Thursday, January 4, 2018

10 Freezer-Friendly Meals (and a Giveaway)

Chicken Crock Pot Freezer Meals for Slow CookingHealth is about action. If your resolution doesn’t transfer to your routine, it will be dead in the water. Now’s the time to think about what in your routine needs to change to accommodate new choices. Healthy eating, for one, can be simple, but it requires some forethought. Strategic preparation helps, too. In that spirit, we’ve got a practical guide you can apply right away to your Primal diet—not to mention this weekend’s shopping list. Enjoy, everyone.

Stocking your freezer with homemade food is a winning strategy for eating well, especially when life gets really busy. There’s no better feeling than knowing that dinner is already cooked and just needs to be reheated. The easiest way to fill your freezer with meals is to regularly double, or triple, recipes so you regularly have leftovers to freeze. Of course, some meals freeze better than others. Here’s a handy guide for freezing cooked food, plus 10 recipes you should definitely have in your freezer.

How to Freeze & Defrost Cooked Food

Containers

Tupperware (or freezer-friendly Pyrex containers) and freezer bags are the most convenient containers for freezing food. Freezer bags are especially easy to label and space efficient. Fill a bag with food, smooth it out into an even layer and press out all the air (the less air in the bag, the less chance of freezer burn). Flat freezer bags filled with food stack up conveniently in the freezer.

Food Safety

Don’t put hot food in the freezer; always cool it completely first. As a general rule, frozen, cooked food will taste best if eaten within 3 months. If it helps, keep an inventory of frozen meals taped to your freezer door so you don’t forget what’s in there.

Portions

Consider freezing individual portions rather than freezing a big portion of food in one bag. This allows you to defrost a little bit at a time. This is an especially good idea if you want to use frozen meals for lunches, or if you’re not cooking for a big family.

Defrosting

The best and safest way to defrost frozen food is in the refrigerator overnight. Large cuts of cooked meat (like a roast) can take 48 hours to defrost. Defrosting in the refrigerator discourages bacteria (as opposed to defrosting at room temperature, which puts food in the bacteria “danger zone”). Defrosting in the refrigerator also helps maintain the texture of food, so it doesn’t get mushy or grainy.

When defrosting soup or other liquids, there’s also a faster option—immerse the plastic freezer bag filled with soup in cool water just long enough so you can break up the soup, then immediately dump in a pot and reheat.

Reheating

Once defrosted, most frozen meals can be reheated by simmering gently in a pot over medium-low heat. Often, it helps to add ¼ to ½ cup liquid to the pot, such as water, broth or coconut milk. For smaller portions, a microwave can be used, which is especially handy at work. Meals can also be reheated in the oven. Usually, reheating at 350 ºF/176 ºC with a lid or foil cover works well. Some cooked foods need extra seasoning after being reheated, and fresh herbs can help liven up leftovers.

Foods That Don’t Freeze Well

Cooked potatoes tend not to freeze well in any form, whether mashed, roasted, or in soups and stews. When reheated, cooked potatoes usually have a grainy or dry texture. (cooked sweet potatoes, however, usually freeze and reheat well.)

Frozen dairy products like milk, cream, sour cream and cheese tend to lose their smooth, creamy texture when reheated and can turn grainy and watery in recipes. Nut milks can also separate and become grainy when frozen. However, if reheated very gently over low heat and whisked vigorously, texture is less of a problem.

Coconut milk used in recipes generally reheats well, but again, do it over low heat.

Vinaigrettes, mayonnaise and mayonnaise-based sauces and salad dressings usually don’t freeze well.

10 Freezer-Friendly Meals

Sausage and Eggs to Go

Sausage and EggLet’s start with a long-time Primal favorite…. For breakfast, a healthy snack, or a quick lunch, you won’t find a recipe much better than these gems. Lots of flavor and a wallop of protein will keep you fully satisfied until you have time to sit down to a larger meal.

Freeze a bunch of these sausage and eggs on the go wrapped individually in foil and thrown into a freezer bag.

