Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Batch Cooking Primer

I spent some time this past weekend doing some batch cooking and it inspired me to write a post about it.  I know lots of people already do this on a regular basis, but there are others who are a bit intimidated by the thought of it so I hope to simplify things somewhat.

For me, there are few basics to think about before I get started. 

1.  What are you hoping to accomplish with your batch cooking? 
  • Do you want to use up some things in your fridge or pantry before they go bad?
  • Do you want to make some dinners for the next week? 
  • Do you just want to make some meals to have on had in your freezer?  
  • Perhaps you think that you are turning on the oven to make one thing anyway, so you might as well make the most of it and keep cooking?

2.  What are you making and what are you planning to do with it?
  • Are you going to put your prepared food in the fridge for use over the next few days?
  • Will you need to freeze what you prepare?
  • Do you have room in the fridge or freezer to store the food you pepare?
3.  Consider your storage container options
  • plastic containers
  • glass containers
  • zipper lock freezer bags
  • individual portions or multi-serving portions

4.  Make a plan of attack
  • list the items you plan to make
  • check to make sure you have the ingredients you need
  • make a shopping list and buy the items on it
  • make note of the order you will do things, a timeline of sorts
5.  Execute the plan
  • assemble your ingredients
  • do all your veggie chopping at once
  • clean up as you go along
  • HAVE FUN! and SMILE a lot
5.  After you are finished
  • put things in containers
  • label for the freezer
  • ENJOY your accomplishment!
As an example, I will share with you how my recent session went.

I made a mental note of the things I wanted to accomplish:
  • roast Beets that are in the pantry so they aren't forgotten about and go bad.  Peel and freeze some, store one in fridge for use this week
  • while the oven is hot anyway, bake Italian Meatballs and freeze in meals for 2 people
  • cook Goop for dinner that night and then freeze leftovers in one container for another meal for 2 people
  • cook Barley for Captain’s dinner and save leftovers in fridge in 2 individual servings for use this week
  • cook Red Curry Slow Cooker Pork for dinner the next night and then freeze leftovers in 4 individual servings
And then I got busy…

I started the Red Curry Slow Cooker Pork going first.  I knew I needed to use my large skillet to brown the pork and then I would have to wash it before I could use it to cook the Goop. 

Then I scrubbed the Beets and got them roasting in the oven. 

While they were baking I mixed the Meatballs and put them on a baking sheet.

And I started the Goop by putting ground beef in the skillet with onions and garlic.

I chopped and added the vegetables to the Goop skillet.

Beets cooked, I set them aside to cool and put the meatballs into the oven.

I add the tomato sauce to the Goop and turned it to simmer.

I started the Barley cooking in a large saucepan on the stove top.

I removed the peels from the Beets under cold running water, and then bagged them and put some in the freezer, and one in the fridge.

After the Meatballs were cooked, I portioned them into 8s and put them in containers and into the freezer.

The Goop and the Barley were done about the same time – saved one portion of Barley for The Captain’s dinner and put the rest in individual containers in the fridge.  The Goop would feed us twice so I saved half for our dinner, and put the rest in a container in the freezer.

The Pork was done a few hours later and I saved some in the fridge for one meal for the two of us the next day and then portioned 4 servings into individual containers and put them in the freezer.

Here are some pics from my kitchen adventures...

1 Beets
Roasted beets

2 Meatballs
Italian Meatballs ready to go into the oven when the Beets came out

3 Goop 1
Goop steaming on the stove top

4 Goop 2
And all done

5 Barley
Barley cooked

12 Red Curry Pork
Red Curry Slow Cooker Pork done too

6 Goop and Barley
Good with Barley for The Captain

7 Good and Squash
And over roasted Ambercup Squash for me

9 Beets and Salad
Beets sliced on salad with light Feta and Pecans

11 Barley fried 'rice'
The Captain enjoyed this Barley done like Chicken Fried Rice

12 Red Curry Pork potatoes 2
Red Curry Slow Cooker Pork with potatoes for The Captain

13 Red Curry Pork squash
And with Acorn Squash for me

14 Barley with Butter Chicken
And some Barley with Butter Chicken for The Captain

Do you batch cook?

Any hints to share?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My New Flax-Coconut Pancake… you’ll see why

The main thing on my shopping list when we visited the Trader Joe’s in Silverdale, WA earlier this week, was pumpkin butter.  I love this stuff and I happen to think that TJ’s is the very best.  Each 1 tablespoon serving is only 40 calories, and it’s all carbs… no fat, no protein… but does have lots of Vitamin A. 

