Freezing Food Safety

December 28, 2009

There are some important things you need to know about food safety if you really want to dive into Freezer Cooking.

What Can You Freeze?
You can freeze almost any food. Some exceptions are canned food or eggs in shells. However, once the food (such as a ham) is out of the can, you may freeze it. Ummm...Ham in a can? Gross.

Being able to freeze food and being pleased with the quality after defrosting are two different things. Some foods simply don't freeze well. Examples are mayonnaise, cream sauce and lettuce. Raw meat and poultry maintain their quality longer than their cooked counterparts because moisture is lost during cooking. For my list of freezables click here.

Does Freezing Destroy Bacteria & Parasites forever?
No. Freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes -- bacteria, yeasts and molds - - present in food. Once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active, multiplying under the right conditions to levels that can lead to food borne illness. Since they will then grow at about the same rate as microorganisms on fresh food, you must handle thawed items as you would any perishable food.


Proper packaging helps maintain quality and prevent "freezer burn." It is safe to freeze meat or poultry directly in its supermarket wrapping but this type of wrap is permeable to air. Unless you will be using the food in a month or two, overwrap these packages as you would any food for long-term storage using airtight heavy-duty foil, (freezer) plastic wrap or freezer paper, or place the package inside a (freezer) plastic bag. Use these materials or airtight freezer containers to repackage family packs into smaller amounts. It is not necessary to rinse meat and poultry before freezing. Freeze unopened vacuum packages as is. If you notice that a package has accidentally been torn or has opened while food is in the freezer, the food is still safe to use; merely overwrap or re-wrap it.

Safe Defrosting
Never defrost foods in a garage, basement, car, dishwasher or plastic garbage bag; out on the kitchen counter, outdoors or on the porch. These methods can leave your foods unsafe to eat.

There are three safe ways to defrost food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. It's best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Small items may defrost overnight; most foods require a day or two. And large items like turkeys may take longer, approximately one day for each 5 pounds of weight.

For faster defrosting, place food in a leak proof plastic bag and immerse it in cold water. (If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Tissues can also absorb water like a sponge, resulting in a watery product.) Check the water frequently to be sure it stays cold. Change the water every 30 minutes. After thawing, cook immediately.

When microwave-defrosting food, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving.

The temperature of your cooked meats really matters.
Really the best way to determine if a cooked meat is done is not the cooking time of the recipe, but the internal temperature of the meat. This provides two great results. Avoiding under cooking the meat means less food born illness and avoiding overcooking the meat mean more moist, juicy meats.

The amount of time your food it takes your food to cool is important.
Bacteria grows most easily at a certain temperature. The danger zone of bacteria growth is luke warm. So, when you're cooling down or freezing your food yo must change the temperature from warm to cold in the quickest way possible. For instance, if you were freezing soup, rather than putting in your freezer in a deep pot, you should spread it out into a shallow dish so that it all comes down in temperature more quickly. This also mean you should not cover meat if storing in the fridge until plastic wrap covering it would not accumulate steam. Put it into the fridge uncovered until cool. Never stack packages to be frozen. Instead, spread them out in one layer on various shelves, stacking them only after frozen solid

Cross Contamination
If you've been in food service you know the drill. You should not cut raw meat and raw veggies with the same knife or on the same cutting board. Doing so can transfer harmful bacteria from one food to another. As a general rule you should always use the above rule, but it's especially important when assembling freezer meals because it's a time when you are much more likely to be chopping these foods at once since we are assembling meals.

*Most information from the USDA website.


Artichoke Canapes

December 21, 2009

I love artichokes and they seem to be an ingredient that is not largely a staple in American cooking. Therefore, when you serve them to your guests it seems like an extra special treat. You know how I love frozen puff pastry for easy and sophisticated freezer items and this recipe is no different. Easy, impressive and delicious! And wouldn't these be perfect for your upcoming New Years Eve party? I think so.

