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freezer meals for the win...and where I've been

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By Jen White · April 4, 2015 · 0 Comments ·

Hey y'all, long time no post! Seriously, it's been almost two years since I've posted here. What's been going on is this: I've been cooking a lot of other people's recipes. My brain got tired of coming up with original ideas, and it felt so, so good to release it from the pressure that I'd imposed on myself. I've been learning how to cook a lot of things that fall outside the Southern/New Orleans realm, like Thai red curries, a real-good pho broth, and multitudes upon multitudes of slow cooker items. A lot of the new recipes I love come straight from other sources, so I'll share links wherever I can.

Another thing that's been going on is I've been trying to organize my time better so I have lots of time to write/think/read in the mornings before I head off to my music teaching job. Two things have been my saviors in ultimately spending less time cooking but still being able to eat great food: the slow cooker, and the freezer. Last year I scoured the entire internet for the best-looking recipes to freeze (it took weeks) and have tried out almost everything I found. I also realized that, DUH, lots of recipes on my own site here are great for freezing! So here I am, finally listing them for you all, because I love it when I find a new list of freezable recipes on the ol' web. I would love nothing more than for you to share other freezer recipes that you use in the comments!

from Food Orleans:

Natachitoches Meat Pies
I bake these first, then cool, wrap each pie in plastic, and put several pies together in Ziploc freezer bags. Unwrap, place on a baking sheet, tent loosely with foil to prevent over-browning, and bake at 325 for 25 minutes to reheat. Got some of these in the freezer right now. (freeze up to 3 months)

Crawfish Boulettes
Not many seafood recipes freeze well, but this is a good side-dish or appetizer item to have on-hand. Freeze after frying and cooling. Small, round items like this are best when flash-frozen: Lay them all out on a baking sheet or plates, and stick them uncovered in the freezer for about an hour, so they can firm up individually; then dump them all in a big Ziploc freezer bag together. That way you can pull out as many as you want to reheat without all of them being stuck together in a lump. I would reheat these on a baking sheet at 325 for about 20 minutes, tenting loosely with foil if they start getting very brown. (freeze up to 1 month, as they are delicate)

Red Beans and Rice
Freeze the red beans, not the rice! Or whatever, freeze rice separately in a bag if you like, I just never do that. But we always, ALWAYS have these red beans in the freezer. We eat them every Monday. No really, we do! It's just one less meal to worry about. We eat very big servings, so this 2-pound batch of beans makes a total of three meals for the two of us. I portion it out in gallon Ziploc freezer bags and freeze them flat (this is the way I freeze things like beans, chili, and stew--things that are runny but not brothy). I still use this recipe as-is but with two updates: I no longer soak the beans, and I cook them in chicken broth. Super good. I thaw these all day, then reheat gently in a pot while I'm making the rice. (freeze up to 3 months)

Garden-Friendly Falafel
This is something I never would have thought to freeze until I began my long Internet journey into the land of things you can freeze! Freeze after frying and cooling, using flash-freeze method (see Crawfish Boulettes, above). Reheat in a gentle oven, 325, for 20 to 25 minutes, tenting loosely with foil if they're getting too brown. (freeze up to 1 month, as small things tend to get freezer-burned quicker)

Grillades and Grits
Freeze the grillades, not the grits. Or whatever, I just never freeze grits. But the grillades, oh man! They're perfect for freezing--saucy and tender, and they make a great hearty dinner or a smashing brunch. This is another thing I freeze in gallon bags and reheat gently in a deep skillet or pot, adding beef or chicken broth if needed to sauce up the sauce. (freeze up to 3 months)

