Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Preping Food Like a Chef

We've been running a series on Menu Planning that I am hoping has been a blessing to you.  Our first article Planning Next Weeks Meals, talked about the basics of meal planning.  Then we talked about setting up your Menu and preparing your grocery list in the article, You've Created a Menu, Now What?  the final article will come next week in Planned Left-overs.

When you are a Chef in a restaurant you don't chop vegetables, etc for each meal as the orders come in.  Chefs go in early in the day and dice vegetables and prepare other things for the possible meals that will be served according to what is on the menu.

I have found that if I take this hint from the Chef and do some prep work right after I've brought groceries home for the week I will not only save time but I will save money.

How many times have you thrown some vegetable away because you forgot it was there, changed a menu item at the last minute, etc?  There are certain foods that you purchase that can not only be prepped for the week ahead but can be frozen to hold their freshness.  Another good resource is to have a list of items that are located in your freezer in case you loose something in there.

One tool I like to use is Ice Cube Trays.  Ice cube trays can be used for single serving baby foods, small amounts of condensed broth/stocks and so much more.  Once frozen they can be put in a container and placed in the freezer.

Onions - Any chopped/diced/sliced onion that you will be needing in your menu for the next week.  Not only that, but if you get a good price on some great onions, you can prep, package and freeze them for later use.  What I do is Chop/Dice the onions, spread them on a cookie sheet and freeze.  Once frozen I place them in a labeled container (with date) and you have individually frozen onions to use later in whatever amounts is needed for the recipe.

Celery -  Celery is another thing that is a time saver to have in your freezer, plus if you have trouble using it up before it goes bad you'll be saving $$$$ in the long run. Celery can be prepared like onions. Dice and freeze on baking sheet, then bag and freeze. Be sure you are freezing flat so your items will stack well and keep your freezer organized. The only thing I do differently here is that I freeze the tiny inner stalks and all the leaves for making bone broths seperately

Carrots - Another one of those ingredients that holds well for prepping.  Slice/Dice or do whatever your menu calls for, package and refrigerate.  You can also dice, slice, etc carrots and freeze as you did the onions or celery.

Bread Crumbs - This is another thing I like to have on hand.  Do you have some wonderful whole grain bread or gluten-free bread that is a few days old and threating to get fuzzy? Simply dice the bread and spread evening on a cookie sheet (one layer please). Place the cookie sheet in a 170 degree oven and bake until dry. The cubes can be processed in a blender for crumbs (Panko) or left in cubes. I like to keep them in sealed bags or containers in the freezer.


Nothing is better than freezing the bounty of the garden or protecting the purchases of organic veggies and fruits. Freezing takes minutes, but don't forget to freeze and label properly. 

We have lots of asparagus right now. Organic and wonderful for you! Don't loose it! Freeze it now for Creamy Asparagus Soup or Quiche later. Cut asparagus in 1 inch pieces. Bring water to boil in 2 quart sauce pan. Place 2 cups asparagus pieces in the boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Prepare a bowl of water with ice in it. At the end of the blanching time remove the asparagus with a slotted spoon and place in the ice water until sufficently cold. Remove from water onto a kitchen towel and blot dry. Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen place in zipper bag, lay flat on a cookie sheet and freeze in your freezer. Once frozen the flat packages will stack well in your freezer.

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