Since some blog friends have asked me how I batch cook and only have to really fix dinner every once in a while, I decided to write the basics of batch cooking- or as I like to call it planning ahead and saving big time.
First things first....the tools. You must have a freezer with space for the family size aluminum foil catering pans and stacks of gallon ziploc bags when stacked full of soups and sauces. The freezer space is key to being able to maximize the effort- also you will need the foil pans, some ziploc single serving storage containers, gallon size freezer ziploc bags and a sharpee marker. These are the only real items needed to get you started. Costco sells all the needed stuff, so add it to your list and review some of meals I make in this fashion.
When batch cooking you are basically prepping ahead meals to be eaten later. I try to coordinate the effort so I use marinara, ground meat, chili beans and various gluten free pastas in one prep. For example on one Sunday I will brown and drain 5 pounds of ground turkey breast or ground beef (whatever is on sale), Make a huge stock pot full of marinara sauce, and then create 8 meals in duplicate or triplicate- including: 2 kinds of Lasagna-one vegetarian, one meat, Two kinds of Chili- one 5 bean vegetarian and one spicy meat version, Macaroni and Beef, Stuffed Shells and Minestrone Soup. Most of these have ingredients that overlap so I can multi-task myself silly.
I clear off the kitchen island and table and create mini work stations. I put all the pans out and spray them with Pam. I assemble all the ingredients and rinse, drain, chop all the necessary veggies, pastas and other overlapping items. I line up all the seasonings. Then it is time to start layering and creating each meal. I usually do a huge crock pot for the bean chili, then when it is finished I can divide it into two pans- add the remaining ground meat to one and keep the other one a vegetarian version.
After I have finished the foil pans I double wrap them, first with aluminum foil, then I write on top with the sharpee- I list what is inside and the date it was made, I make sure to mark it GF so anyone can see that it is ok for CJ, then I over wrap it with cling plastic wrap and tuck it away in the freezer.
When finished you will have some neat stacks of meals just waiting for you to eat. Most of them can go straight from the freezer to the oven, or if you store servings individually in small containers, you can microwave a single serving instead. We do both since their times when only one person needs a meal, or we pack a lunch to take to our office.
Here are two of the GF recipes for my batch project yesterday:
8 cups chicken broth
6 medium garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
2 cups finely chopped red onions (2 small onions)
1 cup small-diced celery (2 medium stalks)
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables- carrots,corn, peas
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary or thyme leaves
1 (14-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen green beans
4 cups small-diced zucchini (green/yellow) (5 small zucchini)
2 cups small-diced, peeled russet potatoes (1 large russet)
2 cups cooked GF mini pasta shells
1 TBSP Italian Seasoning
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a skillet saute the onions, celery, garlic and herbs until soft. Add chicken broth to the largest stock pot you own. Warm broth and add warmed and frozen vegetables, beans, potatoes, and tomatoes. Cook on medium for about one hour until potatoes are soft and cooked through. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain and transfer the pasta to a bowl- spray with Pam to keep it from sticking- then toss again within the bowl. Add cooked pasta shells to the soup and serve immediately. Freeze leftover soup.
Vegetarian Chili in Crock Pot
Cook on low all day
1 can each of the following, drained and rinsed well
Dark Red Kidney Beans
Azuki Black Beans
Rotel Style chopped petite tomatoes with liquid & green chilis
1 large can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
3 cloves fresh garlic minced
1 red onion chopped into fine pieces
1 rib celery chopped into fine pieces
2 bottles Heinz chili sauce
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp chili powder
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Serve in a bowl with your choice of garnish- serve over potatoes, tortilla chips, or use the remaining leftovers for chili dogs.
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