I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for ways to save time in the kitchen and I am all about the kitchen shortcuts. Have you ever excitedly opened one of those “easy meal under 30 minutes” recipes from Pinterest? I have fallen victim to that on more than one occasion. I especially love those that say prep time is 10 minutes and cook time is 20 minutes, only to find out you have to chop up all the whatever for the recipe, which ends up taking twice as long as the cook time. Sigh.
One of the ways I get around this is by doing as much prep work as possible for some of my go-to recipes. For example, I love making pot pies, one-dish meals, soups like this, and hearty stews. The common denominator: mirepoix. Fancy speak for carrots, celery, and onion.
I don’t know about you, but, to me, it feels like a Herculean effort to go to the grocery store to buy just a few missing key ingredients for a recipe, especially when it means buying an entire bunch of celery or carrots and you only need one or two for the recipe. You know what annoys me even more? Having these fresh vegetables on hand and allowing them go to waste because I only needed a fractional amount for one recipe. Total waste of money, right? If you are going to end up tossing out what you don’t use, save yourself a little time and money and try this shortcut I’m about to share.
Once every couple of weeks or so, I will buy fresh carrots and celery. I clean and trim the celery stalks, peel and trim the carrots, and then dry each piece really well.
Once the cleaning and trimming is done, I get to work dicing the celery and carrots into 1/2″ cubes. Next, I lay them out flat on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and place them in the freezer.
Two bunches of celery, done! One bag of carrots, done!
After 3 to 4 hours, I remove the cookie sheets from the freezer and place the diced veggies in freezer bags. Doing this ensures that I always have these essentials on hand. When a recipe comes up that calls for these items (and it happens OFTEN in my house), BAM, I have them all diced up and ready to get tossed in! The frozen celery and carrots will store well in your freezer for up to 3 months.
You may be wondering why I don’t just dice everything and put it all in freezer bags immediately. Sometimes the water content of the vegetables will cause the diced pieces to stick together in the freezer bag, particularly with celery (which has a water content of ~ 95%). Unless you are looking for an attractive vegetable ice pack for your next “owie,” or you feel like getting out some aggression by beating your frozen vegetable pack on your nice granite countertop, you’ll trust me on this one: Lay your celery and carrots out flat, in the method I describe above, to freeze for a few hours before packing them into freezer bags. I also choose to bag my vegetables separately in the event that I need only one or the other for a particular recipe.
You noticed that I didn’t include onion in my process, didn’t you? Nothing gets past you, smart cookie! Here’s why I didn’t: I almost always have some type of onion on hand and my preference is to chop it in my mini chopper. Trimming the onion and chopping it in the chopper takes less than one minute and I’m able to use all that yummy onion juice in my recipe. You can still freeze the onion if you so choose, but you should make an effort to thoroughly pat-dry the diced onion PRIOR to laying the onion on the cookie sheet to freeze. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a giant block of onion in your freezer bag since onion tends to emit more water when diced.
When the time comes to use the frozen vegetables in a recipe, don’t bother with thawing anything out. Simply toss your frozen diced vegetables in whatever recipe you are using and allow an extra couple of minutes of cook time. Using the frozen diced mirepoix in my recipes has only increased my cook time by 2 or 3 minutes.
That’s it! Now you have some readily available mirepoix on hand when your next recipe calls for it. How about you? How do you make kitchen prepwork easier in your house?