Lazy Food Prep

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Washing Up
Sep 1, 2004
I am sure there have been times when you wanted to put a meal together quickly, without a whole lot of prep work. Why go through all the trouble of washing peeling your onions and garlic; washing your celery, seeding your peppers, peeling your carrots, etc.?

I know I don’t. When they are on sale, or freshly picked from the garden, I do my prep work. On a day when all I have to do to prepare supper is to heat up some left overs, I will sit in front of the tv and peel tons of garlic and a bag or two of onions [on a washable tv tray] while watching Discovery Home or Food Network. Then I go in the kitchen and wash them. I put whole garlic cloves in a zip lock freezer bag and toss them in the freezer. I cut my onions into quarters and put them in a zip lock freezer bag. Same thing with tomatoes, or I will take a bunch of fresh mushrooms, clean them, and freeze them also.

Other times, I will clean a whole bag or two of celery, and cut them into sticks. Into a freezer bag they go. I seed green or whatever kind of pepper I like, and freeze them in a freezer bag.

I will peel a bag or two of carrots, blanch them, and freeze them also, or pumpkin, or cabbage, or whatever.

Then, if I decide I want to make soup, or stew, or anything that needs any of these ingredients – they are right at hand, without an ounce of effort on my part.

I don’t even defrost them. I take out however much I need for the meal and return the rest to the freezer. If I have to chop or slice them, I just run a little warm water on the vegetables in a colander, and then chop or slice them. It does not matter if they are still a little frozen inside, or they are not crisp; if you are cooking with them.

Every other week or so, I try to do some prep work ahead of time. I even will grate oranges, or lemons and freeze that for recipes that I might want to use.

Today, I will peel and core and slice a basket of pears I received as a gift, to freeze for a dessert later on.

What are your lazy food prep hints?
I make my own Sofrito about 3 times a year. This is a tremendous quantity I put in cup sized tupperware freezer containers.


25 aji dulce (Puerto Rican sweet peppers) seeds removed
1 bunch recaito (Puerto Rican cilantro) washed
1 head garlic, all cloves peeled and cleaned
1 bunch cilantro washed
1 bunch parsley washed
4 green peppers seeded chopped
4 red peppers seeded chopped
3 large white onions peeled chopped
1 large jar of olives with pimento
1 large jar of capers with liquid
Juice of 4 sour orange
3 tbs oregano

Blenderize all, adding water as needed to blenderize. Pour into large bowl, mix up well. Pour cupfuls into freezer containers.
Good thoughts "chocolate chef"'s a thought...

Your EVOO is on the shelf in the cupboard, and its got no issues with "keeping"...

Likewise, you can have a ton of garlic sitting downstairs in a long coiled "braid", that will likely last until next year...

You have, or can buy, parsley, sage, rosemary, marjoram, bay leaves ("laurel" as I was told in Rome this year...something I rest on, on occaision!)

Anyways, if you want to skin out your garlic while watching TV, you can douse it in olive oil and this "preserve it", while getting "flavoured olive oil" in the process...and of course the garlic is "usable" at any given place, time or opportunity, and if a bit "mushy", can still be minced or grated...adding the miniscule amount of EVOO that this carries to a "recipe" is pretty much ignorable to the bigger picture...

And so if you have the time, containers, shelf space and/or interest to take it one step further, you could pour off the EVOO into a new container with all those garlic juices, and add some herbs (if you didn't ant to add same herbs to the original container!) done with fresh herbs, BTW, IMOHO, but work it out for yourself, where you get "happy" with the results...if you, like me, are doing "menu planning" a week or so in advance, and "contemplating" "cooking technique" at the same time, then taking some garlic adultered EVOO, and letting it "sit" with some (fresh) herbs for a week or so can lead to some startling great results in various recipes...can get you an "edge", especially where you seem to understand that the "life" of "cayenne", for instance, in a jar of powdered product is "about 6 months", unless you mix it up with something...fairly immediately! A two year old container of "poultry seasoning" is deader than dog doo doo, in termsof aspiring to "flavouring anything"

And I love what you are writing about, in the idea of time saving measures and using "down time" to get "lightspeed", when you want and need it!

I'd eat at your table anyday!

I would exercise extreme caution when making garlic or herb flavored olive oils.

Herbs or garlic in oil is an ideal breeding ground for botulism-deadly to humans. Any flavored oils you make should be refrigerated and used witin 10 days to two weeks.

And the stores sell so many of them...

And we should all understand what happens to EVOO in the fridge, let alone garlic...

While this has never poisoned me, I'll take Andy M.'s advice as a study...anyone else want in on this question?

Lifter said:

And the stores sell so many of them...


Yes, the stores sell commercially processed flavored oils that deal with the botulism issue. This is a process not readily available to the home cook.

