Week #2, Frozen Food Favorites
We all like to eat fresh and local. It tastes better, it looks better and it’s better for the farmers and the environment. But, even though we all do our best, life sometimes gets in the way. This is when you have to decide between two not so great choices – fast food from a chain or fast food from your home. Stocking your freezer with a few basics can help you make the better decision. I will admit that despite their obvious convenience, I have been slow to embrace frozen foods. But I am experimenting and testing and continue to find great uses for the freezer. You see, I have a little freezer burn leftover from childhood. My mother, brought up in the depression and then thrust into the middle of the industrial revolution, was a freezer addict. I am not entirely sure we ever had a vegetable or meat that was not previously frozen. She would cook to “feed the freezer”, and she would freeze items that were just a tad past their best (as if the freezing process would regenerate their freshness). I admired her ingenuity, but our taste buds suffered. And I became adamantly anti freezer. That is, until I aged a little past my freshness date. The freezer used in the right way can be a great tool for busy parents. Check out some of my favorite freezer items here:
- Frozen shrimp – If you want to make shrimp cocktail, buy the fresh shrimp. But if you are going to be cooking and seasoning the shrimp, the frozen kind will work perfectly. Buy the raw shrimp that are peeled and deveined already; it’s a huge time saver. Shrimp can be defrosted quickly using the package directions, and they cook in minutes. Coat defrosted raw shrimp with olive oil, black pepper, garlic and lemon rind, and roast in 450 degree oven for 8 minutes. When they become pink, remove from oven, add a little salt and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top.
- Puff pastry – Sure you can make your own, but this is truly one item that I will confess is just not worth it. The high quality organic versions you can buy at the grocery store are delicious and versatile. Everybody loves puff pastry! You can make breakfasts, desserts, appetizers and entrees with these magical buttery sheets. Try these savory sweet bacon cheese wraps for a great brunch item or a very popular appetizer: http://www.halfbakedharvest.com/sweet-savory-cheesy-bacon-wrapped-puff-pastry-twist/
- Chicken thighs – I am generally not a fan of frozen meats, but I do keep frozen de-boned chicken thighs on hand. Chicken thighs have a deeper taste than chicken breasts, and they hold up to freezing, then to roasting and braising with strong spices. For a quick and delicious chicken curry, season chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, curry and cumin powders. Then brown the thighs using a small amount of olive oil or coconut oil in a heavy pan on medium heat. Remove the thighs from the heat (they will not be completely done cooking at this point). Add cubed onions and garlic to the hot pan and stir up all the great chicken drippings. Add cubed peeled potatoes (sweet or white) and more curry powder, and stir and cook for 2 minutes. Now add enough chicken broth to just cover the vegetables and simmer till the potatoes are cooked but still a little firm. Add canned coconut milk and taste, adding more curry if needed and a little cayenne pepper if you want more heat. Put browned chicken breasts back in the pan with the vegetables and continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through and tender. Serve over basmati rice.
- Frozen corn – This is one vegetable that holds up to the freezing process and still retains its flavor and texture. Sure there is nothing better than fresh corn-on-the-cob, but it’s not always summer in my world so adjustments are needed.
- Frozen spinach – Layer some defrosted and drained frozen spinach and feta cheese in puff pastry and cook till golden brown. Or use defrosted and drained spinach in soups or frittatas.
- Pizza dough – It is easier than you think to make pizza dough. And I guarantee that your homemade frozen dough will make a better pizza than the store bought frozen ones. When you do decide to try, use this easy recipe: http://www.foodrepublic.com/2011/03/30/best-basic-pizza-dough-recipe. Double it and throw half into the freezer to use at another time. You can use your imagination and add almost anything to top your pizza. Get creative!
What are your frozen favorites? Let me know or just talk food to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check back next week for my favorite Long Lasting Perishables.