Tag Archives: batch cooking

Minimalist Dinner Plan (w/ freezer meals)

One really simple approach to creating your monthly dinner plan is batch cooking. Which, with all the overly complicated meal prep YouTube videos out there, can seem incredibly daunting. However, just a little bit goes a long way when cooking ahead for the month. (Especially if you’re just cooking for one or two and you’re ok with repeating foods!) “Feed your freezer today, feed yourself all month”… is that a saying? It should be.

Here are four things you can make for the month ahead to make dinners a little easier…

Baked Beans

A big pot of baked beans is kind of obnoxious to make on the regular. But it freezes incredibly well. This is a great side item, but I like it as the main dish. I got the idea from one of my favorite books, My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss, which talks about having baked beans for dinner with steamed broccoli and corn bread. Yum!

Alternative – Any other type of beans or grains

Twice-Baked Potatoes

These are more of the side item situation. You can make them the cheesy way or as more of a loaded baked potato with sour cream and bacon and chives. Then, add one half to round out a meat and veg meal. Or have both halves with a salad or some soup.

Alternative – Any other starchy side item

Starbucks Copycat Wraps

These have been my obsession lately. You basically cook some quinoa, corn, and black beans and throw them in a wrap with some jalapeno Havarti shredded cheese. Wrap ’em in aluminum foil and stick in your freezer for the quickest dinners. (Great if you have to take dinner on the go!) With some chips and a pickle spear you’ll feel like you grabbed fast food.

Alternative – Any other freezable sandwich or wrap

Buttermilk Pancakes

If there’s one thing I’m committed to on a deep and spiritual level, it’s breakfast for dinner. But I’m also way too lazy to make pancakes on a weeknight. Sunday around noon while listening to some tunes? Sure. When I’m starving after working all day? Not so much. Good thing you can throw a batch of these in your freezer then whip a few out as needed, scramble some eggs, fry up some sausage, and bingo-bango you’re eating like a brekky-for-dinner CHAMPION.

Alternative – Waffles, french toast, sourdough bread, etc.

How it all comes together…

If you’re cooking for a household of 2 and you make 6 potatoes, 2 lbs of beans, 18 pancakes, and 10 wraps…

That’s 6 meals with potato halves (3 if you’re doing the whole potato), 6 meals with beans, 3 meals with pancakes, and 5 meals with wraps. 20 meals that are partially complete before dinnertime even rolls around!

What do you think? Would you try this monthly dinner plan approach? Do you feed your freezer? Comment below! xoxo 

P.S. Quick + Easy Meal Plan for One on a Budget.

Found: A Perfect Warm Weather Dish

orzo salad andie mitchell

Doesn’t this orzo salad recipe sound delicious? It would be perfect to whip up a big bowl on Sunday evening and munch on for lunch all week long. Or to bring along the next time you need to contribute a side! So fresh and zingy. It just seems like the most fantastic warm-weather dish.

Do you have any summer dishes you’re itching to bust out? It’s almost that time again!!!

P.S. A few other warm weather favorites that also fit the bill — Chicken Pad Thai Salad and Greek Quinoa Salad.

(Image by Andie Mitchell.) 

Recipe: Hearty Roasted Vegetable Soup

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With the days turning to darkness at such a rapid rate, I’ve been gravitating towards cozy meals. You know the type. Colorful, warming dishes that pack a hearty punch. A dinner gobbled up out of a single bowl clutched to your chest as you curl up in front of your latest Netflix programming.

I love the flavor of roasted veggies in the winter-time. (I also love how they smell while they’re roasting in the oven. Yum!) But I’ve never thought to throw a whole batch of the lil buggers in a soup pot! *light bulb* So, I roasted up some of my favorite vegetables and while they did their thing in the oven, I got to work on the rest of the soup. To up the “heartiness” factor I included a whole bunch of beans. And tied everything together with a tomato-based broth.

The result was a delicious, comforting soup. The vegetables were the perfect consistency swimming around in a slightly spicy, tomato-y bowl. So, I definitely recommend you give this one a try. It was very inexpensive, easy to make, and made enough to eat AND freeze. Here’s how it’s done…

What you’ll need: 

For the roasted veggies…

– 2 bell peppers

– 2 small or 1 large onion

– 2 sweet potatoes

– a handful of baby carrots (or cut up your own, I just always have baby carrots in the fridge)

– minced garlic

– olive oil

– paprika

– chili powder

– salt and pepper

For the rest of the soup…

– 2 cans of diced tomatoes (I used one spicy can and one regular can)

– 1 vegetable stock cube

– black eyed peas

– kidney beans

– butter beans

– 1 Tbsp brown sugar

– mustard

– Worcestershire sauce

and how it all comes together: 

– Pre-heat your oven to 390 degrees F (or whatever temperature you find works best to roast veg in your particular oven).

