Save time with make-ahead freezer meals“What’s for dinner?” Have you ever heard that question? To have a ready-to-go answer, consider making some extra casseroles and freezing them for later. Yes, frozen dinners are available in grocery stores, but they can be fairly high in fat and salt.
By: Luella Morehouse, NDSU Extension Service, The Jamestown Sun
“What’s for dinner?” Have you ever heard that question? To have a ready-to-go answer, consider making some extra casseroles and freezing them for later.
Yes, frozen dinners are available in grocery stores, but they can be fairly high in fat and salt.
They often are more expensive than food you prepare at home. Try these tips to make your own freezer meals:
* Choose your favorite recipes, but check the ingredients in the recipes. Entrees containing sour cream, mayonnaise and raw vegetables do not freeze well.
* Undercook starchy ingredients, such as pasta, rice and potatoes, because the casserole will be baked later and could become overcooked.
* Go easy on added seasonings, such as pepper, because they can become stronger during frozen storage.
* Leave casserole toppings, such as breadcrumbs, off the casseroles so they don’t become soggy.
* Package in meal-sized portions whether you are cooking for an individual, couple or family.
* Protect your food from freezer burn, which can lower the quality of the food. Wrap securely with heavy-duty aluminum foil or freezer paper, or use freezer containers.
* Label the freezer container with the date and name of the casserole. Include baking time and temperature on the label.
* Be sure your freezer temperature is zero degrees Fahrenheit or lower.
* For best quality, enjoy your homemade casseroles within three months.
* Bake frozen casseroles as is or thaw them overnight in your refrigerator.
For frozen, fully cooked casseroles, bake at 400 degrees for the maximum time stated in the recipe.
For thawed, fully cooked casseroles, bake at the temperature directed in the recipe, but add about 15 minutes to the baking time.
Measure the temperature with a food thermometer. The internal temperature of the food should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, if you would like to make some freezer meals, such as lasagna, ahead of time, but can’t afford to buy new pans, you can line baking pans with a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving some overlapping foil along the edges. Place the food inside the pan; bake your entrée, and then freeze. When solidly frozen, pop the entrée out of the pan, wrap and seal securely and return to the freezer. When you thaw the food, be sure to place the frozen food in a pan to prevent drips in your refrigerator.
For more information on this topic visit www. ag.ndsu.edu/foodwise or contact Luella Morehouse, FNP education assistant, NDSU Extension Ser-vice/Stutsman County, 116 1/2 First St. E., Jamestown, ND. Morehouse may be reached at 252-9030 or luella.morehouse@ ndsu.edu.