As a home cook who loves to entertain, my freezer can be my best pal. Having a stash of prepared dishes, easy appetizers, and delicious desserts that are ready to thaw and use makes everything from weeknight dinners to weekend dinner parties easy and effortless. There are some items that are my secret weapons for both daily cooking and entertaining, and my freezer is never without them. Here are my top three.
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A disk of frozen pastry is the beginning to all sorts of amazing treats. From hearty family suppers like quiches or pot pies to desserts like beautiful tarts or pies, there is no end to the creativity you can express when you have some discs of frozen dough. Because you can roll to any thickness or shape you need, they are super versatile. If I am making a basic pie dough recipe, I will often either double or even triple it, and then make discs of the dough to freeze.
To freeze homemade dough, wrap in a double layer of cling film, then a layer of aluminum foil, then store in a freezer bag. Thaw overnight in the fridge if you remember, or for an hour at room temp if you need it quickly, then proceed with your recipe as written. Don't make your own? Be on the lookout for a good quality store-bought version. My favorite is Ready to Roll Dough, which is available in nine states and adding more every day!
Get the recipe: Try this Caramelized Onion Quiche with your frozen crust, for a fabulous light lunch or even a dinner party starter.
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For me, baby green peas are the king of frozen vegetables, one of the few that is usually better quality when frozen than fresh, and the start of so many wonderful dishes. From tossing into stir fries or stews, to making into easy side dishes, frozen peas are the bag I reach for again and again. One of my favorite ways to start a summer meal is a chilled soup made by pureeing thawed frozen peas with water or stock until super smooth, seasoning simply with salt and white pepper, and garnishing with crème fraiche and chopped chives. No cooking needed!
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Frozen peas can usually be used in recipes straight from the freezer, since their small size means they will thaw within a minute once added to a hot dish. If you need them thawed, you can thaw in the bag overnight in the fridge or put them in a colander and run cold water over them until thawed. Then let drain and pat dry before continuing with your recipe.
Get the recipe: Give this Creamy Rice and Peas recipe a go!
A mix of garlic and ginger is often the aromatic basis for most Asian dishes. Given that, a secret of many Asian home cooks is to make a paste of ginger and garlic (about a 2:1 ratio of ginger to garlic) once a week and stash in a jar in the fridge. A ratio like this means that every tablespoon of paste will contain the equivalent of a 1½ inch piece of ginger and about a large clove of garlic. (Many Asian markets sell jars of commercial ginger garlic paste.)
Those of us who don't cook those foods as often are usually left prepping both garlic and ginger as needed for recipes, and both can be a bit fussy. So, I either make a mix of my own, putting peeled garlic and ginger and a bit of salt in my food processor and blending until smooth, or buy a jar at the market, and then portion in a small silicone ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, I pop out the little cubes, each about a half-tablespoon or so, into a freezer bag, and grab as needed for recipes! The best part? They come in handy for all sorts of things that aren't Asian, like punchy vinaigrettes, a great addition to tomato soup or sauce, or even as a rub on proteins before grilling.
Get the recipe: Try it in this Ginger Garlic Broccolini!