How Many Times Can You Re-Freeze that Steak?

Nothing is more frustrating than when good meat goes bad. You drop a pretty penny on some finely cut steaks, only to throw it in the freezer when you don't use it on time. You thaw it the night before you feel sure you'll use it, and get an invitation to get dine with some friends. Can you throw it back in, or is it too late? Many people just don't know the rules and boundaries with freezing steaks, so we'll enlighten you.

Is Re-Freezing Unsafe?        

Theoretically, refreezing that steak a few times is completely safe. In the best of circumstances, throwing it right back in the freezer won't affect the beef health-wise, although there are certain things to consider before you toss it back in. We'll go into the circumstantial things to consider for safety in just a bit, but first – we'll fill you in on what you can expect when you re-freeze the meat, and why many people just don't do it.

How Many Times Can You Re-Freeze that Steak?

Re-Freezing Steak Will Alter Taste and Texture

Re-freezing steak is more of a question of taste and texture than anything else. Simply stated, the drastic change in temperature in going from frozen to thawed is always going to alter the quality of the meat as far as consumption. It'll become tough, chewy, and a little more bland, so you'll want to consider what you're using it for before you toss it back in the freezer. If you're planning on grilling it and eating it with a side of potatoes, it's probably best just to eat when it's been fresh or thawed once. If you're planning on tossing it in with a pot of soup, or cutting it up and adding to some eggs or a salad... toss it back in, you won't really notice enough of a difference for it to matter.

When You Shouldn't Do it

Getting back to what you should consider in order to determine if re-freezing the meat is safe: how long (total) has it been sitting in temperatures between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit? This total hour count is from the time the meat is butchered to the time it's sitting on your countertop thawed, even if there's been some freezing in between. In other words, if the butcher wraps it up after an hour and sticks it in the freezer, you'll count that hour; if you buy it and take it home to freeze it, you'll count the time it was in transit. If you let it sit at room temperature to thaw for a few hours, you'll count that time as well.

Anything over 4-5 hours at the aforementioned temperature is a risk for health and safety, so should always be considered before re-freezing. In other words, refreezing thawed meat that has been exposed to warmer temperatures for a longer period of time won't help the meat recover from any sort of potential dangerous bacteria. Bear that in mind when you continue to thaw and re-freeze your meat!

All in all – it's probably not a huge deal as far as health goes to throw the beef back in the freezer, but you will notice a huge difference taste-wise.

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Mac & Cheese Spirals

Gratin with macaroni, meat and cheese

Mac and cheese is a simple, yet satisfying main dish for family members of all ages. The perfect comfort food on a chilly day, or a quick meal after your children's after school activities. This is an ideal casserole for moms who always seem to be on the go. If you have some of your children's friends or relatives show up for a surprise visit, this recipe doubles very efficiently without compromising taste and appeal. With added butternut squash, this recipe adds a vegetable into this dish to boost both nutrition and taste. Cook this casserole in your crock pot for perfect make ahead meal goodness. Be sure to prepare and freeze an extra batch of this delightful dish, so you can have an easy, effortless make ahead meal.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs Ground beef
2 boxes spiral pasta
2 boxes of frozen butternut squash, thawed
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese
1 lb other cheese- Monterey jack, muenster, Swiss...your choice
(or a combination of cheeses)
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tbs. cornstarch
tsp. water
Tbsp. butter or margarine
Optional:  goldfish crackers, any flavor, crushed for topping

Directions: 

-Cook ground beef in skillet on stove.
-Cook pasta on stovetop until tender.
-Drain grease from ground beef. Also, drain water from pasta.
-Add both to crock pot. Mix them together.
-Put milk and butter into a pan.
-In a small dish, mix cornstarch and water. Be sure to stir until cornstarch is completely dissolved into water.
-Grate cheese and set aside (this is good to do a day or two ahead, to save time - or buy shredded cheese)
-Thaw butternut squash in the  microwave or on stovetop in a separate pan.
-Turn on burner and heat milk and butter mixture on low.
-Stir. Add grated cheese and thawed butternut squash.
-Turn up heat. Stir continuously as you add cornstarch and water mixture.
-Cook until sauce begins to thicken.
-Add completed sauce to crock pot with ground beef and pasta. Stir to combine all ingredients.
-Cook on low for 3-4 hours.
-Keep on warm for as many hours as you need to.
-Scoop out a portion to cool and then freeze in freezer-proof container for a second meal. For your second meal, when ready, add to crock pot to warm and you will be ready for quick goodness on another night.
-Serve casserole with crushed goldfish crackers on each individual portion for your family members who like a little topping on their Mac and cheese. Enjoy!

 

Enchilada Casseroles

Taco Casserole

Enchilada Casseroles are ideal for a family meal any day of the week. It satisfies our craving for spicy food, providing taste and comfort at the same time. This recipe serves 8 people, meaning it is a double batch. You can serve it to fewer people and freeze the rest for future use. It is an easy meal that you can make ahead of time in preparation for weeknight meals.

3 pounds ground beef
1/2  cup of olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cups sour cream (or plain greek yogurt)
2 cups mild enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
6 tortillas
2 garlic cloves, diced

You can substitute different types of cheeses for the cheddar and Monterey Jack. A mixed cheese blend or muenster cheese will work. You can also substitute other meats for the beef, like chicken or chorizo. Keep in mind that this recipe is mild in terms of spice, so feel free to add more of your own hot sauce, salsa or peppers.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spread the olive oil around a skillet on medium heat. When the pan warms, place a tortilla on it and warm until it is crispy. Cook them one by one and place each on paper towel after cooking.

