Thursday, December 28, 2006

Tips for Once a Month Cooking (OAMC)

Once a month cooking, or banking "Frozen Assets", is the only way to survive Early 21st century lifestyle under this Corporate Food racket.

Most people I know - who have no choice but to eat out - would give almost anything to eat home cooked meals, and not have to bear the indignity and health risks, the total lack of control over nourishing their body and mind. However, time and money are the two biggest reasons given.

However, cooking every single day becomes unworkable. Even if you stay at home, managing your home and business from a base of operations. No matter how much you like to cook, it becomes tiresome to cook - Every-Single-Meal. The quick meal options in supermarkets are no alternative - so laden with body clogging junk you're better off fasting.

In addition, prices in Supermarkets are ridiculously unreasonable, especially if you are cooking for just one or two people. I refuse to pay $12 for half a pound of the nuts I need for this season's version of meat stew. I refuse to pay $24 per pound for salmon. With few exceptions (e.g., tomato paste or carnation milk) rarely purchase canned items. The price of fresh produce is getting to be ridiculous, especially given most is grown half a mile from me.

With the Frozen Asset approach, I put the highest quality, body-type-tailored, gourmet meals (breakfast lunch and dinner) on the table or to go, for $1.25 to $1.85 per meal per person. Average for 2007, is $1.55 to $1.65. Each meal is cooked according to ayurvedic principles of balancing. They contain complex spice and herb treatments that ensure the longer they are frozen, the tastier they are.

I do "Nutraceutical Catering" which means that I will prepare meals to order, to accomplish someone achieve their health goals. Many have medical conditions made more complicated by the drugs (prescription) they are taking. Easing them back to health using the Kitchen as the Medicine Cabinet of first resort is a relatively easy thing to do, once they understand they control their bodies, not Corporate Pharma. But cooking for health is everyone's birth right so I don't make a big deal of it. I DO make a BIG deal of putting nutraceuticals on the table 24x7 for as low a price as I do.

Truth be told, I have been doing this so long, I actually get more for the buck, and it's embarrassing how inexpensive some dishes become. And I am not - repeat - not - a vegetarian. Cooking according to "ayurvedic" principles does NOT mean you have to be vegetarian - and anyone who says so, run from them. So there is animal protein - of the kinds each particular body requires - on the menus.

So how do you go about it?

In OAMC you buy all your food preparation items, in bulk once every month, six weeks or two months. You experience huge price savings right there. For one or two people, your shopping list may include 10 pounds of diced lamb, 15 pound of apples, 3 gallons of milk, 5 pounds each of three kinds of cheese etc. as ingredients for a 4-6 weeks meal supply. (You also purchase your household sundries in this sort of bulk - 36 rolls of paper towels, 5 gallons of dish-washing liquid etc. which bring great savings).

The idea is to convert - as fast as possible - all these ingredients to delicious, healthy meals that are frozen, stacked and stored in your freezer for use over a 4 -6 week period. In this way, you always have e.g., 4 course meals available to you without being tied on a daily basis to shopping, cooking, leftovers or eating out.

In OAMC you have dozens and dozens of storage containers of different sizes, stackable, and gallon freezer bags in which you place one or two meal sized portions.

In OAMC you cook with the freshest of fresh ingredients, (no canned or boxed ingredients of any sort) and then flash freeze or regular freeze meal sized portions in containers that are labeled and dated.

In OAMC you cook using the same slow home-cooking methods that turn out healthy and delicious meals, that you will never find in any star restaurant. E.g., most dishes I slow sweat onions - taking about 20-25 minutes on that alone. Unheard of in restaurants. For me, that just the beginning of a dish that takes 2 hours to cook.

In OAMC you scour restaurant supply stores, extremely large supermarkets that stock the freshest items, and - especially - large ethnic supermarkets that cater to ethnic populations (who tend to do home cooking the right way).

In OAMC you must have recipes and food lists. In the end you probably will not need a computer program much, you'll have seasonal recipes and their monthly variations kept in your head. But it helps to have the assistance of a computer based organizer.

Your OAMC recipes must go through at least one bout of freezing - in single meal portion - for you to understand how your regular spicing and the ingredients hold up. For example, potatoes don't freeze and unfreeze well. That does not matter in soups as much as in stews. In most taste balanced recipes, freezing and storing enhances the flavors.

In OAMC, if you love to cook, this will develop your skills, and "stealth change" you from amateur to professional, because this is exactly how professionals go about meal making.

OAMC means "best quality" personalized food service, at every meal. You always keep items such as, fresh milk, butter, eggs and salad makings on hand. But, you have one or more freezer s full of assets. Since you are flash freezing fresh cooked, you are doing exactly what the packaged food industry and restaurants do. Your quality of personal food preparation however, is quantum levels higher and customized to your constitution and health than theirs ever could be.

The drawbacks are cooking it all in one fell swoop, which can get out of hand. It doesn't need to, and here are the tips:

1. Start slowly. At first, lets say you normally cook for two, now triple it, cook for six, and freeze the four extra meals. I did this constantly for about 2-3 weeks and realized I had about 2 months worth of frozen assets and had to stop. This breaks you out of the "one meal" at a time mentality.

2. Enroll an OAMC accomplice, for shopping, for vegetable cutting and cheese grating, and for dish-pot washing dept. Create your own OAMC hit team on Corporate Food! Reward liberally with Frozen Assets!

