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Bread Baking for Beginners: How to Make the Perfect Sourdough Loaf

There’s nothing like the smell of homemade bread in your kitchen, and the taste of a fresh sourdough loaf is always so much better than store-bought. While there are some bakeries that sell traditionally made sourdough bread, it’s not always common to find. Besides, it’s actually easy to make your own bread at home. With a few readily available ingredients and a little bit of time, you can learn the basics of working with sourdough. The slow fermentation process of sourdough makes the bread easier to digest, and tastes absolutely delicious. We know you’ll love it!

Sourdough Bread Recipe: Bread Baking for Beginners

The Perfect Fermented Sourdough Bread

Prep Time: 20 hours
Cook Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:
1 ½  cups sourdough starter
½  cup water
1 cup spelt flour
½  cup rye flour
½  cup white flour
1.5 tsp sea salt
1 cup white rice flour for sprinkling

Related: Can’t Find Yeast? 12 Yeast-Free Bread Recipes You’ll Love

Directions:
1. Combine the starter with water and the different flours in a large bowl. Gently mix with a wooden spoon until incorporated evenly. The dough should be a bit sticky.

How to Make Sourdough Bread

2. Let the mixture sit in the bowl for 30 minutes, covered with a towel. You’ll want the room temperature to be warm, around 25°C (78°F).

3. After 30 minutes, add in the sea salt. You can gently rub the salt into the dough with your fingers.

4. Place the dough on a clean counter or a large cutting board, and lightly flour the surface. Here’s where you’ll do a technique that’s called “slap and fold” for around 5 minutes: Stretch out the dough into a rectangular shape and slap this against the surface.

Related: 15 Things You Can Make With Your Leftover Sourdough Starter

Once the dough is laying flat on the surface, fold the bottom end over into the center. Stretch out the dough again and repeat several more times in the 5 minute period. You’ll find that the dough starts to hold together better and is smoother after this process.

5. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Place it back in the bowl, and cover with a towel for this resting period.

6. After 30 minutes of resting, you’ll do a set of what’s called “stretch and fold.” This is more gentle than the “slap and fold.” Stretch the dough into a rectangular shape and fold the bottom edge into the centre. Then fold the upper edge into the centre.

7. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with the towel to rest for another 30 minutes. Repeat another set of stretch and fold after the 30 minutes.

8. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with the towel to rest for another 30 minutes. Repeat a third set of stretch and fold after the 30 minutes.

9. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with the towel, and this time let it rest for 2 to 2.5 hours. During this time you should see the dough rise, about 30-50%.

Related: Our 16 Carbiest Breakfast Recipes, From Croissants to Pancakes

10. After resting, place the dough on your clean countertop or cutting board again and lightly shape into a round. Experienced sourdough bakers call this the pre-shape step. You can let this rest for 20 minutes. While the dough is resting, line a colander or bowl (or use a proofing basket known as a banneton, if you have one) with a towel and lightly flour it.

11. Gently reshape the dough into a round and then place this into the lined strainer, bowl or banneton. Cover with a towel and place in the fridge overnight for around 14 hours.

12. In the morning, preheat the oven to 450°F, placing a Dutch oven with its lid (without the dough) inside the oven for 1 hour.

13. Take the dough out of the fridge. Place a piece of parchment paper (you’ll want to trim the paper to make sure it fits in the Dutch oven) on top of the dough, and then invert the strainer, bowl or banneton to flip over so the dough is resting on top of the parchment. Use a small sifter to sprinkle white rice flour over top of the dough. Then score the top of the bread, using a razor blade, bread lame or really sharp knife. You can do one simple line down the centre, or you can try doing other more creative scores (simply look online for “how to score sourdough”).

14. Carefully transfer the dough into the heated Dutch oven and cover with the lid. Be careful, since the Dutch oven and lid will be very hot.

15. Bake for 20 minutes. Then uncover and turn the heat down to 400°F. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the crust is a nice golden colour.

16. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 2-3 hours before slicing.

For more must-bake bread inspiration, browse these brilliant banana bread recipes, or try your hand at this no-knead olive za’atar bread.  And don’t toss that sourdough discard! Instead, make these easy five-ingredient sourdough discard crackers.

How to Make The Perfect Banana Bread Every Time (Plus Freezing Tips and a Recipe!)

Bananas gone brown? Make banana bread! This recipe is guaranteed to stay moist and tender from the use of sour cream and gets a crunchy, crackly top from a combination of granulated and turbinado sugar. Customize your bread by folding in chopped nuts, chocolate chips or both. But first! Some tips on how to make the perfect banana bread every time.

How to Make the Perfect Banana Bread

• Use overripe bananas. We are talking dark, heavily spotted ones. Overripe bananas are responsible for both sweetness and overall flavour. If you want to speed up the process, place bananas in a paper bag along with an apple (or another fruit that emits ethylene).

• Need banana bread now? Bake unpeeled bananas on a parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet at 300°F until their peels turn black.

• Do not over-mix the batter. After the flour has been mixed in, it is OK if the batter is not completely smooth. Folding in the bananas and other add-ins will help keep from over-mixing as well.

Related: These Muffin Recipes Will Turn You Into a Baking Person

• Add some crunch! Without any add-ins, the texture can be a bit monotonous. If you don’t want to add in nuts, make sure to sprinkle the batter with sugar. Once baked, the sugar on top creates a nice, crackly crunch. And if you are adding nuts, it’s a good idea to toast them before folding into the batter with the bananas.

