There is nothing in this world that I have less time for than cooking a good home cooked meal. 40+ hours of my week are spent locked inside an office, I sleep a good seven hours every night, get in those runs that allow me to eat baked goods most days of the week, and occasionally do laundry and light housekeeping. And yet I eat three home cooked meals everyday.
A long time ago I adopted the bulk cooking method: make a entree with 8-12 servings, portion it into containers, and freeze until needed. The special requirements are: must be so awesome that you'll never get tired of eating it and must freeze well. This reduces the effort of "cooking" to remembering to pull a container out of the freezer on my way out in the morning.
Let's take a closer look at one of my favorite lunchbox entrees
(Enchilada recipe from Jeanne Lemlin's Vegetarian Classics, rice recipe from the Simple Dollar)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 1 large zucchini
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 15 oz can pinto beans
- 4 oz can green chilies
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons cilantro
- 1 ½ cups salsa
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup milk
- 2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese
- 12 flour tortillas, 6"
- Spanish Rice
- 1 ½ cups dry rice
- ¾ cup salsa
Prepare rice, substituting the salsa for part of the water. My preferred method for cooking rice is the microwave. Set aside.
Dice n' slice the onion and zucchini. The original recipe calls for a medium zucchini--not for me. I always grab the largest I can find.
Saute the onion for 10 minutes on medium heat. Add zucchini and cook 8 minutes more. Add corn, beans, chilies, oregano, cilantro, and salt & pepper to taste. Cook a few minutes more, and then remove from heat. If the filling doesn't sound like anything special, you're wrong. I'll forgive you if you munch on a few bites before continuing with the recipe.
Combine salsa, cream, and milk. Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of a greased 9"x13" pan. The picture is not deceiving: a sauce made of red salsa and milk can only be pink. But don't worry, it will cook into a macho tan.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Mix one cup of the cheese into the filling. Place a few tablespoons of filling into each tortilla.
Roll the tortillas and place in the baking dish.
Pour the rest of the sauce over the rolled tortillas and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
Divide the rice among the serving dishes
Add a tortilla to each dish
Look at it--eleven home cooked lunches (plus the 12th serving eaten right away for dinner) in less than an hour!
- Although I eat a lot of calories, I don't intentionally seek them out. Like many of you may be thinking, I've tried to eliminate the heavy cream in favor of all milk or for half and half. Don't do it. Yes, there are 400 calories in the ½ cup of cream, but that's divided over 12 servings. Forget it. Go real or go to another recipe.
- Another mistake I've made is using one of those fresh herb "tubes" of cilantro, which had a strong citrus back taste. It didn't ruin the recipe, but it didn't help it either. Go fresh or skip it.
- How long can you leave these in the freezer? I'd say six months. But they're so good they'll never go uneaten that long.