October 1, 2009
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Tomato Basil Mac and Cheese
Our hearty and flavorful take on an old family favorite is sure to please even picky eaters. This simple casserole can be frozen for up to 2 months, so feel free to make one for tonight and assemble and freeze a second for later, using our helpful tips.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 1/2 cups (18 ounces) canned tomatoes*, chopped or diced style
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pasta & Toppings
1 box (approx. 4 cups) dry elbow macaroni
1 bag (2 cups) cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons blue cheese, crumbled (optional)
4 tablespoons white bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped1 tablespoon butter or margarine, plus more for the casserole dish
*Canned tomatoes typically come in 14.5 ounce and 28 ounce sizes. You may end up with some leftovers if you’re not making a double batch. Just put extras in a sealed plastic container and use to supplement another recipe.
Tip: You can use any kind of white bread you have on hand for the breadcrumbs. Try leftover garlic bread for added flavor. Simply tear bread into smaller chunks, place in a food processor and process for a short time for coarse crumbs and longer for fine crumbs. Breadcrumbs can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Tip: Whenever you assemble and freeze a casserole that includes pasta, make sure to cook it just short of package instructions to keep it from getting mushy after being thawed and reheated. Run cold water over cooked pasta to help it retain its firmness and dry completely before assembling the casserole.
Freezing: Combine breadcrumbs and basil and place in a re-sealable freezer bag. Assemble the layers of the casserole as detailed above, but do not bake. Cover casserole dish tightly with two layers of aluminum foil first, and then one layer of plastic wrap. Store both the dish and breadcrumbs in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Reheating: Thaw the casserole and the breadcrumb mixture in the refrigerator overnight before you plan to cook. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the casserole and dot with butter or margarine. Cook in a preheated oven at 375°F for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown and bubbling.
Savory Pumpkin Bake
With a nod to the fall season, this delicious bake is a comforting warm-up on a chilly night—for now or when you need a quick solution for a particularly busy night. Just make a double batch and serve one casserole for dinner and assemble the second for freezing.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
1 box (14.5 ounces) whole-wheat penne or rigatoni
1 pound (or 4 links) sweet Italian-style turkey sausage, casings removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, chopped
1 jar (24-26 ounces) basic marinara sauce
1 can (15 ounces) pure pumpkin
2 cups (8 ounces) Italian five-cheese blend, divided
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper, to tasteOlive oil cooking spray, for casserole dish
Freezing: Follow steps 2-4 above, but do not bake. Cover casserole dish tightly with two layers of aluminum foil first, and then one layer of plastic wrap. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Reheating: Thaw the casserole in the refrigerator overnight before you plan to cook. Bake in a preheated oven at 375°F covered for 15 minutes, and then uncover and bake 5 minutes more or until the top is golden brown and bubbling.
Puff Pastry Pockets
Using simple puff pastry found in the freezer section, you can easily wrap up a variety of delicious ingredients, and then bake and freeze extras for later. Our recipe features chicken, baby spinach, prosciutto and Parmesan as key ingredients.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves (1 pound), cut into thin strips
1 handful baby spinach leaves, for each pocket
2 ounces shredded Parmesan
4 paper-thin slices prosciutto*
2 teaspoons, lemon zest
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small white onion, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Olive oil cooking spray
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon waterParchment paper (for lining baking pan)
*Tip: Depending on what you have readily available, feel free to substitute ham or bacon for the prosciutto.
Tip: Most frozen puff pastry boxes come with two sheets, so don’t hesitate to just make a double batch. Enjoy one batch tonight and freeze the second for later.
Freezing: Place pastry pockets on a plastic-lined baking sheet in the freezer until frozen solid. Transfer to a freezer bag and be sure to remove excess air before sealing. Try doubling up the bag to lock out odors and freezer burn. Freeze for up to 3 weeks.
Reheating: Thaw in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours before reheating. Place each of the thawed pastry pockets on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam-side down and brush with egg mixture. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes or until puff pastry is golden brown.
Use these recipes and tips as your starting point for making fast, freezer-ready meals for your family. Freezer cooking just takes a bit of planning and organization to achieve delicious and rewarding results.
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Shallots are the mild and quiet cousin of both onions and garlic, and if you tend to shy away from strong flavors, then the shallot may be the one for you. Shallots do not give bad breath like garlic or onions, and are more easily digestible. They are technically an onion, but look a lot like garlic and have a mild garlicky flavor. They can easily replace onions in most recipes, and will caramelize just as easily. When selecting shallots, think 'onions' to determine age & freshness and take into consideration that 3 to 4 shallots will substitute for 1 medium onion. Store any extras in a cool, dry, dark place with plenty of air circulation. The versatility of shallots and their wonderful flavor are just a few of the many reasons why they are the darlings of both the professional gourmet chef and home cooking world.
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