Freezer Recipe – Healthy Home-made Pizza Dough

I adapted this recipe from “Eat, Shrink and Be Merry” by Janet and Greta Podleski, and tested it for the freezer

2/3 cup very warm water (from the tap is fine)

2 tsp sugar

2 ½ tsp. quick-rising yeast

2 tsp olive oil

1 cup all-purpose flour plus ½ cup whole wheat flour (or 1 ½ cups AP flour)

2 tbsp ground flax seed (also called flax meal) or bran

½ tsp salt

Extra flour for kneading

Oil to grease rising bowl

Place water in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor or mixer fitted with a dough attachment.  Dissolve sugar in water and sprinkle yeast over the top.  When the yeast starts foaming, add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl.  Stir with a fork or mixer until the dough comes together.  Knead by hand if necessary, adding flour until dough is no longer sticky and it comes away cleanly from the sides of the bowl.  Knead as long as you can stand it (more is better, but it doesn’t take much).  Form dough into a ball and pour a little bit of oil over the top.  Turn the dough in the bowl so the ball is coated.  Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.  Divide into two for thin crusts, or use a whole recipe for thick crust.  Place in freezer-safe bags and freeze for up to 3 months.

To use:  thaw dough in fridge 24-48 hours; let sit on counter 1 hour or more to warm up a bit before using.  Preheat oven to bake at 475°For as high as your oven will go – if you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven now.  Place dough on baking tray or pizza peel and stretch or roll it out carefully into the desired shape.  Allow to sit 5-10 minutes in between a couple of sessions of stretching to allow dough to relax.  Top with desired topping and bake in a pre-heated 475°F oven (wait for oven to reach temperature – very important) for 8-10 minutes or until bottom crust is browned and crispy.

The Vegetarian Crockpot

I am always amazed at how well my crockpot cooks vegetables.  A roast is so tender it is falling apart, yet the potatoes and carrots keep their shape and aren’t mushy in the least.

So I decided to look for some vegetarian crockpot recipes, to better appreciate this function of the crockpot that I had recently only relegated to accompaniments to the meat.  Here are a couple of interesting ones I found online… of course I tweaked them a bit, as is my tendency.  Hope you like them!

Asian Winter Vegetable Stew for the Crockpot – serves 4-6

4 large potatoes, or a two pound bag of mini-potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 small bag of baby carrots, about 2 cups

1 small onion, chopped

1 package of dried Asian mushrooms – available in the produce or Asian section at most grocery stores.

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 tsp. chopped ginger

1 cup tomato sauce

1/4 cup natural-style peanut butter – natural (100% peanuts) kinds are better for cooking salty dishes since they have no added sugar….

2 T soy sauce

1 cup water or broth

If you have time, sauté the onion in a skillet with a little olive oil, but it’s fine if you just throw it in, too.  Otherwise, add all vegetables, including mushrooms, into the crockpot.

Whisk together remaining ingredients to make the sauce, and pour over the veggies.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  If you want to add a little more protein, stir in a can of chickpeas or black beans, or get adventurous with some firm tofu cubes.

Slow Cooker Wild Rice and Vegetable Bake – serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side dish

1 1/2 cup wild rice rinsed

2 lb butternut squash – peel your own and cube, or use frozen or pre-chopped cubes

1 onion, chopped

1 lb fresh button mushrooms, halved

1 cup carrots

6 cup vegetable stock or broth prepared with vegetable bouillon cubes

3T fresh lemon juice

2 T butter or light olive oil

1 T fresh marjoram leaves chopped or 1 tsp dried marjoram

Salt (optional), to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup dried cherries, apricots, cranberries or golden raisins,

Put rice in a 5-quart or larger slow cooker (if using a 3 1/2- to 4-quart cooker, cut recipe in half).

Add squash, onion, mushrooms and carrots. Pour in stock and lemon juice. Dot with butter or drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle on marjoram, salt and pepper. Do not stir. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.

Stir in dried fruit a half hour before serving. Cook covered until rice is done.

Creamy Pineapple Chicken Curry

If you’re looking to get more vegetables into your family, here is the recipe for you – cream of mushroom soup is a magic ingredient; it makes children eat vegetables.  You can use just about any combination of vegetables, so use this recipe to clean out your veggie crisper the day before you go shopping, or unearth some frozen veggies when you tidy up your freezer and throw them in.  If you want to go vegetarian, skip the chicken and throw in some chickpeas…

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” cubes

1 tsp. oil (optional)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tsp. each chopped garlic and chopped ginger

2-3 tsp. curry powder or curry paste – adjust this to your liking.  If you don’t like really spicy food, use mild curry, but use at least 2 teaspoons.

1 can pineapple tidbits in juice

2-4 cups of chopped vegetables

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Cut chicken into cubes.

