Tag Archives: freezeable

Getting Better All the Time: Black Bean Burgers with Black Quinoa…Baked!

20 Feb

I am always tinkering with my black bean burger recipes – at under a dollar per pound of dried beans that end up being at least 1.5 quarts once soaked – almost everyone can afford to play with beans in the kitchen. My six-year-old likes them most of the time (we’ve had a few failures of seasoning and of texture along the way, before developing and settling on this recipe) and they freeze well, so I can throw them from the freezer into my lunch bag and heat them up satisfactorily in the office microwave.

Getting beans ready for the mashing

Getting beans ready for the mashing

I generally start soaking my beans by rinsing and picking through. I put them overnight in a big bowl covered by at least 3″ of water. In the morning, I drain and rinse, then put them in the slow cooker (crockpot)with a teaspoon or so of salt, switch them on low, cover and go to work. By the evening they are usually done; there is a “beany” smell that tells you it’s time to check for tenderness. Good cooks engage all their senses to the task; the more you cook, the more likely you are to raise your nose from the computer suddenly, like a mystic having a vision, and say solemnly: “The beans are ready” or “The rice is done.” The less you cook, the more likely you are to look up from the computer with streaming eyes and cough “Oh s**t, dinner is burning!” Continue reading

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Cocktail Meatballs (Fry for Now or Bake for Later)

8 Sep

The school year has started for me (for those who don’t know, in my other life I am a college professor of English as a Second Language) and will start for my FIRST-GRADER (!?!) on Monday.

I love a little army of meatballs. I do them in my fancy toaster oven!

I love a little army of meatballs. I do them in my fancy toaster oven!

I like to start the semester with the first two weeks of my lesson plans prepped, photocopies made and ready-to-go, and….my freezer full of home-made dishes that I can pull out in a heartbeat and serve with an easy starch and a steamed vegetable. The older my son gets, the more activities we have outside school, and the harder it gets for me to get to the gym. When dinner’s already ready, I am more relaxed and have fewer excuses to keep me from the treadmill.

Cooked! Meatballs are one of my favorite things...

Cooked! Meatballs are one of my favorite things…

Meatballs are one of our favorites. If you bake them, you can freeze them. Then, you have loads of options, Drop them in tomato sauce to defrost and make delicious pasta gravy. Just heat them up and serve with rice or buttered noodles or pesto. Make a meatball hero. Serve to unexpected guests with toothpicks as an attractive appetizer. Yes, meatballs in the freezer make life much easier. So here they are, simple to make (the little guy helps with the smashing and meatball making) and yet very, very tasty.

Fry-babies

Fry-babies

Continue reading

Back-to-School Freezer Fillers 3: Pollo Guisado (Stewed Chicken)

9 Sep

Pollo Guisado is one of those abuela (grandmother) dishes that Puerto Ricans and other Spanish-Caribbean folks grow up on. It is uncomplicated, but rich in flavor.

Yes, there is both wine and beer in it; that is not an error in the recipe! This is a modified and milder version of the classic Pollo Guisado which I have posted before (which uses  flavorful chicken thighs rather than mild breast, and twice the beer). Very kid-friendly, it is best served with rice. It looks and tastes impressive, but is a cinch to make and is mostly hands-off.

Continue reading

Back-To-School Freezer Fillers 2: Nostalgia-Driven Tomato and Rice Soup

31 Aug

When I was a kid, I love-love-loved Campbell’s Tomato and Rice Soup, the kind from the can that you just added water to and stirred around on the stove top for a while. Holy Happy Meal, Batman, with a couple of saltines on, that was the best stuff ever to slurp on a fall day, and best of all, I could do it myself from a young age. Don’t ask me how young, because I don’t remember! But it was a handy thing to make, and it got you tons of labels for your school back in the day. Ah yes, the Campbell Soup Label Drives…. Continue reading

Back-to-School Freezer Fillers 1: Basil Pesto

29 Aug

My darling son starts kindergarten this week. Yikes!

And I go back to the classroom to teach next week. Double Yikes!

Drying blanched basil

I look upon school food with deep suspicion; I haven’t spent the last five years nurturing a good and healthy eater only to surrender him to the deep fryer as well as the public education system. And for myself, I refuse to waste $10 a day or more eating lunch out when I can eat better for less in the comfort of my office, listening to Pandora and checking my emails. Continue reading

Everything Must Go! How to make a mad-mixed pasta sauce to eat now/freeze for later)

22 Aug

We are drowning in abundance. It happens every August if you garden or belong to a CSA; there are so many tomatoes, so many peppers, so much zucchini….it all gets lost in the fridge faster than you can cook it!

