There’s a chill in the air! Autumn has arrived; my favorite time of year. Colorful leaves, Fall flowers, cool nights, clear days…at least, that is the perfect Autumn/Fall for me. Now heartier food comes into play. Soups and stews, roasts… and anything in the oven! In my current house, I have a wall oven. It warms a great deal of my ranch-style house when used, which makes it wonderful for this time of year. A bit cool in the evening? Let’s throw in a pizza! Chilly in the morning? We’ll put in a batch of biscuits. Conversely, once the air conditioner starts running in the Spring, I never use the oven all Summer. Why have the two fight it out, (heat and cold), when the electric company will be the only winner? So I warm up the house by supplementing the furnace-heat all winter and bake cookies, breads, cakes, and even a few entrees and freeze them for use in the good old Summertime….or anytime. You never know when you may need ‘company food’.
Right after we moved to Kentucky from the Denver area, a woman I knew called me while traveling around the country. She was in a city about 80 miles from me, (considerably closer than her home in the mountains of Colorado), and wanted to come by with her family on their way back to say ‘Hi”. I told her to come for dinner,
and then I scrambled, because she has nine children.
She and her husband are both half-Italian, as I am, so I knew I could pull out a large batch of frozen , homemade spaghetti sauce, cook a few pounds of pasta,(which I have on hand; I may have even had enough of one type. Right now, I must have seven or eight styles of pasta in my kitchen.).I knew I had several types of homemade cookies in my freezer and I lucked-out in two ways. One was that I had lettuce and a few other vegetables for a salad in my refrigerator and I actually had a garden that year that had a few more vegetables to add. I made pitchers of lemonade and iced tea .I did not know until then the father of the troop was allergic to corn in any fashion and fortunately, none were sweetened with corn sugars; the second bit of luck.
So my husband came home to, “Hi, Honey! Look, eleven people you hardly know dropped in for dinner!”, and I had a nice visit with lovely people whom I had missed, instead of just a ‘hi and a hug’.
Successful freezing of foods is easy if you take the time for one crucial action; removing as much air from around the food as possible. This can be done in several ways. Clinging plastic food wraps are very helpful. They may cost a little more, but not by much and they truly help keep air from hitting the surface of foods. If you place your soups, stews, sauces, etc. in freezer containers, you need to remember two things; one, when food freezes, it expands, so if you fill a container to the top, the lid will come off or the container will break Number two, the surface needs to be protected from air. Place a layer of plastic wrap, freezer paper or aluminum foil over the surface. I like to then wrap the container in stretchy cling wrap, or place it in a zipper-close food bag with as much air a possible squeezed out for extra protection.
Now that zipper-locking food bags are being made better and better, there is no reason not to use them, even for soups, stews, gravies and other non-solid or partially-solid foods.
With these, you should squeeze all the air before closing, and place them in a square container or lay them flat as they freeze solid. Then you can remove them and store them more easily in your freezer. If you put them in standing or bunched, they will, of course, freeze that way. Corners may tear, you may have trouble thawing them and most of all, storing them will be difficult.(If you put them on racks in a freezer while in a non-solid state, you may have trouble removing them from the freezer; they will sink and freeze around the wire racks…trust me on this one!).
Next time, I will discuss freezing other foods.
Easy meals from this week: featuring Boston Butt Roasts
Boston Butt roasts are very flavorful by way of being very dark meat with a rather large bone in the middle. It is moist because it is in sections with layers of fat, which will cook off and can be skimmed if you look for the very leanest roast; one that has obviously sold sections of fat-free meat.
Teriyaki Pork over Rice with Pod Peas and Baby Carrots
Take one lean Boston Butt roast, sear it in a pan of olive or peanut oil, (or other vegetable oil), by heating the oil, sprinkling it with salt and fennel seeds. Quickly brown the outsides of the roast. Transfer the roast to a roasting pan or slow cooker. Bake covered at 350F, or on high in the slow cooker. Deglaze the pan by putting a few Tablespoons full of boiling water in the pan and using a spatula or wooden spoon, loosen all of the cooked-on portions of the roast and fennel and pour over the roast. Cook, 2-3 hours in oven or 7-8 hours in slow cooker or until very tender.
Remove, allow to cool and using all the lean parts of the roast, (it may be in small sections, all the better; any hard-cooked parts on top are fine), shred and place in a deep stove-top deep frying pan or wok with some of the fennel. Add salt if needed, a little white pepper and bottled teriyaki glaze. (Try the brands; I find the thin, soy sauce types to be overly wet and salty. I like the thicker ‘glaze and baste’ and I buy a store brand).
Add and cover the meat with the teriyaki glaze, cook until dry. Serve over prepared rice.
Pod Peas and Baby Carrots
Take fresh pod peas and baby carrots. Rinse and place in sieve, steamer or metal colander over boiling salted water, cover and steam until tender,(with a splash of Mrs. Dash, if you’d like).
Boston Butt Slices with Mashed Potatoes and Salsa-style White Beans
Using the larger lean sections of the Boston Butt, slice portions. Place some of the lean drippings and some of the fennel in a frying pan, reduce, (cook down; evaporate most of the liquid).Place the pork slices in the pan, coating them on both sides with the reduced liquid. Serve over mashed potatoes.
Peel 3 pounds of russet or other potatoes, cut into fairly uniform cubes approximately one –inch square;(make a few smaller for creaminess). Boil in salted water until just soft enough to insert a fork easily; do not overcook or you could end up with a very sticky, paste with very little flavor. (which has happened to me). You can mash by hand with a potato masher but the best way is to whip them with a hand mixer. Add a few Tablespoons of butter and one of cream or milk and beat until smooth.
Serve pork over the potatoes with the gravy.
Salsa-style White Beans*
Cook one-half pound of white beans, (methods in prior blog).
Seed and chop and sauté’ two mild-medium chili peppers,(banana or Anaheim),one tomato,(or 2/4 cup diced, canned tomatoes) and one-quarter cup diced onion with salt , ¼ teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon cilantro and ½ teaspoon chili powder. Mix with prepared beans.
*Easy-way-out Salsa-style Beans
Open one can of white beans, mix with the prepared vegetables or prepared salsa. Mix and warm together.