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Calling experienced cooks and food safety experts please.

(51 Posts)
Graphista Wed 25-Mar-20 22:16:21

I'm trying to make the most out of what I have in but honestly I’m out of practice and I also have ocd mainly germophobia which one way it manifests is worrying about food safety.

I have some fresh items I need to use up but which I can’t eat necessarily in next few days, anxiety is messing up appetite too but I don’t want to waste food.

So I would really appreciate advice/guidance on cooking, storage and reheating (I don’t have a micro)

What doesn’t freeze well?

Tips on finding recipes that freeze well?

I have some plastic containers which I think I’ve got matching lids for a few will these be ok for freezing batch cooked dishes?

I’d need to probably get out the day before I’m planning to use to defrost as can’t cook it in the plastic tub in oven, defrost on side or in fridge?

I have a small amount of foil containers which are a little more suited to my circumstances but can these be washed and reused? I don’t think it will work for the lids! So I was wondering whether I could use regular cooking foil as lids?

Best way to reheat and how to know it’s been heated enough? (Yes I’m regretting not having a cooks thermometer right now!)

What about labelling? I’ve got marker pens and post it notes but nothing else I can really use for this any ideas most welcome.

How long are home made things good in the freezer for?

What doesn’t freeze well?

I’ve some creme fraiche needs used up which I’d normally use in creamy pasta one pots or pasta bake or creamy casserole type dishes (but generally add towards end) but it’s not something I’ve frozen and reheated before.

Feeling overwhelmed.

RainbowMum11 Wed 25-Mar-20 23:05:42

What fresh food do you have in that you need to use up? There are all sorts of dishes you can make up and freeze but it really depends on your tastes & ingredients.
Yes plastic containers are fine - you could get them out the freezer the night before/morning to defrost and then can pop into a pan or oven dish (depending on the meal) to heat through properly.
And foil tins, yes - can go freezer to oven but still better to defrost before putting in the oven so it will depend on the type of meal you choose to freeze.

maxelly Wed 25-Mar-20 23:24:29

Plastic takeaway style containers are fine but as you say can't go in the oven, so I defrost for either 24 hours in fridge or 12 hours on side, then microwave (you could reheat in saucepan) or decant into an oven safe dish depending on the receipe.

Foil containers also fine, I sometimes reuse by just wiping off the lid if it's not gotten splashed or soiled, or your suggestion of using foil would be OK providing you can wrap it up tightly - this isn't because of germs (any harmful bugs will be killed by the freezer) but because of freezer burn which you get when something is frozen exposed to the air and can make the texture of your food funny.

Reheating you need to cook through to 'piping hot', ie it is really steaming and too hot to put in your mouth when it first comes out of the oven or saucepan - same as a ready meal would be if cooked to packet instructions. Again this will very very effectively zap any residual bugs. Make sure to stir halfway through cooking time. No need for a thermometer IMO, go by your senses and if in doubt stick it back in for another minute or 2.

Marking the lids - I use a sharpie and write the name of the dish and when it was made (sometimes I get lazy and just stick it in thinking I'll remember what it is, I never do of course, leading to occasional 'mystery' dinners grin) . General guidance is that meals last 6 months in the freezer but I have had things that have been in there much longer and been absolutely fine so providing you defrost and cook through properly you should be OK.

Most normal family meals freeze well, I find the things that work best are more 'liquid' so soups, stews, currys, pasta sauce, lasagne, bolognese, chilli, cottage pie, fish pie. Any raw meats can be frozen pretty much, defrosted for 12/24 hours as above and then cooked as normal. Cheese can be frozen if grated and decanted into bags. I freeze excess potatos and other veg by blanching and freezing in trays or bags. Creme fraiche and cream, yoghurt etc I tend not to freeze only because the texture can go funny, so I'd cook it into a receipe, probably a sauce, maybe a bechamel for a lasagne or maybe stir it into a curry, and then freeze. BBC good food and celebrity chef websites are good sources of receipes and usually say if they can be frozen easily... Happy to suggest some recipes if you say what you have!

Any more questions, feel free to ask!

