As the late summer garden comes to a close, I am stocking my freezer with all kinds of goodies to get us through the winter.
The days are beginning to shorten and will hopefully grow crisper soon. I’m so looking forward to the days to come. There is nothing more exciting than preparing and living through the holiday season. And my holiday season begins rather early. Say, like the day after school begins in the fall. That day, I begin planning and decorating … and dreaming. And believe it or not — my family is getting used to me.
And now, at the end of September, my pen is never far from my growing list. And the leaves are turning and on some mornings, the air is certainly crisp.
Here is what I’m stocking my freezer with now:
Homemade Stocks: Chicken, Beef, Vegetable
I rarely let a chicken carcass or rack of beef bones or even a vegetable escape my refrigerator without working its magic in a rich and well-seasoned stock. Essential for the soups and stews and sauces to come this season.
Cooked Ground Meat
Simple, right? I find it so easy to make a double batch of ground meat, whether beef, turkey, or even pork, and simply freeze half of it. I can make so many quick dinners from ground meat; tacos, baked potato bar, salads, pastas, etc. Great resource for the freezer.
The bottom of my freezer is stocked with those great sale items or Buy 1 Get 1 promotions on meat we find so often. I always have whole chickens, chicken pieces, ground turkey, beef tenderloins, pork shoulders, sausages, etc. With a little planning for defrosting in the refrigerator, it saves money and a trip to the store.
Sauces and Condiments
We especially enjoy homemade Marinara sauce, salsas and various chutneys to flavor the meat of the season. These I prefer to portion into quart-size, or even pint-size, containers or freezer bags. Perfect to pull out, even at the last minute, to create something special for your dinner table. It’s also healthier as well, great controls for sugar, sodium and other additives.
I love to freeze the vegetables I get from our family garden or at the farmer’s market as they come into season. It’s so tempting to eat them all as they’re available, but with a little forethought, they are such delightful reminders of summer’s bounty on those rainy (or snowy) days ahead. My absolute must haves are: green beans, Roma tomatoes – frozen whole, corn, pearl onions, peppers, and asparagus.
I am an avid forager for berries, most especially those that come from Oregon. While my foraging might not always mean I actually “pick” them, you can find me visiting local farms all season long. I love to bake breads and muffins and make sauces from these tiny wonders. I can’t imagine a winter without! I always freeze at least a gallon of; blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and cranberries. I haven’t had a lot of success with raspberries. They do, however, make wonderful smoothies, sauces, and ice cream.
An essential part of holiday baking, for us, always includes nuts. I always try to have at least a gallon freezer container of: walnuts, almonds (whole, 1/2 gallon of slivered and sliced), and pecans.
This is an essential in our house. Icebox cookies are raw dough that has been formed into a log, wrapped in wax or parchment and plastic wrap, and finally with a layer of foil and secured with twine. Simply slice and bake when ready. While I always have various batches of cookies (oatmeal, chocolate chip, etc.) in the freezer, there is nothing easier than icebox cookies in a variety of flavors. They make great gifts too, by the way.
Pizza is a favorite in our house and an easy go-to for those busy nights. It’s so easy to make ahead, freeze in small discs and store in a zip-lock bag. Super healthy alternative to the frozen pizzas we all pick up from the store.
What can I say, our family loves desserts. I try to keep a variety of handpies during the season stocked in the freezer. From apple to berry to the more savory varieties of curry or meat pies, even calzones, they freeze so well. When you’re preparing these delicacies for dinner, make extra. But before you bake them, flash freeze and then store in freezer bags to bake at a later time.
Truth? I’ve not made a lot of full meals. I’m space poor. My freezers are stocked and there is not a lot of room left. And as I look around my garage, there isn’t room for another freezer. I’ve already broached the topic of getting rid of the inside basketball hoop to make room. It didn’t go over well. But these are some of the meals I like to have in the freezer and have worked well for me (albeit, they are never in there at the same time). meatloaf, Ratatouille, pot roasts, sliced beef for sandwiches or Fajitas, sliced chicken or pulled chicken for soups, sandwiches, stir-frys, etc., pulled barbecue pork (will add sauce when I reheat) and turkey, for a variety of meals.
Tip: Be sure to package your foods correctly and always remember to date the items in your freezer.
Have a great season!