Health is about action. If your resolution doesn’t transfer to your routine, it will be dead in the water. Now’s the time to think about what in your routine needs to change to accommodate new choices. Healthy eating, for one, can be simple, but it requires some forethought. Strategic preparation helps, too. In that spirit, we’ve got a practical guide you can apply right away to your Primal diet—not to mention this weekend’s shopping list. Enjoy, everyone.
Stocking your freezer with homemade food is a winning strategy for eating well, especially when life gets really busy. There’s no better feeling than knowing that dinner is already cooked and just needs to be reheated. The easiest way to fill your freezer with meals is to regularly double, or triple, recipes so you regularly have leftovers to freeze. Of course, some meals freeze better than others. Here’s a handy guide for freezing cooked food, plus 10 recipes you should definitely have in your freezer.
How to Freeze & Defrost Cooked Food
Tupperware (or freezer-friendly Pyrex containers) and freezer bags are the most convenient containers for freezing food. Freezer bags are especially easy to label and space efficient. Fill a bag with food, smooth it out into an even layer and press out all the air (the less air in the bag, the less chance of freezer burn). Flat freezer bags filled with food stack up conveniently in the freezer.
Don’t put hot food in the freezer; always cool it completely first. As a general rule, frozen, cooked food will taste best if eaten within 3 months. If it helps, keep an inventory of frozen meals taped to your freezer door so you don’t forget what’s in there.
Consider freezing individual portions rather than freezing a big portion of food in one bag. This allows you to defrost a little bit at a time. This is an especially good idea if you want to use frozen meals for lunches, or if you’re not cooking for a big family.
The best and safest way to defrost frozen food is in the refrigerator overnight. Large cuts of cooked meat (like a roast) can take 48 hours to defrost. Defrosting in the refrigerator discourages bacteria (as opposed to defrosting at room temperature, which puts food in the bacteria “danger zone”). Defrosting in the refrigerator also helps maintain the texture of food, so it doesn’t get mushy or grainy.
When defrosting soup or other liquids, there’s also a faster option—immerse the plastic freezer bag filled with soup in cool water just long enough so you can break up the soup, then immediately dump in a pot and reheat.
Once defrosted, most frozen meals can be reheated by simmering gently in a pot over medium-low heat. Often, it helps to add ¼ to ½ cup liquid to the pot, such as water, broth or coconut milk. For smaller portions, a microwave can be used, which is especially handy at work. Meals can also be reheated in the oven. Usually, reheating at 350 ºF/176 ºC with a lid or foil cover works well. Some cooked foods need extra seasoning after being reheated, and fresh herbs can help liven up leftovers.
Foods That Don’t Freeze Well
Cooked potatoes tend not to freeze well in any form, whether mashed, roasted, or in soups and stews. When reheated, cooked potatoes usually have a grainy or dry texture. (cooked sweet potatoes, however, usually freeze and reheat well.)
Frozen dairy products like milk, cream, sour cream and cheese tend to lose their smooth, creamy texture when reheated and can turn grainy and watery in recipes. Nut milks can also separate and become grainy when frozen. However, if reheated very gently over low heat and whisked vigorously, texture is less of a problem.
Coconut milk used in recipes generally reheats well, but again, do it over low heat.
Vinaigrettes, mayonnaise and mayonnaise-based sauces and salad dressings usually don’t freeze well.
10 Freezer-Friendly Meals
Let’s start with a long-time Primal favorite…. For breakfast, a healthy snack, or a quick lunch, you won’t find a recipe much better than these gems. Lots of flavor and a wallop of protein will keep you fully satisfied until you have time to sit down to a larger meal.
Freeze a bunch of these sausage and eggs on the go wrapped individually in foil and thrown into a freezer bag.
For the best texture when reheated, defrost overnight in the fridge first, then reheat briefly in the microwave.
For breakfast on busy weekday mornings, pull a pancake out of the freezer and pop it in the microwave. No need to defrost first! Pancakes can also be wrapped in foil and reheated in the oven.
To freeze, stack pancakes with parchment paper in between so they don’t stick together, and put a bunch in a freezer bag. Hint: these work well for kids’ lunches. What child will turn down a “breakfast” meal after all?
A great strategy for freezer-friendly meals is simply freezing portions of cooked meat. The meat can be defrosted and used to make a variety of different meals.
Shredded pork is a great example. Cook a whole pork shoulder, cool and shred it, then freeze in smaller portions. The defrosted pork can be used in salads, tacos, stir-fries, or as the main course with steamed veggies on the side. Korean short ribs also freeze well and can be turned into a quick meal.
Cook a big sheet pan of Green Goddess chicken breasts, then shred the cooled meat and freeze.
Like shredded pork, shredded chicken can be stored in smaller portions and defrosted for a wide variety of quick meals (stir-fries, tacos, salads, soups and stews). Add additional Green Goddess for flavor if desired.
Any type of chili freezes well, but this lamb chili is especially delicious. For a complete meal (and delicious pairing), freeze a loaf of Primal cornbread, too.
When freezing the cornbread, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or parchment paper, then put in a freezer bag.
All types of meatballs freeze well. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then pop meatballs into lunchboxes, or reheat meatballs for dinner in a sauce like this one.
For Moroccan Meatball and Egg Tagine, freeze the meatballs and sauce together, then reheat slowly on the stove with ¼ cup water. Don’t freeze the eggs and fresh herbs—add them once the sauce and meatballs are reheated.
The complex flavors in this lamb and prune tagine are worth savoring over and over again, so make a double or triple batch to freeze.
Defrost overnight in the refrigerator then gently reheat on the stove or in the oven (350 ºF) with a lid. Add ¼ to ½ cup liquid as the tagine reheats.
Picadillo is home cooked comfort food, the type of easy weeknight meal that both kids and adults love. Traditionally served over rice and beans (and sometimes, plantains) Primal Picadillo can be served over cauliflower rice or simply heaped in a bowl with nothing else. It’s also pretty great next to eggs for breakfast.
Picadillo is an easy recipe to double or triple. It reheats quickly on the stove or in the microwave.
Brisket often tastes better when it’s been cooked and then reheated, so don’t worry about freezing this big piece of meat. Transfer a cooked and completely cooled brisket to a plastic freezer bag. Be extra diligent about squeezing out all the air out—getting out the air is really important to avoid freezer burn.
To defrost, put the cooked brisket in the fridge two days before you want to serve, then reheat, covered, in a 300 ºF degree oven. The meat will probably need additional salt before serving.
Fragrant and richly flavored beef Rendang requires two ingredients you might have to search for—galangal and kaffir lime leaves. This dish is well worth the effort, but you can make it doubly so by cooking a big batch so you can freeze an extra meal or two.
Reheat defrosted Rendang on the stove in a pot with an extra ½ cup coconut milk.
And Now for Today’s Giveaway…
Today to spur your healthy eating goals (not to mention kitchen inspiration), I’m giving away two sets of our Advanced Keto Kit. These are some of our most popular Primal Kitchen® products, and for pursuing a keto lifestyle, they’ll offer flavorful options that don’t undermine your eating objectives.
I’ll choose 2 random comments below as winners. Just tell me what recipes and cooking tips you’d like to see the Bees and I offer this year on Mark’s Daily Apple. Submit your comments by midnight tonight (1/4/18 PST).
Thanks for reading, everyone. Do you have further questions on freezing tips? Let us know!
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