Today just so happens to be National Frozen Food Day, and I’ll be on TV this morning sharing my best freezer tips for getting the most flavor from your cooking and the most space out of your freezer. To watch, tune in to WTOC Morning Break on Channel 11 at 9 a.m.
During the pandemic, like many of you, I’ve been cooking more at home and the freezer has been a great tool for storing leftovers and keeping shortcut ingredients at-the-ready. I freeze everything from fresh bread and layer cakes to homemade pie crusts, and I always have an extra pint or two of homemade chicken stock tucked away in my icebox.
Fresh vegetables such as carrots, onions, bell peppers and celery can often lose quality in the bottom of the refrigerator crisper drawer, so I like to slice and dice them in advance and store them in a large gallon size Ziploc bag. When ready to use in recipes like soups, stews and casseroles, you can easily take them right from the freezer and drop them into the dish - no thawing required. They will cook down and simmer just fine.
On the note of soups and stews, never throw away your fresh Parmesan cheese rinds. Freeze them in a small resealable bag, and when you’re making soup, toss the rind into the pot at the simmering stage, and let it work its magic. The rind will slightly thicken the broth, imparting richness and flavor. You can discard what doesn’t dissolve.
Chopped carrots are also perfect for adding into baked goods, such as muffins and cakes. And speaking of baked goods, what’s better than fresh baked banana nut bread? I like to joke that my freezer is where over-ripened bananas go to retire. If a banana starts to turn black before we can eat it, I stick it right in the freezer, no bag or wrapping required, and save it for a rainy day. When it comes time to bake banana bread, defrost them just enough to peel, and go forth and conquer.
Have you ever frozen fresh fruit? Frozen green grapes make a fantastic snack, healthy and refreshing in Southeast Georgia heat. I also love to use frozen blueberries, strawberries and blackberries in pies, and quick smoothies and milkshakes.
When storing food in the freezer, an efficient way to maximize space is to freeze items flat. Also, to reduce waste, place items that will expire first toward the front of the freezer and those that are newer toward the back. Using a marker, label everything with the name of the item and date.
Remember, air circulation is the culprit of freezer burn. So, always use the same size of container that’s closest to what you’re freezing. Double wrap single serve portions of lasagna for example, in heavy duty plastic wrap, to avoid icicles on your food and for portion controlled convenience.
Enjoy this homemade banana nut bread recipe, made with ripened bananas from my freezer to yours.
Homemade Banana Nut Bread
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 ripe bananas, peeled, and mashed (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan with butter spray. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl, set aside. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a measuring cup with a spout, set aside.
In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or hand-held mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Gradually pour the egg mixture into the butter while mixing until incorporated. Add the bananas, and remove the bowl from the mixer.
Mix in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Fold in the nuts and transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake on the middle oven rack for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Tastes even better the next day!
Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a private chef and the author of the best-selling memoir “Some Kinda Good.” Featured in Forbes, on Food Network and ABC, she writes about Southern, coastal cuisine, locally sourced and in-season. Connect with her on social media by liking Some Kinda Good on Facebook, or follow @SKGFoodBlog on Instagram and Twitter. To learn more, visit RebekahLingenfelser.com.