Cooking week's worth of food.
My bf and I are planning on moving in together and we'd like to eat at home more. With my current work schedule I don't get home til 8pm and my bf can't cook at all. So, I'm looking for some ideas on what to cook in large batches that we can heat and eat from Monday - Friday. So far my list consists of lasagna, chili, and galbi tang (Korean Soup). I'm planning on freezing rice so we can just microwave it and eat it.
Microwaved frozen food is not Chowhound worthy, but you gotta make do with what you got. We'd like to save money and eat healthier, but most importantly I'd like to have time for relaxing after work and I don't want to spend that time cooking and scrubbing pans.
If you've got any other meal ideas that I can split into portions and freezes well, please share with me! My bf and I would be so thankful. :)
We love Asian food and we're trying to cut down on simple carbs (hoping to substitute for whole grain pastas or vegetables).
I make lots of things that can be changed up a bit each night. Like I crock pot a large roast (beef or pork) or a chicken or 2 with vegetables, so we have sliced meat and veg one or 2 nights, then I shred the meat and make a good sauce with chipotles and some of the broth to go into enchiladas, saving some of the meat to put on pizza or nachos and taking the leftovers and making soup (add pasta, potatoes, pumpkin/squash or beans to stretch).
I keep 2-3 days worth of these meal basics in the fridge and the rest go in the freezer. Very easy to pull out a pack of tender braised meat that's been shredded or pulled and let it thaw during the day in the fridge, then use it for a quick dish like nachos or pizza topping (I often have a pizza dough in my fridge that I can pull out when I get home and shape and fill in about 20 min).
I make vinaigrette in advance, for green salads, with everything (fresh herbs, mustard, shallots) except the fresh lemon, which tastes much better if you add it last minute. Everyone is much more inclined not to skip the arugula when the dressing is already there...
Also cabbages slaws -- they hold up a few days, and the vinegar ones get better in the fridge. French lentil soup is my food-for-the-week default, with feta and lemon added some days.
Doctor a good canned baked bean, like Bush's, by adding sauteed onion, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar to taste. Heat up some frankfurters in it if doing this on the stovetop, or cut them up and lay bacon strips topped with brown sugar atop the beans if baking them in a lasagna pan. Leftovers can be served hot or room temp on hot dog buns.
Instead of always having a tossed salad as a side, shred various vegetable combos and make slaws. These can be mixed with anything from plain vinegar and sugar to creamy dressings, and keep for close to a week in the fridge, making for a quick side dish or condiment for sandwiches. During the course of a week, you can change your basic slaw by adding stuff like cherry tomatoes or just-steamed green beans to one days' salad. I often add cooked beans to slaws for extra fiber and protein.
If he can't cook, at least make sure he can clean up afterwords.
My now husband then boyfriend lived for 2 years on pan seared chicken and lipton noodles and sauce for dinner. He knew to follow the directions Exactly, so it always turned out ok. If you want the BF to cook, it might not be "chow hound worthy" but it's still food. They have to learn somewhere.
I like having some quick meals ready in advance for those days when I have no time/energy to cook. I recently got over a bad flu and I was soooo glad I had frozen meals because I felt 2 steps from death. I love lasagna-ish foods. I make a huge batch of pasta sauce, make my cheese mixture, and freeze some fresh herbs in ice cube trays. I make meal sized packets with sauce, cheese and herbs. I bet boyfriend could thaw that and boil noodles, then just assemble and bake. I like this better than prepared lasagna that's frozen just because it's more versatile. I agree that chili's a good go-to. (IMHO chili is made by using fire-roasted peppers. I roast a big bunch, freeze with skin still on in small packets. Skin slides off easily and it's ready for the pot.) I also make stuffing frozen in batches- so easy to roast bird, heat stuffing with it in seperate dish and throw some frozen green beans in a dish with lemon and butter. It can all be cooked in the oven- boyfriend could probably handle that it the chicken's all ready to go. Dry the skin by leaving it uncovered overnight in the frig- I think it makes the skin crispier. Use leftover chicken meat to toss with pasta, veg, herbs, lemon, olive oil and parm or favorite. Don't forget simple cold noodles with veg and peanut sauce.
My boyfriend was acquired with no cooking skills included- but he was game and 10 years later is quite the handy unit to have in the kitchen...
Meatballs are great. You can use them in so many ways.
I'm also into foil packets. Wrap some food up in packets and you can cook them directly from frozen.
Soups freeze well too.
And I totally agree about slow cooker meals. You can shred whatever it is and again, there are so many uses.