So, with pick-up coming the next day and a fridge full of last week’s haul getting ugly, I took as much as I could and cooked it down into sauce – some for now and some for the freezer, in small containers that will make a fast meal when school starts and dinner needs to be now and lunch needs to be ready the night before. I have freezer-packing panic!

Blanche! (Tennessee Williams moment)

Here is an Everything Must Get Used Before Our Next Pick-Up tomato sauce recipe. I used SunGolds, cherries, paste tomatoes, slicers, heirlooms, anything that had been sitting all week getting sad.

How-to for blanching tomatoes follows the recipe….

Everything Must Go Pasta Sauce

3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Cup onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 green peppers, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

(Optional bits and bobs: half a zucchini, a bit of eggplant – bung in anything that will cook down soft and not mess up the overall color too much — chopped small).

6 lbs tomatoes (paste tomatoes preferred, but I used an incredible mix), cored, blanched and peeled*

1 Tbs dried oregano and thyme (2 Tbs if using fresh)

¼ Cup red wine

½ tsp salt (or to taste)

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot at medium high until liquid and fragrant. Lower heat to medium and add the following vegetables one at a time, stirring to coat before adding the next: onions, garlic, peppers, carrots, celery. Cook at medium (or lower if you have time) until vegetables are soft and translucent, at least five minutes. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add herbs and wine and lower to a lively simmer. Cook down for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The more you cook it, the smoother it will get, but also the more dense. Add water 1/4 Cup at a time as desired.

(Optional step: Using an immersion blender, liquefy the sauce to desired smoothness)

Correct seasoning and serve over pasta/freeze for later! Will keep three months in the freezer.

To blanch, keep reading!

A pile of peels

*To blanch and peel tomatoes: Bring two quarts of water to a boil. Meanwhile, core the tomatoes (take out the stem and white core with a paring knife) and prepare a large bowl of ice water. When the water boils, drop tomatoes in. In two minutes (or less) you will see the skin begin to peel back or split. Remove each tomato as this happens and drop in ice water. When tomatoes have cooled,  take them out of the ice water and peel (the skin should come off easily). They are then ready to cook down, or freeze in freezer bags for later use (later can be as long as next spring! and you don’t have to peel them if you are freezing for later use).

Golden Tomato Pasta Sauce (freezeable! or make from frozen tomatoes…)

30 Jul

“Tis the season for the tomatoes to overwhelm. In fact, last year we were so overwhelmed that I had tomatoes in the freezer all winter. The texture isn’t as good as in the middle of summer, but the incomparable bright, fresh flavor is still there.

Yes, these icebergs are actually frozen golden tomatoes (yellow seems a bit more prosaic here). The freezer burn was minimal and the flavor was great!

So this is a terrific simple sauce that you can make from frozen or fresh. Instructions for blanching appear at the end!

Golden Tomato Sauce

Golden Tomato Pasta Sauce

¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Cup shallots, chopped

¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes

1 Tbs oregano (less if oregano is not your favorite; this is a pretty generous amount)

Pinch sugar

5 lbs golden tomatoes, cored, blanched and peeled*

10-20 basil leaves, chopped

Heat olive oil at medium-high in a heavy-bottomed soup pot until liquid and fragrant. Add shallots, stir to coat and lower heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are soft and translucent. Stir in hot red pepper flakes, oregano and pinch sugar and cook one minute. Add tomatoes, bring to boil then lower to a lazy simmer and cook for an hour or until fat begins to separate from tomatoes and you have reaced desired consistency. Add basil leaves and cook for an additional five minutes. Serve over pasta, as pizza sauce or on bruschetta, or freeze in quart containers for another day.

*To blanch and peel tomatoes, set a big pot of water to boil. In the meantime, core the tomatoes and fill a big bowl with ice water. When the water is boiling, drop tomatoes in so they fit comfortably. They blanch in under a minute, generally. As soon as you see the peel start separating from the flesh, pull them out and drop into the ice water. You can leave the peel on if you are going to freeze them (in gallon freezer bags is fine) or peel once they have cooled to use immediately.

Albóndigas Variation (Meatballs: Eat some now, freeze some for later)

28 Jun

You would think that I came from hunger.

I stockpile like a squirrel in autumn. (And like squirrels, I sometimes forget where the hell I stockpiled my treasures, but that is another matter for a day when we are discussing organization. Today, we are not). I don’t feel safe unless there are plenty of foodstuffs laid by, whether for unexpected guests, an emergency supper,  the coming of The Apocalypse, or the nuclear winter. I’m a Cold War baby and that’s how I roll.

