Freezer Meals are Frozen Assets
This article is in the Mormon Times today!Â The author, Sharon Haddock from the Deseret News, called me two weeks ago and met with me last week for the interview. Â It can be intimidating to talk with a journalist, but Sharon made me feel at ease like I was talking with an old friend. Â This article wasn’t supposed to be out until July, but she pushed to have it published online this week.Â You will see it in print in July.Â Thank you Sharon.
Jenny Ahlstrom Stanger didn’t become a freezer meal expert overnight.
The Mormon mom and cookbook author learned the secrets of good freezing one dish at a time.
Today, she has 207 fool-proof, freezer recipes to share — healthy recipes that can save a busy wife and mother not only time but dollars as well (up to $300 per month for the average family).
“This is the result of lots and lots of experimentation,” Stanger said.
Stanger got started freezing meals because she simply didn’t want to spend all of her time cooking. With four little girls and a busy life, she didn’t want to run through the fast food drive-in lanes either.
She discovered that by cooking with an eye to the future and freezing the surplus, she cut way down on time in the kitchen.
She also found that a few simple strategies made the food “come back” as tasty and appetizing as when she first cooked it.
“There are some tricks to it,” she said. “With meats, if you add a marinade first, it will come out juicy and flavorful. Block cheese will crumble if you freeze it but if you shred it first, it will be fine. With pasta and sauce, you always want to add a little water when you thaw it and you don’t want to fully cook noodles.”
Stanger doesn’t freeze whole potatoes because they turn black but they’ll work just fine in a recipe with a sauce. She doesn’t freeze foods with a high water content like celery, eggplant or peaches (I actually do freeze peaches) but she’s totally comfortable freezing German pancake and muffin batter, homemade bread, even caramel popcorn balls.
She has ideas for main dishes, soups, desserts and breads.
She has recommendations for organizing a refrigerator freezer (You don’t need a big freezer), safe storage and safe defrosting.
And for the Mormon cook, a list of substitutions for wines and alcohol included in some recipes.
There are bulk recipes, emergency substitutions and helpful hints like how to properly dice up an onion sans tears.
There are school lunch recipes, including one for homemade corn dogs, mini pizzas and mini calzones.
Stanger shares all that in her book “Fabulous Freezer Meals,” just published by Walnut Springs Press (available at Costco and bookstores nationwide). People can also go to her website, freezerdinner.com, for ideas, recipes and tips. She also is a frequent guest on Ch. 4’s “Good Things Utah” show.
“It’s funny how food is the key. If you’re on top of things in the food area, everything goes better,” she said.
A few Jenny Stanger recipes:
Chicken Pot Pie
4 cups cubed chicken (or ham, turkey, or beef)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups sliced carrots
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
pastry for two double-crust 9-inch pies, or use biscuit
baking mix to make crust
Reduce heat, cover, and simmer vegetables for 8-10 minutes. Boil potatoes and carrots in a large stockpot. Meanwhile, in another pot, boil cubed chicken for 8 minutes. Drain vegetables and chicken and set aside. In a large skillet, saute onion in butter until tender. Add flour, salt, thyme and pepper, stirring until blended. Gradually stir in broth and milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add chicken, peas, corn, potatoes and carrots. Remove from heat. Yield: two 9-inch pot pies (6-8 servings each).
Crust Option 1
Line two 9-inch pie pans with bottom pastry; trim even with edge of pan. Fill pastry shells with chicken mixture. Roll out remaining pastry to fit top of pies. Cut slits or decorative cutouts in pastry. Place over filling; trim, seal, and style the edges. Bake one pot pie at 425ÂºF for 35-40 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.
Crust Option 2
Mix together 2 cups biscuit baking mix, 1 1/4 cups milk, 1 teaspoon garlic salt, and 1/2 teaspoon celery seed. (Mixture will be thin.) Spoon over top of chicken pot pie. Bake at 350ÂºF for 30-35 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cover and freeze remaining pot pie for up to 4 months.
Cover edges of frozen pot pie with foil; place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425ÂºF for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350ÂºF and bake for 70-80 minutes longer, or until crust is golden brown.
Snickers Ice Cream Cake
2 cups powdered sugar
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups chocolate wafer crumbs (about 48 wafers)
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream, softened
2 cups salted dry-roasted peanuts, crushed
In a large saucepan, bring the sugar, milk, chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup butter to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Cool completely. Melt the remaining 1/2 cup butter; toss with wafer crumbs. Press into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan. Spread the softened ice cream over the crust and sprinkle with nuts. Freeze for 30 minutes. Spread cooled sauce over nuts. Cover and freeze for 1 hour or until firm. Yield: one 9-by-13-inch cake (10 servings).
Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.
Big Fat Chewy Chocolate-Chip Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups oats
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325ÂºF. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt. Then stir in the oats and set aside.
In a large bowl cream together the softened butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla until creamy. Mix in the dry ingredients until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.
Wrap half the cookie dough in layers of plastic in a log shape. Label “325ÂºF, 15 minutes.” Place in a zip-top bag and freeze up to 6 months.
Roll the remaining dough into golf ball-sized portions. Place on a cookie sheet and flatten until the cookies are 1/2-inch thick. Place cookies 3 inches apart, since they will spread. Bake 15 minutes or until just golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or freeze for later. Yield: 2 dozen cookies
Defrost dough in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds. (Just soften the dough — don’t melt it.) Shape cookie dough into golf ball-size balls. Bake at 325ÂºF for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Peanut Butter Granola Wraps
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 1/2 cups granola
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
3 tablespoons honey
8 medium (10-inch) whole-wheat tortillas
In a large bowl, combine peanut butter, granola, chopped peanuts and honey; mix well. Spread tortillas with the peanut butter mixture so they are completely covered and the mixture is 1/4 inch thick. Roll up tortillas and cut in half. Serve immediately, or wrap well and freeze. Let thaw in an insulated lunchbox until lunchtime. Yield: 12 servings.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup diced pepperoni
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
4 green onions, chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375ÂºF. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper muffin liners. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, basil, oregano and sugar. Mix in green onions and 1 cup cheese. In a smaller bowl beat the egg, then whisk in buttermilk. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine thoroughly. Spoon batter into paper-lined muffin cups until half full. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cheese on top of muffins. Bake at 375ÂºF for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the muffin comes out clean.
To make jumbo pizza muffins, use a jumbo muffin tin (sprayed with cooking spray) and increase the cooking time by a few minutes. Watch closely to make sure muffins don’t overcook and dry out. Insert a toothpick to check doneness.
Cool muffins, individually wrap in plastic, and freeze in a large zip-top bag. Place one or two muffins in a lunchbox and they will defrost and be ready to eat by lunchtime. Yield: 20 muffins.