The Oct 2011 edition of Rachael Ray Every Day magazine had a great Cook Once Make 20 Meals section. The base recipes are online, as are the suggested combinations to make from them, but I can't find the article itself with the full list. I didn't make the tomato sauce and did a half-size version of all the other base recipes. Freeze in 1-2 cup sizes. Each was delicious on it's own as well as in mix-match combos.
Here are links to the base recipes:
Roasted Vegetables - no link, but cubed butternut squash, sliced onions, green/red peppers, each on a foil-lined sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and roasted 450 degrees, 25 - 30 minutes (or less), until done
Man that article is hard to find. "Twenty Dinners, One Day"? She doesn't even display the Oct 2011 magazine on the "In the Magazine" page on the website, but I think I found it:
Lots of bloggers picked up the story too.
This blogger started at 4pm(and I think that's just the cooking, not the shopping) and finished at 11:45pm, though she says she didn't cook the building blocks in order http://therodgerscook.blogspot.com/2011/08/1-day20-meals-thanks-to-rachael-ray.html
Here's another who appears to list the recipes at the bottom of her story? Maybe those 20 individual recipes can be found on Rachael's website?
Ha! This gal spent $300 ($360 before coupons) and 5 hours cooking and still didn't finish. She's a little unhappy with Rachael. http://carmelinak.blogspot.com/2011/0...
The whole concept sounds so appealing but I worry I'm going to end up like poor carmelina!
Still, maybe you don't have to do all five basics at once. Or, you could do the pork in the crock pot to shave off some time while you do the other stuff. I'm not a huge fan of chicken in the crock pot but I suppose that's possible, too.
Hey, this is a fun challenge if you approach it that way. Let's see: I'd roast a chicken w/ any veg, and serve half for your dinner. Take the rest of the meat off the bone and shred and put away. Make a good strong stock from the carcass. W/ the shredded meat, you can make a later meal by adding coleslaw mix, bagged baby spinach, (reserving half for another meal), mung bean sprouts, and stir-frying. Garlic, ginger; of course. A dash of hoisin is nice in this. Serve w/ light wheat tortillas as wraps. While the chicken roasts, make a ratatouille: cubed eggplant, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, oregano, a good squeeze of lemon. Pack into deep roasting pan; cover and braise w/ chicken but extend the time after the chicken comes out and braise for a total of two hours, uncovering after the first hour. Best served at room temperature w/ a handful of crumbled feta, good bread and salad. You can also toss this w/ any hot, cooked whol-grain pasta. Reserve half; thin w/ your chicken stock. Add:canned drained cannelini beans, al dente elbow macaroni, bagged baby spinach, a few handfuls of parmesan or dry Jack cheese stirred in (and more to sprinkle on top). Any leftover meat or chicken, even diced pepperoni or salami, can be added at any time.
Slow-cook a pot roast w/ veg.; (make extra potatoes to set aside; see below. Serve as-is w/ deli slaw. (setting half aside) and use the half for another stir-fried dish or a Korean-flava griddled hash (use leftover potatoes and add shredded kimchi. Top w/ poached or fried eggs. Make sure you make plenty of rice. It can be your bff as a side dish, as simple fried rice topped w/ an egg (you can purchase the neccessary veg. mix frozen.) A fast use to use leftover rice is to mix w/ sour cream, egg, corn (drained canned or frozen is fine), canned green chiles, grated cheddar cheese; bake at 375 in 8x8 baking pan 'til it puffs, about 35 minutes. Let rest.
So, from what I've seen you're getting great information here. The basic idea is to make things that can be turned into other things, bases that make leftovers an easy transition.
Since you want to reduce simple carbs, I hope you are at least using brown rice and not white.
Sounds like the boyfriend needs to learn some basic cooking skills, even if it's just putting together side salads and prepping vegetables that you'll use in cooking. My #1 prep tip is to slice and/or chop 5# of onions, then freeze the sliced and chopped in separate baggies. These will cook faster from frozen than from fresh, which really speeds cooking a meal. Put the unpeeled onions in ice water for an hour before peeling and cutting. No weeping, and easier peeling.
If you have more time, saute them before freezing. Either way, you can pry off what you need with a fork. Or portion out into smaller amounts before freezing. Cell walls rupture when frozen, which is why the onions cook faster.
