August 20, 2014

Revolutionize Your Week: Power Cooking Hour

Jul11

It’s been an incredibly busy and full week. Sometimes there are just days that we pack in more than any one person should and then we asked ourselves why we are stressed.

Sound familiar? Why do we do that to ourselves?

Anyhow, I am so thrilled that our weekend is completely open. That doesn’t happen often, so I’ll take advantage of hitting some yard sale, updating a few home decor items with some spray paint and getting in a Power Cooking Hour.

For years, I’ve shared about my Power Cooking Hour. In my opinion, it’s one of the best uses of an hour in my week and when I don’t set that time aside, I feel its ramifications when the “What’s for dinner hour” hits.

When I’ve procrastinated on doing it because I think I’m too busy, I realize the outcome.

 I am too busy NOT to prioritize this every week.

It sets my week up for success, and the bottom line is that if I fail to plan, I plan to fail and that equals time and money. (Check out my reminder of that on learning to meal plan.) Unfortunately, that happens too often.

Kitchen Tip: Cook ground beef in bulk. Try making it in the crock pot. It’s a life saver.

When I first started my Power Cooking Hour, I needed a challenge.

I know many of you are the wonderfully organized, Type A, have a plan, kind of people I wish I was, but I am not.

Can there be a Type Z? That’s me. Flexible, spontaneous and fun, yet sometimes, barely keeping my head above water.

I get side tracked with the fifty other things floating through my mind, but the importance of meal time for our family is a priority. I knew that I could attack things in the kitchen for one hour, just like when I’m hired to do something in an office setting.

For others, I can be highly efficient. What’s with that?

So I put on my Kitchen Manager hat, embrace a good competition, and set the timer for one hour. I then bake, cook, chop, dice, prep and freeze as many items as I can in that time period.

In one hour of concentrated time, I am able to break down certain kitchen tasks enough to prep for 8-10 meals in just that one hour.

I remember the first time I blogged about this years ago .  I prepped 10-15 meals (and have the ideas listed there), making it possible to execute that goal of a ten minute dinner for weeks. I couldn’t believe how much I got done and after that, I was committed to setting that time aside regularly.

While prepackaged foods are incredibly convenient, they come with both a hefty price tag and typically, many extra preservatives. I always keep a few convenience items on hand, but I’ve realized that by using this hour strategically, I can create my own convenience items so simply.

Think through what quick items you find yourself being drawn to at the grocery store. Walk down the freezer aisle and figure out how to recreate them.

Here are just a few tasks that I take on during my Power Cooking Hour. I pick and choose what works best for that week:

  • Cook rice in bulk (love my rice cooker), then separate into quart size portions.
  • Cook Crock Pot full of beans for additions to meals, taco dip and then make some homemade re-fried beans (with video showing you how easy).
  • Do some bulk baking - it’s just as easy to make up batter for four banana breads loaves, as it is just one loaf. Pineapple Banana Muffins
  • Seasoned Ground beef packages: Fry or use the crock pot to cook up large quantities of ground beef at one time. Since we love Mexican and Italian meals, I then add garlic, onions and chopped peppers right to the beef. Once that is finished, I separate the mixture into freezer bags and add the appropriate seasonings. I’ve started making ground beef batches in the crock pot and it’s been truly revolutionary.
  • Make burrito filling. Using the above mentioned taco meat or grilled chicken, separate into freezer containers or bags, then add your favorite fillings – rice, beans, etc. for super quick microwave burritos. Even my delicious Burritaco casserole comes together much quicker.
  • Chop individual bags of onions, peppers and other veggies we eat often. Some stay in fridge for snacks, while others head to the freezer.
  • Make DIY green smoothie packages.  We love the prepackaged smoothie mixes found in the freezer section, but they are costly and doesn’t feed our large family. I began creating my own by mixing our favorite fruits, yogurt, chia seeds, and spinach. Yes, healthy smoothies on the go.
  • Grill or bake chicken in bulk. Check out my post on that. When we grill out, I always grill up at least ten pounds at a time. Today I checked out the price of 1/2 pound of prepackaged grilled chicken – $5.45. That’s crazy! You can make two pounds of your own grilled chicken for the same price. If you bake chicken or throw it in the crock pot, always make more chicken that you will eat, so that you have extras. Once cooled, then slice, shred and chop into individual meal size freezer bags for quick additions to salads, soups, sandwiches and casseroles all week long. Making up these meal packets is such a great time saver.

