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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Early Preparation Tips and Tricks


Some weeks I am able to get my Shabbat menu planned early in the week. Often when I do this, I will plan my weekly meal in tandem with my Shabbat meals, and do things preparation steps ahead. So I make extra staple items that I will be using later on Preparation day.



Some examples of this would be that I may roast a chicken for dinner on Wednesday, but instead of roasting one - I'll pop two in the oven at the same time. (It really doesn't take that much more work to double things!) We'll eat one for dinner that night and if I have time I'll debone the second chicken, and put the meat in a Pyrex in the fridge and throw the bones and meat scraps in a pot with a few veggies and simmer some broth through the night as we sleep. If I don't have time in the evening, I'll throw the cooked whole bird and bones in the fridge and do it when I have time the next day. (I also keep a bag in the freezer of raw bones/scraps if I don't want to make broth that week, then I often have some on hand when I do!) Now we have one meal eaten, broth brewing AND cooked meat waiting for a quick-to-assemble recipe on Prep Day all for just a smidgen more effort and thought.

I will do this similarly with ground beef. It is not hard to brown beef right? However, it takes a few minutes and its another dirty pan to clean on Prep day! If you are browning one pound for a meal on Tuesday, it is little different to brown two at the same time! If its much earlier in the week, like Sunday, just pop it in the freezer layed flat in a zip lock bag, it will defrost easy and if it is frozen in the form of loose crumbles (instead of a big clump) it can be added to many recipes frozen (if you forgot to pull it out).

We use whole foods, so washing, cutting and chopping is big part of our food preperation, depending on the veggies, a lot of these items can be done ahead too. Onions, celery, carrots, and potatoes and hard squash are all good examples of this. You can cut, chop, slice or dice extra of any of these items so you have them to pull from while putting meal together for Shabbat. Again, you saved on time and dishes when you need it most! In the summer time we like to have cold veggies on hand with dips for our snacky lunches. I will often have them "prepped" and stored in the fridge and they are handy to dip. So that is also a dual use for doing that. I always prep my fresh lettuce ahead too. I get my lettuce from a local friend's green house. (since we are not growing our own produce yet) Because it is fresh, nutrient dense organic lettuce I can prepare it ahead, we do this immediately when we bring it home - it is "how we put it away" (lest it be forgotten). I get anywhere from 4-6 (big) heads a week. I have purchased some LARGE Rubbermaid containers that are flat and wide. I rinse my lettuce leaves in cold water and tear them off the stem. I line my Rubbermaid with paper towels and blot the access wetness off (but it does not have to be dry) and layer it in the container. I wet a paper towel with cold water and ring it out, and then lay it across the top of the lettuce to cover it, then put the lid on, and keep it in the fridge. It lasts 2-3 times as long when I do this. We don't have lettuce go bad anymore! And it is always a breeze to put a salad on the table with our meal or AS our meal!

Potatoes: Peeling potatoes is one of those "least favorite" kitchen duties. So I employ the theory of "many hands make light work" when it come to taters. We call them tater peelin' parties. :-)I have 5 peelers! :-) So If I go to the trouble, I usually make extra. If I am mashing potatoes, I love to use extra mashed for Shepard's pie, or potato pancakes, and I always find myself "having" to make potato rolls with some potato water. :-) Mashed potatoes freeze well too.

More often than not...I use potatoes with their skins. I roast them, pan fry them and LOVE to bake them. Which make wonderful Shabbat meals (use the crock pot). Also, did you know that you can "roast" them in the crock pot too? I have a couple good recipes, I can share if you like. Our favorite potatoe soup is made with baked potatoes!

Rice: I almost always double my rice when I make it. It is so easy to turn into another meal or fill up a soup. When reheating rice on the stove, just simply put a couple splashes of water in it. It dries out in storage again, so it just needs a little hydration boost and it will be good as new. Same is the case if you put it in a casserole, just make sure it has a little extra wetness in there, to fluff the rice back up. You can always turn it into cereal or pudding if your meals later that week don't have a place for it.

Challah Ahead: Did you know you can make your Challah dough ahead? You can make it up to 5 days ahead, put it a container dusted with flour or a little oil to coat. Or sometimes, I like to lay some plastic wrap on top of the dough in the bowl. Then when you want to make it, just take out of the fridge and put it in a warm place and start the rising process! It takes a little longer to take the chill off and warm up than normal, so factor that into your schedule...but it works beautifully and is one less batch of dishes and mess on Prep Day! If your container is air tight, it might rise some in the fridge (that is fine and sometime even good!). If you crack the lid a little bit, it stops that from happening. It is something you need to play with.

Popcorn: We love seasoned popcorn for Shabbat and we often make a 5 gallon bucket(its enough to share with friends!) We use a 5 gallon bucket with Gamma Seal lids. I use coconut oil instead of butter (which keeps much nicer). I have had popcorn keep a couple weeks before! (Only because we went on a trip and forgot it, when we returned it was "like new"! It never lasts that long otherwise, because my crew gobbles it up.) I have a friend who likes to use olive oil on their popcorn with seasonings.

You know what... you can even do this WITHOUT a menu plan! If you think of this, before you think of your menu...Thats OK. Just make your meals conform to the things you have prepared ahead of time during the week!

I hope you find a tip or two in here that is helpful.

5 comments:

Millie said...

Hi Pamela,
What kind of seasonings do you put on your popcorn?

Mommy Set Free said...

Ahhh Millie, That recipe is in the top secret recipe vault, our "dead ringer" for our possible seasoning business one day! :-) Seriously...it is a mix of about 12 ingrediants, 3 of which are not very common or practical for people to have in their pantry...which is why I have not posted it. I was thinking about maybe doing a kind give away or something some time for fun...or seriously marketing it(or a combination of both to launch it)...I will definatly keep you all posted on that. I go through "waves" or "seasons" of ideas and motivations. It really is my hope to develop several seasonings or maybe a cookbook would be more pratical??? I am finding there are only so many hours in a week! :-)

Mommy Set Free said...

PS

Millie,
As i sit here with one hand in popcorn bowl and one on the key board, I feel so guilty about not sharing my secret recipe! But, another mix came to mind wich is VERY delicious...Mamma's Garlic. The Recipe is posted on the blog, not long ago. I think the post is called HOMEMADE SEASONINGS. Let me know if you try it. much Love, p

Millie said...

Don't feel guilty at all :-) I wouldn't share my secret recipes either (if I had any). I made a seasoned popcorn last week that turned out pretty good. I melted coconut oil and added a variety of spices. It had chili powder, basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder and a couple of swigs of soy sauce plus salt. It turned out very good! Not too spicy but quite tasty. It reminded me a bit of that chex party mix stuff.

Mommy Set Free said...

Millie,
That sounds like a great combo! I find that if it "sounds good" it often is good. The Suzuki method of cooking I guess. :-) If I am not feeling too creative, I will often go to a recipe that has flavors I like and blend things similarly from there for my popcorn or other meals. :-)I don;t know hwat it is is popcorn corn but the craziest things are really tasty! My girlfriend from college got me hooked on dipping my popcorn into yellow mustard. I still crave it to this day..and my kids like it too. :-) At first thought of it repulsed me...but she "dared me" to try it and it was clearly something she liked...so I did and the rest is popcorn history. :-)