Eating right requires being prepared for it. Not only does it mean cleaning out the pantry and the fridge, but it means getting down and dirty and cooking some food. Cooking comes naturally for me because I was brought up cooking since I was very young. I started learning how to knead tortilla dough by hand at the age of five. For me, cooking is my birthright. For others, cooking is a punishment. But it doesn't have to be that way! I think it's easier when you minimize the messes and make sure that your food is tasty. Today, I will even give you a few recipes to try.
Let's talk about Batch Cooking. Simply, it's cooking a lot at once. I do this with a lot of things, chicken, beef, pork, and veggies. If you're going to cook up two chicken breasts for dinner, why not throw a few more on for left overs? Last week I made a chimichurri marinade for my chicken, poured it over about five pounds of it, and then grilled it all up. Once it was cooked and had cooled a little, I measured out portions, put the individual servings in zippy bags, and then froze them. Easy access chicken to microwave and throw in lunches. Steaming veggies, same thing. Steam a giant bag of broccoli, portion it out and throw it in the freezer. Bonus here: you minimize spoilage and throwing out food that goes bad.
My favorite tool to use for batch cooking is a large slowcooker with a removable crock. You can prep it at night and then pull it out and turn it on in the morning, viola! Dinner is done when you get home from work. I will also double recipes in the slowcooker when possible and portion out leftovers in freezable containers. Pull them out, pop them into lunch boxes--provided you have a microwave available for lunch. If not, then pull them out for dinner and microwave your little heart out. Did you know that you don't even have to defrost individually frozen chicken breasts when you drop them in the slowcooker? Just make sure that you are including a liquid with your seasoning and you allow for at least 8 hours cooking time when you are using frozen chicken. GENIUS! (I had to learn that from a pin on Pinterest, and now I have no idea which one it was.) Now for some ideas that you can use.
5lbs or so of beef, which ever roast or large chunk is available at the lowest price. I'm not too picky. And I still cannot afford grass fed beef at $10+ per lb. Just trim off excess fat.
1-2 cups of red wine, whatever kind you have on hand.
1cup gluten free beef stock, or 1 cup water with gluten free beef bullion.
2 carrots, washed, peeled and cut into large chunks. Alternately, 1 cup of baby carrots.
2-3 stalks of celery, washed and cut into large chunks
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into large chunks.
1 tablespoon minced garlic from a jar, or 2-3 cloves pressed in a garlic press.
Salt and pepper, and a couple of bay leaves.
2 tsps Worcestershire Sauce. (Not strictly Paleo, but it's a nice addition. I've never had a Celiac reaction to it, but I'm not sure if it's 100% gluten free. If you're real sensitive, be very cautious or omit it.)
Drop it all in, put it on low, and behold what the slowcooker presents you after 6-8 hours! It will be fall apart meaty gloriousness!
Take a couple of cups of the broth and strain it, put in small saucepan over medium low heat. In a small bowl, take a heaping teaspoon of arrowroot powder and mix with 1/3 cup of cold water. Once that is combined pour slowly into the saucepan with your broth, stirring the whole time. It will tighten up like a gravy, but arrowroot powder is carb free and grain free unlike cornstarch or flour. Careful using too much though, as it can make your gravy sticky or gummy. It also won't take too long to tighten up. Play with the amounts until you get a consistency that you like. I ere on the side of having it remain thin.You may also want to add a little more seasoning, pepper or salt. Serve with veggies of your choice and store the leftovers as you wish.
5-6 Individually frozen chicken breasts, as in not all stuck together. If it's an iceberg of chicken this won't work.
1 20+ ounce jar of your choice, this can be salsa, marinara, hot sauce, it's your choice.
Add extra seasoning, garlic, a little salt, basil if you went with marinara, chopped tomatoes, whatever feels right.
Pour sauce over it, and cook for 8 hours on low. Pull apart the chicken with fork, serve with favorite veggies.
Chimichurri for large batches
1 bunch cilantro
2 fresh jalapenos
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs white wine vinegar
1-2 tsp salt to taste
2 tbs minced garlic, or 3 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled.
Remove the stems from the cilantro and rinse well, and drop it in the blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend away! This will make enough marinade for at least 5lbs forth of food. It also won't keep for long in the fridge. It's good for chicken, pork, and beef. I haven't tried it on anything else, but I think it might be good on fish or shrimp. Marinade your protein of choice in the fridge for at least an hour, then grill to your little heart's delight. I don't think I would throw this in the slowcooker, this is for immediate cooking. Grilling is best in my opinion.
Today was a benchmark WOD, meaning we spent the morning working on a 1 rep max on Squat Clean. I may dislike this movement even more than the Clean and Jerk, but I did achieve a 1 RM at 80#.
Breakfast: Premier Nutrition Chocolate Protein Shake, banana, large cup of coffee. Mmmm, coffee. (I was late in getting home from CrossFit)
Lunch: Chicken in tomato sauce and broccoli. Mineral water with a twist of lime.
Snack: Premier Nutrition Protein Shake, Vanilla this time.
Dinner: Roasted chicken, spinach salad, veggies--if the avocados are ripe it's going to be tomatoes and avocados. If not it'll be something else.
There is no end to the types of food you can prepare ahead of time. And if you have a few basic proteins done and in the freezer, you can mix and match your sides to add variety and flavor in order to keep your options fresh and tasty. The only think I wouldn't really recommend cooking in large batches would be seafood. Given the high water content of most fish, it gets dried out or rubbery if it's microwaved. Shrimp may make it if you have some leftovers, but it's costly enough that I wouldn't risk it in large batches and I certainly wouldn't try them in a slowcooker. There are plenty of online resources for cooking ideas, just make sure you make them big, and portion out your servings for a later time. Saves you time and messes later. If you all have recipes or ideas to share, please leave them in the comments!