For the best texture when reheated, defrost overnight in the fridge first, then reheat briefly in the microwave.

Primal Pancakes

pancakes1For breakfast on busy weekday mornings, pull a pancake out of the freezer and pop it in the microwave. No need to defrost first! Pancakes can also be wrapped in foil and reheated in the oven.

To freeze, stack pancakes with parchment paper in between so they don’t stick together, and put a bunch in a freezer bag. Hint: these work well for kids’ lunches. What child will turn down a “breakfast” meal after all?

Slow Cooked Pork

CoconutGingerPork1A great strategy for freezer-friendly meals is simply freezing portions of cooked meat. The meat can be defrosted and used to make a variety of different meals.

Shredded pork is a great example. Cook a whole pork shoulder, cool and shred it, then freeze in smaller portions. The defrosted pork can be used in salads, tacos, stir-fries, or as the main course with steamed veggies on the side. Korean short ribs also freeze well and can be turned into a quick meal.

Green Goddess Chicken Breasts

Green-Goddess-Chix-2-612x443Cook a big sheet pan of Green Goddess chicken breasts, then shred the cooled meat and freeze.

Like shredded pork, shredded chicken can be stored in smaller portions and defrosted for a wide variety of quick meals (stir-fries, tacos, salads, soups and stews). Add additional Green Goddess for flavor if desired.

Chili & “Cornbread

lamb-chili-1Any type of chili freezes well, but this lamb chili is especially delicious. For a complete meal (and delicious pairing), freeze a loaf of  Primal cornbread, too.

When freezing the cornbread, wrap tightly in plastic wrap or parchment paper, then put in a freezer bag.

Moroccan Meatball and Egg Tagine

Tagine2-1All types of meatballs freeze well. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator, then pop meatballs into lunchboxes, or reheat meatballs for dinner in a sauce like this one.

For Moroccan Meatball and Egg Tagine, freeze the meatballs and sauce together, then reheat slowly on the stove with ¼ cup water. Don’t freeze the eggs and fresh herbs—add them once the sauce and meatballs are reheated.

Lamb and Prune Tagine

LambTagine2The complex flavors in this lamb and prune tagine are worth savoring over and over again, so make a double or triple batch to freeze.

Defrost overnight in the refrigerator then gently reheat on the stove or in the oven (350 ºF) with a lid. Add ¼ to ½ cup liquid as the tagine reheats.

Picadillo

Picadillo1

Picadillo is home cooked comfort food, the type of easy weeknight meal that both kids and adults love. Traditionally served over rice and beans (and sometimes, plantains) Primal Picadillo can be served over cauliflower rice or simply heaped in a bowl with nothing else. It’s also pretty great next to eggs for breakfast.

Picadillo is an easy recipe to double or triple. It reheats quickly on the stove or in the microwave.

Brisket

brisket1Brisket often tastes better when it’s been cooked and then reheated, so don’t worry about freezing this big piece of meat. Transfer a cooked and completely cooled brisket to a plastic freezer bag. Be extra diligent about squeezing out all the air out—getting out the air is really important to avoid freezer burn.

To defrost, put the cooked brisket in the fridge two days before you want to serve, then reheat, covered, in a 300 ºF degree oven.  The meat will probably need additional salt before serving.

Beef Rendang

Rendang-1-639x443Fragrant and richly flavored beef Rendang requires two ingredients you might have to search for—galangal and kaffir lime leaves. This dish is well worth the effort, but you can make it doubly so by cooking a big batch so you can freeze an extra meal or two.

Reheat defrosted Rendang on the stove in a pot with an extra ½ cup coconut milk.

And Now for Today’s Giveaway…

Keto_Advanced_1_600xToday to spur your healthy eating goals (not to mention kitchen inspiration), I’m giving away two sets of our Advanced Keto Kit. These are some of our most popular Primal Kitchen® products, and for pursuing a keto lifestyle, they’ll offer flavorful options that don’t undermine your eating objectives.

I’ll choose 2 random comments below as winners. Just tell me what recipes and cooking tips you’d like to see the Bees and I offer this year on Mark’s Daily Apple. Submit your comments by midnight tonight (1/4/18 PST).

