Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tips for Easier Batch Cooking

This past weekend I did some serious batch cooking. It was rainy and cold, perfect for staying inside and keeping the house warm by keeping the stove/oven in use. Kill two birds with one stone, kinda...

Anyway, I don't batch cook as much as I should. However the more I do it, the more I tend to pick up tricks that make it easier for me. And I figured if they worked for me, then maybe they'll work for you too. So here are some ideas for you to try, and a few recipes are included in case you want to try it out yourself.

First off, pull out everything that you'll need bEfOrEhAnD. This makes things so much easier. You won't be stopping every five minutes looking for something. And keep everything out until you are done, that way you put it all up at one time. I recommend using your kitchen table as your "prep" area.

**DISCLAIMER** Most of these pictures aren't good, in fact they mostly stink. My kitchen has lousy lighting, and since I abhor the flash feature on my camera you'll notice most of these pictures have bad lighting. However I think you'll still get the idea.

First off, baking. I made several things, all of which will freeze beautifully. Above are some "breakfast bars" as we call them. I got the original recipe from Quaker Oat's website awhile back but have tweaked it several times to what we now use. These are seriously yummy and very inexpensive and quick to make. You'll find the recipe at the bottom of the post. A tip on these, use nasty looking bananas. The blacker the better. I usually will buy those "day old" bananas and stick them in the freezer, completely whole and then thaw them when ready to make these. Try them, you'll not be disappointed.

This is a chocolate chip shortbread. I recently started making this, and it's seriously yummy. It uses a ToN of butter, as does any shortbread. However it's so delish it's worth the calories. Very easy as well, just a handful of ingredients. I'll include the recipe for this as well, check the bottom of my post.

A quick tip on the shortbread. You need to sift the flour bEfOrE measuring, which is unusual by today's standards. Use a sieve and shake your flour over waxed paper and then spoon it into your dry measure. Don't skip this step, it will effect your end result if you do.

GFCF chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. These are for my oldest that has to eat a special diet. I cheated and doctored up a plain GFCF cookie mix with oats and chocolate he can eat. These turned out great, he was a happy camper.

Cheddar cheese baking powder biscuits, very yummy and easy to make. I just took a standard baking powder biscuit recipe and added cheddar cheese, some italian seasoning and garlic powder. These will make AnY soup taste better.

Speaking of soup, I made a big pot of veggie soup. Very yummy and cheap. Use random left over bits of this and that to make this soup filling and varied. There is corn, cauliflower, green beans, kidney beans, onions, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and alphabet pasta swimming around in there. Also another tip, used boxed stock. Easy and tastes just as good, I usually use a low sodium brand and bump it up (try Pacific or Imagine brand).

A tip on using garlic. First off, use a LOT of it. You can't go wrong with garlic. Secondly DO NOT buy chopped garlic, it's nasty. Just buy a whole head and stick it in your cabinet. Peel several cloves at a time (I use the tried and true smashing it with a chefs knife trick) and then here's the awesome part. Don't mince it, but grate it! Easier and faster, I'll never mince garlic again. I have a microplane grater and it's lickity split fast, and no risk of boo boo fingers either.

I cooked up some white rice, and added a few cans of black beans and some frozen corn. I then seasoned with salt/pepper and some sauteed onions and garlic. Froze in quart size bags, perfect for taco/burrito filling or as a filler in a casserole.

A tip on sauteing onions. Chop up more than you think you'll need and then saute them in olive oil. The secret to good looking onions is almost overcooking them. You want lots of brown onions and lots of brown coating the bottom of your pan. That brown coating on the bottom of your pan is called "fond", it's a french term. That stuff is brown gold, it's not a burned on mess.
Deglaze your pan with stock or a bit of white wine and use it! I usually will saute my onions and then remove from the pan and deglaze it, then add the onions back and cook until the liquid is dissolved. I guarantee it'll take your onions to a whole new level. It's all about building layers of flavor, and this will definitely do that for you.

When I was finished I had quite a bit in the freezer. Three bags of "three cheese shells", four bags of the rice/bean mix, a bag of chicken sausage marinara and some cauliflower florets are all shown above. I also had a double batch of veggie soup, a double batch of cheese biscuits, a double batch chocolate chip shortbread, a batch of the breakfast bars and a batch of GFCF cookies. Not bad for half a days work I say!! Below are the recipes I promised. If you try something, let me know what you think.

Chocolate Scotch Shortbread

1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 t salt (use 1/4 t if using salted butter)
2/3 C unsalted butter
1/2 C confectioners sugar
bag of chocolate chips (10-16 oz)

Melt butter in microwave, then add confectioners sugar and combine well. Add flour and salt, mix completely. Fold in chocolate chips and press into an ungreased 9" glass pie plate. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Sides will be browned well. Let cool completely before cutting, or it'll crumble on you.

Breakfast Bars

3/4 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C butter or margarine
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1 2/3 C flour
1/2 C ground flax seed
2 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 C quick or rolled dry oats
5 large bananas, mashed
1/2 C raisins (if desired)

Cream butter/margarine, brown sugar and vanilla. Add egg and mashed bananas, combine well. Add remaining dry ingredients (except oats) and mix completely. Fold in the oats and raisins last. Drop by large spoonful onto greased cookie sheets and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Bottoms will be browned well when finished. Cool completely and store covered. Add some peanut butter on top for extra protein if desired.


  1. oh my goodness you were busy! Everything looks DELISH!!!!! Can I come to your house for dinner tonight? :)

    ~Emily N. from "too Blessed to Stress"

  2. What a great post, thanks so much for sharing! I need to get in the habit of cooking things ahead. Any time I've done it, it was so easy and even easier when I had the frozen dinner. That rice/black bean/corn combo looks delish!

    -Ann Marie


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