Oct 26 Pumpkin butter and pancakes 001

It’s not health food, folks.  But it is truly delicious!  And for you fellow Weight Watchers, it is only 1 P+ per serving.  Yes, I have made pumpkin butter and sweet potato butter myself… and it is really easy to do and it is very good.  But when I finally get an opportunity to get across the border and find a TJ’s, especially in the Fall, I do stock up!

In honor of opening the first jar this morning, after our run, I made up a new grain-free pancake!  I wanted to have something tasty to spread that lovely, spicy pumpkin butter over… I thought it would be a little more elegant than just eating it out of the jar with a spoon, or my fingers!

Flax-Coconut Pancake

Flax-Coconut Pancake
Makes 1 serving
  • 1 Tbs ground flax seeds
  • 1 Tbs coconut flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup egg whites
  • splash of vanilla
  • dash of cinnamon
  1. Mix all the ingredients till well blended and then pour into prepared skillet over MEDIUM heat.
  2. Cook till the mixture bubbles, about 5 minutes.
  3. Then flip and cook second side about 2 or 3 minutes.
  4. Remove to serving plate and garnish with your favorite toppings.
Per serving, without toppings.
Weight Watchers P+ = 4.
Calories 185; Protein 15g; Carbohydrate 8g; Fat 9g; Fibre 5g.

If you want something a little lower in fat, just replace the whole egg with 1/4 cup of egg whites.  And of course you can double the ingredients... and make two cakes instead of just one!

Oct 26 Pumpkin butter and pancakes 004

Are you a pumpkin butter or sweet potato butter fan?  Have you ever made it?

If you haven't, but would like to, check out my recipe… it is so easy!  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Asian Beef Slaw

In Canada our extra lean ground beef is not nearly as lean as what you can buy in the U.S…. I believe our leanest is 15% fat, as opposed to the 4% fat that I know I bought the few winters that we lived in WA state. 

But we do really like our Canadian beef products and so tend to buy in bulk when it is on sale… then I have to come up with new and interesting ways to serve it!

I made this Asian Beef Slaw recently.  It is prettty tasty and makes up very quickly and easily because I used a premixed bag of coleslaw… and when it was time for leftovers, I added some pineapple just to change it up a bit.  If you are chopping your own cabbage and carrots, you will need about 12 cups in total.

Asian Beef Slaw 

Asian Beef Slaw
Makes 4 servings

  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped white or yellow onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed and minced
  • 1 bag coleslaw mix
  • 1/4 cup tamari soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 1/4 cup white or rice vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbs sesame oil
  1. Place ground beef in a large skillet on MEDIUM-HIGH setting.
  2. Stir occasionally till meat starts to brown and then add chopped onions and minced garlic to the pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, till beef is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  3. Add coleslaw mix, soy sauce and vinegar to the pan and cook only a few minutes, till cabbage is limp.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil.
  5. Divide and serve.
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 8.
Calories 317; Protein 29g; Carbohydrate 18g; Fat 14g; Fibre 6g.

Oct 5 Asian Beef and Slaw 001

Do you have any favorite ground beef ideas or recipes you would like to share? You are welcome to leave a link in your comment.

Thank You!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup

My friend, Kate, gave me this recipe a few weeks ago and I put off making it until I could find some red peppers at a decent price.   That finally happened this past week and I am so glad!  This Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup is truly one of the most flavorful soups I have met in some time… no exotic spices… curries, cumin… or even herbs.  Just good wholesome ingredients that are chock full of wonderful taste in themselves.

It just might be the best Butternut Squash soup EVER!

I do hope you will give it a try.  Kate has adapted the recipe from one she from a woman she works with, and we don’t know where that one came from originally.  I wish I could take credit for it.

I do know that Kate has been experimenting with the ingredients a bit, as have I so I will share how I made it up… but don’t be afraid to add some tomatoes, or roast your veggies before adding them to the soup pot.  That is an extra step, but even more delicious I am sure!  And if you like, double the ingredients and make a huge batch.

I weighed the ingredients I used, for accuracy sake, but don’t worry about that if you are not counting calories or Weight Watchers Points Plus.  And by all means, use your own homemade broth if you like, or even a veggie broth if you are not a meat eater.

Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup

Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup
Makes 10 one-cup servings
  • 1 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1 large white onion (16 ounces)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium butternut squash (44 ounces)
  • 3 medium red peppers (14 ounces)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • Dashes of salt and red pepper flakes to taste
  • Dash of black pepper
  1. Coarsely chop the onion.
  2. Peel, smash, and mince the garlic cloves.
  3. Seed the peppers and cut into chunks.
  4. Peel and seed the squash and then cut  into 1" cubes.
  5. Melt the coconut oil in a large soup pot over MEDIUM heat. 
  6. Add the onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5-10 minutes. 
  7. Add squash cubes and red pepper chunks and then pour in broth. 
  8. Cover and increase heat to HIGH until the broth comes to a boil. 
  9. Reduce heat to LOW and gently simmer stirring occasionally, until squash and peppers are very tender, about 40 – 45  minutes. 
  10. Remove from heat and let cool.
  11. Blend cooled soup with hand/immersion blender until as smooth as  you like. 
  12. Taste and season with salt and red pepper flakes.
  13. Reheat before serving.
  14. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper.
Per serving.
Weight Watchers P+ = 3.
Calories 103; Protein 3g; Carbohydrate 22g; Fat 2g; Fibre 4g.

Oct 12 Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup 001
Veggies in the pot… aren’t they beautiful?

Oct 12 Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup 002
Starting the puree… see the bits of red pepper still to be mixed in?

Oct 12 Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup 003
Serving it up!  Just look how thick it is. Mmmm.

What is your favorite homemade soup?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving!  Our holiday is on Monday, October 14th… and all across the country, Canadians will be sitting down to traditional turkey dinners.  Oh yes, I know, that some celebrate with other special meals, but most commonly, we think of turkey and pumpkin pie at this time of year!

Most of us will celebrate the traditional holiday on Sunday or Monday… and everyone who enjoys the beauty of our land, and the privileges that being Canadian affords, will truly have something for which to be thankful.  Here is one of my recent favorite moments….

Sept 18 Marolyn and Don visit 006

This is my sister and brother-in-law from Calgary (why yes he is a cowboy) with The Captain and me, just about to enjoy a ride in carriage drawn by Betty, who is a 23 year old Belgian mare. It was so much fun. 

I have lots of recipes on the blog about turkey dinners, and various dressings, and some cranberry sauces, and pumpkin desserts so if you are interested, here are only a few links.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and family

What are you giving Thanks for today?

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Pumpkin Protein Paleo Cookies

One day this past week, The Captain announced that one of our local markets was selling canned pumpkin puree for 87 cents per can and that he was planning to pick some up for me the next morning while I was at work.

I was sure they wouldn’t have any left by the time he got there, but when he arrived to drive me home after my noontime Weight Watchers meeting, he quite proudly gave me the news that he had bought 2 cases…. 24 cans of pure pumpkin puree! 

So what am I going to do with it all?  Well, there will be pumpkin pancakes, and pumpkin souffles, pumpkin smoothies, and of course I had to come up with some pumpkin cookies!

These are not your ordinary sweet, dessert cookies, though.  These are cookies that I am going to keep in the freezer and have them pre-workout in the morning. I like to have a little nibble of something nutritious before I do my strength workout in the morning and this will fill that bill quite nicely… but they also do taste great! 

They are not too sweet but if you want a treat, they are certainly that as well.  I have been experimenting for months now with almond flour cookies, and these are pretty good.

I used liquid vanilla Stevia as my sweetener. If you use plain Stevia, or a powdered sweetener such as Splenda, add a spoonful of vanilla extract, too.  And you can use any kind of nuts you like.  I thought pecans would taste good with the pumpkin and they sure do!

Pumpkin Protein Paleo Cookies

Pumpkin Protein Paleo Cookies
Makes 35 cookies
  • 1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin pure pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 dropper liquid vanilla Stevia
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 4 level scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1 Tbs coconut flour
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 2 dashes allspice
  1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, protein powder, coconut flour and spices.
  4. Mix in the raisins and pecans.
  5. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, and Stevia.  Then add the mixture to the dry ingredients.
  6. Combine well.
  7. Using a 1Tbs measure, scoop the batter into mounds on the parchment paper and bake for 14 minutes.
  8. Remove the cookies from the sheet and leave on a cooling rack for several minutes to let them set.  They will be quite soft till they cool a bit.
  9. Repeat #7 and #8 with the remaining batter.

Per serving of 1 cookie.
Weight Watchers P+ = 2.
Calories 85; Protein 5g; Carbohydrate 6g; Fat 5g; Fibre 2g.

Oct 5 cookies 001
You don’t need to leave much room between the mounds as they don’t spread much when baking.

What do you like to eat before you work out?