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.

 

Thanksgiving Stuffing, A Day Early

13-11-25 Stuffing 533x533

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes

The trick to mastering the Thanksgiving meal is finding time saver recipes that can be prepared at least one day in advance. To help you do this, here are two make ahead stuffing recipes that can be prepared days ahead of time. Anything you can prepare ahead will lessen the stress on the holiday.

Traditional Stuffing

16 cups cubed white bread, dried out in advance
1/2 cup butter
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
1 Tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/2 ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Cut a loaf of crusty white bread into 1-inch cubes. Let sit for at least 24 hours to dry. You may also place the pan of bread cubes into a warm oven for 30 minutes to speed up the process.

After the bread cubes are completely dried, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and celery. Cook until tender, stirring frequently.

Add salt, poultry seasoning, pepper, thyme, and sage. Stir in chicken broth.

Place bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Ladle the chicken broth mixture over the bread cubes, tossing lightly as you go.

Spoon stuffing into a greased casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

This make ahead stuffing can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. After spooning it into the casserole dish, simply cover, and place into the refrigerator. On Thanksgiving day, remove it from the fridge while the oven is preheating, and then bake as directed.

Cornbread Stuffing

4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/4 cups chopped celery
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
6 cups cubed cornbread, dried out in advance (or 16 ounce package cornbread stuffing mix)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped Granny Smith apples

Melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Cook until tender, stirring frequently. Add white wine and cook until liquid is almost completely evaporated. Add broth, and cook until heated.

In a large mixing bowl, pour chicken broth mixture over cornbread. Add cranberries and apples. Gently toss.

Transfer stuffing to a 9x13 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

This cornbread stuffing can be a real time saver when covered and kept in the refrigerator up to one day in advance. Remove from fridge while oven is preheating, and then bake on Thanksgiving day.