There’s certainly a chill in the air today and the mercury has dropped a good few degrees. So I’m planning on retreating to the kitchen and rattling a few pots and pans to make some dishes to freeze away for the coming days and months. This is something I often do and was a life-saver in the early days after my weight-loss surgery. I didn’t feel like cooking for myself (or others) while healing and was so grateful for the stash I had made pre-op. Now it has become something of a new habit – I still cook the same quantities I did pre-op and freeze the excess or leftovers. There’s always something on hand for those evenings when time is at a premium and energy is flagging. Here’s some advice on how to get ahead:
Do you have a crazy schedule that makes cooking from scratch every day somewhat challenging? The why not maximize your cooking time by doubling or tripling recipes and freezing the leftovers, and you’ll eat deliciously on another occasion days or weeks from now. Whether you’re simmering a soup or stew or preparing a casserole, or simply repurposing leftovers from a basic meat, fish or evegetable dinner, use your freezer as a backup for those times when you’re too busy to cook. To dress up a previously frozen dish, sprinkle with some chopped fresh herbs of your choice, and/or add a little grated lemon zest or a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, and serving with freshly good vegetables, a newly-made salad or side dish.
Freeze any of these:
Soups, stews, casseroles, and meat and poultry dishes all freeze well for up to two-three months. While they would likely still be safe to eat past the three-month mark, they can lose moisture or flavour and not be as delicious. Pasta and rice don’t freeze as well on their own, because they can become soggy when thawed, but it does depend upon what you’re using them for.
To freeze soup: Cool soup to room temperature, pour it into big zip-top plastic freezer bags, push out any air, and place in the freezer. Thaw by microwaving at Medium Power (50%) for several minutes or until the contents starts to return to a liquid state. Transfer the soup to a saucepan, cover, and simmer over low heat for 15-30 minutes or until hot. Most of our flavourful soups can be easily doubled and frozen. Likewise small quantities leftover can also be frozen for later eating. A brilliant get-ahead way to cope with the fluid and soft food stage after weight-loss surgery (when you may not feel like cooking at all).
To freeze cooked meat or poultry dishes: Cool to room temperature, then divide into one or two big zip-top freezer bags, pushing the air out. Arrange the bags in the freezer by laying them flat and freeze. When ready to use, microwave a bag for 5 or 6 minutes on Medium Power (50%) or until the meat or poultry starts to thaw, then transfer the sealed bag to a large pan or Dutch oven filled with boiling water. Simmer (without opening the bag) for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the food is thoroughly warmed through. Many of our recipes respond well to this treatment.
To freeze cooked casseroles: Freeze the casserole, ideally in its covered dish for up to 3 months. You can always line the dish, freeze and then remove the casserole itself so freeing the dish for other use. Or simply decant or spoon into a freezer box and seal. There are no hard and fast rules for defrosting and serving since this will depend upon the ingredients and quantities frozen. A typical quantity of beef casserole, to serve 4, however should be left at room temperature for 21/2 hours to defrost, then reheated in a hot oven for 30 minutes or until the centre is hot.
Here are some recipes from our archive that cook and freeze well for later eating:
Sweet Potato and Carrot Soup (recipe here)
Minted Leek and Pea Soup (recipe here)
Turkish Tomato, Lentil and Mint Soup (recipe here)
Cheesy Tenderstem Broccoli Soup (recipe here)
Claire’s Masoor Dhal (recipe here)
One Pot Lamb Casserole with Shallots (recipe here)
Lamb Shanks with Shallots and Coconut Harissa Sauce (recipe here)
Easy Vegetable Chilli (recipe here)
Old-Fashioned Beef Stew with Optional Dumplings (recipe here)
Some advice courtesy of The South Beach Diet