Life is busy. I think this is probably the case with everyone, no matter their age, station, or walk in life. We’re all juggling family, jobs, maybe school, and other commitments. This means that it’s often a challenge to make a healthy meal each day at dinner. We’re all so pressed for time that those meals in a box touting “Today’s Homemade” start to sound appealing–well okay, not to me. I actually find that whole concept appalling–all those preservatives! Anyway, one of my techniques which helps dramatically when I’m busy (and between 2 jobs, family, writing, and 3 dogs, I am!) is batch cooking. This is something that can really be done any night of the week, but I really like to do it one day on the weekend. My batch cook staples:
- brown rice: Very healthy, but takes SO long to cook that it’s a pain to use in midweek dinners. However, it reheats BEAUTIFULLY! I tend to make about 3 cups’ worth in my rice cooker to use with stir fries and such during weekday lunches. I have to say my $10 rice cooker from Walgreens is one of my favorite kitchen appliances!
- black beans: These are my favorite kind of beans, and I find that I save a considerable amount of money buying them dry and batch cooking them. I rinse them, then put in the crock pot on low with about 6 cups of water. I’m sorry to say I’m never sure how long to cook them. I keep going back and checking after 2 or 3 hours. They should still be somewhat firm when done, as you’ll be likely cooking them some other way. Freeze in tupperware containers with the cooking liquid, then thaw and rinse before use in whatever recipe you choose.
- roasted chicken: Okay this is the same sort of principle as buying those rotisserie chickens at the grocery store, except you save quite a bit by doing it yourself at home. This is another one of those things, I find is better done on weekends. Wash chicken and pat dry. Rub with olive oil inside and out, then liberally coat skin with whatever seasonings you choose (I like greek or cajun). Bake at 350 degrees in a roasting pan for approximately 2 hours (checking at 1 hour 45 minutes…the skin should be golden brown). You can then use this meat in salads, pasta or whatever. And when you’re finished, save the carcass and skin to make…
- chicken stock: Never buy that pale, canned broth again! Place the carcass and skin in a large stock pot, adding carrots, onions, and celery (rough chopped), salt and pepper to taste, then cover with water. Boil gently for an hour or two. Place a colander over a large bowl or other stock pot and carefully (as it will splatter and be HOT!) pour the entire thing into the colander so that the bowl or other pot catches the broth and all the chicken bit and veggies are strained out. Cover the bowl or pot with plastic wrap just touching the surface and refrigerate. The fat will congeal on the plastic wrap so that defatting is a breeze! You can then freeze the broth (which should be a lovely dark gold color). I like to freeze it in ice cube trays, then put the stock cubes into large Ziplock freezer bags for use with any recipe calling for bouillon, broth, or stock.