By Sherrie Norris
If you haven’t already noticed by the current advertisements from local grocery store chains, March is National Frozen Food Month and has been promoted as such by The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association for decades.
We have come a long way, baby, in the frozen food aisle. I’m loving some of the new ideas and combinations available these days, especially the frozen “riced” cauliflower that has quickly caught on as a carb-friendly food and can be used in a number of ways, including that of pizza “dough.”
Now is the time to check out your grocery store for great buys on freezer favorites, or to simply dig through the icebergs in your home freezer and use up some of those “good buys” that you purchased months ago. (I’m sure nobody else gets lost in their freezer or amazed at their discoveries, as do I!)
Just be sure it hasn’t been in there too long before you serve it to your family. Even frozen foods don’t last forever. (The wildlife around our home surely look forward to the feast I provide them on a regular basis.)
It’s always a good idea to have some family favorites prepared ahead of time to plop in the oven on those busy weeknights.
Here are a couple that have been shared with me through the years.
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 med. onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes crushed by hand, with juice
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. dried basil
½ cup chicken stock or water
1 (10-oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ lb. lasagna noodles, cooked until firm, drained
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
Heat 1 Tbs. of the oil in a pan over medium heat; sauté onion and garlic until nearly soft. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté gently until moisture disappears, about 5 minutes. Stir in undrained tomatoes, sauce and paste, salt, oregano, basil and stock/water. Simmer 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl, beat egg; combine with spinach, cheeses and remaining oil.
To freeze, line bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil, with enough foil hanging over each edge to cover the top.
To assemble, pour half the tomato sauce into the pan. Top with half the noodles in a single layer. Spread spinach mixture over noodles and sprinkle with half the mozzarella. Add another layer of noodles, then sauce and finish with mozzarella. Wrap foil around the entire top of lasagna and cool in the refrigerator.
To freeze: Once cooled, cover foiled pan completely with plastic wrap and freeze.
To reheat: Thaw in refrigerator; remove foil and plastic wrap. Place lasagna dish in oven and bake for about an hour at 350 degrees.
Freezer Breakfast Burritos
2 Tbsp. butter
1 lb. pork sausage, cooked and drained
½ cup chunky salsa
2 cups Cheddar or Pepper Jack cheese
24 flour tortillas
In large skillet, melt butter. Beat eggs in large bowl and add to skillet. Cook eggs in butter, stirring frequently, until scrambled and set. Add cooked sausage and salsa to egg mixture and mix gently.
Warm tortillas as directed on package. Place about ½ cup egg and sausage mixture onto each tortilla and sprinkle with some cheese. Roll up to make burritos, folding in ends.
Place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and freeze until solid. Wrap individually and place in zip-lock freezer bags.
When ready to eat, unwrap burritos and rewrap loosely in microwave-safe paper towel; heat in microwave on high for 1-3 minutes until hot and cheese is melted.
Burritos can thaw overnight in refrigerator, then wrapped individually in foil and baked at 350 for 10-15 minutes until hot. They can also be deep fried for 3-5 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
For variations, add onions or frozen hash brown potatoes; omit salsa, try using different types of cheese or flavored tortillas. Let your imagination be your guide.