18 December 2010

Cooking Something Up

Fair warning: This post has nothing to do with education. It's the holidays and my interests seem to wander into more personal areas during these last two weeks of December when news is slow and nights are long. Unlike my classroom days, I no longer have time off during the holidays, so my moments away from work are even more precious.

I have always loved to cook. However, being single (or even a double, at times) poses some recipe challenges. Most cookbooks and cooking shows assume that you have at least 4 people in your home and that you want enough leftovers for a second meal. If this isn't you, then you either look for recipes you can cut down, make peace with food going to waste, or suck it up and eat the same thing for a week. These really aren't good options, in my opinion. So, as I look at Christmas treats and upcoming meal planning, I thought I'd pass along my own solutions.
  • Make the full recipe, but choose it wisely. Sure, you can make half, which save the frustration of eating the same meal over and over or dealing with food waste---but you're not saving yourself any time. Prep/Cooking will still take the same for 1/2 recipe. Pick a recipe that will freeze well: pasta, side dishes (potatoes, rice, risotto...). Prepare the whole thing, divide into individual serving dishes (I use corning ware, but foil works, too), and freeze what you don't want for later. Just pull out the portions and reheat when you're ready for something fresh.
  • Muffin tins are great tools for freezing individual servings. Soup? Pour it in the tin, freeze, then put the chunks in a freezer safe bag. Put your meatloaf in the muffin tin, bake, and freeze leftovers. 
  • I just learned that you can par-bake bacon (400 degrees F for 15 minutes) on a foil-lined pan, drain and cool the meat before freezing. Later, pull out however many sticks you want and microwave them for 30 seconds to finish the cooking process. 
  • Got a cookie dough you love and that doesn't come in a flavour you can buy in the refrigerated aisle? Do it up right---make the whole recipe and then freeze individual dough bites on a cookie sheet, then baggie them up. Pull out what you want and bake when you need. This also works with bread dough. Just portion and freeze between the first and second rise (or get frozen dough that is already portioned so you can just use one or two pieces at a time).
  • I know meat looks expensive, but per serving, it's a great deal. Don't want a whole pot roast, salmon fillet, or pork loin? Buy it anyway...portion it out...baggie it up...and freeze.Whole chickens are cheap. Roast them, then use the leftover meat in a casserole to freeze. You really don't have to be stuck with leftovers.

Each month, I choose 2 - 3 recipes (e.g. chicken pot pie, macaroni and cheese, risotto cakes). Ingredients usually cost no more than $50 and I spend one afternoon preparing them. For the next few weeks, I have plenty of quick meals or mix-n-match options with salads/veggies or meat portions from the freezer. I get a variety of fresh homemade food with very little investment or effort. I also end up with almost no food waste.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to go make some Christmas cookies...

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