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Feast in a Flash: Make Your Own Frozen Entrees

The beauty of big-batch cooking

Preparation and Storage Tips

Here are some more tips to make sure your big-batch recipes stay safe, healthy, and tasty:

  • Think ahead to how you might use these freezer portions. If you'll be serving dinner for two, freeze your dish in a container that holds two servings so you can thaw just what you need.
  • When preparing foods that are sensitive to overcooking, leave them a little undercooked before you freeze them.
  • When making soups, broths, or stews, skim some of the fat off the top before you freeze it. Or, partially freeze it, then lift the layer of fat off the top and discard.
  • You can store some dishes, like sauces, chili, and stew, in freezer bags. Be sure to cool them off first.
  • To make sure your food freezes as quickly as possible, use containers with no more than a 1-quart capacity.
  • Leave as little air as possible in the container, no matter what type of package you use (even freezer bags). But do leave a little space at the top when freezing liquids (like soups or stews), because they'll expand as they freeze.
  • Wrap solid foods, like meats and baked goods, as tightly as possible to keep air out.
  • Use a ballpoint pen or permanent marker to date the bag or container, or label it using tape that freezes well.
  • It's best to eat your frozen dishes within two months.
  • Put the foods you made most recently toward the back of the freezer, so you're likely to use the older ones first.

The Big Batch Trade-Off

Wouldn't it be fun to make a big batch of your Grandma's famous spaghetti sauce, then trade a couple of portions to friends or neighbors for their specialty firehouse chili or chicken jambalaya? That way, you'd end up with two or three different entrees out of a single cooking session -- and you might discover some new, healthy dishes that your family loves.

Some things to keep in mind when sharing dishes:

  • Share with friends or neighbors who are also committed to eating healthfully. This will help ensure that the dishes they make fit into your higher-fiber, lower-fat, lower calorie-eating plan.
  • If someone in your family has a medical condition or allergy that requires you to avoid a certain food, make sure your friends or neighbors know before they cook up their specialty. Ask your friends if there's any ingredient they need to avoid.
  • Dial down the salt and/or sodium-containing ingredients. It's easy to add salt to taste, but impossible to take it out once it's added.

Big-Batch Recipes

Here are a couple of warm and toasty fall dishes that are ideal for making ahead and freezing. Just reheat them, then finish them off with fresh garnishes (make sure not to freeze the garnishes ahead of time).

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