By Lisa Barthuly
Do you have a freezer? Are you using it to help you keep organized and bless yourself and others? Right about now are you wondering just what in the world I am talking about? If so, now that I have your attention, stay with me! I have found my freezer to be such an asset in my ongoing quest to keep our home life organized, keep chaos at bay, and reclaim some of that precious time that flies by so quickly!
Let me start off by saying I love to cook, bake, and spend time in my kitchen (unless, of course, there are dishes to be done, but that is another article entirely). I also enjoy spending that time in a relaxed fashion, enjoying what I am doing, cooking with my daughters, making meals with time to really enjoy the cooking process, or as my husband likes to say, “Made with lovvvvvvvvvve.”
I do not enjoy the “5 p.m.—what’s for dinner, rush, rush, rush” scenario that breeds chaos, stress, and usually ends with everyone eating toast and fruit, sprinkled with crankiness. I have learned that using the tools I have been given to make life a little less chaotic is a huge blessing. Enter . . . the freezer! My freezers have become such a blessing in recent years. I use them in my food preservation and storage plans to a degree, but I also use them to help us out on the busiest of our homeschool days, with “convenience goodies”!
What about those days that just get crazy?! We’ve all had them. Some days, dinner gets moved to the backburner of the mind (no pun intended), and on those days it’s especially nice to have some preplanned meals, or even side dishes, waiting in the freezer. On those extra busy days, I love being able to pull out a complete, home-cooked, nutritious meal from the freezer.
Keeping staples on hand is a huge help with meal prep and basic food preservation. One way we use our freezer in the quest of keeping “staples” in stock is to bake extra loaves of our homemade breads and rolls for the freezer on baking days. Another thing we’ve done that is so handy is to chop, dice, or slice onions when we get them in bulk (and organic!) for a great price or bring them in from the garden. We chop up both onions and green peppers in “meal portions,” put them in in half-cup to one-cup servings in cheapie sandwich bags, and then put all of those bags inside one large, gallon-size freezer bag and toss it in the freezer. When a recipe requires onion or peppers, just grab one of these little bags and dump the needed amount in your mixing bowl—easy!
It’s nice to have side dishes in the freezer too, just one more thing already done for you! Here is the recipe for one of my all-time favorite sides. It can of course be made fresh, or you can double up the recipe and freeze it in whatever portion size works for your family.
|Potatoes Romanoff |
This recipe was one of my grandmother’s specialties and is one of my favorites. I also love it because it is completely “forgiving.” You simply mix spuds, cheese, sour cream, and green onion, and you know it’s gonna be good!
• Wash 8–10 medium/larger-sized baker spuds.
• Put into a large pot of boiling water (jackets on—cut in halves).
• Boil until cooked; remove, drain water, and let cool.
• Meanwhile, grate 3–4+ cups of cheddar cheese.
• Chop up ¼–½ cup of green onions (depending on your preference).
Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl:
• 2 teaspoons sea salt
• 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
• A few sprinkles of homemade, Johnny’s, or Lawry’s seasoning salt
• 1 pint sour cream (You may need 2 pints, depending on how many spuds you cook and how big they actually are. You want your mixture to be moist, not dry. I usually use closer to 2 pints.)
• 2 cups grated cheese
• Half of the green onions
Once your spuds have cooled down, peel and grate them and add them to those ingredients in the bowl. Mix it all up with your hands. The consistency should be stiff, not soupy—but moistened by the sour cream. Once it’s thoroughly mixed, put the mixture in an oven-safe baking dish that has been sprayed or greased lightly. Top with extra cheese and green onions (and maybe some more fresh ground pepper).
Cover the filled baking dish with plastic wrap, gently pressing the plastic wrap down onto the potatoes (to press out that layer of air between the food and the plastic wrap), and then seal the whole thing in foil, add a label, and put it in the freezer—right in the dish you will bake it in! When you are ready to use this dish, simply remove it from the freezer a day in advance. Right before popping it into the oven, remove the foil so that you can remove the plastic wrap. Then reseal the dish with the foil and bake in a 375° oven for about 45 minutes or so. You can either remove the foil during the last 15 minutes of baking time or leave the casserole dish covered the entire 45 minutes.
We have enjoyed Potatoes Romanoff on many a special day. It’s delicious with just about anything but pairs really well with turkey.