The now defunct magazine everyday food had some great meals for the week columns, they are still online- for example i found this one:
I would start by having the boyfriend cook with you on the weekend to prep- can't cook vs won't cook vs does 't know how is a big difference and going forward living together he will need to contribute to meal times (the pattern will be established very early within your new living arrangements)
I often chop lots and lots of veggies (quick salads), make a quinoa/bean mix (taco filling, toss into soups, also on salad), and make a soup or stew that i can change up the toppings- like a thick tomato soup (one night with a grilled cheese side, another i add in the quinoa/bean mix, cilantro, and have with corn chips) or a chili.
A few links i found with quick searching that look helpful:
He's definitely willing to try. He just can't cook and doesn't know anything about cooking so it takes a long time for him to complete simple tasks and there's a big chance our food will be inedible (one time he tried to pour salt directly into our stirfry from a 1 gallon salt container). He's a good sport and I think with careful direction he'll be able to cook.
Thanks for your tips I'll add them to my notes.
Its great if he's willing to learn! Practice makes perfect after all....:)
My local whole foods offers some free/cheap class, maybe check with yours (the events calendar on their website) and one night both of you could take a cooking class together.
In the meantime maybe he's better at grocery shopping and dishes......:)
Maybe get him to help you cook on Sunday that way he can gain some skill set. If he gets home early enough then maybe midway through the week he can make a simple meal and roast a chicken which can be used for the remaining days.
Teach him how to cook rice and pasta at least ;). I don't mind reheated rice but I'm not sure about reheated pasta... except lasagna of course.
Egg rolls can be frozen and I've read that they can be baked as well. I can't imagine thin ones taking more than 20 min in the toaster oven.
Frozen seafood is handy and if you put it in the refrigerator the morning of then it should be ready for dinner. Would be nice addition to soup, stir fry. Frozen vegetables are extremely convenient too.
I often will make large batches of chicken breasts that I cook in the crock pot with salsa and some taco seasoning, then shred and save in individual meal sizes. This works well for all kinds of things; tacos, enchiladas, burritos, taco salads, or nachos. Also do the same with ground beef. I have heard that lentils can make a good substitute for the ground beef, but haven't tried that yet!
Even my non-cooking husband can wrangle the tortillas, grated cheese, lettuce, onions, etc. to help get dinner on the table this way.
We also love beans & rice. I'll make a large pot of the beans (with ham hocks, jalapenos, carrots, celery, bell peppers and onions), and freeze into meal size serving. We reheat rice (I also make it ahead and freeze), reheat the beans, and dinner's ready within minutes. They taste even better as the weather gets cooler. :)
Pozole Rojo takes me so long to make, I always do a huge batch which I freeze and eat for the rest of the week. As long as there are fresh condiments everyday, I'm happy.
In the same vein, I take one day (and I mean an entire day) to make pho broth and eat that for a few days, adding the fresh noodles, meats and condiments daily. Sometimes I change it up and throw in chow fun or egg noodles.
Thai red curry is also good, but these things can get played out if you're eating them all week. You might want to cook twice a week for the first few so that you can keep your freezer stocked with different types of meals.
Sorry to post and run (really need to get to bed), but google "once a month cooking". There are a number of sites dedicated to the topic (and if you don't want to do a month worth of meals at once, you can still take the concept and break it down to a weekly basis). There are also a couple of decent cookbooks out there dedicated to once a month cooking (in fact, one of the best chocolate cake recipes I've ever had came out of an old OAMC cookbook my mother picked up at a rummage sale).
I was looking in to this a while back and ran into the same problem. I did find a few that didn't use them; I'll see if I can retrieve some links for you.
Some of these are cream-of-what recipes, but there are many that aren't. Lots of casseroles and slow cooker recipes mostly, but I think that's par for the course with frozen stuff.
I know there was one lady who was doing really great stuff with fresh produce and what-not. I'll keep looking!
None of the ones I opened had canned soups. And most of them look pretty good.
What about slow cooker meals that you can start before you leave? Also frozen rice holds up well but if you have a rice cooker with a timer that is even better. Fresh rice > frozen. Leftover rice makes a good base for fried rice, whih takes all of 15 minutes to prepare.
Omelettes are a good quick meal. I suggest making one big dinner on Sunday which will provide leftovers one day, and one extra meal you prepare Sunday for another midweek meal. Then add 2 easy meals like sandwiches or eggs, Leftovers get tired when that's all you're having.
I do this every week. I pre-make pasta sauce. Pasta i kmake a little undercooked. I make soups. Pulled pork or roast pork. Roast chicken drumsticks.
Kids heat these up when hungry.
I also have pasta salad in fridge. Or chicken breast cooked for chicken caesar salad.
I also pre-make spich korean soup and add tofu just before eating.
Stirfried korean sliced ribeye takes less than 5 min. Stir in kalbi sauce.