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Modular cooking and eating; Fast, Cheap and Easy!
Old 08-22-2011, 10:41 AM   #1
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Modular cooking and eating; Fast, Cheap and Easy!

This is a bit long, but it has so simplified our cooking and eating that I wanted to share.

In the last week or so I've been reading various posts about people buying individual serving meals because it's quicker and easier, some who are having meal issues because you're on different schedules, etc.

I wanted to share a 'modular' approach to cooking and eating that DH and I have developed over the last few months. We did it as a means to lose weight (via portion control), but this approach also works if you want good, healthy food fast, with almost no cleanup. There is a bit of prep on the front-end but nothing overly time consuming.

The premise of the method is to cook in volume individual ingredients one would want to mix and match into a "Chipotle-type" bowl. Then freeze the outcome in individual muffin tins.

For example, we pressure cook one pound of black beans. Takes 45 minutes to cook. Once done you spray a muffin tin with PAM and place 1/2 cup servings in each of the 12 muffin cups (1 lb of beans will produce about 24 - 1/2 cup servings). Place the muffin tins full of beans in the freezer and let freeze for about 24 hours. Remove from the freezer and pop out the frozen bean 'pucks'. Place the individual pucks in a gallon-size freezer bag, label and store in the freezer.

Using the same cooking and freezing approach we have the following 1/2 cup size food pucks in our freezer:
brown rice
Lime/cilantro white rice (Chipotle knock-off)
Refried beans
Grilled chicken
Chile Colorado
Brisket
Barbacoa
Pork Adobo
Taco meat (hamburger with taco seasoning)
+ More

When you're ready to eat you simply choose from the various pucks what you want to eat at that meal. DH's favorite right now is 1 brown rice puck, one black bean puck and one Chile Colorado (very spicy) puck. Place the three pucks in a bowl and nuke on defrost until thawed. Once thawed, nuke on high until heated through.

You can then eat the 'bowl' as is or continue to dress it up with Pico, lettuce, sour cream (or if you're watching your weight fat free Greek Yogurt), cilantro...the ideas are endless.

DH and I both work from home and he likes to eat lunch much earlier than me. When he gets hungry he just picks out his pucks and gets himself fed We have a different bowl just about every day for lunch and it never gets boring.

We also use the puck approach to make single servings of homeade spaghetti sauce, peanut sauce, meat loaf, pot roast....the ideas are endless.

If you're interested in trying this I have several recipes I'd be happy to share.
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Old 08-22-2011, 11:47 AM   #2
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This is great, Lisa. I think it is time for me to replace that busted microwave so I can try some of these ideas.
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Old 08-22-2011, 11:50 AM   #3
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Sounds like an interesting way to have your meal 'ingredients' all pre-prepared.

Could the recipes be added to the RE Cookbook? It could be a whole chapter of its own.

omni
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Old 08-22-2011, 11:51 AM   #4
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I haven't tried the modular approach, but I have been using the puck approach for a while for things like homemade sauces and soups.
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Old 08-22-2011, 03:41 PM   #5
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The modular approach in popular song:

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Old 08-22-2011, 04:33 PM   #6
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Sounds like a terrific plan for having plenty of healthy food to choose from at any time.

I'll remember it, and may try it too, after hurricane season is over. Right now my freezer is completely empty due to the season.

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Originally Posted by Sarah in SC View Post
This is great, Lisa. I think it is time for me to replace that busted microwave so I can try some of these ideas.
I may not have the use of my freezer right now, but sure enjoy having the use of my microwave. Everything from coffee, to Lean Cuisines, to leftovers ends up in the microwave.
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Old 08-22-2011, 08:18 PM   #7
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Neat idea - I currently use the "puck" approach for sauces, but this sounds great - and I am sure with a bit of defrosting and a non-stick pan, no microwave needed! (we, too are microwave-free, and not missing it!)
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Old 08-22-2011, 08:50 PM   #8
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Lisa99, I just had DW read your post as I thought this might be an idea she could incorporate into her desire to reduce the cooking chores. She accused me of not being able to adhere to this puck method as I would eat five or six pucks at one meal. She had me promise to tell ya'all about one of my favorite meals. She doesn't complain because it's easy on her.
One of my favorites is to get a rotisiree(?) chicken, a bag of no yolk egg noodles (wide) and a tomato. Cook the noodles in chicken broth, dice the tomato and mix it in with the pasta after draining. Split the chicken in half with a big knife. My "puck" is a half chicken and half the pasta. DW has a small piece of the chicken breast.
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Old 08-22-2011, 09:06 PM   #9
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You can make breakfast pucks too. Put a little cooked bulk sausage and onion in each cup then top with scrambled eggs, cheese or whatever you like. Bake until solid then freeze, put in a bag when frozen. Nuke for hot breakfast, low carb.
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Old 08-22-2011, 09:13 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by JOHNNIE36 View Post
Lisa99, I just had DW read your post as I thought this might be an idea she could incorporate into her desire to reduce the cooking chores. She accused me of not being able to adhere to this puck method as I would eat five or six pucks at one meal. She had me promise to tell ya'all about one of my favorite meals. She doesn't complain because it's easy on her.
One of my favorites is to get a rotisiree(?) chicken, a bag of no yolk egg noodles (wide) and a tomato. Cook the noodles in chicken broth, dice the tomato and mix it in with the pasta after draining. Split the chicken in half with a big knife. My "puck" is a half chicken and half the pasta. DW has a small piece of the chicken breast.

