September 15, 2015

There’s lots of good advice on stocking up your pantry, and it’s quite true that a well-stocked pantry means that weeknight dinners can be much less stressful because you’ve been smart enough to lay in a supply of crushed tomatoes, quinoa, and canned beans. But a well-stocked freezer can be just as useful -- not to mention reassuring -- when you’re hustling to get dinner on the table.

Here are 8 items I keep on hand in the freezer at all times:

1. Berries. Toss them in the blender with some juice, ice and maybe a banana, and a bit of honey or agave, for morning smoothies. Puree them and fold them with whipped cream for a delicious simple berry fool.2. Edamame. One of my favorite foods of all time. A five-minute simmer gets you to a perfect snack or appetizer. And they are so great to toss into pastas and rice dishes for extra protein and substance. You can buy them either in the pod or shelled.3. Puff pastry. So amazingly versatile, so convenient, it can quickly turn into any number of appetizers or a savory or sweet tart or if you’re feeling indulgent, pigs in a blanket.4. Peas. You can add a pop of color and nutritional to so many dishes with frozen peas, and the quality is excellent. They are especially great in rice dishes like a risotto or a paella.5. Frozen corn. Another great frozen vegetable. Make into a quick and lush hot dip, a salmon and corn chowder, stir them into ham and cheese corn muffins, add to all kinds of chili recipes.6. Artichoke hearts. Talk about convenient – all of the work in getting the best part of the artichoke is done for you. I add these to stews and pasta.7. Shrimp. Even the shrimp you buy at a fish market will probably have been frozen on the boat during harvesting, and the quality is not affected, so why not keep some frozen shrimp on hand? They defrost very quickly, you can use as much or a little as needed (keeping the rest for another day), and they can turn into an endless number of fast and easy dinners in mere handfuls of minutes. Try garlicky shrimp with broccoli and Meyer lemon or skewer them up into herby kebabs.8. Ice cream. I think this is pretty self-explanatory.

I also think that having a selection of little frozen appetizers, like spanikopita or taquitos can be very handy when you end up with impromptu cocktail guests, or your kids bring home a group of friends. And it never hurts to have a frozen pizza on hand – I like the ones with the rising crusts. So, that’s what’s in my freezer (along with lots of my own meat sauce and chili other double batch dinners….) -- what are your favorite stock-up freezer items?

Katie Workman is the author of Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook and creator of themom100.com blog.

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