Personal chef, Kristen Lyon, has a knack for surrounding herself on a daily basis with her passion…whole foods that look like a rainbow just landed on her kitchen counter. Most days she can be found running her very popular Meals-to-Go business from a busy commercial kitchen in Jacksonville, Oregon.

Last week, though, the aforementioned rainbow was put to efficient, delicious use when she presented a class at Ashland Food Co-op’s culinary kitchen on how to “Cook Today and Eat All Week”. In just a few hours she prepared five weeknight meals using two organic chickens and a bounty of late summer harvest. She is a master of cooking efficiency, after all, since her tips and tricks have stood the test of time in her busy catering business.

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Here are her top ten cook-ahead tips for having 5 weeknight meals ready and waiting:

  1. Take some time to cull through your cookbooks or favorite food websites for recipes that use similar vegetables that can be cooked ahead. Decide what meal will be eaten on each night.
  2. Make a list of dishes and ingredients, check your pantry, and then shop for what is missing. If you have a local farmer’s market, plan to make your list and shop no more than a couple days ahead of your cooking marathon.
  3. Make sauces ahead and refrigerate.
  4. Cook grains, such as millet, quinoa, and/or kamut, and freeze.
  5. Raw veggies don’t freeze well due to their water content, so blanch or roast them ahead of time.
  6. Think ahead how vegetables will be used and avoid freezing them all together in one container. After par-cooking or roasting them, freeze on baking sheets first, then store in glass containers or zip-lock bags.
  7. If freezing ingredients, such as grains, sauces or pesto, lay flat in freezer so it’s easier to break off chunks for your recipe.
  8. If you’re roasting a chicken to use in recipes for the week, save drippings from the pan and add to dishes, such as quinoa salads or stir fry’s.
  9. For added depth of flavor to your finished dish (soups, broths, grains), add a squeeze of lemon instead of salt.
  10. In place of a traditional vinaigrette, Kristen’s favorite dressing is a simple drizzle of Napa Valley Naturals Grand Reserve Balsamic Vinegar. The thick, syrupy texture lends a tart sweetness to salads, roasted vegetables, and grains.

Learn more about Chef Kristen on her website and Facebook page.

Images: Barb Magee