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ELLEN'S KITCHEN

Freeze for a Future Meal

  • Prepare two casseroles any time you make one. Put one in the oven to bake for dinner and put the second in the freezer for another night.
  • Most freshly made casseroles freeze successfully two to three months. DON'T freeze casseroles made with leftovers.
  • Before freezing a large batch of a new recipe, freeze a single batch for two to three weeks to test how well it holds and reheats.
  • Freeze in thin layers, preferably no more than 2 inches deep. Fast freezing reduces ice crystal formation and protects the quality of the food. Thin layers reheat more evenly without overcooking the edges of the casserole.
  • The best containers for freezing provide a barrier to both moisture and evaporation. These include glass and hard plastic containers as well as new plastic bags meant for freezer use.
  • Plastic "freezer" bags are thicker and stop evaporation better than the less expensive "storage" bags, insuring a wholesome, tasty food. Using only new bags prevents contamination with undesirable bacteria.
  • Make sure any container or wrap you use is completely sealed and will not leak. Press out as moch air as possible; this helps avoid freezer burn.
  • Label every container with the recipe name, reheating or serving instructions, and the date on which you prepared and froze the casserole.

To Thaw or Not to Thaw?

There are some tricks to reheating your frozen casserole successfully.
  • To cook a frozen family size casserole, add about 40 minutes to 1 hour to the unfrozen cooking time. Deep dishes and very large size pans cooked from frozen may take up to 3 hours extra.
  • The safest and best way to thaw frozen foods is to put them in the refrigerator the night before. Microwave thawing at 40-50% power is a safe option. Thawing on the counter is NOT.
  • Most frozen foods do not need to be thawed before reheating.
  • Foods which get mushy (pasta, rice, etc) get MORE mushy if thawed first. Cook from frozen if you have time.
  • Preheat your oven following the instructions on the label you made when you froze it. Then cook it for the calculated reheating time. If the dish is large and frozen keep it covered and keep the oven temperature between 325 and 375 to avoid both drying out the edges and unsafe time for low temps in the middle of the dish.
  • Foods with pasta, rice, or other moisture-sucking ingredients should be reheated covered for most of their cooking period and may need a little extra liquid added as they reheat. Stir in milk, water, tomato sauce, or broth- what to use depends on the recipe- a little bit at a time until you like the consistency.
  • Soups, stews and even some pasta dishes can be reheated on top of the stove by bring broth or water to a boil, adding the frozen food, covering and turning the heat to simmer. Stir occasionally and add more liquid as needed to prevent sticking.
Pan Swapping
Pan Size Equivalent Pans and Casseroles*
8" round pan9" pie pan11"x4-1/2" loaf pan
9" round pan8" square pan OR 10" pie pan9"x5"x3" loaf pan
9"x3" springform pan10"x3" bundt pan
9"x13" pantwo 9" round pans or two 8" square pans
15"x10" jelly roll pan9" square pan two 8" round pans
1 Quart casserole8 x 6 x 1-inch baking dish
1-1/2-quart casserole9"x5"x3" loaf pan8 x 8 x 1-inch baking dish
2 quart casserole8" square pan9 x 9 x 1-inch baking dish OR 12 x 7 1/2 x 2 inch
2-1/2 quart casserole 9" square pan10 x 10 x 1-inch baking dish
3 quart casserole9"x13" pan
4 quart casserole10"x14" pan
*adjust baking time if needed. Observe whether the new pan has the same DEPTH of ingredients as the original- if it makes a deeper layer, it will cook more slowly, shallower will cook more quickly.
 
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