Warmer Weather Batch Cooking

For some, batch cooking tends to go out the window when the thermometer rises outside, because, well, most batch cooking is not ideally suited to hot weather. Who wants to simmer a stew on the stove all day when you’re trying to keep the kitchen cool? And while we’re asking questions, who wants to spend hours cooking when the kids are calling you to come out and play?

Still,  it’s nice to jump-start dinner with something from the freezer, especially after a hard day’s work in the garden. Batch cooking can still be done in the summer heat, but in my kitchen it changes from pot-roasts and lasagnas, to something more suited to summer.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes to double and triple for stashing away. While they are not entire meals unto themselves, they proffer a spring board to dinner (or dessert!), and provide the opportunity for a meal with substance.

Ideas for Warm Weather Batch Cooking

Homemade Pesto

Incorporate the fruits of your labors –basil- in this fresh and quick sauce.  Toss with freshly cooked pasta and a handful of cherry tomatoes, grilled zucchini or other seasonal vegetables for a meal that tastes like summer on a plate.

Photo by thebittenword.com

Recipe: Summer Pesto

  • 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 1/2  cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup extra virgin  olive oil

1. Combine basil and garlic in a food processor and blend to a fine paste.
2. Add pine nuts; process until smooth.
3. Add cheese and process again until smooth.
4. With the machine running, pour the olive oil in the food processor and blend until smooth. If the pesto seems too thick pour in a few tablespoons warm water.
5. Freeze in ice cube trays or muffin tins and transfer to baggies or jars when frozen. May also be frozen in small resealable bags.

Pizza Dough

The day I discovered you could freeze pizza dough was a happy one. Now my deep freeze is rarely without a couple of misshapen gray blobs rolling around in it, that, when thawed, rolled out and coated with pesto, tomatoes and cheese, make for a mighty fine summer supper. What better way to showcase the season’s bounty than a dinner like this Asparagus & Cherry Tomato Pizza?

If you prefer, use our Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe, but I’m thinking you might fall in love with this oh-so-soft dough that I learned to make in culinary school. It never fails to rise beautifully and freezes very well.

Photo by whitneyinchicago

Recipe: Honey Pizza Dough

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons dry yeast
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 1-1/2 cup cool water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  1. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the yeast into the warm water until dissolved. Let stand.
  2. Add the flour, the cool water, salt, olive oil, and honey into the yeast mixture. Knead with a dough hook for about 5 minutes, or by hand for 7.
  3. Place the dough in a large greased bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  4. Punch down dough and divide into 16 portions (for individual pizzas) or four portions (for 16 inch pizzas). Coat each ball of dough in olive oil, wrap in plastic wrap or place in resealable bags and freeze.

To use: Remove from freezer 8-12 hours before using. Allow to thaw in the refrigerator. Let rise until doubled in size, then punch down and make your pizza.

Photo by dongkwan

Homemade Hamburger Patties

There’s nothing like having burgers already made up when company drops over unexpectedly and stays for a barbecue, so the next time you are making hamburgers, double the amount of meat and make extra patties.

Slip a square of waxed paper between the raw burgers, slide into plastic bags or Tupperware and freeze for up to 6 weeks.

Chicken or Turkey Tetrazzini with Garden Vegetables

A ‘Tetrazzini’ caserole is well-known for two things and I’ve added a third:

  • it is one of the most freezer-friendly pasta-based dishes around. A batch-cooking icon, if you will.
  • it often features Thanksgiving leftovers in the popular ‘Turkey Tetrazzini’.
  • it’s a fantastic dish to showcase summer vegetables like shredded zucchini, cherry tomatoes, peas or fava beans.

Here’s my recipe, but feel free to adapt it to suit your tastes as you pile in the vegetables or substitute whole wheat pasta. Don’t forget to toss in plenty of fresh herbs such a thyme, basil or sage.

