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Article updated: 1/23/2013 12:10 PM

Stir it up: Ease back into post-holiday meals with new Southern Living cookbook

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Once the holidays are over, life loses a bit of its glow. The decorations come down (or hang around and seem depressing). You miss hearing those carols that you thought were so annoying. Every meal no longer seems like a party.

It's time for a reality check -- time to roll up your sleeves and get back to the routine of cooking regular meals.

The editors of Southern Living magazine offer up "Southern Living Fix It & Freeze It, Heat It & Eat It" (Oxmoor House, 2012), a cookbook that is all about ease and planning. The idea is to cook ahead of time and free up daily life for the rest of "reality."

The book includes some valuable hints about freezing foods:

Casseroles, soups, stews, chili and meatloaf freeze well, as do many baked goods.

Cool dishes quickly before freezing by placing them, uncovered, in the fridge. Bowls of hot stews and soups can be placed in larger bowls of ice water and stirred.

Choose the right container. Check all plastic wraps, bags and containers for guidelines on freezing and reheating.

Avoid freezer burn by removing air from bags before sealing. Store soups and stews in freezer bags, which can be placed flat and frozen quickly. Store foods in small servings (no more than 1 quart).

No matter how positive you are that you can identify a food after you freeze it, LABEL it. Use a permanent marker to write down the name of the dish and the date it was made. Note: It's easier to write on plastic bags before you freeze them.

The more quickly food freezes, the better its quality will be when thawed. Allow enough room for air to circulate so that food freezes rapidly. Slowly frozen food forms large ice crystals that can turn the food mushy. Use a freezer thermometer to ensure that your unit remains at zero degrees or lower.

If your freezer doesn't have built-in organizational features, create your own with plastic storage containers. Label the bins. If there is no rack, add plastic-coated, free-standing wire shelves to increase storage space.

The chicken dish below can help you ease into 2013. It is easily cooked and frozen, but it still seems like a party.

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