Meal Planning, Batch Cooking, and Kitchen Renovations
Hello to all of you! It has been a very busy few months, so I apologize for the lack of new recipes. Work, being a mom, school, and life has kept me very busy and when I have had some downtime, I have opted to be away from the computer as much as possible. And I’m not going to hide that this past year and a half has tested my anxiety more than once.
And now, I’m excitedly planning something I have wanted for countless years – a kitchen remodel! For the first time, I will get to select the cabinets, countertop, backsplash, and, most importantly, the appliances.
So now, as I will be without a kitchen for a while, I’m getting back into meal planning, batch cooking, and freezing meals. Yes, I will still have my grill and appliances such as my Instapot, slow cooker, and microwave. But, I also know me. And when I get tired or stressed, I don’t want to cook. Even though cooking helps relax me. Go figure, right? Anyway, I want to make sure that healthy, delicious meals and snacks will be available for days that are busy and short on time, feeling stressed out, or even short on prep space.
This is where meal planning and batch cooking are your best friend. When I was pregnant, my good friend gave me the best tip: cook ahead of time, make hand-held food, and freeze. That way, when you are sleep-deprived and barely have one hand free, you could grab something, pop it in the microwave, and eat on the go. Seriously, amazing advice. At the same time, I could barely eat anything and most smells made me incredibly sick, which made for an interesting cooking experience. I can’t remember exactly what I made, but I remember that those freezer-to-microwave meals were so incredibly convenient.
This time, meal planning involves planning for 3 people instead of pretty much just myself and occasionally my husband. And, I won’t have my oven to reheat anything family-sized. So my plan is to focus on making:
- some small-sized meals and snacks that can fit in the tiny toaster oven.
- components that can be warmed and assembled into a full meal.
- partially cooked meals that can be finished on the grill.
- some cookies or other treat that can be cut into small pieces and hidden away in the freezer to the boys don’t eat them all!
Batch cooking is fantastic. It can help during the week or for making freezer-ready meals. And by doing a bunch of batch cooking ahead of time, we can at least have some healthy, ready-to-go meals. Don’t get me wrong, I bet we will be getting more takeout than normal while I don’t have a kitchen, but I don’t want to rely on it.
So far, I have made:
- a triple batch of pizza dough: stretched and shaped to fit in our little toaster oven and par-baked. All that’s left to do is top with some grated cheese and a few toppings.
- sous vide chicken breasts: chicken breasts are portioned into serving sizes that work for 3 people. They are then seasoned and slowly cooked in a water bath. When the chicken is done cooking, let it cool in the sous vide bags then pop right into the freezer. Since the chicken is fully cooked, it can be removed from the freezer, sliced, and put on top of pizza, layered in a sandwich, stirred into pasta, …
- sous vide turkey breast: this will be made into turkey pot pie, turkey curry, and some slices set aside for sandwiches.
I am also planning to make:
- chicken empanadas: I’ve never made these, but I am going to try my best!
- lentil handpies: I make spicy lentils and then wrap them in a savory pie dough.
- lentils with brown rice and veggies: freeze in individual portions and dinner is ready after a few minutes in the microwave.
- a variety of quick breakfast options: blueberry muffins, individual fritattas (bake in a muffin tin!), some scones, and maybe some pancakes or whole-grain waffles, and sourdough bagels.
And if I have time:
- socca: great topped with anything
- veggie burgers: beat and bean burgers or I’ll continue tweaking my recipe for falafel patties.
- treats, of course! oatmeal cookies, maybe some cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, maybe some brownies, …
I am so excited about getting a new kitchen! The entire kitchen is going to be gutted, half a wall will be torn down, and all new cabinets, counters, appliances, and floors. I will definitely share before and after pictures and discuss how the whole process went.
I loved this house the instant we walked in. We were driving around the area that we wanted to live in and saw the open house sign. Yes, the house needs work and updating throughout, but I saw the potential that it had. Plus, it was the perfect location, the neighbors are great, and the yard is a good size. Best of all, the house was completely livable and the work can be done in phases.
And after a few years of saving and planning, we are starting with the most important room in the house: the kitchen. The kitchen will be opened up by removing part of a wall, raising the ceiling, and some appliances shifting locations to help create a better flow. The goal is to have the kitchen feel larger without actually becoming larger. Plus, I will finally have a full-size refrigerator, a larger range, a double oven, and more counter space. I am so excited I will be cook dinner, bake dessert, and have room to do all the prep work all at the same time.
I am already starting to put together a list of half-completed recipes and new ideas that I will be working on as soon as my kitchen is completed.