– Peel the sweet potatoes, chop them into large chunks, and spread them out on your baking tray or roasting dish.

– Add in your carrots.

– Cut up your bell peppers into strips and add them to the tray. Do the same with your onions. (Note: The size of your vegetables may seem large for a soup but they’re all gonna break down a bit once they’ve been added to the pot.)

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– Add minced garlic to taste.

– Drizzle olive oil over everything and sprinkle on salt, pepper, paprika, and chili powder.

– Toss everything up with your hands.

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– Put the whole kit and kaboodle in the oven for about 30 minutes.

– While these are roasting you can turn to the base of the soup.

– Start by making your vegetable stock according to the directions on the package. (Usually mixing the cube with 2 cups of boiling water.)

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– While you’re waiting for your water to boil for the vegetable stock, grab a large soup pot and add your cans of tomatoes and beans. For the beans you can use whatever type you like. I put a can of blackeyed peas, kidney beans, and butter beans in a strainer. After mixing and rinsing them, I scooped out about 3 cups into the pot. The rest of the bean mixture I put in a Tupperware to store for a later meal.

– Bring your tomatoes and beans to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer. Then add in 1 Tbsp of brown sugar, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a squeeze of mustard, and salt and pepper. Give it a good stir.

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– Your vegetable stock should now be ready so pour that in too! Let everything simmer away until your timer goes off for those delicious roasted veggies.

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– Once the veggies look good and roasted, pop them out of the oven…

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– …and put them in the soup pot!

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– Give everything a generous stir, then pop the lid on and let everything hang out together for at least 5 minutes but longer if you want those sweet potatoes to get falling-apart decadent!

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– I left mine on the lowest stove-top setting for about 30 minutes. I no doubt would have gotten impatient and served it up sooner but Chet was stuck in traffic. If you have the time, cook it longer! It turned out perfect and the vegetables were divine.

– Serve it up in a big bowl and go for it! We had ours with some multi-grain bread (perfect for dunking) but cornbread or biscuits would also be yummy. Enjoy!

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What do you make for dinner on dark December nights? Do you like cozy, comfort food? Would you give this recipe a try? I want to eat it again and again!!! 

Recipe: Tropical Chia Pudding

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For the last several years my breakfasts have consisted of one of two options. Hot outside? Yogurt. Cold outside? Oatmeal. I love both options a whole bunch and find them incredibly versatile. So many possible toppings!

But, don’t let that blurred Christmas tree in the background of the shot above fool you. Christmas may be fast approaching but it is still in the 80’s down here in South Florida. Meaning, I’ve been on the yogurt train for a few too many days straight. Time to mix it up!

Since it IS the week after Thanksgiving, my focus is on light & healthy eating…just for a quick recharge before I start gorging myself again in honor of the next holiday. With that in mind, I cast my focus on the nifty lil chia seed. These guys pack more Omega 3 fatty acids then salmon, contain more fiber than flax, pack a serious protein punch, are calcium rich, AND have a whole bunch of helpful vitamins and minerals. So, in an effort to fully lean in to the weird weather juxtaposition of a tropical holiday season, I give you the Tropical Chia Pudding. And my yogurt can happily take the week off.

What you’ll need…

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– 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk

– 1/4 cup of chia seeds

– 1 Tbsp of your preferred sweetener (I used Stevia but you could use honey, agave syrup, sugar or whatever you like.)

– 1 Tbsp of coconut flakes + more to top

– chopped fruit to top (I used mango but you could use pineapple, papaya, kiwi, etc.)

and how it all comes together…

– Put everything but your chopped fruit into a pot, combine, and bring to a boil.

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– Lower the temperature and allow the mixture to simmer for about 18 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the seeds aren’t sticking to the bottom of your pot. It should reach a pudding/porridge consistency.

–  Take your pot off the heat and allow to cool for several minutes.

– Divide the mixture evenly between 4 containers.

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– Top each jar with chopped fruit and a sprinkling of more coconut flakes.

– Store in the refrigerator (for no more than a week) and pull out a jar to enjoy for breakfast, snack time, or a healthy dessert!

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What do you normally eat for breakfast? Have you ever tried chia seeds? I love making chocolate puddings with chia, almond milk, and cocoa powder if you’re looking for another way to enjoy this healthful ingredient! 

