Welcome to Freezer Tours, where we get intimate with your icebox to unpack all the tasty, quirky, and sometimes straight-up kooky things that people keep below zero.
As a chronic stress baker who’s been working from home for the past 7 years, I have come to love and respect my freezer in ways that should probably be reserved only for other sentient beings.
Baking helps me channel my anxiety into edible byproducts and my freezer lets me preserve those byproducts to enjoy later – sometimes months later. It also holds a whole bunch of ice packs for various stress-related aches and pains.
Since I’m home all the time for meals, I prefer to make food that’s already around, as opposed to ordering in. My freezer plays host to many pounds of meat and frozen veggies.
Baking shushes the voices in my head telling me that everything is scary and bad. I love to try new recipes like Swedish cardamom buns and toffee pecan dream bars, but I almost always make too much. We eat what we can right away, but the freezer lets us take our time enjoying and share these creations.
The most nostalgic thing in my freezer: Chocolate chip cookies from Ben’s Cookies
I bake plenty, so why do I have cookies by someone else in my freezer? Ben’s Cookies, an Oxford-based cookie shop with just one location in the United States (which closed for good last year), made the best chocolate chip cookies. I’ve saved two in my freezer since 2018. I refuse to eat them or throw them away.
I used to eat two (or three or four) of these freshly baked, dark chocolate and hazelnut cookies for lunch back when I was a high school summer theater student in Oxford. Looking at them in my freezer reignites that impervious feeling for a moment.
They remind me of a time when I felt invincible and didn’t need baking to quiet the stress demons.
Something that takes up too much room: Two *dozen* bagels
I’ve got up to two dozen bagels taking up space in my tiny freezer, which is a good 10 more bagels than two people could ever eat in a week. We deeply missed New York bagels when we moved to New Jersey but found a place called O-Bagel that makes semi-decent ones.
Every weekend my husband goes there to get a breakfast sandwich and also buys at least half a dozen new bagels. Since the pandemic began, he’s been terrified of random shortages of things that he loves.
We make room for the bagels.
The oldest thing in my freezer: Miso chocolate chip cookie dough
The oldest thing in my freezer is a roll of miso chocolate chip cookie dough. I’ve literally had this dough in my freezer for longer than I’ve had this freezer. We moved to Hoboken 2 years ago, and the dough came with us.
As per usual when I stress-bake, I made more dough than I needed. During the pandemic, we felt weird about making cookies for friends and family because of germs. So it’s been sitting in our freezer for a rainy day. Or you know, a Tuesday when I remember it’s there.
Something for busy weeknights: A bag of frozen, precooked grilled chicken
When I don’t have time to defrost and cook chicken for lunch (i.e., most of the time), I turn to this ridiculously large bag of pre-cooked grilled chicken strips. You can just throw them in a pan for 5 minutes to defrost and cook.
I have trouble getting enough protein during the day. Putting a few pieces of these on a salad or some rice or pasta helps fill me up and keeps me energized. The only drawback is that they sometimes give off a weird smell when you cook them. But I’ve chosen to ignore that because they’re convenient and filling.
Something I wish I could eat but can’t: Ambitious 3-cheese lasagna
I love making lasagna because it’s labor-intensive (read: a good distraction). My favorite recipe is for a three-cheese lasagna that I’ve adapted from a couple of blogs.
The only concern is that I’ve become more lactose intolerant, and now, I can barely handle half a slice. But try telling that to my brain when it wants a cooking project. When I make it these days, we freeze it so I can enjoy it in small pieces later. Or, we dole out the remaining eight giant, frozen slices to my family while I silently weep.
Something that isn’t food: So many ice packs
I have an impressive collection of ice packs for various types of pain relief. There are more types than you’d ever have realized. I have large ice packs, small packs, ones with flaps and straps, and homemade ones filled with flour. (Yep, actual flour.) If it’s chilly and provides pain relief, I have it.
Aside from regular sinus headaches, I often get neck and lower back pain related to my terrible posture when I work from home. You name an ache, and I’ve got the pack for it. But they also double as cold packs for perishables when road tripping. Bonus.
A frozen meal shortcut: Spinach and potato littles by Dr. Praeger’s
Dr. Praeger’s spinach and potato littles are basically tater tots with more green veggies in them. They’re definitely for kids because they’re shaped like stars and dinosaurs. But, you know what? Everyone deserves to feel like a kid at least once a week. This is my favorite quick meal shortcut.
Ally Hirschlag is a writer and editor at weather.com. Her work has been featured in Cosmo, Allure, Audubon, Huffington Post, Mic, Teen Vogue, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. Follow her musings on Twitter and Facebook.