Do you want to save time in the kitchen? Would you like to save leftovers for another time and not waste food? Batch cooking makes this possible. Whether you prep individual ingredients or cook full meals this process makes future meal time much easier. All you need is a little time, freezer bags or containers, and a little knowledge and you are good to go.
Batching can be done in a few ways:
food prep - clean, chop, separate individual foods like veggies, meats, fruits
gravies, sauces, broths
Not all foods freeze well, so it's good to know works and what doesn't. The follow do not freeze well:
cream based sauces
full cooked pasta and rice (1/2 cooked is fine)
cooked egg whites (raw is fine)
high water content fruits and veggies (celery, cucumbers, lettuce, radish) - although I do freeze celery leaves for later use in soups, stews, and broth
Here are of the some of things I routinely freeze (beyond fully cooked meals):
soups - chili - chicken veggie - ham & bean, lentil, potato (don't cook potatoes through), tortillaless spicy chicken
greens - I'll buy fresh greens clean & chop & freeze (spinach, collards, swiss chard, all kinds of kale)
fruits - take advantage of those fruit sales like berries and freeze so they don't go bad
peppers - clean, chopped and sometimes roasted
bananas - I always have frozen bananas - when those skins get brown - peel & freeze
citrus zest - lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, clementine
potatoes - red & Yukon gold (other varieties have more water content - those can be frozen too, but you'll have to use them for mashed only)
stone fruits - remove the stones and chop
tomatoes - remove the skin
zoodles - zucchini - drain as much water as possible before freezing
freeze your veggie scraps to boil later for broth
extra pizza or pasta sauce or tomato paste
Now let's look at some batch cooking recipes for eating and freezing:
SWEET POTATO ONION SOUP
Soup can take some time to make that's why it's ideal for freezing. Reheating takes much less time.
5 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
4 cups chicken stock
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
8 slices pancetta, cooked until crispy (optional)
¼ cup pecans, roasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 tbsp. coconut oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large saucepan, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat.
Add onion and garlic and cook until soft.
Add the sweet potatoes and cook for about 4 minutes.
Pour in the broth. Bring to a boil; then lower heat, simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
In a blender or using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth.
Sprinkle the soup with cinnamon, and season to taste.
Serve immediately in bowls topped with pancetta, roasted pecans, and fresh parsley.
TURKEY EGGPLANT LASAGNA
This noodle free recipe will surprise you. This another dish that can be time consuming, so by making a large pan and freezing portions you'll save time in the future.
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
2 tbsp water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 tbsp avocado oil
1 tbsp ghee
1 lb ground turkey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 cups sugar-free marinara sauce
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces.
Sea salt, to taste
Drain the soaked cashews and place in the food processor.
Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until thick and creamy.
Heat up the broiler.
Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with avocado oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
Place eggplant slices on a broil safe baking sheet and broil for 8 minutes, flipping them half way through.
Take out the eggplants and lower the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat ghee in a a saucepan over medium high heat.
Add ground turkey, garlic, and salt in the saucepan, stirring until the turkey is browned.
Add marinara sauce into the saucepan, lower the heat, and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in basil leaves.
Spread out 1/4 of the turkey marinara sauce evenly at the bottom of a 8x8 baking dish.
Take 1/3 of the eggplant slices and add a layer on top of the sauce, having the edges overlap.
Spread 1/3 of the cashew cheese on top of the eggplants.
Repeat these layers 2 more times, then top with remaining turkey marinara sauce.
Bake for 30 minutes until the lasagna is bubbling.
Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Here is another lasagna recipe. You could also use a pasta in this dish like gluten free, bean, rice, or regular.
1 medium spaghetti squash
1 lb spicy Italian sausage
1/2 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups mushrooms, sliced -
10 leaves fresh basil, diced -
1 jar spaghetti sauce (25 oz) Choose a sauce that has some flavorful ingredients (capers mushrooms, garlic, etc.), as it adds to the overall flavor of the dish. We really enjoy a jar we found at Trader Joe's. It's called Trader Giotto's Puttanesca.
5 oz Applegate pepperoni
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Slice the spaghetti squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place the two halves face-down on a baking dish and place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.
While the squash is cooking, chop up all of your other ingredients and set aside.
