Pre-made, frozen dinners come to the rescue
Several weeks ago I got a note from a friend who presented me with the challenge of coming up with menu ideas for her while she is undergoing weekly chemotherapy. During her treatments she’ll also be juggling a hectic school schedule.
Karen wants to stock her freezer now with nourishing entrees to get her and her husband through the stressful time ahead.
Frozen meals — and I’m not talking frozen pizza or frozen boxed dinners — have always been the trick for easy-yet-nutritious meals when I go away for a few days. So I wrote Karen and offered that suggestion.
Steaming vegetables or tossing together a fresh salad isn’t a problem she told me, but a freezer full of tempting and tasty entrees to accompany them would be a lifesaver.
Preparing meals, even partial ones, ahead of time and storing them in the freezer until you need them can be a major time, money and sanity saver.
I get two reactions whenever I mention freezer cooking: perplexed admiration or dismissive horror. After all, isn’t the freezer a space for piling things like chicken nuggets, leftovers, ice cream and meats you will forget about until they expire?
But I’m talking casseroles, soup, pot pies, poultry, roasted meats, enchiladas and lasagna. That’s what first comes to my mind.
After giving Karen’s request more thought, I figured quiche might fit the bill. Except for a certain someone in my household, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t love a flaky quiche filled with creamy goodness.
It’s a deep-dish repository for myriad variations of chopped meats and assorted vegetables laden it with fresh herbs, seafood or exotic mushrooms. Depending on your diners, you can make quiche for veggie lovers, picky eaters or folks who like upscale ingredients like lobster. It’s completely customizable.
Most importantly, it freezes and reheats well.
There are just a few things to keep in mind before freezing hot food. Cool precooked dishes as quickly as possible before they are placed in the freezer. Once cooled, portion it into meal-sized containers. Label and date the containers.
Use only specialty freezer wrappings. They should be both moisture-proof and vapor-proof. Leave as little air as possible in the packages and containers.
This week I’m sharing my recipe for a basic spinach and cheese quiche. If you don’t have the time or just don’t like making crusts like me, go ahead and use a packaged one.
All you need do is add a salad and dinner’s done.
SPINACH AND CHEDDAR QUICHE
1 (9”) unbaked pastry shell
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup chopped spinach
Spread the pastry shell with the softened butter and put it in the refrigerator. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, cream, and salt. Stir in cheese.
Remove shell from refrigerator and line the bottom with spinach. Pour egg mixture over the top.
Bake quiche for 30 minutes at 375 degrees. It should be a bit undercooked. Cool, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze.
Reheating instructions: Bake frozen quiche at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, or until it is fully heated.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist and blogger. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel or look for her blog at www.lynnkessel.blogspot.com.