Now that summer is in full swing, you're probably looking for quick and easy ways to cool down. Although the pool and your air conditioner are the usual suspects, have you ever considered just how much of an asset your kitchen's freezer is?
Your freezer is the little culinary assistant that could—if you know how to maximize it. That doesn't mean that you should stand in front of the open freezer as the chilly air blasts you; in fact, there are ways to get your freezer working for you while you improve its energy efficiency in the process.
You can also use your freezer to make quick, healthy snacks that the kids are sure to love—just a freezer's reach away all summer long. When you have these kid-friendly freezer snacks at the ready, you have even more time to get out and enjoy the pool and do the things you'd rather do, instead of spending all summer slaving in the kitchen.
Here are some freezer-friendly foods that will keep your kids coming back for seconds.
Although these sweet and tart fruits are staples around the holidays, you can incorporate them into your summer snacking regime by freeze-drying them yourself. You'll just need to enlist the help of your range and your freezer. Here's the process:
Your freeze-dried cranberries can be eaten straight up for a cool snack or substituted for raisins in any of your favorite baking recipes. One of my favorite ways to use them is by making chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, a healthier treat kids will love! Here's how to health-ify your favorite recipe for a kid-friendly treat:
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and then turn off the heat (you don't want to actively boil the cranberries or they become mushy).
- Submerge fresh cranberries in the water until their skin pops. Drain them thoroughly.
- Toss them lightly in sugar to lightly coat the surface. This step is optional, depending on your sugar preferences, but really helps to cut the natural tartness of the berries.
- Place cranberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and put them in the freezer for at least 2 hours. This freezing step promotes faster drying by helping the cell structure break down more quickly. It also keeps more nutrients in the cranberries!
- Line another cookie sheet with parchment paper and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Allow the range to remain at 350 for 10 minutes and then turn off the oven.
- Transfer the frozen berries to the new cookie sheet and leave them in the heated (but turned off) oven overnight.
- Place the dried cranberries in a freezer-safe plastic bag and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months.
After making the cookies, transfer them to a rack to completely cool, and then place them in freezer-safe plastic zip bags and store them in the freezer for up to a month. Whenever you or the kids want a cool and sweet treat, just grab one of these delicious and chewy frozen cookies!
- Choose an oatmeal cookie recipe instead of a standard chocolate chip recipe. Oats are healthy and packed with fiber, making them a healthier choice that your kids will still love!
- Make your favorite oatmeal cookie recipe and add chocolate chips and cranberries instead of raisins. You can even cut the amount of chocolate chips by up to half and replace it with extra antioxidant-packed cranberries.
- To enhance the flavor profile of the cookies, double the amount of cinnamon and vanilla called for in the recipe and always add a pinch of salt.
Frozen Lemon Crème Pie Yogurt Drops
If you want something frozen that isn't laced with chocolate, try these frozen yogurt drops.
If there's something that kids can't resist, it's candy. But if you'd rather give them a frozen treat that doesn't come with a sugar high and crash, make your own "candy" out of your favorite flavor of yogurt!
We used fat-free lemon yogurt, but you can use any flavor of yogurt for these drops. Greek yogurt, which is packed with protein, is another great choice.
These yogurt drops only last outside of the freezer for about 15 minutes before they revert back to their original yogurt consistency, but you may find they don't even make it that long because the kids can't scoop them up fast enough!
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Make sure that the sheet you select will fit into your freezer.
- Place a large freezer storage bag placed in a bowl with the sides of the bag folded over the bowl's edge, leaving an open well to hold your yogurt.
- Pour the yogurt into the bag, remove the bag from the bowl, and work the yogurt into one bottom corner of the bag. Twist the top of the bag to finish off your makeshift piping bag.
- Snip off a triangle from the bottom corner of the bag and pipe little candy drops onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet. To make it extra fun for the kids, experiment with different shapes! You can make a variety of shapes including little rosettes and hearts to complement the basic dots.
- Place the filled sheet into the freezer for at least 2 hours. Scrape off the yogurt candy drops and serve immediately.
- Store the extra drops in a freezer-safe plastic bag and pull out pieces as needed.
You can shave time off of your food prep and enhance your freezer's efficiency by simply keeping it stocked. The more items it has to retain the cold temperature, the less it has to work to keep everything chilled. So don't shy away from keeping your freezer full. Frozen water bottles, all-natural fruit juices and freshly-made fruit smoothies are also great options for the kids to grab on a hot summer afternoon without dragging you back into the kitchen.
What other kid-friendly freezer foods are you stocking this summer?
About the Author
Rheney Williams provides home appliance tips for Home Depot. Rheney focused on pastry arts when she attended the Culinary Institute of Charleston, S.C., and she uses her baking expertise to create fantastic kitchen opportunities for adults and kids alike, and use fridges and freezers as part of the process. Home Depot's selection of fridges and freezers can be found here.