Tag Archives: Cooking

freezer-food

Time to Freeze!

It’s Time to Freeze!

It’s that time of year when we’re all like hermit crabs hiding inside our shells. The days are short and sunlight is minimal. When the short or long days of winter — depending on your preference — are upon us, I like to hibernate in my kitchen. Aside from the holidays, I like to do a lot of preparation of hearty and homey meals that my entire family can enjoy for months down the road. Not to mention that it’s super easy to pop a meal into the oven on a busy day and still have a good wholesome meal for my kids to enjoy.

I used to make meals and put them in our outdoor freezer for a later time, but how much time? I usually caught myself spending a moment with the freezer door propped open to think about how long ago I put that lovely dish into the deep freeze. But, is it still okay? It’s been a few months and maybe I shouldn’t feature this on my table tonight.

I’m sure you’ve been down this road as well. Many times those meals that I spent so much of my hibernation time fixing for a later date end up in the bottom of the garbage. Not only is that a waste of time, but it’s a huge waste of money!

After doing a little research, I realized that those bundles of joy that I put into the freezer might not last as long as I once thought. So I changed my philosophy! In the past, I would put the date on the dish when I put it into the freezer. Now, I put the expiration date on the food instead. This way I know what needs to be eaten and what has a little more resting time in the climate controlled dungeon.

Here are a few great ideas that I use in my kitchen that will keep things simple and help make dinner a breeze.

Flash Freeze Protein

Instead of tossing leftover, uncooked chicken breasts or other pieces of protein in a freezer bag, place them on a cookie sheet and pop them in the freezer for about 30 minutes to an hour. Then grab them up and toss them in one big freezer bag. This way you can use as many pieces as you need without having to thaw out the entire bag, and you’ll know exactly what you have left. This simple trick is great for chicken breasts, fish and pork chops.

Go On and Brown

Brown your ground turkey, chicken, beef, or pork and then drain. Once it’s fully drained and has cooled, put it in a freezer-safe container and set it in the freezer to use at a later date. This way you have saved one step already in the preparation of your meals and you’ll be ready for dinner in a flash.

Breakfast Right Out of Bed

Mornings can be tough in my house, but preparing breakfast muffins on a weekend allows me to get ready for weekday breakfast meals for everyone. Simply pull out what you want to eat that day, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds, and a perfect and healthy meal will await you.

Skip The Bulk

Large plastic containers can be troublesome for many modern day freezers. Try replacing your large plastic containers with plastic freezer bags instead. Chili, sauces, and stews are all great to add to plastic bags. Remove all the air and lay them flat. They’ll store well and cleanup is a breeze.

Deconstruction At Its Best

We’ve all heard of deconstructed “X, Y, Z” on the restaurant menu. Now it’s time to take that philosophy home. Want Sloppy Joes for supper? Put your Sloppy Joe mixture in a plastic bag, freeze the buns alongside the meat mixture and you’ve got a great meal without an extra stop at the grocery store. You can also break down recipes with raw ingredients into bags, and then place them in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook you have an entire meal prepped and ready for dinner in a flash.

Cool It

For the best freezer results and to get the greatest shelf life out of your freezer meals, make sure to cool the food first. When you cool your food it reduces the size as cold items retract. This is the key to keeping those sauces, stews, and soups nice and flat in bags. It also reduces condensation on containers.

Throw It Out

You know the rule, “When in Doubt, Throw It Out.” If something is already questionable in your fridge, don’t toss it in the freezer. The likelihood of your getting sick is just as possible after it’s frozen as it was in the fridge.

Did You Know?

You can freeze some very non-conventional items. Check out a few of these that you might not know about. You can freeze:

  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Bread – Perfect for small households where it’s impossible to consume an entire loaf of bread before it goes bad.
  • Fruit – If it’s too ripe, just toss it in the freezer and don’t let it go to waste. It’s great for smoothies or cobblers.
  • Stock, Juices, and Flavored Liquids – If you need to preserve that chicken stock before it goes bad, put it in an ice tray and freeze it. Once it’s good and frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a baggie for later use.

Thaw It Out

It’s frozen. Now what? Safely thawing your frozen items is just as important as proper freezing techniques. These suggestions are the safest way to thaw foods before consumption.

  • In the Refrigerator – Although it’s not always the fastest, it’s the safest because it slowly brings the food back to a cool temperature for consumption. With a little bit of pre-planning, this is the safest way to enjoy your freezer meals.
  • In Cold Water – Yes, COLD, not hot. Place frozen items in a bowl or pot of cold water for 30 minutes and then replace with more cold water, if necessary. Again, this keeps the food at a safe temperature during the thawing process.
  • Microwave – This method can actually lead to uneven thawing, but in some cases it is a sure, fast way to get your frozen items thawed quickly. Uneven thawing can cause bacteria growth, so when thawing fruits and vegetables using this method, consume them immediately.
  • Room Temperature – Breads, pastries, and muffins are the only items that should be considered when using this method to prevent the growth and development of bacteria.

