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From Freezer to Cooker by Polly Conner and Rachel Tiemeyer

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I have a deep, dark secret to confess. I don’t love to cook. I dread the inevitable “What’s for dinner?” each morning. Combine that with a partner whose food choices lean to red meat and starches and my attempts to maintain a vegan eating style and we have a real weekly dilemma in our household.

Last fall, I was sated with all the new fiction from my regulars—Patricia Cornwell, Lee Child, James Lee Burke, Alice Hoffman, Karin Slaughter, Jojo Moyes, Craig Johnson, Daniel Silva; that’s a lot of fiction. I was seeking a new kind of satiety and was presented with the opportunity to interview the authors of From Freezer to Cooker, Polly Conner and Rachel Tiemeyer, after receiving a pre-publication copy of the Rodale Books volume. That book is now dog-eared, full of notes, grocery lists and sits at my right hand as I plan what, indeed, is for dinner and very well may even be already in the freezer.

HERLIFE Magazine has never reviewed a cookbook before. Book Review has focused on new fiction, which helps readers relax and escape, but presenting a volume that could help readers more easily navigate the goal of providing healthy foods for their families was a novel approach.

Polly and Rachel are the founders of Thriving Home, an online space that encourages moms through recipes, home hacks, parenting resources and home management tips. As their audience grew, followers often asked, “Do you have a cookbook we can use?” Their first cookbook, From Freezer to Table, was published in 2017.

As the momprepreneurs began work two years ago on From Freezer to Cooker, they assumed an extra challenge. “We wanted every recipe to work for the Instant Pot AND the slow cooker AND as a freezer meal. This means we had to test every recipe four different ways,” Rachel shared with me. “To develop a recipe, we would start by collaborating ideas on what we thought would make it delicious. We’d then delegate one of us to write and test a first draft. We tested all of our recipes on our families, who give us the most honest feedback.” 

“It’s worth noting that we rounded up and used an online recipe testing team of 500 volunteers for From Freezer to Cooker. Once a week, we would send them one recipe to try out, usually one that we needed specific help with, such as cook time, directions or seasoning. Their feedback was incredibly helpful to us,” Polly added.

It was one big, tasty science experiment. As they developed recipes, the authors had five goals that each recipe must meet. First, it must be delicious. “If a recipe wasn’t one that our own families and our recipe-tasting team enjoyed, it simply didn’t make the cut.” Second, they worked to perfect cooking times so that each dish could be cooked in the slow cooker and the Instant Pot or another electric pressure cooker. Third, it had to pass the freezer-friendly test. “That means it must freeze, thaw and prepare successfully, with no major textural or taste changes along the way.

Fourth, these recipes stand out from other freezer meals in that they are primarily made with whole-food ingredients. Polly and Rachel have a commitment to the whole-foods philosophy, encompassing cooking at home using all-natural ingredients and a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and local or organic meats. Finally, they must be easy to prepare, simple enough for anyone to prepare, and time savers.

My favorite section is the Ten Commandments of Slow Cooking. 1. Know thy slow cooker. “With dozens of models on the market, not all slow cookers are created equal. Some models run hot and fast, while others heat more slowly and gently.” Experience tells the cook where theirs falls. 6. Keep thy lid closed. Each peek adds 15 to 20 minutes to cook time. Resist the urge! 8. Toss thy food if thy cooker was not activated. “Any food that sits in your slow cooker or Instant Pot between 40° and 140° for more than two hours is in the perfect environment for bacteria growth.” 

Which of my pages are dog-eared? Chicken Taco Soup, full of legumes, fresh onions and peppers, and I can make a vegan version for myself and a chicken one for the carnivore. He also enjoyed the Maple-Glazed Pork Loin, with onion, maple syrup and fresh ginger; the cooking juices are reduced to make a tasty glaze.

But the Tenth Commandment is the best. Thou shalt enjoy the fruits of thy labor. Stress less and get a delicious meal on the table on busy nights. “Our hope is that our recipes free you up to be relaxed and present with the people you love most,” Rachel and Polly emphasize.