Batch cook your way to more free time
We’re accustomed to batch cooking soups and stews during the winter months so that we have hearty meals waiting for us when we get home, but the same concept can be applied to the warmer, lighter summertime. Whether you are trying to eat on a budget and save time and money after work or pack ahead meals for your family for weekend road trips, batch cook techniques can be just as useful during the summer months as during the winter.
For many, summer salads are the way to go when meal prepping for summer months—they’re a refreshing break from reheating food in the microwave. “Select your favorite summer salads and create a shopping list of all the ingredients needed to complete each one, so you have variation throughout the week for both lunch and dinner,” says Vince Upperman, executive chef and founder of the modern eatery Portion Control.
Identify which ingredients can be used across all of your recipe selections. “Buy and then cook those items in bulk, buffet style, so you have plenty of toppings prepped and ready to choose from when assembling each dish,” Upperman says.
The key to good summer meal prep is layering appropriately. Many people don’t realize the citrus in food or dressings can make your lettuce sweat, causing it to brown and not be as crisp and tender. “Keep your berries or citrusy foods in small glass containers or plastic bags when traveling, and top them right before eating,” Upperman says. Mason jars are a great way to keep everything fresh and tasty. Layer the dressing on the bottom, meat and hard veggies in the middle, and any berries or cheese at the top.
Mason jars can also store dressings to save them for future use. “Pre-make larger batches of dressings, which can be stored and refrigerated,” Upperman says. Dressings even make great marinades for chicken breasts, so no hard work will go to waste. Many items can be bought pre-washed, pre-cut, and/or pre-cleaned, so opt for pre-cleaned chicken breasts to save yourself the hassle.
According to Upperman, some great salads for summer include:
Berry salad with arugula, strawberries, blueberries, lemon zest, sliced almonds, sliced red onions, grilled chicken, and balsamic vinaigrette.
Watermelon salad with arugula, feta cheese, watermelon, sliced red onions, grilled chicken, fresh mint, and lemon vinaigrette.
Grape salad with grilled romaine lettuce, a mix of green and purple grapes, candied walnuts, sliced red onions, grilled chicken, chopped bacon, blue cheese, and orange vinaigrette.
This is a traditional Spanish recipe without the bread (yes, there’s usually bread in gazpacho). You can keep the garnishes on the side and then pop them on top when you’re ready to eat. Batch cook this in the summer when tomatoes are at their best, and then freeze it to enjoy a taste of summer well into the fall—if it lasts that long! This recipe is courtesy of The Delightful Table.
9 medium-sized orange or yellow tomatoes
2 yellow bell peppers
2 purple, green, or red bell peppers
4-5 small Persian cucumbers
1 small shallot
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
- Boil a pot of water that’s large enough to fit all the tomatoes so that they are covered. If you don’t have a big pot, you can do it in batches.
- Fill a large bowl with ice and water, and set it on the counter near the pot.
- Slice an “X” in the bottom of each tomato, and drop them into the boiling water. Leave them in until the peel starts to curl away from the cuts.
- Scoop the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon, and put them in the ice water bath. When they are cool to the touch, take them out of the water and peel off the skin. It should come off very easily in big sheets.
- Put a strainer or sieve over a bowl. Slice the tomatoes into quarters, and, using your fingers, remove seeds from the tomatoes over the sieve. Squeeze out any juice from the seeds through the sieve. Discard the seeds and reserve the juices.
- Peel 3 or 4 of the cucumbers and coarsely chop.
- Seed the yellow bell peppers and coarsely chop.
- Peel and quarter the shallot.
- Add the tomatoes, reserved juice, cucumbers, yellow bell pepper, shallot, sherry vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a blender or food processor, and process until smooth and creamy.
- Add salt to taste. Chill in the fridge, and serve cold topped with diced cucumber, other colors of bell pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
This recipe is used at (and courtesy of) E in Las Vegas and makes enough for multiple lunch and dinner servings, or you can freeze or refrigerate ahead for another day. It’s batch cook recipe standout for those who love hearty meals.
3/4 quart long-grain rice
2 cups red bell pepper
2 cups green bell pepper
2 cups white onion
1 tablespoon garlic
3 quarts shrimp stock
1 cup chopped green onions
Creole seasoning to taste
3 tablespoons Crystal Hot Sauce
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 andouille sausages
20-30 peeled shrimp
- Dice red and green peppers and onion. Sweat these three ingredients with a small amount of olive oil.
- Add garlic and cook until peppers and onions are soft.
- Add rendered andouille and peeled shrimp.
- Add rice and stock, and cook on low heat until rice is done.
- Season with Creole seasoning, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce to taste.
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