Batch Cooking For The Time Challenged

Batch Cooking For The Time Challenged

Are you jealous of those Instagram posts with a week’s worth of meals prepped and packed in five perfect rows? Are you longing for a freezer stacked with casseroles or bags of ingredients ready to dump into the slow cooker?

Me too.

I am a big believer in plan, shop and cook. I like being in the kitchen when I have time. Yet I don’t want to live there all weekend.

Mama Jean’s recently did a meal planning class for my team. Chef Goeff had great tips for us on how to make a list and a dinner plan for the coming week. He talked about cooking for a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon to have things like rice cooked and vegetables chopped or roasted for dishes he would make on weeknights. It’s a great idea, one I totally agree with. I hard boil eggs and make date balls on the weekend. But Sunday is my one day off. I honestly can’t say I am willing to commit to two or three hours in the kitchen.

His suggestion of repurposing foods you might cook on the weekend through out the week is more my style. For example, if you eat meat, you might cook a whole chicken on Sunday. You would have some for dinner with roasted vegetables. You might use more of it for chicken salad on Monday and a stir-fry on Wednesday. You might roast extra vegetables to make tacos on Tuesday by adding black beans and cilantro. This kind of meal planning is what makes sense in my schedule.

My form of batch cooking is making the most of my leftovers. Cook once and eat all week is my motto these days. I am only home three nights a week for dinner. Sometimes I have time to make something for lunch on Tuesdays. I make the most of these meals to keep Brian and myself feed for the week. With this concept in mind, I have two rules that I (mostly) follow when I plan meals:

  1. The dish has to make at least 4 servings.
  2. It has to take less than 45 minutes to make (not including cooking time).

This leaves me a lot of latitude in my huge recipe collection. I have every issue of Clean Eating ever published plus a huge store of Vegetarian Times magazines. I also have a collection of well-worn vegetarian cookbooks. (Right now Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Diet Vegetarian is at the top of my list.) I’ve been doing this for so long that I have a running list of “house favorites” in head. I know where to turn when I have an overload of a certain ingredient to use. I can walk the farmers market, select what’s in season and inexpensive and know that I have at least two or three recipes I can make with it.

Let me give you a run down of what a typical weekend of my style of batch cooking might look like.

  • Friday Night

    My favorite vegetarian crockpot chili is a winter staple. It uses those frozen vegetables and beans I mentioned plus canned goods I normally have from stocking up at Costco. When squash is in season I might make a yummy Baked Ziti with Chickpeas and Zucchini or a Red Curry with Delicata Squash and Tofu.

  • Saturday Night

    I look for the same types of recipes as I do on Friday night. While I am not in the gym training on Saturdays I still have plenty of work to do. My brain is usually taxed from all the bookkeeping, program prepping, writing and taking care of household tasks. I need something uncomplicated. Tofu Pad Thai is a favorite right now because it’s super easy and quick. A head of cabbage will last for a couple of weeks, so I can make this one twice during a two-week cycle if I want to.

  • Sunday

    Sunday is double duty day. I make my Vanilla Coconut Protein Pancakes for breakfast. They make easy to take to work leftovers for both of us on Monday. Sunday night is movie night and black bean burgers with sweet potato fries. The black bean patties are something I do freeze because we eat them EVERY Sunday. They also serve as back up for dinner. If we run out of leftovers from the week, Brian can easily make one warm on up in the microwave when he gets home from the office.

I supplement the week with another batch of pancakes on Thursday. I make them for one of my meals while I finish up emails and pack my dinner for the gym on Thursday night. Tuesday is another day I don’t go into the gym until late. If I don’t have a lunch meeting, I will make something quick like a Broccoli Quinoa Frittata or instant potato soup. When I am home, my other quick go to meal is eggs with spinach, toast and fruit. Eggs are easy to make and you can dress them up any way you want.

That is batch cooking for the time challenged. This is how I keep us both feed. While it is just Brian and I, the same rules can be applies to any family. You need more servings, but not more time. You can even take advantage of the extra hands by making cooking a family affair. The most valuable skill you can teach your teenager is to cook. Younger kids might make a mess, but that’s where it can be fun. Besides I find the occasional OOPS photo more interesting than perfectly portioned bowls of oatmeal anyway.