This Power Cooking Hour is multitasking at its finest. You will be amazed that the more often you give it a try, the more skilled you will become at having multiple items cooking and baking at once. It’s truly worth the extra effort.

So here’s my plan for tomorrow. Won’t you join me?

Many of you appreciated my pizza facebook and instagram update this week. Here’s the caption that I announced at 8 am.

Breakfast; Left over pizza heated on a Christmas plate and thrust in the hands of a teen very late for class. It’s what good moms do. :)

Now, while we determined that this does cover the majority of the food group, and I made many of you feel much better about yourselves, I’m focusing on some breakfast foods that we can grab when in a hurry. (Teens are incredibly difficult to get out of bed in the morning.)
The Perfect Short Cut Trick for Homemade Egg McMuffins

I’ll be making up some homemade Egg McMuffins.

The perfect breakfast and brunch dish. Not only are they delicious, but I love making extras for "breakfast on the run."

Whipping up some Bacon and Cheese Egg Puffs and other variations.

Making some easy homemade waffles without butter in bulk because we go through these so quickly and it’s wonderful to have some in the freezer.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins that are very healthy and delicious.

One of the keys to quick and easy meal preparation is to have your proteins cooked in advance.

So even though I am going to focus on breakfast, I always cook up at least one of the above mentioned proteins. If you want more reading on this, check out these past posts: power cooking grilling in bulk,and then bagging my poultry and meat, so that I have those key items ready for a “Ten Minute Dinner.

I’d love to have you join me on this.

My desire is that this Power Cooking Post will be a weekly thing, either here or on my 10 Minute Dinners blog. I will be giving updates, adding some videos and more.

I would love to feature what you get done in an hour, so if you take on this challenge and want to share, please let me know. I need the accountability for this and it would be wonderful to encourage each other to be proactive in the kitchen.

If you need some more ideas, here are some of our favorite quick dinner ideas.

With the pre-prepped Taco Meat, my easy Taco Soup  whips up in minutes. It’s been a family favorite “dump and run” recipe for years.

Baked Chicken picnik Cheesy Chicken (3 ingredients)Three ingredient Cheesy Chicken Recipe (making the flavor combinations more complex if desired by adding additional seasoning, cheese etc)

easy taco casserole Taco Casserole Recipe (Our Kids Favorite Family Casserole)Taco Casserole

Sesame chicken Simple Sesame Chicken at HomeChinese Orange Chicken and Simple Sesame Chicken


Comments

  1. Can you please give me a clue as to what I am doing wrong? Have cooked hamburger, cooled and bagged for the freezer. When trying to use it later it tastes awful!!!! Done this two times now and I am throwing away money! I got as much air out as possible and it was not old when I tried to use it. any help?

    [Reply]

    Jen Reply:

    That is so odd. I have no idea. How does it tasty different? Is it a texture issue? I don’t use it like I would a burger, but I’ve never noticed anything different when I use it for soups, casseroles etc. Did you season it while it was cooking?

    [Reply]

    sona Reply:

    @Jen,

    i just cook it plain and it is for use in sauces, spaghetti, chili etc. not hamburgers. Both texture and taste are bad.

    [Reply]

    Jen Reply:

    I wish I could help more, but my only suggestion would be too season it well. I’ve done this for years and never had a problem, but think about even when you cook ground beef fresh, it really isn’t that flavorful until you season it. The only thing I might change then is not freezing it in one big chunk. Maybe that is affecting the texture. or freezing in smaller portions.

    Tammie Reply:

    Sona, I always cook mine with diced onions, or I mix it with taco seasoning, if I don’t, it tastes bland. I think it has a ?odor when cooked plain and frozen. Not necessarily a bad odor, but I notice it, which probably affects how I think it tastes!

    [Reply]

  2. I may not be able to set aside a whole hour during this season, but I’m going to try some of the breakfast ideas. I was just commenting to my husband that I needed something super quick to feed my toddler in the mornings. He wakes up ravenous, and I’m usually nursing a newborn right as he’s getting up. Those banana oatmeal muffins look like just the ticket!

    [Reply]

  3. {Kathy} I am a type Z too!! I yearn to be Type A but I’m just too late. These look like doable suggestions. The egg trick looks incredibly easy, as do the rest.

    [Reply]

  4. This is a great tip. One of the best ways I stay ahead in the kitchen is by always thinking ahead. I make double batches to freeze, chop extra veggies, etc. (I’m posting on this tomorrow, actually). Thanks for all the great links – checking them out now.

    [Reply]

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