Friday 30 October 2015

10 great recipes to batch cook for busy people

I am all about the batch cooking at the moment. I started a new job a couple of days ago, and I had a bit of time at home beforehand. It was nice to hang at home with no commitments, safe in the knowledge I'd be starting a new job in a couple of weeks, but I'm someone who likes to keep busy, and I was determined to use the time efficiently. I know, I'm so fun. But batch cooking was a priority - I wanted to make sure our freezer was full of meals so I didn't have to worry about cooking for the first few weeks.

I've posted about batch cooking here before - I'm a big fan of it. It's a great way to eat healthily, cheaply and it makes your life easier too. It hasn't changed much since that post - I cook for two, instead of one, but I just squeeze two portions into a box instead of one (and often don't freeze the pasta or rice with it).

Not everything suits batch cooking though - there are some recipes that taste better fresh, don't reheat well or aren't freezer friendly. But these are my favourite 10 at the moment, so pop down to your local supermarket and get cooking this weekend. It'll warm you up - always welcome on a cold day - and you won't have to cook all week. Even more sofa time for you. Bliss.

1. Spaghetti Bolognese
Ah, that old standby. I pack mine full of vegetables, so it makes LOADS - 8-10 portions! Tomatoey sauces tend to be better reheated - they get richer, the flavours get stronger - so it's very much freezer friendly. This is another great tomato sauce recipe - it's a good basic to use up whatever meat and veg you have languishing in your fridge! Freeze this with or without pasta - it's good both ways. Make sure you pop cheese on top though when you reheat it though. That's an order.

2. Blue Cheese Pesto Pasta
I often find that blue cheese is one of those things that gets left in my fridge - you know, you'll have a cheese binge, then the healthy-eating guilt sets in the next day and then it goes even more mouldy? Well, this is a way to solve that. It tastes unhealthy, but there's lots of green vegetables in there and the creamy sauce is spread between eight portions, so it's the best kind of cheese - guilt-free cheese! For batch cooking, I recommend NOT adding the cheese on top and baking. Stir in the pasta, and pop in the freezer. You can always add cheese when you reheat it (I often reheat it in individual pie pans in the oven with cheese on top).

3. Chicken Burrito Bowls
Batch cooking doesn't always mean something-and-pasta. This easy slow-cooked chicken makes lots, and the chicken freezes really well. Just defrost, reheat and serve with wraps, rice or wedges along with salad and some fresh guac. I don't think any of these dishes taste worse for being reheated but this, especially, tastes really fresh because of the accompaniments.

4. Butternut Squash and Feta Lasagne
This makes six portions, is almost entirely veggies (plus some crucial cheese) and I usually have a portion or two in the freezer. Because it's so good for you, you are totally allowed to add cheese onto it when you reheat it. The lasagne sheets sometimes go a little dry, so it's a necessary step. Honest.

5. Moroccan Lamb and Butternut Squash Tagine
This is even less effort, as it's a slow-cooker recipe, so you can plonk everything in your crockpot while you get on with something else. Like the spaghetti bolognese, it's a tomatoey sauce which gets better over time. Make the couscous fresh on the day - it'll take minutes - and pop this in the microwave while it hydrates. Dinner? Done.

6. Slow Cooked Honey and Garlic Chicken
Slow cooked meat dishes are so great for batch cooking - my pulled pork recipe is also brilliant for this. Make up a batch, eat what you want on the day, then portion up and freeze, and you'll always have some ready-flavoured portions of meat to do whatever you want with. Our last batch of pulled pork went into fajitas, rice burrito bowls, quesadillas, toasted wraps with cheese and pasta, too. And speaking of pasta, this recipe is a great use for either the chicken or the pork!

7. Peanut and Chilli Noodles
Noodles reheat just as well as pasta does - when you're making a stir-fry, just throw in some extra portions when you're making the sauce and it'll go a little further (this makes 6 portions). This is really good with pork mince or turkey mince, and I think it would work with Quorn mince too - it's all about the peanutiness, really.

8. Aubergine and Chickpea Coconut Curry
It's not all about the meat and the cheese - this is a vegan dish. I've only made it once so far but really want to make it again, as it was delicious and very easy to make. It made four portions, so we ate two and froze two, and it was just as good reheated. Coconut milk seems to be fine when frozen, and the spices mature upon reheating and it has a more intense flavour. Yum.

9. Creamy, Cheesy Mexicana and Chorizo Pasta
Creamy pastas seem to freeze totally fine - I mean, I don't use cream in my pasta dishes, I tend to use thickened milk or Philadelphia. But it doesn't separate and tastes great after microwaving. This is a really yummy recipe, but if you don't have Mexicana cheese then you can use any other kind of cheese - still damn good.

10. Korean BBQ Beef
This is a really gorgeous, flavourful recipe. It reheats well with or without the noodles, and works with any kind of mince - I've made it with turkey mince before, too. Every time I make it, I up the veggies a bit more which makes it more filling, but it's all about that sauce - it packs a punch.

All of these are recipes that don't lose their flavour when frozen (in some cases, they get more flavourful) and their quality doesn't suffer either. They're all pretty (or very) healthy, but extremely tasty so very friendly for non-dieters too!

If you're making a lot, don't forget to pop labels on the boxes so you remember what's what! I also include the Weight Watchers Propoints on my labels too, which is super handy.

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