Have you ever removed a tray of meat from the freezer only to find discoloration and ice crystals? If you’ve forgotten about a carton of ice cream in the freezer for any length of time, you may have opened it to find its surface covered in ice. Freezer burn, we tend to call it.
Freezing food is a great way to extend the life of our perishable items, but when you freeze foods, you stand the chance of having your food become freezer burnt.
Freezer burn presents itself as discoloration on the surface of frozen foods such as bread and meat. Ice crystals are another sign of freezer burn, which we can find in frozen produce and ice cream.
To understand freezer burn a bit better, it helps to know more about how the freezing process works. When food is frozen, most of the water content of that food is converted to ice. Some of the water, though, is converted directly to water vapor and is released from the food all together. This process is called sublimation.
This water loss causes food to become dehydrated over time, like ice cubes that eventually shrink when they’re left in the freezer. So, in essence, this process freeze dries parts of foods, resulting in freezer burn.
In air-tight containers (like ice cream), that water vapor forms frost on the insides of the container and/or on the surface of the food. In open containers or containers that aren’t perfectly sealed, the vapor that escapes actually leads to that build up of ice on the inside of non-frost-free freezers.
And what we’re left with is food with strange flavors that’s difficult to chew.
When you have freezer-burnt food on your hands, you should do your best to discard the areas that have been affected. But you know I just hate food waste, so let’s talk about how to prevent freezer burn all together.
Tips to prevent freezer burn
- Remove as much air as you can from packages you freeze food in. The closer your food is to its packaging, the less chance there is of it losing water.
- Don’t leave your food in the freezer longer than you have to. The longer your food is frozen, the greater the chance of it becoming freezer burnt.
- Set your freezer at the lowest setting that you can in order to help avoid sublimation from occurring, as it’s less likely at lower temperatures.
- Always use high quality zipper-style bags to freeze food, and try to wrap foods in a bag that fits just right.
- Don’t place hot food in the freezer. You risk increasing the temperature of your freezer, and some of your frozen foods may even start to thaw.
- Avoid opening the freezer door more than it needs to be opened. This will help keep the freezer temperature from fluctuating, which can lead to freezer burn.
Making meals out of the meat/poultry/fish and produce you buy as soon as you get them home from the grocery store is another way to ensure that your food doesn’t get wasted and forgotten about at the back of the freezer.
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By: Leanne Ely
It’s time for Tricks, Tips and a Recipe! And in honor of this most ultimate summer squash, today we’re giving it the attention it deserves. Sound good?
Zucchinis are packed with beta-carotene, potassium and B vitamins. They also provide fiber and a bit of Vitamin C, but a large zucchini contains only 16 calories!
While zucchini can be used in muffin and loaf recipes, I prefer to eat it in its pure form, simply stir fried as a simple side dish. Oh you know what else is good? Grated zucchini sautéed in olive oil and a bit of garlic with salt and pepper. Absolutely delicious and almost rice-like in texture.
This is one versatile and delicious veggie!
Now, it’s time for your Trick:
If you don’t know what to do with all that zucchini in your garden, grate it up and put it in the freezer, sealed individually in one-cup servings.
Select small to medium sized zucchini if you’re eating them for flavor. The bigger guys start to lose their taste after awhile. They’re okay for purposes like zucchini bread, but they won’t do much for you in a stir fry.
And your Recipe from our new 21 Day Knock Out!
Fried Egg and Veggie Skillet
2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 pound zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
4 large eggs
COOKING INSTRUCTIONS: In a very large skillet over medium high heat, melt half the coconut oil. Add onion, pepper, and zucchini and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes, until tender.
Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir in thyme.
Move the veggies to the outer edges of the skillet and lower the heat to medium. Add the remaining coconut oil. Crack eggs into the center and fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Flip eggs over and fry for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until eggs reach desired doneness.
Carefully scoop vegetables out and top with eggs. Season eggs with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
If you want more tasty recipes to help you stay on track and get ready for summer, join me on our new 21 Day Knock Out here!
By: Leanne Ely
Not all bell peppers are created equal. First there are the colors – red, orange, yellow, and green are the most common. Second is the flavor – from sweet to hot. It is all from the same plant. The only difference is when they are picked. As the pepper gets riper, it gets not only a better taste, but it also gets more nutritive value. A red pepper is actually a fully ripened green pepper with a milder flavor.
Here’s Today’s Trick:
Bell peppers freeze well without being blanched, but it is better to wash them first. For maximum flavor and nutritional value, store them whole. Sweet peppers lend themselves well to drying and keep at least 1 year when dried. They are also good marinated.
