Sunday, March 10, 2013

PODE!: Meal Prepping for the Week

Living as a busy, young urbanite in Manila can be daunting - we all grew up with house help and the idea of fending on our own before getting married is sacrilegious in the eyes of our parents. But hey, you've got to leave the nest sometime, right? So here's a tip: Save a bit more time during the rest of the week by prepping some ingredients on a weekend.

I think living by myself is the biggest excuse I've had to keep on ordering fast food. Logically speaking, it's cheaper and a lot more convenient to spend P150 on take out at a fast food joint than going grocery shopping and cooking your own meals, right? Wrong - and your body will hate you in the long run!

I usually do this after I've planned out my meals for the week and gone grocery shopping. If you don't have the time to spend in the kitchen, then cut your cooking time in half by prepping your food on a weekend before the hectic week starts so you get half the work out of the way already.

I usually prep my meals for the week after I've done my meal planning (this sometimes involves going through lots of Jamie Oliver's 30-minute and 15-minute meals, in my case) and gone grocery shopping. Naturally, your meal prepping would vary week-by-week, but here are more or less the 10 things I like to get done before my week starts:

Peel your carrots and cut them into 2-3-inch pieces or cut them up into sticks and keep in a ziploc bag for dips or what have you. Do the same for any any jicama you may have as well.

Wash and dry your greens and pick out any wilted pieces. Cut them up into bite-sized pieces if you like, wrap them in a damp (not wet or the leaves will wilt!) paper towel, and store in a zip lock bag. This'll save so much more room in your vegetable container as well.

I love how versatile chicken is. It's way better then pork though not as expensive as beef, and you can prep it in advance unlike seafood. I like to grill or pan-fry chicken breasts and keep them in a ziploc bag in the fridge to add to pastas, salads, or sandwiches. You can also add them into curries or have them star in other dishes that go with rice later in the week.

Are having chili or Spaghetti later in the week? Make the chili casserole or spaghetti sauce in advance so all you need to do is bake the cornbread and boil the pasta. Now that I think about it, if you have time to work on the cornbread too, go right ahead.

Cut your tofu into 1.5 cm thick slabs and soak them in hot, salted water for about 15 minutes (it helps improve the crust). Blot-dry the tofu and lay it on the pan with a a drizzle of oil. Don't overcrowd the pan and make sure the side is golden brown before flipping it over. Tofu can add that extra oomph to regular dishes you have in circulation, or throw in a few bean sprouts with a swing of Worcestershire sauce and you're all set.

Marinate your pork in bbq sauce, your chicken in some rosemary with garlic and olive oil, and maybe a buttermilk cilantro bath for your skirt steak. You don't have to marinade your meat right away, but it'll slash your actual prep time in half if you do.

This used to be a tuna sandwich spread, in my case, but after I discovered Erwan Heusaff's take on Not the Same Old Tuna Sandwich, I ditched my mayo-heavy version and started using his - which you can't exactly prep ahead of time. I practically live on sandwiches, salads, and pasta, and I like to whip up a chicken salad spread that'll last me a week. Ok fine, half a week.

Here's what you do:
Poach four boneless skinless breasts with whole white onion covered with 1/2 inch of water and season with salt and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 5 minutes, skimming off the foam that builds on the top. Turn the heat off, cover it and let it stand for 15 minutes. You can keep the chicken in the fridge with the liquid so it's still nice and moist when you use it.

Dice half a red onion and a stalk of celery into a bowl. Chop cilantro and add toasted walnuts, raisins, dice half a green apple, add a dollop of mayo and two dollops of non-fat Greek yogurt. Add in the shredded chicken breasts, and add salt and pepper to taste.

These dips are easy-peasy and make for healthy snacks or appetizers if you're feeling a bit peckish or if you have surprise guests over.

When I tried this, I was shocked at how easy it was. I'm never buying hummus at a restaurant ever again!

1 can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
2-3 tbsp of liquid from canned garbanzo beans
1/4 cup of lemon
1/4 cup of tahini (you can get this at Middle Eastern Specialty stores)
Half a clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin

In a food processor combine the lemon and tahini and process for 1 minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and salt. Process for another 30 seconds. Add in chickpeas (preferably in batches) and process until smooth.

This compliments any spiced dish or curries. Most of the rice dishes I make are fairly spicy, and a bit of this goes a long way.

1 cup of Greek yogurt
1 clove of garlic
1 cucumber, de-seeded, peeled and shredded
Kosher salt
1/2 tsp cumin
Juice of 1 lemon

Combine all the ingredients and store in the fridge.

Most of the time I'd buy this in a bottle, but when I can, I make my own. All you really need is some garlic, basil leaves, pine nuts, Parmesan, kosher salt and some good olive oil and blitz them in a food processor. You'll notice a bit of discoloration on the top of the pesto if you store it in the fridge as is. You can prevent this by covering the top of your pesto with olive oil to protect the top layer.

This'll take up five minutes of your life, tops. Get together your favorite dried pieces of fruit, nuts, or M&Ms and toss everything in a ziploc bag. Et voilà, you now have your snack-on-the-go for the week.

Slice your bananas into discs and freeze them laid out on a baking sheet to keep them from sticking together when you transfer them to a cup. You can also keep your frozen berries in a cup or mug that you can easily shake them out a bit at a time when you make your smoothie. Clean, dry and cut your spinach or kale into manageable pieces and store them in a ziploc bag, too. So in the mornings, you just pour a little bit of what you want, grab a handful of pre-cut veggies and blitz away.

That's most of what I prep before I start my week. Do you have any meal prep secrets that I should know about? Let me know about them here!

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