3. Organization before cooking days: Create the menu for the month, shop for the menu, and take kitchen inventory on the same day, recording prices of all items. But, do not shop and start a cooking marathon the same day! Do not rush. Make sure you have your storage and labeling supplies on hand. Get your recipes out, and make sure you have all ingredients.

4. Organization on cooking days: Prepare the workstations, and tape the recipes above each one. Make sure you have several timers, lots of kitchen towels, oven mitts, and food preparation boards. Make sure you have at least two sets of stove top utensil caddies. Place kitchen towels over the food prep stations, making spills and cleanups easy to handle. Roll an extra towel and keep handy.

I have a station for bake prep, for meat prep, for vegetable cutting, for spice arrangements and for placing components that must undergo some stove top prep first, e.g., melted butter, sauteed onions, and the like. It's nothing like the food network channel and their "too-too frou frou" bowls - but you will need a lot of interim use food prep bowls.

To maintain your equilibrium, do one round of cooking, and then clear all works surfaces, wash all the prep dishes and pots and pans, re-organize the kitchen, before you launch into round two.

5. Split the categories of meals to be prepared over 2-3 days. You will be creating the same 4 to 6 weeks of assets you did in Step 1 over a period of 2 to 3 days only!

Example: I create baked products on the first day. I also prepare all my meat and vegetable stocks from scratch on this first day and I use up all leftovers in the refrigerator for this. In addition, I soak all the beans I will be needing on Day 2 and 3 overnight of this first day. I also marinate the roasts overnight. The second day, I do roasts, soups and salads (salads are never frozen, they are refrigerated and last for maximum a week only). All stove top entrees and casseroles are prepared on the third. After a while you'll get this down to one weekend.

6. Use the stove top and oven at each session, and you'll want to avoid traffic jams on either level. I do all the baking first, on day one, as that's more fun for me. I bake all the breads and pies in one day. I reserve the stove top for the fillings and other prep items such as melted butter.

For a household of 2 or three, we make four different kinds of cornbreads, two yeast breads and four deep dish fruit pies. During festive occasions, we make a chocolate or other kind of pie.

7. One the second day, have one helper who really likes to chop vegetables. It's an art. Create different workstations so you don't get in each others way. Give back to the helper - send them home with some ready made pies and breads you've already made. Wash and chop your entire supply of vegetables and fruits you will be using to create frozen assets in one session. Refrigerate (or freeze) anything that doesn't get cooked right away. Use your judgment - don't freeze the green and leafy uncooked!

8. Cook soups and roast meats on the second day, as they take similar times which are fairly long, if you are cooking elaborate process soups. Most of my hearty soups require blender at the end and this means I have to cool down gallons of soup. I prefer a natural cooling process which allow the flavors to meld and that takes time.

9. Cook the stove top dishes and bake the savory pies such as quiches and casseroles on a separate day. I do this on my third day, or session. Most of my entrees are elaborate and multi-process meals, and I take far more care creating frozen assets than were I to eat it within the day. So I save these for last. By the third day, I'm into a Zen-line cooking zone, and my best insights come to me.

10. When you separate out into one or two meal sized portions, place/pour the meals into plastic freezer bags - this takes up less room and they stack and store more flexibly.

11. Freeze recipe components. So if you have a recipe that calls for potatoes, freeze everything except the spuds until you're ready to make the meals. e.g., Buy lots of frozen fish filets in individual wrappers - which are a recipe component and take only 5-6 minutes to cook.

12. Do not be afraid to substitute if you run out of basic ingredients. Some of my best recipes were serendipitously made through this process.

13. Do not start a cooking process late in the day, especially if you have been cooking all day, and are slowing down a bit. For example, if you start prepping a last batch of dishes at 7 or 8 pm, you may be putting 2-3 dishes in the oven at 10 or 11 pm at night. They may not be done until 12 or 1am. This means you may be up til 2 and 3 in the morning - as you have to let things cool down, if you don't have the equipment to flash freeze. You don't want your already frozen assets stored in the freezer to warm up! I personally prefer a natural cooling process on most dishes.

14. Do not microwave. Not even water or coffee. If you microwave, you might as well give up and just eat at McDonalds. Study the effects of microwaves on cellular structure and realize what you are doing. If you cannot give it up, don't come back to this blog.

15. The very last thing to do, is to open the freezer and gloat. There is absolutely nothing like having a freezer stocked full of 150 individual meals of the highest caliber, tailored made to your tastes. Remember though, that you still have to plan ahead, and pull the next days meal out of the freezer the night before.

You may begin to worry what might happen in a power outage, and might start to freak out. Never mind. If it's a real catastrophe, you will be a life saver, feeding your neighbors for days. If it is a minor outage, remember the freezer stays frozen for a long time and the more frozen stuff in there, the longer they'll keep that way. However now would be the time to investigate a generator and freezer setup in a garage.

Advantages OAMC:
1. Frees up time to pursue career, business and other interests
2. Huge money savings.
3. Rigorous health through balanced eating program.
4. Meals are portioned ahead of time creating built-in serving control
5. Meal preparation can focus on the fresh juices and salads since the meal part is taken care of.
6. Peace of mind - "what's for dinner" always has an answer
7. Pre-planning every meal makes you proactive about self-management of health
8. Focus on monthly recipes means focus on continual improvement.
9. Proactive focus on necessary seasonal nutritional changes to manage healthy eating.
10. Measurement of one's own state of health done under managed nutritional program - there is a measured track of every meal, and every ingredient of every meal, and a track of personal health states. You cannot manage what you don't measure.

Misconceptions about OAMC:
1. You don't spend one marathon session once a month cooking - that doesn't work.


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