By Diana Saufley
I am always looking for shortcuts in the kitchen, but especially if they are tasty and nutritious. I have a very busy household with teenagers and husband who are involved in as many things as I am. Being the chief cook, anything that keeps the flavors unique, time requirement short and the food value high gets good marks from me.
A few years ago I purchased a book written by Jerry Seinfeld’s wife Jessica, titled “Deceptively Delicious” which inspired my own culinary ideas. Trying to sneak healthy food into dishes my kids will eat is not the issue I have. My family pretty much eats whatever I serve. But I get bored with the same recipes (as does my family) and I get stressed coming up with full meals and time to do the prep-work.
I have added a few tricks to my kitchen arsenal that decrease stress, ingredients and time to get an appropriate meal prepared. I am sharing two ideas that utilize the freezer. Hopefully sharing these will inspire other busy moms struggling with similar issues. I am sure it will get your own ideas brewing too!
I cooked a few pumpkins this fall, reserving some of the cooked pumpkin in freezer bags. I can now make several different pumpkin recipes without all the additives from a can or actually having to cook a pumpkin. Pumpkin, wheat ravioli is what I am planning for our next meal so I can try out my ravioli pan and cutter. Other vegetables can be cooked and frozen for future use as well. I have used left over mashed potatoes to mix in with scrambled eggs. It has a wonderful texture and flavor, much like scrambledeggs and hash browns. I also roasted the pumpkin seeds from the pumpkins for snacks, so that was a bonus!
When bananas start to turn brown I peel the bananas and place the banana mash in a freezer bag. They cannot be already soupy, but just when they start to turn brown and still have some texture to them. When I have time to make banana nut bread, I use the frozen banana puree. They are good for smoothies as well.
Chicken, turkey, pork, beef, tomato and vegetable broths are all now claimed for future use after cooking a meal. I purchased silicone ice cube trays in several different colors from Bed, Bath & Beyond® and Ikea®. When the broth from a recipe has cooled, I pour it into an ice cube tray. Then I cover it with a “Cover Mate”® Food Covers which is a plastic cover with elastic, much like a shower cap made for food use. I attach a label to the cover with the date and type of broth and place it in the freezer. Then, when I am cooking and either the recipe calls for flavored broth, or I want to add a kick to a recipe, I use the broth cubes for quick, very flavorful, and a low salt alternatives. When you freeze broth, the fat from meat rises to the top of the ice cube. It can be easily removed with a knife before use to remove additional fat.