Warm-Weather Batch Cooking
We often think of batch cooking as something we do in the winter as a way of filling our freezers with hearty comfort foods. We even reference the term when we spend some time on the weekend prepping a few meal components in anticipation of the busy workweek ahead. Rarely do we consider batch cooking in the summer, but hopefully I can change your mind about that because I think it’s one of the easiest ways to get food on the table in the months when you’d really rather be doing something else, preferably outside.
For starters, ‘tis the season for salads, so why not start by putting a jar (or three) of salad dressing in the fridge for the weeks to come. I think of this as akin to having money in the bank; essentially you’re making an investment in your future meals, saving you time and probably money as well. The dinner maker in you will be thankful!
I almost always have pulled pork in the freezer during the summer months. I make a big batch in the slow cooker on the weekend and divide it into 4-cup portions, which I freeze for future use. Add some buns, coleslaw, pickles, and potato chips and a crowd-worthy dinner can be on the table in minutes.
Freeze a big batch of black beans, and then use them all summer long in the simplest taco recipe in town. We literally make these at least once a week, sometimes swapping the cheddar for feta, and the kids go c-r-a-z-y for them!
I probably sound like a broken record because I spew this small piece of wisdom with great frequency, but trust me when I say you can never have too many cookie dough balls stashed in the freezer. Baking them off as needed yields deliciously warm, straight-from-the-oven results every time you’re feeling peckish, and it keeps the kids from eating the whole batch in one sitting. Plus, you can sandwich a scoop of ice cream between two cookies to create the easiest yet tastiest dessert one can make in the summer.
Pancake mix! Whip up a batch and leave the older kids in charge of breakfast once or twice a week. Also, fill a jar or two and tie on an instruction label with twine for a sweet homemade hostess gift you can give to friends who invite you to their cottage for the weekend.
Granola is the perfect road trip snack, breakfast or afternoon snack. I make a triple batch at once and store the extra in the freezer to pull out as needed.
Whenever I go to the trouble of making pie dough, I always triple my recipe so I make enough crust for 6 single-layer pies. I wrap the excess dough in plastic wrap and freeze the discs for pies and quiche on another day. The same can be done with any fruit crisp topping. Make two, three or four times as much as needed and store the leftovers in a lidded container in the freezer for a snappy seasonal dessert whenever you have company coming for dinner.
Pesto, pizza dough and hamburgers are all things I keep on hand in my freezer in the summer. Once a month I make 5-7 lbs worth of hamburger patties (this yields about 20-28 burgers), six or so balls of pizza dough, and enough pesto to make a few pasta dinners. Not much else is needed to create a great meal when these three things are available in great supply.
Taco meat is another must-have staple in my freezer for the summer months. I scoop some into a whole wheat wrap, scatter cheddar cheese on top, and roll the whole thing tightly in a sheet of aluminum foil before tossing on the grill (or over a campfire) for a quick and easy dinner everyone agrees on.
Lastly, I like to fill the freezer portion of my fridge with these smoothie packets, especially since fresh fruit is available in abundance right now. I make half a dozen every week or so, making it easy for the kids to make their own smoothies when they’re craving some cold and refreshing.
Tell us, what are you whipping up in large quantities these days? Here’s to a tasty month of summer eating!