Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Something New!

Crew -zing down the frozen fast food isle at the grocery store searching for ideas of things to make for the kiddos, I spied Bertolli meals. I've had them before at our daughters and they weren't too bad. I like a little more flavor but companies have to appeal to the masses. That means middle class tastes who like things a bit bland. That describes most of my extended family and so Romono cheese, Feta, or anything else with a zip is out. The grand kids are even worse as they like processed foods and really bland stuff. This means if I wish to please my husband and the kids, I must fix two different meals. I did that the other night when i made stroganoff from scratch for my husband and used a jar of Ragu for the spaghetti sauce for the kids - Yuk!!

I was feeling desperate after a few days of the kids not eating anything but what they were forced to during our evening meals. Not that they are skinny mind you. They've gained weight at grandma but it is really tough when supper comes around. Lunch isn't too bad and breakfast is their favorite but supper is where I really bomb. Most of the time my husband is the one slighted and so I'm working slowly on meals for the freezer that I can throw in for him that he'll like, while I'm making something more appealing to the kids. After all he has put in a very long day and leaves at 20 to six in the morning and doesn't get home until eight at night. Then after cuddling with the kids, he usually puts in a little while in his knife shop before bed.

That's when this idea popped into my head as I was cooking up a package of Bert0lli to see if the kids liked the stir-fry mixture. They didn't. The concept of a stir-fry with vegetables, noodles, and a sauce in chunks inspired my imagination into motion. First I hit the Internet. Remember, I'm an information junky. I know that some dairy items don't freeze well and so I wanted some advice.

This is what I found.
  • Butter - freezes well but unsalted looses flavor so it is best to store it a shorter period of time than salted.
  • Cheese - hard or semi-hard can be frozen but becomes a bit more dry and crumbly.
  • Cottage cheese - cream style has a tendency to separate when thawed but ricotta cheese
  • freezes well for a month.
  • Cream cheese can be frozen. ( I want to try making some home-made but first I'm going to make some cultured sour cream.)
  • Cream can be frozen if it is heavy cream and contains 40% or more butter fat. Well my goat cream qualifies as I run the milk through to separate the cream and then run the cream through to get a heavy cream. There was one caution as it said it doesn't whip as high after it has been frozen and thawed. What fascinated me is that whipped cream can be sweetened and frozen into individual portions. Got to try that one. Wouldn't that be handy with frozen pumpkin pie? Yeah, that would be impressive to pull out and serve surprise guests. Or just to have during the busy holiday season when family comes.
  • Milk freezes well of course and I've frozen my share of goat's milk.
  • Sour cream, yogurt and buttermilk- All these cultured creations lose their smooth texture when frozen and become grainy, sometimes separating out. You can still use them for cooking despite this change in appearance. Flavored yogurts are suppose to be more stable because of the fruit and sugar added. So with more than enough information to proceed and a motivation to try frozen whipped cream, I began my experiment. The next time I separated milk to get the heavy cream, I went a step further and made a wonderful rich Alfredo sauce. I'd love to give you a set recipe but I don't have one as it is seldom done the exact same way twice and that day was no exception. I made a double batch and hence I heated a half a cup of butter in a sauce pan to which I added two quarts of cream, some garlic granules because it was the handiest thing next to the stove, and when that was hot, I began putting in the cheese. Normally I would add three cups of Parmesan for a double batch like this or enough cheese to make it taste good but that day along with Parmesan, I threw in a blend I'd bought on sale at the store. It was Monterrey Jack with sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Then I added a fourth a teaspoon of nutmeg and about a teaspoon of parsley and yum...!! Bland wasn't even in the ballpark.

Then I poured the moderately cooled sauce into ice cube trays and when I ran out of those I use some small plastic containers meant to put condiments in for lunch boxes. To keep it all together and flat, I put them on a cookie sheet and popped them into the freezer. When frozen, I ran a little hot water along the bottom of the ice cube trays and other containers and the sauce popped right out. These chunks I put into a plastic bag and into the freezer they went.

One of the meals I tried to get the kids to eat without success had store penne noodles and so I cooked up the whole batch and froze the leftovers. The kids won't eat my home-made semolina noodles. Of course they didn't like these store ones either. If I made breakfast for every meal they'd be happy. Alas, how does one please everyone. The answer, she often doesn't.

The Bertolli meals you dumped everything in a pan, baked it, microwaved it, or reheated it on a stove. So I figured I could add my own vegetables or a stir-fry mix from the store if I found a really good sale. (Next year our youngest grand daughter will be older and I'm hoping the garden will gain far more attention equating to a much better harvest than this year and I'll mix my own stir-fry combinations to freeze together.) Then with frozen home-made noodles, cooked chicken breasts sliced, and some Alfredo cubes all packaged together I would have my own healthy wonderful fast food meals. For now, I'll just have to throw things together but it will still speed up the whole process.

If I wanted to, I could use my canned chicken breasts instead of cooking up some on the grill. Oh how I love things made ahead. Next week, it will be especially appreciated as Tuesday through Friday are booked solid with activities for the kids between Daisy's starting, a birthday party, and Halloween activities this grandmother will be run ragged. I've started to prepare meals and freeze them this week for the rush. Meanwhile the kid's Halloween costumes have yet to be made. So much to do, so little time to do it all in.

No comments:

Post a Comment