After at least two complaints from family members and some of my own feelings of guilt, I have decided to get back into blogging.
What was the reason for the long break? There are a few reasons. I have been working on some new paid work projects namely starting work for Bendigo Woollen Mills as a freelance pattern designer/writer and also getting my Yarn Collective store and my Ravelry store up and running. I have also been doing lots of resting and house re-arranging occasioned by the impending birth (in February) of our baby. The work, the resting and the nesting have meant that very little craft has been going on so I haven’t had much to write about! So no blog for a while. I have been doing some knitting, gardening and cooking lately so I’ll chat about those today and see what happens in the future…
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR FREEZER
Since becoming pregnant I’ve been stocking up the freezer with all sort of things to save cooking too much when the baby arrives. Matthew has been on a bit of health kick lately and has been requesting healthy soups and such things for lunch. I’ve been getting to the market a bit less often and so I’ll buy lots of meat in one go and freeze it. We bought a bigger fridge with a bigger freezer recently (again in preparation for a growing family) All these things got me thinking about the freezer and the many things you can freeze for later.
All sorts of dinners can be cooked and then frozen. My favourites are: chicken casserole, beef casserole, meat or chicken curries, sausage and bean casserole, bolognese sauce, risotto. All these can be cooked and then put into plastic containers. I usually cook a meal for four or six, have two serves for the two of us for dinner then put the rest in the freezer.
I have found that a certain brand of container fits perfectly stacked side by side in my freezer draws making the most of the space. Another good way to make the most of the space is to not bother freezing cooked pasta or rice. Just freeze the curry or the bolognese since pasta and rice are easy to store and cook. It’s a good idea to wait until the food has cooled before you put it in the freezer so that is freezes more quickly and doesn’t start the thaw the food it’s put next to. Don’t think that you’ll remember what is in a container! Label it! (Don’t ask me how I know)
To thaw your frozen dinner either take it out early in the day and then heat it in a saucepan or zap it in the microwave. Perfect for the times when you want some wholesome food but don’t have the energy to prepare it or the cash to go out. I’ve always got something in the freezer for such occasions even when I’m not stocking up in preparation for a baby.
While lots of people make sandwiches in advance and freeze them I haven’t found that to be necessary yet so I’ve never tried it. Since Matthew decided that giant ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch every day wasn’t doing his health any good, we’ve been trying to come up with other ideas for his lunch that involve vegetables of some kind but are still satisfying.The answer has been soup, soup and more soup as well as chicken legs.
These soups all freeze well and are an easy and healthy lunch option for those that leave the house in a hurry each morning: corn chowder, bacon and lentil, pumpkin, cauliflower, minestrone, chicken and vegetable. I make a big pot of soup and then pour it into lunch-sized containers, label them and stack them in the freezer.
Another idea I tried was roasting some chicken legs and freezing them. It was a bit of an experiment but it has worked reasonably well. Buy 8-10 chicken legs (drumsticks), season them well with some kind of chicken seasoning or salt and pepper, spray a tray with oil and bake the legs until they are cooked (about 45 mins) at 200 degrees. When they are cool put two each into small ziploc sandwich bags, squeeze out the air and freeze. The worker can grab one of the bags with a bit of salad or fruit in the morning and zap the legs in microwave at lunch time for a quick healthy protein lunch.
Another idea that I haven’t tried but which I’m sure would work would be to make a cake or slice, cut it up and wrap in individual pieces. All you’d need to do each morning would be put a piece in the lunch box, ready wrapped. This obviously works for muffins too. Homemade cakes are always going to be healthier that anything you can buy since they have no preservatives or additives or processed oils and fats and usually less sugar and salt.
Home grown vegetable gluts
If you have grown your own vegetables you may have found at some stage that you have too much broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peas than you can eat fresh. Over winter I grew some fantastic caulis but found I had three great big ones ready at the same time. One we ate fresh, one I made into cauli soup and one I froze. The technique for freezing vegetables is similar for most kinds and I have had good success with the ones I mentioned above. Cut the vegetable into bite sized pieces. Boil plenty of salted water. Put the vegetables into the boiling water and then let the water come back to boil which should take a minute or two. Drain immediately, rinse with cold water and drain them well. Lay the vegetable pieces in a single layer on a tray and put it in the freezer. When the pieces are frozen put them into a plastic bag and seal. You now have a bag of vegetable pieces, each separate from each other so you take out just as many as you need at a time. As convenient as frozen veg from the supermarket but homegrown by you.
Some vegetable don’t freeze well at all. Tomatoes, zucchini, cucumber and celery are all too watery to be frozen as they are. Cooked into something is a different matter though. Tomato puree freezes very well for instance.
Since I mentioned celery I do actually freeze celery in stalks but I have a particular reason for this. I don’t like celery much but it is an essential ingredient in many soups, stocks and Italian dishes and you miss it if it isn’t there. Thawed frozen celery is just mush with some strings but that doesn’t matter if it’s about to go into osso bucco. Since I only use a stalk or two occasionally and only for cooking I keep a bag of stalks in the freezer so I don’t have to buy a whole or a half one every time I need a little.
I raved on about stock in my last post so you read about it there. Suffice to say that stock is best cooked in a large amount and freezes beautifully so you can always have some home made stock in stock.
When you make a cake or muffins or scones or whatever it’s very little extra work to make a double batch so you might as well put some in the freezer and save yourself some effort later. Cakes, muffins, scones, bread, rolls, fruit loaf, date loaf and so on all freeze well in my experience. Muffins and scones are very convenient because you can thaw just one at a time if you want to.
I like to buy lots of meat all in one go since I don’t get to my favourite butcher as often as I’d like. I find the best way to freeze meat is in meal sized portions and as flat as possible so it thaws faster. So two lamb chops or two steaks or a few sausages in one freezer bag. Mince is frozen in 500g packs squished nice and flat. Meat that is is open to the freezer gets dry and tough so seal the freezer bags well. My tip for the nicest frozen meat is to thaw it naturally either in the fridge for the day or out on the bench for a few hours (not recommended on a hot day!). The microwave always seems to cook one bit while it’s defrosting giving you a tough bit of meat so I only use the microwave to defrost meat in emergencies.
That’s probably enough about freezers. Didn’t realise I had so much to say about them! Here’s a yarn review to take your mind off freezers…
SELBY’S YARN PICKS
Jo Sharp Soho Summer DK Cotton 50g, 100 metres, 100% cotton
I’ve recently finished a project in this yarn for the December issue of Yarn Magazine. After knitting through 5 balls in stocking stitch I can tell you that this is lovely yarn to work with and gives very smooth even results. Even with very pointy needles, this cotton doesn’t split and is so soft that it never feels stringy like some 100% cotton can. End results are nice and light, though a very large project may drop a little. At around $7.60 a ball, a large project would add up to a large amount. The cost would be worth it though for the lightness and softness and coolness of a finished garment. At a standard 22 sts to 10cm and 100m to 50g Soho Summer cotton could easily be substituted into other 8ply/DK weight patterns ball for ball but be aware that in a large project some dropping may occur. In a smaller project such a child’s garment I think you could substitute into a wool pattern with no problems at all.
IN THE GARDEN
Now is a good time to plant all the summer vegies. We have planted tomatoes, capsicum, basil, zucchini and butternuts. As soon as I’ve pulled out the spinach and coriander which are going to seed I’ll plant some dwarf beans and climbing beans. Adelaide still has some serious water restrictions so watering is going to involve a mixture of the hand held hose (Sunday only), watering cans and grey water.
That’ll do for now. Have a good week everybody. My sincere apologies to anyone who has been checking my blog regularly and finding no new posts! Sarah.