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Let Your Freezer Be Your Ally!

Most recipes end with instructions to "serve immediately." You could conceivably serve any one immediately but how about putting meals in the deep freeze for prosperity. "Freezing" is the simplest, quickest form of food preservation and its a safe and convenient way to preserve food for months until you're ready to enjoy them.

Busy people especially can benefit from freezing prepared meals, particularly on week days when time is scarce. In the battle to get food on the table in a hurry, your freezer can be your best ally. Main, a home economist and caterer who has written many books concedes that the biggest challenge to preparing and freezing foods for the weeks or months ahead is finding the time and energy to cook in mass quantities.

The recommendation is that you begin slowly, with a few days' worth of meals, then gradually make your way up to building larger food reserves. In no time you'll have a reliable stockpile.

Freezer inventory should consist of a wide mix of meals. In winter, allocate space for soups, stews, and casseroles, but save room for breakfast and lunch items like muffins, bagels and sandwiches.

The freezer also can be a valuable tool in summer, when there's an abundance of fresh produce. Preserving summer harvest presents a unique set of issues, like how to store berries without damaging them or which veggies should be blanched before freezing. Also important is how to package, label items, and organize them in your freezer. Some foods freeze better than others, while others are just not meant to be frozen.

Below is an example of a recipe and sauce that can be frozen and placed in your freezer for future meals.

Meatloaf "Muffins" With Barbecue Sauce

Meatloaf Muffins:

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef,
3/4 cup oatmeal or dry breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs,
1/4 cup wheat bran,
1 can (5.4 oz/160ml) evaporated 2% milk,
1 egg,
1 teaspoon chili powder,
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder,
1/4 teaspoon salt,
1/4 teaspoon black pepper,

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. (190C).

Barbecue Sauce:

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)

To make the muffins:

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, oatmeal, bran, milk, egg, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Divide mixture evenly among muffin cups (12 cup muffin tin, greased), pressing down lightly.

To make the sauce:

In another bowl, combine ketchup, onion, sugar and, if using, hot pepper sauce. Spoon about one tablespoon sauce over each muffin. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until meat is no longer pink in center.

To freeze:

Wrap in freezer bags. Seal, label and date. Freeze for up to two months.

To serve:

Thaw in refrigerator overnight. Reheat thawed "muffins" in baking dish at 350 degrees F. (180C) for about 20 minutes or until heated through.

Author: Susan Rutter -- Publisher, Nutritionist, and Instructor who assists patients and the public make healthy choices and changes in their lives. Web Site: Healthy YOUbbies - http://www.geocities.com/healthyoubbies/

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