Why Weekend Cooking Matters

weekend food prepLast weekend (April 1-3) I was in Los Angeles for the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference. It was a fabulous conference—I learned a lot and met some amazing people—but the irony is that because I was gone all weekend at a culinary conference I had no time to do food prep for the coming week. This meant buying my work lunches (salads, but still) and coming up with dinners on the fly. There was one dinner out (a pile of kale salad with some chicken on the side) since I had a meeting after work.

Flash forward to this past weekend. I took a break from researching my next few articles to stock up on provisions at my neighborhood PCC Natural Markets. Sunday, I hit the kitchen after breakfast, because not only did I want my food week to go smoother, but anything perishable left in the fridge at the end of this week will need to be tossed, because we’ll be in France. Here’s how my weekend food prep played out:

  • Lentil-bulgur salad (involved cooking the lentils and bulgur, chopping a bunch each of Italian parsley and Tuscan kale, plus two carrots and a bunch of green onions, and making a dressing)
  • Roasted cauliflower (cutting the head into florets and tossing with olive oil and salt)
  • Roasted fennel (one head chopped and tossed in oil/salt, on the same pan with the cauliflower)
  • Roasted asparagus (one bunch, tossed in olive oil and salt)
  • Roasted carrots (ditto, on the same pan with the asparagus)
  • Roasted beets (whole, wrapped in a foil packet so they steam, too)
  • Roasted sweet potatoes (scrubbed first)
  • Blanched red curly kale (2 bunches) and beet greens (now ready for quick braising later in the week)

Jeff slow grilled a pork butt for dinner, so we have leftovers for tonight (pork tacos). Today I’ll get the dry ingredients for overnight oats (oats, nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon, chia seeds) ready for the weeks’ breakfasts. I have an easy dinner planned for Wednesday, and we have a buy-one-get-one-free entree coupon for The Munchery, so well use that to round out our protein needs for the week, since we have at ton of veggies on hand (we also have ample salad greens and some green beans that we’ll cook later in the week). If we didn’t have a Munchery coupon to use, we would pull some chicken breasts out of the freezer or pick up a piece of fish at Whole Foods to pair with our veggies.

Why I Am Committed to the Kitchen

This is what I aim for most weeks, but I won’t say it’s always easy. Yes, there are other demands on my time (writing, gardening) and on this particular Sunday I was frequently running to the basement to do laundry (two weeks worth). The keys to success are:

  1. Determination. I know my weeks run much more smoothly when I do weekend food prep.
  2. Planning. I shopped for the veggies I wanted on Saturday, and decided the best way to “stage” my prep so something was always ready to go into the oven when something else was ready to be taken out.
  3. Fun. I listened to a bunch of podcasts (my current favorites are Dinner Party Download, Sporkful and Spilled Milk*), and Jeff was coming in and out of the kitchen, so I didn’t fall into “woe is me, I’m slaving away in the kitchen” mode (yes, that can sometimes happen).

When I was done, it was time for a late lunch, which thankfully was all ready to go (the lentil-bulgur salad, which I concocted for an upcoming Seattle Times article), as soon as I took photos of it on a pretty plate. I enjoyed my lunch as I basked in the satisfaction of knowing that my efforts in the kitchen would pay off all week with effortless meals (plus no veggies would go to waste this week)!

A Brief IACP Report

* I had already been listening to Spilled Milk, but am now an even more ardent fan after attending an IACP session on podcasting given by co-hosts Molly Wizenberg (she of the long-running blog Orangette, two books and the Seattle restaurants Delancey and Essex) and Matthew Amster-Burton. The other two podcasts are new-to-me. I started listening after attending another podcasting session that featured Dinner Party Download co-host Rico Gagliano and Sporkful host Dan Pashman.

A few more interesting tidbits I picked up at the conference that you might be interested in:

Whether or not you did your own weekend food prep (I hope that you did), have a great week!