Pros: The “mini-session” format; hints for turning any meal into a frozen meal
Cons: Somewhat bland food; a few confusions and mistakes
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
First published 12/18/2002
I’m not very good at picking out presents. I can pick out things that people will like – with a lot of thought and effort – but I’ve almost never been able to find that “special thing” that will really light up someone’s holiday. I don’t have that talent, and it always made me dread holidays.
Recently I received a review copy of “Frozen Assets,” a wonderful book about “once a month cooking.” The idea is that you buy things in bulk, cook lots of stuff in one day, and turn it all into simple frozen dinners so that you don’t have to cook all the time. It’s a time-saver and a money-saver.
Not long after that I was visiting my mother. She mentioned that she hasn’t had time for cooking lately, and that frozen dinners from the store just weren’t all that good. Bing! A light went off over my head. I quickly unplugged it so it wouldn’t alert her to my inspiration.
But there was a problem – health issues were involved, and the food in “Frozen Assets” concentrated heavily on things like pasta and meat sauces, which my mother is supposed to avoid eating too much of. Vegetables and legumes are much better fare in this case. “Hey,” I thought. “Didn’t I hear about a ‘Frozen Assets Lite’?” I hurried off to check. Sure enough, I found Deborah Taylor-Hough’s “Frozen Assets Lite & Easy.”
One of the major innovations in Deborah’s new book is the “mini-session.” Her last book, as I recall, presented a seven-day menu, as well as a 30-day (and a few other things). Apparently not everyone wanted to deal with cooking for a whole month at once, so this book presents the mini-session: roughly 5 to 8 recipes all involving one central ingredient. You wait until that ingredient is on sale in bulk, buy a lot of it, and do one brief session. Stash some of the meals in the freezer, then do a different mini-session a little while later and stash a few more things away.
If you still want to cook for a month at once, you just do several mini-sessions at one time. Note that because of this new format, she does not repeat any recipes within this book (unlike the last one, where the repetition of recipes did waste some space).
Deborah also provides tips and hints for turning your own recipes into freezer meals or putting together your own mini-sessions. Each mini-session includes a shopping list and preparation instructions. And of course, as before, each recipe is simple and easy, and provides quick prep instructions for when you take it out of the freezer. The recipe layout is clean and easy to follow.
Health and Happiness
As the title of the book implies, these are, in general, healthier recipes than those in her last book. They include more vegetables. There’s an emphasis on lighter fare: chicken and turkey instead of beef, and even beans and vegetarian recipes. The book includes the following mini-sessions:
- 4 chicken
- 1 turkey
- 1 ground turkey
- 1 ground beef
- 1 beef
- 1 pork chop
- 1 crab
- 1 tuna
- 2 pasta
- 2 tofu
- 1 beans
- 3 vegetarian
- 1 eggplant
Each recipe says it makes 6 servings. Note that if you’re on a diet that emphasizes portion control, they make more like 9 to 10 servings (in our experience). Most of the nutritional information is included (calories, fat, protein, carbohydrates, cholesterol); unfortunately fiber is not included, to the sorrow of Weight Watchers members counting POINTS.
You’ll find everything in here from marinated lime chicken to chicken tortellini soup; turkey loaf; country beef soup; pork rice skillet; crab quiche; tuna-bean salad; Italian pasta bake; cheese manicotti; broccoli tofu quiche; tamale pie; Mexican noodle bake; bean casserole; spinach pizza; three cheese lasagna; dolmas; and eggplant penne.
We made a decent spread of recipes last weekend (a couple from Deborah’s last book – a split pea soup and a lentil casserole – and a good handful from this book). We kept a little of each so we could try them all and make sure they were good before we gave them away as a present.
The overall judgment is that these recipes are a bit more bland than her others, but definitely good. Bland is a minus for me, but I know it’s a plus for many people. The baked spaghetti with cheese and tomato was quite good, as was the bean casserole. In particular we liked the pasta e fagioli, a soup with beans and macaroni, and our housemate (who likes bland a lot more than I do) loved the old-fashioned chicken and rice. So the recipes are quite good, but if you like flavorful food you may want to experiment with them a bit. If you enjoy bland, then consider this book to rate 4.5 out of 5.
So how did it work out, anyway?
Yesterday my husband and I drove down to my mother’s house in the morning, when we knew she should be at work. We filled her freezer full of food and left a note on the freezer door with all the preparation instructions and everything. Then we came home and waited in eager (read: impatient) anticipation.
A little after the work day ended she called. Apparently she got home, didn’t notice the sheet of paper, and opened the freezer door to find lots of food! She wondered if she was in the wrong house for a moment – then she suspected us and gave us a call.
She said it was the best Christmas present ever.
And that’s the best present I could have gotten this holiday season. All thanks to Deborah’s books.