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How big batch cooking can save your weeknight sanity

Last Modified: 8/22/2019

Big batch cooking and freezer-friendly meal planning are excellent tools for surviving the weekday grind and still serving up a nutritious family meal. Batch cooking – or preparing large quantities of food at one time and reserving some for later – in particular caters to busy schedules and stretched budgets. Take advantage of grocery store sales and purchase large amounts of seasonal produce from local growers for significant savings.

You might be surprised how many of your go-to recipes can be made for immediate consumption, then frozen for later without compromising the quality of the food. Like some of your other favorites, these meals from the Parkview Center for Healthy Living, can easily be doubled or tripled for weeknights to come. (Remember: casseroles freeze beautifully.)

Zucchini and Bean Burritos

1/2 cup spicy enchilada sauce
1 14.5-ounce can unsalted pinto or black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-ounce can fat-free refried beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups diced fresh zucchini
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups cooked brown rice
8 8-inch whole-wheat flour tortillas
4 ounces reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
Cooking spray
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup refrigerated fresh pico de gallo
Cilantro sprigs (optional)

1. Place a large baking sheet in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (leave the pan in as it preheats).
2. Place the enchilada sauce, beans and refried beans in a saucepan over medium heat; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl. Add zucchini; sauté 2 minutes. Add oregano, cumin, black pepper, red pepper and garlic; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Prepare rice according to package directions.
5. Warm tortillas according to package directions. Spread about 1/3 cup bean mixture evenly over each tortilla, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Top each tortilla with 1/3 cup rice, 1/3 cup zucchini mixture and 2 tablespoons cheese. Fold in sides of tortilla over filling; roll up. Repeat procedure with remaining 7 tortillas, bean mixture, rice, zucchini mixture and cheese.
6. Lightly coat burritos with cooking spray. Arrange burritos, seam sides down, on preheated baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 4 minutes, turning after 2 minutes. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream, 1 tablespoon pico de gallo, and cilantro sprigs, if desired, or follow freezing instructions.

To freeze:
Wrap cooled burritos individually in plastic wrap. Seal in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze up to 3 months.

To reheat:
Remove plastic wrap; loosely wrap in paper towels. Microwave at high 3 to 4 minutes, turning after 2 minutes.

Adapted from a recipe featured on myrecipes.com

Turkey Tetrazzini

12 ounces uncooked whole grain penne pasta
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
1 pound turkey cutlets
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 8-ounce packages presliced mushrooms
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated and divided (about 1/2 cup)
1 ounce fontina cheese, shredded (about 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Cooking spray
1/2 cup whole-wheat panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Place pasta in a large bowl.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add turkey; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove turkey from pan; cut into bite-sized pieces. Add turkey to pasta.
4. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil; swirl to coat. Add onion and celery; sauté 10 minutes. Add thyme and mushrooms; cook 15 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Add wine to pan; cook 4 minutes or until liquid evaporates, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add mushroom mixture to pasta mixture.
5. Place pan over medium heat (do not wipe out pan). Combine milk and flour in a bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add milk mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in cream cheese, 1 ounce Parmesan, and fontina; cook 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Stir milk mixture, peas, and parsley, into pasta mixture. Divide pasta mixture between 2 (8-inch) square glass or ceramic baking dishes coated with cooking spray.
6. Combine remaining 2 teaspoons oil, remaining 1 ounce Parmesan, and panko in a bowl; sprinkle evenly over tops of dishes. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly, or follow freezing instructions.

To freeze:
Cover baking dish with heavy-duty foil or an airtight lid. Freeze up to two months.

To thaw:
Remove foil; place dish in microwave. Microwave at 30% power for 30 minutes or until thawed. (If your baking dish won't fit in the microwave, freeze the pasta mixture, without the panko topping, in an airtight plastic container, and thaw in the microwave. Transfer to baking dish, and sprinkle with topping before baking.)

To reheat:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover dish with foil. Bake for 20 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in center registers 160 degrees.

Adapted from a recipe featured on myrecipes.com

Crockpot Italian Chicken and Peppers

1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
12 ounces chicken breast
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce
Parmesan cheese, to taste

1. Layer bell peppers and chicken breasts in a slowcooker with some on the bottom and some on top then add seasonings, salt and pepper and marinara sauce.
2. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
3. Once it's cooked, use tongs to break the chicken apart. It will shred easily after cooking this long in the sauce.
4. Serve over rice or lettuce and top with Parmesan, as desired.

To freeze:
Place chicken and pepper mixture in a large zip-top freezer bags. Store for 2 months.

To thaw:
Transfer bag to refrigerator to thaw for 6-8 hours. Add contents to medium sauce pan and warm to serve.

Adapted from a recipe featured on Skinny Fitalicious



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