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Filling your fridge/freezer (or PCing)

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
Personal Cheffing has come up in the threads recently as has having convenience foods (good versions) available when time is short or energy is low.
Those of you with small children at home can relate.....what's known to many as the witching hour, when children are hungry and food isn't on the table.
Or as many of us that cook for a living know....after cooking all day the last thing you want to do is go home and cook for yourself.....sometimes in the flow of life there are times when illness hits yourself or a loved one and cooking has to take a backseat, though it can be so important at this time....

The past ten years I've cooked for families/individuals/priests on a weekly or biweekly basis. Many had dietary restrictions, low-fat being predominate....
Personal cheffing is like a personal competition or at least that's how I viewed it....how to buy and use food to prep that meets the specific needs/desires of my clients while working with speed and creating fun dishes not only to prepare but obviously to eat. There's a balance with proportions, cooking prepartions ie are they able to cook lasagna for 2.5 hours, or would they only like to nuke their food.....are they savy enough to fix something ie add liquid or thicken when needed.....how detail to directions need to be....

The following will be how to fill a freezer....
1) look for packaging that works for you.....either disposable, semi disposable or on going used.....metal/corningware. Know how you will use it....fridge/freezer/micro/oven
Ziplocs, plastic, glass, metal, combination of all.

2) Make a list of your (family) favorite meals

3) Go through the freezer section at the grocery store and take notes....this is one of the main places to figure out what actually freezes well and in what state.

4) Braises, Generally Soups, Stews, Some Casseroles, Sausages, Caramelized onions, dumplings.....all freeze well.

An example of filling a fridge and having variations so your doing one prep but different dishes.....

Caramelizing a pan of onions.....I just made a very quick onion soup with frozen cooked onions and chicken stock. Always a good one to have on hand during the flu season. Just package the onions in whatever portion size seems right. They can be pulled to add flavor to pizzas, sandwiches, well anything really.

Chili.....consider making mac/cheese the same day and having chili/mac, chili, mac and cheese, maybe some finer ground chili for dogs/burgers.

Pasta Salad is not for the freezer but a good example of a complete scoopable meal where the veg prep can also be made into soup or other dishes....ie Italian past salad has 2 shapes of pasta, a meat (usually baked chicken with garlic, basil), tomatoes (i usually use supple sun-dried), roasted or blanched garlic, zucchini, red peppers, asparagus, kalamata olives, red onions, basil or better yet pesto you've frozen during the summer that will last all year.....basalmic dressing.
Saute the veg separately, for the salad....making enough to put into a pot with stock, add some pesto, maybe some pasta and of course chicken.....or meatballs.....that's a whole nother springboard, meatballs/meatloaves freeze well.

Stocking the larder with "gold" is key......chickpeas for falafel or hummos or soups, pitas in the freezer for dipping or croutons or pizzas, having olives on hand for umphing up a dish or eating out of hand, tapenade in its basic form has a long fridge life.....Dried tomatoes, Jarred Peppers, Caramelized onions,
Cheeses....some freeze well......Sausages....Noodles.....Stocks, either made by you or canned.

How do you prep your fridge/freezer when you're going out of town and leaving a spouse to fend for themselves, or a friend that's just given birth or an aging parent that does not want to cook for one or a college child or when you have surgery or just as a time factor?
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #2 of 13
Great post with some good ideas. I'm gonna have to read it again - just did a quick skim as my cat, Buddy, jumped into my lap and started demanding attention.

Coincidentally, I was thinking of starting a refrigerator/freezer larder with caramelized onions, and wasn't sure how well they'd freeze. I finally found a half-way decent chicken stock - not quite as good as my home made, but more than acceptable (organic, fat free, low sodium - yada,yada,yada) to use in soups and even as a nice broth when enhanced with some herbs and other flavors. Will pick up a case when it's next on sale. Those two items alone, plus some day-old bread and the aforementioned seasonings, can provide a basis for several nice, easy-fix meals.

I've decided that eggs are Good Eats! and have started keeping a dozen or two on hand for simple egg dishes - fritatas, omelets, scrambled eggs, egg salads of various kinds - there's a pasta-egg-tuna/salmon salad I make that keeps well in the fridge for a week or ten days. It's something I bet kids would love.

Thanks for getting this thread started.

shel
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 
:eek: cooked eggs, fish and pasta for 10 days......

your welcome.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #4 of 13
When I go away for a week or whatever, I have to roast two chickens and have fresh vegetables on hand. From there my wife can handle it pretty well with leftovers and tweaks to the leftovers.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
chuck roasts.....my sons (well and me too) love pot roast.....making multiple is almost as easy as making one. We use it for dinner with mashed potatoes, then shepards pie with shredded roast in gravy on the bottom, shredded carrots, aforementioned mashed potatoes and cheddar on top....freezes relatively well, has decent fridge life and what's not to love?
Pot roast makes great sandwiches, super quick rice/noodle dishes, plopped into veg soup, into tacos/quesadillas or nachos......

Chicken, yesterday I made a fast version of chicken and dumplings....kinda sheepish about typing this but hey, even the scratchiest cooks/chefs sometimes take shortcuts when necessary. Stock (this happened to be my made) bought frozen dumplings dropped at the boil, in another pot olive oil, chopped onions and chicken thighs.....cooked the onions until wilted then added boxed stock to the thighs/onions to cover. Cooked them as the dumplings were cooking (30 minutes) then pulled the thighs out into a bowl to cool prior to pulling off the skin/bones....dumped onions/stock into the dumplings/stock.....had other pots/oven going at the same time thus this was the speed version.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #6 of 13

Frozen Vegetables

I used to keep a lot of frozen vegetables on hand, but since so many items now come from China and other foreign sources, there are very few pre-packaged frozen vegetables that I'll consider.

