High protein, high fat, infrequent effort cooking
March 16, 2016 6:23 AM   Subscribe

Help me grow my repertoire of high protein, high fat, and relatively inexpensive meals to freeze in large batches. Examples inside, this got long.

I really like to cook, I just don't want to do it every day. I'm single and have dogs to walk and the gym to go to after long work days and frankly, I detest going to the grocery store. I like to make large batches of meals and freeze them in small Ziploc bags (inside a bigger freezer bag) and just pull them out when I feel like it. If I don't have anything on hand I'll skip eating rather than having to plan something and go to the store. I've also put myself on a strict budget AND want to eat better/more often, which is driving this question.

Weight definitely isn't a concern but I feel best and sleep best when I eat high-protein, high fat. I like rice, potatoes, and pasta just fine but don't like the way they make me feel (especially at night) and prefer to exclude them. I'm not opposed to processed carbs, they're my go-to all morning. I just prefer to eat less of them for lunch (and dinner, when I eat it). Quinoa is fantastic but so freaking expensive where I live, it's not practical for every day of the week but I do use it. Finding other high-protein grains -- or better yet, vegetables -- to put these types of meals over would also be great if you have recommendations. Some examples of meals I make:

Thai basil pork:
Ground pork cooked in a wok with some coconut oil with a fair bit of finely chopped or smashed garlic and Thai bird chilies, adding lots of fish sauce and some soy sauce and a small amount of palm sugar, then something like 4-5 cups of Thai basil. When eating at home, I'll fry an egg in coconut oil to put on top. This really does go best served with something else, so sometimes I'll put it over a half-cup of jasmine rice if I feel like it, but usually not. PROS: cheap protein and my favorite herb. CONS: no real vegetables. I use the largest pack of ground pork available and usually get 8-10 meals out of this.

Salsa verde pork and black beans:
Ground pork cooked with a couple of jars of salsa verde until the liquid is cooked off, adding two cans of rinsed black beans at the end. Salt and pepper of course. Serve hot with a cold avocado cut up on top (with more salt and pepper) when available. PROS: Delicious and simple, tons of protein and some fiber. Good fat if I have avocados on hand. Great with quinoa. CONS: No vegetables. I use the same size pack of ground pork and get 15 or so meals out of this due to the added black beans.

Curried roasted vegetables with chickpeas:
Cut up all kinds of vegetables (cauliflower and zucchini good, broccoli not so great because it smells atrocious when reheated). Must include red pepper, a yellow onion, and sweet potato/japanese yam for sweetness when roasted. Add a can of rinsed chickpeas. Toss with lots of olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of melted coconut oil and a huge amount of medium yellow curry and garam masala and some salt. Roast the hell out of it until the sweet things caramelize. Add pumpkin seeds towards the end of roasting (adds texture and nutrients and fat). Serve with full-fat plain Greek/Balkan yogurt. PROS: Tastes fantastic, lots of vegetables (particularly as a single person, good to use up what's in the fridge so they don't go bad), decent protein with the chickpeas and yogurt. CONS: Can fill five large bowls with cut ingredients, yield is unsurprisingly something like 5-6 cups/servings when roasted. If I add those tiny baby red potatoes it goes quite a bit further but then I have the potato problem.

Lazy Moo Shu Chicken:
Buy rotisserie chicken and shred all of the meat. Cook chopped/smashed garlic, ginger, and hot red chilies (or red pepper flakes if I'm really lazy) in a hot wok with coconut oil, then add mushrooms, cook until brown(er). Toss in a big bag of packaged coleslaw mix and cook down. Add soy sauce. Add shredded chicken, then whisk a couple of whole eggs and stir in until cooked. Add black sesame seeds. Put in a bowl (or on a heated tortilla/wrap) with lots of hoisin. PROS: Vegetables! Ginger! Protein! Hoisin makes everything great! CONS: None, really. I just can't live on this alone. This makes about 8-10 meals.

Chili (many of these ingredients thanks to other AskMes):
Ground beef, kidney beans, black beans, tomato paste, water. Add large quantities of cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Add blackstrap molasses, a small amount of ground coffee, a jar of roasted red peppers (chopped), a can of chipotle peppers in adobo (chopped), and a handful of crumbled up tortilla chips. Salt and pepper obviously. Simmer for 3-4 hours. Note: must put this one in plastic containers instead of Ziploc bags. PROS: Protein and fiber, great in the winter. CONS: No real vegetables to speak of and less appealing in the hotter months. I do get about 10-12 meals out of this.

