Freezer Essentials

cook and free meals

Last time I shared some pantry essentials that help us whip up healthy and tasty meals quickly and easily. Today I want to share some of our essentials that we stock in the freezer. We have a side by side model, so space is a bit awkward and limited for the freezer. However for us, it fits our needs.

What to Stock Your Freezer With

With that in mind, if you’re looking for ideas on what to pick up for your freezer here are some of my picks: cook and free meals

Meats

For those looking at keeping costs low, grabbing and freezing meat when it’s on sale can be a great savings. Costco usually has some fantastic deals on items like pork chops and ground beef.

Vegetables

Sometimes getting frozen vegetables is the best solution, I tend to keep mixed vegetables bags for stir-fry nights. It’s a really hassle free way to get meal on the table in about 20 minutes and with some herbs and seasonings, it’s usually no leftovers.

Fruits

With the produce deliveries this year, we’ve had some great weeks where we were overflowing with fresh fruits. Since we couldn’t eat all of it, we saved a portion of the fruit for us later.

Desserts

Yep, I use the freezer to pack unhealthy but tasty desserts like ice cream. Besides topping it with fruit, you can also make floats or smoothies depending on your preferences.

Emergency Dishes

When I was pregnant we pre-made a few dishes for the first couple of weeks since we knew we’d probably be too tired to make meals from scratch. Having some frozen pre-made meals can be a lifesaver on the really busy evening when you’re both too tired to cook.

Thoughts on Freezer Essentials

What do you like to have in your freezer for preparing meals at home? What can you not live without? Where do you grab your supplies? How often do you restock them?

Photo Credit: armigeress

Keeping a Stocked Pantry

Years ago, one of my biggest excuses for not cooking more at home was that there was nothing to make. I’d try to think of something to make with what I had around in the kitchen, but I couldn’t think of anything most of the time. If I did finally come up with something, it would be something that would take too long to make. (Yeah I was an impatient college student who didn’t plan out meals.)

Fill Up Your Pantry 

I had a few friends who were savvy around the kitchen – no matter whether they had 20 minutes or a couple of hours, they always had something delicious cooked. When I asked their secrets, most of them mentioned that they stocked their kitchen with some go to ingredients that allowed them to whip up something quick if need be.

I decided to follow their example and copied what they had in their pantry. For one thing, it did help with dinner as many times I could grab a meat from the freezer, some vegetable and something from the pantry.

I noticed however that some ingredients didn’t get used often enough. I discovered while there are some items that are universally necessary for a pantry, there is a bit of personalization that comes with the list based on individual taste.

What to Stock Your Pantry With

With that in mind, if you’re looking for ideas on what to pick up for your pantry here are some of my picks:

  • Olive Oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Sea Salt
  • Pepper
  • Goya Adobo
  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic
  • Ground Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Dijon mustard
  • Canned beans (I prefer black beans and light red kidney beans)
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Tomato Paste
  • Rice
  • Angel Hair Pasta
  • Egg Noodles
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
As far as herbs go, I’d also include whatever you have in your home garden. For us right now we have some rosemary and mint. Having a home garden can also spruce up your options depending on the season.

Thoughts on Pantry Essentials

What do you like to have in your pantry for preparing meals at home? What can you not live without? Where do you grab your supplies? How often do you restock them?

Photo Credit: grammardog

 

Cooking Ribs on a Gas Grill

grill ribs on gas grill

This has definitely been a summer of grilling for our family. The sunny days have encouraged us to do some of our cooking outdoors instead of in. It’s also helped us to try out didn’t recipes with our meals and get savvier with using the grill. The next challenge for us- mastering ribs.

Grilling Ribs – Indirect Heat is Vital

We’ve started with a ribs a few times to test the waters. Grilling ribs is a bit different from other meats we’ve done because it requires long, slow, and indirect grilling. when I asked a friend for advice he mentioned 2 hours. Certainly different when we do a few minutes when we grill steaks. In can be done; here are a few points that have helped us with grilling ribs.

Prepare the Rack of Ribs

I was surprised to learn that depending on how the rack is cut by the store, you may have to do some additional trimming of the fat from the rack. You certainly don’t want to remove all of it, but you want to get the rack to fairly consistent on thickness. Removing unnecessary scraps and a bit of fat can be helpful sometimes.

