~by Tammy Taylor~
When the weather turns warm there are often many opportunities to get together. And, you know, gatherings often involve bringing your favorite dish to share with friends & family. Picnics and cookouts – swim parties and birthday gatherings, BBQ’s and family reunions. How fun! I’ve written before about food safety and keeping your hot dish hot until it’s time to eat, but today I’m tackling the issue from the other side of the coin – keeping your cold dishes safely COLD!
At a recent gathering we agreed to bring our favorite Zesty Pico de Gallo Deviled Eggs, they’re always a hit!! I also whipped up some homemade hummus for snacking and we would bring a seedless watermelon for some cold summertime refreshment. But it was a large party and we knew that the fridge was going to be PACKED with food plus all the leftovers after the feast so we took matters into our own hands in assuring our food stayed cold. Our ice maker is
crappy, errr I mean small and doesn’t make much ice. So it was our trusty chest freezer to the rescue!
We keep several water bottles in our freezer that have been filled with water and frozen. This serves two purposes: First, the more full a freezer is kept the more efficiently it runs, so these frozen bottles are actually helping us save electricity. Secondly, I use these frozen bottles in many different ways such as when I’m making homemade yogurt. When I need to cool the warmed milk I fill a large bowl with water, drop in a couple of these frozen bottles and it keeps the water cool when I set the pan of hot milk in it.
But today we’ll be tossing a few of these babies into a cooler to help keep our food and drinks cold. That’s quite a bit of mileage from previously empty bottles destined only for the recycling bin! But we needed something for the cooler that packed a little more punch. Those small frozen water bottles will be helpful but we needed ice and lots of it. Although ice is not expensive, it’s just frozen water and it always seemed crazy to me that there was such a market for it. And then there was the plastic bag it’s sold in that doesn’t recycle in our area. Ugh… So I took a cue from my dad’s tip arsenal and provided ice the way he does for his coolers.
Heading Out To The Party
So right before we left for the party we brought out a small cooler and several frozen water bottles (of course you could use your freezer’s ice if your ice maker’s not crappy like ours, or you can just buy ice). I placed the deviled eggs & hummus containers as well as our watermelon into the cooler, and then packed the frozen water bottles around them.
Then I brought out a couple of large frozen 2-liter drink bottles from the freezer. RancherMan took a utility knife and scored around the middle of each bottle, then beat them with a hammer until they broke in half.
Finally he took the halves of the bottles and held them over the cooler, hitting them with the hammer to break the ice into large chunks that then fell right into the cooler.
Now the beauty of this is that large pieces of ice take longer to melt than smaller pieces and the water bottles will stay cold even longer. Plus this can be a money-saving way of providing ice for your coolers throughout the summer – ice that will typically melt more slowly than the commercial stuff that’s sold in plastic bags. It’s certainly been the ice choice for us – No plastic bags, no cash out of pocket, longer cooling action. Gotta love it!
A Good Time Was Had By All
We enjoyed our family gathering filled with good food, lots of laughs, rousting games of Ranch-Themed Cornhole and a good time was had by all! What are your favorite tips for keeping food safely chilled during the hot summer months?
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