New Year Resolutions, Part II: Art of Freezing Casseroles

Last week I started with a three-part cooking idea for New Year Resolutions. Part I suggestion was to cook more often. Take-out less, cook more, and stop getting caught up in trendy ingredients.  Make it a family event, from the cooking to the dining at the table. Yeah, turn off the television and devices and talk to each other. 

So you may be thinking, "But Catie what does all of these cooking resolutions have to do with the theme of this blog, Passementaries - Affordable ideas with small stay-at-home journeys that can enhance your life."? 

Cooking is one of those few necessities in life that can also be an art form, especially when we share our journey of cooking with our loved ones. These events in the kitchen can enhance our lives. 

 Turkey Tetrazzini - Pioneer Woman
A couple of years ago, and even just last year, I would be on a writing deadline. I was hammering away at the keyboard, and a couple of hours would pass by and I would realize it was past my usual dining time and I was hungry. I was hungry now! Not wanting to stop to make something, or leave to grab some fast food that would no doubt end in heartburn, I started buying a few ready-made frozen casseroles. A few were okay, but I wanted something a bit more "home-made." I was visiting with a friend one day and she told me how she and her adult daughter had spent one day making casseroles for their freezers. It got me to doing some online research and I found plenty of recipes and tips for freezing food, and especially casseroles; along with what food and casseroles work the best, such as cooked potatoes work well for freezing. Uncooked potatoes do not work, and remember to never over cook pasta when planning to freeze.

Start your own freezer cook-off. Invest in a couple of rolls of aluminum foil, freezer bags, plastic containers (for soups), and aluminum disposable freezer pans, especially pans that resemble take-out pans with the foil cardboard top (Dollar Store). Also a pen designed to write on freezer labels, bags, and cardboard. When writing on the soon-to-be freezer item: list the item, bake time and temp, the date of prep, and any other notes that you may want in the future.

What to freeze? Again casseroles and soups are perfect. Freeze items for the sake of convenience such as meatballs and meats already spiced for tacos. When freezing those two items, pack according to your family size. If you are a party of one or two, freeze these items in several meal size bags instead of one big bag. This will keep those food items you are not ready to use safe from freezer burn that can happen due to constant opening and resealing the bag. Individual servings of thick stews and chili work well when divided up into freezer bags. Squeeze the air out, flatten the stew or chili in the bag and stack them up to save room in the freezer. Buy up plenty of pre-frozen fruits and veggies when on sale. The fruit especially comes in handy for smoothies and even for baking cobblers and pies. Also, one day I was at the store and the loud speaker came on about the chicken and rib deli special, and couldn't pass up the price. What to do with so much - - meat? I bagged a couple of pieces of chicken together, same with the ribs, and I had individual servings of chicken or ribs for future dinner. 

Already prepared waffles, pancakes, and other pastry and bread work well in the freezer. I made my own muffin-like breakfast sandwiches using individual whole wheat English muffins, hard poached eggs (or fried), sliced ham (or precooked sausage patty or precooked bacon), and a slice of cheese (your choice). I double-wrapped each muffin separately. Once with parchment paper (for microwaving) and wrapped it again with foil for freezing. Let thaw over night or do a quick thaw in the micro and heat for one to two minutes. 

Now about those casseroles. Here are three that are very freezer friendly casseroles to get you motivated:  Turkey Tetrazzini I posted in November, and perfect for Thanksgiving turkey leftovers. You're not just limited to turkey, as chicken will work as well.  Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman has an episode Freezer Cooking, with many great hints. Her recipe for Sour Cream Noodle Bake, also listed in Freezer Cooking, is one of my favorites, and I have used it many times. Remember the popular "Funeral Potato Casserole"? Use your favorite version, and yes use frozen potatoes and keep them frozen, but add in your mixture a cup or more of sour cream or even an extra can of cream of chicken soup. I found the frozen potatoes seem to absorb the creaminess, so a little extra cannot hurt a thing. I would recommend not to top the casserole with crushed corn flakes until you are ready to bake. And all three of these recipes you can thaw and bake, or bake while frozen - - just like those casseroles we find in the supermarket. 

Sour Cream Noodle Bake - Pioneer Woman
Sure, you have to plan ahead and do a little thinking, but once it is all in the freezer, I felt quite "wealthy" and knew that I had many dinners in my future ready and waiting - and all I had to do was add a fresh salad. Now - - get to cooking! 


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