• Sour cream is the preferred dairy; the fat provides plenty of moisture and the acidity keeps the bread nice and tender. Don’t have sour cream? Try using full-fat, plain Greek yogurt or buttermilk.

• Freeze banana bread (full loaf or slices) in a double-layer of plastic wrap before being placed in a large, resealable bag for up to three months. Make sure the banana bread has completely cooled before freezing.

The Perfect Banana Bread Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 50 to 60 minutes
Total Time: 60 to 70 minutes
Servings: 8 to 10

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup canola or grapeseed oil
½ cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
½ cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups mashed bananas (about 3 to 4 overripe bananas)
Turbinado or raw sugar, for sprinkling

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer (hand or stand mixer), mix together the oil, sugars and eggs until smooth. Add the sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined.

4. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture. Stop mixing before the last streaks of flour disappear in the batter. Do not over-mix – it is OK if the batter isn’t completely smooth. Fold in the mashed bananas until combined.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with granulated and turbinado sugar (about a tsp or two of each), if desired.

6. Bake the bread for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean or with a few moist crumbs. Do no overbake.

7. Allow the banana bread to cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Need more baking recipes in your life? Try these fudgy, gluten-free sweet potato brownies or perfect lemon meringue cupcakes.

White Chocolate Funfetti Cookies Make for the Perfect Emergency Cookie Stash

There’s one thing I always have in my freezer: an emergency cookie stash. These Baking Therapy white chocolate funfetti cookies are the perfect sweet treat, especially when you have a sudden sugar craving. They’re the ideal cookie: crispy edges and chewy inside. Start your emergency cookie stash today, you’ll thank me later.

White Chocolate Funfetti Cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Resting Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 12 to 14 minutes
Total Time: 52 to 54 minutes
Servings: 13 cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more as needed (approx. 2 Tbsp)
1 tsp espresso powder (optional)
1 tsp hot water (optional)
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup sprinkles
1 cup white chocolate, chopped

Directions:

1. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter on medium-high. Cook the butter, swirling occasionally until it turns golden brown. Transfer the brown butter to a measuring cup and add more butter, one Tbsp at a time, to reach 1 cup mark (about 2 Tbsp). Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 tsp of hot water.

Related: Our Top Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes for a Better Week Ahead

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the brown sugar, white sugar and brown butter. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk until well combined. Add the espresso and vanilla extract.

5. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Fold in the sprinkles and white chocolate. With an ice cream scoop, portion the dough onto the cookie sheets leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Place cookies in the fridge to chill for 20-30 minutes.

Tip: If you’re freezing the cookies for later, put the tray in the freezer for 30 minutes. Then transfer to a freezer-friendly bag or container. When you’re ready to eat them, bake straight from the freezer for 13-15 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 350°F.

7. Bake the cookies, straight from the fridge, for 12 to 14 minutes until the cookies are golden brown. Cool on pan for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Enjoy with a cold glass of milk!

Like Sabrina’s baking? Check out her easy recipe for soft rolls, along with her gooey overnight cinnamon buns and fudgy gluten-free sweet potato brownies.

Watch out for Sabrina’s baking videos on the Food Network Canada Instagram account.

One Humble Can of Chickpeas, Six Different Meals to Remember

Beans are not only one of the most versatile pantry ingredients, they offer a variety of health benefits, too! Chickpeas in particular are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibre. Aside from turning that can of chickpeas hiding in your pantry into homemade hummus, here are six ways you can incorporate them into a healthy snack or meal. Be sure to rinse and drain the chickpeas before using them to remove any excess sodium. OK — here we go!

Chickpea Pasta
I grew up eating chickpeas in pasta, so this dish is one of my favourite quick dinners to whip up! It adds a serving of protein and fibre to an otherwise carb-heavy dish, which will keep you fuelled for longer. To make: simply simmer the chickpeas in marinara sauce (store-bought or homemade) until slightly softened, about 15 minutes. Put it on top of the pasta of your choice and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Related: The Best-Ever Pasta Recipes for Easy Dinners

Roasted Chickpeas
Roasted chickpeas make for a filling and healthy afternoon snack. You can toss them in any flavours or herbs you favour. My favourite flavour is everything bagel with a hint of garlic, but feel free to use any spices you already have on hand (onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, dried herbs, etc). To make: toss the chickpeas in extra-virgin olive oil and desired seasoning. Roast at 400°F for 30 to 35 minutes, until crispy. Enjoy them as is or add to a salad.

Salad With Chickpeas
Chickpeas are a great alternative to diced chicken on salads as it adds a plant-based protein, but they also work as a gluten-free substitute for croutons. Prepare your favourite mixture of vegetables and top with a handful of chickpeas. For additional crunch and flavour, try adding leftover roasted chickpeas.

Related: 70+ Chickpea Recipes to Make Your Heart Happy

Chickpea Salad Sandwich
This recipe is a twist on a tuna salad sandwich. It is great on its own or served between two slices of toasted bread. To make: add one can of rinsed chickpeas to a mixing bowl and mash slightly with a fork. Toss with mayo (regular or vegan), dijon mustard, diced celery, minced shallots, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Make a big batch and enjoy over several days for lunch.

Chickpeas and Eggs
For this quick morning breakfast, you can scramble the chickpeas right into the eggs or top the scrambled eggs with roasted chickpeas. If you have additional ingredients on hand such as cheese, spinach, tomato or roasted red pepper, try scrambling those in with your eggs and chickpeas too.

