I hope you’re all staying healthy and sane. This week, instead of a recipe, I thought it might be nice to send you some of my favorite cooking tips - specifically, tips on freezing all of the delicious food you're making during quarantine, as well as the critical ingredients that you're hoarding in case the grocery stores never re-stock (looking at you, yeast and flour!!). Those who know me well know that I'm the queen of the freezer, and I have not one but three freezers around my house. While that's way more extreme than most, I wanted to pass along some tricks that will help you use even a tiny freezer in ways you never expected.
Before I list my tips, let me begin by saying that in all cases, the biggest negative in freezing is Freezer Burn. But never fear, it's easily avoided! The key here is to get rid of all excess air. It’s the moisture in the air that results in the burn, so before you seal up an item to freeze (and I highly recommend that you freeze most items in a plastic bag, rather than a solid container), squeeze out ALL the air! Of course, it’s a bit harder to do that in a solid container, so if you're using one, I’d recommend putting a layer of plastic wrap directly over whatever you’re freezing--touching the surface of the food itself--to protect it from any air in said container. Got that?
And if you’re freezing liquids, soft items, or ground meats, once you’ve sealed them up, spread the contents into a flat layer within the bag. This will make it much easier to stack in your freezer, and it will thaw much faster once you’re ready to eat it!
Without further ado, here are some items you may not know are freezer candidates:
- My personal fave: Popcorn! It’s my go-to comfort food and I always pop way too much. But who likes leftover, stale popcorn? Just throw it into a bag, freeze it, and voila! You can eat it right out of the freezer! Because popcorn is mostly air, it won’t actually freeze solid and it’ll stay fresh for weeks - plus, it won't even be that cold when it comes out of the freezer (weird but true!).
- Yeast: this little goodie will last almost indefinitely if you keep it cold and dry.
- Leftover Bread to make breadcrumbs: throw those leftover slices into a freezer bag. When needed, tear the frozen slices into smaller pieces, toss ‘em into your blender or food processor, and boom, instant breadcrumbs! Even better: whatever crumbs you don’t use can be tossed right back into the freezer.
- Tomato Paste: Why is it that most recipes call for a tablespoon or two, but the can always contains sooo much more? This is where those cheap, plastic ice cube trays come in really handy. Scoop the leftover paste into the tray (each cube holds about 2 tablespoons), freeze it, then pop the cubes into a bag for storage. When needed, just toss a cube into whatever you’re making… they thaw really fast.
- Pesto: Time to grab the ice cube tray again. The addition of a frozen pesto cube adds extra flavor to soups or sauces, or you can thaw a few at a time and use on pasta or a pizza!
- Lemon (or Lime) Juice: Don’t put the ice cube tray away yet! It’s lemon season now, so juice a few, freeze the juice in the tray, then pop the frozen cubes into a bag to store. You’ll have lemon juice at the ready for the rest of the year.
- Fresh Herbs: Basil, Thyme, Oregano… just about any herb will do. Chop them up a bit, drop them into ice cube trays (yup, the tray is back), then cover them with olive oil. Once frozen, you’ll have delicious herby cubes to drop into your pasta sauce or anything else that could use a little extra flavor.
- Nuts: I store all my (shelled) nuts in the freezer. Kept cold and dry, they’ll last so much longer than in your pantry.
- Grains, such as flour, oats, rice: The freezer definitely keeps them fresher. And…(I can’t swear to the science of this, but it really does seem to work) freezing for 48 hours is said to kill those pesky moths that just love to create havoc in your pantry.
- Broth: Only used half the can? Pour the rest into (you guessed it) ICE CUBE TRAYS!
Bonus #11: Milk! Are you leaving on vacation (I promise, that time will come again one day...) but still have ½ gallon of milk in the fridge? Don’t pour it out! Put the whole container in the freezer. Just make sure you leave enough space in the container for the milk to expand upon freezing. When you return home, pop the container into the fridge to thaw. Yes, this is completely safe and doesn’t change the flavor at all.
That’s it for now. Hope you found these helpful. And when life returns to some normalcy, please don’t hesitate to join me for a real, live and in person cooking class at EATSIES! J