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.

Protein Pancakes

It seems like everyone’s trying to eat more protein lately…. especially at breakfast, where eggs can get boring after a while. This recipe is adapted from The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook, but I used higher-protein, higher-fibre flours and more eggs to make it less refined-carb-y and more protein-y… this recipe makes six big just-one-for-breakfast sized pancakes.

1/2 cup white (all purpose) flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup buckwheat, oat, or spelt flour, or a combination

1/2 cup soy flour or other bean flour, or a combination

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup ground flax seed or oat bran, or a combination

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 to 2 1/2 cups buttermilk (or skim milk with some sour cream or yogurt stirred in)

1/4 cup melted butter

4 large eggs

Stir all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat 2 cups of milk (and other dairy if using) with butter and eggs in a medium bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring until just combined. If the batter is very stiff, add some more milk until the batter can pour off a spoon. It will still be quite thick, though. It depends on the kinds of flours you use.

You can make the pancakes any size you want. Heat pan over medium heat. Grease your pan if it is not non-stick.

Pour batter into hot pan and spread with back of spoon if it is too thick to flow on its own. Cook until bubbles stay holes when they burst – they don’t cover themselves back up with uncooked batter. Edges of cake will be dry, too. Flip and cook for another minute or two.

Pancakes keep well in the fridge for about a week, or the freezer for a month or two. Heat in microwave for 30 seconds, top with jam or syrup or both.

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.

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.

Freezer Mashed Potatoes!?!

I had a strange experience when shopping for a client yesterday. I needed just a few potatoes for a pan of scalloped potatoes.  Here were my choices: loose potatoes for $1.29/lb (I’d need at least 2lb, so let’s say $3 worth), a 5lb bag for $3.99 or a 10lb bag for $2.99 (!?!)  Of course I bought the 10lb bag. I know I’ll need them next week for something. But still….

There are not many foods you can’t put in the freezer – salad is one that springs to mind…  But for a long time, I thought mashed potatoes were on that list, too.  Then I found a strategy that I’ve been using successfully for many years now.

All you have to do is add sour cream or cream cheese to your mashed potatoes, and they will freeze beautifully.  So if you have three-quarters of a bag of potatoes that are just about to grow roots, get out a big pot, boil ‘em up, mash ‘em and fill the freezer.

A few tips for this so-called recipe…

Unless you have very squeamish kids or really tough potatoes, don’t bother peeling them (the potatoes, not the kids).  All the good stuff, the fibre and the vitamins, is in or near the skin, plus it is easier and takes less time.  I like to buy thin-skinned Yukon Gold potatoes.  You don’t have to peel them, they cook up nicely and their yellow colour makes everyone think there is lots of butter in them, even when there isn’t.

For this recipe, cook the potatoes until they are very tender, almost falling apart.  This makes them mash more easily and smoothly.  Add butter, salt and pepper or whatever you usually add.

Then add about ½ cup of sour cream or cream cheese for each 4 cups of potatoes.  This is just a guideline, though.  You can make them “looser” by adding some extra milk or broth, but do this only after you’ve added some sour cream or cream cheese.  You can also add milk after you thaw them if you want them more spreadable to put them on shepherd’s pie or something like that.

When you thaw the potatoes, you might think they’re ruined.  They may be soggy-looking or grainy or watery…. DON’T WORRY!  This is OK.  Just heat them in the microwave for 1-2 minutes and stir vigorously, then let them sit for 1-2 minutes.  The potatoes will re-constitute themselves and look appetizing again.  Repeat this process if they are not heated through or don’t want to come together.

When I am making a big batch of mashed potatoes – like that time I couldn’t resist the 50-pound bag for $3.99 – I use my sturdy KitchenAid mixer to mash them.  A smaller batch might be a good workout for what I recently heard termed “bingo wings”, those flabby tricep muscles that us ladies over 30 prefer not to talk about…

These potatoes are another weapon in your arsenal for streamlining  meal planning – combine with slow-cooking and great supermarket finds, and dinner will come together in a flash.  Put a roast in the crockpot, pull a bin of mashed potatoes out of your freezer stash, serve a bagged salad with a home-made salad dressing, and you have a fabulous meal on the table in ten minutes!

I love it when a plan comes together….

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

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.