Q & A II
Karla wrote: Everything sounds delicious! Your menu plans are always very inspiring and mouth-watering. I do have a question - do you have any tried and true resources for knowing what will freeze well and how you rewarm it all back up to taste good? Or is it just from experience and know-how? on Weekly Menu Plan - Pantry/Freezer version
Jillee compiled this list of things that you can freeze. I thought it rather interesting.
University of Georgia offers this guideline for freezing basic foods.
But I think what you're asking me, Karla, is how do I freeze things like mac n cheese and some of the other entrees that I will make ahead. It's really been a matter of trial and error and reading suggestions on blogs.
For the most part, the less an item is cooked the better it freezes in my opinion. For instance, the Macaroni and Cheese: I cook the pasta to a hard al dente stage, just barely even suggesting it might be almost cooked and then combine with a white sauce based cheese sauce. The sauce is usually enough moisture to finish cooking the macaroni as the casserole bakes. If I choose to prepare a pan of lasagna and freeze, I don't bother to cook the pasta but I will layer with a wetter sauce so the noodles have more moisture to become tender.
Most all frozen entrees will cook best at 350F adding extra time for thawing/cooking if you are freezing. I used the directions from Stouffers boxes of entrees (lasagna, mac and cheese, etc) which require you to keep the food covered for the first hour, uncover and continue cooking for an additional 30 minutes or so. Of course, the lesser amounts of food (say an 8 inch square pan as opposed to a 9 X 13) would require less cooking time. Unlike baking cakes, there is NO harm in checking an entree as it is baking. If I have a special meal planned and I'm uncertain how to time foods that have been frozen, I find that thawing them overnight in the fridge and then for an hour or so on counter if still frozen (on mild days!) is sufficient to thaw and I can bake as per usual instructions.
I will experiment with most entrees at least once. That said, some of the things I'm less fond of freezing include any sort of cooked poultry unless it's going into a casserole or soup. I'm not fond of it at all as an entree. However, Roast beef tastes very well once cooked, frozen, and thawed. I seldom freeze fully cooked items though, except as single serve entrees meant to be thawed and heated in the microwave. I do like to make up spaghetti meat sauce or chili and freeze as the flavors tend to be so much better after that additional time.
I can say honestly that cakes frosted with buttercream frosting will freeze well, too, but I'm not an expert when it comes to baked goods. You'd want to check out Rhonda who often freezes baked goods with success. She makes up biscuits to freeze and I believe that she freezes them unbaked. She also freezes cookies after they are made and will make several pies. Please check her blog for these posts, or drop her a comment. I believe that Clarice at Storybook Woods freezes muffin batter in cupcake papers and bakes right from the freezer.
I have made eggrolls and burritos (as well as breakfast burritos), sausage and biscuits, uncooked biscuits, mac and cheese, lasagna, enchiladas, etc from scratch and frozen before and after cooking. Cooked rice will freeze well for a time, but does tend to lose moisture and dry out, so plan to use it within a few weeks time. I know many cooks who freeze cooked dried beans to keep on hand for casseroles, soups and stews. Not quite as convenient as a can, but you can control the seasoning yourself when you prepare at home and thaw as needed to reheat.
I guess about the very best advice I can give you is to check the store freezer aisle and look at what they have frozen as entrees and if you can make it yourself, go on and give it a try! You could keep a notebook handy and jot down what you liked and what didn't work for you, something I began to do earlier this year. Good luck!