WHAT’S IN YOUR FREEZER? Freezer Cooking Recipe Tips For Clean Eating Why is it important to have food in the freezer? Because it’s a good way to save time and money. You need little time for preparation. You only need heavy-duty plastic bags and freezer containers. Below is a basic and simple guide on how to freeze and what to freeze by most popular categories. At the end of this guide, you will find some tips to get the most of your freezer. Vegetables You can’t freeze vegetables that are normally eaten raw, such as celery, cucumbers, lettuce and radishes. But, you can freeze those that are cooked before serving. Preparing for freezing All vegetables have enzymes working which break down vitamin C and convert sugar into starch leaving the food with an after flavor. You need to blanch the vegetables briefly before freezing to neutralize the enzymes. This stops enzyme reactions and preserves flavor, color, and texture of the veggies. Freezing the vegetables 1. Pick organic and fresh vegetables. Don’t use bruised, damaged or overripe vegetables. 2. You need to thoroughly clean vegetables and cut the edible parts into pieces (the size you want). 3. To blanch, you need to use at least one gallon of water for each pound of veggies. First, immerse the vegetables in a pot of boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes and then transfer them to a bowl of ice water (ice bath) to stop the cooking. The goal is to blanch them not cook them. 4. Pat dry the vegetables as much as you can and pack them in freezer containers or bags. Compress the veggies leaving as little space for air as possible to avoid freezer burn. 5. Seal the containers or bags and label them with the date. Guide to most common vegetables For the asparagus, green beans, snap peas: trim and blanch for 1 minute For the bell peppers: stem, seem, and cut into pieces (no need to blanch) For broccoli & cauliflower: cut into florets and blanch for 2 minutes For Fava beans: shell and peel only (by doing this, they are blanched) For kale, chard, & other cooking greens: blanch for 2 minutes and squeeze of as much water as possible For peas: shell and blanch for 1 minute For spinach: blanch for 1 minute and squeeze out excess water as it cools Some people freeze avocados as well, but I tried it and I did not like it. You can’t replace a fresh avocado. Frozen vegetables will last up to 6 months in a frequently opened refrigerator-freezer. Fruits Freezing fruit is very easy. The method is the same for almost all fruits and they freeze very well. Preparing for freezing 1. Choose only organic fruits. Rinse and pat dry before freezing. The apples and pears need to be cored, peeled, and quartered or sliced. Toss the pieces with a little bit of lemon juice to keep them from browning. The apricots need to be halved and pitted. You can quarter the large ones, if you like. The berries such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are left whole. The cherries need to be pitted and left whole. The melons and mangos need to be cut into cubes. The peaches, plums, and nectarines need to be pitted and peeled. You can also slice them, if you want. The strawberries need to be hulled first. Then, you can cut them in halves or quarters. You can also leave them whole, if they are small. Freezing the Fruit 2. Lay the prepared fruit in a single layer on a large baking sheet or pan (see picture). Line the pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Do not crowd the pieces; make sure that there is some space between them. 3. Put the baking sheet flat in the freezer until the fruit is frozen. It takes about an hour or two depending on your freezer. You can leave the fruit in the freezer, uncovered, up to overnight as well. 4. Once the fruit is frozen through, transfer to heavy-duty freezer bags. Press out as much of the air as possible, seal the bag, label with the date, and store it in the coldest part of the freezer (often it is in the back). Frozen fruit will last up to 6 months in a frequently opened refrigerator-freezer. Bread The best “clean eating” breads need to be frozen. If it is left too long in the refrigerator, it develops a stale flavor. It is better to freeze it and thaw it at room temperature or reheat it. Place the bread in plastic bags and then wrap the loaves tightly in foil; that way the bread does not come in contact with the foil. Thaw the bread at room temperature or reheat in an oven at 300 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes. You can also toast individual slices to thaw in a regular toaster or toaster-oven. The bread will last up to 6 months in a frequently opened refrigerator-freezer. Nuts Before your fuzzy friend gets hold of your nuts, you better freeze them. Most nuts contain unsaturated oils that can go rancid after a several weeks. Place them in freezer bags and freeze for up to six months. You can buy a large quantity of them when they are on sale and you can save money. I always have walnuts, pecans, and cashews in my freezer. They will last up to 1 year in a frequently opened refrigerator-freezer. Beans/Grains You need to cover cooked beans or grains with a layer of water to make an airtight seal. Before snapping on the lids, place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the liquid. This method keeps the beans airtight and frost-free. The beans will last up to 6 months in a frequently opened refrigerator-freezer. Leftovers/Prepared Entrees Transfer the leftovers in a freezer container. Before snapping on the lids, place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the liquid. This method keeps the leftovers airtight and frost-free. Always cool down in the fridge first to prevent ice crystals. Use within four to six months; more than that the texture and flavor change. Reheat in an oven at 400 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes. TIPS Freeze only organic fruits and vegetables. Use only freezer bags or freezer containers. Otherwise you will end up with freezer burn (freezer burn is actually dehydration which destroys cell structures and affects both flavor and texture). You need to label everything with the date. Grouping foods by type (meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits, casseroles, etc.) in your freezer is a good idea as well. That way the fruits will not taste like fish. I also have a box of baking soda in my refrigerator and in my freezer to keep it fresh. Rotate often and know what's in your freezer. After all, you’re freezing to save money not to waste it. Important: Do not let lukewarm foods sit on the counter before freezing. Bacteria grow below 140 degrees and freezing does not kill them. If you need to cool foods quickly before freezing, you need to place them in ice water which is called an ice bath. Do not overload your freezer with foods at one time. It takes your freezer 24 hours to freeze the food solid. In general, soups and casseroles are best within two months. For periods longer than that, the consistency will change and it will affect the flavor as well. Fish and chicken last about three months; in order to avoid bacteria, it’s better to consume within that time frame. Always chose wild fish and organic chicken. Meat can be frozen for two to three months. Don’t forget to buy only organic meat and only lean cut. Eat meat in moderation. Fruits and vegetables can be frozen up to 6 months. Before eating anything, use your nose to smell the foods. If you don’t feel good about it, throw it away. Share with me what’s in your freezer and how it helps you save time during the week. I'm Emma Madison and I hope you enjoyed those great breakfast recipes that will help you in starting with the clean eating meal plan. For more details, help and clean eating recipes, come and visit my blog at http://EatingCleanToday.com - we discuss clean eating grocery list ideas, healthy shopping plans, snacks and meal recipes. And you can ask questions and get other help over at Facebook.com/EatingCleanToday. And please take a look at my book Eating Clean to Stay Young: enjoy youthful energy, ideal weight and disease-free health over at the Kindle Store.