If you don’t have a lot of time to put a meal together there are plenty of fresh Primal meals, like a “big-ass salad” or an omelet, that take only minutes to make. There are times in life, however, when the two free hands it takes to chop up veggies or scramble an egg are occupied with something more pressing, like soothing a new baby or helping your kid with homework or typing a work email that must be sent. There are also times when the only ingredients left in your fridge are a few limp carrots and some unidentifiable leftovers and a trip to the market just isn’t going to happen.
Wouldn’t it be great to just open your freezer and have a selection of home-cooked Primal meals ready to heat up? With a little planning, this dream can be your reality. Set aside one day a month when you cook and stock your freezer, or get in the habit of doubling recipes so you can freeze half for later. The majority of Primal recipes freeze well in cooked form. A few exceptions might be cooked seafood, which tends to turn tough and rubbery, and leafy greens and cabbage, which can be limp and soggy when re-heated. Cooked whole eggs typically freeze fairly well (but egg whites alone don’t) and sauces that contain whole cream or coconut milk can be re-heated successfully (although freezing coconut milk alone usually makes it grainy and watery).
Whatever you’re freezing, keep these tips in mind:
Food must be completely cooled before freezing it
Freezing food in small portions helps it freeze quickly, which maintains good flavor and texture
Freezer wrap (thick paper with a moisture-resistant coating) works well for wrapping solid food. Plastic freezer bags work well to store all kinds of frozen food because they take up less room in the freezer than containers and are easy to label.
If using freezer bags, remove all the air from the bag before sealing
Always label the contents and date it was made
Most cooked food tastes best if eaten within 3 months of being frozen
Usually, the best place to defrost food before re-heating it is in the refrigerator
Reheating food that is still frozen and hasn’t been defrosted often takes double it’s regular cooking time in a 350 degree F oven
Food safety regulations recommend re-heating frozen food to an internal temperature of 165 F before eating it
Soups, stews and saucy meals freeze especially well and defrost quickly. Simply place the bag of frozen soup/stew/sauce in a bowl of hot water until it softens and breaks into pieces, then dump it into a saucepan for stovetop heating. These types of meals are also really easy to freeze in small portions (use a small Ziploc freezer bag) so you can re-heat one serving at a time. If you’d prefer to use glass containers to freeze soups and sauces make sure the glass is tempered and labeled freezer safe, otherwise you are likely to end up with broken glass on your hands.
For something more filling, freeze a meal that’s always a hit and really easy to make ahead of time: meatloaf. To keep things Primal, follow any meatloaf recipe you like and just omit breadcrumbs and oats, which are mainly filler and not truly necessary to hold the loaf together (as long as you add eggs). The recipe below is especially simple and results in a moist, flavorful meatloaf that will please kids and adults alike. Freeze the loaf whole, or cut it into slices for individual servings that can be re-heated in the oven or microwave.
2 pounds ground meat (a mix of beef and pork works well)
2 eggs, whisked
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated or finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Small handful of fresh parsley springs, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Saute garlic, onion, carrot, and celery in butter over medium heat until onions are soft, 6-8 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together. The best way to mix meatloaf is with your hands.
Put half the meat in a loaf pan and smooth and pat it down with your fingers. Put the rest of the meat in the pan and smooth and pat it down until it’s even.
It’s good to put foil or a rimmed baking sheet under the loaf pan, in case oil or liquid spills over the top. Bake 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until a thermometer inserted into center of meatloaf registers 160°F.
To freeze, first take the meatloaf out of the loaf pan and cool completely in the refrigerator. Wrap the loaf or individual slices tightly in freezer paper then put in a sealed freezer bag.
Ideally, defrost the meatloaf in the refrigerator before reheating in a 350 F oven. Slices of meatloaf can also be reheated in a microwave.