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Batch Cooking Hacks

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Fun Factoids About the Mighty Potato / Beans / Lentils / Split Peas / Hulled Barley / Quinoa / Brown Rice / Bulgur Wheat / Sweet Potatoes / Squash / Zucchini + Yellow Squash / Garlic / Mushrooms / Vegetables

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Fun Factoids About the Mighty Potato

Potatoes are a high-glycemic food and are thus often avoided by folks who have diabetes or wish to reverse this common chronic ailment. Best practice is to let cooked potatoes sit in the fridge overnight and then eat them the next day. This reduces their glycemic impact considerably. Potatoes are a gift from the Universe in terms of overall nutritional value and it would be sad to cut them out of our diet. Dr McDougal is a super-fan and has shared that the only food on the planet that we could literally live on for a very long time, if that were the ONLY food we had, is the mighty potato. For me, I mostly indulge in sweet potatoes and when the budget allows, I'll treat myself to the purple varieties. Comparatively, white and red potatoes have a lower nutritional value. In short, many potato varieties are food heroes. Full stop. 

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Legumes Family

Beans: Now I prefer a pressure cooker or Instant Pot as the cooking time is way shorter. That said, a humble pot on the stove works wonders. Always soak beans overnight. A quick restaurant hack is pouring boiling hot water over the beans, and letting them sit for a couple hours, but best is overnight. This not only helps in the cooking process, it also reduces the fart-factor. Every bean has a different density and size, so google the bean you're cooking, and check out average cooking times as well as water to bean ratios (generally 4-5 cups water to 1 cup beans). During the soaking process, adding salt is ok (I don't) and a clove of fresh garlic enhance the flavor. 

Lentils: By far the cheapest, healthiest, and easiest in this food group, lentils can be cooked in a pot or a sauté pan (aka skillet). The general ratio is 2 to 1, water to lentils. No need to soak them, and some chefs do a rinse. Cook covered, and adding spices, herbs, and aromatics enhance the flavor. When done, let them rest, covered, which "steams" them and plumps them up a bit. Just under-cooked (al dente) is best if you're adding them to salads, soups, or stews, and they'll be cooking or marinating further. Dried lentils can also be directly added to soups or stews (or "watery casseroles"). Make sure you have enough liquid as it will be absorbed into the lentils. Veggie stock instead of water adds flavor. 

Split Peas: Similar to lentils, split peas are often used in Indian dishes or soups. You can put them directly into the soup pot as with lentils described above. Or, cook them as you would lentils with a 1 to 1 ratio. Again, al dente is best unless you're making pea soup. 

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Whole Grains

Hulled Barley: By far the healthiest whole intact grain in terms of nutrients, glycemic-index, and calories. I've only found them online, as most stores tend to carry pearl barley which has been processed. Generally, whole intact grains which are dense (hulled barley, rye berries, oat groats) need more water than the usual 2 to 1 ratio. Rinsing grains is recommended, as this makes their natural coating - saponin - taste less bitter. I usually start with 3 cups water to 1 cup hulled barley, and do a test-taste when the water is mostly evaporated. Cook covered, and when done, let it rest for 15 minutes, covered, to let it "steam + plump" up.

Quinoa: This food hero is a complete protein, which means it has all nine essential amino acids. It can be a bit pricey, so buying in bulk online is probably best. This MUST be rinsed a few times, as it's one of the more bitter grains. Cook covered with a 1.5 cup water to 1 cup quinoa ratio, and follow the "steam + plump" step above. Try to find room in your budget for quemeful quinoa. 

Brown Rice: The most familiar of this food group, brown rice is everywhere. Best is long-grain from California, Pakistan, or India as the arsenic levels are lower regions. The process described above is the same, with a 2 to 1, water to grain ratio. 

Bulgur Wheat: This is a "mild" grain for beginners. It's used in tabbouleh and other salads, and it's been partially boiled and dried before being packaged and sold. Depending on the grain size, the ratio is generally 1 to 1, and follow the "steam + plump" step.

"Cooking is at once child's play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love."

- Craig Claiborne, American Restaurant and Food Critic at the New York Times (died 2000)

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Starchy Vegetables

Sweet Potatoes: Although these are a high-glycemic food, their nutritional value is too high to pass up. Boiling for 30 minutes makes them low-glycemic, which means they digest more slowly and cause lower blood sugar spikes. That said, roasting tastes best as their natural sugars party with heat and creates a caramelized crustiness. If baking whole, rinse them and poke a few fork holes at the tops - using foil or parchment paper avoids a sticky clean up afterwards. If boiling, you can either peel them or keep the peel. Best is to cut them in thirds to shorten the boiling time. If you're trying to lose weight or reverse type-2 diabetes, keep these to a minimum but don't avoid them. They're that healthy.

Squash: Pumpkin, kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), acorn squash, and calabacitas (Mexican squash) are high-fiber, antioxidant-rich, and anti-inflammatory foods. Compared to potatoes, squash varieties are relatively low calorie and they're just as versatile. Roasting, boiling, sautéing, or stuffing this food group add bulk to your diet, and make you feel full longer. Some varieties are particularly challenging to cut and clean, so I highly recommend YouTube videos if you're a beginner. The effort is worth it. Bonus: they're inexpensive and have a long shelf-life. 

Zucchini + Yellow Squash: These are the most common and easiest to work with. If you have a spiralizer (I love mine), you can make "zoodles", especially if you're on a weight-loss phase of life. Stuffing them is my favorite method. I add the "innards" scraped out (to make room for stuffing) to my veggie stock.   

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Veggies + Aromatics

Garlic: Life without garlic is like air without oxygen. Many beginners tend to shy away from the prep skill it takes to master this food hero aromatic. There are several methods: one is to peel each piece from the bulb, cut off each end, and smash with the lower-palm of your hand. I smash garlic by putting my chef knife over the piece, and then quickly "bang" the flat of the blade with the lower-palm of my hand. I've seen YouTubers conquer this sticky, nutritious, flavor-packed food hero. Although pre-peeled and minced are easier, they're expensive, they go rotten more quickly, and their flavor sucks. Make friends with fresh garlic. As for cooking, add garlic to everything. A bulk-cooking hack is cutting off the narrower end of the entire bulb, add a touch of oil, and roast at 400 degrees F (205 C) until soft.

  

Mushrooms: My favorite food hero, mushrooms are worth the price tag. If you buy pre-sliced (often cheaper), cook them right away. Hacks to remember are: 1) don't wash them - instead wipe off excess soil with your hand or a paper towel, 2) dried shiitake at Asian markets are great for stocks and "Buddha Bowls", 3) they go bad quickly, so sauté or roast them right away, and store them in air-tight containers, and 4) avoid eating them raw (except oyster shrooms). 

Vegetables: A few hacks to get you started: 1) steam broccoli and cauliflower for optimal nutrition, 2) clean and cut green leafies and store, ready to use later, 3) don't pre-cut and store tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, or spring onions - they get slimy, and 4) keep mire poix (cut celery, carrots, and onions) on hand for everything.  

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