Here’s a Tip:
Red pepper has more vitamin C than oranges and are also high in beta-carotene.
And your Recipe:
Chicken Verde Fajitas
1 1/2 pounds green tomatillos, husks removed
1/2 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium limes, juiced
2 small jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts
2 tablespoons cumin
3 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
Preheat broiler to high.
Slice the tomatillos in half lengthwise, and place cut-side down in a baking dish. Roast under the broiler 6 to 8 minutes, until skin takes on a darker color. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a food processer, add cooled tomatillos, chopped onion, garlic, lime juice, jalapeños, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Blend until a puree is formed. Pour this mixture into a small freezer bag, remove excess air, and seal.
In a small mixing bowl, mix together cumin, chili powder, and paprika. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over chicken breasts. Place seasoned chicken in a freezer bag, remove excess air, and seal.
In a final freezer bag, place sliced onion and bell peppers, remove excess air, and seal.
To prevent freezer burn, place the filled bag in a second 1-gallon freezer bag; carefully squeeze the bag to force out any air, then seal. On the outside of the bag, label with the recipe name and date of preparation; place it in the freezer
Defrost your freezer meal the night before in the fridge. If you don’t have a full thaw at cooking time, remove it from the holding bag and place it in a sink of water to speed-thaw your food. New rules allow for thawing in hot water (100 degrees) with no issues regarding quality or safety (old rules said to use cold water for thawing, but this is no longer necessary – hot water is fast, effective and safe).
At time of cooking ingredients:
2 ripe avocados, sliced
1 head romaine lettuce
In a large crock cooker, add half of the tomatillo puree. Place chicken breasts on top of tomatillo puree. Add all vegetables and the rest of the tomatillo puree.
Cover and cook on high for 4 hours until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from crock cooker. With two forks, remove chicken from bone and shred. Return chicken to crock cooker and mix well.
Serve in romaine lettuce cups topped with fresh avocado.
Dinner Answers will give you what you need to get all your meals on the table, pronto. Click here!
By: Leanne Ely
As far as I’m concerned, basic kitchen skills are every bit as important to teach our children as are basic hygiene skills. We brush our teeth and wash our hands multiple times every day of our lives, and we also have to eat multiple times a day, every day of our lives. So, why is it that we don’t seem to put an emphasis on teaching our children basic kitchen skills at an early age?
My children were up at the counter helping me with age-appropriate tasks right from the time they were in diapers. I never had to worry that they wouldn’t know how to put a meal on the table when they were out on their own!
If you are among the thousands of folks who love our Saving Dinner freezer menus, I hope you’re using your prep as a teaching opportunity.
The way our freezer menus work (in case you’re not familiar) is that you do all of your prep at once so that you can cook your meals fresh from the freezer on those nights when you’re frazzled and tempted to order takeout.
Not only are these freezer menus a real life saver and an essential tool in the kitchen, in my opinion, but they are also an ideal way to get the kids involved in dinner prep. Depending on the age of the child, this could give you a bit of help and we all know that when kids have a hand in the meal, they are much more likely to eat it! If you’re tempted to chase the younger kids out of the kitchen because it creates more work, remind yourself that the teaching opportunity is worth it!
The following are the ways you can involve your children in freezer meal prep:
Have the kids help with the grocery list. Meal planning and grocery shopping are essential skills! Our freezer meals come with shopping lists, so go over them with your child before you head out to the market. Have them help you determine which items you already have on hand. When you’re at the store, show them why you’re choosing those darker avocados over the light green ones. Explain best before dates and why you buy certain items in bulk. Talk about budgeting and why you buy certain items frozen rather than fresh. Grocery shopping is a giant teaching opportunity, so don’t leave the kids home—take them along!
Make your child the sous chef. When you get home and are ready to do the meal assembly prep, while you handle the protein, let the kids set up the produce required for the recipes. Depending on age, this might be simple stuff like passing you two onions or selecting the right spices from the cupboard. If your children are of chopping age, let them do some of that prep while you supervise. If they aren’t old enough to master knife skills, they can stir spice mixes and help place the assembled meal into the plastic bag, sealing it for the freezer.
Have them do the labeling. Hand your child the marker and ask them to label and date the bag for you.
When it’s time to take that meal out of the freezer and cook it, get junior back in the kitchen! Go over the cooking ingredients together and see what you need to get from the store and what you have on hand. Not only does this teach cooking skills, but it also helps with literacy and math skills.
Then, show the kids how you safely thaw the meal (in a bowl of cold water), and let them help you prepare the side dish you’ll be serving alongside the meal. Kids are great at making salads!
