The Potato Plan – Part 2

Potato Plan page 1 | 2

General freezing instructions:

As always when you’re stocking your freezer, proper preparation is key or all your hard work will be for naught. Wrap everything well, getting out as much air as possible. Use freezer wrap, freezer containers, freezer bags, etc. If you use supplies not designed for the freezer (like storage bags) they will not protect your food as well. Label everything. Even though you’re sure you’ll remember what it is, in 3 months when you pull a solid chunk of something out of the freezer with no label, you’ll be serving pot luck for supper. On the label, include the date you froze it, the name of the dish, any reheating and serving instructions you will need, and anything else you think you’ll need to know. I include nutritional information on mine. Place the label on the outside of the bag or container before you place the food in it; most labels will not adhere properly if done after the food is placed in the bag.

For things like the loaded potatoes, twice-baked, fries, wedges, potato pancakes, etc., I flash freeze. Commercial food producers flash freeze their products to maintain the best possible quality. They place their finished products in a super cold freezer that will freeze them solid in a matter of a few minutes. That’s where the term actually originated. freezers can’t manage that so we improvise. Place each item on a cookie sheet, making sure there is space between them, and place in the freezer until they are frozen solid (a minimum of several hours for most things). Then you can either place them in a freezer bag without further wrapping or you can wrap them individually before placing them in the bag. Either way, you can remove just the number of servings you want. Manufacturers call it IQF (Individually Quick Frozen).

For casserole type dishes there are several ways to freeze. If you freeze it before baking, it can be placed in a large freezer bag and frozen. You can bake the casserole, cut in serving pieces, freeze, wrap, and bag. You can leave the casserole in the dish (either cooked or uncooked), wrap well, and freeze. You can line your baking dish with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, fill, freeze, pop out of the dish, wrap, and return to the freezer.

For mashed potatoes and soups, divide into meal-sized portions, place in a labeled freezer container or bag, and freeze.

Serving instructions:

Most of the potato dishes I freeze are very forgiving and you can reheat them just about any way you find convenient. I frequently use the microwave. I use the thaw feature for 2-3 minutes and then heat on full or partial power. It will depend on what the item is and what the wattage of your microwave is; mine is 1100 watts so it goes pretty fast. Just play around with yours a little, figure out what works best and when you’re satisfied, make a note on your recipe so you don’t have to guess the next time.

Twice baked potatoes I thaw for about a minute in the microwave and then stick them in a 350°F toaster oven.

Oven fries and potato wedges are only partially cooked when I freeze them so they need to go in a 450°F oven for an additional 30 to 45 minutes, turning halfway through. Cooking time will depend on the size of the fries or wedges. Use a non-stick baking sheet, a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, or a baking stone. The oven fries can also be finished in a deep-fryer.

To serve filled potato skins, bake in the toaster oven or oven at 400°Fs. Remove from oven and add anything else you may want such as sour cream. For the crispy skins that you froze empty, bake at a high temp or place them under the broiler until they crisp up, fill and place back in the oven to heat through and melt the cheese.

Casseroles can be cooked from frozen but it takes about an additional 30-60 minutes or so (depends on how big and how dense the casserole is). I prefer not to do it that way because of the extra energy it uses. (My stove is electric and our rates went up about 60% last January.) If I’m cooking an entire casserole I prefer to thaw in the refrigerator first (it takes 1-2 days, depending on the casserole.). If you froze it and removed it from the dish, remove the wrapping, place back in the same dish, place in the refrigerator to thaw, and bake. If you froze the casserole in a freezer bag, it has to be thawed, placed in the casserole dish, and baked. Most of the time, I cook the casseroles before freezing, divide into serving size portions, flash freeze, wrap, place in a labeled freezer bag, and return to the freezer. Since there are only two of us now and we are constantly watching our diets, this is perfect portion control. If I’m heating single portions, I do it in the microwave from frozen (thaw first, then finish heating).

Baked potatoes can be thawed in the microwave and then heated or they can be thawed for a minute or 2 in the microwave and then finished in the toaster oven or regular oven at whatever temperature works for the rest of the dinner you’re serving. The oven method crisps up the skin better than the microwave. The amount of time will depend on the size of the potatoes.

Mashed is just heated in the microwave and stirred. If you wish, they can also be heated on the stove but do it on a low temp and remember to stir several times as they thaw and heat.

Soups are either heated from frozen in the microwave or on top of the stove. Just stir a few times as it thaws and heats.

Loaded potatoes are defrosted for a couple minutes in the microwave and then heated in the microwave or in the toaster oven or regular oven at 350°Fs until heated through.

Potatoes are one of the most versatile foods we have and one of the easiest to prepare for the freezer. If you don’t have a large block of time, it’s easy to prepare just a few dishes (or even one) at a time. And think of the satisfaction you’ll have when all those entrees and side dishes are in the freezer and available at a moment’s notice.

Potato Plan page 1 | 2

© Wanda A. Carter; Used by permission

Wanda is a member of Menus4Moms™ Yahoo group and has been bulk cooking for years.

About Mary Ann

Mary Ann Kelley has been creating meal plans online for over 15 years, first as part of TheHomeSchoolMom's cooking resources for busy moms and later on Menus4Moms, which has been highlighted by "Diner's Journal," The New York Times' Blog on Dining Out, and PBS Parents' "Kitchen Explorer."

Mary Ann loves cooking and she loves planning/organizing, so meal planning is a natural intersection of the two. She believes her mission for the meal plans is being fulfilled when visitors let her know that she has helped them save time and money by teaching them to plan ahead and become more efficient in the kitchen.

When Mary Ann is not cooking, she enjoys reading, researching genealogy, and traveling.

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