Batch Cooking Can Save Your Sanity
You'll have more quality time with your family once you adopt these smart techniques!
One of the most obvious ways my cooking has changed since having children is that I batch cook whenever possible. Whether it’s beans, grains, hard-boiled eggs, or roasted or blanched vegetables, your future self will thank you for getting a few ingredients prepared in advance. On evenings when we’re home late, being able to peel and serve a few eggs in less than five minutes is huge. It saves us from meltdowns and gives me space to cook dinner.
Batch cooking doesn’t need to be an all-day affair. You can slide a batch of beets into the oven while roasting a different vegetable for dinner. Eggs take 10 minutes—cook them when you’re making coffee. Or stick a pot of beans or grains on the stove one evening after the kids have gone to bed.
Batch cooking doesn’t need to be an all-day affair.
Once you have a few things cooked and stored, you’re that much closer to pulling together quick snacks, sides, lunches, and so forth. Here are some of my favorite things to batch cook:
Barley, farro, and other whole grains: Follow the package directions and spread out on a sheet pan to cool. Toss with a little olive oil and salt and refrigerate until ready to use. Sprinkle over salads, turn them into a side dish, or build a grain bowl with odds and ends from the fridge. Simmer with a little milk, dried fruit and maple syrup and see if you can convince anyone to eat the grains for breakfast—just like oatmeal! Cooked grains keep in the fridge for about 5 days; if you make a double batch, I recently learned from cookbook author Maria Speck that you can spread cooked grains flat in a resealable bag and freeze them, which is genius.
Blanched green vegetables: Here’s a small piece of work that really makes me feel like a grownup when I pull it off. Come home from the grocery store or market and boil a big pot of salty water. While you wait for it to boil, trim, peel, and rinse your green vegetables—anything from broccoli and green beans to kale and collard greens—then blanch them briefly in the boiling water until they are bright green and slightly tender. Chill in a bowl of ice water, pat dry and store in the fridge. Get in the habit and you’ll save a bunch of time when dinner rolls around, make green vegetables more readily available for snacking, and extend their life in the refrigerator.
The Freezer Family: I often make double batches of things that take some time and effort—once you’re in cooking mode it just makes sense to keep going, right? Stick that second batch in the freezer and you can count on an effortless meal down the road. This category includes soups and stews, turnovers and most definitely meatballs. In the case of meatballs, I might make a triple batch with sauce, then bag and freeze the extra portions. During a busy week, all I need to do is thaw a bag from the freezer, boil water for pasta, and toss a salad. To boot, meatballs and sauce have near-universal appeal, making them a safe bet to bring to new parents or anyone who needs a fix of home cooking in their life.
Leigh Belanger is a cookbook author, writer, and editor. The above was excerpted from her newest book, My Kitchen Chalkboard, which is all about seasonal menu planning and family dinners. Leigh started menu planning when her now-6-year-old was an infant and she quickly discovered that planning meals ahead of time saves money, cuts down on waste, and allows cooks to be more creative. Find more of her writing here.
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