Graphista Wed 25-Mar-20 23:25:27

Mainly veggies (I'm vegetarian)

Peppers I've ended up with loads (cocked up my ordering and then couldn't amend it as couldn't get on website)

I've also got (that has short shelf life)

Cherry tomatoes
Mushrooms
Courgettes
An aubergine
Shallots
Small amount grated cheese
Quorn bacon
Quorn sliced fillets

I've also got some Passata that's edging towards date

I've a few herbs and spices and stock cubes and some tomato purée.

I used to cook a lot but I'm out of practice and my knowledge seems to have deserted me.

maxelly Wed 25-Mar-20 23:36:12

So with that I would probably make a selection of:

-Roast pepper soup (soup is brilliant because you can stick virtually anything in it and very hard to get it wrong)

-Ratatouille

-Roast veg pasta sauce (you could stir your creme fraiche through this)

Or simply chop, part cook and freeze some mixed trays of peppers, aubergines, courgettes etc for use as a mediterranean veg on the side of some quorn and potato wedges - can go straight into the oven from freezer which is handy).

Graphista Wed 25-Mar-20 23:39:26

“ie it is really steaming and too hot to put in your mouth when it first comes out of the oven or saucepan” great description I genuinely find that very useful.

“Mystery dinners” 😂 yes that’s what I’m trying to avoid!

Even 6 months is good enough for me I was expecting 3 months.

Graphista Wed 25-Mar-20 23:41:22

Ratatoille was suggested to me on another thread to use courgettes, I wasn't sure if it would freeze well. A pasta sauce is a good shout.

MrsJoshNavidi Thu 26-Mar-20 08:34:51

I'd make soup, a quiche, and some sauce for pasta out of that lot. Possibly a lasagne too if there's enough veg. All of that will freeze. You can use the crème fraîche in any of those, or keep it to stir into the soup when you eat it.

MrsT1405 Thu 26-Mar-20 08:50:22

As there are only 2 of us I batch cooknand freeze regularly. As others have said liquid type pasta,curry etc. I freeze in plastic and label. I leave to defrost a couple of hours then tip into a large pyrex jug to go in the microwave while I cook the pasta or sauce.
You can just chop and freeze peppers and courgettes as they are. Just put them straight into whatever you are cooking, no need to defrost. As a vegetarian you have a lot less chance of poisoning yourself.

Sizeablecontours Thu 26-Mar-20 08:57:52

OP the main rules are: heat up thoroughly until piping hot and cool down rapidly (you may need to split large bowls of things up to do this) and decant to cold smaller containers (don't leave to cool in warm pan you've cooked it in, esp if solid heat-retauning cast iron casserole or something . Don't leave warm food for a long time in hot kitchen. Don't put warm stuff in fridge or it will heat up the contents and fridge wont be effective.

I label with sharpie and labels from Lakeland. Plastic tubs good. Personally I like to eat things I've frozen myself, or bought frozen, within three months. It will be ok after that but some things wont taste as good. I don't freeze fresh fish as it may have been frozen at sea.

Ratatouille sounds great from your ingreds. Cook big batch . Have it once with rice and sprinkling of parmesan. Have it again with frozen fish. And have it third time pureed to make pasta sauce

Many basic family meals: shepherds (lentil version) pie, veggie burgers, onion tart, soup etc freeze well. Things that don't are vegetables that have a lot of water content like cucumbers. I freeze aging/browning bananas without their skins until I have enough to defrost and make Nigella's banana loaf.

I wouldn't freeze creme fraiche personally, but would use within three days. I'd have it with some sort of fruit compote or on the side with cake or a tart.

Theres lots of info available on line if you Google "veggie meals that freeze well" for example.

Good luck! Hope you can enjoy returning to cooking and that it becomes a measure not a chore!

Sizeablecontours Thu 26-Mar-20 09:00:06

Tbh I've had mixed results freezing ratatouille. It can go a bit jammy and freezing can remove the fresh flavours. That's why I suggest having it in different forms as below. It keeps for at least three days in fridge.

Sizeablecontours Thu 26-Mar-20 09:02:27

Gah! A pleasure not a chore! Not a measure !(Although measuring will be involved! grin)

sueelleker Thu 26-Mar-20 09:07:06

You can freeze in plastic tubs, then tip the frozen block out into a saucepan or oven dish to thaw and cook.

sashh Thu 26-Mar-20 10:21:00

Ratatouille will be fine i the freezer.