Next, get the sausage cooking. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add in the sausage and chopped onion. Cook until the sausage is browned and remove from heat.
Once cooked, remove the squash from the oven and lower the oven temperature down to 350 degrees. Allow the squash to cool for handling, about 5 minutes.
With a fork, scrape out the spaghetti squash "noodles" into a large bowl.
Add the cooked sausage, garlic, mushrooms, basil and spaghetti sauce to the bowl. Stir everything around to mix it well.
Dump 1/2 of the spaghetti squash mixture into a 9x13 casserole dish. Spread it around to make an even layer on the bottom of the dish. Top with a layer of 1/2 of the pepperoni.
Add on the other half of the spaghetti squash mixture and spread it around again to create an even layer. Top with a layer of the remaining pepperoni.
Place in the oven to cook for 1 hour.
Remove and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes prior to serving.
Prepping and seasoning meat is a good idea for the freezer. You can portion it for future use.
1 tablespoon oil or fat of choice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch knob ginger, minced
1 pound ground beef
⅓ cup coconut sugar
5 tablespoons coconut aminos
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2–3 green onions or scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 1 minute.
Add the ground beef and cook until mostly browned.
Next, add the coconut sugar, coconut aminos, sesame oil and spices to the pan. Mix well and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Turn off the heat, then add the green onions and sesame seeds. Mix well, then serve.
HAMBONE GREENS & BEAN SOUP
This soup is perfect for freezing. Save a cup or two at a time for the next time you crave some ham and bean.
1 cup dried pinto beans
4 strips Applegate bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, trimmed and diced
1 large onion, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ham bone (1 1/4 pounds), cut into half or thirds (ask your butcher to do this for you)
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus additional to taste
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped into bite-sized pieces
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Hot sauce or cider vinegar, for serving
Soak the beans in plenty of cold water overnight. If you don't have that much time, you can use the quick soak method: In a large pot, bring the beans and plenty of cold water to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain the beans.
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and save for garnishing the soup. Add the carrots, celery, and onion to the bacon fat in the pan. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.
Drop in the ham bone and bay leaf into the pot and add 8 cups water and 2 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat; add beans, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the cabbage and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the kale and simmer until the kale is soft, but still vibrantly green, about 15 minutes. If you're like me, you'll want to remove the meat and delicious fatty bits from the ham bone, chop them up, and stir them back into the soup. Season with pepper, a dash of hot sauce or vinegar, and more salt, if needed. Crumble the reserved bacon on top.
WILD RICE MUSHROOM SOUP
Freeze this soup and use as a sauce or base or soup.
1 cup wild rice
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 pound mushrooms, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
3 tablespoons gluten free flour
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1 or 2 leftover cheese rinds, optional, for deeper flavor
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
1 cup cashew milk (or almond milk)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt, divided
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the wild rice and one teaspoon of salt, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 40 to 50 minutes, until the rice has burst open and tastes tender. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid to use as stock, if desired.
While the rice cooks, prepare the rest of the soup. Warm a teaspoon of oil in a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery with a half teaspoon of salt, and cook until the onions have softened and turned translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the mushrooms and another half teaspoon of salt. Cook until the mushrooms have released all their liquid and turned dark golden-brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Don't skimp on this step! This is where the soup gets its deep, rich flavor.
Add the garlic and oregano, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and stir until the vegetables become sticky and there is no more visibly dry flour. Increase the heat again to medium-high and pour in the wine. Stir and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue simmering until the wine has reduced by about half and the liquid has thickened a bit.
Add the bay leaf, cheese rinds (if using), and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes to meld the flavors. Add the rosemary, milk, and cooked wild rice. Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the soup has thickened to your liking. Stir in the cider vinegar. Taste and add more salt or vinegar to taste.
There are so many meals that freeze well. Just look at the freezer aisles in the store! The beauty about making your own is that you control the fats, salt, spices, quality meats and veggies. You can freeze soups, stews, roasted meat, enchiladas, seafood boils, shredded meats, burritos bowls, fajitas, flatbreads, pasta etc. Take a few hours and make your favorite dishes. Portion and freeze. Don't forget to label! You'll be glad you did.
Here's to your health! Happy Cooking!