Welcome to my world of cubed foods, which I hope you will quickly agree are a great food storage option. You know I steer away from processed and prepackaged foods…just really like to stay as close to the earth as possible with what I put in my and my family's' bodies.
Additionally, we avoid all the sodium that so many processed and prepackaged foods contain. To that end, I make and can my own chicken and vegetable stock and my own soups. We grow what we can in our garden and purchase food in its natural state as much as possible. I am definitely a ‘make it from scratch' gal, even when it comes to traditional sauces and spices and baking staples.
The challenge with making your own food is that because it doesn't contain all the sodium and preservatives, it is usually not as shelf stable as foods with those ingredients. To deal with that, I can my food or keep it in my freezer. Which is fine, but when I just needed a teaspoon or tablespoon of something, it typically meant defrosting a jar, getting what I needed and then re-freezing the remainder.
That was my modus operandii until I thought…food cubes!!! My first foray into food cubes had me using some ice cube trays that I picked up at Wal Mart…bad idea. The trays were very inflexible and cracked after a couple of uses. Then I went to my online mecca (aka Amazon.com) and found these fantastic silicon ice trays, which ended up being a game changer and I went on a cubed food frenzy!
They are BPA free and very flexible, which makes it easy to pop the cubes out while they are still frozen. Plus, the aesthetic in me really likes the perfect little squares. Just an FYI, when I tried freezing a batch of hoisin sauce (which doesn't freeze because of the sodium in the soy sauce), my trays kept a strong garlic smell to them. I now have 2 sets of trays, one for heavily flavored cubes and one for more mild cubes.
Right now in my freezer I have cubed kale, cubed basil, cubed chicken bouillon, cubed vegetable bouillon, cubed masala curry and ginger/lemon ‘tea' cubes.
The cubed kale is so simple to make and so handy to have on hand for smoothies or soups.
I puree about 4 cups of kale with 1/3-1/2 a cup of water…that's all it takes.
A good blender makes this task so simple. I simply ❤ my Vitamix. I know they are pricey, but we took the plunge several years ago and this blender is a workhouse. It is used multiple times a week for a variety of things.
We have the Vitamix 6300. To be completely honest, we only use the pre-progammed ‘smoothie' feature so the other pre-programs are rather lost on us. You can get a basic, without the pre-programmed settings but with all the other features for a good $100+ less.
It's a simple process to puree your kale and water and then to pour the mixture into your silicon ice trays.Smoothies are by far the primary use of our kale cubes, but I will throw some into a pot of Vegetable Soup as well.
To preserve basil, you want to add some oil to keep it from turning brown. I find that a food processor works best for this task.
For every cup of basil leaves, add approximately 1/4 cup of olive oil and process lightly. I use my basil cubes primarily when making marinara and soups in the winter when I don't have fresh basil in my garden.
As such, I don't process until it's a puree, but stop while it's still rather coarse, but that's a personal preference. And as much as I tried to get a pretty picture, there is just no way to get frozen basil and oil to look good…so sorry.
The chicken bouillon cubes came about because I read the ingredients list of packaged bouillon cubes. With the number one ingredient being salt, it was a non-starter for our family. However, I did want an option to boost the flavor of some recipes, which bouillon cubes are great for doing. While I give you my ‘recipe', it really is no more than reducing your stock down and adding some aromatics.
1 quart of chicken broth/stock
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp thyme and marjoram
Blend these ingredients in your blender until liquid.
Slowly simmer this down, making sure you keep a watch over it, until it reduces to about 1 cup, which will yield you approximately 16- 1 tablespoon bouillon cubes, or 8 2-tablespoon cubes which is what I did.
The vegetable cubes were inspired by Lynn at Heavenlynn Healthy and her Homemade Vegetable Stock Paste post. This is my kind of food (as are most of Lynn's recipes).
I took her inspiration but was able to eliminate the salt by freezing the paste into my cubes! A win win! These cubes are easily incorporated into soups and stews, but can also add some additional flavor to sauces, as well as the cooking liquid for grains.
I hesitate to use the word ‘recipe' as I think you can use just about whatever veggies you want, or have on hand, to make vegetable cubes. But, here's what I used:
5 oz each of fennel, parsnip, celery root and carrots (scrubbed and peeled as needed)
1 oz sundried tomato
3 oz shallots
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 oz dried mushrooms
I chopped these ingredients in my food processor until they were a coarse paste and then froze them in my trays.
The masala curry cubes are the result of making some masala curry paste for a meal, but then having more than I needed. I used this recipe from Indian Simmer and when it came to freeze the excess, opted to freeze them in cubes as opposed to the whole jar.
Some other foods I have, or would, cube:
So, in a nutshell…'Cube Your Food!' It's a great, efficient and effective, way to store food essentials. What are some other foods you would cube? Drop me a line, I'd love to hear.
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