Freezing entrees saves time on weekdays

Spending a few hours ahead of time may pay off handsomely with tasty school-day meals from the freezer

Life is busy, and it’s not always easy to make healthy foods for dinner every night.

When time is short, sometimes it makes sense to make meals ahead and freeze them. When you don’t feel like starting from scratch, pull one of these entrees from the freezer and heat it in the oven. No one will be the wiser.

One of the other benefits of cooking homemade freezer-friendly foods is that they’re often healthier than store-bought versions.

If you don’t want to make the entire meal in advance, you can often prepare a part of the meal ahead of time to cut your prep time significantly.

Make a pie crust ahead of time and freeze it, then thaw the dough to make a pot pie or pasty. You could make the filling ahead of time too, refrigerating or freezing that separately. Then all you have to do is defrost the ingredients, assemble the dish and bake.

If you’re making a meal ahead of time, remember to cool the precooked dish as fast as possible before freezing. Portion the meal into meal-sized containers or packages, and label and date them before placing them in a single layer in the coldest part of the freezer.

Some dishes can be frozen in a foil-lined baking dish, then removed and wrapped for longer-term storage. Just remember to place the entree back in the dish to thaw and cook.

Poorly wrapped foods may develop freezer burn. To help avoid this, use freezer wrappings, because they are moisture and vapor proof. Leave as little air as possible in the package.

When freezing liquids, remember to allow a small amount of head room for expansion.

Wrap solid foods tightly in foil before bagging them, or use containers with air tight lids.

Do not thaw foods at room temperature, but instead place them in the refrigerator and let them sit overnight.

All too often, frozen foods disappear into a freezer and aren’t seen again until too late. Remember to keep an inventory of what’s in the freezer so you don’t forget and the meal goes to waste.

Following are some recipes for foods you can make ahead and freeze for later — or, if you can’t wait, eat immediately — from marthastewart.com and foodnetwork.com.

 

Slow-Cooker Freezer-Pack Brisket Chili

1-1/2 pounds beef brisket, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 15-ounce can tomato puree
2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 10-ounce bag frozen corn
1 large red onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, fresh cilantro, for garnish

    Layer the brisket, tomato puree, beans, corn, onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder and cumin in a large resealable plastic bag. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Freeze as long as three months.
    Thaw in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before cooking.
    Pour the contents of the bag into a six-quart slow cooker. Cook on low for seven to nine hours, until the brisket is tender and the tip of a paring knife can go into a piece easily. Season with salt. Serve with sour cream, cheddar, tortilla chips and cilantro for topping
Slow-Cooker Freezer-Pack BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

1-1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1-1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, grated
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns
Coleslaw, bread and butter pickles and potato chips, for serving

    Combine chicken, ketchup, vinegar, sugar, molasses, Worcestershire, mustard, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large resealable plastic bag and shake to combine. Squeeze out the air from the bag and seal. Freeze as long as three months.
    Thaw in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before cooking.
    Pour the contents of the plastic bag in a six-quart slow cooker. Cook on low for five to seven hours, until the meat is tender. Shred the chicken with a fork and toss it in the cooking liquid.
    Divide chicken among the buns and top with coleslaw and pickles. Serve with potato chips.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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