If you have multiple children, put someone in charge of setting the table, someone in charge of clearing it, and make sure to enlist help with the dishes—preferably someone who didn’t help with the cooking!
I am so passionate about getting the family around the table together, and having everyone pitch in at dinner table is a fabulous way to let everyone have a stake in the meal you’ll be enjoying.
PS–We just released our first BRAND NEW Freezer Meals of the year! 6 amazing new menus and we have them on sale for over half off this week! Click here to learn more
By: Leanne Ely
Salmon is one of my all-time favorite fish and one of my all-time favorite meals for that matter. There are so many nutritional benefits to eating from its lovely healthy fatty omega 3’s to it’s outstanding source of protein, it’s important to make sure you eating the right kind of fish.
Instead of choosing farm-raised fish, scrutinize the label (if buying frozen) or ask your fish monger for wild caught only. For one it sounds more fun and makes your groceries sound a little more exciting than they really are, LOL. But the most obvious reason to choose wild salmon and other wild fish over farm raised, is that its clean. There’s a bunch of stuff you don’t want to be eating via farm raised fish, including dioxins (also found in plastics).
According to naturalnews.com, farm-raised salmon has 11 times more carcinogens than wild. Carcinogens root in dioxins and are directly linked to radiation that can mess with your metabolic system and is a prominent cause of cancer. Long story short: you do not want that in your body!
Naturalnews.com also touches on how this stark difference in environment comes to be. The dioxins creep more into farm-raised fish because the various types of feed those farmers will give to their stock contaminates the waters.
Even though wild will cost you a bit more, it’s worth the health benefits. So be a little wild (pun intended), and make the better buy!
by Leanne Ely
Here is a question I received that I believed warranted answering for everyone—
Hi- I LOVE “Saving Dinner”! My husband loves the food even more. Here is my question: how feasible is it to freeze any Thanksgiving side-dishes in advance (ie cranberry sauce, casseroles, even stuffing)? Thanks! I am busy with a new baby AND hosting this year!
From, Flybaby Barbara
Great question. You know how I’m all about doing things ahead for the holidays. And I’m all about the freezer, too. Can these two things be compatible and make for an even easier holiday? The answer is…yes and no. Some things just need to be done freshly and some things freeze beautifully, so let’s take these things one by one:
1—The Turkey. Yeah, it freezes, but the quality will not be the same. This is one place where I will say make it fresh the day of. I make it the easy, juiciest most delicious way if I do say so myself. And the best part? You don’t stuff it and you don’t baste it.
2—Cranberry sauce. Go ahead, knock yourself out! Again, I have a great recipe for it and it freezes beautifully. For the record, I’ve bought bags of fresh cranberries and frozen them in the bag I bought them in, used them about six months later and they were great too. Or you could save yourself some trouble and buy the canned variety.
3—Dressing. I can tell you from personal experience that dressing freezes fairly well. It can dry out a bit, but if you’ll thaw it overnight in the fridge, then drizzle a little melted butter and broth over the top, cover it with foil and heat thoroughly through, it will work fine and no one will be the wiser.
4—Gravy. Good gravy, yes! Gravy is a wonderful thing to behold and it freezes fabulously. Here’s a secret for you that I have in the Thanksgiving Menu-Mailer—extend your homemade gravy with some store-bought stuff. Oh yeah, that’s the best cheating secret out there. No one will know (your secret is safe with me!) and you too, will own the Endless Gravy Boat. This is important stuff when you’re worried that your father-in-law is going to hog all the gravy!
5—Pies. You can freeze your pies—or you can buy them frozen, LOL. This is one place where I would either have people bring them or buy frozen myself. Having had a Thanksgiving baby myself (my son was born on a November 21st), I remember doing Thanksgiving and having my mom bring the pies.
6—Mashed potatoes. In my book, they are a non-freezable, item—quality and texture suffer big time. I would make these fresh in the morning and put them in my crockpot on low all day. BUT, and this is the big BUT; TEST YOUR CROCKPOT FIRST with a pot full of taters (you can make cream of potato soup out of them later) to make SURE your crockpot won’t burn them. All crockpots are not created equal and it’s through trial and error that we learn our own crockpotty appliance’s nuances.
7—Veggies. You can freeze sweet potato casseroles and green bean casseroles too. Those are not my particular favorite Thanksgiving veggies, but if they are mainstays at your table, rest assured, they freeze fairly well. May get a little watery on top, but easily blot-able with a paper towel and a little finesse.
8—Rolls and Butter. By all means, freeze the both of them. They freeze well, thaw well and quality does not suffer.
That about covers it. Hope it helps!
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