6 recipes to batch-make at home instead of buying at the store
From hummus to egg bites, you can do a cheaper, better, healthier job yourself
Cooking from scratch is, in general, the most affordable (and, of course, healthy!) way to approach your meals and snacks throughout the week. With that in mind, why not skip your prepared go-tos, too, and instead, batch cook homemade versions that are better for both you and your wallet? Here's how to make some favourite convenience items from hummus to grain salads and beyond.
1. Packaged hummus and dips
If hummus or another creamy dip makes a regular appearance on your sandwich or next to a package of baby carrots and pita chips, consider making it yourself. Prepared versions cost upwards of $5 for about 250 mL (that's just 1 cup), while homemade versions can yield 2 to 3 cups, and that's with ingredients leftover for next week's batch.
Try: Creamy homemade hummus
Add ½ cup well-stirred tahini, ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of water, ¼ cup lemon juice, 1 clove roughly chopped garlic, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and ½ teaspoon salt to a food processor and blend until whipped, smooth, and creamy. Scrape down bottoms and sides and blend again. Add 1 (14 oz) can chickpeas, turn on the food processor, and blend for 2 to 5 minutes, until the mixture feels warm when you touch the bowl of the food processor. Scrape down sides and puree one last time, until the mixture is fluffy, whipped, and thick. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 2 ½ to 3 cups.
Next level dip: Give you hummus and dips a colour, flavour and nutrition boost by blending in cooked sweet potato or roasted beets. Cooking dried chickpeas on the stovetop or in an electric pressure cooker (instead of using canned) will make your hummus even more affordable. Store 2-cup portions of those cooked chickpeas in bags in the freezer, for dips, soup add-ins and salad toppers, any time.
2. Grain salads from the deli
A common lunch-on-the-run, grain salads from the deli are always a delicious option, albeit expensive and disappointingly small in portion. You can do better! A homemade grain salad is a genius batch cook recipe because it can be tossed with dressing and stay fresh-tasting for days.
Try: Deli-style grain salad
In a large bowl, mix well to combine 3 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (from 1 cup dry), 1 (14 oz) can drained and rinsed white kidney beans, ½ cup thinly sliced salami or ½ cup crumbled feta (or both) or ½ cup roasted sunflower seeds (for a vegan option), ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, ½ head shredded radicchio, 1 cup chopped fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste. In a medium bowl (or use a jar with a lid to shake), combine ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 2 teaspoon maple syrup, whisk well, then add to the quinoa mixture. Toss everything to combine, taste for seasoning and adjust if you feel it needs more salt, oil or vinegar. Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 week for the vegan version (closer to 4 days if using meat and/or cheese). Pack up portions for your lunch, and you also serve it as an 'instant' dinner side dish to streamline your weeknight meals. Makes about 5 to 6 cups.
Repurpose your grain salad: Turn your deli-style salad into a deli-style burrito by rolling up this grain salad in a large flour tortilla along with a handful of arugula, a few slices of avocado and dash of hot sauce. Or, top your lunchtime grain salad with a hard-boiled egg, or for dinner, gently warm the salad over low heat and top with a fried egg.
3. Healthy snack bars and trail mixes
At $2 or more per serving, healthy, minimal ingredient, packaged bars may be good for you, but are pricey. The same is true for packaged trail mixes. The good news: you can make these treats at home for well below the prepared foods' prices.
Try: Apple-cinnamon energy bites
In a food processor, combine 25 pitted medjool dates, 1 cup roughly chopped dried apple rings, ¾ cup walnuts, ½ cup almonds, ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Pulse until the mixture is pulverized and sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Roll into bite-sized balls and store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Makes 16 to 20 bites.
Turn those energy bites into bars: Line a standard loaf pan with plastic wrap, leaving overhang on all sides, and the tip in the date mixture. Press firmly to flatten and then wrap the overhanging plastic on top, pressing down again. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, unwrap and slice into bars. Separate bars with parchment paper in an airtight container to avoid sticking, and store as you would the bites.
4. Hot-bar vegetables
Hot-bar vegetables are convenient, but you can also easily batch cook trays upon trays of your favourites to have on hand for quick curries, salads, soups, bowls, wrap and sides, all week long.
Try: Big-batch roasted vegetables
Preheat oven to 375F degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, add 2 large peeled sweet potatoes or 1 (2-lb) peeled and seeded butternut squash cut into 1-inch pieces, along with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Toss to combine, spread in a single layer, and roast for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and add on 1 head broccoli cut into florets. Drizzle broccoli with an additional 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread everything out evenly. Roast until the sweet potatoes or squash are tender and the broccoli is beginning to caramelize, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately or cool and store airtight for up to 5 days. Makes 5 to 6 servings.
Spice up plain roasted vegetables: For each batch of vegetables, add up to 1 tablespoon dried spice mix when you're adding the salt. Try curry powder, garam masala, chili powder, everything bagel spice, steak spice, jerk spice, ras el hanout, dukkah, togarashi or Chinese 5-spice. If the spice mix contains a lot of added salt, reduce or remove the salt from the basic roasted vegetable recipe.
5. Hard-boiled eggs and breakfast egg cups
Grabbing hard-boiled eggs or egg cups sold in packages of two at the salad or coffee counter throughout the week gets expensive fast, plus they're never as good as homemade. If you have a muffin tin, you can make them.
Try: Coffee shop-style spinach and cheese egg cups
Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin with silicone liners for easy removal. In a large bowl, beat 10 eggs. Whisk in 2 cups chopped fresh spinach, 1 cup shredded old cheddar or gruyere, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste. Ladle into prepared muffin tin, filling each space two-thirds full. Bake until eggs are set, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from muffin tin and cool completely on a wire rack before storing airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 12.
Switch up your egg prep, and turn to your freezer: Instead of the traditional stovetop method, cook hard-boiled eggs in an Instant Pot according to the manufacturer's instructions. Make an even bigger batch of egg cups and freeze them for up to 3 months; to reheat, zap in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute or in a 375F degree oven for about 10 minutes.
6. Bottled salad dressing
Bottled salad dressing is often full of additives and preservatives to keep it shelf stable, and healthier or gourmet refrigerated versions can be quite costly. But with a glass jar and a few simple pantry ingredients, you can make your own 'house dressing' to keep in the refrigerator all week long for impromptu salads, marinades, tacos, avocado toast and rice bowls — really, anywhere you want a flavour boost — at a fraction of the cost. The ingredients you'll purchase will make many batches, saving you money in the long run.
Try: Mason jar dressing
In a medium or large mason jar (at least 500 mL capacity), shake to combine ⅔ cup olive oil, ¼ cup grapeseed oil, 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard or 1 egg yolk, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 very finely chopped anchovy or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional; increase salt to ½ teaspoon if skipping the anchovy) and ½ clove grated garlic. Keep in the refrigerator for a week. The dressing will firm up after a few days, but loosens again when brought to room temperature. Makes approximately 1 ½ cups.
Give your dressing a Caesar salad vibe: Replace the two vinegars with fresh lemon juice, skip the sugar, and add ⅓ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese. For an extra-creamy dressing, replace the ¼ cup grapeseed oil with and equal amount of mayonnaise.