Sunday, November 16, 2008

Power Cooking/Once-A-Month Cooking

The following is from my friend Elizabeth R (thanks!).  I love Power Cooking!  I can buy in bulk, spending a morning putting the meals together, and have several future meals waiting for me.  This is especially helpful when schedules seem particularly busy (i.e. the holidays).
Preparing multiple meals at once saves time, money and energy. “Power Cooking” combines the tasks of planning meals, buying groceries, and slicing & dicing with FUN tools while assembling healthy meals for your freezer. With Power Cooking, you will save money by reaching into your freezer for your meal rather than reaching for the telephone for take-out.

Helpful hints to prepare for Power Cooking:

•Clean out your freezer and refrigerator the day before shopping.
•Plan to use containers designed for the freezer, or purchase Ziploc freezer-quality storage bags.
•Purchase a new, black permanent marker for labeling the bags or containers.
•Find a comfy spot and make your shopping list in pencil. Go through the recipes and list the ingredients. This list will be your Master List. Alter the quantity of items on your list as you reread each recipe so that you do not over-purchase. Then go through your freezer, fridge, and pantry and mark off items that you find. A primary goal of “Power Cooking” is to SAVE MONEY!
•Keep a copy of your list so that you do not have to recreate your list in the future.
•Shop the day before you plan to cook so that you have the energy to have fun in the kitchen!
•The night before your “Power Cooking” day, clear off your countertops; you will need the space. Disinfect your countertops, gather all your ingredients and group them by recipe. Make sure your tea towels and dishcloths are clean. Unload your dishwasher and empty your garbage cans, including your recyclables garbage can. In the morning, you will be ready to “Cook with Power!”

Helpful hints for shopping:

•Shop at your “bulk” store first and purchase in large quantities. Then shop at your regular grocery store and buy store-brand items.
•Shop the inner aisles first, produce next, then bakery and frozen foods last.
•Watch the “sell by” dates on the meat; always select meat from the bottom of the stack for freshest.

Helpful hints for Power Cooking Day:

•Begin by labeling your freezer bags or freezer-safe containers using a permanent marker. Write the name of the recipe and date it was prepared for the freezer. Also list anything that needs to be added from the pantry and/or fridge.
•Record the start and finish times of foods that are cooking at the same time.
•Fill the sink with hot, soapy water. Wash the dishes as you go. When you are completely finished using a tool, place it in the dishwasher for less cleanup later.
•Chop and grate all fresh foods at once and place in bowls on your countertop.
“Scoop” required amounts when assembling your meals. Freeze leftover veggies into 1 cup portions for later use (personal note:  small margine tubs are perfect for this).
•Cool your cooked ingredients in an area away from your prep area so that you can continue your recipes without feeling short on space. Pour cooled ingredients into freezer bags or containers that are appropriate for food quantity to avoid freezer burn. Squeeze extra air out of filled freezer bags.
•Pull tomorrow night’s dinner out of the freezer and place in fridge before bedtime.
This is one of my favorite Power Cooking recipes, also from Elizabeth.  I usually purchase a large tray of chicken (6 lbs) and bulk jar of salsa and make 3 of these at once.  You could also use a pork loin instead of chicken breasts.
Mexican Chicken
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenderloins (fresh or frozen)
16 oz. jar mild or medium salsa
2-3 cloves freshly pressed garlic
1/2 c. finely chopped onion
2 1/2 oz. can sliced black olives, drained
sliced or grated Monterey Jack cheese

Place chicken into freezer bag. Add remaining ingredients except cheese.  Coat chicken well. Squeeze air out of bag and freeze. Chicken will marinate as it defrosts in refrigerator for 24 hours. Remove chicken from bag and place in rectangular baking dish. Pour excess sauce from bag over top of chicken. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for
45 minutes (30 minutes for tenderloins). Top with grated cheese; bake 10 minutes and serve.
Personal note:  I also love to put this in my crockpot on low first thing in the morning and let it cook until dinner.  Before serving, I use a couple of forks to shred the chicken.  Then I use it for tacos, burritos, burrito bowls (burrito ingredients in a bowl instead of a tortilla), etc.  I serve this with basic taco/burrito ingredients (pinto/refried beans, black beans, corn, rice, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, etc.)  Enjoy!

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