Related: The Most Creative Ways to Cook With Eggs

Chickpea-Stuffed Red Peppers
For this recipe, the red peppers can be stuffed with just about anything you have on hand including herbs, cheese and grains. I like to start with a base of chickpeas and quinoa, tossed with olive oil, parsley, crumbled feta, shallots and lemon. To make: hollow out each red pepper and stuff with filling. Bake at 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes, until the filling is warmed throughout and the pepper has softened.

Want to cook with more pantry staples? These canned salmon recipes and tortilla recipes might do the trick!

Not Your Average Tuna Salad: Refresh Pantry Cooking With This Oh-So Garlicky Dish

As many of us begin our venture in pantry-style cooking, two go-to canned items are always tuna and beans. But, instead of a lackluster tuna or bean salad, we paired them together and created something that’s vibrant, fresh and oh-so garlicky. You’ll already have the majority of these ingredients in your pantry or fridge, and if you’re missing something and can’t get your hands on it, swap it for what you do have, or simply leave it out. The garlic chips are really the star of this dish anyways, and every kitchen has a supply of garlic, right?

Tuna Salad With Tomatoes, Basil, Beans, Kale and Garlic Chips

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes
Servings: 2-3

Ingredients:

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 can tuna, drained
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
5 cherry tomatoes, halved or ¾ cup chopped tomato
½ cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 small shallot or ¼ red or yellow onion, slivered
3 cups kale, chopped
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt
A few cracks of pepper


Directions:

1. In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil over medium. Add in the garlic slices and toss around until they become brown and crisp, this will only take a few minutes.

2. Place them on a towel to drain some of the oil and dry up. You can save the oil that’s left in the pan and use it for dressings or sauces.

Related: 3-Ingredient Salad Dressing Combos That Will Save Your Lunch and Dinner

3. Put the tuna, chickpeas, tomatoes, basil, shallots and kale into a bowl.

4. Whisk together 2 Tbsp of oil, along with the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper and pour over the ingredients in the bowl.

5. Top with garlic chips and enjoy.

Cooking with more pantry staples lately? Try these creative canned salmon recipes and macaroni dish ideas.

This Easy Recipe for Soft Rolls Uses Less Than 10 Pantry Ingredients!

There’s nothing quite like breaking into freshly baked bread, beautifully golden on the outside, warm and pillowy on the inside. What’s even more rewarding is making it yourself! These soft dinner rolls are incredibly easy to make and require just a few ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. I promise once you try these Baking Therapy soft rolls, it’ll be your go-to bread recipe time and time again.

Easy Soft Dinner Rolls

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Resting Time: 45 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 80 minutes
Servings: 2 x 6-inch round loaves

Ingredients:

Dough
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 ½ Tbsp instant yeast
2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (or any neutral oil)
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 ½ tsp kosher salt

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk

Pinch flaky salt (optional)

Related: No-Knead Olive Za’atar Bread That Looks Fancy (But is Super Easy)

Directions:

1. In a stand-mixer bowl with the hook attachment, mix together the milk and instant yeast. (If you’re using active dry yeast, make sure to proof in warm milk at about 100°F to 110°F). Add the sifted flour, oil, sugar, egg and salt. Mix on low speed, until the dough pulls away from the bowl, about 5-7 minutes.

2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, cover with the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. The dough will rise to about two to three times its original size.

Related: From Homemade Bread to Pickles, 20 Recipes to Master While Indoors

3. Grease and line with parchment paper two 6-inch round pans (or pan of your choice).

4. Portion the dough into equal portions (10 x 75 gram balls). Roll each piece of dough against a non-floured surface to create smooth, round dough balls.

5. Place five dough balls into each of the prepared pans, cover and set aside to rest a second time for 15 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 420°F. Prepare egg wash by mixing egg and milk.

7. Brush the dough balls with egg wash and sprinkle with flaky salt.

8. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

Want more easy at-home recipes that use pantry ingredients? These meals that start with macaroni  and canned salmon recipes will have you cooking up a storm.

Watch out for Sabrina’s baking videos on the Food Network Canada Instagram account.

Refrigerator Rules: How Long Do Leftovers Last?

Remembering you have leftover chicken, pizza or turkey in the fridge can feel like a siren call to happiness. But depending on the type of food you’re dealing with, figuring out whether or not Wednesday’s dinner can safely be eaten as Friday’s lunch can feel like a guessing game. If you too are Googling “how long do leftovers stay good” and asking everyone you know the same question, here’s the complete run-down.

chicken-thighs-slow-cookerGet the recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs

Leftover Chicken

Storage conditions will cause the shelf life of cooked chicken to vary from kitchen to kitchen. If your fridge is exceptionally cold and the chicken is sealed properly, it can last for more than four days. However, a good rule of thumb for the average fridge is to toss cooked chicken after four days, which is when bacteria usually begins to grow. If you’re unsure whether or not the chicken is safe to eat, look for any signs of a sour smell or slightly slimy texture. If you find any of these traits, discard the chicken without tasting it first.

Related: Budget-Friendly Pantry Staples You Should Always Have on Hand

Leftover Stuffing and Gravy

While some might argue that half the fun of popular holiday dinners is the leftovers, both stuffing and gravy have a surprisingly short shelf life. Stuffing — which is often soaked through with meat drippings — shouldn’t be consumed after a maximum of two days in the fridge. The same two-day rule should be applied to the gravy, which should always be brought to a rolling boil to properly kill bacteria before serving again. The good news is that freezing excess stuffing and gravy will extend the shelf life for up to four months.