Next, add the diced garlic and onions to the pan. Once they've cooked, put them aside on a plate or in a bowl. Cook the ground beef in the pan until it is brown. Then remove the beef and drain the fat out of the pan. Return the beef, garlic and onions to the pan and stir them together.

Spray a cooking spray onto a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Then put the enchilada sauce (only ½ cup) into the dish and spread around the bottom. Put 3 tortillas over the sauce. Then add another half cup of enchilada sauce onto them. Put a layer of the onions, garlic and beef onto the sauce. Add a layer of sour cream, spreading it across the top, and sprinkle with cheese. Perform this same layering with 3 more tortillas and the rest of the ingredients for a second layer.

Cook for about 20 minutes or until you see that the cheese has fully melted. An enchilada casserole is something you can make ahead of time and freeze, as it tastes great after being warmed up.

 

Stuffed Manicotti

Manicotti

Easy Stuffed Manicotti - Double Recipe

Are you looking for a classic Italian dinner recipe that’s simple to prepare and one everyone will enjoy? Italian Stuffed Manicotti is the answer. Though it sounds complicated to prepare, you’ll be surprised how easy it really is. Stuffed manicotti is very nutritious and freezes very well. Just pop it in the microwave when hungry guests unexpectedly arrive at your door or when your night is running extra long. Make your dinner time a special time with the goodness of manicotti (or large shells) and everyone will love you for it. 

Manicotti Sauce
2 pound ground meat, such as beef, sausage, veal or turkey
4 tablespoons butter

Pasta Sauce
4 tablespoons salad oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
4 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
2 12-ounce cans tomato paste
4 teaspoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons oregano leaves
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 bay leaf

1.  Cook onion and garlic in hot salad oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat until tender, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes.
2.  Over high heat, add tomato sauce and the rest of the ingredients over and boil.
3.  Reduce the heat to a simmer over medium-low and partially cover, cooking for 30 minutes. Throw out the bay leaf when done.

Manicotti Shells  (OR purchase pre-made pasta)
2 cup all-purpose flour
8 eggs
2 tablespoon salad oil
2 teaspoon salt
2 cup water

Filling
4 cups ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 eggs
2 8-ounce packages coarsely shredded mozzarella cheese

Prepare the pasta sauce and set aside. Then on low speed, use a mixer to blend pasta shell ingredients and finish by blending for one minute on medium speed.

Lightly coat a large skillet with salad oil and heat over medium-high heat. Slowly pour a large ladle of the pasta batter into the skillet and tilt pan to cover it evenly with the batter. Let it cook only until the top is set and dry and the underside looks lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Remove it to a piece of waxed paper and repeat until all the shells are complete.

In a large skillet, cook the ground meat with the butter over medium-high heat until the meat is browned. Then slowly add in the prepared pasta sauce and heat through.

Gently pour 1/3 of the hot sauce evenly among two large roasting pans about 15 inches by 10 inches or in one larger pan. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together all the filling ingredients, except the mozzarella cheese, until well blended. Drop a heaping tablespoon of the filling in the center of each shell and then add some mozzarella cheese. Carefully fold edges over cheese and place each shell in pan(s) with seam side down. Top with remaining sauce and bake for 30 minutes. This mouth-watering dish will produce 16 main-dish servings.

Preparing & Storing Meat

Kafta Shawarma Chicken Pita Wrap Roll Sandwich

Cook, Package, and Freeze Meat Ahead for Quick Meal Preparation

Your days are full, but you can take part of the chore out of making dinner by not only planning meals but also cooking meat in advance to freeze and use later. It is possible to shorten dinner preparations considerably if you shop for meat once a month, and take a day to cook it ahead and store.

A vacuum packager makes storage easy, but cling wrap and zippered freezer bags together work well, too. The secret to storing meat is to eliminate as much air as possible from surrounding the food. This helps avoid freezer burn and preserve the flavor of the meat. Make sure to use the thicker freezer zipper bags, not the everyday bags. Season meat as you use it in your favorite family recipes, typically with salt and pepper. Other seasonings can be added when you make your dish. And if the weather is right for a BBQ, cook some extra meat to freeze.

Cooked ground beef is one of those foods that you can easily freeze for later use. Depending on the size of your family, you can store the meat in one or two pound batches, and take it out to use in tacos, casseroles, chili, pizza or any family favorites that call for ground beef.

Grilled steak is good to cook ahead and store in the freezer, too. Grill it to your family’s liking and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap before putting in a zippered freezer bag. Thaw what you need and slice for Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, beef stroganoff, stew, Asian dishes, or any of your other favorite beef dishes. If you know you'll use some meat cut into strips or chunks, you may want to do this before freezing.

Chicken is another versatile meat that is great to cook ahead for quick meals. Roast or crockpot a whole chicken or several chicken breasts, and let cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes or until you can handle it. Remove all the meat from the bones and store it in double zippered freezer bags to use in your favorite soup, stir fry, wrap, quesadilla or chicken salad recipes. If you buy the value sized package of chicken breasts, they're easy to freeze individually or cubed. Cool completely and then wrap full breasts in plastic wrap and put cut up chunks in zipper bags, then each should be put in to larger freezer bags. Remember to remove as much air as possible.

For larger quantities, steak and chicken pieces do well wrapped tightly in plastic wrap bundles, and then put into a gallon-size freezer bag. You can remove just the number of servings you need and save the rest for later. Force as much air as you can from the bag before zipping it closed. Be sure to date everything, and do not store any cooked meat longer than three or four months, at the most.

Plan a weekly or monthly dinner menu that utilizes your frozen, precooked meat, and you will truly enjoy the time it saves. Thaw packages of meat for 24 hours, always in the refrigerator, and if it is still a bit icy to start, it will work fine.