Use a Rub with Ribs grill ribs on gas grill

If you’re looking for an easy to prepare and flavorful rub for your ribs, here’s one that’s Memphis style:

  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne

Mix all the ingredients together and spread it evenly on your ribs. Apply your rub no more than one hour before you put it on the grill.

Grilling Ribs Right

We have 2 burners (left/right) side by side with our grill. To position the rib rack properly on our grill we’d turn on one of the burners and then place the rack on the opposite side. Let them grill for about 30-40 minutes.

Using foil, cover the ribs and pour a bit of apple juice. Create a tight cover to make sure the juice does not leak out and it can tenderize the meat. It should be another 30-40 minutes.

Finally remove the ribs from the foil and place it back to the original spot on the grill, lowering the heat until done.

Thoughts on Grilling Ribs

By the way if you’re looking at getting a smokey flavor with your ribs and you’re using a gas grill, I want to mention a article with tips and tricks with smokey flavors. I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for preparing mouth watering ribs on the grill.

Photo Credit

How to Cut Onions Without Crying

cutting onions

You know the drill–the sharp pain, the crying, sniffling, cursing, and frequent breaks. All because you want to (or need to) put an onion in your dish.

Yes, it could be better. But how?

Today, I’m going to show you a few simple strategies for cutting onions without all the fuss.

Why You Cry

If it’s not already evident, you cry when cutting onions because of the chemicals an onion releases into the air when it’s cut. These react with your eyes and cause pain.

All of today’s strategies look at two mitigation angles: reducing how much is released from the onion (or at what strength), and reducing access to your eyes.

Let’s go:

Good: Chill the Onions

The simplest and most readily available strategy is cooling the onion before it’s cut, either by putting it in the refrigerator or freezer for a period of time before dinner prep.

For whatever reason, a cooler onion releases less reactive material into the air than one that’s sat around for a while at room temperature. Just don’t forget your onions in the freezer for too long, or you’ll end up with a block of ice!

Better: Soak the Onion

Another strategy, and one that’s a bit more time-intensive, is to soak the onion in water or a water/vinegar solution for a few minutes before starting to cut.

The water/vinegar will start to pull out and neutralize the chemicals in the onion that are responsible for crying. To provide better access for the water to enter the onion, cut it in half before placing it in the solution.

Soaked onions will also be milder in taste, which is desirable for many people when using raw onions in salads or other dishes.

Best: Goggles

While this is the method that looks the funniest (if anyone is around), I’ve also found it to be the most effective. It involves the use of any air-tight mask or goggles, like those worn for swimming or diving.

The goggles create a boundary between the onion and your eyes that can’t be penetrated by the pain-causing chemicals. They can get uncomfortable if worn for too long, and they can fog up if not fit to your face properly, so use your own pair if possible.

Other Strategies

Any number of other strategies that prevent the transfer of chemicals from the onion to the eye can also help, like using a fast-moving fan in the kitchen to circulate clean air between you and the onion.

While I don’t recommend it for safety reasons, a lot of people also have success cutting onions under running water or while completely submerged.

Your Best Tip

How do you deal with onion tears? Share your best tips in the comments!

(Photo credit)

Basil Pesto

basil pesto recipe

One of my favorite sauces I enjoy is pesto. I love it with pasta and I love it as a spread on bread. Even though the recipe below has basil, you can substitute the basil with something else, like mint, cilantro, or spinach.

Making a Batch of Pesto

Making pesto is pretty simple – most of it is using a food processor to combine the ingredients. Here’s what you need to get: basil pesto recipe

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Basically all you have to do next is toss the basil, garlic, and pine nuts into the food processor until chopped. Add about half of your olive oil and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If you’re using the best immediate, then you add the rest of the olive oil and process. Transfer the mix to a bowl and mix in the cheese.

If you’re freezing for use much later, then transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. When you thaw, stir in the cheese.

Pesto Dishes

If you’re looking for ideas on how to use a batch of pesto here are a few recipes and not all of these involve pasta:

How about you – what are some of your favorites dish that you use basil pesto?

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