing foods?

image (c) Karen Weideman