It’s always nice to have a little treat ready to be whipped up, so here’s another recipe that the Barthuly family enjoys frequently.
|Chocolate Chip Cookies|
As you are spending a day in the kitchen or having a “Freezer Cooking Day,” make up a few batches of this dough and then shape it into a “roll form” after putting the dough into a large, sealed freezer bag. (Squishing all the dough into the bottom portion of a gallon-size, ziplock bag presses out most of the air and shapes all the dough into a “log” form for easier cutting when frozen.)
When you want cookies but don’t have time to whip up a batch from scratch, just take a cookie dough roll out of the freezer, slice off ¼" to ½" rounds from your roll, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350°, and you’ve got homemade cookies the simple way! You could do this with any (or many!) cookie recipes.
1½ cups softened butter (3 sticks)
¾ cup sugar
1¼ cups brown sugar (packed)
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking soda
2–4 cups chocolate chips
In a large bowl, beat butter, sugars, vanilla, and eggs on medium speed till light and fluffy. Add flour and baking soda; beat. Stir in chocolate chips.
If you want to bake up a few for a treat right away, drop dough on an ungreased cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls, 2" apart; flatten slightly (if baking fresh; if baking from frozen state, see instructions above). Bake 7–10 minutes in a 350° degree oven. Watch the first batch carefully; do not over-bake! Remove, cool slightly, and enjoy!
What are some of my other freezer recipe favorites? The dishes below (frozen assets!) are nice to have on hand for quick, easy, and delicious meals.
Quick & Simply Delicious Burritos
These are great to have made up for a quick meal, meal on the run, or in hubby’s lunches so he can have a hot meal at the office without the expense of going out to lunch! I got this idea from Crystal over at Money Saving Mom (www.MoneySavingMom.com), and they’ve worked great in our family. This is another one of those wonderfully forgiving recipes, so customize it to suit your family’s taste.
2 pounds ground beef
1–2 cups homemade or canned refried beans
½ cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon homemade taco seasoning* or 2 tablespoons salsa
2–3 cups grated cheddar cheese
|* You can find my recipe here: http://www.homesteadoriginals.com/blog/2010/07/15/homemade-taco-seasoning/.|
I fry up my ground beef with my onions, add in my taco seasoning or salsa, and cook until beef is completely done. I then add in my refried beans (you could make this without refried beans too), basically to warm them enough so that they will blend well with the beef mixture.
Then I set aside that mixture and organize my mini assembly line. I tear off an approximately 10" x 10" sheet of foil for each burrito I am going to make, as well as one paper towel (plain white paper towels—no fancy prints, colors, or dyes) for each burrito. Note: My foil looks all wrinkly because I am cheap, and I save and reuse my foil when I can.
Follow along, because this is the key to getting these burritos to turn out great when you take them out of the freezer.
• Lay one piece of foil down on your counter; layer a paper towel on top of the foil and a flour tortilla atop the paper towel. Then scoop some of the beef mixture into the center of the tortilla. At this stage, you could add in extra salsa, grated cheddar, fresh chopped green onions, or fresh cilantro—whatever your heart desires, or just use your plain beef mixture.
• Now fold in the “ends.”
• With your thumbs, fold up one side, and start rolling up your burrito.
• Keep rolling . . .
• Then do the same basic fold ’n’ roll technique with the paper towel.
• Repeat again with the foil.
I then put all my burritos in a ziplock freezer bag or the leftover tortilla bag (if it has a ziplock seal on it) and pop it into the freezer; it’s that easy! When you want to cook up a burrito, just remove one from your plastic bag, remove the foil (fold it up and save it for your next batch of burritos!), and microwave it in the paper towel (this is key, because the paper towel keeps the burrito moist and prevents the flour tortilla from getting as hard as a rock). You could put these in your hubby’s lunch frozen. By lunch time they’d be a little thawed, and he could just pop them into the microwave at work.
Try some freezer cooking today. It is such a help on those very busy days, on a day when you want to slow down and enjoy some extra time with your precious family, or when you need to come up with a meal in a hurry in order to minister to another family. You’ll love the simple blessing of it!
Lisa is blessed to be a wife to Marc, Mama to four blessings, and a keeper at home! They live their homestead adventure in the mountains of the Northwest, seeking the trail that the Father has called them to follow, “off the beaten path.” They operate a family-run business, Homestead Originals (www.HomesteadOriginals.com). Lisa is the author of the Homestead Simplicity E-Book series. Come on by and visit Lisa’s blog (www.homesteadoriginals.com/blog).
Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, Fall 2010.
Used with permission.
Visit them at http://www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com.