The leaves are turning colors and falling, and today there’s a chilly rain coming. Finally time to break out my fall list of recipes. Not the grilled anything will totally go away, but there are more soups and other recipes for the crock pot and pressure cooker, not to mention “freezes beautifully” recipes I can make and freeze for later. My husband is travelling a good bit in his job, so I’m looking for ways to streamline what I do. Cooking a recipe once, but doubling/tripling/quadrupling and freezing will hopefully give me a full freezer and less of a temptation to serve my kids umm…sandwiches or cereal for supper on a consistent basis. Before you start, though, check out a book at the library (or buy one) about freezing food. I’ve used Once a Month Cooking, but there are lots out there that will give you not only recipes, but hints on the best way to freeze different foods and a list of foods NOT to freeze. I use gallon freezer bags for soups and meats, that I freeze flat on a cookie sheet. Once they’re frozen, they can stack and take up very little space, or store them on end so they don’t all slide out when you try to take the one off the bottom of the stack:). You can also assemble casseroles in a pan line with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Once the food is frozen, take it out of the freezer and remove it from the pan, still wrapped in the heavy-duty foil. Store in a freezer bag and that stacks very easily as well. Just remember to LABEL ALL THE BAGS with the date and contents. You think you’ll remember what is in all those neat aluminum wrapped squares, but you won’t, and frozen spaghetti sauce and frozen chili look remarkably alike. You don’t want any surprises. Here’s some of my favorites:
- Chicken Tortilla Soup Easy to make ahead and freeze. It’s forgiving–if you run out of Rotel you can use salsa instead. Sometimes I get to the part where you dump in the canned broth and tomatoes, then freeze it. That way, after I thaw it, I can put it on the stove or in the crock pot for a couple of hours and it smells like I made it that day. You can fully cook it before you freeze it and then just microwave it if you’re short on time, but I like the aroma it gives the house. This is great served with quesadillas and a salad, and is a soup worthy of those expensive, winter avocados.
- Taco Soup is another recipe that you can make huge batches and freeze in gallon freezer bags for later. Or if you’d rather, make chili. Both are a welcome dinner on chilly days. I like to make quesadillas with taco soup and corn bread with the chili, but it’s your call. You can of course cook the beans yourself (from dried) and make up your own seasonings instead of buying the packets that often have msg or other yuckies in them, plus it’s cheaper. Some people don’t like to freeze cooked beans, but I don’t have a problem with them being too mushy. You could always add everything but the beans, freeze, then add the beans after it’s thawed if you like.
- Since I’m on a mexican kick so far, if you really want to be organized, go ahead and cook, season, and freeze your meat for tacos or burritos. I make a mexican lasagna, and I’ll add a jar of salsa to precooked and flavored taco meat, sub whole wheat flour tortillas for lasagna noodles, and use mexican cheese instead of mozzarella, layer like lasagna (add a layer of sour cream if you like to make it creamier) and bake til hot and the cheese is melted. You can assemble that and freeze as well.
- Both spaghetti sauce and lasagna freeze well too. You can get those industrial size cans of tomato sauce or whole tomatoes at Costco and make a ton at once. I also make my own pizza sauce and freeze it in ice cube trays or my mini loaf pans. They stack neatly once removed from the pans and it’s so much cheaper. If you make your own dough, you can make either balls of dough or flatten them out to pizza size, freeze and store as well.
- Somethings don’t freeze well, or rather don’t thaw well, so sometimes you can freeze part of the dish. For example I have a Cheddar Chicken Chowder recipe that of course has potatoes in it. The texture is not good after it’s frozen, because of the milk in the broth, and the potatoes. I can get to a certain part of the recipe, before adding either of those ingredients and freeze it at that point. Then I can thaw out the “base” and start from there. It depends on how much you want to do ahead of time.
- Meat loaf? Why not? It will take a while to thaw a large loaf, but mini loaves or muffin tin sized individual portions will thaw more evenly and quickly.
- Some side dishes freeze pretty well. While the potatoes in the soup don’t freeze well, either sweet potato casserole or mashed potato casserole do fine. Perhaps because of all the additions. I don’t know. I just freeze them without the topping of cheese or streusel and add those right before cooking.