Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Batch Cooking 101 by Professor Susie

The good news is that I found an expert regarding this batch cooking mess...in my own family, people. I know - color me embarrassed.  But this is truly one of the cases that knowledge is only important to you when you need it.

My mother-in-law is the queen of the kitchen.  She is just a natural and is the kind that I can call when I find myself faced with no dinner plans, an hour until Scott gets home, and the weirdest ingredients ever... ("Ok Susie,  I have a bag of pepperoni, a can of pineapple, some breadcrumbs...")

Most weekends, she lays me out a laundry list of her cooking plans and accomplishments...she has been known to cook up pounds and pounds of meatballs, casseroles, chicken, etc.  She works full time and before dawn hours, so the last thing she feels like doing when she gets home is cooking.  So often times, she makes for the week and then some.

When she comes to visit, she blesses me by doing the one thing I have been unable to do so far - stocking my freezer.  When she came to see us for a week after Elizabeth was born, she went to work bagging up spaghetti sauce and chili and macaroni and cheese and chicken and noodles and sloppy joes and other odds and ends - what blessings and easy meals these were for me in the rough times.  I remember going to the freezer and playing Press Your Luck in my head, trying to find a quick meal for Elizabeth...

You know...show me big money, big money, mac and cheese, no whammies, no whammies...

Just the other night, she saved me with a quart bag of taco meat she made on her last visit...I was stone cold out of dinner ideas and had all the fixings for tacos, minus the meat.  Then the magic little Ziploc bag appeared in the back of the freezer.  She had purchased a pork tenderloin on special and just stuck it in the slow cooker until it fell apart.  She shredded all of it and made half it into barbecue and the other half into taco meat.  Done...four meals.  Me?  I would have just thrown the whole puppy in the freezer to deal with later.  But then, what do I know?

There it is...do you hear the angels singing??!!

I am going to feature her very soon because I am so proud of her recent weight loss journey (she is almost to the 30 lbs gone mark!), but first, I have to fill you in on her advice on my cooking woahs.

I heard a lot of response that you were interested too and, my dear friends, simply put, we have to plan and take a little more time on the front end with our food...and use our freezers.

Susie said that the key is to plan to work with your protein sources as soon as you get in from the store.  Meaning that I need to do something with this 4 lbs of ground turkey and 2 lbs of ground chicken I got on sale today pronto.

Apparently chunking the entire packages in the freezer is not the way to go.  Again, who knew? ;)

"Plan to prepare them - make up your spaghetti sauce, chili, taco meat, meat loaf, casseroles or slice up your chicken into strips for stir fry.  But you need to get this done when you get home...that's how you'll get ahead," she said.

She also said that she normally doesn't cook her casseroles, meat loavess or meatballs before she freezes them.  For the loaves or meatballs, she just sticks them on a cookie sheet and, once they're chilled, bags them in a freezer bag.

"If you want to cook them, you can...just make sure you label if it is cooked or not.  If I am going to cook up a casserole and freeze half, I just write cooked and the date on the bag and so that I know that I can just throw it in the microwave."

Her only advice for meat loaves was to make sure that the loaf will fit in your freezer bag...a testament to experience...and that you can freeze it in more of a "can" shape to throw in your crockpot for a fast and easy meal.

"Just make sure that you fry up a little bit of the meat to test your seasoning (regarding meatballs or meat loaf).  There is nothing worse than going through all that work to cook it up and find out that it is awful or that you forgot an ingredient."

Now, this may be all common knowledge to you, but not for me.  My mom cooked almost every meal we ate, but I also remembering her preparing it fully that evening...after working an entire day...and she is my hero for it.  So I am so thankful for Susie for educating me...and maybe you?

Truly trying to turn over a new leaf, I put this plan into action, making about a million meatballs and chicken nuggets the past few days with my aforementioned sale meat.

Some of these, I cooked up and threw in one of our favorite soups - the rest are chillin in the freezer.

I went to work on these chicken nuggets after the gym the next day (cue the Myoplex).  They actually taste fantastic and have spinach and apple in them...which my children can plainly see...therefore they refuse to touch them.  Next time, I need to throw the whole shooting match in the food processor.
I find that right before lunch time is a good time for me to get rolling on a project and I have enough time and patience to conquer about one thing a day, if I wish.  Today, I made these breakfast sandwiches I've seen popping up everywhere online (which must mean they are tasty).  I didn't think they turned out too bad.

Can I butcher an english muffin or what?
I wrapped them in tin foil and then grouped them in freezer bags.  I figure, if they resemble McDonalds, maybe my kids will give them a fighting chance??

I've posted a couple other articles I found on these issues on Facebook...I am seriously studying it so I can get better here.  And I love the support I have found in some of you!  My friend Amy is trying out a meal subscription service that sends her recipes, grocery lists and everything for a small fee...so I may have her try it for a while and then con her into reviewing it for us!    

Keep the advice coming and let us know your progress.  Maybe we'll all get there together!

1 comment:

  1. That's a pretty neat way to cook (providing one has a good sized freezer). I think my in-laws are going to be bringing their deep freeze down here for us to keep in our garage... I may have to try your batch cooking then.