Prep­ping food be­fore­hand saves cooking time later

Serve Daily - - BUILDING COMMUNITY - By Melissa Prins

I don’t know about you but for me, this year has just flown by. It seems like each day there’s more and more to do and it’s only go­ing to get busier around our house with sum­mer just around the cor­ner. With that thought in mind, I’ve de­cided that since time is so pre­cious and our chil­dren are only lit­tle for so long, I don’t want to spend count­less hours cooking when I could be spend­ing qual­ity time with my fam­ily. So one day per month I am plan­ning to prep some ba­sic foods to freeze that will be ready for me when I need them. Here are a few time-sav­ing kitchen hacks that you can use to save time and money.

Shred­ded Chicken: Watch your gro­cery ads for this one. Some­times I’m able to get nice, qual­ity, bone­less, skin­less chicken breasts for less than $2 per pound. When you see it on sale, scoop it up and take it on home. I love to use my stand mixer to shred chicken. I’ll fill a stock pot with some ba­sic veggies (a few car­rots, some cel­ery and quar­tered onion with some salt and pep­per to taste) toss in as many trimmed chicken breasts as I can and boil for about 20 min­utes. When the chicken is done, take each breast out and put it into your stand mixer. Us­ing your pad­dle at­tach­ment, turn the mixer on and in about 30 sec­onds it will be shred­ded per­fectly. Let it cool and bag it into the best por­tion size for your fam­ily. It’s per­fect for que­sadil­las, BBQ chicken slid­ers or chicken salad.

Ground Beef: How many times have you gone to work only to come home in a panic be­cause you for­got to thaw your ground beef? Don’t ever stress about de­frost­ing a pack of ground beef for din­ner again! Pre-cook ground beef and por­tion it out for meals. When you need ham­burger for shep­herd’s pie, tacos or any other recipe, pull it out of the freezer, add the sea­son­ing and mi­crowave it to thaw. If it’s go­ing into a crock pot meal, like chili, just throw it in frozen. Watch for “one day meat sales” - ground beef has gone through the roof!

Mashed Pota­toes: I hate cooking mashed pota­toes. First there’s the peel­ing. Then you’ve got to cut them and wait for­ever for them to boil. Well, that stops now. Just make up a huge batch, mash them and use an ice cream scoop to put even por­tions onto a parch­ment-lined cookie sheet. Freeze un­til hard, then trans­fer them into a freezer bag. Then you can take out as many as you need with­out all the has­sle.

Toma­toes: Roma toma­toes are of­ten less ex­pen­sive but have the same great fla­vor. To save time when you want home­made spaghetti sauce, roast roma toma­toes in the oven at a low tem­per­a­ture (225 de­grees) with gar­lic, fresh herbs and a driz­zle of olive oil for 4 to 5 hours. When cooled, trans­fer to freezer bags. Use them in chili, add them to store­bought spaghetti sauce or in your own tomato-based sauces.

Last month we talked about host­ing a freezer meal party. I’d love to hear if any of our read­ers gave it a try! Feel free to email me at so­ and make sure to “like” Serve Daily on Face­book for more tips, fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties and awe­some giveaways.

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