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Ask Kelly: Can I freeze that?

Welcome back to Ask Kelly, a regular feature where our Director of Programs Kelly Lake answers all of your burning kitchen and cooking questions. Have a question you'd like Kelly to tackle? Email it to info@new.beechersfoundation.org.

Q: Can I freeze that?

A: Probably! Think of how many different foods line the shelves of the freezer section in a grocery store. Most foods freeze well if you follow a few simple tips.

Freezing extra food is a great way to cut down on food waste and a well stocked freezer comes in handy when your cupboards are bare and you haven’t thought about dinner. I almost always double recipes for bolognese sauce, soups, and braised meats so that on busy nights when I don’t have time to think about dinner I am just a few microwave minutes away from a home cooked meal.

Read on for some of my favorite tips for freezing foods. You can also view our complete downloadable guide to freezing food here.

RAW VEGETABLES
When it comes to raw vegetables, ideally you should blanch them first. A quick dip in boiling water kills enzymes that can cause the vegetables to brown or get mushy when thawed. If you don’t have time to blanch, you can also put the vegetables in a bag, fill with enough water to cover the vegetables, and freeze in the water. The one vegetable that does not agree with the freezer is the potato – it has a tendency to turn mealy when frozen.

DARK LEAFY GREENS
Cook greens normally (saute, blanch, microwave) and then freeze in baggies or jars. Make sure all of the extra air is pressed out to prevent freezer burn. This is a great way to make the most out of kale or spinach when it is on sale – buy it while it’s cheap, freeze it, and enjoy year-round.

MEAT
All raw meat and seafood freezes beautifully. Most cooked meat freezes well too – double the amount of ground beef in your next recipe, freeze half in a baggie (push out as much air as possible), and use for pizzas, pastas, etc. Saucy meat freezes especially well (sloppy joe filling, pulled pork, or pot roast, for example).

BEANS 
I always have a quart or two of frozen beans on hand. Dried beans are much cheaper than canned beans, but they take at least 2 hours to cook (sometimes up to 24 if you count soaking time). So whenever I make a batch of beans, I make a BIG batch and freeze the extras, that way I only actually have to cook beans every so often. Once the beans are cooked, store them in jars or bags and cover them in liquid (ideally the liquid they cooked in, but broth or water works fine too).

 

GRAINS
Rice, quinoa, oats, farro … any cooked grain freezes well! If you are also freezing beans regularly, you will always have a quick beans-and-grain meal sitting in your freezer whenever you need it. (Throw in some frozen spinach, heat it all up and top it with an egg and you have a delightful, nutrient-packed meal for any time of day.) But I digress – back to the grains! Your quickest option is to simply put your freshly cooked grain into a container and freeze it, but I will warn you it can take a while to thaw. If you have the time and space for it, you can also spread the cooked grain out onto baking sheets and freeze it, then break up the frozen grains and pack them into a container for easy access later on.

SOUPS & SAUCES
Not much strategy to report here – freeze away in whatever container suits your fancy! Just make sure that if you are using glass jars, you leave plenty of room for air at the top so that the freezing liquid can expand without breaking the jar (technically not recommended but if you looked inside my freezer I’d be caught red-handed and yes, I have cracked a jar or two).

 

 

HERBS
It always pains me to watch beautiful (and expensive) fresh herbs turn brown when I don’t manage to use them all up – so I was happy to learn that you can freeze them, too! My favorite technique is to utilize an ice cube tray – chop the herbs up, pack them into the tray, and cover with oil or water. Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to a bag or container to free up your ice cube trays. Then, the next time you are making pasta, marinating meat, or making soup, throw in a few cubes to add a hit of fresh flavor.

 

TOMATO PASTE
Does anyone ever use a whole can of tomato paste? I certainly don’t – I use what I need, then I portion tablespoons of tomato paste onto a plate and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, I transfer into a baggie. The next time a recipe calls for a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, you know where I’ll turn!

 

 

SCRAPS FOR STOCK
Keep a container in your fridge for all of your food scraps – onion and garlic peels, fennel fronds, carrot tops, mushroom stems, the bottoms and tops of celery, herb stems, etc. When the bag is full, just dump it into a pot or slow cooker, cover with water, add some salt, and simmer for at least an hour. Strain it and voila! Free, nutritious vegetable stock. If you aren’t using it right away, I know I don’t have to tell you what to do with the extra…

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