I'm looking for more things like this, only better - and also ways to negate the CONS I included above if you have any ideas. Should be freezable, relatively inexpensive, healthy, and a complete meal - I don't want to have to cook vegetables or build a salad to go with it every day, and these need to be easy to pull out of the freezer to bring to work for lazy healthy lunches. What I really like about the above meals is that everything is in small pieces, so I'm looking for ideas that don't focus on single large pieces of protein.

As an example of what I'm seeking, I've been looking into dal recipes lately because I have access to a good variety of Indian spices and ingredients, but damn is the breadth of recipes ever intimidating! The cheap protein in the lentils is a huge draw though, and I like that it can be served with or without rice.

I'm good at cooking without strictly measured recipes and with making things up on my own, including having a sense of what random things would go well together. I don't measure, I just throw things in until the proportions taste right. I don't mind prepping and cooking for hours as long as I only do it a couple of times per week. I have no allergies or dietary restrictions and my only VERY STRONG dislikes are cilantro (going to make the dal recipes challenging) and red tomatoes (paste and sauce are acceptable, large pieces cooked or raw are not). I really like sweet+savory but it's not a required profile. I have access to a wide variety of spices.

For vegetables, they're more a "should" than a "must", but I need to get better at this. I have great access as well-- including a dizzying variety of Asian vegetables that I haven't even tackled yet. That said, a lot of standard vegetable recommendations are tough budget-wise in Canada - kale is, like, fiscally irresponsible where I live.

So - ideas? Thanks in advance!
posted by mireille to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Check out Reddit.com/r/ketorecipes
posted by wwartorff at 6:40 AM on March 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Chili: CONS: No real vegetables to speak of

Our last batch of chili had peppers, sliced yellow squash/zucchini, carrots, and sweet potatoes. We've also added spinach. I don't recommend cooking broccoli in the chili ( it gets mushy and tastes weird) but I have served chili on top of steamed broccoli or cauliflower.
posted by belladonna at 7:28 AM on March 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also look on /r/mealprepsunday.

What about a thai curry? Curry paste, coconut milk, whatever meat + vegetables.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:29 AM on March 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For the vegetable problem, do you actively dislike frozen vegetables? Some are gross, but I am perfectly happy with some, and they make everything about cooking easier because they don’t go bad and they’re already cut up. I consider peas thawed with butter a perfectly good snack. Broccoli florets can be steamed in the microwave and tossed with sesame oil or the dressing of your choice; a pound of mixed stir-fry vegetables can be thrown in a wok with tofu or meat without being thawed first; etc.

(I also eat more vegetables by preparing them all at once for the week so they’re just waiting for me in the refrigerator… roasted cauliflower, a couple squashes and beets in the oven at the same time, washed and trimmed sugar snap peas, etc.)
posted by metasarah at 7:31 AM on March 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh yeah, you can load chili up with every vegetable and mostly never know it's there - I buy big bags of the 7 Superfoods (or the 9 version) salad mix at Costco and a good bit of it goes to salad but I end up putting handfuls of it in soup/stews. You can do the same with curry, stew, or pretty much any soup.

Like all other food threads now, I will evangelize to you of my Instant Pot (no yogurt function/6-in-1, 7-in-1), which means I no longer spend 10 hours over the weekend pre-cooking for the week, instead I spend 1 hour every 2-3 evenings. I made a broccoli cheese soup last night that had more hidden superfoods salad in it (once I ran the stick blender through it it was nothing but flecks, and I added two boneless skinless chicken leg quarters, roughly hacked up into pieces so it'd fall apart). Other recent meals are tadka dal and dal makhani, there's always a curry once a week, though I do it by eye and what's in the fridge that needs cooked soon, ditto chili and soup. I use a lot of full-fat coconut milk or finish with cream or half and half for fat, and while it takes some experience to learn the art of not turning every vegetable into mush, mush is great for hiding vegetables anyway.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:46 AM on March 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I make pulled pork for some of these very same reasons. I buy a big boston butt (which is not actually a butt, but rather a shoulder) cut it, dry rub it, and crock pot it. That hunk of critter can feed me for a long time.