Ideally, buying fresh vegetables from a farmers market or known local source and freezing them is a good first choice, and finding high quality, locally (USA or perhaps Canadian grown and produced organic) frozen veggies may be a good second choice.

So ..

What vegetables will freeze well and what's the best way to prep them for freezing? I love leafy greens - chard, kale, and the like - can they be frozen? Not had good results with them.

Are there any pre-packaged frozen vegetables that you know of that will meet my requirements?

shel
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
winter leafy greens....well part of the answer is what are you going to make with them as your final dish.....If you cook them southern ie to death in liquid then freezing is not an issue, they will freeze beautifully. Sauteed then frozen and added to soups or a wet dish should work fine...even adding to fritattas or quiche. But if you want the texture of fresh your SOL Shel.

Frozen, I don't have brands off the top of my head that fit your criteria. Frozen from your local markets....well shelled beans fresh thrown in the freezer work out well, okra cut and put on sheet trays until frozen then bagged, caramelized onions....you know raw onion frozen doesn't do it for me, hmmmm having a proclivity to also consume southern preps gives cooked til it's dead an edge on fresh light CA cookin' when freezing is desired.
Well, let's see....winter squash puree freezes well....wilted spinach, blanched broccoli if it's to be used in soup or a wet pasta sauce, mushrooms...well duxelle freezes well, but sauteed shrooms have a not great texture....I've not frozen stuffed portabello and wonder how they would fair with a veg stuffing.
Meatballs with greens freeze.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #8 of 13
Shel, check out the Ball Blue Book. It has a whole section on freezing, including veggies.

Although there are notable exceptions, most veggies benefit from being blanched and shocked before freezing. Take snap beans, for instance. Prep the beans. Drop into rapidly boiling water for 3 minutes. Shock in ice water. Package and freeze.

Keep in mind, though, that there is often a texture and consistency change when freezing fresh vegetables. Summer squash, for instance, is likely to turn soft and watery.

Almost all cooked veggies freeze well.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #9 of 13
You've given me some good ideas - I forgot about adding greens to meatballs. I'm always putting greens into soups ... yummy! Gotta try freezing squash in various forms, see what works best. .

If I get leafy greens at the farmers market they will keep longer in the fridge than store-bought greens. Possibly because they're fresher to begin with. Love using the stems in soup ...

Any reason to think cauliflower won't freeze as well as broccoli? Frozen shrooms for pasta and rice dishes, soups - good idea.

Thanks again, you've been very helpful.

shel
post #10 of 13
Thanks! Very helpful.

shel
post #11 of 13

Storage

This has been a very useul thread - at least it has been for me. I sincerely hope it will continue a while with some more ideas about how to plan ahead and purchase various items. Shroom has gotten us off to a good start.

However, maybe we need to think about how to store the items we cooked and prepared. For the most part, it's probably pretty simple, what with freezer bags, food savers, covered dishes, and what not. However, I wonder if, at least for certain items, there might be a "best" way to store them. I'm pretty much a storage novice, and I'm sure others reading these messages may be as well. So what storage techniques work best for what foods and preparations? And what things may not store well regardless - what should be eaten or used relatively quickly? Should some items be stored in air tight containers, do others need some ventilation, should some things be stored with something to absorb moisture?

shel
post #12 of 13
Great thread...

When I had a week away from everything years ago- kids, husband, family, work, housework - to go to an island and do nothing but fish, eat and drink (oh lord I wish I was there now) - I made 7 completely different casseroles and froze them. All they had to do was defrost and nuke. Other than buying fresh bread, milk and juice and some fruit and veg - it was all they had to do. I stocked up the pantry and fridge with basics - fruit juice, butter, cheese, ketchup, fruit which could refrigerate, snacks for the kids, some tinned basics (baked beans, sardines, tuna) and cut meats which I knew would keep. Oh and plentiful cordial and softdrinks. Then I left them to it.

Mind you, they are pretty easy to please and don't have restrictions to the diet, so it was an easier lot than some out there. They survived (I have a niggling feeling takeaway featured more ofter than I'd like but hey, I enjoyed myself and they lived!).
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
when asked at a local college deacom meeting what I'd like to see taught in the culinary program, one of the biggest things is how to utilize food....ie you've got alot of bananas going black what do you do with them?
Or Basil is $2.50 a # and you have access to 30#'s......or it's tomato season and some farmer is at your back door with 300#s of tomatoes that will need to be utilized. You've got X amount of freezer space.


Ok, shrooms....many dry extremely well, I prefer using dried porcini & morels because the flavor is much more pronounced. Some do not dry well....chanterelles, the only thing I'd do with a dried chanterelle is grind it into powder and use that....but they freeze well after being sauteed.
Duxelle, something about that cream makes the texture of shrooms ok after being frozen.

Basil....stem, grind with good oil (I use EVO) and freeze......if you add pinenuts/parmesan/garlic you've limited the use of the basil and shortened it's freshness time.

Most leafy herbs can be made into a flavored vinager, or processed as above in oil and frozen in small increments.

Tomatoes....oh man, well there's dried, oven dried to still very moist....
Jams and Chutneys can be processed in canning jars to save room in the freezer. I cook some down to paste again to save freezer space.


Berries, most can be frozen.....laid on a cookie sheet in the freezer until frozen then put in a ziploc bag.

doughs, most freeze....some better than others. Pie dough, Pate Sucre, Puff Paste, Cookie Dough, Fillo Dough

Smoking extends shelf life.....Several of my friends are into interesting charcuterie....hanging and drying sausages.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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