Cook once, but enjoy over and over

  • Updated: September 12, 2012 - 2:24 PM

Don't reach for a can. Grab your already-made items from the freezer or pantry.

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Green chicken enchiladas with flavorful tomatillo salsa.

Photo: Meredith Deeds, Special to the Star Tribune

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Whenever I can cook something once, then use whatever I'm cooking multiple times and in multiple ways, it goes into my "win" column. I look for basic recipes that I can double or triple and freeze for future use.

I do that with lasagna and casseroles, of course, but I often do it with stocks and sauces, too. Stocks of all types -- chicken, vegetable, beef -- and marinara sauce and pesto all add that something extra to a homemade dish. If you have some basics in your freezer, there's no need to open a can or jar.

For that reason, I try to set aside some time on the weekends to cook ahead. I usually use another dish as inspiration. For example, if I feel like making a soup for dinner, I'll take the time to make the stock from scratch, use what I need for the soup and freeze the rest. Then I'm set for when I want to make another soup another day. It's not a new idea, but one that merits revisiting from time to time.

The same theory applies to one of my favorite sauces: tomatillo salsa. My husband perfected this sauce years ago and I now make it myself on a regular basis. If your family hasn't tried tomatillos yet, this relatively mild, but flavorful sauce is a great way to introduce the green fruit (which look like small green tomatoes). Don't let the papery husks intimidate you -- they're easy to remove (which is fun for the kids to do).

I find myself incorporating the sauce in many different dishes -- from using it as a traditional salsa in tacos to mixing it with a bit of mayo for sandwiches. Many dishes benefit from its bright flavor, including salads, omelets, even soups (I use it generously as a garnish for black bean soup).

Enchiladas are also a natural for this salsa. I grew up with enchiladas, oozing with cheese, which I loved, but my Mom did what many people do and opened a can of enchilada sauce whenever she made them. As much as I remember loving it, this dish is even better with homemade green tomatillo sauce. And with the salsa ready to be defrosted in the freezer, it's just as easy as opening a can.

Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of "Everyday to Entertaining" and "The Big Book of Appetizers." Reach her at meredith@meredithdeeds.com. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.

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    Thursday September 6, 2012

    Serves 8.Note: If you want to make extra tomatillo salsa to freeze, double the amount of the first seven ingredients....

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