What to Keep in the Freezer
If you haven’t had time to shop for fresh produce, a fully-stocked freezer will give you lots of options for a speedy home-cooked meal.
Healthy Frozen Foods
Frozen produce has all been blanched (cooked for a short time in boiling water) to add color and preserve its texture. Other than losing some water-soluble vitamins during this blanching process, frozen food can often be at least as healthy as fresh. It’s picked at the height of the season and frozen immediately—something that gives it an advantage to out-of-season produce that lingers in warehouses, trucks, and supermarkets before it reaches your kitchen. There’s also a wide variety of organic frozen fruit and vegetables to choose from.
Freezing Your Own Meals
One great time-saver is to make larger quantities of your favorite freezer-friendly foods and store them in serving-sized containers—just make sure they’re freezer safe. Heavy-duty plastic containers from takeaway can be re-used as can glass jars or plastic bags (as long as they’re marked for freezer use). Since moisture is the worst enemy of frozen foods, make sure everything is wrapped well; double- or triple-wrapping with plastic wrap works great for larger items such as cakes or pies. Food should be completely cooled before adding it to the freezer, but if you’re pressed for time, try cooling your dish over an “ice bath”, literally a bowl full of water and ice.
Some items that are handy to have on hand include: corn, spinach, peas, berries, peaches, chicken breasts, ground turkey, shrimp, won ton skins & puff pastry.
Although it’s one of the most effective ways to preserve foods, frozen items do go bad eventually. As a rule, fruit and vegetables will stay freezer fresh for around eight months, meat and poultry for three, and fish and shellfish for up to six months. Follow the expiration dates on packaged items and don’t be shy about discarding something from the freezer that smells or tastes off. Don’t try to re-freeze defrosted foods either—the texture and flavor will both suffer. To freeze something you’ve cooked yourself, keep foods slightly underdone so that you’ll avoid over-cooking in the reheating process. Mark the date that you add something to the freezer and follow the guidelines above for how long to store them.
How to Thaw
Contrary to popular belief, many frozen foods don’t require any thawing at all. Veggies can be added directly to a sauté pan or a pot without wasting any time warming them up. Fish filets and some types of sausages can also be cooked directly from frozen, and you can save time thawing fruit or vegetables by running them under cool water in the sink. Frozen meat should always be thawed in the fridge and can take up to 48 hours, depending on the cut.