I've seem several references to sites that support my statement. I'll try to find them and post here.
Lifter said:
And I love what you are writing about, in the idea of time saving measures and using "down time" to get "lightspeed", when you want and need it!

I'd eat at your table anyday!

Oh Lifter, you are a real sweetie and a cook/scholar!
Safety First in Making Flavored Oils and Vinegars
By Libby Colbert, Colorado State University
Cooperative Extension, Arapahoe County
August 4, 2000

Homemade flavored vinegars and oils can enhance recipes the healthy way without the use of salt or butter-rich sauces.

These tasty condiments also are great for gift giving or neighborly sharing -- with one caution: Although these products are relatively simple to preserve, safeguards are necessary to ensure products do not contain harmful, or even dangerous bacteria - which would not be so neighborly!

Colorado State University Cooperative Extension agents also suggest being wary of herb flavored vinegars and oils available at farmers' markets and other outlets where unlabeled products might be sold.

Because commercially prepared vinegars and oils can be expensive, people are eager to try preserving them at home. Garlic and sundried tomatoes in oil are especially popular, but difficult to duplicate safely at home. Commercial processing methods use equipment and chemical additives (microbial inhibitors) not available to the home canner. Flavored vinegars are easier than the oils to preserve safely at home.

The high acidity of vinegars prevents the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria, the deadly bacteria that causes botulism. Some vinegars, however, can support the growth of E. coli bacteria, so precautions are advised.
Use clean sanitized jars. Immerse jars/bottles in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Work with thoroughly cleaned herbs and produce. Dip them in a solution of one teaspoon of household bleach per six of cups water. Rinse in clear running water.
Heat the vinegar to just below boiling.
Place desired herb(s) in the sanitized bottles or jars and add hot vinegar. Tightly cap and store in a cool clean place for three to four weeks.
Once the flavor is developed, strain the vinegar one or more times using damp cheesecloth or coffee filters until the vinegar is no longer cloudy.
Pour the strained vinegar into a clean sterilized jar/bottle adding a sprig or two of fresh herbs (or berries) that have been sanitized as above.
Seal and store in the refrigerator. For best flavor, use within three or four months.

Flavored oils
Infused oils and oil-based mixtures (garlic, dried tomatoes, herbs) definitely can be hazardous if not properly prepared AND refrigerated. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires that all commercial garlic-in-oil products contain specific levels of microbial inhibitors or acidifying agents such as phosphoric or citric acid. Some boutique and specialty mixtures may not contain these additives, so always check the label to be sure.

FDA recommends that home-prepared mixtures of garlic-in-oil be made fresh for use and not left at room temperatures. Leftovers should be refrigerated and used within three weeks, or frozen or discarded. (In other parts of the country where Type E Botulism is more prevalent, 10 days is the recommended storage time limit in the refrigerator.) Remember, the growth of bacteria and toxin-causing botulism does not alter the taste or smell of the product!

The danger of other vegetables in oil (whole chilis, fleshy vegetables or herbs) is less documented than garlic in oil. They are, however, best made fresh, then refrigerated and used within 10 days. To ensure safety, dried tomatoes and herbs in oil also should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Experimenting with one's favorite herb flavors is a creative cook's prerogative. One chef made infusions with basil, peppers and garlic in olive oil, which he used for salads, lean chicken and fish dishes. He suggested vanilla oil for lobster and juniper oil for venison.
I have some mushrooms in the fridge that I have to do something with 'today'. I had no idea they could be frozen! Do they still seem like fresh when using them from the freezer? (for cooking... not on salad or anything that you'd 'need' fresh)
Spryte. I just freeze sauteeing.

I use them in stews, soups, whatever, just from the freezer. Of course, the texture is not like fresh, but the flavor is still there.
Thanks for your ideas....I will always slice/chop/freeze a few red peppers when they are on sale at the grocery but I never thought of the others....I almost always have onions and celery on hand, but if freezing doesn't affect them for cooked dishes - that's a great idea! Even the mushrooms - slice in the egg slicer and flat freeze, then stow in a zip lock!
When I have Spryte's dilemma (have a little bit if mushrooms and I've got to do something with them today) I combine them with bits of odds and ends such as last of the scallions or the last tomato or some bits of bell pepper, etc. and cook some rice and then make some fried rice.
honeybee said:
Spryte, what do you mean by "you're not licking toads"? Explain your reply, please.

Hi Honeybee,

I couldn't help "sricking my nose in"! :) That wasn't Spryte's reply - that's a "quote" which you will see at the end of each message he/she posts.

Hope this helps? :)
honeybee said:
Spryte, what do you mean by "you're not licking toads"? Explain your reply, please.

i stick my nose in too, if that's ok. honeybee, it's a quote from a simpson's episode. homer was licking toads to try to hallucinate, and when he was asked if he was doing it, he replied, "i'm not not licking toads"...

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