In a large pan or pot, heat oil, if using, over medium heat.  Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until they are softened and translucent.  Add chicken, garlic and ginger, and stir to coat.  Add curry powder and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Open the can of pineapple and save the lid.  Use the lid to keep the pineapple pieces in the can while you pour the juice into the chicken mixture.  Stir to coat, and add in any hard uncooked vegetables like raw carrots or celery.

Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until chicken and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the can of soup and any softer or pre-cooked vegetables.  Stir in the pineapple.  Taste and add salt if necessary – but the soup is probably salty enough.

Serve with brown or basmati rice

Substitution – to make this recipe lactose-free and gluten-free, use half a can of coconut milk in place of the cream of mushroom soup.

Apple Pork Roast

Here’s a way to get some vitamins and fibre into the vegetable-challenged people in your life, whoever they may be…

3-4 lb pork loin roast

Salt & pepper

4 apples, peeled and quartered

2 cups baby carrots

1 cup sliced parsnips (optional)

1/4 cup apple juice

3 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp ground ginger

Place apple quarters on the bottom of the crock, and then place roast on top. Place carrots and parsnips around the roast.  Sprinkle all with salt and pepper. Combine apple juice, sugar & ginger. Spoon the glaze over the roast, covering entire top. Cover & cook on LOW 10-12 hrs. Remove the roast – the apples will be more like applesauce, but when you stir the glaze into it, it will thicken into a nice sauce for the vegetables.  Serve with rice.  You can use the leftover pork roast by shredding and mixing with BBQ sauce.

Crockpot freezer kits, part two….

A few weeks ago, I posted about crockpot kits for the freezer, and a few folks on Twitter really took it on board! Now they’re asking for more recipes, so I thought I would share a few more kits…

Beef stew…. In the dry bag: carrots, mushrooms, onions, celery. In the wet bag: stew beef, beef broth, garlic, herbs, Worcestershire sauce. Add some potatoes when starting the crock, and stir in some frozen peas right before serving. For a creamy stew, add a can of cream of mushroom soup

Asian chicken thighs…. In the dry bag: carrots, chopped cabbage, onion. In the wet bag: boneless skinless chicken thighs, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, rice wine vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce (optional). If you have some, stir in some bean sprouts and bell peppers right before serving, and serve with rice or noodles. This one is also nice with a couple of pork tenderloins

Chicken cacciatore…. In the dry bag: onion, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini. In the wet bag: boneless skinless chicken thighs, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes (optional), garlic, basil, a pinch of rosemary, salt and pepper. Add a sprinkle of crushes chiles if you like it spicy! Serve with pasta and top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Easy Broccoli Quiche

I don’t even want to think about it yet, but the holiday season is upon us – if the commercials on TV are to be believed, anyway :) Soon, we’ll be planning parties and RSVPing to things, and one of them is bound to be a potluck.

Here’s Ridiculously Easy but Very Impressive (aka REVI) recipe, one that is so easy your friends won’t believe it when you tell them how you made it after serving it to them at a potluck brunch.  It’s also vegetarian.

Easy Broccoli Quiche – serves 4 hungry people or makes 8-12 potluck brunch slices

From allrecipes.com

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, minced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 cups chopped fresh broccoli – gotta be fresh, frozen makes it watery.

1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese

4 eggs, well beaten

1 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon butter, melted (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F

Over medium-low heat melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions, garlic and broccoli. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft.

Meanwhile, press 1 cup of the shredded cheese into the pie crust to keep it from getting too soggy.

Spoon vegetables into crust.

Combine eggs and milk. Season with salt and pepper, and stir in melted butter, if using.

Pour egg mixture over vegetables and top with the other ½ cup of cheese.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until center has set.

Crockpot Kits for the Freezer

So you want to use your crockpot, but mornings are just too busy to be messing around with chopping veggies and dealing with raw meat.  Here’s your solution!

I make these crockpot kits for my clients, and they just love them.  Just about any crockpot recipe can be prepared this way.  Just be sure to keep the potatoes out of the freezer and in the cupboard until they are going into the crock, and keep the liquid with the meat, not the veggies.

You can even do several at once, and that way you can chop up lots of onions and celery and stuff and make an assembly line.  To make the process even more streamlined, do it as soon as you get home from the grocery store so that you don’t need to unpack and store the groceries you need for the recipes.  Kids can help with the squishing around of the sauce and the filling of the bags.

Here’s a recipe I use often, here at home and also for my clients.

Freezer to Crockpot BBQ Chicken Stew

You will need two large freezer bags

Into the first freezer bag, place:

One to two cups of baby carrots

One onion, sliced or diced

Three stalks of celery, sliced or diced

Into the second freezer bag, place:

¼ cup of your favourite BBQ sauce

½ a can of tomato paste

¼ cup red wine or apple cider vinegar, or other mild vinegar

2 tbsp. brown sugar

1-2 cloves of garlic

A dash or two of hot sauce (optional)

Close the bag and squish these ingredients around until well mixed.

