Preparing Foods in Advance and Other Kitchen Tips
There is no denying that successfully following the SCD takes commitment, time, and advance planning. But life can be a lot easier if you prepare certain food ingredients in advance, then you can pull out these items on busier weeknights when you don’t have as much time to assemble everything from scratch. Also, when your child’s cravings and hunger hit, there will be far less temptation to indulge in SCD-illegal foods.
Here are some suggestions for getting—and staying—organized in the kitchen:
- Each week, create a menu for the following week, make a shopping list, and get all of the groceries you will need before the weekend. Use the weekend for cooking. (See the Sample Menu section)
- Try to think ahead about your meal preparation. One of the most difficult parts is remembering to take frozen meat out and thaw it in time for meals!
- Use prepared, ready-to-use staples such as frozen vegetables and deboned chicken breasts (but always make sure they contain no additives or other SCD-illegal ingredients).
- Make and freeze stocks and broths ahead of time. These concoctions are the basis of many dishes, adding flavor and nutrition; homemade broths are also a major component of Stage 1 of the SCD. Freeze in convenient sizes so you don’t have to thaw more than you need at one time.
- Have SCD-legal cans of chicken, tuna, and salmon on hand, as well as eggs and cheese—for emergencies as well as for a quick meal at the end of a long, busy day.
- Always have SCD yogurt available. Making the yogurt takes 32 hours from start to finish, don’t wait until you are out of yogurt to make the next batch (see The Secrets to Great SCD Yogurt).
- Always have nut butters, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit on hand for snacks and outings. These are quick, filling, and highly portable.
- Make and freeze marinades ahead of time in zipper-lock storage bags. Place the frozen bags in the fridge overnight to thaw in time for an evening grill the next day. Do this over the weekend or whenever you have some free time.
- Freeze food in individual portions. It makes for easy, fast thawing and allows for a varied menu on the fly.
- Make extra batches of SCD-legal Italian-style tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, and ketchup so you have plenty on hand.
- Slow-cook a large beef roast, then slice and freeze it along with its pan juices for serving on busy nights.
- A crockpot is a wonderful timesaver and is great for making delicious soups, stews, braised meats, and cooked applesauce.
- One-pot meals, soups, and stews, frozen in single portions, are great timesavers and are very versatile. It's easy to freeze single meals in Pyrex or ovenproof glass dishes for later thawing and heating at home or in a microwave oven at work or school.
- Prepare herb ice cubes for instant thawing and seasoning. Instead of using dried herbs, which often don’t have very good flavor or aroma, freeze fresh herbs such as basil, dill, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme. Chop the herbs finely, mix them into a paste using ⅓ cup of olive oil or cooled, melted SCD-legal butter to every 2 cups of herbs, and then freeze the resulting mixture in ice cube trays. To use, simply pop out however many cubes you need into a strainer and let the oil melt away, or just drop them still frozen into sauces or soups.
- Mix triple batches of dough for cookies, crackers, or pizza. They go fast! Pizza and cracker dough can be shaped as a flat disc, wrapped in parchment paper first, and then covered in plastic wrap for freezing. To bake, thaw and roll out or pat the disc of dough flat onto a large, oiled Pyrex or ovenproof glass baking dish or a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet.
- The SCD calls for a lot of baking: breads, crackers, muffins, cookies, etc. High-quality parchment paper and muffin paper cups are helpful. The If You Care brand of parchment paper and muffin cups works great with sticky almond and coconut flours. For cookies, Silpat silicone baking mats work well.
- As soon as you get them home, prepare your fruits and veggies. Wash, trim, cut, and place them in zipper-lock storage bags for both the refrigerator and freezer. This way the work is done and all you have to do is grab them for cooking and snacks. It also reduces food waste from forgotten or tucked-away produce.
- Have cut-up prepared vegetables and fruits ready and waiting in the refrigerator at all times, so when your child is looking for a snack, there is a selection available without extra hassle and fuss.
- Clean as you go. Don’t leave all of the mess for last, or it will be overwhelming!
- Invest in a small but efficient collection of kitchen gadgets. Nothing is more frustrating than not having the right tool for the job at the time. Keep your knives sharpened, and have at the ready essentials such as a large, good-quality cutting board, a yogurt maker, food processor, garlic press, cheese slicer, whisk, and other items.
- Canning and drying your own fruit and vegetables, especially when they are in season and at their most flavorful and economical, can be a godsend on the SCD.
- Keep a collection on hand of different sizes and shapes of Pyrex or glass ovenproof dishes with covers, other glass and plastic food containers, and zipper-lock storage bags for storing and freezing food. Sandwich bags, mini snack bags, paper wraps, and spill-proof containers as well as a variety of lunch boxes, thermoses for hot and cold items, and bottles for water or diluted juice are important. All of these items ensure that bagging lunches or packing food for an outing or travel doesn’t become a reason for stress.
- If you are just not comfortable with cooking or don’t have enough time, get help. Take a cooking class (don’t be afraid to let the instructor know of your special needs), or enlist the help of friends, neighbors, or the larger SCD community. Or if you can afford it, hire a personal chef.
- If you have access to a professional, local restaurant supply store, take advantage of it. They frequently have much better prices on items like muffin cups, or have supplies in bulk, or carry items that you would never normally find in other places.
- Ask around. Hundreds of other SCD families are on this same journey as you and have developed their own tricks and techniques. Connect with them and learn something new … and they will also learn from you!