Feast in a Flash: Make Your Own Frozen Entrees
The beauty of big-batch cooking
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
The nesting instinct isn't just for fowl. About this time of year, we, too, feel the urge to prepare our "nests" for the long winter ahead. And one great way to do that is to cook up big batches of our favorite fall foods, then freeze portions of them for easy reheating on busy weeknights (or cozy, lazy weekends).
Yes, it takes a bit of planning and bit of prep work (all that chopping). But when you cook healthy foods in big batches, you end up with a freezer full of your own homemade "light" frozen entrees. Whether you're motivated by convenience, economics, or health, big-batch cooking is a great habit to get into.
These Freeze Best
Some dishes are more suited than others to cooking in large quantities and freezing in individual portions.
Foods that lend themselves to freezing and reheating include:
Food safety can get a bit tricky when you cool off big batches of a dish, then freeze it, only to thaw it weeks or days later.
What you want to avoid is keeping your food at the temperature where it's vulnerable to bacteria growth: that in-between stage when it's not too hot and not too cold. You should get through this stage as quickly as possible when cooling off a dish, and skip it entirely when thawing food.
To accomplish this:
Preparation and Storage Tips
Here are some more tips to make sure your big-batch recipes stay safe, healthy, and tasty:
The Big Batch Trade-Off
Wouldn't it be fun to make a big batch of your Grandma's famous spaghetti sauce, then trade a couple of portions to friends or neighbors for their specialty firehouse chili or chicken jambalaya? That way, you'd end up with two or three different entrees out of a single cooking session -- and you might discover some new, healthy dishes that your family loves.
Some things to keep in mind when sharing dishes:
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