Tag Archives: freezer tips

This is the Right Way to Freeze Vegetables and Fresh Herbs

Whether you stocked up on too many fresh vegetables at the market or your summer vegetable garden is growing wild, I am here to show you how to properly freeze your vegetables and herbs. There are a few simple steps you have to take to ensure they will stay vibrant, fresh and full of flavour. It will also give them a much longer shelf life than if you just placed the veggies and herbs straight into the freezer. Just be sure to use ripe produce. OK — let’s get freezing!

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

Step 1: Chop Vegetables and Herbs

If you’re planning to use the veggies or herbs straight from the freezer as a side dish or stirred right into your pot or pan, I recommend chopping them into bite-sized pieces first.

Step 2: Blanch Vegetables

Blanching is an important step to freezing fresh vegetables as it will stop enzyme actions that result in a loss of colour and flavour. This will also clean the vegetables. This step is not required for herbs. To blanch, simply bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and drop in the vegetables for 2 to 4 minutes. The timing will depend on the type of vegetable being blanched. For example broccoli and asparagus will be on the shorter end, whereas carrots will take a bit longer.

Related: Time for a Pasta Maker? (And 9 Other Kitchen Essentials You Deserve Right Now)

Step 3: Shock Vegetables

Once the vegetables are blanched, immediately strain and submerge them into an ice bath. This will halt the cooking process so the vegetables do not cook any further and it’ll keep them vibrant. This step is not required for herbs.

Step 4: Dry and Portion Vegetables and Herbs

Strain the vegetables from the ice bath and transfer them onto a kitchen towel to dry. Place them on a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 60 minutes. Portion them into desired freezer bags and label with the packaged date. Transfer back to the freezer and use when needed! Vegetables will stay fresh for up to 12 months. For herbs, transfer them to an ice cube tray and fill with water. This way they are ready to go for soups, sauces and stews.

Related: The Ultimate Herb Guide: Varieties and Best Uses

Looking for more sanity-saving kitchen tips? Here’s how to organize your Tupperware drawer once and for all, plus the best way to prevent freezer burn for good.

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.

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.

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.

Your Ultimate Guide to Freezing Food

Using your freezer to preserve make-ahead meals, desserts, snacks and more, can save you money, reduce food waste and turn you into a kitchen saviour on busy weeknights. But you can’t get ahead of the game if you don’t know what can freeze and for how it can be frozen.

Foods high in water, like melons and squash, don’t freeze well, rendering them granular upon defrosting. While others like chicken breasts, cookie dough and chili were seemingly made for the deep freeze. From vegetables and fruit to fully prepared dinners, you’ll want to keep our food freezing guide handy next time you’re in the mood to stockpile.

freezer temperature

Essential Freezing Tips:
– Label foods before freezing with the date and its contents.
– Make at least one meal per week to use up freezer foods.
– Prevent freezer burn by using freezer-friendly bags, not the oftentimes thin plastic the food comes in.
– If freezing soups, stews and other dishes that are high in liquids, remember that when frozen, food expands, so be sure to leave headspace on your container to avoid bursting.
– Keep freezer temperature at -18ºC (0ºF).
– Remove as much air as possible from containers and bags of food to avoid spoilage and freezer burn.
– Defrost your freezer according to manufacturer’s directions at least twice per year.
– When in doubt, throw it out!

Produce:
Vegetables: 6 to 12 months
Fruit: 6 to 12 months
Juices and juice concentrates: 6 to 12 months
Prepared smoothies: 1 month

Produce not to freeze: melons, citrus (juice can be frozen, no whole fruit or segments), apples, pears, lettuce, radishes, alfalfa sprouts, potatoes (unprepared, you can freeze mashed potatoes), eggplant, mashed pumpkin and squash

vegetables-frozen-blocks-beans-peas-broccoli-corn-assorted-spinach

Bread and Grains:
Baked bread: 3 months
Unbaked bread: 1 month
Pizza (homemade): 1 to 2 months
Cooked rice: 3 months
Cooked whole grains: 3 months
Cooked pasta: 3 months

Bread and grains not to freeze: cooked quinoa, uncooked grains, uncooked pasta, cereal, cooked and raw oatmeal

Meat and Poultry:
Beef (steaks): 6 to 12 months
Pork: 4 to 6 months
Lamb: 6 to 12 months
Chicken and Turkey (whole): 12 months
Chicken and Turkey (parts): 6 months
Ground meat and poultry: 3 to 6 months
Sausages: 2 to 3 months
Cooked meat and poultry: 3 months

Meat and Poultry not to freeze: deli meats

Seafood:
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines): 3 months
Lean fish (tilapia, halibut): 6 months
Cooked fish: 4 to 6 months
Shellfish: 3 months
Lobster: 12 months
Oysters: 2 to 3 months
Clams: 2 to 3 months
Mussels: 2 to 3 months

Seafood not to freeze: canned fish (in can, you can freeze canned fish outside of can in a separate container up to 3 months)

frozen food in freezer

Dairy and Eggs:
Milk: 3 to 6 months
Butter (unsalted, salted): 8 to 12 months
Margarine: 12 months
Eggs (out of shell): 1 month
Hard cheese: 6 months

Dairy and Eggs not to freeze: whole eggs in shell, hard boiled or cooked eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, soft cheese (goat cheese, cream cheese), sour cream, buttermilk, kefir

Beverages:
Juices and juice concentrates: 6 to 12 months
Milk: 3 to 6 months
Prepared smoothies: 1 month

Beverages not to freeze: carbonated drinks, soda, beer, wine, coffee (beans and brewed), tea (leaves and brewed), anything in glass bottles

Prepared Meals and Miscellaneous:
Broth: 3 months
Soups: 3 months
Stews: 3 months
Chili: 3 months
Casseroles (without eggs, meat or fish): 2 months
Casseroles (with eggs, meat or fish): 1 month
Frozen TV dinners: 3 to 4 months

Miscellaneous not to freeze: mayonnaise, prepared deli salads (egg salad, tuna salad, macaroni salad), salad dressings

Desserts and Baked Goods:
Cookies (baked): 6 to 8 months
Cookie dough (unbaked): 3 months
Cake (frosted): 1 month
Cake (unfrosted): 3 months
Cheesecake: 6 to 8 months
Pie (unbaked, fruit): 2 to 4 months
Pie (baked, fruit): 6 to 8 months
Pie (baked, pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan): 1 to 2 months
Muffins and quick breads: 6 to 12 months

Desserts and Baked Goods not to freeze: custards, cream pies, pudding, prepared milkshakes

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