Hi guys! I hope everyone is having a fabulous start to the week. Mine has been filled with batch cooking since I have a busy week ahead of me. Never underestimate the power of cooking and prepping in advance so that you have an easier time in the kitchen during the week! Prepping can be as simple as cutting up vegetables in advance so that you have everything ready for a stir-fry come dinner time, or it can mean making a batch of grains and one of beans to use up during the week. It can also go as far as preparing a batch of veggie burgers, pre-cooking them in the oven and then heating them up in a skillet throughout the week for either a yummy topping for salads or an actual burger on a bun with all the trimmings. What you decide to cook, and how you get organized, will of course depend on how much time you can set aside and the kind of weekly meals you enjoy. I can’t stress enough how much this can help, especially if your goal is to eat as healthy as possible like mine is. Being prepared will be your ally when it comes to eating healthy food, since it’s usually the times when we have no idea what to cook and we’re already famished in which we make some not so healthy choices. It can also save you a TON of money too!
The topic of batch cooking and meal prepping for the week deserves its very own post, but today, we’re going to tackle one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far in my plant based professional cooking course, and it goes by the name of ‘mise en place’! By the end of this post you’ll know exactly what this is, how it can save you lots of time in the kitchen, and why I never cook without this essential step nowadays. Before we dive head on and show you a ton of cool pictures (and teach you how to pronounce this very elegant phrase), here are my top three key factors in saving you time, money and troubles in the kitchen. We will be talking about all of them in upcoming posts.
My top 3 key tips, for efficient, delicious and quick kitchen adventures:
1) Do a pantry and kitchen makeover like the one we did here, and keep it going.
Having an organized fridge and pantry, with everything ready to go, labelled and preferably washed and cut up (when the veggie allows for this) is for me the most important tip when it comes to loving your time in the kitchen. It saves time, a ton of money, and it gets your creative juices flowing since you can easily SEE everything you have on hand and use it all together in new dishes you come up with. Say goodbye to those money wasting days of running to the store because you need a specific ingredient to finish a recipe, and then you end up buying half a shopping cart full since ‘I’m already here so I might as well’… Is that just me or is that you too?!
2) Prepare some staples in advance, get used to prepping veggies, and do some batch cooking at the beginning of the week.
For many fans of batch cooking this day is Sunday, but as it turns out with my schedule, my favorite day for this is Monday! It really gets me geared up for the week. I won’t get into this tip too much today since I’ll have a post for you on this really soon, but my batch cooking usually includes a pot of grains, a pot of beans, a dressing, a homemade marinara sauce for topping pasta or zuchinni noodles (a favorite of ours), prepping veggies and a sauce for a stir fry, and it sometimes even includes making some homemade bars for snacking, a cashew based white sauce for making veggie gratins (or mac and cheese!) and once in a full moon, some really healthy whole grain bread for my veggie burgers! Sometimes I go all out like with the bread, sometimes all I have time to make is a big pot of lentil soup that will last for a few days. Once you get started with this little habit, you’ll wonder how you could have lived without it!
3) Last but not least, the reason we’re all here today, ‘Mise en Place”!
Pronounced /meez-en-plas/, this is the culinary term for prepping ingredients before cooking. A.k.a. those cutie-patooty tiny bowls with perfectly portioned ingredients you see in cooking shows.
I remember I tried this once many years ago and thought, ‘what a waste of time to portion everything out and dirty up all those bowls only to dump everything into the recipe’. Boy was I wrong. As it turns out, cooking shows and chefs don’t do this because it’s cute on camera, it’s because it COMPLETELY changes your time and experience in the kitchen! Here are the steps for creating a mise en place worthy of camera time (even if this is just a kitchen selfie!).
– Buy some different sized bowls. Many moons ago I also gave up because I thought, ‘where on earth do these guys buy those dollhouse sized bowls?!’. The traditional ones took up so much space in my counter that I just gave up. Well, buying these little bowls was as easy as going to IKEA or my local kitchen supply store. They were so inexpensive I was able to buy a ton, and they are so adorable you’ll want to get your mise en place on just so you can use them. Buy some large bowls for mixing and tossing salads and batters (think big salad bowl), some medium ones for larger ingredients (think cereal size), some small ones (think 1 or 2 tablespoons of an ingredient), and plenty of tiny ones for spices and seasonings (think teaspoon quantities).
– Buy measuring cups and spoons. A kitchen scale is also useful if you do a lot of baking, since many recipes specify grams or ounces instead of cups.
– Spend some time at the beginning of a recipe or cooking session measuring out and portioning your ingredients into the separate bowls. I love that when I’m making a new recipe I don’t have to stop halfway through the cooking and think, ‘what did I have to add now?’ then find my measuring spoon, find out it’s dirty and I have to wash it, meanwhile my garlic is burning in my pan. Sound familiar?! I put on some music or a movie in my ipad and I zone out while I simply follow the ingredient section of a recipe or I think through what I’m making if not using one. I know you’re going to feel like this is a total waste of time. Trust me, it isn’t. You’ll see why in the last step.
– Look at all your ingredients and at your recipe and get mentally organized as to the order in which you will add them. Keep them handy.
– Start cooking. Why does mise en place work like magic? Because now you can focus on the smells, the flavors, the cooking process and cooking times. Mise en place gets the hustle and bustle out of the way so you can actually learn from your cooking. Understand which pans work best and when it’s the perfect time to add the next ingredient or turn up the heat. Trust me, after a while this will become second nature, and you’ll become a master in your own kitchen. You’ll be able to understand recipes so well that you’ll slowly be able to create dishes without following a recipe to the tee, and you’ll dare to experiment with that new cookbook they gave you for Christmas which seemed to have a mile long ingredient list.
How cool is that?! I can tell you it has changed my cooking completely, and I love looking at all those little bowls and understanding how great flavors are layered and created.
Give it a try and tell us how it went in the comments below!