A long, long time ago, back when I had more energy than I knew what to do with, I tried Once-A-Month-Cooking. One time. Once. Because even way back then, when I was probably twenty years younger than I am now, it was a TON of work. Now, I know people who do it regularly and love it, so please forgive me if I’ve stepped on your toes. I just know that for me, it was more work than I ever felt like doing again.
Despite my rejection of the two-day shopping/cooking marathon that is OAMC, I do see the wisdom behind it, and I’m a big believer in working smarter rather than harder. So over the years, I’ve developed my own way of cooking ahead. I’m not alone in this. Some people call it Big Cooking; others, like me, think of it as Batch Cooking.
The first time it dawned on me to try Batch Cooking was while mixing up dough for chocolate chip cookies. I thought, Too bad that I’m messing up my Kitchen Aid, spatulas, measuring spoons and measuring cups for just 24 cookies when I’ll probably do it all over again next week. I believe that was the last time I made a single batch of cookies … pretty much from that moment on, I decided to maximize the mess and whip up an extra couple of dozen cookies each time I assembled the ingredients. And I learned that by scooping the dough with my little ice cream scoop and lining them up close-but-not-touching on a baking sheet, then leaving them in the freezer for just a half an hour, I could package the frozen dough balls by the dozen in baggies and I’d always have cookies at the ready.
That’s kind of my approach to cooking anymore. Can I make an extra meal out of what I’m doing right now? It’s not any harder to double a pot of spaghetti sauce than it is to make just enough for one meal. You may as well get the maximum mileage out of the mess and all the simmering. And as long as I’m baking turkey legs for soup and casseroles, it only makes sense to bake a big old batch of turkey legs so I have some for the freezer too.
One of the things I do most regularly is to batch cook hamburger. About every two weeks I buy one big package of Costco hamburger (or more, depending on whether or not I see a lot of potlucks in my immediate future, or whether, like this week, I want to make a giant meatloaf at the same time) and cook it up all at once. Half gets seasoned with onions, green peppers, garlic and Italian seasoning. The other half gets onions, green and red bell peppers, maybe some green chilis (if I have it on hand), and a healthy shake of Tony’s Creole Seasoning. After the first batch is cooked, I put it in a large, shallow bowl to cool while I cook the second batch. I then measure the cooled, cooked meat mixture into gallon freezer bags, label “Italian Mix” or “Mexican Mix,” and throw them in my freezer. Then I’m ready for lasagna, tater tot casserole (a big–and recent–favorite with my family … who knew?), enchilada casserole, tacos … you get the picture.
So there’s the thought for the day: maximize your mess! 🙂