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Waste Not, Want Not Part 2: The Freezer

It’s not just the bulk goods in the pantry that needed inspection and rotation, but my freezer as well. How long will a package of tempeh keep frozen? My guess is not as long as I’ve kept mine. No, I won’t share the date. The freezer is an awesome thing, which I learned from my grandmother. My grandma grew up on a farm in the days before refrigeration, so knew all about “putting food by” to last the winter. When refrigerators and freezers appeared she kept the tradition of storing food, but now she could store more variety with more freshness. I remember she had a huge chest freezer that kept all kinds of food well preserved, all labelled and dated.

I’m not as good with my freezer, it’s small and I don’t label. But I have learned a few things that make the freezer an awesome tool for healthy eating.

Freeze Leftovers

Make a big batch of something and freeze individual portions. This makes a quick lunch or dinner if plans go awry, and prevents eating out.

Freezer Basics

Make a big batch of beans in the slow cooker, drain and cool thoroughly. Freeze in one cup amounts in plastic bags. Cheaper and tastier than canned.

Frozen Veggies

Keep several bags of mixed veggies on hand. These can be used for quick meals cooking and adding some sauce and seasonings. My favorites: California Blend, Mediterranean Blend, Southwest Blend.

This Week’s Freezer Clean Meal:

Indian Dal with Veggies

2 cups yellow split peas

8 cups water

1 onion, chopped

2 potatoes chopped (I used one russet and one sweet)

1 16 oz. bag frozen veggies, thawed (I used carrot, cauliflower, broccoli)

2 T curry powder

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

 

Bring split peas to a boil, lower heat and simmer about 30 min. uncovered.

While split peas simmer, thaw frozen veggies and prep the raw veggies.

Add remaining ingredients to pot and cook and continue to simmer until everything is cooked to your liking. I mistimed the veggies, and ended up overcooking the frozen veggies until they broke apart. It turned out just fine. Adjust the seasoning. I like to add hot sauce.

To serve:

I put cooked rice in a bowl, a handful of baby spinach and ladled the dal over the top. It would also be good on its own.

 

Waste Not, Want Not: Confessions of a Recovering Foodie Pt. 1

So I missed spring cleaning in my pantry. Then I ran around in the mountains racing all summer. I looked at my well stocked pantry full of various whole grains and legumes, spices, seasonings and other random ingredients, and wondered, how long have they been in there? Like those French green lentils du puy? When was the last time I used those? These dry goods don’t last forever, even if they do store well. And then there was the refrigerator. Untold numbers of little jars and bottles of strange sauces and condiments required for some random dish I cooked maybe once. Time for a bit of cleaning. My sister does this at our parents’ house, and it’s pretty funny to watch as she tears around checking expiration dates.

Well the refrigerator is easy because those little jars and bottles actually have dates. But what about my dry goods that I buy in bulk? Well, I use so much rice that I know that is turned over regularly but what about the mung beans, adzuki beans, yellow split peas, and French lentils? SO I have begun an autumn quest to rotate through my dry goods and use up the odds and ends. I am aiming to use this as an opportnity to make cheap dishes and save a little on groceries as prompted by a few recent articles and bloggers, like the Slow Food Movement’s $5 challenge. How much can I make this pantry bounty produce? A lot, I think. Of course with Murphy’s law lurking in the background, I suppose a natural disaster is around the corner, just as I use up my stock!  I also hope that this will lead me to rediscover some dishes I haven’t made in a while, and clear out old stuff. Like those black-eyed peas. Man, I haven’t made Hoppin’ John with collard greens in a long time. Maybe it’s time . . .