Thursday, November 27, 2008

Batch Cooking: Healthy Eating for the Lazy

I first discovered batch-cooking with the book Diet Simple, and I've been doing it for years now. You make a bunch of soup/stew, then freeze it in containers so you have a couple weeks of healthy lunch or dinners. Since my husband will go nowhere near my vegetable-laden stews, I eat mine at lunch. My current batch is eliciting a lot of oohs, ahhs, and "What's in that? It looks so good"s from my co-workers, so I thought I'd share. Basically, it's zucchini, (pre-cut) squash, white bean, bulgur, spinach, cans of diced tomatoes and chicken broth. The only hard part of this non-recipe is chopping the onion and slicing the zucchini. Other than that, get out your biggest pot, open the cans, and cut open the bags of organic veggies. The recipe is impossible to mess up. Note: the squash made this a bit too sweet. I'd use less next time or use carrots instead.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can vary it easily. Make it more Italian by using tomatoes with Italian flavor and elbow noodles. Make it chili-like by using tomatoes with chili peppers, black beans, and chili powder and cumin. In fact, that's the batch I'm snacking on right now as I write this post: my tofu chili batch with black and kidney beans that I made a month ago. It's only 9 am and I'm already getting nutrients and phytochemicals. I added Mexican cheese and it's out of control good.

Basic recipe:
1. Chop onion, slice a few zucchini (anywhere from 2-5).
2. Saute onion a minute or two, toss in zucchini, stir, saute a few minutes.
3. Dump in a can or two of flavored diced tomatoes, flavor of your choice.
4. Dump in as much chicken broth as you want. If you're using potatoes or squash, let it boil lightly on medium for 20 minutes. Or 30, whatever works.
5. When you have like ten minutes left of cooking, add the bulgur wheat. This grain is super-high in protein and cooks as easily as pasta. Boil it lightly for a minute or two, then turn it to simmer for 10 minutes. Or 20 if you get distracted.
6. Throw in a block of frozen organic spinach. Simmer for 5 minutes or until melted.
7. Turn off burner, remove pot from heat, let cool for 30 minutes or an hour or whatever.
8. Put into containers and freeze. Should make 8 or more 2 cup portions.

Another nice thing about this recipe is that you need very few fresh ingredients, so you can kind of make it whenever, without much planning. The zucchini, though, is pretty key for me, and I never make these soups without it. If organic red peppers were not $9 a pound, I'd include those. I've been going organic on red peppers, apples, spinach and strawberries since those are among the highest in pesticide.

I used to include more meat in these, but I've been feeling grossed out by reheated meats in the past year or so, so I no longer include turkey burger in my chili or diced turkey in my white bean soup. It's not worth the skeevy factor to me.

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