Friday, September 17, 2010

A Little Planning Goes a Long Way

Today's tip may not be earth-shattering news but by beginning to implement it in small steps it will become a normal way of looking at your time in the kitchen.

If anyone else's family is like mine, they love hot breakfasts. Really, who doesn't love pancakes? Muffins? Banana Nut Bread? Nothing thrills my crew more than waking up to something in the oven. Nothing thrills me less than getting up in the morning and cooking. Hello, mornings were made for coffee and that is the only part of being in the kitchen early in the day that makes me happy. So what's a mom to do? Many years ago I found that if I plan ahead and make a double, triple, or quadrouple batch of pancakes, muffins, etc., and then freeze them it keeps both my family and myself happy. Now this does take up a bit of time to do this and I have found, for me, it is best to designate some time in an afternoon to this activity.  However, the reward of having the family's favorite homemade pancakes, etc., in the freezer plus the time saver each morning is so worth the time it takes to make a larger amount. We just pop the frozen pancakes or muffins in the microwave until thawed and warmed.

Another breakfast food I have found that freezes well is cooked bacon. We buy it in bulk and I usually pull out the electric skillet and fry several pounds while making pancakes on the griddle. When a recipe calls for crumpled bacon I simple grab a few pieces and break them up while still frozen and throw them in. It tastes the same as fresh cooked with thawed.

This technique of cooking and freezing for later use also spills over into other foods for us as well. Rare is the time I brown just a single pound of ground beef, make a single meatloaf or only enough meatballs for one meal. Why waste the time and energy to only cook a small amount? **Something to keep in mind when freezing cooked meat is that it is okay to thaw fresh meat, cook it and then refreeze it but you never, ever want to thaw cooked meat and then refreeze it. Once a cooked meat has been frozen and thawed it all needs to be consumed.**

Also rare is the time I only make a single casserole. Most casseroles are assembled with already cooked ingredients. So when making them I will make two or three, only put one in the oven then pop the other(s) in the freezer for later use. They get wrapped snug and tight and labeled. This has saved us from hitting a resturaunt many days when a snafu has happened and there was nothing for supper. We simply place a frozen casserole in the oven, then turn the oven on, letting the casserole thaw and then get all warm and bubbly. In the past I've also planned ahead when there is an upcoming day/time that I know it will be more convenient to just pop in the oven.

The process of cooking to freeze does take a little planning, but once you get the hang of it it will just happen naturally and the benefits far outweigh the effort that goes into it. Remember, just a little planning goes a long way!

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