More Warm Weather Batch Cooking

I‘ll bet that you didn’t expect to see homemade salad dressing as the top photo for a post about batch cooking, did you?

The term ‘batch cooking’ refers to dishes that are made in double or quadruple batches, and frozen for convenience. It usually refers to vats of chili, seas of lasagna, and spaghetti sauce by the gallon.

Here’s the thing. For me, batch cooking (and baking) applies to all aspects of feeding the family, not just hearty, ‘wintery’ main dishes. Summer is a busy time and I’m sure you don’t want to hang out forever in the kitchen any more than I do. Right? We want to get in there, be immensely productive, and then hit the beach with girlfriends. Or in my slightly less glamorous case, the plastic kiddie pool on the back lawn.

Batch cooking in summer allows you to get a leg up on dinner. These suggestions are not necessarily entire meals unto themselves, but all provide the base of wholesome -and delicious- summer fare. Last summer I introduced my warm weather batch cooking theory and covered ideas such as pizza dough, homemade pesto, and even a do-ahead dessert. Be sure to revisit that post for more inspiration!

Now we’ve just wrapped a series on frozen treats, but as everyone knows, man cannot live on popsicles and ice cream alone (although some of us would sure like to try), so here are few ideas for more substantial fare.

Cubed Fruit & Berries for Smoothies

Prep for smoothies and other frozen treats by washing, peeling and cutting fruit in large amounts. Freeze flat on a tray and then transfer to baggies or airtight containers. Store in the freezer for up to three months.

On hot summer afternoons, I’ll toss a handful of frozen fruit, a cup or two of yogurt, and a drizzle of honey in the blender for a fast, ice cold smoothie. Other add-in flavorings such as cinnamon, vanilla, buttermilk, or peanut butter are all optional, of course.

Stewed Pinto or Black Beans

Our family loves beans, even during the hot summer months. I’ll frequently cook up a big pot of pinto or black beans to have on hand for wrapping into Black Bean Burittos, forming into burgers, tossing into salad, or folding up in Frijoles Rancheros.

Beans are a perfect protein to simmer on the back burner during busy summer afternoons, enjoy for supper, and then parcel up to freeze for future meals. I freeze mine -with plenty of the cooking liquid- in airtight containers or jars for up to six months.

Spiced Taco Beef

For taco salad, campfire burittos, or family taco night, this is one protein that I keep around during the summer. It makes for quick and light dinners when we don’t want to overload on red meat. It’s also an affordable option as it stretches that organic beef to feed a few more mouths.

Recipe: Spiced Taco Beef

  • 2 lbs organic ground beef
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano or 2 Tablespoons fresh, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons mild dried chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  1. In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil, then add onions and garlic. Saute until soft, about 8 minutes. Remove from pan.
  2. Add ground beef to the skillet and brown all over, using a sturdy spatula to break up the chunks. Drain of most of excess fat, but leave a little to help keep the meat moist.
  3. When meat has browned for about five minutes, add sauteed onions and garlic and the remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine.
  4. Add about 1/4 cup of water, reduce heat to low and allow to cook gently while the flavors meld together.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. if you like your meat spicier, add more chili powder or a dusting of cayenne.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Package in airtight containers and freeze for later use.

Homemade Vinaigrette

As illustrated in the header photo, I like to keep an assortment of salad dressings around that I make from scratch. It’s mid-July and we’re eating a large salad every day, sometimes twice a day. That’s a lot of salad!

Having a stash of vinaigrette around means one less task for daily dinner prep; having an assortment means that no matter what salad I’m prepping, there’s always a complementary dressing.

Pictured at top: Lemon & Garlic Basic Vinaigrette, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Buttermilk Ranch with Dill, Maple Poppyseed Vinaigrette. Not only can you save money by making your own pantry staples like salad dressing, but I find they taste much better than processed dressings.

Recipe: Lemon & Garlic Basic Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated on a microplane
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. In a jar, combine all ingredients except the olive oil. Top with lid and shake well.
  2. Add olive oil and shake again. Vinaigrette is ready to use or be stored for up to one week.

Photo by Poor Girl Gourmet

Braised Pork for Sandwiches

This braised pork shoulder is another favorite for summer dinners and perfect for serving company. It doesn’t require the oven, but slowly cooks in a Dutch oven on the back of the stove.

Once cooked and cooled, the pork can be shredded, tossed lightly with barbecue sauce and frozen in airtight containers. To reheat, thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then gently warm in a skillet with more barbecue sauce to keep it moist.

Homemade garlic-dill pickles make a perfect accompaniment, but I’ll leave that up to you!

Pie Crust

We’ve fallen hard for summer pies, but none of them would be possible without my monthly batches of Rich Pie Crust that are made, wrapped and stashed in the freezer.

The task of pie for dinner -er,dessert- seems much less daunting when one can pull the crust from the freezer in the morning for an afternoon pie-making party. I say, head for the nearest u-pick and stock up on berries for those summer pies!

Marinated Meats for Grilling

Our meat consumption drops off dramatically over the summer months, so I can’t say that I marinate chicken breasts and pork chops by the dozens. However, I know this is a great system for many and can definitely understand the convenience factor.

Visit Jessica over at Life as Mom for her snappy chicken in marinades with three different marinade recipes and instructions on freezing.

How does batch cooking help you contribute to dinner?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Yummy, as always! This is all making me hungry, Aimee. And I’m on a diet!

    Thanks for the nod. I do love my chicken in the marinade, all ready to go. Another thing I’ve been having fun with is spice rubs for beef or fish. I mix those up and stash them in the freezer, too.

