There’s nothing like a home-cooked meal, right? It just seems to be more flavorful and more satisfying. And let’s not overlook the fact that preparing it at home saves you money.
Yet dining at home serves up what’s probably an even more vital advantage: Home-prepared meals are always healthier than restaurant meals. Being in the food industry for over 10 years I learned that even in the fanciest restaurants they use seasoning powders , salty sauces, and fancy thickeners, and not to mention all the ingredients used to serve any dish with a molecular gastronomy techniques. Restaurant supply companies are very good at creating products that offer shortcuts and unfortunately not all are healthy for you after all. Nothing is better than simple, unprocessed fresh ingredients cooked with love, make this a non-negotiable in your life because good health is priceless and it starts in the kitchen cooking daily.
To do this well, the key is MEAL PLANNING—I know that CHOOSING A recipe, shopping for the ingredients, and finally, the prep and cooking—can feel like an overwhelming task, especially on a weeknight. That’s why we’re strong believers in planning meals ahead. This gives you the opportunity to save money and time, reduce stress, and eat real food. Not sure where to start? Start Sunday afternoon prepping these staple things.
Cut onions and freeze
Cut about 5 lbs of onions this should last you a week. I know it is a lot to cut, if you cry with onions sprinkle your cutting board with white vinegar it cancels out the sulfur that is making your eyes water.
Put the onions on a sheet pan and freeze for about 45 min or until they are mostly frozen. Then dump them in a freezer bag or freezer safe container. This will keep the onions from sticking together and freezing in one big, giant blob. Now when you are ready for onions, just reach into the bag and grab out what you need. You do not need to thaw the onions. Just drop into whatever you are cooking. Easy!
Make a garlic Paste
I swear by this paste I make it every 2 weeks and I add it to everything.
I get a bag of peeled garlic at Costco and make ½ bag at a time. You can also freeze it in an ice cube tray and throw it in use in soups, and stews.
Quick Garlic paste:
1 ½ cup of peeled garlic cloves
1 tablespoon of sea salt (No kosher or iodized salt) Sea salt’s minerals help preserve your paste (I love the Trader Joes sea salt which is from Spain!)
Mix it in a small food processor for about 3-4 min until it turns into an almost fluffy paste. Keep in a glass container (no plastic) and refrigerate up to 2-3 weeks.
-Chop Celery and Carrots small diced and put in a glass container this is called mirepoix which is a base for many dishes to build flavor.
-Have store bought chicken stock in hand or make your own.
Make 3 starches like Roasted and boiled potatoes, or sweet potatoes, pasta and rice starches do well up to 4-5 days in the fridge.
Grate Fresh Tomatoes on a box grater
Take 4 lbs of tomatoes now that they are in season grate the fresh tomatoes on the vine and save in the fridge up to 2 weeks or freeze for 4 months.
In Spain and South america most dishes begin with what we call Sofrito, a blend of onions, garlic, red and green peppers, spices like cumin and oregano and grated tomatoes. Our mojos are pretty much that sofrito cooking pastes, that base flavor the first layer of flavor already made for you (that takes so long to make from scratch) then you easily add the rest of your ingredients to finish your dish. They are basically flavor bombs. Use them in all your cooking and sauce making to enhance the flavors and add complexity to your dishes. Feel free to mix a two or three in one dish they are your paintbrushes to create your own unique flavors.
Here are few tips:
White Mojo is a great base for everything is your onion and garlic for any recipe
The Red Mojo is fantastic on potatoes, chicken or pork, when your recipe calls for red bell peppers add it in there are 3 Red bell peppers on each jar so about 4 tablespoons is one cooked red pepper.
The Green Mojo is great when you want to add freshness to your dish, use over fish, shimp even on a lentil soup, mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive oil to marinate or for a fresh vinaigrette!
The Black Mojo is great to add umami to your dish, you can use it as a spread or to make a mushroom sauce. Add 1/2 cup the liquid of your choice in a pan first, like broth, white wine or Marsala wine simmer it slightly and add in at least 3 tablespoons of the Black mojo, if you like you can finish with a bit of cream for a decadent sauce. Use this on pasta, Chicken, etc
The Yellow Mojo is to add a nice palate warming heat to your dish. This mojo is pairs great with seafood like shrimp, ceviche and white fish. It is also great to mix with coconut milk to make a chicken or veggie stew. See our famous Peruvian Coconut Shrimp Recipe
Here are three recipes you can cook in 30 min or less thanks to these prep steps you did ahead!
I hope these recipes become cherished and craved recipes for you and your family on those busy weeknights we all have, I promise I am with you cooking every night!
Cook together, get the kids involved even on simplest steps, they will feel part of it and happy to say I helped make this dish. We all need to feel connected to with each other and food is the fabric that connects us all.
Happy Cooking and sharing!