I recently made another batch of meals for my in-laws, but I’m struggling with which sides to include with each main. Since I freeze their meals for them, I need to make sure the sides (vegetables, starches) will thaw and reheat well. Are there any ingredients I should avoid when making side dishes, and are there any that work exceptionally well? – Suzanne

What sides freeze well?

Hi Suzanne!

Come to think of of it, there is not much I won’t freeze. Potatoes, and other starchy vegetables usually do really well, and I’ll freeze just about any cooked vegetable although there are a few tricks to know about.

Pasta will soak up the sauce over time – which means you could end up with mushy pasta, but hardly any sauce. To avoid this, I usually package the sauce and pasta separately for storage (sometimes I’ll also give the dry pasta a twirl of olive or peanut oil to keep it moist).

Freeze sauce separately when possible.

I highly recommend cooking any pasta to just al dente (cooked, but still chewy) as well, for texture. The same goes for rice – be careful not to overcook, or it might not hold as well in the freezer.

All other vegetables can change slightly in texture when freezing, but most hold up exceptionally well. My clients tend to eat low carb, and they seem to be very happy with the results for ten successful years now. Again, I stick to al dente with vegetables too, but then you don’t want to cook out all of the nutrients anyhow.

Seasme Carrots & Snow Peas: I freeze most vegetables successfully.

With salad greens, raw vegetables, and dressing – I leave them packaged separately in the refrigerator. When you shop, look at the sell-by dates on the pre-washed greens, and choose the ones that have the longest sell by date. Carrots, celery, and cucumbers hold well in the fridge. I try to buy slightly under ripe avocados and tomatoes if they are not going to be eaten right away. It doesn’t take long to throw together the ingredients and toss with the dressing at dinnertime.

Package, cool, and store properly is key!

Always remember the key to PCA™ food tasting fresh is in the proper cooling, packaging and timely storage, Don’t leave food in the fridge for five days, and then freeze. You should freeze anything you do not intend to eat in the first few days as soon as it has cooled completely for optimal freshness.

I LOVE how you use your premium membership so wisely! It really isn’t that much extra effort to double the portions, and share with relatives or friends that are in need of a little TLC – or to stretch your cook dates stretch longer for yourselves.

Bon Appetit,

Jewels

PS. Don’t forget to give the weekly menu plan a whirl, or sign-up for premium membership and reap all of the benefits. What tricks do you have up your sleeve when cooking make-ahead meals? I’d love to hear, so click on “comment” below, and leave your favorite tip!

 IS OUR VERSION OF THE SYNDICATED COLUMN “DEAR ABBEY,” ONLY ON KITCHEN WOES RATHER THAN THOSE OF THE HEART. SEND US YOUR COOKING DESIRES, QUERIES, AND CATASTROPHES TO DEARJEWELS (AT) JULIEANNERHODES (DOT) COM.

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  • September 7, 2012
    12:50 pm

    Thank you for the helpful answer, Jewels! I worried especially about freezing potatoes, which I heard do not freeze well. Now I see that it depends on how well you cook and cool the potatoes.

    Regarding making extra meals for others, this is how I best utilize PCA for my circumstances. Recently, my friend had her 4th (and last!) baby. I already planned to make your baked eggplant parmesan that week, so I just purchased extra ingredients, including chicken for the carnivores. I think I spent less than $20 total at the farmer’s market and grocery store for all the ingredients, with the chicken comprising about half of the bill.

    In less than 1 hour–seriously!–I made three casserole dishes of eggplant/chicken parmesan: one for my family, one for my parents to thank them for babysitting my kids the day before, and one for my friend. When I delivered the meal to my friend’s house on what turned out to be her first evening home from the hospital, she literally cried! A few weeks later, she is still raving about the meal and how thoughtful my gesture was.

    Imagine making a friend cry with joy, thanking relatives for their help, and feeding your family a delicious and nutritious meal for less than $20 and with less than an hour’s worth of work! My PCA membership pays for itself every month, no exception.

    Thanks, Jewels!

    -Suzanne

  • September 7, 2012
    1:20 pm

    Suzanne – it never ceases to amaze me over the kind and generous nature this membership attracts. Having recently been incapacitated myself – I know just how much your gift meant to her (I have tears in my eyes reading this). You just MADE my day, and definitely reminded me of why I love what I do!

  • September 10, 2012
    9:19 am

    It is so so true how the PCA transforms lives and is another way of demonstrating to our loved ones just how much they are loved.

    Recently my father and his wife were away for a good stand, about 3 and a half weeks. Both of them are disabled and couldn’t do much more than walk the 20 feet or so from the house to the beach and back.

    The thought of them living on take out for almost a month wasn’t going to work for me, so I went down there every weekend and did a week’s worth of their meals (and made some for my family to bring back home!), and still had time to enjoy the beach, play with the kids, etc.

    My dad had nutritious meals and I had peace of mind.

    Every week when I do my PCA day, I always make extras to send over to my dad.

    And in turn, he sends me his greasy Cluck U leftovers as a reminder that he needs more of my cooked meals. It’s not pretty, but he gets his point across, lol!!

    We live literally two doors away from each other so it makes it very easy to share the PCA love.

    I’m just trying to convince my mother in law, who lives a couple of miles away, that my cooking isn’t toxic anymore. I can’t get her to try ANYTHING, lol!

    She’s the last nut to crack in my adventures in cooking.

  • September 10, 2012
    9:26 am

    I have the warm and fuzzies all over, Jodi. It makes me feel like I’ve touched someone’s life when I hear stories like this, and I know it must make you feel really good to know you are looking after loved ones so well.

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