Thanks for reading, everyone. Do you have further questions on freezing tips? Let us know!

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Primal Action Point: What Problem Will You Solve?

Inline_Fitness_Live-Awesome-645x445-02I have a question for you today. Maybe it’s already part of your New Year vision. Or maybe it could help clarify a goal or add a new aim to your plan.

What are you physically unable to do (comfortably) that you’d like to be able to do (comfortably)?

Just as the most effective type of exercise is the kind that you actually enjoy and are willing to do consistently, the most effective kind of fitness resolution aims to solve a problem that you actually have.

Think about the physical acts you’d like to be able to perform but currently cannot, like comfortably sit in a squat for ten minutes, play with your kids for a solid hour, hike a local mountain without feeling like you’re dying, participate in a charity 5K, do a pull-up, or deadlift twice your bodyweight. It could be anything really, as long as it’s something you actively want to do.

What deficit do you want to correct? What “problem” will you solve this year?

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Savory Yogurt // Three Ways

Y’all know I am obsessed with putting plain Greek yogurt on things. Or sour cream (= danger.) Or Tzatziki, or sauces, etc. So I got to thinkin’ – why not make the yogurt the highlight of the bowl and make the savory parts the topping?! Kind of like how cake should be a topping on a plate of frosting. But I digress…

Each bowl is full of protein, healthy fat, veggies, flavor, and probiotics! Plus, you can throw these together with what you have on hand – it’s all about the toppings! 

For these I used plain Greek yogurt as the base. You can mix in seasonings to the base (lemon or lime juice, zest, and herbs) to start, then top with different vegetables, more herbs and spices. Even if you don’t have fresh citrus or herbs on hand, try either with dried versions.  Like oatmeal, the possibilities are endless! These are a great way to use up leftovers and produce as well. Think of it as a savory yogurt dip.

Here are three ways to change up your yogurt game!

Southwestern

This would be great for leftover taco night – refried beans or meat would also be great on top. Start with a base of yogurt + lime juice + zest and add on toppings similar to what you’d put in a taco. On top, add beans, diced peppers, corn, and pickled jalapenos tossed with some juice + cumin + salt.

Smoked Salmon (duh!)

I love Smoked Salmon + cream cheese so why not pair it with a thick Greek yogurt, especially when you can add some fresh herbs like dill and parsley. You could also try this bowl with another smoked fish like trout. Start with a base of yogurt + lemon juice + zest + dill, then add on the salmon, parsley, and red pepper. You could also chop up the salmon and mix it into the bowl. Capers would also be a nice addition!

Cauliflower Chickpea

This combination would be a good use for any roasted vegetables (like broccoli!) The tahini is great to swirl into the yogurt and complements the roasted veggie flavor in a nice earthy way. You could also mix in a little hummus. Smoked paprika on top and a dash of seeds adds even more flavor.

Savory Yogurt Bowls

Ingredients

Base Ingredients

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon or lime juice, plus zest
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, or ¼ teaspoon dried herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley, dill)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Toppings

Southwestern

  • 1/4 cup black beans
  • 1/4 cup diced peppers
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • Pickled jalapenos
  • Roasted corn (canned or frozen works!)
  • Other options: Refried beans, taco meat, shredded cheese

Smoked Salmon

  • 2 ounces smoked salmon
  • 2 tablespoons diced red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon capers (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Other options: Sliced radish, sliced avocado, diced cucumber

Cauliflower Chickpea

  • 1/3 cup roasted cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons chickpeas 
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • Sprinkle of garlic powder, paprika, sesame seeds and salt
  • Other options: roasted broccoli, garlic, roasted tomatoes, rosemary 

Instructions

Mix the base ingredients together in a small bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Top with all the other ingredients, finishing with herbs and any spices you’d like, mixing up textures with things like veggies, seeds and spreads. You can estimate the toppings and use what you have on hand, but I used the measurements listed above!

What flavor combos can you dream up? Have you tried this before?

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