Leftover Pizza

Any food with meat and cheese that’s left unrefrigerated for more than two hours can cause foodborne illness. This includes the half-eaten pizza box you left out just in case “someone” wanted another slice. Place your pizza in the fridge within two hours of preparation and it will last for up to four days, three days being the recommended shelf life of the average slice. After that, bacteria can begin to grow and lead to food poisoning.

cauliflower-lasagnaGet the recipe for Roasted Cauliflower Lasagna

Leftover Lasagna

Cooked lasagna keeps in the refrigerator for up to five days if stored in a tightly sealed container to keep out excess moisture and other contaminants. The best way to determine whether or not lasagna has turned is to look for dried-out noodles or a sour smell emanating from the tomato sauce and cheese.

Related: 10 Surprising Foods That Boost the Immune System

Leftover Pad Thai and Takeout Noodles

Pad Thai and other popular takeout noodle dishes will generally last up to three days in the refrigerator. Due to heavy sauces that can contribute to a soggy texture, these dishes can sometimes taste bad before they actually go bad. To be safe, always reheat noodles with meat and animal products to a temperature of 165°F or higher in order to kill any outstanding bacteria before eating.

Leftover Beef 

Are you reaching for last week’s beef tenderloin leftovers or prime rib leftovers, but not sure if it’s still good to eat? If properly stored, the general rule of thumb for cooked beef is three to four days in the fridge or up to six months in the freezer. If it is giving off a bad smell or it looks slimy or sticky, it’s definitely time to toss that goodbye.

Looking for more info on food safety? Learn 4 Things You Don’t Know About Expiry Dates.

Published January 5, 2019. Updated April 2, 2020

This Clever Trick Will Prevent Freezer Burn for Good (And Major Food Waste)

Your freezer is your friend in the fight against food waste. But have you ever opened the freezer to retrieve a carefully prepared meal or frozen item only to discover ice crystals blanketing the container? Or meat that looked a little too “off” in colour? If you’re nodding in agreement, you’ve encountered a simple case of freezer burn.

Many people don’t realize that they can burn frozen food. It sounds wrong, doesn’t it? How can something that’s frozen burn? Freezer burn is damage to frozen food caused by moisture in the food evaporating, leaving dry “pockets” of air and/or ice crystals. The good news is that, while the food won’t taste all that great, it is still edible. The better news is that freezer burn is totally preventable!

Related: Stop Wasting the Most Tossed-Out Food in Canada with These Recipes

The One Thing You Should Always Do to Prevent Freezer Burn

The most important thing you can do to prevent freezer burn is to reduce the food’s exposure to air: make sure you have an airtight, moisture-proof barrier between the food and the container it’s in. Simple tricks like wrapping foods in double layers of wax paper or aluminum foil before storing them in freezer-safe containers or bags will go a long way to making sure your food doesn’t go to waste.

Note that no food will last indefinitely without developing freezer burn, so another way to make sure you’re avoiding those pesky ice crystals from developing is to rotate the food in your freezer so you’re eating the oldest items first, which are the most at-risk of catching freezer burn.

Related: How to Freeze Fruit, Cheese, Leftovers and More

Top Tips for Avoiding Freezer Burn on Commonly Frozen Foods

1. If you’re serious about keeping frozen foods as fresh as possible, buy a vacuum sealer. This is a surefire way to make sure the packaging is completely airtight.

2. Buy too much bread? Slice loaves and store the slices in a large plastic freezer bag, making sure to remove as much air as possible. You’ll have fresh bread to toast for weeks to come! 

3. Found yourself with too much produce? It can be frozen, but most vegetables benefit from a quick blanch or steam prior to freezing. Once cooked, shock with cold water, then dry and freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags.

Related: Effortless Instant Pot Freezer Meals for Easy Weeknights

More Tips to Keep in Mind When Freezing Food

1. Never freeze hot food. Instead, allow it to come to room temperature before you freeze.

2. If you’re freezing liquid-heavy foods (think soups and stews), make sure you leave some room in the containers, as liquid expands when frozen. Place plastic wrap touching the liquid/food before you close the lid to avoiding potential freezer burn.

Related: The One Healthy Soup That Should Always Be in Your Freezer

3. Broth and stock are super useful things to have on hand, but how often does a recipe call for a small amount, leaving you with leftovers? Solution? Freeze it in ice-cube trays! As soon as it’s frozen, transfer to an airtight bag or container to ensure a constant supply that’s practical in size.

4. Do you have slightly past-their-prime produce lingering in your crisper? Put your freezer to work. Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies, and frozen vegetables can be used in cooked dishes. No one will ever know they were anything other than fresh!

freezer-bag-of-pumpkin

5. Many people don’t think to freeze butter, but if you have a few sticks about to expire, pop them into the freezer to keep it fresh for longer. Note that it’s best to use quickly once thawed, making it perfect for baking!

Related: Building a Zero-Waste Kitchen is Easier Than You Think. Here’s How to Make it Happen

6. Cookie dough is a perfect candidate for freezing, so you’ll never be far from a freshly-baked treat! Scoop dough and freeze directly on baking trays. Once frozen solid, place the dough in airtight bags, or wrap them tightly in plastic and just bake however many you need. The dough will last in the freezer for up to three months.

Related: Anna Olson Explains How to Properly Freeze Just About Everything

7. Portion items when you freeze them so you can easily select the right amount of food to thaw, avoiding unnecessary waste.

8. Label all foods with the date you froze them, and don’t forget to rotate items and use older foods up first.

Related: How to Prep Slow Cooker Freezer Meals for Busy Nights

While freezing items is a great way to avoid waste, there are some other foods that you should never freeze.

