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Tips From a Personal Chef – Top 10 Techniques to Make Food Last

Posted Sep 14 2009 9:49am

It’s not easy: Meal planning, shopping, prepping, cooking and cleaning take dedicated energy and clear focus. With the daily juggle of career, family and social life, we can only make the healthiest choices we can, and hopefully make the process as easy on ourselves as possible.

One of the ways to go easy in the kitchen is by utilizing simple tips to make food stretch a little longer to eliminate some of the stress that comes with, “What am I gonna eat?” Despite popular belief, even professional chefs hear these nagging words inside their own heads each and every day!

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Top Ten Professional Tips to Make Food Last

1. Love Your Left-Overs - People who don’t like left-overs don’t make good personal chef clients. A personal chef will make at least four servings of any dish (even for a single person)  to make better use of her time and the client’s money. Learn to make a double batch – it doesn’t take much longer to prepare, and it will keep your shopping list minimal.

2. Make Hearty Food - Stews, casseroles, whole roasted chicken, marinated meats… These are all good, solid foods that can last several days in the fridge. Before deciding on any dish, think about how long it will serve you. If it wilts in an hour, that’s it for that one.

3. Go for Heartier Veggies - Lettuce salads are refreshing, but ounce-per-ounce don’t compare nutritionally to deep green, hearty vegetables like kale, cabbage or kohlrabi. They also don’t last as long. Pre-make hearty slaws, drizzle with lemon juice, and dress them just before ready to eat.

4. Buy a Whole Chicken - A whole chicken can feed 1-2 people through at least two meals. Instead of buying separate pieces (and spending more money) learn how to cut up a whole chicken and make use of all the parts. Legs and thighs can be braised, breasts can be grilled and the carcass can be made into a stock. See recipe ideas below.

5. Salad Spinners - Delicate greens, as well as hearty vegetables, will keep much longer if stored in a salad spinner versus plastic bags. I have three in my fridge at any given time.

6. Pre-Make Simple Dressings - Have 3-4 staple dressing recipes that you love on hand. Pre-make them at the beginning of the week so they are ready for grabbing just when you need them. For dressing recipe ideas, see my Improvisational Dressings.

7. Puree Soup to Make a Sauce - Hearty, left-over soup can be pureed in the food processor and used as a sauce for meats and vegetables. Arrowroot can be used as a thickener, and fresh or dried herbs can be added to intensify flavors. Coconut oil, olive oil or butter can be stirred in at the end to add richness.

8. Freezing Food - Another reason to make heartier food is that it freezes well. Fresh is best, but stews, stocks, casseroles and sauces all freeze well. I like to freeze in mason jars – just make sure to leave space at the top for expansion. Let food cool to room temperature to alleviate drip loss and sogginess.

9. Vacuum Savers - Although I do not promote the use of plastic, some people value vacuum packed food, as it keeps food fresh for a very long time without freezing. If you’re going to use a vacuum packer, I recommend wrapping the food in parchment first, so that the plastic doesn’t seep directly into your food. The plastic should be reused for the next packing job.

10. Consider a Personal Chef - Personal chefs are becoming more and more popular for middle class families and individuals. S/he will design menus based on your own needs, come to your home and prepare fresh food just for you. Call Bauman College Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts for more information on how to find a natural personal chef near you.


Chicken Roll-Ups with Cilantro-Walnut Sauce

Apricot Braised Chicken

Homemade Chicken Stock

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