My freezer is one of my very best friends. I know. Weird. But hear me out.
This weekend I grabbed from the freezer a roll of Gorgonzola-Herb Butter that I had made in advance and froze. Once it thawed, I sliced it and topped grilled steaks. I will confess to adding a pat to my mashed potatoes as well. It made for an amazing meal without a lot of fuss.
The next day, I grabbed a loaf of sourdough bread — also from the freezer — and we made an impromptu panini bar with the leftovers. May I say that that gorgonzola butter makes a fabulous sandwich filling?
I felt like a rock-star chef, but really, I hadn’t done anything that special. At least not this weekend.
That is the beauty of make-ahead and freeze meals. I don’t have to spend inordinate time in the kitchen — unless I want to. Batch cooking allows me to prep many meals at once and store them to use later. In this way, we have lovely, homemade food items at the ready.
Here are some of my favorite things to stash in the freezer:
• Vegetable-Beef Lasagne and Make-Ahead Garlic Bread
• Creamy Chicken Enchiladas and Seasoned Pinto Beans
• Inside Out Cheeseburgers
• Easy Stovetop Ratatouille
• Italian-Spiced Cheesewiches
These are not difficult things to create, but on busy school nights or on weekends when I’d rather be with my guests than cooking, pulling something from the freezer is a boon. It’s like I have a best friend waiting in the wings, ready to hand me a Platter of Awesomeness.
Get started in freezer cooking.
Chances are you’ve probably heard a fair amount about freezer cooking. It’s a practice that’s been around for several decades. Many have practiced or known someone who was really into “once-a-month cooking.”
While preparing 30 meals at a go is a great way to stock your freezer with homemade convenience items, there are lots of ways that you can make bulk cooking work for you. (I’m currently posting 31 Days of Freezer Cooking on Good Cheap Eats.)
Your freezer will become one of your best friends in no time.
1. Double dinner.
This is easy. Just make a double batch of dinner and freeze that second batch. Once you’ve done this for a few nights, you’ll be set with a stockpile of meals to rely on.
2. Freeze surplus foods.
If you come into a load of apples this season, make several batches of applesauce to freeze for later or prepare a few pies and freeze them prior to baking. The same can be said for many fruits and vegetables. Home freezing is a great way to make sure you don’t waste any of Nature’s bounty.
You can do this for little bits of leftovers, too. If you have some chicken and vegetables left from dinner, chop, cool and freeze. You can add those to soup or top pizza on another night without letting perfectly good food go to waste.
3. Have a mini-cooking session.
If you find a great sale on chicken, buy a ton — or at least enough for ten dinners — and come home and prep it for freezing. There’s an amazing amount of things you can make with chicken: taquitos, enchiladas, taco filling, marinated pieces, casseroles, stews, and soups. Make double or triple batches so that you maximize your time.
You can even freeze the cooked and chopped chicken and store it as a meal component. In this way, you don’t have to decide how to serve the chicken now, but it’s conveniently prepped for you toss on a salad, layer in a sandwich, or stir into a casserole later.
4. Buy my book.
I recently wrote a book that explains the ins and outs of freezer cooking. Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook is a compendium of batch cooking knowledge, including over 200 freezer-friendly recipes. Not only does it provide ten separate cooking plans, covering a range of proteins and meatless options, but it also teaches you how to make your own cooking plan so that you can prep exactly what you want. The book also explains how to make many meals in as little as two hours.
With a little know-how and a few hours in the kitchen, you can get ahead in the game called Life. You can have home-cooked meals ready to pull from the freezer and pop in the oven or reheat on the stovetop. You can enjoy downtime with friends and family and still nosh on great food.
5. Try this Gorgonzola-Herb Butter.
Compound butters are a great way to add instant flavor and sauciness to your favorite foods. As the butter melts, it flavors the hot food. This gorgonzola butter is fabulous on grilled steaks. But, it is equally tasty spread on a hot sandwich or stirred into mashed potatoes. Make several batches and wrap them in plastic wrap. Store in the freezer until ready to enjoy.
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1⁄4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
11⁄2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a small bowl, combine the butter, cheese, parsley, thyme, and black pepper. Mash together until well combined.
Spoon the butter mixture onto a small sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap the plastic wrap around the butter mixture, forming a small log about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap the butter log tightly and place it in a sandwich bag. Seal the bag.
Store the Gorgonzola butter in the freezer.
To thaw and serve:
Thaw the compound butter in the refrigerator. Soften at room temperature. Top steaks with slices of butter.
Recipe © 2012 from Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead & Freeze Cookbook by Jessica Fisher and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press.
Got a question about freezer cooking? I’d love to answer it!