From The Nutritionist

Kate Williams, RDN
Nutrition Contributor:
Kate Williams, RDN

Making the Most of Your Freezer:
Recipes and Tips







Have you ever thawed or cooked a frozen meal, only to be disappointed by the way it looks, tastes or its texture? Maybe you could have done things differently and had a better outcome. When used correctly, the freezer can save you time, money and prevent food waste. Follow these tips to keep frozen foods safe and maintain their taste, texture and nutritional value.



Freezing supplies matter

  • Containers
    • Should be constructed to withstand low freezer temps, resistant to vapor, durable and leak proof
    • Freeze products in amounts you plan to consume at a single eating occasion
      TIP: Leave headspace in container because food may expand when freezing.1
  • Bags & Wraps
    • Freezer bags are made of thicker material, which keeps food fresh longer.2 The thicker material also makes these bags less likely to be punctured and less permeable to air.
    • Ideal for dry foods, but can be used for liquids too
    • Remove as much air as possible to avoid freezer burn
      TIP: If freezing liquids, like soup, in freezer bags, lay them flat on a cookie sheet until frozen solid, then stack as a space-saver.2
  • Labeling
    • Include date and food type/name
    • Always place newest foods in the back of the freezer so you use older foods first
      TIP: Painter's tape is freezer friendly for labeling food containers.3


What are freezer-friendly foods?

You can freeze most foods, but some will maintain their texture, and taste better than others. Many soups, stews, casseroles and pasta dishes, muffins, and bread freeze well. Other foods that have a reputation for not freezing well include veggies with high water content, like lettuce or celery; high fat dairy like creamed cottage cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, which tend to separate when thawed; and cooked pasta or rice by itself, which tends to get mushy.4

Freeze meals to save time later. Here are a few recipes that freeze well with tips from our experts at Campbell’s Kitchen®. Some steps in the recipe process may be modified to account for changes when freezing. Doubling recipes and freezing half for another day is a great way to make the most of your efforts!


Freezing vegetables and fruits

Fresh veggies need to be blanched before freezing. This stops the enzyme activity which could cause a loss in taste, texture, and nutrient content. To blanch veggies, wash, drain, and trim veggies. Then boil 1 gallon of water for every 1 pound of veggies. Use a blancher or perforated metal strainer, lower veggies into a pot of boiling water with a lid. Don’t start counting minutes until water comes back to a boil. Then drain, cool and package for freezing. Blanching times vary based on the vegetable. Be sure to watch boiling time as under blanching can stimulate enzyme activity and over blanching can reduce taste, texture and reduce nutrient content.5

Enzyme activity in some fresh fruit can also lead to browning and loss of vitamin C. Because of this, some fruits may be treated with compounds like ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or a mixture or ascorbic acid and sugar that interfere with this reaction.6 Check out this resource for fruit specific instructions. Once frozen fruit is thawed, it loses its crispness due to the high water content. Use thawed fruits in a recipe, smoothie, sauce or filling for best results.


Safety checkpoints to remember

  • Cool foods before placing them in the freezer. This keeps the temperature of your freezer at the optimal 0°F or lower.
  • Remember to label your freezer items to keep track of first in, first out, include food name and date. Keep an inventory log outside of your fridge and use it when planning your meals for the week.
  • Keep a Refrigerator and Freezer storage chart on hand. Check your freezer contents – use the first day of winter, spring, summer or fall to rid your freezer of expired items.
  • Keep a freezer thermometer in your freezer – keep it at 0°F or lower.
  • The safest way to thaw food is in the refrigerator but also requires some planning as it is the slowest option. Learn how to use cold water thawing and microwave thawing at The Big Thaw — Safe Defrosting Methods


For more fridge and freezer friendly tips explore Storing Pre-Made Foods.

Safe freezing,

Kate


Kate’s Bio

Kate received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of nutrition-related practice areas including clinical nutrition, weight management counseling, health and wellness and nutrition education. Kate has worked as a nutrition consultant to the Campbell Soup Company since 2005. 