5 Foods That Never Belong in Your Freezer (And Why):

1. Open packages of coffee beans (and ground) will absorb freezer smells. Make sure it’s stored in an airtight container, not the bag you bought it in.

2. Cooked pasta, like spaghetti, will not hold its structure when frozen and thawed, it will turn to mush (baked pasta dishes like lasagna, however, are perfect candidates for freezing).

3. Raw potatoes turn black when frozen due to a chemical reaction, so make sure to quickly blanch chopped potatoes before you freeze them.

4. Melon will turn mushy when frozen and thawed due to its high water content, so while it’s fine to use frozen in drinks, for example, it won’t be any good for a fruit salad.

5. Raw eggs in their shell will explode when frozen. If you find yourself needing to freeze eggs, crack them and lightly beat them before freezing them in an ice cube tray or muffin tin. When completely frozen, you can put them in a freezer bag where they will keep for up to six months.

Want to make the most of your freezer? Watch this video on how to prep food for freezing.

Can I Freeze This? How to Freeze Fruit, Cheese, Leftovers and More

Ever wondered, ‘Can I freeze this?’ Or, do you find yourself with leftovers you can’t eat before its best before date? From meat to cheese to bananas to cakes and beyond, your food freezing questions are answered with this comprehensive guide. We’re here to help you reduce food waste, save money and time and make the most of this under-appreciated appliance.

how to freeze cheese

How to Freeze Cheese, Milk and Eggs

Of all the food groups, dairy is perhaps the one people have the most questions about. Can you freeze cheese? What about milk? Can you freeze whipping cream? The good news is that a lot of dairy can be frozen, as long as it’s properly packaged.

Butter: If you get a good deal on butter but couldn’t possibly use it up before its best before date, you can certainly stash it, still wrapped, in your freezer for up to 12 months. Flavoured and compound butters can also be frozen when tightly wrapped.

Cheese: Wrap hard cheeses (like cheddar, Parmesan) tightly in plastic and they’ll keep for up to 6 months. You can also shred hard cheese, freeze it, store it in an airtight container and use it from frozen. Soft cheeses like goat, ricotta or cream cheese won’t freeze well, as there’s too much moisture in them.

Eggs: Don’t try to freeze eggs in their shells – they’ll explode! Instead, crack them into muffin tins, lightly beat them with the tines of a fork, and freeze. Once frozen solid, pop the eggs out and place in freezer bag for up to 6 months.

Related: The Tastiest Ways to Eat Eggs for Dinner

Milk & Cream: Milk and cream can be frozen, but make sure they’re in a container with some room at the top as the liquid expands when frozen. Thaw in the fridge or in a large bowl of cold water. They may separate slightly once thawed, nevertheless, they’re perfectly safe to consume.

Yogurt: Yogurt can be frozen, but it might separate as it thaws, so it’s best to use yogurt from frozen in smoothies or baking as opposed to thawing it and eating it on its own. To freeze yogurt, spoon into ice cube trays; then, once it’s frozen solid, place the cubes in airtight zip-top bags and use as needed for up to 3 months.

Related: Our Best Healthy (And Tasty) Smoothie Recipes

How to Freeze Bread and Grains

Bread, Rolls and Buns: Slice fresh loaves you know you won’t be able to eat before they go stale, then place in a zip-top bag, being careful to remove all the air from the bag to avoid freezer burn. You can toast the slices directly from frozen. Keep whole rolls and burger buns in an airtight zip-top bag, defrosting at room temperature before slicing and warming. 

Grains: Cooked rice, whole grains and pasta will freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating, or enjoy cold in a grain salad.

Related: Easy and Tasty Ways to Use Leftover Rice

frozen-mixed-berries

How to Freeze Fruit (Like Bananas)

Well-packaged, many fruits can keep frozen 6 to 12 months. Apples and pears don’t freeze well from fresh, but applesauce, apple butter or pear puree (or any other fruit preserve) can be frozen, likewise blanched peeled and pitted peaches.

Bananas: Bananas can be frozen whole or chopped into small pieces and frozen flat in freezer bags for easy additions to smoothies. Thaw them to add to banana bread or muffins.

Related: Brilliant Ways to Use Overripe Bananas

Avocado: Avocado can be frozen, although you’re never going to be able to preserve the texture of a perfectly ripe avocado in the freezer. If you just want to use them in smoothies or guacamole, peel them and remove the pit, then wrap in plastic and place in an airtight container or freezer bag.

Berries: Berries freeze very well. Wash, dry and chop (if necessary)  strawberries, blueberries or raspberries and then place them flat in plastic freezer bags, making sure to remove all the air before sealing so you don’t get freezer burn. Great for baking, smoothies and spooning over yogurt.

Grapes: Frozen grapes make a delicious snack and healthy dessert straight from frozen, tasting like sweet sorbet. Take them off the vine, wash and dry, then add to a freezer bag or airtight container.

frozen-veggies-in-freezer-bags

How to Freeze Vegetables

Many vegetables are suitable to freeze for up to 6 months. Onions, garlic, peas (shucked) and corn (sliced off the cob) can be frozen raw, chopped or minced (in the case of onions and garlic) and stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag, but most vegetables benefit from a quick cooking before being frozen.

Related: The Most Delicious Ways to Use Freezer-Friendly Foods

How to prepare fresh vegetables for freezing: Blanch chopped vegetables by dropping in boiling water or steaming until tender-crisp, then shock with cold water. Pat dry, then freeze in serving-sized portions in airtight containers or freezer bags. This way, you can freeze veggies like zucchini, potatoes, spinach and carrots without tampering with their texture.

