This post is dedicated to sharing ten easy freezer friendly foods and kitchen tips to help you stretch the life of your food and hopefully ease the burden of from scratch cooking.
How Life Has Changed:
It’s been almost a month now since we’ve been sheltering in place in Berkeley. Our kid’s school was one of the first in the nation to shut down. Shortly after, the Bay Area announced a “shelter in place” and life changed quickly for everyone around the world as we all responded to this heart breaking pandemic.
When my daughter was first diagnosed with food allergies, I remember how hard it was shifting gears from ordering take out a few times a week to cooking most of our food from scratch. Although vastly different times, many people are cooking more. How are you holding up?
I’m reflecting on how lucky we were to be able to make multiple trips to the grocery store. Living in California, we have an abundance of fresh produce available from local farmers. These days, we’re stretching our market visits to once a week or every nine days or so. We’re mostly having groceries delivered and grateful for the kind folks that bring our food to us. Like so many people, I’m feeling helpless these days. All I can do is to keep my family and community safe by staying home.
I’m still cooking loads in the kitchen. We’re sticking to mostly whole foods and no new ingredients. We’re trying to use the same brands to keep my little girl who has food allergies extra safe and reaction free.
I hope you find these suggestions for freezer friendly foods and kitchen tips helpful. Maybe you’re already doing some of these things in the kitchen? I tried to include tips that are not obvious; things that I’ve learned from online research, cooking school and just spending time in the kitchen feeding my family.
My ten easy freezer friendly foods and cooking tips.
1. Citrus: Freeze zest. Save lemons. No need to defrost; pop halves into a freezer safe bag. Defrost and grate skin using a microplane. Or cut lemons, limes and oranges into slices. Lay flat on a baking tray. Freeze until solid. Pop into a freezer safe bag or glass container. Use to flavor water or when cooking meals.
Citrus zest can be grated to add flavor to baked goods such as muffins like my blueberry almond muffins and cranberry apple baked oatmeal. Also use zest to flavor savory dishes like salad dressings and pasta.
Squeeze citrus such as oranges, lemons, limes and freeze the juice. Sometimes, we make lemonade at home and freeze extra to enjoy later.
Our local market sells freshly squeezed juice but since we’re not making frequent trips to the market, stocking up on orange juice and freezing it in baggies or containers is another handy option. Frozen juice concentrate is also convenient and making a come back these days.
2. Rice & Lentils: Always make extra grains and lentils. It’s little effort for long term gain. Freezing brown rice, quinoa and other grains is a tip I learned from my mother in law.
Defrost night before or next morning. Warm in a heavy bottom pot with lid. Pour in 2-3 tablespoons of water for every cup of rice or more as needed. Cover with lid on medium low heat until fluffy and warm. Our favorites to freeze are brown rice and Mexican Rice.
Lentils & Dal thicken when cooled and frozen. When defrosted, add additional liquid to desired consistency when warmed on stove top. Add a fresh tempering of oil/ ghee & spices also known as tarka.
3. Ginger: Peel skin. Cut into large chunks if desired & store in freezer safe bag. Use as needed (don’t defrost). Grate on microplane straight from freezer.
4. Sauces: Pesto, sauces and chutneys can be stored in freezer safe bags, ice cube trays, or muffin tins.
I like to use Ball mini canning 4 oz jars. One jar usually serves 4. Leave headspace & fill to last line; food expands when frozen. Use jars with flat sides to avoid shattering. My cilantro-garlic chutney and thai yellow curry paste are great to batch cook and freeze. I also make masala paste used in South Asian cooking and freeze ahead.
5. Fresh Vegetables & Fruit: Most fresh vegetables need to be blanched before freezing. Here are some guidelines from Taste of Home. Baked fruit, compotes, purees and jams freeze well. Try making a batch of my blueberry cardamom sauce and freeze leftovers.
6. Roast Garlic: Peel away outer, papery layers. Trim tops of heads. Brush with olive oil. Wrap tightly in parchment and aluminum foil. Roast for 40-60 minutes for 1 hour. Once cool store in fridge for 2 weeks or freeze. Here’s a detailed method by The Kitchn.
7. Scraps, Bones & Broth: Freeze vegetable scraps like potato skins, leeks, carrot peels. Keep adding to your bag and use to make broth or stock.
Don’t use: brussel sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, onion skins and carrot tops-they can turn your broth bitter. I love this method for making broth three ways from Enlightened Foodie.
When poaching chicken, freeze liquid and use as a light broth to flavor rice, soups and stews. Freeze in muffin tins, freezer safe bags( lay flat) or glass jars.
8. Herbs: Place into ice cube trays rough chop and cover with a layer of water or oil. Freeze and store in bags. Pop into foods as needed.
9. Bread and granola: Muffins, quick breads, granola, baked oatmeal, naan and bread are freezer friendly. Slice bread and freeze on tray until solid. Store in a freezer safe bag.
Store granola in a container or bag. Grab-n-go and let sit on counter for a few minutes.
Freeze baked or unbaked fruit crumble topping -makes a quick dessert when half the work is done. Bake as directed straight from freezer. I love this nut free recipe from Ina Garten.
My cranberry baked oatmeal and baked blueberry oatmeal can be cut into individual portions. Lay on baking tray in freezer until solid. Store in freezer safe bag or container. Defrost in microwave or night before in refrigerator.
10. Dairy: butter, parmesan rinds, shredded cheese, paneer and heavy cream freeze well.
Store butter directly in freezer. Use a box grater and shred to use in baking or cooking.
Add parmesan rinds to soups or broth. Remove rind before serving. Or make parmesan broth to flavor risotto and soups.
*Do you have any freezer friendly foods you’d like to share here or any kitchen tips not mentioned? I’d love to hear from you. Tag me with your kitchen tips & freezer friendly foods by taking a photo and tagging @myberkeleykitchen on Instagram.
- If you have limited access to fresh produce, dried spices add flavor. Purchase in small batches as spices tend to lose freshness within 6 months.
- I like this post from NYT Cooking; “How To Freeze Just About Everything” from Melissa Clark.
- I didn’t include a section on desserts but did you know frosted cake can be frozen? Slice and lay on baking tray until solid. Wrap in cling wrap. Place in freezer safe bag.
- Other freezer friendly favorites are lemon curd, cookies, quick breads, bars, gajar (carrot) halwa and energy bites such as my Sunflower Cacao Balls or Apricot Ginger Energy Bites.