You might wish it weren’t so, but the dog days of summer are dwindling. Yes, cooler, shorter days with work and school in full swing will be here before we know it. The last thing you will probably be in the mood to do, arriving home tired and hungry after a long day, is scrape together dinner. But what if you could kick off your shoes, pour a glass of wine, plop down and enjoy a satisfying and delicious homemade meal in just minutes?
While we still have a little spare time and some fantastic summer produce available, there’s no better time to put up some meals for a rainy (or tired, or lazy) day down the road. Pick a weekend afternoon and cook up a big batch (even double or triple it) of a nourishing dish that can be reheated with minimal effort. Some great go-to recipes are ones that don’t require much active work or many ingredients, but have rich flavor and improve over time. Stews, chili, and pasta sauces work especially well.
- COOL the dish down at least to lukewarm (or cooler). Placing your cooking vessel in an ice bath and stirring periodically will speed the process. This step is important. A large amount of food will be going into the freezer, and cooling it first will minimize a spike in the ambient temperature of the freezer as well as prevent partial thawing of other frozen items next to what you are adding.
- PACK conveniently-sized portions in containers. It’s a good idea to package in amounts you will later want to reheat at the same time — pack container sizes that hold the number of servings to match the number of people you would be feeding. Containers of 2 and 4 servings are usually a good bet. Good quality, thick zipper-topped plastic bags that seal securely are great because they can lie flat, be stacked easily and space-efficiently, and defrost relatively quickly (when frozen flat).
- LABEL the containers with what’s inside, the date it was made, and number of servings.
- FREEZE your labeled containers.
A couple of days before you want to enjoy your dish, pull the desired amount out of the freezer and place in the fridge to defrost. Placing the container in a large bowl with water in the fridge and changing the water periodically will help speed up the process, if needed. Once the food is defrosted you can quickly reheat and be sitting down to dinner in no time.
One of my absolute favorite and most requested recipes, perfect for stockpiling, is Chili Con Carne with Beans. With deep and complex chile flavor and big chunks of tender beef, punctuated by tart tomatoes and savory aromatics, it is so satisfying, and can be had with just a quick reheat.
Anjali at theKitchn.com did a great roundup of make-and-freeze dishes. I love her suggestions for homemade versions of supermarket freezer section staples, especially calzones and burritos (recipes by Emma). These two are really clever ways to use up leftovers by cloaking them in carbs! Not only does a crusty chewy calzone dough or warm tortilla make yesterday’s meatballs or chicken-n-veggies more appealing, but you will be way more excited about noshing on them again two months from now than for dinner tonight.
If you set aside time for a few cooking sessions, you can have a nice variety of crave-worthy dishes to choose from. They should keep well frozen for three to four months. What are the odds that you will be tired, lazy, sick, injured, or just be short on time in the next few months? Trust me, you will thank yourself!
This article originally appeared in a different form at examiner.com.
© 2012 by Revel Kitchen
What are some of your favorite dishes or recipes to make ahead and freeze?
- A Mumble on Dinners and Batchcooking Tips (bumblesofrice.wordpress.com)
- freezer cooking 101 (backtoherroots.com)
- 15 Phenomenally Frugal, Single-Serving Freezer Meals (wisebread.com)