September 28, 2011

Planning a Marathon Cooking Session

I've been fascinated by Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) lately- probably because I would love to have our meals all ready to heat and eat, and have minimal meal clean-up. For a whole month! But this hasn't happened lately at our house.  Quite the opposite.  Sigh.

If you have a school-age child, or have activities that revolve around the school year, you'll know that your life changes significantly when September rolls around.  I am still struggling to adapt to the changing responsibilities that back-to-school time brings! 

For some reason, this year has been harder than usual to change our routine.  I think the problem may have started when we took a little weekend getaway over Labor Day Weekend.  That was enough to get us out of the cooking habit, and we've now eaten all our freezer lunches and have had to start going out for lunch. Ick!  Doing that costs more, takes up part of our limited lunch times, and the takeout food is usually lacking in vegetables, fruits, and -well- nutrition.

This Saturday Jeffrey and I have planned to do a lot of cooking.  We'll be making Cooks Illustrated's Chicken Pot Pie, which is actually more like a chicken casserole; 

either lasagne or spaghetti sauce

 and Crockpot Curry Beef

What do you have to do to have a successful cooking marathon?  Well, the first thing is to start with a clean kitchen, with all the countertops cleared of anything that's not essential.  For us, this usually means putting away the dishes that have been air-drying, and wiping down all the countertop surfaces.  We'll also get out any appliances we might need, such as the slow cooker, and make sure they're clean and ready to go.

You should also start with an empty kitchen garbage can, because you may end up with a lot of trash, and you'll want to concentrate all your energy on the actual cooking.  You will be cleaning up pots and pans and other dishes as you go, but emptying the trash can be a dirty job and is best avoided while you've got so many other things to keep track of.

Next, you'll need to pull together all your recipes, and make absolutely sure you have everything you need to make them.  When making up a grocery list, put like items together for ease of shopping.  So, all the meats would be listed together, all the canned vegetables, all the fresh produce, etc.  Make sure the shopping is done at least by the night before.  If you want to start kitchen prep the night before, that will help speed up your marathon cooking session, too.  For instance, we thought about making both a vegetable beef soup and the crockpot beef curry, and discussed getting a chuck roast and cutting it up for both recipes the night before.  The roast might be less per pound than the usual stew beef we use, so it's worth checking that type of thing out during the grocery phase.

Get plenty of sleep the night before- you're going to be on your feet for several hours, most likely, and if you're over-tired, the marathon will seem even longer!  Get up as early as you usually do during the week- you'll have more of a sense of accomplishment when you see just how much you've completed by mid-morning.

Make sure to dress comfortably and wear supportive shoes that won't hurt your feet.  I wear very comfortable sneakers, and I know better than to wear anything that might stain from tomato sauce or several bags worth of carrot peelings.

Hopefully all will go well, and we will have lots of pictures to share with you to show the fruits of our Saturday cooking spree.  Not to mention, a fully-stocked freezer!

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