Sauté onion and garlic in a saucepan, drop in frozen meatballs and a tin of crushed tomatoes with your preferred herbs and spices and in 20 minutes of lively simmer – gorgeous sauce for spaghetti and meatballs!

There’s nothing I like more than a pantry full of stuff with which to make meals, except a freezer full of stuff that is already made (by me, of course, because the supermarket has freezers full of simulated-food garbage I won’t pay for, cause it’s  simulated food garbage I won’t eat).

To freeze, place cooled meatballs in a freezer bag. Lay the bag flat on a plate and stick in freezer so the meatballs don’t freeze stuck together. When completely frozen through, remove plate, shake the bag to unstick meatballs, squeeze air out, and leave bag in freezer. Use within three months (or before freezer burn sets in!)

Thus, this meatball recipe – a variation on my dad’s excellent meatballs. We call them albóndigas and like to make them neutrally flavored for freezing, so that whatever the occasion you can drop them in an Italian-style tomato sauce, serve them with buttered noodles, make a meatball sandwich, stick them with toothpicks and call them hors d’oeuvres, do whatever, adding your favorite seasonings later.

Cheese, please!

Use some hot off the stove, and freeze the rest. You never know when they will save your life….

Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs!

Albóndigas (Variation on Pedro’s Albóndigas)

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 generous Cup onion, chopped

2 Tbs olive oil

1 Cup mixed fresh herbs (or 4 Tbs dry), such as basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, parsley

2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1 tsp salt

3 lbs ground beef (you can substitute 1lb of pork for 1lb of beef)

2 whole eggs (optional)

1 cup breadcrumbs (plain, or seasoned with similar herbs to those you chose above)

Whir garlic, onions, olive oil and parsley in a blender or food processor until minced fine. Add herbs, Old Bay, and salt and pulse a few times until it forms a paste.

In a large bowl place meat, seasoning paste, optional eggs, roasted red pepper, and bread crumbs. Mix well so that breadcrumbs are evenly distributed. Using your hands, roll into balls about 1.5 inches across. You can dip your hands in water to keep from sticking.

Heat 2 Tbs oil in heavy skillet at medium heat until the oil flows like water and a meatball dipped in it sizzles softly. Fry several at a time (use tongs to turn quickly) browning on all sides, then lower to medium low and cook for about six minutes, shaking the pan and turning meatballs occasionally. When they are cooked through, cool on paper towels. Can be frozen for three months in an airtight container.

Buying a New Car and Cheesy Savoury Meatballs: a tenuous relationship

10 Mar

I bought a car today. Apparently people think congratulations are in order, but I feel a bit more like puking than celebrating.

I find these big purchases that require loans from the bank are among the most stressful of stressful things, right up there with realizing, as you are halfway down the aisle with your ivory Nicole Miller silk shantung dress, white knuckling your dad’s forearm under a beachfront palapa in the Dominican Republic, that you really shouldn’t marry this person; or signing a mortgage in a fancy San Juan neighborhood that you are terrified of not being able to keep up with; leaning over for your epidural as you are about to become a single mother by choice and realizing you’ve never even changed a diaper…you know, life-changing, oh shit, what have I got myself into moments, irreversible, irrevocable, the type that you can’t later walk away from with a shrug and an “Oh well, that didn’t quite work out as I’d planned, let’s go out for a cocktail.”

That’s how I feel about buying a car. It’s worse now that I have that baby (I am a diaper-changing expert now, but don’t ask me to do it because we are DONE with that).  He is almost five now and barely lets me complete a thought, much less a major financial transaction. But, I did what I could, and picked out the make and model I wanted, and went through the no-haggle credit union thing, and found the right vehicle and test drove it, and decided it was the one. Then I filled out the papers, had my sticker shock and signed anyway, with my heart and breath stuck high in my throat.

I was almost done.

It must be five o'clock somewhere (Lorraine's pina coladas would be very handy right now)

Then the saleswoman just wouldn’t quit trying to sell me other stupid insurance-type shit to protect me from all sorts of dire consequences of all the things that could happen to my car that I wouldn’t be able to afford to fix if I didn’t have the insurance (didn’t I just buy the damn thing because it was supposed to be reliable?) and I asked her to please stop, but of course she didn’t. So didn’t I just turn into a puddle right in that stupid office?

Yes I cried, much to the astonishment of the saleswoman (not to me; I felt it coming a mile off), but at least she sort of stopped with the sales pitch in her frantic search for a tissue and I was able to collect myself, get out of there and go pick up Leandro at his friend’s house where I was fortunate enough to be able to leave him for a couple of hours.

