Tuesday, October 19, 2010
This is a guest blog post by my friend Rheya who works a very busy schedule so does a lot of cooking ahead. Whenever she talked about, I am always intrigued with the idea so I asked her to write about it for us.
While I would love to be a stay-at-home domestic, the truth is most days I love my job. To me, my job is just another form of service, not only to my Master, but to my community. Most evenings, when I arrive home I am tired and not wanting to think of what I will need to put together a tasty dinner.
So I rely on either meals I’ve cooked ahead and frozen or my trusty crock-pot for dinner during my work week.
By cooking ahead, I can also lower my weekly grocery bill on a weekly basis, thereby allowing room to stock up on basics that I will need for upcoming marathon cooking sessions and taking advantage of sales and coupons.
Before starting a marathon cooking session, I take stock of what I have. That way as I’m making my grocery list, I can make sure I don’t over buy. I try to plan the meals based on a few simple rules:
What freezes well? Generally stews, chilis, raw meat in marinades, casseroles, and things in sauces freeze best.
What does Sir like? Generally, the more simple the better.
What do I have on hand? Lots of canned tomatoes? Is the garden in bloom? Do I have an abundance of cream of mushroom soup?
What are the stores having specials on? Is my local grocery store having a special on ground beef? What about the bulk food club I belong to?
After that I make a list and I go first to the bulk food club. Generally there I stock up on meats, dairy, canned and frozen veggies and dry pasta I may need for the cooking session. Then I go to my local grocery store and pick up other items. One other place I check is my local drug stores if I know they are having a sale on Campbell’s Condensed Soups.
Now that you’ve got all the supplies, start early on a morning and get cooking. First thing I do is get out utensils I may need including my industrial sized cutting board. I tend to chop up a bunch of onion first, then carrots and celery or whatever veggies I have. Make sure phyllo, puff pastry or frozen veggies has been moved to the refrigerator thaw, de-skin the chicken or turkey if needed.
I find that I’m most organized when I can start one pot simmering (such as spaghetti sauce), one pot or skillet stir-frying or sautéing (chili, peppercorn chicken) and something baking in the oven (herb chicken legs). During breaks I put together marinades for raw meat that will freeze in the marinade.
Once everything is cooked, I prep it for freezing. If it is a casserole, it goes in its pan covered in foil into the refrigerator with a label that says what it is and when it was made. Sauces and chilis and I tend to bag in freezer bags. The best way to get things neatly into a bag, I’ve found is by taking a small mixing bowl and draping the bag over the edge of the bowl, lining the bowl with the bag and then scooping the sauce and the chili in.
Everything should be cooled to room temperature and sealed tightly before putting it into the freezer. I take things out the night before to thaw in the refrigerator.
I also make a list of what I’ve cooked indicating how many pre-packaged servings I have and check it off as I go so I know what’s left.
And now for a recipe!
Peppercorn Chicken (makes 4 servings, can easily be doubled, tripled, etc)
1 lb Chicken Tenders
2 Tbsp Cooking Sherry
1 Cup Milk
1 Package Brown Gravy Mix
½ Tsp Ground Peppercorns (I used a mix of black, white, pink and green)
Preheat pan on medium; coat with cooking spray. Cook chicken until brown. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cook 2-3 minutes stirring frequently or until sauce thickens.
Store in a gallon-sized freeze bag, label with date and cool to room temperature, make sure all air is squeezed out before sealing and store in deep freeze.