So many times this is the norm at meal times, especially at dinner. Whether families are busy with school, work, activities, and any combinations of these, the convenience of being able to create healthy meals with the help of frozen foods is certainly a boon to meal planning. Depending on what the needs are, this author enjoys using fresh produce with previously frozen wild caught fish. On the other hand, it is helpful to choose a meal in which a larger, fresh meat cooks in the crockpot, later accompanied by a favorite frozen vegetable, steamed to perfection. There are many fresh, frozen combinations available.
- Bag ‘n Freeze
You might even consider the idea of from fresh to frozen. As in stews, chowders, or soups which are excellent to heat and have with fresh bread, or field greens. The stews and soups cooked on the weekends and bagged for meal time servings are perfect for busy day evening meals. Stored in heavy duty plastic bags, they heat completely in the bag in slowly boiling water. Some of these delicacies brim with only vegetables, some with bits of meat or chicken, and some, like tomato basil soup, are creamy but a bit lonely and yearn for a Croque Monsieur.
- Pasta in the Freezer
Pasta dishes lend a helping hand to meal planning since they are also easy to prepare in advance and freeze. Before storing in the freezer, write the directions for either cooking or reheating on an index card attached to the container. This way if Mom has an appointment, Dad or an older child can come home and start dinner. Complete the fare with either a frozen green vegetable or fresh salad.
- Hearty Casseroles
Another idea, from the days of having food frozen and ready to deliver to needy families, are the myriads of casserole choices. These often come equipped with vegetables and go hand in hand with an amazing crusty bread, homemade cornbread, or biscuits. These hearty, premade items should probably also come with instructions on how to reheat, unless it is best to reheat before delivering. In this case, a treat of fresh seasonal fruit and cookies take care of any sweet tooth.
- From the Hands of Children
Of course some of this family’s best work in the kitchen has come from the capable hands of grown children who truly enjoy creating from what is on hand. It could all be from what they find in the freezer, what looms in the pantry, or discoveries from the fridge. But whatever it is, it has an identity, because no dish ever comes from their hands without a name; some even sound quite like a gourmet offering on a food channel. The fun part of these meals is the accompanying wine selection. Then, if time, we go out for frozen yogurt down the street.
- Gone, but Not Done
It really seems as though, unless a meal is totally from fresh ingredients, combination cooking is the handiest solution to mealtime planning. When there is opportunity for fresh to prevail, you can honestly only tell a slight difference if the frozen food is not overcooked. However, when frozen vegetables come prepared as if they were flash frozen and only requiring brief steaming, they taste almost entirely like fresh produce.
So have no fear, fresh foods blend graciously with frozen teammates.
Johnathan Holt is a professional chef and nutrition expert who loves to write about how to make quick and easy meals out of the things you already have in your home.
Photo Credit: RobjessOz