If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you know that each Sunday I post a list of my Sunday achievements in the kitchen. Sunday mornings are my time to get up early, walk the dog on the beach while making my mental list of to-dos for the morning. By 8am, I’m at the grocery to pick up any last needed items for the week, and by 9am, I’m in the kitchen. My weekly goal is to have all breakfasts, lunches, snacks and 2 dinners for the week prepped by 1pm in the afternoon…sometimes I’m a little quicker, sometimes a little slower. The important thing is that nothing intrudes on this block of time.
A morning in the kitchen sets me up for a successful week at work, where all I have to do is grab breakfast, lunch and snacks from the fridge and toss it in my lunchbag on my way out the door. Having a couple of dinners prepped ahead, and Sunday dinner leftovers for another night make it easy to get dinner on the table quickly, even after a long day in the office.
When I’m done with cooking and prepping Sunday afternoons, there is nothing more glorious than opening the fridge and seeing that wall of storage containers and know that I’m ready for whatever the week ahead brings. Friends often ask how I plan and get all the cooking done each weekend, so here’s how the magic happens (of course, there really is no magic, just some Type A organizational mojo and a teensy bit of help from my younger years spent in professional kitchens as a prep cook).
- Baked oatmeal with with sour cherries (you can add any favorite fruit to this recipe – about 2 c of fresh fruit)
- Granola bars for mid-morning snack
- Sunday: Mushroom Chorizo tacos w onions and bell peppers and jicama taco shells (similar to what I wrote for the Mushroom Council (client) – full recipe coming soon)
- Monday: Leftover red lentil soup w roasted red peppers and Italian sausage from last Sunday
- Tuesday: Grilled hamburgers, fresh sweet corn & cucumber salad
- Wednesday: Leftover mushroom chorizo tacos & kohlrabi slaw
- Thursday: Grilled Italian sausage & cabbage salad
- Friday: Fresh sweet corn pesto pasta with bacon and basil (make this NOW)
- Green monster summer veggie quinoa salad with basil pesto vinaigrette
- Leftover red lentil soup with roasted red peppers and Italian Sausage
- Baggies of blanched fresh green beans and peeled and sliced carrots (I hate those slimy bags of baby carrots, and they’re 2-3x more expensive than whole carrots)
- Nectarines and apples from the farmer’s market
- Granola Bars
The Plan of attack:
- Take inventory of pantry and fridge
- Menu planning, cruise blogs/Pinterest for inspiration
- Start the farmer’s market & grocery list
- Hit up the farmer’s market for local, fresh goodies
- Make a batch of quinoa (1 1/2 cups + 3 cups water + salt) & stash in the fridge
- Make granola bars (1 batch lasts us 2+ weeks) & stash in the fridge in a large storage container with parchment paper between layers
- Night: Prep the baked oatmeal by putting the oats in the almond milk/egg mixture to soak overnight in the fridge
- 7am: Preheat the oven and bake the oatmeal. Walk the dog, bring the phone along to add to the grocery list on my list app.
- 8am: Let the oatmeal cool, and raid Whole Foods or Rogers Park Fruit Market for any items needed for the week
- 9am: Cooking begins…the trick here is to multi-task as much as possible for maximum efficiency – have something working in the oven or on the stovetop while you’re chopping. Turn on some upbeat tunes and be diligent in setting timers so nothing burns as you multitask.
- Note: while you get down in the kitchen, this is a perfect time for your spouse/partner/SO to do some cleaning around the house
- 12pm: Done cooking, and time to relax – perhaps with my favorite margarita.
This morning’s session went something like this:
- Preheat oven to broil.
- Meanwhile: scoop baked oatmeal into storage containers for the week ahead & stash in fridge.
- Roast red bell peppers for quinoa salad, turning peppers every five minutes.
- Meanwhile: boil water and blanch green beans, drain beans and chill in an ice water bath
- Shuck 3 ears of fresh sweet corn & slice kernels off cob. Heat a large, non-stick pan over medium heat, add 1 T olive oil and saute for 5 minutes
- Meanwhile: Dump cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Dice leftover grilled steak from Friday’s dinner for deployment in quinoa salad. Peel & chop roasted bell peppers & chop a handful of beans for quinoa salad. Add chopped veggies & steak to quinoa bowl. Set aside rest of green beans for snack baggies.
- Add sauteed corn to the bowl of quinoa, meat and veggies. Gently stir to combine.
- Make pesto vinaigrette in the food processor: 2 handfuls of fresh basil, stems removed, 3 T marcona almonds, 1 garlic clove, juice of 1/2 lemon, zest of 1 lemon & 1/4 cup olive oil. Process until smooth, add salt & pepper to taste.
- Scrape the pesto vinaigrette onto the quinoa salad mixture. Use a spatula to gently stir until all quinoa is lightly dressed in pesto dressing. Crumble a handful of feta into the salad and stir a final time. Scoop into storage containers and stash in the fridge.
- Peel & slice 1lb of carrots and portion into snack baggies along with the rest of the green beans, and place all baggies of veggies into an open storage container in the fridge for easy grabbing.
- Make watermelon lemonade sorbet base: slice and cube watermelon and dump into the blender. De-seed and juice 3 lemons. Make lemon simple syrup with sugar and lemon juice – add finished syrup to the watermelon, and puree. Stash the sorbet base in the fridge to chill before churning around dinner time.
- Wash 1.5 lbs of mushrooms in a salad spinner filled with cold water. Swish the mushrooms around a bit to shake all the dirt loose, then pick up the basket to drain. Dump the filthy water, and spin gently. (Now, I know washing mushrooms is taboo, but people – these things grow in manure, and that’s just not good eats, as Alton Brown would say. So if you’re planning to use mushrooms the same day you wash them, there’s truly no harm in it so far as I’ve experienced.)
- De-stem the mushrooms (save the stems for stock in a bag in the freezer, since you’ve already washed them) and dice into 1/2” cubes. Store in a large storage container for use in mushroom chorizo tacos for dinner.
- Dice 1/2 white onion and 1 large red bell pepper for the mushroom tacos. Store in a separate storage container in the fridge.
- Make Salsa: dump 1/4 of an onion, a handful of cilantro, pinch of salt & garlic powder in a mini-prep processor with 1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes and 1 T chipotle puree. Whizz & jar. Done.
And that, my friends, is roughly what happens in my kitchen every Sunday morning. What are your prep-ahead secrets? How do you tackle menu planning for the week? Share your tips for weekday culinary success in the comments below!