Susan Spicer's Jalapeno Roast Pork
Only the best thing ever to have in your freezer. Seriously, I nearly always have some of this on hand. Whenever pork shoulder or pork butt is on sale, I get one or two and make this up. I've tried lots of different pulled-pork style recipes over the last two years, and this one is just hands-down the best. And so versatile. We usually eat the roasted pork as a main dish the night I bake it, then I'll break the leftovers down (still in big chunks, I don't shred it) into recipe-sized portions and freeze in Ziploc freezer bags. I use the leftovers for a gajillion things, such as: jambalaya, enchiladas, pozole, burritos, pizzas, quesadillas, omelets, quiches, frittatas, barbecue sandwiches, pasta with breadcrumbs... Just so many things. Usually I defrost the pork overnight and gently heat it in a 325 oven, tightly covered, so it won't dry out. This makes it easy to shred or chop according to what I'm using it for. The heating time will be between 20-35 minutes, depending on the size of the chunk. (freeze up to 3 months)

Rainy Day Beef Goulash with Gnocchi
Oh. Oh, yes. This freezes like a dream. The goulash, that is, not the gnocchi. Don't freeze the gnocchi. Just boil them while you're reheating the goulash, and everything will be perfect. I freeze this in gallon Ziploc bags, then lay them flat so I can stack them up with my bags of red beans, grillades, and chili. Reheat gently in a pot, adding broth if necessary. This is my favorite beef stew ever. I will say that ideally, in a perfect world, I would leave out the potatoes and add some freshly steamed potatoes to the frozen goulash as it's reheating, because starchy potatoes aren't the best vegetables to freeze. But in this imperfect world, I don't mind the frozen potatoes one bit. Not one bit. (Freeze up to 3 months)

Crawfish Pies
Here's another great Louisiana seafood recipe that doesn't suffer a bit from freezing. Also from Susan Spicer's book, Crescent City Cooking, these freeze very well. Because it's seafood, though, I would only freeze these for about 1 month. Reheat the same way as the Natchitoches Meat Pies, above.

Crawfish Etouffee
This recipe is from Emeril Lagasse, and it's a good one. It does make a big pot, so thank goodness this is a seafood dish that can handle freezing.  This is another one that I freeze in gallon bags and lay flat so it takes up less space (the flatness also helps it defrost more quickly). Defrost during the day and reheat gently in a pot, addding broth as necessary. We always serve this over rice. (freeze up to 1 month)

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo
Happiness is defined as "having gumbo in the freezer." Seriously, I can never have enough of this on hand. We could eat this 5 times a week if we had, I don't know, a full-time chef or a gumbo pipeline. Gumbo is ideal for freezing. The okra will get very soft, but I don't mind that at all. It's so brothy that I forego the bags and freeze it in large plastic containers. We each eat about 4 large ladle's worth, so I'll portion it out after it's spent a night in the fridge, freeze in containers, then when we want it, defrost for a day and reheat gently in a pot. This is still the recipe I use, after all these years, but I have made a couple of tweaks I want to tell you about. 

1. We got a 7-quart enamelled cast-iron pot a couple years ago for Christmas, and it is the best pot ever for making gumbo. We can cook the roux right in it so I don't do the extra skillet step for the roux like I used to. Also, I no longer use a whisk, but a wooden spoon with a straight edge, you know, like this:

OXO Good Grips Saute Paddle

And it's the BEST roux stirrer because you can really scrape it all off the bottom of the pot before it burns. It saves on a lot of the physical labor of stirring. 

2. I now saute the okra before adding it to the gumbo. I saw a video with Poppy Tooker explaining that she sauteed the okra first to take out some of the sliminess, and even though I don't mind the sliminess, I decided to give it a try. And it was so much better! The okra still retains its character and thickening ability, but the gumbo is more pleasant to eat. So that's that.

Big Greek Lasagna
Basically any lasagna, you know? Lasagna just freezes well. What I do is make it and bake it, eat it for dinner, and refrigerate the leftovers. The next day, when it's good and cold, I cut the leftovers into serving-sized squares and wrap each square in plastic wrap. It's very easy to keep the squares together when they're cold. Then I pack as many squares as will fit into gallon freezer bags. They defrost almost completely in about 8 hours, and can be baked at 350, covered, for about 45 minutes to thoroughly reheat. (freeze up to 3 months)