By using these tips, you’ll be ready for the cold winter days ahead and on the path to easy meal preparation for your family. To share your tips or suggestions on great freezer meals visit us at dcfocusmagazine.com.

Campfire Cooking 031

Campfire Cookouts and Recipes.

Campfire Recipes

HJHB-Campfire-CookingGet out there! Camping is a great inexpensive way to enjoy the outdoors and have fun with friends and family. There are some wonderful campgrounds right here in Davidson County and some just beyond our county line. You don’t even have to leave your own backyard. A fun night under the stars is as simple as pitching a tent and building a campfire. What can really make camping special are amazing foods that are cooked over a fire. With some of these delicious recipes, you’ll wonder how you can cook on an open fire more often.

First, you’ll need to build an open flame. As is the standard in most campgrounds, make sure you have a fire ring to prevent the flames from spreading. This metal structure will secure the fire in a contained area, also making it easier to keep the fire going as it burns down. As always, please check on any burning hazards or warnings for your area before setting a fire.

Once you have a solid fire burning, you’re ready to start cooking.

 Skillet Breakfast Pizza

Ingredients

  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 lb. breakfast sausage
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 – 5 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tube refrigerated crescent rlls
  • 6 egs, beaten
  • 1 tsp. Italian sasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 4 – 6 oz. mozzarella cheese
  • 4 – 6 oz. mixed Colby and Cheddar Cheese

Instructions

Stoke up a fire and get plenty of coals burning. Spray Dutch oven with nonstick spray. We use a 10″ Dutch oven, so you may need to adjust ingredient proportions accordingly if yours is a different size.

Cook bacon, drain grease. Set aside to cool. Crumble once cooled. Brown sausage; drain grease.

Mix in garlic, peppers, onions and mushrooms in with sausage. Saute until softened – about 5 minutes. Stir in crumbled bacon. Remove mixture and set aside.

If you want an easier cleanup, line Dutch oven with tin foil. Spray tin foil with nonstick spray. Unroll crescent rolls and line base of pan. Create the “crust” of the pizza by pinching the dough vertically along the side of the Dutch oven, up to 1″. Fill the crust with meat and veggie mixture.

Beat eggs. Add in Italian seasoning, red pepper and salt & pepper. Pour over meat and veggie mixture.

Sprinkle cheese on top of egg, meat & veggie mixture.

Cover Dutch oven with lid and place on fire. Place 7- 8 coals along the bottom and 14 – 16 on top of lid. Bake 25 – 35 minutes or until eggs are no longer loose in the middle. Remove from fire. Let cool a few minutes, slice, serve up and enjoy!

Ginger Sesame Salmon Packs

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger (grated)
  • 1 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. lemon Juice
  • 1/2 tbsp. dill (fresh, preferably or 1/4 tsp. dried)
  • 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 – 1/3 c. onions (sliced in rings, to taste)
  • 1 small red potato, (chopped, sliced 1/4″ thick)
  • 1 salmon fillet (4 – 6 oz.)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Foil sheet, 12 – 16″

Instructions

Mix together the ginger, rice vinegar, sesame oil, lemon juice and dill in a small bowl. Set aside.

Spray the foil sheet with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Assemble the carrot, onion and potato in the middle of the foil sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a quarter of the vinegar & oil mixture over the veggies.

Place the salmon fillet on top of the veggies. Season lightly with salt and pepper and brush with remainder of vinegar & oil mixture. Fold and seal foil packet. Don’t seal it too tightly, leave a little room in the packet for air to flow back and forth within the packet. If you’re putting the packet directly on coals, add a second layer of foil to keep it from tearing while in the coals.

Cook for 20 minutes on a covered grill, or in the coals, until the potatoes are softened. Open with caution and enjoy!

Campfire Cobbler – Peach

  • 2 sticks butter (1 c.)
  • 6 c. peeled and sliced fresh peaches
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1⁄2 c. heavy cream

Topping

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp. salt
  • 7 Tbsp. salted butter, cold and cut into chunks
  • 1⁄2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 3⁄4 c. half-and-half

To make cobbler, melt butter in cast-iron pot. Add peaches, sugars, cinnamon and cream. Bring to a boil, then move pot out of direct heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring throughout.

While peaches are cooking, make the topping. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add butter and  work in with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 1⁄2 cup sugar and blend well. Gradually mix in half-and-half until dough just comes together.

Spoon dough over peach mixture in pot. Sprinkle remaining sugar on top. Cover.

Rake out thin layer of coals. Set pot on coals and cover lid with thick layer of coals. Let bake for about 20 minutes, checking after 10 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream.