Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Frozen Assets - Part 2: Using Up Produce

Today we continue on with the Frozen Assets series. In my last post, I talked about how to save your extra fruit for smoothies. Now, here’s some more produce tips:

Baked goods: Another way we save fruit or vegetables is by freezing them for later use in baked goods.
  • Apples – Apples can best be preserved for future consumption by freezing the finished product, such as apple bread or cake. For a healthier option, make applesauce in the crockpot and then freeze it for later.

  • Bananas - When we have whole bananas that are over-ripe, I mash them and freeze them for a future loaf of banana bread. When I’m ready to bake, I simply thaw the bananas, drain off a little of the liquid, and use them just as I would fresh bananas in my recipe. Same goes for zucchini.

  • Zucchini - This year was our first successful year at growing zucchini. Junior D and I had a wonderful time planting and growing them, and even Baby D learned how to say “zucchini” (in such an adorable way that would make any mom’s heart melt). To preserve them, I shred them and package them in bags in the required amount for my recipe. Just thaw, drain the liquid, and add it to your batter. Carrots can be used up in a similar fashion for carrot cake.

  • Carrots - Depending on the recipe, you could likely shred carrots and freeze them raw like zucchini. (Anyone ever try this? Leave a comment if you have.) However, when I use up carrots, I shred them, bake the carrot cake, and then freeze the carrot cake unfrosted for later. If you have enough carrots to use up, bake one to eat now and another to freeze for later.

Baby D’s “Num Num” Carrot Cake:

4 eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely, and then frost, or cover and freeze for later.

Frosting: Beat butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Saving Other Produce:

  • Potatoes – Whenever we have a bag of potatoes to use up, we make a big batch of mashed potatoes, split them into meal-sized portions, and freeze them for later. Try it yourself, and you’d be surprised how little the taste and texture is affected by freezing. Also, it’s hard to put a value on the time saved by having a hearty side dish ready to just heat-and-eat on a busy night.

  • Onions – To save onions, we simply chop them and toss them raw in a freezer bag. They do clump together, so bag them by the amount you will need for a future recipe. One trick I use to save on freezer bags is by using inexpensive sandwich size baggies to individually package items, and then pack these bags inside a gallon freezer bag. Use the onions to toss into soups, sauces, or slowcooked meals in the crockpot. Preserve green onions the same way.

    With a little forethought and creativity, you can stretch your produce budget tremendously.

    Stay tuned. We’ll wrap up the “Using it Up” portion of the Frozen Assets series shortly with a look at preserving another household grocery purchase with a relatively short shelf life – bakery items.

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