March 9, 2016

Love Your Freezer! (Plus How To Freeze Kale)

I love my freezer. My freezer is almost always full of good beginnings for dinners. I freeze my stocks, breads, and any fruits or vegetables I know we won’t eat before they spoil. I’ll roast a chicken, take it apart and freeze the shredded meat in meal-sized containers. I freeze cooked beans, milks, and overripe bananas. I think my freezer looks a lot like a cross-section of my brain: full of everything and jumbled and sort of organized, but mostly not.

Even before we started eating clean, we had a chest freezer. And it was full. It was full of frozen pizzas, ready-to-eat appetizers, bagged veggies, and ice (always ice!). And that was pretty much it. It was such a waste. I mean, sure, I had access to any frozen pizza flavour my mind could conjure up, and when the Mr. inevitably injured some random body part doing some random sporting thing, there was always a bag of peas ready to ice said injury, but we never really made use of the freezer. Once we changed the way we ate, however, the freezer became this integral part of my kitchen organization.

I think the freezer is a totally underrated kitchen appliance. It’s not just for frozen pizzas and ice. You can preserve a great harvest, or horde on-sale butters. Freezers save you money, and if you are lucky enough to have room for a chest freezer, the amount of storage you can utilize is amazing! Even today, as I wrote this post, I went down to my freezer, pulled out some refried beans, some shredded chicken, some bananas for banana bread and voila, the beginnings of dinner and it literally took me 30 seconds to rummage through my freezer!

Even though the days of frozen pizzas and pre-packaged dinners are long gone, I don’t feel cheated. Yes, I still have a ton of ice, and frozen veggies, but now I make better use of the freezer. In place of those processed foods, I now have wholesome alternatives, that can be just as quick, and, in my opinion, far better tasting! If you treat your freezer like a well-stocked perishable pantry, you will almost always be able to throw together a meal on the fly.

As you continue on your clean journey, you will hopefully start to make use of your freezer. If you don’t have a chest freezer, all is not lost! The freezer attached to your fridge is fine, you will just have to be clever with organizing the goods in there!

So why is the freezer so great?

love your freezer! Super easy way to freeze kale (and other greens). www.mudonherboots.com

This is my real freezer. It’s not Martha Stewart perfect and if you look in the left corner you’ll see some frozen paint brushes, but it works for me and I know that pretty much everything in there is yummy and waiting for me to use!

As I mentioned, I freeze just about everything. I do this for two main reasons: it allows me to prepare items in bulk and it saves me money. Let me explain:

Preparing in bulk means less time spent in the kitchen

Yes, I like to cook and sometimes it’s one of the only things that keeps me sane. But just because I like to cook, doesn’t mean I always have the time to cook. Enter the bulk preparation. If you have read my other posts you might have noticed that I am nuts for stocks. I think I may use the word way too much, like at least three times a day spoken out loud and maybe twice that in my mind, which is kind of weird because, I mean, it’s just broth. I can’t explain it, but I just love having it around. It’s like a culinary security blanket to know that I always have a couple of different kinds in the freezer. In fact, I kind of get sad when I use the last pressure canned beauty or frozen gem. Is that pathetic? Don’t answer that! As much as I’d like to have my freezer and shelves lined with stocks and bone broths, I have to reign myself in. I have to keep room available for the frozen breads, muffins, granola bars (already cut into bars and pre-wrapped! I know, how smart is that?!), meat I’ve cooked and portioned, compound butters, pizza doughs, etc, etc, etc.

But back to the bulk preparation: when you have a little time, like say a Sunday, or after dinner some night, do some baking, or prepare some dough for pizzas. Whip up some marinara, or even a salad dressing you really love. Portion it, freeze it, and you have it ready to go on those super-busy nights! If you make one or two things a week that you portion and freeze, before long, your freezer will be bursting with good foodstuffs just waiting to become delicious and healthy meals! It’s really that easy.

