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"Cool" Culinary Curiosities

I know I've mentioned that my freezer contains quite the assortment of odds and ends. I thought it might be interesting to note what is in there and why. I don't know, maybe you'll pick up a nifty tidbit or two. Maybe its just a peek into my weird world? Anyway, here goes...

Beans. There are many snack sized bags of cooked dried beans. Pintos and black beans. I buy them dried, soak them and boil them up in a big pot and portion them out into snack sized bags. Each bag contains about what a can of beans would contain. I don't have anything against canned beans, they are one of the few canned items I haven't got a dislike of, but I just like boiling them up. It's very economical and makes me feel like a pioneer or pilgrim.

Fresh herbs. I buy them to use immediately and when I see they are not going to get used up before they start to look not-so-fresh, I freeze them. If I've bought them in those little expensive plastic boxes, I throw the whole box in. If I've bought them in a bunch or harvested them from my paltry, struggling pots, I lay them on a cookie sheet, freeze 'em, and bag 'em.

Chopped fresh ginger. This I definitely don't use up fast enough, so when I buy a hunk of ginger root, I peel and mince the whole thing, use what I want, and freeze the rest.

Stock. Lots of stock. In ice cubes, in 2 cup portions, and in 1 cup portions. Chicken stock and shrimp stock and occasionally beef stock. I especially like my stock cubes. When I need a tablespoon or two of stock to thin something out or add a little flavor I just toss in a cube.

Scraps and bones. No, really. Not much goes to waste in this home kitchen. There's a bag of parsley stems and celery tops. There are also bags of shrimp shells and chicken bones which I roasted first. Sometimes there are chicken carcasses if I haven't had time to deconstruct them.

Bread. So I'm a stress baker. I love to bake but I especially get busy when I am stressed out about something. So we have a lot of bread. English muffins. Bagels. Half loaves of sourdough. Dinner rolls. The list goes on. I wrap them tightly and put them in a plastic bag and freeze them. Bread thaws super fast so I always have some on hand whenever I need it. Also in this category are pancakes and waffles. These I make from scratch, cook up the excess batter, and freeze the item for a quick reheat in the oven when I need a grab and go breakfast.

Baking ingredients. I keep my butter, nuts, coconut, and chocolate chips in the freezer. They stay fresh longer and are none the worse for freezing. I also have rye flour in there since that is not used as frequently as regular flour. And at the moment I have a block of rough puff pastry I made and didn't use all of ... oh, and some phyllo.

Meat/Seafood. Always bacon. Always sausages. Ground chuck. Ground turkey. Ground chicken. Ground pork. And then whatever I pick up for the smoker or to have available for dinners.

Fruit. Lots and lots of local blueberries. Local strawberries. Fresh peaches. Bananas peeled and cut in thirds for smoothies before they had to be trashed. Fresh pineapple, mango, or melon in cubes that I wasn't going to eat before it went bad. These also all go into smoothies (of the breakfast kind or the alcoholic drink kind).

Brine. Brine is basically a mixture of water, salt, sugar and seasonings. You soak your meat in it for a length of time before cooking. This is an odd one to have in the freezer, but I recently did an experiment. I brined a whole chicken for the smoker and at the same time I smoked an un-brined chicken. I have done it both ways on separate smoker days but I wanted to go head-to-head and compare. Oh my. Brining makes a difference. I wasn't sure because I go to great pains to buy air-chilled chicken versus water-chilled chicken. The latter get waterlogged and are not as "chicken-y" to me. But brining definitely makes for tastier, moister smoked bird. I really liked the brine I came up with and I had made enough for both birds but only used half of it, so I froze the unused remaining brine for my next smoker day.

Chimichurri cubes. I made chimichurri for my steak one night and had extra so I froze it in an ice cube tray and now I have chimichurri cubes to add to various dishes. I hadn't done that before. It's nice. I like it.

Roasted Hatch chilies. This is another newbie that I am absolutely in love with. When the Hatch chilies from New Mexico hit the stores, I roasted some up, peeled and chopped them, and stuffed them into ice cube trays. You may be noticing a trend here ... with the ice cube trays. Now when I want to add a little spice to my chili or eggs or taco meat or.... I can just throw in a cube! By the way, canned chopped green chilies are another item I usually keep on hand in the pantry. They work just as well. I roasted my own because I felt like it - nothing against canned chilies.

Prepared items. At the moment I only have some pierogi which I made a few weeks ago. Sometimes there are meatballs or meatloaf, mini chicken pies, potstickers, lasagna, ravioli...stuff I make from scratch and store uncooked. Never packaged meals. Sorry. I just don't. Oh, and cookies. I store homemade cookies in the freezer. That's weird for sure, but they keep so much nicer. I really hate how cookies change texture as they stay out on the counter, especially in Florida. So I bake em, eat a few, and store the rest in the freezer.

I feel compelled to tell you that I do have a small upright freezer in addition to the one attached to my refrigerator.

So that's it. Hope you came across a "cool" tip or two.

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