How to Freeze Meat and Fish

Meats and fish can be frozen for between 3 and 12 months, tightly wrapped in plastic, then placed in freezer bags so they don’t get freezer burn. Thaw overnight in the fridge.

Chicken or turkey parts: 6 months
Cooked ham: sliced and portioned, 2 months
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines): 3 months
Lean fish (tilapia, halibut): 3 months
Ground meats or poultry: 3 to 6 months
Lamb: 6 to 12 months
Pork: 4 to 6 months
Sausages: 2 to 3 months
Uncooked beef steaks: 6 to 12 months
Whole chicken or turkey: 12 months

How to Freeze Casseroles and Soups

Soups, broths, casseroles, chilis and stews can be frozen and will keep for about 3 months. Pour into plastic airtight containers (portioned, so you can grab a meal for however many people you need), leaving a little room at the top to allow for expansion in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the fridge or at room temperature, then heat on the stovetop or in the oven and eat.

Related: Warm Up with The Pioneer Woman’s Best Soups and Stews

chocolate-chip-cookie-dough

How to Freeze Baked Goods and Desserts

Don’t need to bake all that cookie dough? You can scoop them out and freeze directly on baking trays. Once frozen solid, place the portioned dough in ziplock bags, or wrap them tightly in plastic and just bake however many cookies you you need. They’ll be good in the freezer for up to 3 months. Baked cookies can last 6 to 8 months tightly wrapped in the freezer.

Here are some other desserts from Anna Olson you can make, bake (or not) and freeze.

Cakes (unfrosted): 3 months
Cheesecakes: 6 months
Fruit pies (unbaked): 3 months
Fruit pies (baked): 6 months
Muffins and quick breads: 12 months

Preparing and Packing Food for the Freezer

• Make sure all packaging is airtight to avoid freezer burn.

• Label all foods with the date you froze them.

• Portion your foods so you can easily select the right amount of food to thaw, without wasting.

• Leave room at the top of liquids (milk, soups) for expansion as they freeze.

• Keep your frozen food “fresh” with more of our top Tips to Prevent Freezer Burn.

No-Knead Olive Za’atar Bread That Looks Fancy (But is Super Easy)

Trust us: This no-knead bread recipe will make you feel like a professional baker. The secret? It’s a super simple, fool-proof recipe that you really can’t mess up, unlike other breads out there. While it does require a bit of time to allow the dough to rise, all good things take time, right? After that, you’ll be off to the races. You can flavour this bread however you please, but we find the combination of our favourite Middle Eastern spice, za’atar, with salty kalamata olives is the perfect marriage of flavours. 

We chose spelt flour because that’s our preferred healthy flour of choice, but you can use a combination of whole- and unbleached-wheat flour, or AP flour. When made only with whole-grain, the bread will be dense, so we recommend combining a light or unbleached variety to give it airiness and levity. Now go impress yourself and your friends, and get baking!

Related: How to Make the Perfect Sourdough Loaf (Bread Baking for Beginners)


No-Knead Olive Za’atar Bread Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Proofing Time: 6-18 hours
Bake Time: 75 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups light spelt flour
1 cup whole spelt flour
1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp za’atar
½ tsp dry active yeast
1 ½ cups room temperature water
¼ cup coarsely chopped kalamata olives

Directions:

1. Place dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, including the yeast.

2. Make a small well in the middle of the ingredients, and pour in the water. Mix slowly to incorporate, then fold in the olives. A shaggy dough will begin to form. Do not over-mix. 

Related: Conquer Brunch With This Make-Ahead Veggie Strata and Sourdough Bread

3. Once the dough mixture is shaggy, cover the bowl with a towel and let rest anywhere from 6-18 hours. The longer you wait, the better the dough.

4. After the resting period, the dough will have doubled in size.

5. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place a large oven-safe pot with a tight lid into the oven. We prefer a dutch oven. Leave it there for 30 minutes. 

Related: How to Make Everything Garlic Bread Knots

6. While the dutch oven is heating up, take the dough out of the bowl and place it onto a floured surface. The dough will be very sticky, so be generous with the flour. Begin to roll it into a ball, but remember, this is no-knead, so there is “no need” to start pounding it or folding it. Simply round it into a ball and leave it alone.

7. Lightly oil the bowl and place the dough back into the bowl. Cover it with a towel and let sit for the remainder of the 30 minutes that your pot is heating up.

8. After 30 minutes, remove the pot from the oven (it will be hot so be careful!). Remove the lid and place a piece of parchment paper into the pot and drop the dough in. Put the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes.

9. Once the 30 minutes is up, remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes.

10. Then, take the freshly baked bread out of the oven and place it onto a cooling rack. You will be so impressed at how artisanal it looks, not to mention that you actually made it yourself, from scratch!

11. Enjoy with butter, ghee, olive oil or on its own.

Now that you’ve conquered bread from scratch, pair it with one of these healthy Middle Eastern recipes you’ll make on repeat.

9 Easy Weekly Meal Plan Ideas That Really Work

Between busy schedules and a family full of picky eaters,  the dinner struggle is real. Finding inspiration for quick, budget-friendly and (at least somewhat) healthy meals can challenge the best of home cooks, never mind those whose plates are already heaped pile-high.

That’s where meal planning becomes a lifesaver—if you can take the time to actually do it. If you don’t have the means to sit down weekly and plot out your favourite fare, we’ve got your back with this simple guide that will help you plan your meals and grocery list, too. These meal ideas and recipes (one for every night of the week, plus two bonus ideas to swap in and out) makes preparing a weekly meal plan  or menu easy while helping you to create dishes that are anything but routine.

