DinnerDork [ ˈdi-nərˈdȯrk ]
Time is, for most of us, the biggest obstacle between ourselves and a deliciously homemade dinner that compliments our lifestyle. Extra time can make it easier to stick to our resolves: eating better; healthier; lighter; more economically; earlier; with loved ones; etc. But who has a time machine? You do.
Okay, perhaps you’re not exactly hiding a time machine in the broom closet. And if you were, the 1.21 gigawatts required for time travel might be tough to source (if you’re a dork like me, you’ll click here to find out how tough). But chances are, the next best thing, the captain of time-traveling kitchen appliances is already geared up for the journey. The freezer.
I’m not talking about the scary hoard of mystery meat sitting in the back of the freezer awaiting the zombie apocalypse. I’m talking about making fresh soups, stews, meat and vegetable dishes, and having temptingly delicious scents wafting through your home when you’ve got t minus 30 minutes or less to make it happen. Prepping foods for awesomeness before storing them in the
time machine freezer.
Believe me when I say that chopped and sautéed onions, celery and/or bell peppers can make just about everything taste (and smell) better. I’m talking about that box of packaged rice sitting in the back of the cabinet, or even plain-old white rice. I’m talking about that store-prepared whole chicken that was dried out 2 hours before you arrived at the store in a panic. A simple sauté of veggies can save-a-meal, or make a good one great.
Don’t have time to wash, peel and chop veggies every time you’re prepping dinner?
Do it ahead of time and enjoy the results later:
- Purchase gallon sized freezer bags with the write-on labels adhered to the bag. The label makes it easy for you to keep track of the contents and expiration date. I prefer the kind with the double-zipper or the slider because they seem to wear better. I like buying bulk to save money.
- Use permanent marker to label the outside of your freezer bag with the contents. Allow writing to dry.
- Peel (if necessary) and wash the seasoning veggies.
- Chop, dice or cut them as desired. Smaller sizes work best for freezing, since the firm texture of the vegetables will be lost after they’ve been frozen. I prefer to dice everything.
- Lay them out to dry before freezing. You want them to be as dry as possible to avoid clumping or forming excess ice during the freezing process.
- Most seasoning veggies should be consumed within a few days of purchase if they aren’t frozen. Try to get them washed, chopped, dried and frozen within 4 days of purchase. They can store safely in your freezer for months!
- If you won’t be able to freeze them in time, make use of an herb or vegetable keeper to buy you some extra time. Check out the herb keeper featured as our January 2015 giveaway of the month!
- If you’re like me, frozen seasoning veggies will be your go-to stash when following recipes for dinner or making packaged foods work in a bind. They don’t stick around for anywhere near as long as their freezer life because the convenience of having them already prepped means we get to enjoy all of their goodness!
- Good quality freezer bags and freezer-safe food storage containers can be used and reused many times over. Just take care to re-use bags for similar contents (don’t use bags that stored meat for vegetables, etc.) and never re-use bags that contained any spoiled goods. It’s a good idea to thoroughly rinse and air-dry freezer bags before you reuse them.
- This process of raw freezing is great for commonly used seasoning veggies that don’t contain a lot of water: onions, celery, bell peppers, scallions. It extends the shelf-life for months. If you have more time, or need to store vegetables from one season to another, blanching (the process of quickly steaming and cooling) and freezing can allow you to store frozen vegetables to 12 – 18 months at a time; blanching works for a wider variety of vegetables and also preserves more of the vibrant color and texture.
Try this when making boxed or white rice (use these amounts for 4 servings)
Sauté 1/2 cup of chopped onions, plus 1/4 chopped chopped celery (add a 1/4 cup of red or green bell pepper for added zest) in 1/2 tbsp of olive oil or butter, over medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the vegetables are limp and unfrozen. Add the box/package contents and sauté for another 1-2 minutes, stirring to coat and combine the contents. Add the directed amount of water and continue following package instructions. Sprinkle with a 1/2 tbsp dried parsley before serving. Serve and enjoy!
Try this to spruce up a prepared store-bought whole chicken
Sauté 1/2 cup of chopped onions, plus 1/4 chopped chopped celery in 1 tbsp of butter, over medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the vegetables are limp and unfrozen. Add a 1/4 cup of water and 2 tsp of powdered chicken bouillon, stir and bring to a boil. Add a 1/2 cup of white cooking wine to the boiling mixture. Stir to combine and remove from the heat. Pour mixture over the chicken before reheating the chicken. Sprinkle with a 1/2 tbsp dried parsley before serving. Serve and enjoy!
Prefer to cook without alcohol? Simply increase the water to 1/2 cup, heat just enough to combine (boiling won’t be necessary if you omit the cooking wine).