Frozen Food Heats Up

Put a Chef in Your Freezer! Locally made prepared foods make frozen dinners a hot option when there’s no time to cook.

September 16, 2016 | | Food

Life gets pretty busy, but one thing is constant – the family has to eat. In spite of shelves full of cookbooks and best intentions, it’s not always easy to get healthy and tasty meals on the table night after night. Rather than resort to fast food, prepare for the inevitable and stock your freezer now with ready-to-eat culinary creations from some of the most talented chefs in the hills.

To get you started we sussed out some of the finest frozen fare on offer. All made in-house, using lots of local ingredients, this is homestyle cooking at its best. Some are fit for special occasions, while others are pure comfort food, perfect for snuggling in with the family on a chilly fall evening.

So give the pizza delivery guy a big hug the next time he comes a-knocking because he might just get lonely in the days and nights to come.

Special Occasion Fare

You know the scenario. An hour before dinner you get the call – your oldest and best friends are in the area unexpectedly and want to get together. There’s nothing in the fridge but limp vegetables and dubious cheese, but you want to put it on for them in style. For just such an impromptu dinner party, having some fancier fare tucked away in the deep freeze is a lifesaver. We’ve selected starters and mains that fit the bill, giving you more time to catch up with your guests and less time toiling in the kitchen.

Gourmet Appetizers

Paradise Farms is known for their local beef with no added hormones or antibiotics. Their Kobe Gyoza Dumplings ($9.70/20 pieces) are so good, guests will fill up on the appetizers. Or make it surf and turf with Crab Cake Bites ($18/dozen) by the Friendly Chef herself, Pam Fanjoy – a delicious treat. Other gourmet appetizers by Chef Fanjoy include Butternut Squash and Pancetta Risotto Balls ($18/dozen), with the butternut squash sourced from Hillsburgh’s Everdale Farm.

Spirit Tree’s Ice Cider Paté. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Spirit Tree’s Ice Cider Paté. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Another option? Serve up the stylish Ice Cider and Shallot Pâté ($8.99/190 g) from Spirit Tree Estate Cidery – as a bonus, the price includes the attractive ramekin to serve it in.

Dinner Party Mains

Broadway Farm’s Market Short Ribs. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Broadway Farm’s Market Short Ribs. Photo by Pete Paterson.

For a fancy main course, let chef Rick McKay of Broadway Farm’s Market cook for you and then keep it handy in the freezer for last-minute guests. His Braised Short Ribs with Horseradish Green Peppercorn Gravy (small $18, large $37) are great for company. Gourmandissimo’s Mediterranean Lamb or Duck and Root Vegetable Pot Pie (small $9.95, large $28.95) will also wow the dinner table crowd with their rich, complex flavours and sauces.

Your lucky guests might be equally impressed by catering favourite Lavender Blue’s frozen Teriyaki Chicken Thighs with Vermicelli (small $10, large $18) or Lobster Mac and Cheese (small $12, large $20 – small feeds 1 or 2; large 2 or 3).

Fancy Finish

Laura Ryan’s Bumbleberry Pie. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Laura Ryan’s Bumbleberry Pie. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Top off the meal with a sumptuous fruit pie courtesy of Laura’s Luscious Desserts from Rosemont or Hockley general stores. When Mono’s mayor Laura Ryan isn’t governing, she’s whipping up mouthwatering pies. The apple pie ($17) is a treasure, and we know folks who swear the bumbleberry ($20) is perfection in pie form. The ample fillings and flaky crusts have a homemade feel – and we won’t tell if you pass them off as your own.

Comfort Food

Cooking shouldn’t be a chore, but it can feel that way after a busy day when the whole family is starving. That’s the time to dive into that well-stocked freezer to get a flavourful and nutritious dinner on the table that everyone will enjoy. There are enough options to satisfy any palate, most of them chock full of fresh local ingredients that are a great way to fill the hunger gap on busy weekday nights.

Soup’s On

Soups can be a quick lunch, a warming appetizer, or a whole meal when rounded out with cheese and bread. The amazing soups from Saucy Girl Foods are made with fresh produce from Fiddle Foot Farm ($10/L, feeds 2-3, available at the Orangeville Farmers’ Market). Many, like the Autumn Harvest blend, are vegan and the kids won’t even know they’re getting their vitamins. Her Butternut Squash Soup is another favourite, evoking thoughts of Thanksgiving and Halloween. The soups from Landman Gardens & Bakery are also fresh and savoury, brimming with fall tastes that include potato leek and squash apple ($4/500 ml, feeds 1-2; $8/L, serves 2-3).

