Friday, September 10, 2010

Make A-Head Ground Beef Flavor Base

Friday is here! There are some just joining us on our Friday Freezer meal adventures and for some wild reason I have as yet, not added the most effective yet simple trick I have for freezer meals. Recently I received an email from one of my favorite blogger gals asking me if I had any tricks with my beef to add some flavor. She had made several of the homemade skillet mixes (aka Hamburger Helper) and thought them to be rather bland in flavor. I had to grin thinking that I personally had found the store purchased boxes to be just that word..."bland". So, I have thought about what I have done in the past to add some pizazz to my burger and realized I very rarely...if ever...make plain meat. Ironically I didn't even consider it a "freezer meal" to do what I do with meat. I've done it so long it is now just second nature. Here it is. I add vegetables. Aromatic vegetables to my meat. There. Simple yet effective for adding immense flavor to meat that may seem mono-dimensional. In the process, what I also end up with is a very simple way to get most of the work done quickly!

My Make A-Head Ground Beef Flavor Boost (meatless alternative* below)

3 medium onions, peeled and chopped fine
3 lb 90% lean ground beef or 93% lean ground turkey
3 garlic cloves, pressed
2 carrot, peeled and shredded
2 stalk celery, chopped fine

1. Place all ingredients into (12-in or larger) Skillet. Cook over medium-high heat 15-18
minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking into crumbles.

2. Divide beef mixture into three portions.

3. Allow to cool, then put in Ziploc freezer bags. Label clearly.

Use freely anywhere you use ground beef, but be prepared, it has a lot more flavor!!
I use it in chili, taco meat, sloppy Joe's, Italian hoagies, Stroganoff, Macaroni casseroles, cheeseburger salad (mix all the condiments with the beef and pour over salad green with all the cheeseburger type toppings) Taco filling can be taco salad, burritos, Enchiladas, Meaty Spanish Rice, Family size Empanadas... You name it! This is a great way to make ahead a meal if you just want to have most of the work done. Really the cooking of the meat takes the most time and pain in the paa-toot.

*Going meatless would be an easier option all together for all of you vege-folk. I use Lentils(1 lb cooked according to package directions, mixed with 2 cups TVP and 2 cups vegetable stock) with this same flavor base as far as vegetables--except I add parsley, pepper, more garlic (double it!) Add the vegetables the last 15 minutes of cooking time on the lentils, then add the liquid and TVP the last 5 minutes. Still super great flavor base, but not a lot of fat, no chol., and loaded with powerful good blood cleaning Onion family stuff. Mmmm. clean blooood. Is it a vampire thing? Good for your liver anyway! Oh dear, the theme to the Adam's family just popped into my brain... but it was "the onion family" da na na na snap snap... It must be late!!! My brain gets fuzzy and silly!!
Here are a few more freezer tips from me to you:

Chef Tess How To Freeze Food Effectively 101

Buy Quality Fresh Ingredients-- freezing will not cover up inferior cooking or ingredients. Check the flavors and seasoning before freezing to be sure it tastes good.
Chill First-- Make sure food is cold before you freeze it! This allows it to freeze faster and reduces the amount of drip loss (leakage of moisture that occurs during defrosting) the ice crystal will be smaller in chilled food, reducing the amount of water lost. The result is better texture and flavor. It will also reduce the amount of condensation (moisture that collects on the surface of food when frozen) when defrosted, the excess water will make the food soggy and tasteless.
Chill Cooked Food Uncovered-- If you can’t bag and chill in labeled bags, it is essential that the food is chilled uncovered so the heat isn’t kept in the container (even plastic wrap!) If it is a large pot of chili or meat, I freeze bottles of water and put them inside the pot to further hasten the drop of internal temperature.
Freeze Small-- the smaller the item, the quicker it will freeze. Whenever possible, freeze portion size pint or quart name brand freezer bags. Gallon size is perfect for pizza crusts and larger family sizes. I use quart size for my family of 4. When you freeze it, do so with the bag laid out flat-- the increased surface area will not only freeze faster, but also be easier to store in stacks. I have a “freezer file” that I use. It is an ice bin that I put the flat bags in just like files I can flip through!
Open Freeze Smaller Items-- Smaller items like berries and cooked potato wedges can be placed on a parchment lined sheet pan (metal is best because of its temperature conducting qualities). Using this method will keep these smaller items from freezing in a block. I use it for twice baked potatoes and blanched vegetables.
Wrap Well--Squeeze out as much air as possible and label food clearly with permanent marker. Include defrosting and cooking instructions so anyone can cook it later (my husband needs it clearly marked to remove the ingredients from the bag before microwaving!) Preventing freezer burn is key! There is nothing wrong with using 2 bags. I always use the name brand bags. If the store brand is used it needs to be double bagged anyway, so it is worth the cost of the quality bags. If able to use the specially made vacuum sealers and the freezer bags with them, it is a good investment.
Watch Freezer Temperature-- On big freezing days, it is essential to check the temperature as well as checking periodically to be sure the freezer stays cold on other days. Keep a freezer thermometer in the freezer. It should be between 0-30 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are placing a large quantity of food in freezer at once, turn the thermostat to the coldest setting until food is frozen!
Follow Defrosting Recommendations-- It is best to defrost in the fridge or microwave. Do not defrost at room temperature because microorganisms like yeast, mold, and bacteria multiply quickly at temperatures above 40 degrees. It may still feel cool to you and be a breeding ground for food born illness! Don’t take chances! Cook defrosted food soon and chill leftovers as soon as possible.
There you go. Three meals in one shot, well, the flavor base anyway.


Shae Ko said...

I still make tons of freezer meals, Stephanie, and I have definitely gotten my money's worth out of my Food Saver. I used to use the old "suck the air out with a straw" until I got pregnant and the flavored air of anything made me gag! Ha ha ha.

Chef Tess said...

Shae, you will always be one of my all time favorite students and friends for your enthusiasm and tenacity! Love you!! So glad you are still continuing.