Cook and Freeze

I know I’m in good company when I say, if I don’t control myself, I could go crazy buying cookbooks. So, I have a mostly no-purchasing policy. Mostly. I bought two cookbooks for myself in the last year or so, and they were both purchased last month. I borrowed Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn from the library, and after getting it home, reading every word of the introductory chapters, and lusting over the descriptions of cured meat, I knew I had to have it. (Side note: Unfortunately the library’s copy smelled like cigarette smoke, instead of luscious smoked pork.) Expect to see some future posts about my experimentation with charcuterie.
The second cookbook, Cook & Freeze by Dana Jacobi, was mentioned on The Splendid Table. Not long after, I started a new job. It was my first week and I was flipping out about my new schedule and the lack of time to prepare good food. (Case in point: Braum’s and shitty CVS cookies were two of my evening “meals” that week.) My sweet brother reminded me of the handy contraption that lives in the dusty cabinet above the fridge — the slow cooker — which has experienced a rebirth. And Lynne Rossetto Kasper introduced me to Dana Jacobi.
While she was testing recipes for her Mediterranean cookbook, Jacobi stashed some favorites in the freezer. She said what emerged was a revelation that led her to discover which foods tasted good when freshly cooked and defrosted. She experimented with methods and ingredients, which was all extremely helpful when she later she found herself spread thin from caring for her aging parents.
There are several things that I love about Cook & Freeze. This is the type of food I already want to cook, regardless of hectic schedules. Mexican Mushrooms in Won Ton Cups. Cantonese Flank Steak. Mole Chicken Enchiladas. Spiced Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup.
And the recipes call for ingredients I already use, save rice flour, but I am willing to pick that up at a health food store. There are no convenient “mystery foods,” but the convenience is still there.
Each recipe gives instructions for serving now, freezing, and defrosting. She gives helpful tips for substitutions, and makes note of recipes that work well when doubled or halved.
The first chapter, “Everything You Need to Know,” is about preparing, packing, and defrosting for best results.
The final chapter, “Cooking to Fill Your Freezer,” groups recipes that can easily be prepared simultaneously. Can’t wait to do that.
cook and freeze tool
Sophisticated tool: Half of a 2-liter bottle (or something similar) makes a handy stand for filling freezer bags. Genius!
cook and freeze tool
Fold the bag over the stand and fill ‘er up.
cook and freeze
Remove the bag, lay flat, and evenly spread the contents and press out air bubbles, all while taking care not to squish the food out of the bag. After you get the contents smooth and as much air released as possible, seal the bag and lay it on a flat surface in the freezer. Use a cookie sheet or cutting board if you need to. Have you ever had a bag freeze between the slots of a wire rack? That’s a real pain in the ass.
cook & freeze: sweet and tangy bison balls
Label and date everything. With each recipe, Jacobi recommends that ideal storage time. Consider keeping an inventory of your freezer for simplified meal planning.
frozen beans
This flat bag of beefy kidney beans brings me great satisfaction. Doesn’t take much, does it?

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3 thoughts on “Cook and Freeze

  1. I LOVE the idea for putting the zip-top bag in the 2 liter bottle to hold it open. I’ve tried doing similar things in the past but used a drinking glass. The base was never wide enough and food drips over the sides or the glass topples over. Genius!

    When Donald and I got married, we each brought with us a bunch loaf pans (13 total…seriously) and 13×9 baking dishes (6 total). I like to make pans of enchiladas, lasagnas, or meat loaf and then flash freeze and wrap the extras, pans and all, in freezer paper and foil. This came in really handy when we had the baby. We didn’t cook for a month!

    Love your blog. 🙂

  2. Owning over 2000 cookbooks, I appreciate your reluctance to add to your collection…and that you choose to purchase Cook & Freeze. Hope my recipes live up to expectation.

    Some supermarkets sell rice flour. Look for Goya brand in the Hispanic food section. Also Bob’s Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills white rice flour if they have a gluten-free or natural foods section.

    Thank you for showing how to use a 2 liter soda bottle when filling plastic bags. I had not thought of it since i do not drink soda. It works better than the 1/2-gallon milk carton mentioned in the book

    Dana Jacobi

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