Hearty Mains

Hockley General Store’s Chili. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Hockley General Store’s Chili. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Chilly weather calls for a steaming bowl of chili and Hockley General Store offers a generous serving for 1-2 ($9). Add some nacho chips, sour cream and a sprinkle of cheese, and a little bit goes a long way to fill the tummy. A tray of pulled pork from Dave’s Butcher Shop is great for a quick family meal ($15, just add rolls and some sliced carrots and celery sticks). Spirit Tree Estate Cidery also has succulent frozen meals, including family favourite Chicken à la King ($11.95) – oh, so good with fresh biscuits. And Lavender Blue’s Crêpes Cordon Bleu (small $10, large $18) are sure to please.

Rosemont General Store’s Butter Chicken. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Rosemont General Store’s Butter Chicken. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Rosemont General Store’s Butter Chicken (small $14.95, serves 2; large $29.95, serves 4) prepared by chef Jason Reiner is another family winner, as is the Chicken Cacciatore ($17.95, serves 2-4) from Heatherlea Farm Shoppe, made with their own chicken. Heatherlea also offers a Shepherd’s Pie ($18, serves 2-4) that is about as cozy a meal as it gets on frosty evenings.

Pie for Dinner

In fall taste buds and bellies yearn for filling food. Cue the quiche, available at Saucy Girl. The Potato, Leek and Bacon ($12) is quick to sell out, and many vegetarian options are also available, such as the appetizing Cauliflower and Cheese. Gabe’s Country Bake Shoppe’s quiches in Ham and Cheddar or Asparagus and Swiss ($13) make for a filling treat.

Howard the Butcher offers their very popular Turkey Pot Pie, as well as Steak and Mushroom, or Steak and Kidney for the purists (medium $18, serves 3; large $28, serves 6 – or individual pies $8). Landman Gardens & Bakery also offers individual pot pies ($5.25 each, 6 for $30, 9-inch pie $18) in such glorious flavours as Honey Garlic Sausage and Mild Italian Sausage, as well as Chicken Pot Pie and Tourtière.

Pasta and Perogies

Jelly Craft Bakery’s claim to fame is their wonderful perogies available in a mind-boggling array of flavours, including cottage cheese or the many combinations featuring potato and cheddar cheese, among them onion, garlic, spinach, broccoli or kale ($5.25/ dozen). Buy a variety of flavours, pan fry, and have a perogie tasting party! While you’re at it, pick up a tray of Cabbage Rolls ($3.25; $13 package of 4) for even more deliciousness.

If the family is craving pasta, consider the Spinach Cannelloni from Gabe’s Country Bake Shoppe ($16, available with cheese or meat, serves 3-4). Vegetarians and meat lovers alike will enjoy the delectable flavours of either Gabe’s Eggplant Lasagne ($17) or the Vegetable Lasagna up the road at Rock Garden Farms (small $18, large $35) – either way, you know the ingredients won’t be anything but the best.

For meatier fare, Dave’s Butcher Shop makes a mean Beef Lasagne ($15, feeds 3) that goes brilliantly with Caesar salad. Or circle back to Spirit Tree Estate Cidery for rich and satisfying Venison and Mushroom Bolognese Pasta ($12.95, serves 2).

Sweet Treats

Comfort food extends to the sweet table, and the fruit pies from Downey’s Farm Market are like summer in pastry form ($13). Flavours include apple crumble, peach berry and triple berry.


Editor’s Note:
Everybody’s favourite cheese shop, Fromage in Orangeville, has also recently announced its own in-house line of frozen prepared foods. Included in the tasty offerings, many made with Ontario cheeses, are Eggplant Parmesan, Gourmet Mac & Cheese, and both Meat and Vegetarian Lasagna (all $14.75 large; $6.50 small).

SOURCES

More Info

How to Make a Meal

Most of these meals take care of the main and a bit of the vegetable food group. Round out the offering with some more produce, such as lightly steamed green beans sprinkled with a bit of Himalayan salt or a baked sweet potato drizzled with local maple syrup. Add a loaf of crusty white bread and a salad, and the family will be fed with nutritious, local fare that provides energy and satisfaction.

How to Reheat the Meals

Each meal will require its own cooking time, oven temperature, and other special instructions such as covering with foil or a lid or keeping uncovered. When purchasing ask the chef about the best way to cook or reheat the meal – they know their food the best. Most meals are fine kept in the freezer for three to five months.

About the Author More by Janice Quirt

Janice Quirt is a freelance writer who lives in Orangeville.

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