How to Stock You Freezer for Health
There are many places you can turn when you’re feeling lazy or are too busy to cook a fresh meal, but instead of reaching for that take-out menu to turn to your freezer. My biggest temptation is Buster’s on 28th and Bill’s Garden Chinese directly down the street from my home. I cannot whip up something as quickly as I can order from them. Their food is awesome, but is substantially more expensive than anything I could make and I’m sure you can guess which is healthier too.
Your freezer is an invaluable resource for storing foods that are best made in large batches. Frozen fruits and veggies from the grocery store can also come in handy when you are in a pinch. Below is my personal list of freezer essentials, but please add your own in the comments and tell us how you use them:
Frozen Rice: An essential item in every freezer should be giant bag of frozen brown rice balls packaged for serving. Whole grains take quite a while to cook, but if you make a lot and freeze them you only need to cook grains occasionally. In addition to rice, you can also freeze other grains like barley and steel cut oatmeal.
Cooked Legumes: Legumes are some of the healthiest food you can eat, and are among the best sources of protein on the planet. The only problem is they can take a long time to cook. You can make beans in large batches in the pressure cooker, freeze the rest in tupperware containers and thaw at your leisure.
Frozen Fruit: I always have a few bags of frozen organic blueberries for the days I run out of fresh fruit for my cereal. They thaw pretty fast, sometimes I put them in the microwave for 30 seconds and are pretty tasty. They are great in oatmeal and pancakes as well.
Walnuts: I keep my walnuts in the freezer to prevent the unstable omega-3 fatty acids from going rancid. Other nuts likely store well in the freezer too but tend to be more stable at room temperature than walnuts, which are particularly high in omega-3s.
Soups: Soup is not my family’s favorite, but there are a few we love. If you have ever browsed through our menus you will see lots of great soups, try one. A freezer filled with your favorite creations that can be eaten on busy days is a life saver.
Bread – Don’t fill it regular sliced grocery store bread that is full of preservatives, dough conditioners and other bizarre ingredients that belong in the lab. Instead, I like to make my own 5 minutes a day artisan bread, cut it up into single servings and freeze it in gallon freezer bags. You will be shocked at how nicely frozen bread reheats in an oven set to 325F. Also you can take it out a day early and thaw it in the fridge.
Meat: Most of you already know that meat stores well in the freezer, but you can also store scraps and bones to make your own stock. Conveniently, you can also freeze your homemade stock.
Sauces: During the summertime our local markets are practically giving away basil. It is such a wonderful herb, I cannot help making big batches of pesto all season. Leftover sauces can be frozen and taken out in winter when your favorite flavors are harder to find.
Spices: I love when I am able to grind my own spices, but like many things it is easier to do it in large batches. Extra spices store well in sealed containers in the freezer.
Your freezer is a great resource and I encourage you to be creative. It can make healthy eating much easier by giving you quick access to healthy foods, and also spares you from boring cooking when you cook in large batches.
Before I sign off I would love to share with you my favorite bread recipe.
100 Percent Whole-Wheat Sandwich Bread
Whole wheat flour has a nutty, slightly bitter flavor, and it caramelizes easily, yielding a rich, brown loaf. Milk and honey are tenderizers, and their sweetness complements the bitter notes. Although we’ve showcased a loaf-pan method here, this dough also makes lovely free-form loaves on a baking stone.
Makes 3 1 1⁄2 pound loaves
1 1⁄2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1⁄2 packets)
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp salt
1/2 cup honey
5 tbsp neutral-flavored oil, plus more for greasing the pan
1 1⁄2 cups lukewarm milk
1 1⁄2 cups lukewarm water
6 2⁄3 cups whole wheat flour
Mix the yeast, salt, honey, oil, milk and water in a 5-quart bowl or other container.
Mix in the flour using a spoon, high-capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with dough hook.
Cover loosely, and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top); about 2 to 3 hours.
The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next several days.
On baking day, lightly grease a 9-by-4-by-3-inch loaf pan. Using wet hands, scoop out a 11⁄2 pound (cantaloupe-sized) hunk of dough. Keeping your hands wet (it’ll be sticky!), quickly shape it into a ball.
Drop the loaf into the prepared pan. You’ll want enough dough to fill the pan slightly more than half-full.
Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes. Flour the top of the loaf and slash, using the tip of a serrated bread knife.
5 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with an empty broiler tray on another shelf.
Place the loaf in the center of the oven. Pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and quickly close the door. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until deeply browned and firm.
Allow to cool completely before slicing in order to cut reasonable sandwich slices and freeze if you want.
How else can your freezer help you eat healthy?