Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mise En Place - Saturday is cook ahead day.

Slowly but surely I am getting the hang of making really incredible food on a mostly primal diet. It has taken some serious planning and prep, but this last few weeks I found a technique that makes it much easier!

I have 6 people to feed 3 times a day, with snacks in-between. Doing that while we are running from homeschool co-op classes, horseback riding lessons, youth group, and the various field trips we do has been a huge challenge.  I started making things ahead of time… not a lot of things… just sauces and cutting up veggies etc that would help me throw meals and packed lunches together in less time.  I didn’t really have a technique for it… I just made a few things here and there that cut the minutes.  (Logan’s yogurt is a good example.  And is also in the fridge right now. )

Last week I read an article in Whole Living that talked about prep for the weeks meals to make incredible, restaurant quality food in about 10 - 20 minutes.  That was exactly what I had been doing!  The article also had some incredible ideas for recipes…. all whole foods, mostly grain free.  Woot!  So this week I started using the technique that I have learned is called mise en place. It means ‘everything in it’s place’ in French and is specifically used in restaurant kitchens for this type of mix and match cooking. I added the recipes from the Whole Living article to my list and now I feel like I am well enough prepared that I can share my newest recipes with you.


Let me tell you, it has brought the meals I have been able to pull together to a whole new level!  And it also shows my undying love for everything Mason Jar and Pyrex!  (Ignore the very off-plan Monster can in the background.  Pretend it doesn’t exist.  I do.  Smile with tongue out)

Here is a list of what I have currently prepped in my fridge (which is labeled with what it is and dates just to show how OCD I can be):

  • Caramelized Onion Jam (from article in Whole Living)
  • Beet Puree (for the cupcakes at the bottom of this post)
  • Seared Mushrooms with their juices (also from Whole Living)
  • Pico de gallo (this recipe with 1/2 a jalapeno added)
  • Salsa verde (this recipe with tomatillos from my garden!)
  • Roasted tomato sauce (my recipe from here)
  • Roasted tomato drippings
  • Wild rice made with chicken stock
  • Polenta (Whole Living recipe as well)
  • Baked white acorn squash (using same technique as here)
  • Chopped up green and purple kale (in the Pyrex with the daisy on it)
  • Minced garlic in olive oil
  • Sliced bell peppers (in a zip lock)
  • Chopped green leaf lettuce (under the bowl cover to keep crisp)


This is our dinner from yesterday. 

I seared a bunch of the cut up kale and peppers in a little bit of olive oil and salt.  When they were starting to get nice and soft I added 3 Tbs of the Caramelized Onion Jam and two sliced zucchini.  Then I pan fried some shrimp with cayenne pepper and added a fresh made hollandaise made from eggs from my backyard chickens.  It was SO good I can not even tell you!  And it took about 20 minutes to make from start to finish.

(Since I have concentrated on cooking and the developing of recipes I decided that I wanted to be able to eat the food I cook and be able to give an accurate opinion…. so I decided that I am not going to concentrate on taking great pictures. At least, not at this time.)


Tonight I pan fried some more kale (this time I added a bunch of purple too) and added sliced organic chicken sausage, 1/2 cup of seared mushrooms, and 3 Tbs of the Caramelized Onion Jam.  To get all the good stuff on the pan I added 2 Tbs of the Roasted Tomato Drippings.  We had all of this over warm polenta with baked acorn squash on the side, drizzled with maple syrup.  Again… a meal fit for a gourmet restaurant in under 20 minutes. 

Now, for some, this type of food would be a really hard sell to the children in the family.  It did take some getting used to for my kids, tell the truth.  But now that they are more used to it (I think the word “detox” fits here..  sugar and starch takes time to get out of your system and sometimes it actually requires withdrawal time.) and they really enjoyed both meals.  The shrimp being the favorite between the two (even though the squash had the maple syrup). 

The planning that has gone into these last few weeks have reminded me quite a bit of the Once a Month Cooking fad that went on for a while.  Did anyone else try to do that?  I loved some aspects of it, but hated that the foods usually had so much cheese and pasta.  With the method I am using now, I still get the fast cooking time while sparing our health and diet ideals.  It’s a win/win!



Unknown said...

I read that article too! Lots of great ideas. I need to incorporate some mise en place techniques to make our weeknights run smoother. So often I'm trying to figure out dinner at the last minute which is very stressful to say the least!

Val in the Rose Garden said...

Britni, if you do not have food restrictions then you can look at my menu binder from last year and see if any of those work for you! There is even a 'how to' in there. :)

It worked like a charm until Luke was born and couldn't have dairy or soy... then Don went paleo and the rest is history! ;)



Kristen said...

do you have the link to that article? Sounds very interesting

Val in the Rose Garden said...

I looked for a link Kristen but I couldn't find one. I am guessing that it is only in the printed magazine at the moment. It was called "Perfectly Prepped" and it was in the Whole Living that came out this month. I hope that helps. Perhaps you can get your hands on a copy! Till then, I am planning on posting my 'dinner dozen' in the next few days and a few tricks that I use to make good meals quickly. :)



Rupi R said...

Those carmelized onions look and sound lovely - I am going to try this one at home...thank you Val and Whole Living for keeping us on track to be efficient and healthy!


Val in the Rose Garden said...

I didn't post about it, but I tried to make cake/brownie things with the beet puree that were 100% grain free (almond and oconut flour subed) and they turned out super good but so dense that it was hard to eat more than half of one. They were intese! So I am trying to adjust the recipe more for the grain free before I post it. :) I wanted to make sure that anyone waiting for the revision of that recipe know what was going on. Have a blessed day!


Purple Kale Kitchenworks said...

Hi, My name is Ronna Welsh and I am the chef and owner of Purple Kale Kitchenworks ( Purple Kale's "2 minutes to dinner" approach is the subject of the aforementioned article for Whole Living Magazine. I'm thrilled that the adapted mise en place idea resonates so well with your own work. The Whole Living piece won't be on line for a while, but you and your readers can learn more about the whole approach at

Val in the Rose Garden said...

Hi Ronna! Your work is inspirational and the article was amazing! Thank you so much for stopping by. I look forward to looking over your website and only wish you were closer so I could take one of your fun workshops. They look awesome! Have a great week!



Laura said...

Thank you for this post! I do this on a fly by basis, and it would be really great to make it more of a planned habit. It makes life so much easier. I have tried doing the freezer thing, not for a whole month, but like you said, it is hard to find healthy recipes to do that with. Pretty much just soup, which is good by itself. Anyway, thanks for the inspiration!

Vicki Carroll said...

Have you posted the recipes on your site yet? Whole Living has not yet put this article online, and I am very interested in this method of cooking - I do some of this already - I think we all all have our own standards which we prep each week, but some of her recipes and methods intrigue me. I think perhaps Ronna should write a cookbook - I've checked her blog, and she is very generous in sharing her recipes, since she is also offering classes, and seems to intend to sell some of these items for those who don't have the advance time to prepare them.

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