Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bulk Meal Preparation

When I buy meat or fish, I like to marinate it before tossing it into the freezer in multi-meal-size portions (usually 3-4 servings/Ziploc bag). The meat marinates as it defrosts. I do this for many reasons:

1. Laziness
Prepping in bulk saves a lot of time. One big mess takes less time to make/clean versus several smaller messes.

2. Long work hours
 The chances of me coming home after a 12 hour day and then preparing a wholesome dinner from scratch are about the same as you getting hit by lightning tomorrow. If the healthy choice is not the easy choice, I’m not going to bite.

3. Raw meat handling
I am a little bit paranoid about raw meat handling. The bulk prep means the raw meat-ness is contained to one day, after which I thoroughly clean all the work surfaces in the kitchen.

Today, I bought chicken and salmon while at Costco. These were transformed into 8 Italy-meets-India chicken portions, 10 sweet-and-sour chicken portions, and 9 teriyaki salmon portions in about one and a half hours including cleanup. 90 minutes/27 meals = 3 mins 20 sec per portion. If I pair each protein serving with a salad - which I do most days in the summer -  it ends up being less than 10 minutes of preparation per meal. I also tend to bulk prep my salad, making enough for a two-day (ie. lunch x 2 and dinner x 2) supply (again, the lazy streak).
By planning ahead, I make healthy choices and get to enjoy a fair amount of variety in my diet without a huge time investment. The pre-marinated protein portions are also super handy for last-minute or unexpected guests. I often keep a batch of cookie dough in the freezer for the same reason.

From what understand about marinating (and I am hardly a culinary expert), as long as you have an oil (usually olive oil) and an acid (often vinegar or lemon juice), then you are good to go. Everything else just goes in there just for flavour. The less acidic the marinade, the longer you can leave the protein in it. If any of you are foodies and have some insight on marinating, please feel free to comment!
For the curious, the ingredients for the marinades seen in the picture are listed below (not in any particular order). They aren’t from actual recipes – I tend not to measure when I am cooking or use recipes very often beyond just as flavour inspiration. I just taste frequently to make sure things are heading in the right direction. More on how to salvage a recipe gone wrong next month when we talk about nutrition.

Chicken 1 “Italy Meets India”: crushed tomatoes (bottled), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh garlic, red pepper flakes, cumin seeds, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, thyme, oregano, ancho chili pepper, agave.
Chicken 2 “Sweet, Sour, Tangy”: olive oil, tamari sauce, apple cider vinegar, agave, fresh ginger, green onions, fresh garlic, fresh pineapple.

Salmon 1 “Teriyaki”:  olive oil, tamari sauce, agave, apple cider vinegar, fresh garlic, fresh ginger, red pepper flakes.

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