Thoughts & Tips

Prep Days

Every now and then when I have a free afternoon I like to get a head start on future meals. Cooking every night can be a challenge. Some days you just want something easy, that you don’t need to think about. Instead of turning to a flavorless microwave dinner or a frozen pizza that always turns out overcooked and undercooked at the same time, I like to make my own freezer shortcuts.

This past week I had one of these prep days, but for a slightly different reason. I’m going to be away for a while, and when I get home I want to have some easy options. I hate getting home from a trip, all worn out, and realizing there’s nothing in the kitchen.  Here’s some of my favorite ways to make sure there’s always something good to eat.

Frozen Fruit for Smoothies

I do this every month. I buy a bunch of fruit and divide it up into freezer bags, labeled with the date and contents. In the morning I grab a bag, put it in the blender with some apple juice or coconut water, maybe some fresh greens, and it’s an easy breakfast. You could put protein powder in these too. This is also great because you can save fruit you have left over that would otherwise go bad. I always start each bag with a banana and usually strawberries. Then I add any combination of kiwi, blueberry, raspberry, mango, blackberry… Whatever you like or have around.

Frozen Sauce and Stock

This is a little more work, but it pays off in the future. I got my crockpot out to slowly simmer a rustic pasta sauce for a few hours while I worked on everything else. I made it from scratch, but I’ll let you know the recipe in an upcoming post. If you have leftover bones and veggies you can make stock. I happened to make chicken stock a couple weeks ago. I made so much I actually gave some away to neighbors, but I saved two containers. I can thaw out the sauce for a quick pasta dinner, or the stock for a soup. Freezing these basics in bulk saves a lot of time making a meal later on.

Frozen Pasta

Gnocchi has become a staple for my prep days. I love to make a bunch of it and save it. They cook in about 2 minutes in boiling water, whether they are fresh or frozen. I make a ton of it and portion it out into meal sizes. The next week when I am too tired to cook, I get dinner done in less than 5 minutes. Also frozen ravioli is a great quickie meal, but I’ll admit that the ones in the picture are store bought leftovers. Someday I’ll try making my own.

Ice Cube Tray Hacks

I love this one because it helps keep things from getting wasted. Since I was leaving, my herbs were not going to get tended too, so I clipped what I could off my plants to save. Using an ice cube tray I froze parsley inside of olive oil. You can throw a couple of these into a sauce or into a skillet dish. I also froze mint to make ice cubes that are amazing to use in iced tea or a cocktail. I had some buttermilk that would have gone bad, so I froze that too. Always make sure to properly label them.

I know people that will go all out and make a bunch of make ahead freezer meals, basically plan their whole month out. I am not that disciplined, I just like to have a few go to items. Just spend a couple hours one day to benefit for many days after. If you have any great make ahead meal or foods to freeze, feel free to comment. I’d love to hear!

This post is going to have to be short and sweet. I’m two days into my cross country trip, currently in a hotel in Colorado. I need to rest up for tomorrow’s drive. There will be more to come once I get to Massachusetts!

 

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