The Great Freeze-Out Of 2011
So, holy crap, life change. I'm working on transitioning successfully to working out of my house, thanks to New Job. I've got a few things down, thanks to other friends who have been in similar positions: have a set schedule, wake up and treat it like you're Going To Work, actually remember to eat, and remember to
sign the hell off when you're done for the day, and don't work all evening.
My treat for myself, now that Jeff is home and I am home all the time: I had a freezer delivered today. It's humming away happily in the garage, bored as hell and hoping I'll feed it.
I've got some thoughts about things I've always wished I could keep more of, but never did because Tiny Fridge Freezer Is Full Of Fail:
- frozen juice
- various frozen veggies, including edamame
- frozen fruit (smoothies, mostly, damn you Scott for addicting me)
- bread and bagels
- frozen seafood (I think longingly of shrimp and scallops especially)
- frozen meats (cows shall be ground, and chickens dissected, all in the holy name of dinner)
- bacon (Jacob told me how to freeze it so I can peel off a slice or two -- Jeff will be giddy in delight)
- extra cookie dough
- extra portions of various meals I make
- extra pre-made quick meals, like pizza
Our blessing and our curse: it's just the two of us. We don't eat a ton of food. I love to cook, but lots of the really good recipes make 4-8 servings, and the nightly progression goes like this:
- Jeff eats the newly-cooked dinner.
- Jeff sees the leftovers and sighs.
- Jeff glares at me and eats -- reluctantly.
- Jeff stuffs me in the freezer, denies he was ever married, heats up a corn dog, and tosses the leftovers to Edmund -- who promptly ignores them in favor of licking his butt. What can I say? He's a cat.
The prospect of not having to hit up the grocery store every 4 days for all-fresh things is delightful.
Oh yes, and while I can't say I'm a full-fledged butcher, I have no problem with a whole chicken or a subprimal cut of beef. I have a rockin' awesome knife set and I know how to use it.
Keep an eye out for the
Keep an eye out for the holday sales - you can get whole chickens and turkeys for $1/pound or less at this time of year! A word of caution: make sure your freezer can handle the heat before you leave it out in the garage in the summer. I think that's a big part of why ours gave up :-\ You may want to plan to use up most of what's in there by spring so if it does hiccup (or we lose power during a storm, like we seemd to do ALL THE TIME) you won't lose $$$ worth of food.
That said, frozen watermelon = smoothie awesomeness :-D It works as the fruit AND the ice, so just throw it in with whatever other fruit you have and you're good to go! Also, things like bread and cookies can freeze for quite a while, so you can justify buying fancy bread you'd normally only eat half of before it went bad.
Bacon goes on sale twice a
Bacon goes on sale twice a year, right around Thanksgiving (and I mean the week of, basically) and right around Christmas.
Well, it goes on sale up here. I don't know about the south. :)
Many pre-made meals seem to
Many pre-made meals seem to wind up in a "nice try, but that's just never what you want" trap for me, and it's never been clear what the problem was with the concept. Maybe a schedule or calendar helps? Maybe I'm just broken?
I do have a lot of success with kale/other greens/eggplant/corn/peppers (eggplant and peppers get roasted, others blanched) being more accessible for cooking with if I prep them and freeze them. I would have trouble putting five different vegetables into a basic soup or pasta sauce, if I had to cut them up and find a way to put away what I don't use, on the spot. Also, keeping the portion size down helps make kale edible without digestive consequences.
We also store shredded mozzarella and browned sausage meat in the freezer, in order to make pizza from scratch on short notice. I wish I had enough room to always have those on hand (it comes and goes). Butter is nice to have a strategic stock of.
I was happy to learn that if I make brined pork chops, the pork chops will defrost in about two hours, in the bowl of brine.
Cookie dough is hard to defrost quickly, so needs more planning ahead than I can manage. We do reheat fully cooked cookies and brownies out of the freezer, and sometimes other desserts.
Welcome to the Telecommuting
Welcome to the Telecommuting ranks! For me there have been several tricky adjustments including:
Getting the rest of my family to understand that I'm At Work, not At Home; managing a lunch break - I tend to try to get stuff done, which takes too long; feeling isolated - you have to push for needed information from your office, 'cause they will forget you sometimes; weaning myself off audiobooks (hated commuting, loved listening to tales).
I love having a freezer! When I make a freezable dish like a casserole or lasagna, it's not much more work to make a second one; then I freeze the extra for future use. I also go to the warehouse stores for things like those massive packs of chicken parts; we subdivide them and freeze in reasonable portions. One year we went in with my brother in law on half a cow - after the cow was slaughtered at the farm we brought home lots of fresh, good beef. Hit up your hunter friends too; offer freezer space in exchange for venison steaks if you're partial to them. I also like being able to make ice in advance of a camping trip or party. You can take used juice bottles (the big ones) and make giant ice cubes; if you take them with you on a hot day, they can keep your lunch cool and serve as a drink when they melt! They also help keep the freezer cool if the power goes out (a whole turkey works really well for this too, it's a GIANT ice cube).
My folks would take advantage
My folks would take advantage of sales on turkeys and hams during the holiday seasons, and buy three or four of each. Then we'd have marathon cooking sessions. Turkeys would be roasted and gravy made - then we'd parcel out the cooked and deboned meat into containers that contained appropriate-sized meals for us. Then we'd pour gravy on top. Typically, we'd get three or four meals out of a single turkey (for a family of six), and the meat would be deliciously tender and moist from having been re-heated in gravy. You can even freeze stuffing and have it reheat pretty well. I've also frozen homemade mashed potatoes.
We bought all other meats in quantities when they went on sale in the large packages and re-packed into freezer bags. If we were feeling particularly ambitious, we would bread chicken fingers/wings and then drop them on a freezer cookie until the breading on the outside froze. Those would then go into freezer bags, so that we could withdraw as many or as few as we liked.
We used to have a garden, so we'd blanch just about everything we grew and freeze it: tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, squash, and bell peppers. I highly recommend this if you have a farmer's market nearby - there's nothing like the taste of darned near fresh veggies in winter. For veggies that we didn't grow, we'd hit up Sam's club and buy the big #10 cans of things like sliced carrots, we'd split those into small ziploc bags, which just happened to hold enough to make a meal's worth.
We also froze soup and stews and chili, because nobody in my family knew how to make soup in anything less than a ten gallon crock pot. Spaghetti/marinara sauce does well frozen. I also make homemade raviolis in a marathon session and freeze those.
Cheese freezes well, and several different types of sandwich meat too, so we'd stock up on that when it went on sale. We'd actually invested in a slicer and would buy the whole log/loaf and slice it at home. Again, everything went into ziploc bags, but one ziploc bag made a week's worth of sandwiches for the family.