Batch Cooking for Quick and Healthy Meals
|My own touches added to royalty free clip art.|
Our weekend plans changed in a hurry, taking us away from home. As a result, we ate 3 meals at fast food joints. Even worse, I made bad food choices each time, and by Sunday I was regretting each one.
What is it about going to these places, which do offer a few healthier options instead of fried foods, that most of us will choose the fried? It smells good. It tastes good. Hot. Salty.
It gives us indigestion. Heartburn. Bloat.
Does not really make a lot of sense, does it?
I am not beating myself up about this...the weekend has passed and I can move forward. Since this week is shaking out to be busy, too, yesterday I set out to make soup for quick and easy lunches or dinners.
But, who wants to eat the same soup day after day? No one that I know of, and if the extra doesn't make it to the freezer, it spoils and gets pitched, which is not a good thing.
Top this off with the fact that the fridge needed cleared out. So I set out with a new plan: Five different 1 quart (approximate) soups. This was easy because, when you think about it, most soups have the same base ingredients. Spices and other elements, such as noodles, dumplings, barely, rice, etc. are added.
I had a lb. of beef cut up for soup in the freezer and also a chicken breast. Now, right away I'll say that these soups are light on the meat...I use it mostly for some protein and flavor. Meat loving families would want to use more meat, of course.
To start, I sauteed the Big Three veggies that are in almost all soups; carrots, onion, and celery. I browned the beef and poached the chicken breast in broth. I cooked 2 cups of wild rice and sauteed an 8 oz. container of button mushrooms.
The five soups and the spices use for each that I ended up with are:
Beef and Vegetable (Penzeys Forward)
Beef and Mushroom (Penzeys Mural of Flavor)
Beef and Three Bean Chili (Penzeys Arizona Dreaming)
Chicken Chili (chili powder)
Chicken and Rice Curry (curry powder)
The Beef and Mushroom did not get the Big Three Veggie, I just picked out some of the onions.
The common ingredients that I used in most were 3 cans broth (no MSG); 1 can diced tomatoes w/ roasted garlic/ ; 1/3 can peas; 1 can cannellini beans; and1/2 can black beans. Leftover green beans, leftover pumpkin puree, one small potato, salsa from the fridge, broccoli from the freezer, and, of course, carrots and celery from the fridge and the onion rounded out my ingredients.
Now, let's think about this. There are just 2 of us living here now, so I only needed about 1 quart of each soup to make a meal. The cooking took about 1 hour and the cleanup about 1/2 hour. I got 5 totally different tasting soups from the same ingredients by portioning them out among the soups.
The best part, I have 5 lunches or dinners cooked and prep work done for others. For instance, when I sauteed the mushrooms, I kept out just enough to make mushroom melt hamburgers. I have the reserved peas and enough rice left for side dishes. The fridge is now cleared of old food and food that was still good is cooked and ready to eat. Win/win :)
What are some of your "use 'em up" tips? Do you do big cooking days, or mostly "wing it"? Feel free to share your tips and stories with the rest of us.
Marcheta *ready to eat healthy