How to Start Meal Planning? Try These No-Fail Meal Planning Ideas!

 

easy-pasta-pumpkin-sausageGet the recipe for Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

1. Start with Pasta

Pasta is an affordable universal favourite, so why not make it a weekly thing? Having a designated pasta night is genius because you can essentially pair any kind of pasta with whichever sauce, protein and veggie you feel like, and then you can do something completely different the following week.

Looking for some inspiration other than another plate of spaghetti and meatballs? Try these recipes instead:

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

15-Minute Three-Cheese Spring Pasta with Peas

Sweet Potato and Zucchini Noodle Pasta with Garlic Scapes and Grilled Shrimp 

Anna Olson’s Beef Stroganoff

Ina Garten’s Bow Tie Pasta with Broccoli and Peas

korean-steakGet the recipe for Korean-Style Marinated Skirt Steak

2. You Can’t go Wrong with Protein and Veg 

A  barbecued, baked or even pan-fried cut of meat or fish always pairs well with some steamed or baked veggies. Switch up your marinades and cooking methods for even more variety, and then throw in some rice, lentils or potatoes for a complete meal.

Want some new ideas? Check out these simple-to-prepare recipes:

Giada De Laurentiis’ Ginger-Soy Chicken Wings

No-Mess Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

Pork Tenderloin with Chipotle-Maple Mop

Flank Steak with Chimichurri

Bobby Flay’s Korean-Style Marinated Skirt Steak

Baked Fish Packets

Anna Olson’s Horseradish Grill-Roasted Salmon

chourico-kale-soupGet the recipe for Portuguese Chourico and Kale Soup

3. Soup and Salads are Your Friends

There are so many hearty salads and filling soups out there these days that it’s easy to make either one a meal in itself. If the weather is nice, plan on eating an elevated salad one night of the week with some fancy ingredients to make it interesting. Or, for those weeks when you need something a little more comforting, plan on having a hot soup and some crusty baguette to go with it.

Get started with these recipes:

Immune-Boosting Bone Broth, Chicken and Vegetable Soup

The Pioneer Woman’s Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Portuguese Chourico and Kale Soup

Asian Noodle Salad with Sweet Ginger Dressing

Marinated Artichoke Salad with Prosciutto and Parmesan

Grilled Turkey, Brie and Pecan Salad

Instapot-Pulled-Pork-recipeGet the recipe for Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich

4. Make Use of Your Slow Cooker or Instapot

Who doesn’t love a meal that you can throw together and then forget about until it’s ready? That’s the beauty of slow-cookers and Instapots—they do all of the heavy lifting for you. Figure out which night of the week will be your busiest, and then plan to use either tool to help pull dinner together in a breeze.

Need a new Crockpot or pressure cooker recipe? Check out any of these delicious dishes:

Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich

Instant Pot Chicken Adobo

Alton Brown’s Pressure Cooker Chili

Slow-Cooker Enchiladas Two Ways

Slow Cooker Swedish Meatballs

Slow Cooker Shrimp Boil

Spicy-Shrimp-Fried-RiceGet the recipe for Spicy Shrimp and Pineapple Fried Rice

5. Stock up on Easy-to-Assemble Ingredients

Having a well-stocked pantry is always key when it comes to throwing together last-minute dinners, or figuring out how to use up fresh ingredients that have been sitting in your fridge for a few extra days. Make sure to keep things like canned tuna, crab or chicken on hand, as well as lots of stock, tomato sauce and a few protein-filled grains and legumes.

Check out these simple ideas to elevate your basic pantry staples:

Crispy Tuna-Cake Sliders with Citrus Slaw

Stuffed Mozza Peppers

Classic Crab Cakes with Pea Puree

One-Pot Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Farmer’s Market Quinoa Salad

Spicy Shrimp and Pineapple Fried Rice

giadas-Lasagna-Rolls Get the recipe for Giada de Laurentiis’ Lasagna Rolls

6. Find Your Freezer Meals

Remember those freezer meals you made a few months ago that have been sitting in your freezer just waiting to be eaten ever since? Well, make use of them already, especially if you know you have an evening coming up where preparing dinner is just going to be another thing to worry about. And if you haven’t gotten on the freezer meal train just yet, you may want to think about starting. Whether it’s doubling up on your next pasta sauce or cobbling together a second lasagna or tray of enchiladas, there are plenty of freezer meals that you can make ahead of time to enjoy on those hectic nights when cooking is the last thing you want to be doing.

Turkey-Burger-Patty-Melts-recipeGet the recipe for Guy Fieri’s Turkey Burger Patty Melts

7. Have an Eat-With-Your-Hands Night

Whether it’s a burger, pizza or taco, it’s always fun to eat with your hands. That’s probably why these are the same fast-food items we tend to usually order throughout the week. If you want to save money, use better ingredients and still have a meal in a matter of minutes for a well-deserved Eat-With-Your-Hands night!

From pizza and tacos to sloppy joes and charcuterie boards, there are plenty of hands-on dishes to choose from here:

Bobby Flay’s Shredded Chicken and Tomatillo Tacos

Southwestern Sloppy Joes

Ina Garten’s Cheese and Bread Platter

Guy Fieri’s Turkey Burger Patty Melts

cauliflower-pot-pieGet the recipe for Vegan Shepherd’s Pie with Crispy Cauliflower Crust

8. Make One Night a Meatless Night

We’ve heard of Meatless Mondays, but really any night of the week is a good excuse to go meatless—especially when you incorporate foods like whole grains, quinoa and barley that fill the tummy and soul. Stir yourself up a creamy risotto, build a yummy Buddha bowl with all the things, or stuff an eggplant or squash with some whole grains and nuts. Keep it simple and hearty, and before long, you won’t even remember a time when you didn’t incorporate a meatless dish into your meal planning.