-Right out of the fridge
-On to a taco (using romaine leaves instead of tortillas and greek yogurt instead of sour cream)
-Broiled and scrambled with eggs
-In a taco style salad

I saw that you have a lot of pork already... you can do the very same thing here but using a barbacoa recipe instead... or short ribs... or chicken thighs.
posted by milqman at 8:59 AM on March 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Re: Dal, my go to would be Manhula's Kitchen. Recipes, usually with videos. She's Jain, so you'll have to add onions and garlic to taste, and replace paneer with meat if you want it, but it's a great resource.
posted by Kreiger at 9:18 AM on March 16, 2016

Best answer: How do you feel about quiche? It seems to fit high protein/fat when there's cheese and they accept lots of vegetables. Doesn't freeze particularly well, but refrigerates fine for the week.
posted by typecloud at 10:42 AM on March 16, 2016

Best answer: This Thai-ish salmon soup has been my JAM lately.
posted by Brittanie at 10:48 AM on March 16, 2016

Best answer: Thai basil pork
Chili: CONS: No real vegetables to speak of

If you want to go traditional, there are usually long beans, onions and chilis in this dish. Typically the long beans and onions play a secondary role, but there's absolutely no reason you can't up the quotient of vegetables (I do a 1:1 ratio by weight) in the dish. I would cut the long beans into 1-2 cm pieces and finely dice the onion.

You should be able to very easily find long beans if you have a "dizzying variety" of Asian vegetables, but green beans work just as well -- I just prefer long beans because there's less trimming to do.
posted by andrewesque at 11:04 AM on March 16, 2016

Best answer: My go-to big batch meals include dhal, tortilla soup, and these baked meatballs from Alton Brown.

I generally serve the dhal with a fried egg on top and some fresh cilantro. Freezes like a dream and so very easy to make.

The tortilla soup is great topped with cheese, or sour cream, or avocado. If you don't bother with the tortillas, this freezes really well.

The meatballs have spinach in them, so you're already getting some veggies. They're a bit intensive to make, but the process is strangely meditative and the end result is ridiculously tasty. If lamb is expensive where you are, just skip it and use more of the other two meats. I like to serve them on zucchini noodles (spiralizers are super fun to use) with marinara, but you could skip the zoodles and just have the meatballs with a chunky vegetable-rich pasta sauce instead. They hold up in the freezer just fine. I suspect you could freeze them with the sauce for a true grab-and-go frozen meal.
posted by burntflowers at 11:08 AM on March 16, 2016

Best answer: Check out Melissa Joulwan's first Well Fed Cookbook. She cooks/eats paleo, but in the beginning of the book she has a chart of seasonings + protein + veg that you can mix and match to make different flavored dishes, much like your Thai Basil Pork recipe - most of which I think would be freezer-friendly.
posted by sarajane at 11:20 AM on March 16, 2016

Best answer: I make a lot of cauliflower rice--grate cauliflower (or put in food processor) until it's in rice-sized flakes, saute for 3-5 min with a bit of oil until it softens a bit. It doesn't do much for me on its own, but it's great underneath stir-frys and in other situations where I just miss that carby layer to absorb sauces. Plus, veggies! Trader Joe's is now selling bags of cauliflower rice if the prep is offputting to you.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2016

Best answer: Any recipe for Keema Mutter would be a lot like your Thai pork and basil recipe, except it's Indian spiced meat with peas. We do it in the crockpot, and I usually do my first dinner by the recipe, then eat it for lunch all week, with an extra half cup serving of frozen green peas layered on top.
posted by aimedwander at 2:24 PM on March 16, 2016

Response by poster: All fantastic answers, thank you so much! Going to keep me busy for the next few months...
posted by mireille at 4:35 PM on March 16, 2016

Best answer: I love all these recipes! I've been doing a lot with my crockpot this winter:

- Lamb curry: lamb shoulder, tomato paste, onion, mushrooms, lots of spices, coconut milk!
- Beef stew: beef chuck, carrots, onions, celery, mushrooms, tomato soup
- Lentil stew: diced ham, lentils, broth, carrots, onion, celery, lots of spices

All of these make multiple portions but probably need containers instead of bags.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:28 AM on March 21, 2016

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