  2. Aimee – love the ideas here, esp. gotta’ do more fresh fruit prep for smoothies.
    I always have beans going – great for snacks. And I reduce the cooking time to keep the house cool by sprouting them first. Soak them 8 hours, then drain them in a colander and rinse them twice a day for a couple days until a little sprout appears. Takes me 20 minutes to cook these beans and they’re sweeter and easier to digest. Chickpeas I only sprout for about 1 day since they seem to go bad faster (no little sprout appears but they still cook faster). Then I can always have hummus and black beans for huevos rancheros – one of our favorite low cooking meals in the summer.
    Others standby: Lots of grilled chicken and then many a summer dinner becomes cold chicken on salad from the garden with hard boiled eggs. For this I’m always making sure I have a lot of lettuce picked, washed and ready to go.

    • Steph (The Cheapskate Cook) says

      Greattip on sprouting the beans first to cut down on heating up your kitchen! I also have stashes of beans and ground meat in the freezer for all of those quick summer meals.
      Since I’m on orders from my midwife to gain more weight during this pregnancy, my meals have had to be a little more substantial than your average summer fair, but I love having all this fresh local produce on hand to add more veggies to our heavier meals

    • Having clean lettuce goes hand in hand with pre-made vinaigrette, and really helps get a salad on the table fast. Thanks for the sprouting tips, too!

  3. Melissa @ Baking For The Boys says

    Great ideas! I try so hard to batch, but find that I do it in waves. I’ll do really well one month and then have a dry spell the next. Currently, I’m in a dry spell-maybe this post will whip me into shape!

    • I hear you, Melissa. I did much better last summer, but perhaps that was because I knew I had my entire family descending on me for a reunion. 🙂

  4. Love these ideas! Thanks for the inspiration!

  5. I love this post. Remind me how I can get a leg up on the cooking even if, unlike wintery foods, I may not make the finished product. Actually our new summertime/poolside favorite is cold enchiladas. Instead of rolling them and having a stack in the fridge I make the filling and have that on standby. Rolling the no-cook enchiladas is kid easy.
    Thanks for an inspiring post!

    • Love the enchiladas idea. What do you use for filling? Shredded chicken and the like?

      • Yep you got it… Some cilantro, cream cheese, tacoesque type seasonings, peppers/ chiles, diced drained tomatoes, shreded cheese…. I make a big jar and keep it in the fridge…
        It is our 2011 summer go- to.

  6. One note on cooking beans in the summer: When we run out of beans that were frozen from cool weather batch cooking, I like to use my crockpot on the deck. No heat or steam or smells in the kitchen on a hot day.

    • High-five to that great tip, Dani! I think I’ll be setting up a little spot for my crockpot next to the barbecue outside. 🙂

  7. Thanks for the tips!
    Dani H – I love the idea of using the crockpot on the deck! I hate getting my kitchen hot in the summer.

    I just made a huge batch of strawberry jam and stashed a few extra jars in the freezer instead of canning them. Homemade jam has become a big hit in our family. I use whatever fruit is on sale so I can usually make jam cheaper then buying it.

  8. I love this!! I am always struggling with breakfast options so I’ll be wandering over to check out what you feature…and u have a cookbook? I need to look for that as well because this is such a great site- much needed in our household.

    I am checking a lot of the meal plans listed-GREAT ideas here!! Much appreciated 🙂

  9. I am checking a lot of the meal plans listed-GREAT ideas here!! Much appreciated 🙂

  10. aaahhhhhgggg, delete my *first* comment please- I was blog hopping and it was meant to be posted elsewhere- such a dope- sorry!!!!!!

  11. I was struggling with what’s for dinner tonight and then realized I have a nice jar of pesto in the fridge from last week… boil noodles, dinner= done. Batch cooking success.

    I’m trying to get in the good habit of cleaning and sorting all our CSA veggies the day we get them.

    While we have no problem plowing through greens, carrots, broccoli, and squash, I’ve been struggling with what to do with the produce that we just don’t seem to eat. Last night, I also took all our “excess” veggie parts and anything starting to look limp and made rich, rich VEGGIE STOCK! Some for this week’s meals and the rest for the freezer.

    • A good batch cooking success story! And sounds like you’re making the most of your CSA, too. What type of greens are you having trouble using up?

  12. I LOVE the idea of freezing my own fruit for smoothies – I need to start doing more batch cooking!

  13. I never knew you could freeze beans like that, how great! I’m starting to freeze some of the great summer fruits while they are still around!

  14. We freeze bite-sized fruit too and sometimes just eat it for snacks. My kids love frozen grapes, berries, pineapple bites, etc and it’s a great way to save fruit that we can’t use up while it’s fresh.

  15. Mrs. Graham Gardens says

    Aimee, this is a great post, full of helpful ideas. I am in a rut, here, and I think this will help a lot!

  16. Wonderful ideas. I have gotten into the pie crust habit too. I was so pleased to find a homemade dough in my freezer this week – I used it to make a fresh apple tart for a family picnic!

  17. I freeze all sorts of stuff in batches and never once thought to pre-cube/slice fruits for smoothies. Thank you for such a great suggestion! My daughter is a smoothie freak so this will be great.


  19. I just love being able to save time by cooking a whole bunch at once. I can’t wait to put more of your tips into practice!

  20. What a great list of ideas for the warm weather! I should get out my crockpot and cook some beans!

  21. I am on such a dressing kick right now with all of this heat so to see those at the top rocked. Love all of your ideas 🙂

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