Sunday, September 2, 2012

Freezer Soups

I have posted before that I don't freeze too much in terms of fresh fruits or vegetables.  I did freeze a lot of apples last year though and they worked out great for pies and crisps and cobblers.  I will post my plans for those later, but today I though I would talk about how I freeze meals ahead for dinners. 

I have posted before about my crock-pot obsession and how I have several recipes for cooking with meat and beer. These days I tend to try to double up on these recipes and put a batch in the freezer for later.  The recipe for French Dip Sandwiches can be used as such or thickened with a little flour when re-heating for Hot Roast Beef Sandwiches.  Last weekend I fired up 2 crockpots full of Beef Stew, and now I have 4 meals worth in the freezer. 

I also made my Salsa last weekend, which inspired me to make Julia's favorite:

Tortilla Soup

1)  Combine in crock pot:

1 quart "Salsa Juice"  see my Salsa recipe, previous post
3 chicken breasts
1/2 can beer (I threw this in for a little more liquid.)

2) Cook 5 hours on low in crock pot or until the chicken will shred easily.

3) Add 2 c sweet corn and 1 pint salsa.  (I used fresh corn that I cut raw from the cob)

4)At this point I devided this into 3 portions and froze two in Food Saver bags*.

5) The third portion I stored in the fridge for a couple of days until I was ready to serve.

6) Before serving add 1 c shredded sharp cheddar and 1/4 c sour cream.

7) Heat to desired temp.  Top with crushed tortilla chips and more salsa.

Note that I freeze everything except the dairy ingredients.  This saves room in the freezer, time on my bulk cooking day, and I think it tastes better when you add the dairy ingredients fresh.

*Tip:  When I freeze soup in the food saver bags, I use a large bag and freeze it flat, so that it is no more than an inch thick.  That way to thaw, you just pop the bag into a sink of hot water and it is ready for the pan in 15 minutes or so.

I used this strategy to make another favorite soup which contains a lot of my favorite short cuts:

Brocolli Potato Chowder

1)  Combine in a large soup pot:

1 large vidallia onion, chopped

1 pound chopped bacon ends (I get these at the butcher, they are cheaper than the sliced bacon, usually lean and thicker sliced than regular bacon, they work great for soups)

Saute these until the bacon browns and the onions are translucent.  Pour off any excess bacon fat

2)  Add:

1 bag frozen hash brown potatoes (the cubes, not the shredded ones)

2 pounds fresh chopped broccoli

4T chicken soup starter (this is like a paste that is in the grocery store soup section next to the boullion.)

1 T Italian seasoning blend

Enough water to cover.

3)  Bring to a boil and add 1 box of orzo pasta.  Cook 5 minutes or until the orzo is done. 

4)  This is when I divide this one for freezing.

5)  To reheat, add grated sharp cheddar to taste (about 1/4 c per serving) and just enough half and half to give a nice white color to the soup.  You can also use milk.  I sometimes add a little flour when the soup is cold to thicken it up a bit.  As long as you stir well and don't add the flour to the hot soup it will not make lumps.

I have also frozen a simpler version of this soup with just the broccoli and onions.  I froze that one in smaller portions so that I can make it up and take it to work for lunch.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Salsa, Zucchini Quiche, and Tomato Salad

It's been a slow start to the canning year.  We had a bizzarre spring and late frosts, so the berry crop was awful.  There was not a single mulberry on my tree!  George planted me some new trees, a mulberry of my own and a quince too!  Hopefully the deer will leave them alone, but time will tell.

Homemade Salsa

The beginning of the canning season is usually my Homemade Salsa, which I always get compliments on.  Sometimes people cannot believe it is canned and not made fresh!  I am pretty sure the secret there is that this is only cooked for 10 minutes and I strain it as I can it, which results in a chunkier salsa.  I can the juice seperately and use it in soups.  One time we tried it for bloody marys, but it was too strong for that. It makes a good chili base or a nice bean soup broth. So here's the recipe:

15 c peeled cored chopped ripe roma tomatoes
4 large green bell peppers, chopped
3 large sweet onions, copped
6 jalepenos, chopped*
1 1/4 c cider vinegar
3 T minced garlic
2 T minced cilantro
3 T salt
3 T lime juice

Combine all ingredients, bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer 10 min.
Pack hot into hot jars.
Process 15 min in boiling water bath.

*Tips: Wear gloves then chopping hot peppers, reduce heat by taking out the seeds.  Peppers are usually hotter in dryer years and later in the summer.

