Well, as I am writing this article in September, I am ‘nesting’. I have 6 more weeks until my due date and I am feeling a strong need to start preparing for a life changing event. It is so very sweet and comforting when you have a growing baby inside of you, but when they enter the world, your whole life can turn upside down. That is why my motto is….Stock Up! I started cooking this week. I will probably continue to cook through October. I want to be prepared. I know that for most people, it will be impossible to bring us meals when the baby comes. We are not an easy family to cook for. So I know it will be up to me to prevent us from having to eat cereal for breakfast every morning and eggs for dinner every night. Here are 6 strategies that I follow to get me through a period when I am not going to have the time or energy to thing about preparing meals, especially gluten free, soy free meals. Oh, and did I forget to mention, this might take A LOT of freezer containers, so stock up on these too.
1. I buy my meat and fish in bulk at Costco. I then take the meat or fish out of the packaging and divide it up into ¼- ½ pound portions. I buy dry wax paper to wrap the portions in, then stick them in a Tupperware in the freezer. Meat can include whole turkey, sliced turkey, sausages, chicken or ground meat.
2. I buy cheese in bulk and freeze them in smaller, 4-oz bags. I do this for rice and almond cheese as well. This makes it easier to grab for quick serving for tacos, quesadillas or taquitos.
3. Beans from scratch- I am always a little skeptical about buying canned foods, and beans are no exception. And economically, it is more practical to buy the beans in a bag and cook them up yourself. And I can attest that these beans freeze very well. I usually just make a bag at a time. Soak them overnight, cook them on the stovetop for 3-4 hours and any sauces or seasonings I have to give them some flavor. Then I store them in about ½ pound portions and freeze to pull out for a quick meal. I use them for burritos, chilies, casseroles, soups or tacos.
4. I buy lots of bread. You have seen many of my bread recipes. They are a big hit with my family. But there are times when I do not have time to bake and I need bread from the store. Whether fresh or frozen, I find that this bread can last quite a while in my freezer. In addition, many of the breads we eat are not in grocery stores I can get to all the time, so this saves me from driving all over town.
5. I love to bake, as you know, so there are some foods that I always have on hand.
a. Cookies or dessert bars- There is always a function where my kids need to bring a quick dessert, whether it be a school party, a birthday party or the oneg after services. I do not like my kids to feel left out, and they always tell me that their treat is way better than anything being served.
b. Pizza crust- Pizza is a quick an easy dinner. Topped with your favorite toppings, it can be a complete meal. I always make sure I have made at least 2-4 pizza crusts frozen in my freezer. Then I just thaw, roll out and bake.
c. Breakfast foods- Waffles and pancakes are really easy to serve on those crazy school mornings, if you make them ahead of time. See my recipe on January 18th, 2010 for my easy recipe that can be made into pancakes or waffles. Again, I use the dry wax paper to place between every couple for easy removal from the freezer. I stick these in the toaster oven to toast, spread with butter or peanut butter and top with syrup for a yummy ‘Sunday breakfast’ any day of the week.
d. Muffins- The girls in our family love muffins for breakfast or even a snack. Unfortunately, we all like different flavors. Aidin is a nut for my pumpkin muffins, only banana carob muffins will do for Randi, and I like a heartier muffin with oatmeal, dried fruit and flaxseeds. Needless to say, I make each batch in bulk and freeze. I can usually fit them all in a gallon zip lock back. One trick to muffins are that you need to get them out of the freezer the night before if you plan on eating one. They do not heat up quickly in the toaster oven, or all the way through, if they are frozen.
e. Bread mixes- On my cooking days, I usually have many bowls and flours out. I store my flours in the freezer as well, for a longer shelf life. While I have these out, I like to make ‘bread mixes.’ I look up a couple of yummy gluten free bread recipes and add just the dry ingredients in a bowl. I label the bowl and put this in the refrigerator. This way, when I am in a pinch, I can easily make a bread recipe and half the work is already done!
f. Tortillas- There is only one tortilla that I know of that is not gluten free beside corn tortillas. Our family much prefers the fresh ones I make from Chebe bread mixes. These tortillas have become a staple in our house since we bought our tortilla press. Fried to perfection in a little bit of olive oil, they make a great tortilla for tacos, burritos or heated up as a snack. I always pre-make a dozen of these to have on hand for these meals.
g. Bagels- Back in our gluten filled days, Sunday School meant fresh bagels from the local deli in the morning. Now that we can’t indulge in these, I have been able to come up with a great substitute. Again, these bagels are made from the cinnamon and sugar Chebe’s bread mixes. Toasted with some cream cheese, they satisfy my kids needs while all the other kids are eating their deli bagels. Again, having a dozen on hand makes it so easy on those Sunday mornings when we are trying to get out the door by 8 am!
6. I Pre-make my Smoothie Mixes- Many of you may remember my yummy smoothie recipe from this summer. (June) As you know, I make these 32 oz smoothies every morning. To make this job easier, I make ‘fruit baggies’. I take several bags of mixed fruit and bananas and put them in one big bowl. Then I scoop about ¾ cup fruit mix into each baggie and stick them in the freezer. Then in the morning, I can simply add orange juice, yogurt and protein shake with the ice and water to make a delicious, healthy and low in sugar smoothie shake.
Just in case you forgot, here is the recipe for my gluten free waffles, using the same ingredients as my gluten free pancakes. But what I found out this year is that the waffle iron makes all the difference in the world. Mine is a Cuisinart and I just coat with a little bit of olive oil to make perfect, non-stick waffles every time.
Gluten Free Waffles
1/3 cup Tapioca Flour
2/3 cup Brown Rice Flour
1/3 cup almond Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 Tb Buttermilk Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tb Honey
1/ 2 tsp Vanilla
2 Tb Grapeseed Oil
3/4 cup Warm Water
2 Egg Whites
Beat egg whites stiffy, set aside.
Mix ingredients in order given, folding in egg whites last.
Pour 2″-3″ circles of batter onto a heated griddle that has been sprayed with olive oil.
Serve immediately or freeze.