Did you know that restaurants aren’t making your risotto to order? For that matter, they aren’t making your broccoli or your sauces or your salad from scratch the minute you order it either. If they did, you’d be waiting hours while they did.
If you’ve watched any of the Food Network shows with professional chefs you may be familiar with the concept of mise en place. Mise en place means “everything in it’s place”. There are strict guidelines and expectations in professional kitchens for how these are prepped and maintained.
Since you likely don’t work in a professional kitchen, you’re probably wondering why this should matter to you. Here’s why: home cooks are making things harder for themselves by trying to make everything from scratch right when their family wants to eat it.
It’s why you’re spending an hour prepping a 30 minute meal or find yourself doing a full kitchen cleanup every night. The entire idea of cooking from scratch every night is wholly inefficient. Good news is, you need only look to your local restaurant kitchen to understand the alternative.
How to Prep Ahead at Home
So what should we do about it? There are plenty of great folks out there coming up with full meal prep plans that help to consolidate the work of prepping into one longer cooking session. This way sessions throughout the week can be shortened. Eating Clean, Cooking Dirty with Sam Rodgers is one great example.
But if spending even a couple hours in the kitchen is beyond the scope of what’s realistic for you, maybe we could break it down even further. After all, simplification is the name of the game in 2017 if you want to stick with your healthy eating goals.
First and foremost, in order to prep ahead you’ll need to plan ahead. That means:
- Picking out a few dinner recipes (I recommend starting with three) that you’ll make throughout the week
- Buying the ingredients for said recipes
- Looking at the recipes and coming up with a game plan for what you could do ahead of time to save time on prep and clean-up later
What can you do ahead of time?
With the right skill and commitment, there’s actually quite a lot that you can do ahead of time. However, since every recipe (hopefully) starts with and includes some sort of veggies, I’d like to focus on what can be done in that space with an eye on both quality of the ingredients and food safety (according to FoodKeeper).
All of these items should be packaged up, labeled (with item and date) and stored in the fridge for 3-5 days until you’re ready to use them.
Here are some ideas of vegetables that do well being cut up ahead of time:
- Bell peppers
- Kale and other dark leafy greens
And these heartier items you can both chop up and optionally pre-cook a bit so that they cook up faster when you’re ready to make a meal with them:
- Hard squash (roast or par-boil)
Check out this quick video for one quick and easy way to do this type of prep ahead:
If you have pre-cooked these items according to the instructions above, they do especially well being added to a pasta, stir-fry, or even salad. The broccoli and cauliflower that have been boiled and blanched (the fancy term) are a mainstay in my kiddos lunches.
These vegetables are best chopped right before use, usually due to their tendency to brown:
Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a recipe that uses pre-prepped ingredients to make a fast dinner even quicker. We’re talking an all-in-one, true 20 minute meal here.