Balancing Your Plate: Why It’s Okay to Eat Carbs

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When I talk to clients about eating more protein, not being afraid of fat and balancing their plate I automatically come across as “anti-carb”. I was really excited when I was asked to be a Wasa Ambassador because sharing the Wasa love gives me the perfect opportunity to bust this myth.

Wasa Logo

I am all for the right kind of carbs, “smart carbs” if you will, at the right time. Carbs are an essential part of a fit and active life because they are the body’s primary energy source. Glucose is how we power our muscles and fuel our brain. When our blood sugar dips, depleted by stress and life, we get “hangry”. We get tired. We are more likely to make poor choices. You reach for the donut in the break room or the chocolate chip cookies that are supposed to be for the kids’ lunch box for an energy boost. Those sugary carbs send your blood sugar spiking back up, momentarily making you feel better, but will soon be followed by the crash.

All carbs, however, are not created equal. The bulk of our daily carbohydrate intake should come from nutrient dense carbs that contain some protein or fiber to slow down the blood sugar spike. Vegetables, fruits, dairy, beans, oats and other fiber rich foods (like Wasa crispbread) should be part of your daily diet to give you the energy you need not just for workouts but for the entire day.

The Standard American Diet is based on the wrong kind of carbs. A bagel for breakfast leaves you hungry in just an hour or two. A burger and fries for lunch leaves you in a food coma for the afternoon. Most people waste the energy from a pasta dinner by sitting on the couch after a day of sitting at their desk. We need to rethink the plate to match our day and the needs of our body.

  • Breakfast

    Poached Egg on a WASA Flaxseed Crispbread with Avocado

    You need carbs to start the day but you also need protein to sustain you until lunch. It needs to be quick and portable. A green smoothie to drink in the car is easy and filling. A poached egg on a Wasa Flaxseed or Hearty  crispbread with avocado and a side of fruit will keep you satisfied and focused through a hectic morning

  • Lunch

    Don’t skip it! You may be busy but you’ll be less effective if you don’t eat something during the day. Try egg salad or tuna salad on bed of greens with Wasa Sourdough crispbreads on the side. The protein and fiber make a powerful lunch combo that will keep you cleared headed and alert for your post lunch meetings.

  • Dinner

    WASA with Lentil Sloppy Joe FillingIt’s hard to find something that will please everyone but I find soups or chili are universally popular. They are also easy to fill with protein and veggies with plenty of leftovers the next day. Skip the saltines or rolls and give your soup or chili a fiber punch with Wasa Hearty crispbread.

  • Snacks

    WASA Peanut Butter and an Apple SnackYes, you need to snack. If it’s going to longer than 4 hours till your next meal you need something to keep your blood sugar up. I love hummus or peanut butter with baby carrots and Wasa crispbreads for a surprisingly filling snack. Cheese pairs well with Wasa crispbreads too along with an apple or some grapes.

It’s time to rethink your plate and bring it back into balance. Real fitness is about finding harmony in your body and your life. Real fitness is about being strong, healthy and capable of living the life you want, in and out of the gym. It’s not about being anti carb and depriving yourself. Do something nice your future self will thank you for. Real fitness is about giving your body what it needs to fuel your appetite for life!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of the Wasa.

How to Host a Holiday Tea Party

How to Host a Holiday Tea Party

Is it your turn to play hostess for the book club holiday party?

Are you overwhelmed at the thought of having plates full of leftover cookies from your annual cookie party?

Do you want a way to keep things a little simpler this Christmas as you celebrate with friends?

All of these problems can be solved with one fantastic solution:

Host a holiday tea party!

Despite what you may see on London travel websites or Downton Abbey, taking afternoon tea does not have to be a fancy affair. It offers the perfect combination of warmth on a cold snowy day and the opportunity to sample new tastes without going overboard. You can put together a tea party in less time than it takes to explain the rules of the ornament exchange (again) to everyone. Here’s your How to Host a Holiday Tea Party checklist.

Pick a date and time.
While a tea party is best in the afternoon (so everyone has time to come down from the caffeine buzz) it can also be an evening affair. The time of day you choose to have your tea will dictate the varieties of teas you will share with your guests. When you send out the invitations, ask everyone to bring their own tea cup (for easier clean up).