All of this is apropos of nothing, except that when we got home Leandro suddenly began to feel a cold coming on, so instead of going to our single mom’s meet-up which we were both really looking forward to and where I was going to tell my tale of woe to a sympathetic audience and then have a nice dinner with Pam and her kids, we stayed home and so now I am telling my tale of woe to you.

That feels much better, thank you.

If you have gotten this far, it is actually a beautiful 2008 Honda CRV in a Royal Blue Pearl, with a gray interior, with about 26,000 miles on it, perfect for our active, outdoor lives, so the car is exactly what I wanted. Now I just need some help to pick it up on Monday…

As far as the food tie-in, well this is going to be  the lamest transition I will ever write in my life. It is bad, really bad, but hopefully I will never ever ever write another one as awful. So, with my apologies, here goes….

Since I am limp from the emotional wringer of car buying and loan-signing, I don’t feel like making dinner. In the freezer I have these delicious meatballs, which I made with my cousin, Lorraine, a couple of weeks ago (to be honest, she did most of the making while I sorted out my son for bed) and I am very likely going to throw them in tomato sauce over spaghetti for a hearty, comforting dish. And then, from here on in, it will be beans, beans, beans, until I can reasonably fit a new car payment into my sad little budget.

I hope you love them!

Cheesy and Savory Meatballs

2 ¼ Cup plain breadcrumbs

1.5 Cup buttermilk

1.5 tsp unflavored gelatin

3 Tbs water

2.5 lbs lean ground beef and 1 lb ground veal or pork (or a 3-3.5 lb meatloaf mix)

1 Cup very finely minced cooked ham

1 oz (about ½ Cup) Parmigiano Reggiano, or Grana Padano

3 large eggs

6 Tbs minced parsley

6 cloves garlic, minced fine

1.5 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Put oven racks to lower-middle and upper middle racks and pre-heat to 450°F. Set wire racks or slotted oven rack on 2 rimmed baking sheets covered in foil and spray with vegetable oil spray.

Mix buttermilk and breadcrumbs in a large bowl and let sit until a smooth paste forms (about 10 minutes. You can stir and mash occasionally during the ten minutes. Meanwhile, put water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Allow to soften for five minutes.

Mix meat, ham, eggs, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt and gelatin into breadcrumb mixture using hands. Pinch off and roll mixture into 2-inch meatballs (makes 48 or more) and arrange on prepared baking sheets. Bake until well-browned, about 30 (if you plan on cooking them further in a sauce)  or 40 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets halfway through.

Baked Chicken Tenders (with hint of curry option!)

19 May

The best defense is a good offense, even when it comes to protecting your family from encroaching fast-food predilections. So I keep trying to build a better, healthier, more attractive chicken tender that I can freeze and have on hand any time a drive-thru strikes me as a really good idea.

These chicken tenders are a variation on a Rachael Ray recipe — and you thought this was a Rachael-free zone, didn’t you? C’mon, the woman is everywhere! Even here. And certainly on all the search engines!

I like to think my version of chicken tenders has a bit more pizzazz, but we all have our vanities.

Bottom line: these are easy, freezeable and adaptable and they helped carry me through another semester of packed lunches for pre-K. My kid and his grandfather both loved the subtle curry flavor (which bodes well for our next Indian buffet lunch!). You can really season it however you like; the infrastructure of the recipe is very sound.

Baked Chicken Fingers with an optional hint of curry (freezeable!)

2 lbs chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness (do not pound thin, just even them out) and sliced, against the grain, into generous strips

Salt and pepper for seasoning chicken strips

2 cups flour

2-3 cups breadcrumbs, unseasoned

½ -1 tsp salt

2 Tbs dried parsley

2 -3 Tbs curry powder (optional; see herb options, below)

2-3 Tbs your choice dried oregano/basil/Italian herbs/French herbs (if you decide against the curry)

 3 eggs

¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to 375°F. Season the tenders with salt and black pepper. In a shallow dish, season the flour with salt and pepper. In a wide bowl, beat the eggs with the milk. In a third dish (shallow), place the breadcrumbs and season with salt, parsley and either the curry powder or the herb blend. Be generous with the herbs.

Dredge the chicken strips in the flour to coat. Shake off excess flour. Dip the strips in the egg to coat. Then coat with breadcrumbs. Place chicken strips on a baking sheet, or, ideally, a rack that lets them heat all around. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, turning once.

Once cooled, I pop them into freezer bags and take them out as needed for lunches and such, reheating at 325°F for ten minutes.

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