Saturday, November 27, 2010

Batch Cooking for Dummies

If I were to write a cookbook or blog about how to survive cooking for a large family, I would title the book just like this post- Batch Cooking for Dummies. The concept of multi-tasking meals is something I have perfected over here.

The key to my sanity is serving healthy meals at home because let's face it, going out is a pain in the tuchas, and it is bionic expensive with this many people. Cooking every night is time consuming and expensive unless you have a game plan. With a little creative planning, shopping sales, buying in bulk and filling the freezer with meals makes my batch cooking plan successful.

The first thing needed is a freezer with space for about 20 meals stored in foil catering pans or flat gallon sized ziploc-sicles. With room to stack the dinners, a sharpie marker and a few hours to prep and cook, you can save yourself a ton of time during the busy week. The goal in batch cooking is to make the most meals from the same ingredients at once.

In one afternoon I will make all ground meat
themed dishes using key elements like marinara, and various pastas, chili, soups and tortillas for enchiladas and leftover filling for nachos and tacos. The browned and drained ground beef is essential to other casseroles too, so I can cook up a few pans of meat and assemble several various entrees.

I have learned to brown, drain and freeze ground beef or turkey in batches. This is a huge time saver because defrosting, and then cooking the meat is the most time consuming part of most meals. When you have already done that step, prepping tacos, or adding the meat to spaghetti sauce takes two seconds.
You can whip up a healthy meal very quickly if the meat is pre-cooked and does not require thaw time. Not to mention that it is much less expensive to buy the family packs or stock up when the ground meats are on sale.

Here is a sample of my afternoon of batch cooking using ground beef.

I made three pans of gf lasagna. There were two trays of corn tortilla enchiladas and three ziplocs of taco fixings along with a huge batch of chili, spaghetti and meat sauce, and steak soup. All of these are go to dinners when I am pressed for time.

On another day I will use boneless, skinless chicken to prepare 5 different meals from the same basic list. Much like the ground beef I have perfected the art of mass grilling, baking and storing. I can do a killer salad with grilled chicken in a jiffy when the chicken is already grilled and cut into strips. Likewise, pastas and stir fry takes no time too.

On a chicken cooking day I will make: Chicken Pot pies, Chicken corn chowder, chicken broccoli cheddar rice casserole, Chicken Parm, homemade gf chicken filets, Salsa chicken enchiladas, and a few chicken strip ziplocs for stews, soups and salads. Can see how easy this really is?

I would lose my mind if I had to start over every day with basic ingredients and no plan. I can rotate through the freezer for a plethora of tasty dinners on the fly.

Batch cooking for dummies, it is a no brainer.


Anonymous said...

Hello. I just have a question. I have tried this before, and my hamburger meat tasted awful after it was frozen. Any idea why? I have heard that you should let it cool before freezing. Just wondering if you knew why it might taste bad and what I could do different?

Helene Eichenwald Slutsky said...

I am not sure why, but here is what I do.

I brown it all the way through, drain and rinse it under hot water in a strainer. Pour it out onto a dry paper towel, put it in the freezer style gallon ziploc bags in the qty I use most often *1.5 lbs cooked) and I squeeze the meat into the bottom half of the bag, removing any air, then fold the bag in half to close it tighter.

My frozen meat is like a brick, it stacks in the freezer. Once it is frozen solid I move all the stacks into a pile and I keep the rotation so I use the most frozen meat up first.

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