The topic of how to eat well outside of the home is especially timely for me right now. This past week I started a new job in the center of the city and basically two blocks from any food joint you could imagine. When I say food joint, I mean quality, unique eats not Wendy’s. Needless to say, my motivation for packing my lunch has been lacking. At my old office we had approximately two places worthy of soliciting, a Thai place and a Sushi place. Not feeling in the mood for exotic cuisine? Too bad.
Because of this I was notorious for ALWAYS bringing my lunch. When you have no other options leftovers don’t look so bad. But this week got me thinking. How can I motivate myself to avoid joining the ranks of the I-didn’t-bring-a-lunch bunch? I think the answer lies in the ingenuity of my brown bag specials. Rather than using lunch as a time to force myself to eat ridiculous-tasting health food (because at my old job it was either that or starve), I should pack something that I can look forward to pulling out of the refrigerator or desk drawer! This brings me to my brown bag special tip of the month- make the most of the freezer!
Last week J shared with you his tips for planning meals right out of the gate. I cannot stress how important that is both for our bodies and our wallets, but I also know that creating exciting meals can take some time. If you are anything like me the last thing you want to do when you get home is prepare food for lunch the next day and this is coming from someone who adores the act of cooking. The only other option then is making a sandwich in the morning or grabbing something pre-packaged (NOOOOOO) right? Absolutely not my friends! This is where your freezer comes in quite handy. The caveat here is that not all food freezes well, so you have to plan accordingly.
Here are some general freezing guidelines that I follow:
- Beans, brown rice and most grains freeze wonderfully which allows you to cook them in large batches.
- Cooked proteins (if you eat meat) will freeze nicely, but leave meats on the rare side so they don’t overcook when re-heating (ONLY for meats that rare is safe).
- Pasta freezes well, but you need to make sure it is cooked even slightly less than al dente.
- If you are eating one portion at a time make sure to separate them out in glass containers before placing them in the freezer.
- Root vegetables freeze very well.
- Only freeze dishes that require all ingredients to be served at the same temperature. This may seem obvious, but when you go to re-heat, you can’t just heat a portion of it.
- Things such as cream cheese, raw potatoes, lettuce, avocados etc. do not freeze well.
- Make sure foods are at least at room temperature before putting them in the freezer to avoid bacteria growth and added ice from condensation.
- For crepes, tortillas, pancakes and other baked items that can dry out during the re-heating process, wrap them in a damp paper towel when re-heating to add moisture.
- If your recipe calls for cheese, add it after re-heating.
- Soups freeze wonderfully!
- Use ice cube trays to freeze juice, herbs etc.
- The freezer can save any fruit or vegetable that is just holding on to its last bit of freshness. I will then use these ingredients in smoothies. For instance if I have a bag of spinach that I can’t eat before it goes bad, I will put it in the freezer and add it to smoothies.
- Label the date and the dish on the outside of the container!
- Breakfast is so much easier when you can heat up a muffin, breakfast burrito, or piece of banana bread in the morning!
- Keep nuts in the freezer to prevent their oils from going rancid.
- Add fresh ingredients like garnishes on re-heated soup to liven things up!
J will make fun of me when he comes over because I never have anything in my refrigerator, but open up my freezer and inevitably out falls my frozen cauliflower pizza, a container of brown rice harissa cauliflower, a breakfast burrito and a bag of cashews. Oops!
I hope these tips are helpful! I know the internal battle that exists to choose home-cooked food every day, but we are in this together! Next week Josh and I are going to give you a peak inside our brown bags with a few of our favorite recipes to take to work.