Plan your tea menu.
I would suggest serving 3-5 teas at your party. You want some variety for the fun of it plus you want to meet the needs of your guests, some of whom may not like or be able to drink caffeinated beverages. Just before Thanksgiving Mama Jean’s Natural Market helped me host a holiday tea, in the evening, for my clients. Our tea menu was as a follows:

  1. Blackberry Sage black tea (Republic of Tea)
  2. Pumpkin Spice Tea black tea (Republic of Tea)
  3. Milk Oolong
  4. Good Hope Vanilla roobis tea (Republic of Tea)
  5. Hot Apple Cider herbal tea (Republic of Tea)

I might also suggest a jasmine or genmaicha green tea to round out the tea varieties.  Using bagged tea will make preparation and clean up much easier. Just look for bagged teas that are whole leaf if possible.

Choose a simple selection of tea foods.
Mama Jean’s made this easy for me! The staff planned an amazing menu that can use as template for your own tea party.

selection of tea foods.

  • Roasted Sweet Potato Slices topped with garlic hummus (olives and green onions, optional)
  • Autumn Brussels Sprouts Salad (recipe courtesy of Karen Brooks-Pender from the Republic Rd Mama Jean’s see below.)
  • Quinoa Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Raw Date Balls
  • Apple Crisp (This is another recipe courtesy of Mama Jean’s see below.)

We had more than enough food for 10 people so feel free to select only 2-3 dishes for your tea party. Make the tea the focus, not the food.

Make sure you have other supplies in addition to food and tea.
You may need extra napkins or small plates but silverware needs should be limited. Make sure you do have one or two pots of hot water for the guests to use to make their cups of tea as well as a place to dispose of tea bags.

Plan an activity or two.
If you don’t have a book to discuss you might consider putting out playing cards, trivia games or any other activity that might spur laughs or conversation. If you and your friends are crafty have them bring their knitting or scrapbook pages along.

The day of the party all you have to do is set the table, find the Christmas station on Pandora, make a simple dish or two and boil some water!

What’s your favorite low stress way to have fun with friends over the holidays? Do you have a favorite holiday blend of tea?

Autumn Brussels Sprouts Salad

Autumn Brussels Sprouts Salad

Roast 2 qts halved and rinsed Brussels sprouts in olive oil with salt and pepper.
In a separate pan heat 2 cups of orange juice and ½ cup maple syrup and add 1 cup each dried and fresh cranberries.
Bring to a boil, letting the fresh cranberries “pop” and the mixture thicken. Cool.
Chop Romaine lettuce and toss together with pecans and other ingredients once they have completely cooled.
Adjust flavor and ingredients to desired visual and taste.

Apple Crisp

In a pan mix:
6 cups diced apples
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup golden raisins and
1 dash of salt

In a separate dish mix the topping ingredients:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup gluten free flour
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup Earth Balance Vegan Butter Spread.

Sprinkle the topping over the apple mixture and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until brown.

Gluten Free Apple Cider Pancakes Recipe

Gluten Free Apple Cider Pancakes Recipe

Photo by Pamela Hernandez

I have a client named Erin who is an exceptional cook and baker. In fact, she used to bake cakes professionally but had to give it up when she was diagnosed with a severe wheat allergy. Going completely gluten free was not an easy transition, but it was the only option she had if she wanted to live an active and healthy life.

Erin, who grew up in a home where everything was made from scratch, had to relearn cooking. Being so knowledgeable about food has helped her create some very yummy gluten free substitutions for common flour based comfort foods. When she told me about her Apple Cider Pancakes, I knew I had to have the recipe. When I asked her for it she tried to tell me it wasn’t really a recipe. She said all she did was substitute apple cider for the milk in the gluten free pancake mix. But as we talked she kept telling me about more modifications and additions. I say when you make more than one substitution it becomes a recipe. I hope you find these pancakes as deliciously simple as I did. Thanks for sharing Erin!

Gluten Free Apple Cider Pancakes

  • 1 1/8 cup King Arthur Gluten Free Pancake Mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 scoop vanilla or unflavored whey protein powder (I use Designer Whey French Vanilla)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract (if using unflavored protein powder)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Combine liquid ingredients and add to the dry ingredients. Mix well.
  3. Let mixture sit for up to 15 minutes. (This makes for a fluffier pancake.)
  4. Heat a non-stick griddle over medium heat. Spray with olive oil cooking spray.
  5. Poor ¼ cup of batter to form pancakes. Cook until bubbles start to form, then flip. Cook for additional one to two minutes.
  6. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 Pancakes
Prep Time: 20 Minutes (includes 15 Minutes to Sit)
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Serving: 1 Pancake

Per Serving: Calories 116; Total Fat 5g; (Sat Fat 1g, Trans 0g, Poly Fat 0g, Mono Fat 1g); Protein 4g; Carb 16g; Fiber 2g; Sugars 4g; Cholesterol 38mg; Sodium 122mg

You can top them with your choice of ingredients. A little butter or maple syrup works well. I like mixing 1 tbsp of PB2 with 1 tbsp of maple syrup and little water. Then I drizzle it over the pancakes. Enjoy!