Cookies and Cakes!
Don't forget the sweets! I freeze cakes after they're baked, and cookies before they're baked! I'm not trying to be complicated, that's just the best way to do it, generally. I'm sure there are exceptions, but with the stuff I make, this is what works. 
Diana's Apple Cake, Butterscotch Bars,  Banana-Nut Muffins, and Pumpkin-Brown Sugar Squares are items I'd bake, cool, cut into portions, wrap each portion in plastic, then add to plastic bags or plastic containers to store. Plastic containers are best for baked goods if your freezer is very packed, because the container will keep the items inside from getting smushed and crushed. To defrost, just leave whatever portions you want out on the counter for a few hours, and they're ready to be eaten; or warm them up briefly in the oven or microwave if you want. For cookie doughs like Classic Sugar Cookies, Ginger Crinkles, and White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread, what I do is make the dough, then dump some of it onto a long sheet of plastic wrap and use the plastic to smoosh it all together into a long log, like the tubes of cookie dough you can buy at the store. I wrap it tightly and refrigerate it for a few hours, then shape it into an even BETTER log if possible and put the plastic-wrapped log into a freezer bag. Then when I want those bad boys, I just remove it from the freezer and wrapper, slice cookies off the log, and bake as originally directed, with the understanding that I may need to add a minute or two or three to the baking time because they're frozen. And that, my friends, is how you redeem a crappy day.

If you're wondering, I never freeze jambalaya. It just ends up too mushy.

Okay...these are the best freezer recipes from THIS SITE. On another day I'll start unfurling the long list of freezer items from other sites. I've got some good ones.

the theology and geometry of Greek lasagna

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By Jen White · August 23, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

If you're back in school, back to work, back in stressland of any sort, you might be craving some sort of soul-fortifying food hug right about now.  One of my personal favorite food hugs is a big ol' pan of lasagna--and not a thin, dainty one, either. It's got to be tall and stacked through with vegetables, meats, and a ton of cheese.  Lasagna is such a childhood classic for many of us who grew up with moms who liked to cook both ground beef and casseroles, yet it's still adaptable to current tastes, or to current needs to clean out the pantry.  It's also just a beautiful, big pan of goodness, a culinary specimen of theology and geometry.  If you like to build things that taste good and heal your soul, you'll like this.

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Tagged with: lasagna, baked, beef, Sausage, Greek, pasta, cheese

nap-time bolognese: feed your inner starving artist

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By Jen White · November 3, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Rainy, gray November days beg for something warm and fortifying, and this is certainly both.  You might not be ready to run a marathon afterward, but you'll be ready for a marathon sleep.  Cheers to that!

Sauce Bolognese is perfect on fettucine, penne, or ladled over gnocchi, with lots of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano (that's the real stuff) grated over the top.  One of its traditional uses is as the sauce component of lasagna, as in Lasagna Bolognese--but you could also turn it into a baked ziti, or a soup, or even a very cheeky chili. It's also highly adaptable, so feel free to add veggies or substitute other meats (or non-meats) as you wish.  In other words, you have permission to get artsy with your food.  Just another perk of living in the best restaurant city in the universe: a great tip from a neighbor about using veal, which was spot-on.

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turn away, tomato: winter white lasagna with italian sausage

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By Jen White · February 4, 2011 · 0 Comments ·

Problem:  Winter.  Boredom.  Hunger.

Solution:  Two hours spent puttering in the kitchen, which totally counts as a workout.  A mess of of dirty dishes to wash.  Lasagna in the oven.  Naps.

I love lasagna of any sort, and this one is rich and full of wintery vegetable flavor. Not using tomatoes just seemed right this time, but I've got nothing against them. Basically, I wanted the flavor of kale to be featured, so I gave tomatoes the boot till next time.

I used freshly made Italian sausage from my favorite corner store of all time, Terranova's.  If you don't have any in the house and you're snowed in, though, no big deal.  Lasagna is basically a layering of pasta, some sort of sauce/stew, and cheese.  So for the stew, I can see a melange of onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms--basically any good veggies you have in the fridge, or even in cans.  Use any kind of cheese.  If you don't have lasagna noodles, cook any shape of pasta and use a third of it to make the pasta layer...or use rice, polenta, or bread.  You really can't go wrong.
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