Tag Archives: prep

Meal planning

My very first meal plan

My very first meal plan

Perhaps it was a stupid decision to make my first meal plan the same week I had an intermittent high fever for the first four days. But I was feeling okay when I made it (for certain definitions of “okay”), and I’d been tired of getting to 6 pm, looking around my kitchen, and saying, “There’s nothing here to eat,” so I figured it was the time.

To the right is a picture of my very first meal plan ever. I had plans, people. Big plans. That were mostly completely FUBARed after about Wednesday.

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Roast vegetables and tomato sauce

As I mentioned last time, all the knife practice exercises I’ve been doing this week have left me with quite a lot of vegetables leftovers. Today my boss decided that it’s slow enough in the office that we were entitled to a one-day spring break, so I decided to put some of my newfound cooking skills to use.

Just over two hours in the kitchen resulted in the following:
– one and a half trays of roasted carrots (most of a 2-lb bag)
– half a tray of roasted zucchini (one zucchini’s worth)
– two trays of kale chips (half a bunch of kale, roasted)
– a small pot of tomato sauce (about a 15-oz can’s worth)

Now, this might seem like a lot, and indeed it looked like a lot before I went through the roasting / sauce making process, but by the end, it looked like a whole lot less. The roasted carrots were so good that I kept munching them. A lot. The entire bag of carrots, raw, make me think, “Oh, dear God, who could possibly eat so many carrots?” After roasting, it was more like, “Yeah, I could totally eat all of these right now.” Ditto for the kale chips.

So in the end, I’ve got about two cups of roasted carrots, a tiny amount of roasted zucchini (not as good as the carrots: still very mushy — I’ll have to find a better way of cooking them), and a soup-bowl of kale chips.

The tomato sauce did not turn out as good as the roast vegetables. It’s… okay. But it’s got that very acidic, “Whoa, I’m a TOMATO!” feel to it. I added some sugar, which cut the edge a bit, but not as much as I’d like. It might be because I added an entire can of tomato paste. See, I didn’t want more leftovers, and there was a whole lotta juice that needed to get thickened up, and… Yeah. I may have overdone it. Just a bit. *looks down shamefully*

In any event, I find it okay. Marc doesn’t really like it. I’ll probably spoon some over the pan-fried chicken that I’m making tonight as my next Rouxbe lesson, and then have the rest with some pasta or something.

I’m still amazed at what looked like so much raw vegetables turned into so little cooked vegetables. It’s barely enough for a couple of servings. I can’t imagine how many vegetables I’d need to buy if I wanted to have enough for a whole week! Am I the only one who feels this way?

Freezer / crock pot cooking

Thanks to my friend Kim, I was inspired to try something I’ve never done before: freezer cooking. The idea is that you prep a bunch of veggies, meats, etc. (uncooked), freeze them in freezer bags, and then when you’re ready to eat them, you defrost and toss them in the crock pot. Given that one of my problems recently has been the dreaded “I have no idea what I want for dinner” demon, I figured I’d give this a try.

I started out last week by going through a bunch of websites looking for recipes. You’d be amazed how many nifty websites there are out there. I put together a short-list of eight recipes, each of which should make two meals’ worth (i.e. dinner for two plus leftovers), making a total of 16 dinners. Given that we don’t eat at home every night, I figured 16 meals should last us a month or so.

Not shown: 9 kg of meat.

Ingredients prepped and ready to go.
Not shown: 9 kg of meat.

I put together a shopping list and went out on Saturday with my mom to do a monster grocery run. Seriously, it was about $170 by the time we were done, but that admittedly includes about 9 kg of meat. Also, it’s supposed to provide 16 dinners plus leftovers, so that’s actually not too bad, all things considered.

Went to my mom’s place and prepped and prepped and prepped.

I feel like it took longer than it should to do all the prep. It was about 5 hours to get 16 freezer bags ready. I know some people prep all the vegetables and all the meats first, and then just assemble, but that seemed wonky to me. I mean, what if one recipe called for chopped peppers and another for sliced? And how can you tell how much 3 peppers is once they’re all chopped in a bowl? It seems like a lot of people get many more meals in the time I took (or, alternately, get the same amount of meals in less time). I wonder if it’s because they’re doing the same meal more times, making prep more streamlined.

Freezer bag meals chillin' out in the freezer.

Freezer bag meals chillin’ out in the freezer.

If I do it again, I’ll probably just dump everything into the freezer bags as I go, one meal at a time (nifty trick: open the bags in a large container, like a big empty ice cream container, to keep them upright while you’re stuffing them). I like the aesthetics of having everything nice and laid out on the counter, but it resulted in a lot of unnecessary dishes that could have been avoided.

Anyway. After five hours, I had all my meals ready. I put them in my mom’s big freezer to freeze flat, because my itty-bitty freezer at home just doesn’t have the space. I’ll probably take home three or four bags a week for the next month or so.

Shabbat dinner: logistical post-mortem

Just a bit of logistical reminders for myself in case I ever do this again.
For six guests, two or three of whom didn’t eat very much:

Quantities:
– A big challah loaf will leave about half as leftovers.
– One chicken would have been too few, two chickens give a lot of leftovers.
– Two cans of baby corn are definitely too much. Go with one next time.
– One head of broccoli is just about right.
– One package of baby potato knishes is just about right.

Preparation:
– Put out an extra little table for the challah and extra serving dishes.
– Put the chicken (covered) in a 350 degree oven approx. a 30-45 minutes before people show up.
– Add the knishes to the oven when people show up.
– When people show up, put on the baby carrots and soup. (Start on medium-high and turn down as necessary.)
– Microwave the broccoli as you’re serving soup for approx. three minutes on high.

Mom’s banana bread: the set up

For the last week or so, we’ve had some frozen bananas. I promised Marc if I hadn’t done anything with them in a month, he was allowed to throw them out. So I got my mom’s banana bread recipe and decided to try it out. It involves a low cooking temperature (275) and a long cooking time (2.5 hours).

After a quick grocery run for lemon juice, flour, and a pan, it’s in the oven. Two potential problems: 1. Not sure if I made the sour milk right (poured it from the measuring cup to the cup I was using to hold it before letting it mix properly), 2. Our oven runs hot. Really hot. Like, 50 degrees too hot. I’ve got it set about 50 degrees low now, and it’s still reading 25 too hot as it dissipates the heat from before.

But the important thing is that the banana bread is in the oven. Updates at 6:00.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled viewing.

Domesticity

“Julie,” I hear my faithful readers asking, “why on Earth were you browning ground beef and chopping veggies at 11 at night?”

I’ll tell you, faithful readers, but only because you asked nicely. I was browning ground beef and chopping veggies to prepare tomorrow’s chilli.

“Why on Earth,” I hear you rejoin, “did you have to do it at 11 at night?”

Ah, well, that’s the tricky bit. It’s because I need to put it in the crock pot tomorrow morning, and I didn’t have time to do earlier today.

Perhaps I should back up a few paces.

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I hope it’s worth it

I never knew it could take so long to grate potatoes. And, of course, I only found out I could do it in the cuisinart after I’d done almost all of them.

On the other hand, I’m now ready (I hope) for latka-making. Yay!