These quick tips will ensure you always have cooking staples on stand-by
Cooking can be easier and more creative if you take full advantage of the tricks that can come from your freezer. Here are some of my favorites:
- "Stock" up on ice cubes. Next time you have any leftover homemade chicken or beef stock, freeze it in ice cube trays and then store the individual "flavoring cubes" in freezer bags. One or two cubes come in handy for that extra seasoning needed in a recipe.
- Prep and store chopped herbs. When you have a little spare time in the kitchen, chop up some fresh herbs (chives, cilantro, parsley, etc.). Freeze them in the special plastic freezer bags for garnishing and seasoning.
- Prep and store cheese. Grated cheese is another food that can be stored in the freezer and sprinkled on your dinner as it finishes cooking.
- Save those vegetables. Chopped or sliced fresh vegetables come in handy when you're cooking for just one, or when your recipe calls for a variety of mixed vegetables. Most vegetables freeze well except for some with higher water content—tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, celery, and radishes. Before freezing vegetables, it's a good idea to blanch them to help retain their color and flavor. (To blanch vegetables, quickly cook them in boiling water, then immediately drop them into cold water to stop the cooking process.)
- Don't forget fruits. You don't have to be a canning genius to enjoy fresh fruits year round. Some fruits—such as apples, peaches, and pears—have a tendency to discolor or oxidize when frozen. This problem can be overcome by sprinkling them with lemon juice and vitamin C powder. (Ascorbic acid powder is sold in bulk at health food stores, through mail order vitamin suppliers, or it often can be found with the canning supplies at your grocery store.)
One point to remember about freezing things is always to use plastic bags that are intended for freezer use. Not only are they heavier, but they also prevent water loss and freezer burn. A handy kitchen tool is one of the appliances that allow you to seal a bag after filling. Many of these bags can be used for both freezing and cooking.