I have been blogging now for 5 years. I can hardly believe it! Do I really cook that much? I have posted over 1,000 times and I am still going strong. But, in the spirit of refinement, over the next little while, I am going to revisit old recipes and post new and updated versions. I am calling it the 5-Year Blogiversary Recipe Redux Project! Keep an eye out for those.
In the meantime, I have learned so much over the years – what works, what doesn’t work, how to make things I never dreamed of making, how to create recipes, how to adapt and veganize recipes, how to look at a recipe and know when it is going to work and when it is not going to work, and how to have fun doing it all.
Probably the biggest lesson I have learned is that this cooking project is ongoing – it never ends. I shop a few times a week for perishable fruits and vegetables and then fill in my cupboards and freezer with everything I need.
Speaking of the freezer…you may already know this, but you can freeze just about anything. I use Life Factory glass storage containers and BPA free plastic bags by Green ‘N’ Pack when storing stuff. Plus, if you defrost in the refrigerator you can refreeze if you don’t use it all or change your mind!
Probably the most important ingredient in my freezer is tempeh. I buy it from a guy named Barry (Grown in Brooklyn) but I have to buy 8 lbs. at a time. So, I freeze the packages until I am ready to make them into something else, like meatballs or meatloaf, which I will then turn around and freeze.
Whenever I make chickpeas, I make at least 2 cups (which is about 1 cup dry.) I usually use one cup right away, for various recipes including, of course, hummus, freeze one cup in some of the cooking liquid (that goes for all kinds of beans), and then make tablespoon aquafaba ice cubes with the remaining bean water. When they are frozen, I pop them out and store in a freezer bag until I am ready to use for my fab aquafaba cookies or whipped dessert cream. (Note: in my experience, aquafaba from the freezer doesn’t quite get to the level of meringue. So, I serve it as a whipped dessert cream for cake.)
So, as you can see, I like to batch cook, which is both smart and economical. Besides big batches of tempeh recipes and beans, I also make my own tomato sauce – tomato sauce redux recipe coming soon. I portion the sauce out into small containers to store so that I can use it when I make meatballs or lasagna.
I do the same with pesto, but with a twist. I make pesto ice cubes. When they are frozen, I pop them out and store in a freezer bag until ready to use. That way I only defrost what I need.
I love making gnocchi and because they are time consuming and we can’t eat all of them in one sitting anyway, so I freeze the rest. To serve them, just boil water and drop them in frozen!
Because I make bread weekly, I keep a container of yeast in the freezer. It keeps it fresh and it is way more economical than buying yeast packets. I also keep already made and sliced bread in the freezer waiting to be toasted or to be turned into breadcrumbs.
I also keep pizza dough in the freezer. I follow Jim Lahey’s recipe and make two doughs at a time and then freeze one for next time.
I also make vegetable stock out of frozen vegetable scraps. I save up the peels from carrots, the nubs of onions, leeks, celery, and garlic, parsley stems, potato skins, and whatever other vegetables I am using and toss them into a big baggie. When it is full, I make the stock. And then freeze that in one cup portions for soup and risottos.
Let’s talk about fruit. Staring with bananas. I buy bunches of bananas each week. When they are just ripe, I peel them and break them into chunks and store them in a bag. I use these in my shake-y shake (that would be my morning smoothie) or for instant ice cream. If they are super ripe, I peel them and freeze them whole so that I can portion them out, 3 at a time, to make banana bread. I let them come up to room temperature, mash them and then proceed with the recipe.
Other fruit. If I have overripe blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or blackberries, I store them in their own bags. I will use these to make jam (Miyoko Schinner’s easy cheat method from The Homemade Vegan Pantry which is essentially making jam but not canning it), popsicles or sorbet, or fruity ice cream like strawberry, blueberry, and chocolate raspberry. I will also use blueberries and strawberries in my shake.
I also freeze avocados. I cut them in half, remove the pit and skin, and cut them up into chunks. I store each half in it’s own baggie so it is portioned perfectly for my shake. I use them in place of bananas and one half does the trick.
Now, let’s talk vegetables. Kale. I buy big bags of frozen kale to keep in the freezer for my shake. It is easier and more economical to do it this way versus freezing fresh kale. And since I use it every day, I need a lot.
Whenever I have vegetables that I am not using, I freeze them. I shred zucchinis and salt them to get the liquid out. Then I will freeze them to use later. Sometimes I use only half a head of cauliflower for dinner so I will steam the rest and freeze it. It is good for soup or a mash up with potatoes. Same goes for green vegetables like broccoli and asparagus. Blanche and shock. Then when cool, freeze. Of course, I always have store bought bags of green peas and corn in there.
Herbs freeze beautifully. For tender herbs like parsley and dill, I mince them up and then pack them into ice cube trays. I top them off with filtered water to make ice cubes. When they are frozen, I pop them out and store in freezer bags. They are great for salad dressings and to season polenta. For hardier (or heartier?) herbs like rosemary, savory and thyme, I keep them on the stems and then roll them up in freezer safe bags ready for soup or herbing something up when I need to.
Now let’s talk baked goods. I always freeze any leftover cake (sliced), cupcakes, brownies (cut into squares) and cookies. To eat, just let sit out and defrost. Sometimes when I make a lot of cookies and don’t feel like baking them right away, I scoop them into cookie portions and drop onto a baking sheet. Once frozen, I drop into a freezer bag ready for baking or for making truffles. They would be good in cookie dough ice cream too. Hmm, good idea! Must get to work on that one. For now, though, I will have to be happy with leftover brownies and brownie ice cream.
Here is a good one. My son loves it when we ice our baked goods. But, my icing recipe makes a lot, so I freeze it! Just use what you want and then portion it up so that you have enough for a cake or cupcakes.
Here is how to do it. Pull out a big piece of plastic wrap. Drop the icing onto it and wrap it up like a present. Place the package into a freezer bag. When you area ready to use the icing, defrost it and whip it with a hand mixer until it looks ready!
I also make butter, thanks to Miyoko Schinner again! This glorious butterless butter stores amazingly well in the freezer. I pop out a rectangle and put it in the refrigerator. One batch (8 rectangles) lasts me about 8 weeks!
Of course, I also store nuts and seeds in the freezer. I am always buying tons of cashews for cashew milk, almonds for almond butter, and sesame seeds for tahini. But if I find stuff on sale, I buy more and store in the freezer. That way the nuts and seeds stay healthy and ready when you need them. I’m talking pine nuts, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, ground flax, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds!
Whew, that is a lot. I am looking forward to more years of blogging, connecting with you all, and spreading the vegan message!