Freezers are sometimes the most underutilized kitchen appliance in American homes. They tend to be quite small compared to the refrigerator, which is amazing considering how useful a large standing freezer can be to families striving to save money in a tough economy, or at any time for that matter. Large families can stock up on bulk purchases of meat, produce and halal, convenient yet healthy foods with deep freezers or just larger freezers than the average found in a side-by-side refrigerator appliance.
My last posts on 4 Tips to Organize Your Ramadan Cooking and Kitchen Efficiency in Ramadan took you through the steps to getting ready to shop and how to keep the kitchen running smoothly throughout the month. Once your kitchen is clean and well organized and you’ve done your shopping for items you’ll need in bulk, for convenience and surprise guests throughout the month then process these at home, you can put your freezer to work to preserve what you have.
First, check your cabinets for freezing essentials:
Freezer bags (big and small)
Permanent marker or sticky labels
Aluminum foil (as a back-up to not having freezer paper)
Plastic freezer jars or other freezer containers
Using your Grocery List for Ramadan Shopping take notes on what you’ve purchased and any suggestions the butcher gave you.
Once you get home, take note of all the amounts of meat purchased in pounds for each recipe. Keep all the recipes (hopefully from My Halal Kitchen) close by so they’re easy to refer to as you’re cooking in Ramadan. I like to keep them in a binder.
Wrap fresh meats using freezer paper plus a freezer bag or any kind of double binding to keep meat fresh and avoid freezer burn. I like to label the contents, date and what recipe I’ll be using it for. For example, “Ground Chuck for Lasagna, 7/27/2011”. Be sure to label plastic bags before adding cold food or the marker won’t work so great.
Begin preparing other items to freeze (purees, vegetables, etc.) by steaming or blanching fresh vegetables and washing fresh fruits to be frozen. Here are some ideas:
- Pureed carrots flavor meat and rice dishes. Fill freezer bags with after food is cooled with just enough puree to be able to lay the bag flat. This makes stacking the bags more space-efficient inside the freezer.
- Puree and freeze other seasonal vegetables like zucchini squash, tomatoes and even spinach.
- Chop n’ freeze raw vegetables such as onions, garlic, celery (bases for soups and stews).
- Blanch and freeze vegetables you don’t want to puree, but want to have later on as a side dish (i.e. French green beans)
- Gently wash fresh berries. These freeze beautifully.
- Soak overnight then boil fresh beans. Cool then and for things like black bean soup, hummus, etc.
- Make marinades with ingredients that freeze well, like olive oil and herbs. Measure then drop in a plastic freezer bag and store.
- If you have time or extra foods with dinner before Ramadan starts such as finished soups, freeze them in freezer jars or freezer bags, as well.
- Process fresh herbs that freeze nicely and are so expensive at the store.
- Parsley- wash, dry, chop and freeze. Same goes for cilantro.
- Pour olive oil over freshly cleaned and dried basil, then freeze.
- Organize convenience items like Saffron Road halal frozen foods where you can see them easily, allowing you to incorporate them into your meals or just grab and heat up on days when you’re too busy to cook anything else. What good is convenience if it’s not convenient to find?
Start freezing foods now- like this:
- When you make extra food that won’t be eaten the next day, throw it in a freezer bag or container, label its contents and date and put away in your freezer.
- Whether you’re picking fresh from your garden or buying produce like onions, carrots, celery, peppers, tomatoes and fresh beans, grab a little extra. At home cut, blanch and freeze the vegetables. This effortless preparation could save you anywhere from 10-15 minutes in prep time during the month of Ramadan, a real essential when you have unexpected guests for iftar or are just walking in from work and need to get dinner done fast.
- On a sheet of paper, write down exactly what you have in your freezer. If you can make a meal out of any of these items, jot that down, too. It will help you add one more recipe to your Ramadan menu.
Fresh items that freeze nicely:
Chicken broth (once opened)- check out the new all-halal vegetable and chicken broth varieties by Saffron Road!
When Ramadan is fast approaching, take a careful look at the menu you’ve created and see what you have that can be processed right now and thrown in to your freezer (labeled, of course). It’ll be a time-saver later on when you’ll be so glad you did it and maybe this kind of prep can even become a habit for the rest of the year.
Your freezer, big or small, can be the best kitchen asset to help make the most of your time in Ramadan. Are you making the most out of your freezer space?