1. Batch Cooking - you make multiple batches and freeze or otherwise store the extras to eat at a later time. Like leftovers but a whole meal or more.
2. Cooking Marathons - You make a menu, have a list, do a big grocery run, do a lot of cooking, and make all your meals in one or two days.
And after walking away from BOTH of these methods a little less than impressed I'm going to tell you what I think and my solution. Maybe it will work for you, maybe it wont. We'll see.
The Deal with the Batch Cooking -
I like batch cooking. The premise being that you are spending the time you would normally spend in the kitchen preparing your meal but just make a double or even a quadruple batch. (Enough for 2 or even 4 more whole meals). THAT is way more efficient than making one dinner - which you were going to do anyway!
If you don't want to plan much, if you don't like a strategy or you don't mind cooking - this is a great way to have emergency meals prepared in the event that things don't go according to plan. They are also great as last minute additions for parties, holidays, luncheons, dinner guest additions, etc. You name it, an extra meal on hand that just needs to be popped in the oven or microwave is a sure crowd pleaser.
NO additional planning
NO additional time spent in the kitchen than you already invest
You already love what you're eating or you wouldn't be making it to begin with
You use recipes you already know and love
* Very little variety (You'll end up with 6 of the same types of dinners in the freezer - it gets old)
* If you didn't don't regularly plan dinners, you may not want to make a quadruple batch of 'last minute' dinners that you put together because you have no idea what to make
* Your current recipes may or may not freeze and reheat well - you'll want to see if your recipe can!
The Deal with Cooking Marathons -
Can I just say that after the first day, I couldn't walk. The fiance had to rub my feet for thirty minutes just to get the pain to stop. That is how long we spent in the kitchen. I remember looking into his loving eyes and gritting my teeth with affection saying 'We are never doing this again' and he nodded along with me. What's more? He participated for two days (the weekend) and I was still chugging along a third day!
You get all your cooking done up front. The rest of the week or more is a breeze!
(Looking a little light up here!)
You'll end up forgetting a lot of things you need - we did this on three recipes and they didn't turn out great.
You will have to prep and cook and freeze EVERYTHING almost as soon as you get it to make this work - say goodbye to your time off. You'll be in that kitchen - so get in there!
If you don't plan your dinners out on a weekly or monthly basis - you won't survive this. You won't.
What is My Solution?
Sometimes how you react to a terrible solution can be insightful into what your solution could or should be.
What did I do when I was running my cooking marathon?
1. Wishing my recipes required less prep-cooking
2. Wishing I had weeded out all the recipes that required a LOT of precooking
3. Wishing I had quadrupled instead of doubled the recipes that required a LOT of cooking.
4. Wishing I had a lot of recipes that required less than 20 minutes of cooking at all.
5. Quit before everything was done and put the rest of it off until the next two days
6. Finally decided NOT to finish the Cooking Marathon at ALL and just revert to Batch cooking for the rest of the week. That is - I waited until the day a recipe was needed and doubled the batch, freezing half for next week.
What is my Final Verdict?
1. I had too many complex recipes. Complex and long prep/cooking hours may taste good but it's not a requirement!
2. I don't want to spend more than 30 minutes in the kitchen cooking ANYTHING.
3. I needed to cut down my list of elaborate recipes that I never use.
4. Have healthy meals that I won't feel guilty about giving to my family because I want to skimp on kitchen time.
The Final Solution:
I'm making a cook book.
It's only logical...
I threw out all my old recipes and started from scratch. I started with what I had been marathon cooking this past weekend. And I got rid of every recipe that was a pain to cook. That doesn't mean toss them forever - but for daily cooking, it's time to get real.
Real food - I needed recipes that I could make from scratch in a short amount of time. But still taste GOOD! Best way - copycat recipes. Make a list or print out a menu of your favorite restaurants. Find the copycat recipes and see which ones are actually pretty easy to make.
Freeze it, jar it, can it, store it - I needed recipes that I could make in large batches and were easy to pop in the freezer. Anything that goes into a slow cooker is great but I don't want to limit myself. I wanted to add appetizers, breads and sides to my list. Because nothing says "Thank goodness" like taking out a bag for each part of dinner, throwing it on a baking sheet and turning on the oven. Dinner. Is. Done.
What does this cookbook mean for you?
Well, for one - I'm going to be testing this first hand. It's "My" cookbook in the way that I'm adding recipes as I prove them for my family in my kitchen.
When I have determined that something takes LESS THAN 15 minutes to throw together then I will add it. If it is too much hassle - I'm a minimalist, I'm going to throw it out. There are hundreds of thousands of ways to make different foods- there has to be a couple hundred ways to make healthy dinners in less than 15 minutes! Right?!
Not your basic "open the can and throw it on top of the chicken" but real ingredients, real food, and being able to recognize everything that goes in the pan, pot or dish as a real food.
And I'm trying to go inexpensive - not cheap quality, inexpensive - there is a difference.
Want a good one? Here is my go-to when it comes to dinner that is healthy and takes roughly 15 minutes hands on and no supervision.
You'll recognize this bad boy from olive garden...
That's a page right from my new cookbook (logo added) - I'll post a new recipe once a week!
Feel free to share it, print it, pin it or eat it!
I don't have plans to print this lovely book but I do plan to make it available in digital format.
Stay tuned and don't forget - I warned you about those darn Cooking Marathons!
Until the easy cookbook is finished - just double up your favorite dinners to make your next couple of weeks a breeze.