Check out these 20 easy vegan weeknight dinner recipes to get you started.

Leftover-Turkey-Chili-recipeeGet the recipe for Leftover Turkey Chili

9. Plan a Designated Leftover Night

Last but not least, it’s always a great idea to make one night an evening of no planning. That’s right, we’re talking leftovers. Once a week, throw whatever leftovers you have in the fridge on the table for everyone to enjoy, or reimagine them into a creative, brand new dish that requires very little effort.

Check out some of our favourite ways to use up leftovers here:

Leftover Steak and Potato Salad with Bold Tomato Dressing

Italian Chicken Pasta Salad

Sweet Arancini with Leftover Rice

Leftover Turkey Chili

Leftover Chili Mac and Cheese

Looking for more meal planning tips? Try these hacks that will help you plan like a pro.

strawberry-jam-what-to-do-with-fruit

10 Brilliant Ways to Use Fruit That’s Going Bad

Spring and summer are full of bright and fresh flavours, especially in the fruit department. Beautiful berries are calling our name, melons are at their ripest, baskets of juicy peaches and nectarines are readily available, and perfect plums take us well into the fall.

That’s probably why it’s so easy to overstock on some of these offerings—especially as we tell ourselves we’re going to eat better, lighter and fresher.

So what do you do with that big batch of berries once it’s starting to get mushy, or that basketful of peaches that’s starting to bruise?
Well we have a few ideas!

raspberry-smoothie

1. Blend up a Smoothie
The best part about ripe fruit is that it’s usually sweetest. That makes it a great natural sweetener for your next power breakfast smoothie. Can’t use it all at once? Freeze washed and prepared fruit in airtight containers or plastic bags and enjoy summer-inspired smoothies long into fall. Try this recipe for a Raspberry Refresher Smoothie.

how-to-make-fruit-popsicles

2. Freeze Fruity Popsicles
Turn that fruit into a natural popsicle that’s loaded with flavour and good-for-you ingredients. Puree ripe fruit in a blender until smooth then either pour directly into popsicle moulds or mix in some Greek yogurt or milk for a creamier treat. Learn How to Make Summer Fruit Popsicles.

cornmeal-pancakes-with-blueberry-sauce

3. Whip up Pancakes
Who doesn’t love fresh fruit on top of their stack with a little maple syrup? So why not alter your recipe and incorporate a fruit puree either on top or in the actual batter? It’s a great way to use aging fruit while switching up your weekend breakfast routine. Try The Pioneer Woman’s Cornmeal Pancakes with Blueberry Syrup.

Citrus-chicken-with-raspberry-barbecue-sauce

4. Make a Marinade
We don’t often think of mixing meat and fruit, but some fruits actually make for great tenderizers. Chicken and pork can always benefit from a little fruity marinade; in fact we pretty much consider them a match made in heaven. Try Citrus Chicken with Raspberry Barbecue Sauce.

spinach-and-strawberry-salad-with-warm-bacon-vinaigrette

5. Toss Together a Summer Salad
We’re fans of fruit in our salad, especially when you play around with the flavour profiles. Peaches and steak go great with arugula and goat cheese, while strawberries, spinach, toasted pecans and chicken are a classic match. Riper fruit adds an unexpected sweetness that really livens up your plate. Try Valerie Bertinelli’s recipe for Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette.

Summer Berry Sangria

6. Shake up a Fruity Cocktail or Boost Water with Flavour
Muddled fruit adds infinite flavour to regular old booze like vodka and gin. Create a signature cocktail (bonus points if you can mix in some fresh herbs too) for your next barbecue, or just stick to regular old sparkling water if you want to go easy on the drinking under that hot sun. Try this Summer Berry Sparkling Sangria.

ree-drummond- strawberry jam

7. Jam Out
There’s nothing quite like fresh jam, is there? When done correctly it keeps forever and makes for great gifts. Jam is a terrific way to use up fruit that’s about to expire, especially if you want to liven up plain old toast or cookies. Try The Pioneer Woman’s Strawberry Jam.

plum-cheesecake galette

8. Fill a Pie
We’re always fans of pie, no matter what the season. If you’ve got extra fruit, go ahead and whip up a few to freeze for later. Or, if you’re in the mood for a single serving of pie flavours, cut up some fruit into a bowl, add a little cinnamon and microwave it for a minute or so. Or try this Plum Cheesecake Galette.

Berries-Romanoff-Parfait-bobby-flay

9. Jazz up Your Yogurt
Know those “fruit-on-the-bottom” yogurts you buy? Yeah, they’re loaded with cornstarch and other added sugars. Why not whip up a healthier, fruity yogurt on your own? Muddle or blend your fruit and stir it into plain Greek yogurt. Add a little granola or chopped nuts for some extra crunch. Try Bobby Flay’s Berries Romanoff Parfait.

Raspberry Peach Fruit Leather

10. Make Fruit Leather
This works best if you have a food dehydrator, but you can do it with a regular old oven too. These “fruit roll-ups” are perfect for children and adults alike, and make for a perfect snack to-go. Try Anna Olson’s recipe for summer Raspberry Peach Fruit Leather, subbing in ripe fruit for the frozen stuff.

Too much fruit? Learn how to Get Rid of Fruit Flies for Good.