Monday, November 21, 2011

Weekly Mothering Challenge: Try Batch Cooking

I have been endeavoring recently to perfect the art and skill of batch cooking, making lots of food at once to eat and then freeze for later. With Daddy taking some time off from work this week and Thanksgiving festivities happily drawing me closer to the kitchen, this is a good time to work on batch cooking. I am trying, as best I can, to *simply* double (or triple) everything I am making these days. We eat some now and save some for later to maximize time and effort.

Once I become more skilled at batch cooking, I am thinking we may purchase a separate freezer for our basement storage area for extra food that won't fit in our small pantry refrigerator. So far it's been helpful to have extra bowls of lentils, and lasagna, and pasta sauce waiting in the wings for days when I don't want to cook or know what to serve.

In this month's issue of Natural Life Magazine there is a great article about using batch cooking to promote community and convenience, suggesting strategies for forming small batch cooking groups that work together to make large meal portions to serve several families throughout a month. Such a fabulous idea!

In addition to preparing quarts of spiced squash and apple soup, mounds of biscuits, and many other goodies this week, I am also using farm-fresh cranberries to make several batches of this very yummy cranberry bread recipe that my aunt graciously passed along to me:

Auntie's Homemade Cranberry Bread

Ingredients:
1 1/2 C chopped fresh cranberries
4 tsp grated orange peel
3 T sugar
(mix these three ingredients and set aside)

3 C sifted flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
3/4 C sifted sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 C orange juice
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 C chopped nuts (optional)
3/4 C water
1/2 C melted butter

Preparation:
Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, add eggs to orange juice, water, and melted butter and mix. Add to dry ingredients and stir enough to blend and moisten. Add cranberry mixture and optional nuts and mix, being careful not to over-mix.

Add to greased 9x5x3 loaf pan (or separate into two pans), bake for approximately 1 hour or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Eat immediately, or for best results, cool completely, wrap in tin foil, and refrigerate for 24 hours. Enjoy!

6 comments:

  1. I love this idea of batch cooking - we did something similar a couple times a year in my Moms group when I had infants/toddlers - similar to a cookie swap. We all cooked two dishes, tripled, so we had 6 meals (to serve 4), to swap...we came home with 6 new dishes and recipes to try...so fun!

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  2. I love batch cooking!
    When I first starting trying to save money after we had kids and decided to stay home I got really into freezer cooking. I would plan and prep up to 2 weeks and have a freezer full of food. However I soon stopped doing that for a few reasons.

    1) I started canning and putting by as I began to eat closer to the season and joined a CSA. I would buy things like tomatoes in bulk and can them to use throughout the winter. I felt this was a better use of my time

    2) I realized I really LOVE to cook. I love spending time in the kitchen. It's a creative outlet that releases stress and I want to do it more than a few times a month.

    But I still batch cook. My freezer is full of pesto and extra sauces. I make huge pots of beans or rice and have them left over. I'll roast 2 chickens instead of one to have chicken for meals in the coming few weeks. I always make more food than we can eat for every meal so left overs can be eaten for lunch, and so that at the end of the week we can have a planned "left-over buffet" We put everything out from the fridge and eat it cold (or heat it up if it really needs it) and everyone eats whatever they want from the buffet. I love to make an extra loaf of bread (banana bread, zucchini) and freeze it. Other things that freeze well and can be made in batches: pizza dough, pie dough, chicken stock (or turkey stock!), bread dough, chicken breasts.

    So I've found a way to combine my need for efficiency in a kitchen with 3 young kid and space for my creativity and to make sure it tastes good!

    We've invested in an extra fridge in the basement and a Foodsaver. Both well worth the money I think.

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  3. @ Urban Schooling - So great that you tried a batch cooking group! It is definitely something I would like to explore.

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  4. @ Cantabrigimom - Really great insights and great suggestions on good foods to freeze.... now to look into that freezer.... Thanks! -Kerry

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  5. I suggest a newish one, the older ones are easy to find on Craigslist, but take a lot of energy to run. It's really funny, after I read this post a friend e-mailed me and asked if I wanted hers when they move in December. If you can wait until National Frozen Food Month many stores will have deals, and grocery stores will even give away/sell them cheap.

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