Open your freezer door and look at the inside of the door, there is often a list of how long things freeze for.

I'd make a moussaka , in a foil tin, sprinkle on some cheese and freeze, then it can be put straight into the oven.

Do you have milk or creme fraiche? I'd make pancakes and a mushroom cheese sauce, 'fill' the pancake and fold in half, wrap in foil and freeze, just remember when you put it in the oven the cheese will try to escape so cook n a dish.

Cheese freezes well, as does milk.

Are the quorn fillets like chicken? Put them in a foil tray, add some cherry tomatoes, season and then cover with passatta. Tomatoes don't freeze well but in a tomato sauce they will be fine.

Graphista Thu 26-Mar-20 15:37:22

@MrsJoshNavidi I have been trying all sorts (from pastry ingredients to ready made pastry to ready made case) to gain a base for a quiche but so far unsuccessful think lots of others doing same.

"As a vegetarian you have a lot less chance of poisoning yourself" generally true but I'm wary of some things

I have 2 tubs of creme fraiche (I think 1 was a sub but I've no idea what for!)
I have milk too (at the moment, becoming harder to get)

Yes the quorn fillets are a chicken substitute - imagine cooked chicken breasts sliced up into bits. I usually use in a stir fry but I'm worried about meal fatigue

Anyone got a good ratatouille recipe they recommend?

I've found this one just from googling:

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/ratatouille

Which I have half the aubergine and courgette amount for and only missing the red wine vinegar will white vinegar do?

Graphista Thu 26-Mar-20 15:39:05

Ok - bit out there - I cant make frittata in frying pan cos plastic handles, could I make one/baseless quiche in an oven dish? Pyrex style? And if so how long would it keep in fridge? In freezer?

Graphista Thu 26-Mar-20 15:52:36

Clearly my cooking skills are back to childhood levels just found this:

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/easy-cheesy-frittata

TheDuchessofDukeStreet Thu 26-Mar-20 16:02:06

There are lots of good ideas for creme fraiche here but if you’re stuck and have potatoes it makes a lovely mash instead of butter.

TheDuchessofDukeStreet Thu 26-Mar-20 16:03:21

And you can freeze mashed potato.

Graphista Thu 26-Mar-20 16:18:20

Thanks for tip. I don't buy fresh potatoes as not a huge fan but I have tinned and instant mash which the creme fraiche would work with I think?

The tinned I bought a ready made dauphinois sauce to use them but could I make a dauphinois sauce with creme fraiche?

goose1964 Thu 26-Mar-20 16:18:33

You can replace red wine vinegar with any except malt.I don't know if they freeze but the Greeks make a stuffed pepper fish called gemista.Peppers stuffed with rice and whatever else you want .

Weedsnseeds1 Thu 26-Mar-20 16:30:54

I have 30 years in the food industry, in a technical capacity and currently audit large manufacturing sites for food safety as well as training food manufacturing personnel.
Ignore dates on whole, fresh fruit and veg and go by eye. They are advisory dates only. You don't need to panic and try to cook and freeze everything immediate.
Your passata will also be gone if it's the type in a jar or carton - the stability is controlled by thermal processing, aseptic fill and pH, it will last for months past its BB date.

OhMargo Thu 26-Mar-20 16:32:37

Echoing the potatoes. I steam them and mash just on their own, nothing added. Use an ice cream scoop to put them into ziplocs when cooled right down and into the freezer.

Then each portion is put in a bowl when defrosted, add butter,salt, pepper and microwave. Stir in grated extra mature cheddar when done. Yum. A meal on its own without any bother.

Weedsnseeds1 Thu 26-Mar-20 16:34:09

Creme fraiche is also safe to go a few days out of life as if is cultured ( to give the sour taste) so the acidity helps it keep.
Packaged food has a "buffer" built in to the shelf life to allow for customer abuse ( fridge too warm, leaving food in the car while shopping etc.).
Don't get too reckless with cooked meat dates, bug you say you are mainly vegetarian

Weedsnseeds1 Thu 26-Mar-20 16:34:31

But, not bug!

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