Monday, March 5, 2012

From freezer to table, be prepared at all times.

Well, if you thought it was tough getting a meal on the table when you're busy, try when you are sick.  When you are the sole cook in the house, and like to cook from grocery to table, trying to get a meal together is a problem.  Sure, my family could boil a pot of water and make spaghetti. They could make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or grilled cheese. They could have gone to the store and picked up something to make. There was another problem here, which was, that they really didn't want to cook. I have spoiled my family with fresh homecooked meals. Take out became king, while the cook was down and out, due to a bad back and a bad cold. This cook should know that you should always be prepared for the unexpected.  To my grandmother, the "unexpected" was guests.  She always kept horderves in the freezer in case someone stopped by. Her preparedness was sort of funny to me, but now I see that she was ahead of her time and I should be a little better prepared myself.  I'm feeling a bit like the grasshopper in Aesop's fable, in that I have failed to have stocked up in the freezer department. One usually doesn't think to prepare for situations like getting a cold or flu, or having their back go out suddenly. Freezing some of the meals I had made, however, would have come in handy the last couple of weeks. There are so many dishes you can make ahead of time and freeze. You can also freeze left overs and package them like t.v. dinners, in containers with compartments.  We all know this, but do you actually do it?  Planning for a raining day, in this case, a day you are unable to cook, isn't a bad idea. Pasta dishes do well frozen and reheated, as do soups, stews and chili.  Meatloaf and brisket hold up to freezing too. I think I will take the advise from the ant, and prepare some foods ahead of time to freeze. If you are planning on freezing any meals in the future, here are some helpful tips from Allrecipes.com

Before You Freeze

Before freezing hot food, it's important to let it cool down. Heat will raise the temperature of the freezer; and the food will not freeze uniformly, the outer edges of the hot dish will freeze hard quickly while the inside might not cool in time to prevent spoilage.
There are just a few things to keep in mind:
  • Cool precooked dishes as quickly as possible before they are placed in the freezer.
  • For fastest cooling, place the pan of hot food in a sink filled with ice water (or in a larger pan of ice water). If you're cooling a soup, stew, or sauce, stir occasionally to help it cool evenly.
  • Once the dish is cooled, portion it into meal-sized containers or packages. Label and date the containers. Place them in a single layer in the coldest area of your freezer until completely frozen. Rearrange as necessary.

    Tips for Freezing Foods

    Poorly wrapped foods run the risk of developing freezer burn and unpleasant odors from other foods in the freezer. Follow these simple wrapping and container tips to ensure the quality and safety of your food:
    • Use only specialty freezer wrappings: they should be both moisture-proof and vapor-proof.
    • Leave as little air as possible in the packages and containers. When freezing liquids in containers, allow a small amount of head room for expansion. When using freezer bags, be sure to remove as much air as possible before closing.
    • Wrap solids foods like meats and baked goods tightly in foil before you bag them.
    • Use rigid containers with an air-tight lid and keep the sealing edge free from moisture or food to ensure proper closure.
    • Secure wrapped packages and containers with freezer tape, and write the dish and the date on the tape with a marker.
    • In many cases, meats and fish wrapped by the grocer or butcher need no extra attention before freezing. However, meat wrapped on Styrofoam trays with plastic wrap will not hold up well to freezing. If the food you want to freeze was not specially wrapped, then re-wrap them at home.
    • Freeze in small containers with no more than a 1-quart capacity to ensure that freezing takes place in a timely manner (i.e., within four hours). Food that is two inches thick will take about two hours to freeze completely.

      Thawing Frozen Foods

      With the exception of muffins, breads, and other baked goods, do not thaw foods at room temperature. Bacteria can grow in the thawed portion of prepared foods, releasing toxins that are unsafe to eat even after cooking.

      To ensure that your food is safe to eat, follow one of these proper ways to thaw:
      In the refrigerator: This is the slowest but safest thawing technique. Small frozen items might thaw in a few hours, while larger items will take significantly longer--overnight and then some.
      In cold water: Place the frozen food in a leak-proof bag and place in a large container of cold water.
      In a microwave on the defrost setting: Plan to cook the food immediately after it has thawed in a microwave, because some areas of the food might have begun cooking during the defrost cycle.

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