Bonnie Aeschliman: Turn freezer odds and ends into homemade meals

08/28/2012 9:29 PM

08/28/2012 9:29 PM

I don’t have a thing against freezing foods for later use. When spring strawberries are their sweetest, I will freeze a few cartons for making delicious smoothies or a brilliant strawberry sauce or dessert. Juicy, tree-ripened peaches freeze well and make delicious fresh peach pies or cobblers when the snow is falling. Enjoying fresh tastes of summer in the dead of winter is quite a treat.

The part that gives me trouble is a habit I have of freezing food for later use to avoid wasting it. I think the concept is commendable — but my tiny freezer does not lend itself to a grand system of organization. Small parcels sometimes become lost. And if not labeled properly, that pound of ground beef becomes a mystery package. It is important to label and date frozen products.

Last Saturday morning when I opened the door of the side-by-side freezer and an unidentifiable frozen chunk fell out on my toe, I knew it was time for action.

While in the midst of taking command of my personal freezer chaos, I received a phone call from Barb, my sister-in-law, alerting me they would be visiting me on Sunday. They live several hours away, and she had suffered a stroke earlier this year. This visit would be her first road trip, and they were coming to visit me. I was elated that she was improving and felt like traveling — and that I was the selected sister. Of course, the other sister lives in Florida, so it might have been that I was the closer one. Nevertheless, I was happy!

Back on the job of sorting through the frozen treasures, I had a brilliant idea. I would turn those freezer odds and ends into food to send home with Barb.

I popped a couple of well-seasoned pork tenderloins into the slow cooker for a few hours. With a generous addition of barbecue sauce, I had the makings of a wonderful lean pulled pork sandwich.

A container of marinara sauce left over from a cooking class and a lone pound of ground beef found its way into a lasagna. And what was that little dab of green? Oh: Frozen pesto. I made a pesto-garlic bread to go along with the lasagna.

Frozen sharp cheddar added some zip to twice-baked potatoes. And a salmon roulade, left over from a cooking class demonstration, made its way into the care package. When I discovered a forgotten container of my favorite homemade caramel sauce, I had visions of warm apple pie with a scoop of ice cream, drizzled with caramel sauce. So that bag of Jonathan apples I purchased on impulse now had a purpose. Soon, the aroma of fresh apple pie was wafting out of the oven and permeating my kitchen.

By the end of the day, I had an orderly freezer and several dinners ready to go.

I don’t know who was more thrilled: Doug and Barb with their cooler packed with homemade food or me. I had the joy of turning salvageable ingredients into delicious meals for my family.

You might enjoy the barbecued pork tenderloin recipe. It needs few ingredients and requires little attention but is incredibly good. Pork tenderloin usually comes vacuum-packed with two tenderloins to a package. The advantage is they are boneless, very lean and extremely tender. Be sure to select the natural ones; some are injected with various flavors and seasonings.

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