Have you noticed more hands-on food programming in UI Extension? I have been working to developing programs that involve participants in their learning in a new way. While several hands-on programs have been active, the freezer meal class was a new one. Thanks to our participants who made a freezer meal to take home.
If you are familiar with freezer meals, think of taking out a frozen entrée or a frozen lasagna from your freezer. The meal is prepped and ready to go, but needs cooking. But there are variations and different ways to maximize your freezer so mealtime is quick.
Even if you could not attend with us, take these tips into your kitchen to make freezer meals of your own.
1. Freeze Leftovers and Batch Cook. Cook a meal as normal and then freeze leftovers in freezer-safe containers. You can also batch cook, meaning you made two or three of the same recipe at the same time for have lots of extras. When mealtime comes around, thaw in the fridge or microwave, heat through, and eat.
2. Prep Raw and Freeze. This is what we did in the class when making the stir-fry freezer meals. In this variation, raw ingredients are combined together in freezer bags, foil, or other containers and frozen. When ready to cook, the bag is thawed and the ingredients are dumped into a pot, slow cooker, etc. to cook.
3. Master Mix. Some ingredients can be cooked in advance, frozen, and used in a variety of recipes. This is common for meats you cook solo or add flavorings like onion and garlic. In the example of meat, frozen cooked ground meat can be used for chili, sloopy joes, goulash, etc. I use my slow cooker for a lot of meat, so they are very tender and fall off the bone, which lets me choose cheaper cuts.
4. Partial Meals. Use your freezer to keep parts of meals available for quick reheating. Like having precooked meat, half the work is done and will make for quick meals. For example, say you make spaghetti with meat sauce for a meal. Make extra meat sauce and freeze in small containers (without pasta). When you want that meal again, thaw and reheat the sauce and serve over newly cooked pasta.
Mix and Match Freezer Stir-Fry (6 servings)
4 cups frozen vegetables (without sauces or seasonings)
1 lb protein of choice (chicken breast, beef sirloin, shrimp, pork chop)
Marinade3 tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil (or vegetable oil)
3 cloves garlic minced
3/4 cup reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1. Measure frozen vegetables into a gallon freezer safe bag.
2. Chop up protein into bit sized pieces. Place protein, along with 3-4 tablespoons of marinade in a sandwich sized bag. Seal bag and place in gallon sized bag with the frozen veggies.
3. Pour remaining marinade in a sandwich sized bag and place in gallon sized bag with protein and veggies. Remove as much air as you can and seal bag. Place back in freezer until ready to make.
Stove Top:1. Thaw at least 24 hours in refrigerator. In a large skillet with a little oil, cook protein for 5 minutes. (Cook shrimp for less time.)
2. Add veggies and the marinade to skillet and cook on medium-high, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes.
3. While stir fry cooks, cook 1 1/2 cups of instant brown rice.
Nutrition analysis per serving (made with chicken breast and 1/4 cup dry rice, cooked): 250 calories, 5g fat, 410mg sodium, 28g carbohydrate, 21g protein
Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.