There are certain items I like to always have in my freezer to make pulling last minute meals together. Some require taking items out in the morning for dinner that night, others require a short defrosting period and some can be used immediately.
Whether it’s a basic like Italian Sweet or Spicy, gourmet like Aidell’s Chicken and Apple, or German sausages like Bratwurst of Knockwurst, I always have some kind of sausage in my freezer. The Italian sausage is a basic I use for my grandmother’s pasta sauce, but also is good grilled, sliced and served with marinara sauce, sliced into spaghetti sauce or grilled whole for a sausage and pepper sub. Sheet pan dinners are easy with sausage on hand. I recently made a delicious New York Times recipe sheet pan dinner (Roasted Sausage with Grapes and Onions), but Italian sausage and sliced bell peppers, with sliced potatoes and chicken wings is one of my go-to’s for an easy dinner; serve with crusty bread.
I’m not talking about those nice, organic Greenwise chicken breasts, but those skinny, flash frozen ones by Tyson or Perdue. They defrost in a flash and are endlessly adaptable. Marinated in mojo and grilled, sautéed with mushrooms, olive oil or butter in a skillet, poached in water, or baked with red sauce and mozzarella as a Chicken Parmesan, they are an easy staple for meal-making. Chicken breasts don’t have much flavor on their own, so they’re a blank canvas for your own mood or whimsy.
This is one of those items you need to take out in the morning, if you’re planning on making dinner with it. While I try not to eat a lot of red meat (especially ground), this item is vital for making meatballs for my Grandmother’s pasta sauce, which I make occasionally. It also can be used to make meatloaf, burgers, piccadillo or that delicious Skillet Beef and Macaroni meal my Mom used to make when I was growing up.
While I prefer homemade pizza crust or the dough you get from the Publix bakery, both of those require either time or effort. A Boboli crust (I prefer it over Mama Mia’s) in the freezer really comes in handy if you’re in a pinch for dinner. At it’s most basic, all you need is red pasta sauce and grated cheese, but pesto or sliced tomatoes can replace the red sauce. Almost all cheeses can work on pizza, but should be paired to other toppings. While mozzarella and parmesan are the most common pizza cheeses, ricotta is also delicious. I just had an awesome Key West Pink Shrimp Pizza with tomato, spinach , ricotta and mozzarella at No Name Pub I’d like to try to duplicate at home.
Shrimp or Scallops
While this is a rather pricey investment for your freezer, these seafood proteins really do come in handy when you’re running out of time to whip something up, as they defrost quickly in cold water. I love grilled shrimp and bacon-wrapped scallops as either appetizers or dinner. Shrimp can also be used in pasta, on pizza (see above), in a salad or to make ceviche. Scallops can be grilled, baked or seared for an easy, healthy dinner. Just make sure you dry them thoroughly to get a good sear.
I always have frozen fruit in my freezer to make my breakfast smoothies. They also can be added to cereals, oatmeal, yogurt or to make fruit sauces for ice cream or pound cakes. Raspberries are very perishable, so before they go bad, I toss them in the freezer and use them as little chillers for my Prosecco. Bananas, when they get soft, can be frozen and used for smoothies, cakes or the Pandemic favorite, Banana Bread.
I store raw nuts in the freezer, where they will stay fresh for months. I always have whole almonds (for my Biscotti), pecans and pine nuts stashed away in the deep freeze, but pick your favorite nuts to freeze. Trader Joe’s is a great place to get economical packs of nuts.
I also store bacon, slice bread and baguettes in my freezer to have when needed.
What’s in your Freezer?
Up Next: Mama Mia and Mango Mania.