Farmers Market Finds for October

Fall vegetables may be the ones I have the least experience with. Zucchini, berries, asparagus, sweet corn and peppers are easy to cook and add to various dishes. Beets, turnips and delicata squash are like a foreign language to me. Yet they looked so beautiful at the farmers market this month I just couldn’t say no.

Ever since getting my Ninja I want to try juicing everything. When I saw the garnet red beets at the market I had a vision of a brilliant red post run smoothie. Sometimes the vision is better than the reality. I made a slight variation of this Cranberry Beet Smoothie from Runner’s World, twice. It was not entirely unpleasant, still drinkable, but I wouldn’t call it a win. Failure is how we learn, right? I think beets will be more pleasing to me if I roast them instead of drink them next time. The trick will be how to do it without making my kitchen look like a murder scene. Anyone have tips on how to peel and slice a beet without getting the red everywhere?

The next kitchen experiment was the delicata squash. Squash is more familiar territory but I’ve never tried this particular variety. For over a year I’ve been making a chickpeas salad recipe from Vegetarian Times that shares a page with a recipe for Red Curry Delicata Squash and Tofu. Every time I make the chickpea salad, I tell myself that I am going to try the curry recipe “someday”. No more some day! I thought it was delicious and it passed my husband’s test for flavor (a little spicy, but not curry overload).

The last experiment was with the turnips. I was inspired by another recipe, this one from Health magazine. I’ve been trying to be a good steward of our grocery budget, planning meals around my overstock of pantry staples. I always have most of the ingredients for the Moroccan and Turnip Chickpea Braise on hand. I used quinoa instead of couscous to boost the protein power.  It turned out to be a “maybe”. I tasted okay but it was missing something. I may try it again but add a couple of extras to see if I can bring out the flavor a bit. If you give it a try tell me if you liked it “as is” or if you added a little something.

It wasn’t long ago that the coming of fall meant the end of the farmers market. I am so glad that the Farmers Market of the Ozarks will continue to have a winter market. Several vendors have told me I might be surprised what the market has to offer during the colder months. I’m looking forward to being inspired all winter long.

What about you? How do you feel about beets and turnips? Does your local market stay open year round?

Tired of Pumpkin Spice? Try my Apple Pie Protein Smoothie Recipe!

I don’t get excited for Pumpkin Spice Lattes. For one, I am a tea drinker. Two, I eat pumpkin all year long. I eat pumpkin every morning in my Morning Mug Souffle and every night in my pumpkin pie oatmeal. What really excites me about fall is the apple harvest.

When I found the first gala apples of the season at the Farmers Market I almost jumped for joy. While I eat apples all year long too, nothing tastes better than the first bite of a crisp sweet local apple in September. While everyone else is putting pumpkin or pumpkin spice in everything (pumpkin spice salad dressing anyone?), I am experimenting with new ways to eat my apples.

With the help of my new Ninja Ultima, I turned MY fall favorite into a deliciously decadent protein smoothie. Pick your favorite sweet apple and give it a try.

Apple Pie Protein Smoothie

  • 1 small (2 inches in diameter) apple, cored and chopped
  • 4 pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 scoop Designer Whey Vanilla Praline
  • ¾ unsweetened almond or coconut milk
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger

Put all ingredients into blend. Blend until smooth. Makes 1 serving.

Yield: 1 Smoothie
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: NA

Per Serving: Calories 300; Total Fat 4.4g; (Sat Fat 1g, Trans 0g, Poly Fat 0g, Mono Fat 1g); Protein 20g; Carb 49g; Fiber 4g; Sugars 13g; Cholesterol 60mg; Sodium 115mg

If you’re still craving pumpkin, check out this Protein Pumpkin Pie Shake recipe from Designer Whey!