Your Freezer Saves You Money

By portioning those leftovers or by roasting up a giant cut of meat and freezing it for future meals, not only are you saving time on those busy nights, but you’re also saving money! Purchasing a large cut of meat is always cheaper than buying individual portions. Look at it this way: the more the butcher has to work on a piece of meat, the more money you will pay for that service. A boneless, skinless chicken breast will always cost more than a bone-in, skin-on chicken breast because the butcher has to futz around removing skin and bones. If you only like breast meat, buy a few bone-in breasts, drizzle some olive oil on them, sprinkle with a good amount of salt and pepper and roast away. Let them cool, and then take them apart and freeze. Easy! But you’re not just limited to meats and stocks! Love a great loaf of bread that only goes on sale sometimes? Freeze that too! It may not be as amazing as when you first bought it, but it’ll still make first-rate toast and killer grilled cheese. When fruits and veggies are in season, they are also at their least expensive. You can freeze most produce: just wash and chop it, pop it on a baking sheet in a single layer, and let it freeze for a couple of hours. Pull it out, and throw the frozen produce into a container and toss it back into the freezer. It should keep for 6 months to a year, and even longer if you’re me and you are still tossing some great 2014 vintage strawberries into your smoothie!

Help Your Freezer Help You!

One of the greatest things about the freezer is that it stops the multiple grocery store trips or the what’s for dinner panic. Basically, by freezing meats, stocks, milks, and produce, you have a perishable pantry at your disposal at all times.

Freezing greens is super quick and easy. It’s one of those things you can do while putting groceries away or waiting for the kettle to boil. You don’t have to lay them out on a tray and freeze them first. You can pretty much just jam them in a container and be done with it. The reason you don’t have to bother with the tray first is because the greens have no hope of ever being the same texture and consistency that they were when they were fresh. Greens have a high moisture content which, while making them refreshing and delicious , also completely degrades the texture of the greens after freezing. Basically, you can’t defrost them and throw them in a salad. Don’t believe me? Try it and see. Just don’t invite me over that night *blech*. Frozen greens still have their place in meal preparation, and it’s not like I’m telling you to freeze, thaw and then eat cucumber (seriously, would that be gross or what?!). But the chopped kale, or collards, or spinach that you portion and freeze can become great additives for soups and sautés.

Super Easy (probably not officially by the rules but still totally delicious) Way To Freeze Kale (or any green, really)

Here’s what I do:

Fill up your sink with cool water. Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Submerge greens. Swish around so all the leaves get wet.

love your freezer! Super easy way to freeze kale (and other greens). www.mudonherboots.com

Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so. Scoop up greens, and place them in a salad spinner or on a clean tea towel, being careful not to disturb the water at the bottom of the sink (where all the sediment and bugs will hopefully have sunk!)

love your freezer! Super easy way to freeze kale (and other greens). www.mudonherboots.comDry your greens well. Pick through the greens and remove any yellowed or wilted pieces. Cut off stems and woody bits.

love your freezer! Super easy way to freeze kale (and other greens). www.mudonherboots.com

 

Give the greens a good chop. If they will be used for soups, stews and casseroles, try to keep the pieces bite-sized.

love your freezer! Super easy way to freeze kale (and other greens). www.mudonherboots.com

Label your ziploc baggies (not my favourite thing to use from a waste standpoint, but still the best option I can find for longterm freezer storage)

love your freezer! Super easy way to freeze kale (and other greens). www.mudonherboots.com

Portion your greens into the bags. Usually anywhere from 1-3 cups is a good size. Seal the bags. Try to remove as much air as possible, by squishing the bag as you close it.

love your freezer! Super easy way to freeze kale (and other greens). www.mudonherboots.com

Pop them in the freezer: you’re done!

Need some culinary inspiration for those frozen greens? Check out these recipes:

Chicken, Quinoa, and Kale Soup

Crockpot Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Happy Freezing!

 

 

 

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