Big batch cooking conjures visions of slaving over the stove for an entire Sunday, but that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, cooking in bulk can be as simple as doubling your dinner portions and saving the extra half for later in the week, no extra prep required.
Here are six big batch cooking recipes to help you whip up some of our favorite family-friendly staples in bulk.
1. Steel Cut Oats
For four servings, place one cup of steel cut oats, four cups of water, and a pinch of salt into a large pot — or double the amounts for a larger family. Then simply follow the cooking instructions on the package, and once cooked, add another splash of water and let cool. The oatmeal will keep in the fridge for three to four days or can be frozen in individual portions for up to three months.
When you’re ready to eat, simply microwave the oatmeal until heated through. Top with sliced fruit, maple syrup, or really, whatever your heart desires.
PRO TIP: Add a couple of spoonfuls of applesauce when reheating to add moisture and a slight sweetness that the kids will love.
2. Ground Beef
Double up on the amount of ground beef that you usually buy and portion some out for later in the week. Simply season the meat with salt and pepper and sauté until cooked through. Drain the excess fat and let cool before storing in one cup portions in the fridge for up to three days or in the freezer for up to three months.
PRO TIP: If storing in the freezer, pack the cooked meat in resealable plastic bags, making sure that all of the air is pressed out of the bag before popping into the freezer. This will help avoid freezer burn.
You can add the cooked, seasoned beef to jarred sauce for a quick weeknight meat sauce, throw it into taco shells, or even combine with spices, canned tomato sauce, and canned beans for a quickie chili.
High in protein and minerals, give this super grain a chance to earn a spot in your dinner rotation. Start by reading Stacie’s awesome method for how to cook quinoa so that it actually tastes good. Then, whip up a double or triple batch.
To figure out how much you need, keep in mind that one cup of uncooked quinoa equals about three cups cooked. Lay any quinoa that you want to save for later on a baking sheet to cool completely. Then spoon it into freezer-safe bags in two cup portions to store in the fridge or freezer.
PRO TIP: Press the quinoa flat in the bag so that it doesn’t take up too much precious fridge or freezer room!
4. Rice and Farro
I recently began making stir-fry freezer packs and freezing cooked rice, as well, to have super fast meals at the ready even on my busiest days. In fact, I’ve become so obsessed with doing this that I have also started freezing farro, another favorite grain in my house.
If you want to do the same, make a double batch of either by just, well, doubling the proportions of water and grain. Then refrigerate leftovers or freeze them in one cup portions in freezer-safe bags that are laid flat. To reheat, place in a microwave safe container, add a splash of water, and microwave in 60-second bursts, stirring in-between, until all of the grain is heated through. Add a little more water if it seems dry.
PRO TIP: If you’ve frozen your leftover rice or farro, submerge the freezer-safe bag in hot tap water for a few minutes, just until the frozen block of grain will slip out of the bag. Then, place in a microwave safe container (or in a pot for the stovetop) and follow the reheating instructions from there.
Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce | Photo by Suzy Allman for The New York Times
5. Tomato Sauce
Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce at The New York Times is famous for its simplicity (almost every magazine, newspaper, and food blog has written about this recipe). With no added sugar and three ingredients, this sauce is one of my favorite big batch recipes for kids — and grown ups too.
Make as much as you want — adjusting the recipe for a double or triple batch is dead easy with just three ingredients to deal with — and store in the fridge or freezer in whatever portion size you like. I think that the four person amount portioned by the recipe is perfect for a pound of pasta.
Also, feel free to adapt the recipe! Add some crushed garlic, whole basil leaves, meatballs, or the big batch ground beef from above. And don’t be shy with salt, pepper, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
6. Slow Cooker Beans
I love having cooked beans on hand for everything from school lunch (tacos! rice and beans!) to a quick meatless dinner that’s packed with protein. For about six cups of cooked beans, you’ll want to use two pounds of dried. Add rinsed beans to your slow cooker insert (no need to soak) along with a large pinch of salt and some aromatics — I like using a halved onion, some garlic, and/or fresh herbs. Cover with water by at least two inches and cook. When done, drain excess water and store for up to a week in the fridge.
The exact cooking time will vary by type of bean, but somewhere between three and six hours on low should do the job. You want the beans to be tender but not mushy, so test along the way if you ‘re not sure. You can also check out this helpful post on how to cook dried beans in a crockpot at Kalyn’s Kitchen.