LOL! I promise you wouldn't eat five pucks...if you use the black beans and brown rice pucks that would be enough fiber to last you for days!
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Old 08-22-2011, 09:13 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by old woman View Post
You can make breakfast pucks too. Put a little cooked bulk sausage and onion in each cup then top with scrambled eggs, cheese or whatever you like. Bake until solid then freeze, put in a bag when frozen. Nuke for hot breakfast, low carb.
Thanks for the reminder. I used to do egg pucks when we were low carbing almost 15 years ago.
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Old 08-22-2011, 09:15 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by omni550 View Post
Sounds like an interesting way to have your meal 'ingredients' all pre-prepared.

Could the recipes be added to the RE Cookbook? It could be a whole chapter of its own.

omni
I could definitely add the recipes to the RE Cookbook. Is it a sticky? I've not noticed it before.
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Old 08-22-2011, 09:25 PM   #13
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Your system sounds like a great idea, Lisa.

For some reason the term "modular cooking" makes me think of the Jetsons:
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Old 08-22-2011, 09:51 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Bestwifeever
Your system sounds like a great idea, Lisa.

For some reason the term "modular cooking" makes me think of the Jetsons:
Too funny! It's very much like that. Lots of individual ingredients all ready to mix and match however you want.
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Old 08-26-2011, 09:08 AM   #15
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Good idea about the muffin pans. That would allow a slightly larger puck size than what I have been using - an ice tray. Ice cube size pucks are good for garnish type sauces like taco salsa, guacamole, etc. It is so nice to nuke a couple of guacamole cubes and have "fresh" homemade guac for a single serving of tacos or nachos.

We pre-cook large batches of spaghetti sauce, but usually put it in a quart ziplock bag or qt ziplock container and freeze. Taco meat (ground beef or cubed chicken breast with taco seasoning) also gets frozen in an underfilled qt ziplock bag which I can then "break" off a chunk to heat up for 1 serving.
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Old 08-26-2011, 10:11 AM   #16
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Good idea about the muffin pans. That would allow a slightly larger puck size than what I have been using - an ice tray. Ice cube size pucks are good for garnish type sauces like taco salsa, guacamole, etc. It is so nice to nuke a couple of guacamole cubes and have "fresh" homemade guac for a single serving of tacos or nachos.

We pre-cook large batches of spaghetti sauce, but usually put it in a quart ziplock bag or qt ziplock container and freeze. Taco meat (ground beef or cubed chicken breast with taco seasoning) also gets frozen in an underfilled qt ziplock bag which I can then "break" off a chunk to heat up for 1 serving.
I didn't know guac could be frozen! I love it, but DH doesn't so I rarely make it because I can't eat it all before it goes bad. Do you just make up a recipe of guac, put it in ice cube trays and freeze? When you thaw, do you thaw in the fridge?

As for the taco meat and cubed chicken, we let the taco meat (for example) cool. We then spray a large cookie sheet with PAM and spread the cooled taco meat evenly over the pan. It then goes into the freezer until the individual chunks are frozen. We then put the frozen meat into a gallon-size freezer bag. The 'chunks' are no bigger than a tablespoon so it's easy to pour out exactly how much you want.

We do the same cookie sheet cook and freeze method for plain hamburger meat. When we get it on sale we cook up 5 lbs, freeze and bag in gallon bags. Then when I have a recipe that calls for hamburger it's already cooked.
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Old 08-26-2011, 10:31 AM   #17
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I could definitely add the recipes to the RE Cookbook. Is it a sticky? I've not noticed it before.
T-Al is the editor, IIRC:
ER Forum Cookbook -- Recipe Posting Thread

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Old 08-26-2011, 10:42 AM   #18
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I'm sorry, but this puck system just won't do for me. I've tried defrosting them, using my sharpest steak knife, everything I could think of, but can't seem to carve off enough to satisfy me.

My guess is that it's because they use vulcanized rubber. I try to stay away from processed foods as much as possible, so I'm looking for un-vulcanized pucks, so far without success.


Hockey puck - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 08-26-2011, 11:24 AM   #19
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hardy har har, there, Brau!
I swear, I need to have one of you just come to my house and do all this for me. I have become the laziest of cooks. I could totally do this pre-cooking business and freeze stuff to have later, but never do it.
Keep talking, maybe it will penetrate to my lazy core eventually!
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Old 08-26-2011, 12:00 PM   #20
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hardy har har, there, Brau!
I swear, I need to have one of you just come to my house and do all this for me. I have become the laziest of cooks. I could totally do this pre-cooking business and freeze stuff to have later, but never do it.
Keep talking, maybe it will penetrate to my lazy core eventually!
hmmm, now there's a business idea...Have puck will travel.

Although with all of us being cheapskates....err...LBYMers, not sure who would buy the service.

I hope you'll give it a try. Last night while watching TV we made 24 black bean pucks and 24 brown rice pucks. It was a matter of putting the beans in the pressure cooker and the rice in the rice cooker...and voila, two hours later we have 48 pucks of food.

Today, I have a super nice tri-tip on the Big Green Egg that I snagged on sale at $1.79/lb! That one hunk of smoked meat will make about 40 yummy protein pucks.

This is really the beauty of the method. You watch for stuff on sale, cook it in bulk and then you don't have to cook again for weeks (other than nuking).
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