References:

  1. National Center for Home Food Preservation – General Food Preservation Information Accessed Oct 27th, 2017.

  2. Freezing Cooked Food for Future Meals: Freezer Bag Tips Accessed Nov 11, 2017

  3. Campbell’s Kitchen - Storing Pre-Made Foods Accessed Oct 31, 2017.

  4. National Center for Home Food Preservation – Foods That Do Not Freeze Well Accessed Oct 27th, 2017.

  5. Vegetable blanching directions and times for home freezer storage Accessed Oct 31, 2017.

  6. The Science of Freezing Foods Accessed Nov 6, 2017

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En Papillote Technique

1. Prepare the parchment paper
Get a large piece of parchment paper, approximately 2.5 times as large as a single portion of food. Cut the paper into a heart shape, lightly brushing one side with oil. This creates a slight barrier to water, preventing the paper from becoming soaked too quickly. Another option, though not as attractive, is to use tin foil instead of parchment paper.

2. Select the ingredients
This is a very quick-cooking approach, so it works best with tender proteins such as fish and shellfish. The accompanying ingredients, like julienned vegetables (matchstick size), must be small enough to cook at the same rate as the fish. In some cases the vegetables can be blanched, or quickly cooked in boiling water, to ensure proper doneness. Fresh herbs will go a long way in providing flavor.

3. Assemble the packet
Lay the oiled, heart-shaped paper on a baking tray, oiled side up. Season your vegetables with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and half of the herbs. Toss them around for an even coat. Place enough for one portion on half of the paper. Bunch them up to create a bed for your fish, leaving about two inches between the food and the edge of the paper. Place the seasoned fish on the vegetables and sprinkle the remaining herbs. Add a splash of the liquid on top of the fish, just enough to add moisture.

4. Seal the packet
To seal, fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables (so it resembles a teardrop). Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge toward the center. Fold over again to create a seal. Continue along the length of the parchment, folding each section twice. When you get to the point of the heart, twist and fold to finish the seal.

5. Bake your dinner
Bake the packet in a 425°F oven for 10-14 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. The packet will puff and brown while in the oven and as the steam builds. When cooked, remove from the oven and carefully place the packet on a plate. With a knife or scissors cut an "X" on the top and fold back the edges for a dramatic presentation and a delicious, healthy meal.

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Spicy Flounder and Clams with Summer Vegetables

Prep Time: Less than 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-14 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup carrots, finely cut julienne
  • 1/3 cup sugar snap peas, cross cut thinly
  • 1/3 cup zucchini, yellow, finely cut julienne
  • 6 each cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. parsley, fresh, minced
  • Dash salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 6 oz. fillet, flounder (2 fillets, 3oz. each)
  • 2 Tbsp. Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice
  • 3/4 lb. clams, in the shell

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine the carrots, sugar snap peas, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shallot, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, half of the parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss well to combine.
  3. Lightly oil two large heart shaped pieces of parchment paper.
  4. With the parchment paper on a sheet tray, place half of the vegetable mixture in the center of one half of each heart leaving about a 2" border.
  5. Lightly season each fillet with salt and pepper. Fold or roll the fillet to create a uniform thickness and place on top of the vegetables.
  6. Top the fish with the remaining herbs and the Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice.
  7. Place half of the clams around each portion of vegetables and fish.
  8. Fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables so that it resembles a teardrop.
  9. Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge towards the center. Fold over again to create a seal.
  10. Continue with this method along the length of the parchment packet folding each section twice to make an attractive edge.
  11. When you get to the point of the heart twist and fold to finish the seal.
  12. Bake the packets for 10-14 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish).
  13. Remove from the oven and serve by cutting an "X" in the top and folding back the edges.

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories 180, Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 1g, Monounsaturated Fat 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 50mg, Sodium 450mg, Carbohydrate 10g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 4g, Protein 16g.