My freezer currently looks like the Single Lady(TM) section of the grocery store. I have about a month’s worth (maybe more) of meals portioned into single-serving sized dishes for easy cooking and baking to cut down on time. To do this, it required several hours of make-ahead time during the weekend, and a fantastic beau to execute the actual cooking of most of this stuff.
Food prep is essential if you’re busy. Whether you’ve got a high-demand career, a bunch of anklebiters running around, or if you’re insane and decided to do grad school full time while working full time, food prep will help your stress levels, save you money, and will help you eat HEALTHY in a pinch. Most importantly for me, food prep helps me eat allergy-free when I’m low on time.
Anyway, I’m not here to convince you to do food prep. Okay, maybe I am a little bit because I continuously hear “I don’t have time to eat healthy”. Listen, if *I* have time to eat healthy, so do you. Also, I have a month’s (or more) worth of meals in the freezer and it cost around $100. I even bought organic and local. So I challenge anybody who thinks it’s too time consuming or expensive to eat healthy. You can do it!
I’ll get off my soapbox now and share with you some of the things I’ve been eating that we made ahead of time.
I dug up my Foolproof Granola Bar recipe and made some allergy-free granola bars with Enjoy Life flax cereal and some of their nut-free trail mix. I used sunflower butter, coconut oil, and honey as well. I put these in a pan, then cut them into single-serving sized bars and then put them in a baggie that I keep in the refrigerator at work.
This next entire dish isn’t freezable, but the vegetable hash is. I made two big batches of this sweet potato hash to put in the freezer. What I like best about this recipe is that I can make it with tofu (and then it’s vegan!) and eat it on the go, or I can omit the tofu and have it as a side. This combo works for breakfast, lunch, or dinner too.
This next meal isn’t a make-ahead deal, but it is so easy that it might as well be. I’ve showed you this egg bake before, but I have been eating egg bakes for breakfast like gangbusters. It’s just 2 slices of bacon, a handful of spinach, and two eggs — OR — you can use the hash from above instead of bacon and make it a vegetarian option. Delicious both ways — I’ve done both. Funny story: this weekend Mark made an egg bake for us and our friends Stephanie and Amanda, and we got FIVE twin eggs (click it because I took a vidya of it!). The eggs Mark was crackin’ were organic too. Something must be in the water up north …
So, this next thing isn’t super healthy, but you know what? We can’t protein-, fiber-, low-fat-ify everything. I noticed I was eating a bakery item from my local coffee shop pretty regularly. Besides the fact that I shouldn’t spend the money, I really didn’t need to be eating a baked good that might include allergens AND was made with ingredients I probably wouldn’t use at home. Instead, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make MY OWN chocolate chip scones. I used this recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon, and I froze the dough individually on a cookie sheet before putting all my dough balls in a freezer bag. I pop one of these into my toaster oven for a fresh scone. YUM.
What’s a scone without tea? No good, that’s what. Just kidding, but seriously. I like my tea, and I absolutely love chai, but since I found out I’m allergic to ginger, I’ve not been drinking chai. However, Crunchy Betty has a fantastic guide to making your own chai, so I’ve been letting a pot of chai spices simmer all weekend when I’m home. Nothing like a fresh cup of chai! This isn’t really food prep, but I thought it was worth mentioning because one batch of this can simmer spices into several cups of water, so I obviously reuse this until it’s clear and spiceless (because that’s how I roll).
And hey, chai is a great segue into Indian food. I discovered all my stupid food allergies about the time I fell in love with Indian food, which is comprised of most of my allergens. My roommate taught me a quick way to make dhal (which she said is basically lentils, some veggies, and a bunch of spices), so I’ve made several pots of it myself after perfecting my recipe. I’ve even made sag paneer to go on the side. And now my freezer is FULL of Indian food.
- 3 T coconut oil
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium to large sweet potato, cut into 1/2-1-inch cubes
- 1 t cumin seeds (toasted!)
- 1 t ground coriander
- 2 t turmeric
- 1 t garam marsala
- 3 T curry (I used yellow curry — no onion or ginger powder)
- 1/2 t black pepper
- 1/4 t cayenne pepper
- 5-6 c water
- 2 1/2 c lentils (RINSED thoroughly)
- Rinse your lentils until the water is no longer murky and no more bubbles appear. This is important because there is saponin on the outside of the lentils, which is toxic, and could make you sick (or worse — develop food allergies like me!).
- Place lentils in a large pan with 5-6 c water. I like to use more water as I can always boil it out later. Heat on medium-hot until lentils are cooked (water should be mostly absorbed).
- Melt oil in a large saucepan over medium.
- Add garlic and sweet potato. Cook for 10-15 minutes until sweet potato is cooked and lentils are mostly done.
- Add remaining ingredients to the sweet potato mixture. Incorporate thoroughly. Cook for 5-6 more minutes.
- Add sweet potato spice mixture to lentils, and stir to incorporate.
- Remove from heat and garnish with fresh cilantro.
Going with the theme of ethnic foods I love but am allergic to, we also made enchiladas. Mark made this sauce from ancho chiles (next time we’re just getting ancho paste because damn that was a pain in the butt!). I didn’t actually make real enchiladas, but stacked the ingredients kind of like a lasagna: sauce, tortilla (instead of noodles), meat, cheese, repeat. I made a bunch of little dishes of enchiladasagna (that’s a word now), froze, and then baked at 350° for 10-15 minutes until the cheese was melted. These work well in the microwave too.
Mark also made me a large batch of my beef and broccoli stir fry.
Finally, Mark roasted some turkey and I made this fantastic mushroom wine gravy to go with it. We kind of followed this recipe, but not really. Delicious.
And that’s it. I’ve been eating quite well even though I haven’t cooked in weeks. 🙂
Have you ever tried food prep?
What do you do when you’re busy to help cut down on stress or time?