Be a Prep Master

Fresh Vegetables Chopped In Preparation For Cooking

Anyone who has ever attempted cooking from scratch knows that it can be very time consuming. However, the cook who knows how to prep ahead can prepare home cooked meals very quickly. This is immensely helpful for those hectic days spent getting the kids to and from their various activities! Here are a few tips to help you save time in the kitchen by making use of ingredients frozen beforehand.

Sauces and Stews
Any dish that goes on top of rice, pasta or noodles will be convenient to freeze. Simply ladle out portions into tupperware dishes, cool in the refrigerator, then place in the freezer. Tomato sauce, chili, beef stroganoff and curries are all great dishes to freeze ahead of time. Then you just need to make fresh rice, pasta or noodles. Dishes such as these can keep for up to one year. Anything containing seafood should be consumed within six months.

Vegetables
Every mother would love to cook with more fresh veggies, but it takes a lot of time to prepare them. A major time saver is to freeze them so that they are readily available later. Start by peeling (when required) and dicing the veggies. Place them in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to one minute depending on what vegetable it is. The idea is not to cook the vegetables, but to shut down the enzymes that will cause them to deteriorate even in the freezer. After this brief blanching, place them in your favorite freezer-safe dishes, add just enough water to cover, and place in the freezer. (Remember to leave space for the water to expand.) This frozen block can be popped out, placed in a pot, and brought to a boil for an instant side dish at a later time. If you're sure you'll be using them for a soup or stew, you can cover them with broth instead of water. And if you're chopping them for use in a stir fry or other similar dish, you can simply freeze them without water.
Casseroles
Frozen casseroles provide home cooked quality at convenience food speed! Most casseroles are great candidates for freezing. Simply get out your dishes (or buy a few disposable aluminium baking dishes), prepare the casserole as usual, cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil, and put it in the freezer. When you want to cook the casserole, just remove the plastic wrap and place the dish in a hot oven. Cooking time will vary based on the size of the dish. Lasagna, baked spaghetti and shepherd's pies are some examples of casseroles that are a breeze to prepare ahead of time and pop in the oven later. They will keep for up to one year.

Incorporating these tips into your cooking routine will save a great deal of time. Cooking delicious, healthy meals for the family is much more enjoyable when you prep ahead. Make use of these time savers and you can effortlessly throw together home cooked meals all through the week.