This One Appliance Is the Key to Easy Weekly Meal Prep
During the long year of pandemic lockdown, even passionate cooks like me have fallen prey to some serious kitchen fatigue. When you've had to cook all day every day, 21 meals a week, on top of heavy workloads and general life stress, you might have looked up to find that every night is salad and popcorn night, or scrambled eggs night. When we hit our rut, we realized that while we had a house full of food, we were still stymied by limited bandwidth at the end of long workdays, and often had forgotten to thaw a frozen protein or prep any side dish ingredients.
But the only thing worse than not wanting to cook, is not even wanting to throw together one more sad sandwich or reheat one more can of soup. We needed a solution that would allow for us to assemble a fast healthy dinner with minimal time, energy, or effort.
The life saver for our cooking rut? Our sous vide machine!
Enter our sous vide machine. Before the pandemic, we most often used this water bath method to help make dinner parties a breeze, taking care of the proteins and holding them at perfect temp so that we didn't have to worry about overcooking if the cocktail hour ran long. But suddenly, the ability to pre-prep a bunch of dinner components with minimal fuss and be able to just reheat all week long became the highest possible achievement for this appliance.
How I use my sous vide to make mealtimes easier
Over the weekend, I will set up my sous vide, and pre-cook a bunch of vegetable side dishes, like carrots, cabbage or fennel wedges, baby potatoes, green beans, cauliflower florets or steaks, broccolini, or asparagus. Each vegetable goes into a vacuum bag with a little bit of butter or oil, salt and pepper, and any other herb or seasoning I like. They all cook at 185° for different amounts of time: Potatoes and carrots might take 40 minutes to an hour, asparagus might only take 10 or 15 minutes; check the information that came with your machine.
I will also, while I have the vacuum sealer out, put my week's proteins into bags, again with some small amount of butter or oil, seasonings and herbs. The first 2-3 days of proteins go in the fridge, the rest in the freezer.
During the week, I will set up my sous vide machine at lunchtime, and set an alarm for when my protein will need to go in to be ready in time for dinner. Having prepped my proteins means I can literally go right from frozen if I have forgotten to take one out the night I want to eat it: It just takes a little longer in the water bath and nothing can get overcooked. About 15 minutes to half an hour before dinner, the vegetables can go back in the water bath to gently reheat.
When it is time for dinner, the meat gets seared quickly in a hot pan, and any vegetables that would benefit from some color or crispiness can also get a quick toss in a pan.
By spending a little bit of time on prep over the weekend, and then remembering to use the sous vide during the week, we can get proper dinners on the table night after night without breaking a sweat or relying too much on depressing last-minute stand ins. Which means we can save the popcorn for movie nights!