Open the bag back up and add:

1.5 – 2 pounds skinless chicken thighs* (boneless or bone-in both work well)

* Don’t be tempted to use boneless skinless chicken breast cubes.  They can get quite mushy and shredded if crock-potted too long

Re-close the bag and squish the sauce all over the chicken.  Open the corner of the bag and push out all the air.  Fold the top over and place the chicken bag inside the vegetable bag, on top of the vegetables.  Label and freeze for up to two months.

To use, you’ll also need:

One bag of tiny potatoes to keep in the cupboard – or cut regular potatoes into medium chunks to put into the crock

Move the bag from the freezer to the fridge the night before so you don’t have to wrestle with a big chunk of frozen meat in the morning.  Open the bag and remove the chicken bag, keeping it closed.  Pour the veggies into the bottom of the crock.  Add the potatoes now.  Open the chicken bag and pour chicken and liquid over the vegetables.  Poke everything around until there is an even layer of chicken over an even layer of veggies.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours, then serve.  For a creamier stew, gently stir in a can of cream of mushroom soup or some sour cream just before serving.

Burritos, built from leftovers, the pantry, and the freezer

The easiest way to get your freezer stocked without a lot of extra work is to “feed the freezer”.  Any time you make something that is freezer-friendly, like soup or chili, make double and freeze half.  To keep track of everything, I magnet a sheet of computer labels to my fridge so I can find them easily.  I label my freezer food with the dish and the date (including the year – I found this out the hard way), and when I see a busy night on the horizon, I pull something out of my freezer stash.

You can even do the first part of a recipe and freeze it…. just the boring or PITA stuff like chopping veggies and cooking meat….. then all that’s left to do is assembly on the busy day when you use it

Here’s a recipe for something I almost always have in the freezer – burrito filling.  If I am really pressed for time, I just eat it out of a bowl like chili for an instant meal.  It’s also a great way to use up leftovers.

Burrito Filling

½ to 1 pound cooked meat – fried ground beef, leftover chicken, just about anything

1 jar of prepared salsa (or 1 can diced tomatoes plus Mexican seasonings)

1 can of low-fat refried beans

1 can of black beans, drained (optional)

Chopped bell peppers and/or canned green chiles

Stir all items together in a pot or bowl, and freeze in sealed containers for up to 3 months

To make the burritos:

Thaw filling in fridge or microwave until you can stir it

Place ¼ cup of filling and 2 tbsp. grated cheese on a tortilla and roll it up

Place burritos in a pan, top with salsa and grated cheese, and bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and tortillas begin to brown.

Serve with sour cream, guacamole and salsa

Luc’s Garlic Pasta Salad

Serves 6 as a meal or 12 as a side dish

This is a fabulous pasta salad that can be “veggied up” for a healthy meal, or served as is for a rich and satisfying side dish at a BBQ.  Known simply as “that garlic salad”, it was enthusiastically requested at every potluck lunch, summer or winter, at my former place of work.  Thank goodness Luc gave me the recipe before I left!

Dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

3-6 cloves of garlic, crushed or very finely minced

Combine ingredients in a medium jar with a tight lid, and shake vigorously.  Store dressing in the jar until you are ready to serve the salad, up to two days ahead.

Salad:

900 g fusilli or rotini pasta, cooked and cooled

1 bunch of green onions, thinly sliced

Top with ½ cup chopped parsley, if you want to get fancy

Optional – peppers, broccoli, snow peas, carrots… just about any vegetable, really

Toss salad with dressing just before serving.  Make sure everyone has some so you don’t offend each other with your garlic breath for the rest of the day.

Cream of Tomato Soup

If your garden is like mine, you’re about to be overtaken by tomatoes.

Make this rich soup and freeze it to take advantage of the freshness of homegrown or market fresh tomatoes.

For a more refined soup, peel the tomatoes before cooking.  To do this, impale each with a fork and hold them in boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Cut the skin carefully into four and peel with the edge of a knife.  Don’t worry if there’s a tiny bit of peel still left.  Leaving the skins on will make a more rustic soup.

In a pot, put: 3-4 large tomatoes

Water or broth to cover

If using water, you may choose to add 1-2 boullion cubes

Simmer until tomatoes are just cooked.  Puree in a blender or use an immersible one right in the pot.

Add heavy cream until you like the looks of it, or until your arteries threaten to harden in protest (ie. as much as you want).

Puree again, making sure you’ve blended all the chunks.

Freeze for up to 6 months.  To use, thaw in fridge 24-48 hours and heat in microwave or saucepan.

Stir vigorously to recombine the soup into its smooth state.