When it comes to leftovers, your freezer can be your best friend, especially when you're talking about the leftovers from a large meal. But, you needn't relegate it to the mere task of tackling Thanksgiving leftovers. If you plan it right, you can split your meals often and enjoy them again after a few weeks have passed.
Here are some hints and tips for freezing leftovers to save time in the future. Think of them as "frozen assets" just waiting for you to need them!
- Always label package with important information such as contents, number of servings, date frozen, and special instructions.
- If you're freezing a dish that's known for staining containers -- such as spaghetti sauce -- carefully spray the container with cooking spray before you add the food. No more stains!
- If you package your food in freezer wrap, foil or plastic bags, press out as much air as possible before sealing the package.
- If a meal is to be frozen in a baking dish, wrap the dish in heavy foil and seal with freezer tape. If the dish contains an acidic ingredient such as tomatoes, cover the dish with plastic wrap first to prevent a reaction between the foil and the food during storage.
- When freezing liquids, leave enough headspace in your container for the food to expand as it freezes.
You can save yourself lots of time by keeping prepared rice and pasta on hand in your freezer. Simply make up additional amounts next time you prepare either and place 1/2 cup per serving into a freezer bag. Then you can seal, label and freeze the bags. Pasta and rice will keep in your freezer for about 6 months if prepared this way.
To reheat the pasta, remove the pasta from the freezer bag and carefully lower it into a saucepan filled with boiling water. Boil about 1 minute per 1/2 cup serving.
To reheat the rice, remove the rice from the freezer bag and place it in a saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of water per 1/2 cup serving of rice. Cover and heat for about 5 minutes or until hot.
To reheat either in a microwave, place frozen rice or pasta in a microwave-safe dish covered with waxed paper. Micro-cook the dish on high until it’s hot. Allow for 1-2 minutes per 1/2 cup serving.
The recipes included in this article are just a sampling of the wide variety of dishes that can be prepared with freezing in mind. Included in each recipe are directions for freezing and reheating. And, now, here's dinner:
Enjoy and let me know how you use your freezer to make leftovers a success for you.
- 2 qts. beef broth
- 3 c. chopped tomatoes
- 2 c. diced potato
- 2 c. chopped cabbage
- 1 c. frozen corn
- 1/2 c. chopped carrot
- 1/2 c. chopped onion
- 1/2 c. chopped zucchini
- 1/2 c. chopped green beans
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/2 tsp. hot sauce
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
Bring the broth to a boil in a large stockpot. Add remaining ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. To serve, remove and discard bay leaf.
To freeze, place 3 cups soup into each of 4 labeled airtight containers. Freeze up to 1 month.
To reheat, thaw 1 container (2 servings) in the refrigerator or microwave. Place soup in a medium saucepan and cook, covered, over medium heat until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally.
- Yields: about 3 quarts
- Preparation Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
- cooking spray
- 1/2 c. chopped green pepper
- 1 T. chopped onion
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
- 1/2 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- 2 (6-inch) French rolls, split lengthwise
- 3 oz. Canadian bacon, thinly sliced
- 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Coat a saucepan with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add green pepper, onion and garlic. Cook until tender, but not browned. Stir in tomato sauce and next 3 ingredients. Cook over medium heat until hot.
Spread sauce over cut sides of rolls. Top with bacon and cheese. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.
To freeze, wrap each pizza in plastic wrap, then heavy duty aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 weeks.
To reheat, unwrap 2 pizzas (2 servings) and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
- Yields: 4 servings
- Preparation Time: 30 minutes
- 2 lb. lean flank steak
- cooking spray
- 1 1/3 c. chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 c. beef broth
- 6 T. soy sauce
- 3 T. red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. allspice
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
Score steak on both sides. Place in a zip-top plastic bag.
Coat a small skillet with cooking spray. Place over medium-high heat; when hot, add onion and garlic. Cook until tender, but not browned. Add beef broth and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and let cool. Pour marinade over steak; seal bag and shake until steak is well coated. Marinate steak in refrigerator for 8 hours.
Remove steak from bag and discard marinade. Place steak on the rack of a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil 5 1/2-inches from heat 6-8 minutes on each side or to desired degree of doneness. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into 1/4-inch slices.
To freeze, slice steak in half before marinating. Place half of steak and marinade in each of two labeled freezer bags. Freeze up to 3 months.
To prepare, thaw 1 package of steak in refrigerator or microwave and follow broiling directions above.
- Yields: 8 servings
- Preparation Time: 45 minutes, plus marinating time