Zucchini Quiche

Last week my freind Paula made Zucchini Quiche for beer club, immeadiately claiming the Zucchini Queen title and intimidating me to the point where it will be a long time before I make zucchini anything for one of our pot lucks.  She was good enough to share her recipe, and as good as it was, I couldn't resist tweaking it just a little.  Here is my version:

4 c shredded zucchini
1 c diced sweet onion
2 T olive oil
1 T garlic paste (fresh elelphant garlic ground up and preserved in olive oil)
1/2 t salt
1/2 t itailian seasoning
1/4 c half and half
1 1/2 shredded jalrseburg or swiss
1/2 c shredded parmesan or asiago
2 eggs
1 pk crescent rolls

Bloom the garlic in the olive oil. 
Add onions and saute until translucent. 
Add spices.
Add zucchini and saute until excess liquid is gone.Cool.
Spread crescent rolls in greased 9 x 13 pan.  Spread mustard over.
In a large bowl, combine the veggies, half and half, cheese and eggs.
Spread over crust. Top with drained tomato slices.
Bake 30 min at 375.

This was great!  As I am currently low-carbing though, next time I think I will leave out the crust and call it frittatta.

Tomato and Corn Salad

Like I said, Paula took the Zucchini Crown last week, so I had to come up with something good this week.  I have made the standard Tomato Mozzarella Salad many times.  People like it, but no real raves.  I thought and researched and shopped and thought some more and this is what I came up with:

4 c seeded chopped red and yellow tomatoes (chopped to the same size as the cherry tomatoes)
2 c whole red and yellow cherry tomatoes
3 ears fresh sweet corn, shelled
1/2 c red onion, sliced long wise into slivers
1/2 c fresh mini basil leaves
1/2 c fresh mozzarella, cut into about 1/2" x 1/4" rectangles
1/2 t salt
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 T cider vinegar

Seed the tomatoes by cutting them in half cross-wise and then squeezing slightly to remove extra liquid and seeds.
Combine the tomatoes and the raw corn and refrigerate 4 hours to allow the acid in the tomatoes to slightly cook the corn.
Add the rest of the ingredients just before serving.  Toss.

Unfortunately, Paula didn't even show up this week....oh well.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2011 was the year of the Berry

I didn't post a lot last year because there was so much going on in our lives.  Highlights included getting my oldest off to college then an internship in Disney World, taking on managing a busy institute under a new director, caring for several elderly relatives, and looking after the rest of my brood which included a new puppy just at back to school time. 

In between all the chaos I found myself continuing my obsession for local food and canning.  We made a day trip to Erie to search for cherries.  We were too late for cherries, but the blueberries were spectacular.  I think next year I will go for blueberries and just pick up some frozen cherries.

I did a lot more freezing last year too.  It was easier to process fruit on hot humid days and the Food Saver makes it a lot more convenient to use the frozen product.  Successes included:

Apple Pie Filling:   I used my peeler/slicer  then added about 4 cups slices to 1/2c flour and 1 c sugar.  I mixed it all up and froze in food saver bags.  I use these for Dutch apple pie mostly.  In 2012 I plan to do a lot more and use them for crisps and cobblers too.

Frozen peach puree:  I took the leftovers from the canning peaches or those that were a little too bruised  to use for canning and I pureed them in the food processer with a little lemon juice.  I put the puree in a small food saver bag and sealed it then flattened it out before freezing.  I use this by chopping off the desired ammount and adding it to smoothies.  I also did this with some mangoes I found on sale at the local fruit stand.

Frozen bananas:  I know these are not local, but when they are cheap I buy the overripe bananas and peel and freeze them for banana bread or smoothies.

Frozen mulberries:  these were the find of the year last year.  I froze a few

Frozen blueberries:  Just pop them in the bag and into the freezer.  I add these to smothies too or use them in muffins or crisp or cobbler.

Frozen peaches:  I did some of these on a day when it was just too hot to can them.  They are ok for crisps, but they aren't as good for eating straight or in a pie for some reason.

As I have mentioned, I commute an hour each way to work at the lab and back.  It is far to easy for me to stop at Starbuck's or Wendy's or Panera for a quick, tasty, fattening breakfast.  Lately I have been trying for better though.  With the five minutes I have between the last time I walk the dog and the time Rebecca is ready, I throw a few things into the blender to make a smoothie.

Commuter Smoothie

I start with 2 containers of lite yogurt, any flavor that catches my eye.  Then I add two or three of my frozen selection of fruits or some fresh strawberries or canteloupe or whatever is left in the fridge. Sometimes I even add a packed of prepared cooled oatmeal. I top it off with about 2/3 c milk and hit frapee.  The smoothie gets poured into 2 pint sized mason jars and a re-used lid tops it off.  Add a straw and I have the perfect commuter breakfast, plus an additional snack for later in the day.