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freezer cooking: the basics

It’s freezer cooking week on The Baker Upstairs! I am by no means an expert, but I definitely have discovered some tips and tricks that make cooking (and therefore life) easier. So far, I haven’t gotten into freezer cooking to the point that I’m preparing a month’s worth of meals in an afternoon (someday, maybe?) but I always have a few essentials tucked away in the freezer to make dinnertime run more smoothly.

First of all, shredded cooked chicken!

I use this in so many recipes… tacos, enchiladas, soups, casseroles, salads, etc. It’s quick and easy to thaw in the microwave or in the fridge, and it makes it super easy to add some quick protein to dinner. There are lots of different ways to cook chicken, obviously, but to me the easiest way is to use the slow cooker. I layer in as many chicken breasts (fresh or frozen) as I can fit (usually around 5-6), pour in 1/2 – 1 cup of chicken broth, cover, and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 5-6 hours. When the chicken’s done, I put it in a bowl and shred it with two forks. It comes apart super easily! I usually season with a little salt and pepper, and then let it cool down just a little before putting it into freezer bags.

I’ve had the best results with using quart sized bags and filling them up about halfway. I squeeze as much air out as I can, and then seal the bags. I label with the date and the contents, and then freeze. When it’s time to thaw, I usually just use the thaw setting on the microwave, because it’s quick and easy, but it would be equally easy to just throw it in the fridge the night before and let it thaw. To make tacos, I usually mix in a little salsa and taco seasoning (or just cumin and chili powder).

Second, I love to always have homemade bread available in the freezer.

I’ve been surprised at how well homemade bread holds up in the freezer. Especially when I freeze it right after baking, as soon as it has cooled. You really wouldn’t think it would be the case, but it tastes just as yummy and fresh when it thaws as it did before it went in the freezer. If I’m freezing loaves of bread, I like to slice them before I freeze them so it’s easy to pull out a couple of slices for toast in the morning. If we want bread for sandwiches, I usually just thaw the whole loaf overnight in the fridge. I’ve had a lot of success with both loaves and rolls in the freezer. When freezing rolls, I like to flash freeze them first on a baking sheet, and then add them to a freezer bag after they have frozen for an hour or two. This helps them maintain their shape and not get stuck together. You can find some of my favorite breads to freeze here, here, here, and here.

Stay tuned all this week for more freezer cooking ideas!

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