Recipe: No-Boil Pasta Bake

no boil pasta bake

It may not look like much but if you’re looking for a ridiculously easy dinner recipe that will allow you to tastily use up some leftovers, this one is for you. How easy? You don’t even have to BOIL the pasta. Just chuck a baking dish in the oven and you’ll be gobbling up some tasty noodles in less than an hour. Now I mentioned using leftovers….this bake can be customized based on what’s been hanging out in your fridge for too long. Got any cooked or roasted veggies from earlier in the week? Toss ’em in! I added in some leftover roasted sweet potatoes (delicious!) but I would love to try it with broccoli. You can also mix in fresh greens that may be soon to go off. Think: those big bags of spinach and kale that you always promise yourself you’ll go through before they go bad but never do. The finished product reminded me of the made-to-order pasta we used to get in the “Pasta Line” at Western Kentucky University. They would always have the most random vegetable additions on deck and once your dish was complete the ladies working the station would bark “Which cheese?” All of them. Give me allll of the cheese.

What you’ll need…

– 1 jar (24 oz) of pasta sauce

– 1 box (12 oz) of medium sized noodles (like rigatoni, penne, or rotini)

– 24 oz water

– 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

– Basil and oregano, to taste

– Any roasted veggies or fresh greens you have on hand, 1-2 cups

and how it all comes together…

– Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

– Combine uncooked pasta, tomato sauce, water, seasonings, and leftover veggies in a large bowl.

– Grease a large casserole dish (9 x 13) or 2 small baking dishes (6 x 6). Note: I know those 2 dimensions don’t seem to add up but I’ve found they both work for these ingredient amounts so I’m goin’ with it. If you’re cooking for 1 or 2, I recommend using the 2 smaller dishes as you can eat one and save one for later. Feed that freezer!

– Pour your pasta mixture into greased baking pans.

– Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.

– Uncover and give everything a good stir. Top with the mozzarella cheese and throw it back in the oven (uncovered) for another 10 minutes or until the cheese looks ooey-gooey!

– Add Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes to serve.

BRB, off to heat up some leftovers! Do you have a favorite way of re-purposing veggies from earlier in the week? Would you add them to pasta? It’s so cheap and easy!

Recipe: Olive Garden Soup

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As I’ve mentioned before, I spent my early twenties getting REAL familiar with hotels, airports, highway truck-stop gas stations and casual family dining restaurants as I traveled the country competing (and then coaching) for a collegiate speech and debate team. And for some reason, on these journeys, our little cast of crazy characters LOVED dropping in to a certain family-style Italian restaurant–whether in San Diego, California or Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Don’t ask me why. Maybe the twenty year old mind thinks this is a classy choice? I have no idea. Anywho, being that I was broke as a joke and any waitress was gonna have to pry my allotted per diem cash out of my cold, dead hands, I always tried to cheat the system and order the heartiest thing on the menu at the cheapest price. Hello Pasta E Fagioli soup! Nice to meet ya! Now, I can’t say Olive Garden is a restaurant I’ll ever seek out again now that I’m a little older and wiser (unless it’s for their coffee…which I learned about on this visit) but THAT SOUP. I figured it would be an easy enough hack so I put my hand-me-down 80’s crockpot to good use and got to batch cooking. Now I realize this dish invokes some real personal nostalgia for yours truly but I’m sure, as the weather starts to turn, ANYONE could find it a delicious choice. Enjoy!

What you’ll need…

-1 lb of ground beef (I used Marksbury. If you’re in Central Kentucky do check them out. Beef is a rare purchase for me but when I need it I go with these guys.)

-1/2 a chopped onion

-2 med. carrots cut into coins or half moons.

-2 med. chopped celery stalks

-1 can of diced tomatoes, juices and all

-1 can of red kidney beans, drained

-1 can of navy beans, drained

-2 cups of beef broth

-3 tsp. oregano

-2 tsp. pepper

-3 tsp. basil

-1 tbsp hot sauce

-1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I ended up only using a little over a half a jar because I wanted to use up what I had instead of opening a brand new jar. This is why mine ended up a little less BROTHY. I think it’s fine both ways. 🙂 )

-4 oz. (give or take) of Ditalini pasta (I had this Eden Foods Kamut Ditalini pasta on hand that I’d gotten as a product sample months ago and never used. They sent it before deciding they didn’t care about women’s health and birth control so don’t judge me too hard for using it. It WAS a nice product and definitely a good whole grain pasta.)

and how it all comes together…

-Brown the ground beef in a pan and drain the fat.

-Add the cooked beef and all the other carefully chopped and measured ingredients to your crockpot.

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-Cook on low for 7-9 hours or on high for 4-6.

-Once you’re ready to dish it up, cook your pasta. Drain the pasta and add it in.

-Give everything a nice stir!

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I had a bowl straight away, topped with some shredded Parmesan cheese. Just as I remembered!!! Although I gotta admit, those O.G. breadsticks and salad would have been clutch too. Next time.

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Did I mention you’ll be eating this for awhile? I froze the big container on the right and the littler containers were great work-time meals. Nostalgia batch cooking complete!

What is your favorite dish to batch cook? Do you have any go-to recipes you’ll bust out the crockpot to make as the leaves start to turn? I can’t wait to put mine to good use this season!