Hot Artichoke Canapes
Makes 32 puffs

1 can (12 oz) artichoke hearts, drained well & chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 pkg (17.25 oz) frozen puff pastry, thawed
Egg Wash (1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp water)

To Prepare
- In medium bowl, combine artichoke hearts, mayonnaise, garlic, Parmesan cheese and parsley; set aside.
- On floured surface, unfold sheet of puff pastry. Crimp seams with fingertips. Roll sheet to 12-inch square. Brush with egg wash.
- Cut pastry sheet into 16 (3-inch) squares. Place small amount of artichoke filling in center of each 3-inch square. Fold 2 side corners up to encase filling.
- Place canapes on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush each with egg wash mixture. Repeat with puff pastry sheet and remaining filling.

To Freeze
- Cover with plastic wrap and flash freeze. Remove from sheet pan and place carefully in gallon ziplock bag until ready to cook.

To Serve
Take straight from freezer and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 400 degree F oven for 13-15 minutes or until browned and puffed. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Spinach Artichoke Dip

December 14, 2009

I love a good spinach artichoke dip. The low fat ingredients in this recipe make it better for you, but also avoids separation of fats when thawed and cooked. Having this recipe in the freezer makes Superbowl parties, holiday gatherings or Saturday night dinners a breeze!

Spinach Artichoke Dip

10 oz pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 cups lowfat sour cream
8 oz. pkg low-fat cream cheese
1 cup part skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 can artichoke hearts (in water), drained and chopped
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1 minced garlic clove
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes (optional)

To Freeze:
- Combine all ingredients together well.
- Divide into 4 portions and store in 2 cup containers. Freeze.

To Prepare:
- Bake it at 350 degrees, stirring once or twice, until heated through (probably 40 minutes) OR heat in microwave until heated through, stirring every 60 seconds.

To Serve:
Serve with tortilla chips, toasted rounds of baguette or pita wedges.


Mini Appetizer Quiches

December 7, 2009

I hope all of my American readers had a fantastic Thanksgiving! Mine was stupendous for many reasons, not the least of which was the food.

And now, December is here and the holiday season is in full swing. The holidays are a wonderful time, but can also be a stressful time. I want to share recipes this December that can help make your holiday entertaining and family get-togethers easier and less-stressful.

I am going to start with a recipe for party appetizers. This little quiches are wonderful served as appetizers at a holiday party. You can make them ahead of time and freeze them; they reheat beautifully.

Quiches are completely customizable, meaning you can make some for vegetarians, some for picky eaters and some that are filled with upscale ingredients...depending on your audience. Another great thing about a mini quiche is that on a buffet it is not needed to be served warm. Although some like them better warm, quiches at room temperature is also not only acceptable, but sometimes preferred. The time limit on serving room temperature quiches is 1 hour. So keep a good eye on your clock as your party guests sample these tasty tidbits.

Mini Appetizer Quiches
Makes 24
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

1 pkg. refrigerated pie crust
1 large portabello mushroom
8 oz. button mushrooms
1 clove crushed garlic
3 chopped green onions
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 egg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 c. finely chopped ham (optional)

Let pie crusts stand at room temperature for 20 minutes, then gently roll out to 12" circles. Wipe mushrooms with damp cloth and chop in food processor or with chef's knife. Place butter and olive oil in a medium skillet and cook mushrooms over medium heat until all liquid is evaporated and mushrooms are brown and tender.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 2 dozen 1 3/4" muffin cups. Using 3" cookie cutter, cut 24 circles from pie crust (12 from each crust), re-rolling crusts if needed. Press into prepared muffin cups. Divide mushrooms evenly among lined cups. In small bowl, combine egg, cream, salt and cayenne pepper and beat well. Pour egg mixture over mushrooms; 2 tsp. per each muffin cup.

Sprinkle each with grated cheese.

To Bake
Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until center of quiches is set. To serve warm, cool 5 minutes before removing from pans.

To Freeze
Cool on wire rack and freeze in single layer until solid. Place in air tight freezer container in single layer.

To Serve
To reheat, place frozen quiches on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes until hot.

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About This Blog

A new recipe will be posted each Monday and, of course, you can always search the archives by category.

The Goal of this blog is not just to give you my recipes, but to teach you which ingredients freeze well, which don't, methods and tips to help you freeze your own recipes...because who knows better what your family likes than you?

Do you only cook organic? Great! Are you a vegetarian? No problem! Make what works for you and save time, money and (let's be honest...stress) while doing it.

The Freeze Happy philosophy has made my life better and I'm pretty sure it can improve yours too.

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