Do-Ahead Dessert Idea

Don’t leave out dessert! Having several jars of toppings for fresh fruit crisps in the freezer is like having dessert in your back pocket. All you need to do is place your favorite luscious summer fruit, washed and cut, into a baking dish and cover it with your pre-made crisp topping. Then bake it into that classic, comforting dessert and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Recipe: Topping for Fresh Fruit Crisps

  • 2 + 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats (what is the difference?)
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar (or 1 cup brown sugar)
  • 1 cup demerara sugar (or 1 cup white sugar)
  • 1 + 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  1. Combine the sugars with the softened butter and mix until well blended. Stir in the flour. Add the oats and mix until the topping resembles coarse crumbs.
  2. Using a funnel, fill four pint jars with the crisp topping, top with a lid, label and freeze. Makes 4 pints. Each pint makes approximately eight individual fruit crisps or one 9×13 pan.

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With these recipes, you can stock your freezer and head outside with confidence, knowing that dinner will be more substantial than bread and butter.

What sort of batch cooking to you do in the heat? Does your menu vary from season to season?

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.

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Comments

  1. Rose in Ohio (@RoseMillsOhio) says:

    Thanks—I needed this reminder that when it comes to making dinner, I’ve got a sidekick. Butch Cassidy has Sundance, Frodo has Sam, Thelma has Louise, and I’ve got my freezer!

  2. Erica Lea says:

    These are some wonderful ideas! With so many people in our family, batch cooking comes in very handy. We’ve made multiple batches of pesto in our food processor. I really like the make-ahead dessert idea.
    .-= Erica Lea’s last blog: Banana Poppy Seed Bread & Other Matters =-.

  3. Miranda says:

    I love the ideas! Having something prepared offers that little bit of inspiration when you are contemplating “what for dinner?”

  4. Okay, so I purposely opened my computer just now to menu plan for the week, thinking that I need to start batch cooking for the upcoming birth. And what do I see in my inbox but this! Thanks so much Aimée. Our basil plant is going nuts outside, so I think I’ll whip up some pesto this week.

    • Love it, Tsh!

      I wish I could drop by with a few casseroles. I’m happy that you are planning ahead, though.

      Hey, I made pesto tonight with organic pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts. It was delicious. It not a bad idea if someone in your family (or potential guests) is allergic to nuts.

  5. I can’t believe I never thought to make hamburgers in advance and freeze them!! Thanks so much for the idea.
    .-= Wendy’s last blog: The Week in Bentos: May 17-21, 2010 =-.

  6. I can’t wait to make pesto either. I do like to have pizza dough readily available in the freezer. I love the crisp topping idea! I usually have homemade sorbet, ice cream or gelato in the freezer for summer desserts.
    .-= Melissa’s last blog: It’s been that kind of morning…(Chocolate Swirl Sour Cream Coffee Cake) =-.

  7. I’m going to try the pizza dough tonight for a gorgonzola smoked salmon pizza…always willing to try a new dough! You must be related to Haidi Telles somehow? That is how I found your blog, and I do like it. Now I see the Wimbush….

    • Tanya! Haidi is my sister. I’m glad she’s passing the word around for me. ;)

      Your pizza sounds sweeeet! Let me know how you like the dough.

      • Are you the sister that had a tulip colored wedding? Loved that idea. Anyway, loved the dough recipe, and I’m going to try your method for unfreezing, as I have never been happy with the texture after freezing. It just seems to lose something. Just finished my last jar of pesto from last summer, and I’m going to try the tetrazzini. Having to take time out to make dinner on a beautiful summer evening is one of the things I don’t really look forward to. I’m freezing soups all spring in preparation!

  8. Karen Robert says:

    Thanks! I will be making the pesto soon and freezing for what looks to be a long summer of entertaining.

  9. Julie P says:

    Can you use a blender to make the pesto? I don’t have a food processor. Thanks!

    • Hi Julie! I don’t have a food processor either, and yes, a blender works fine for the pesto. You will just have to stop the motor and manipulate the ingredients with a spatula periodically.

  10. My husband was just commenting last night that we’ve been “eating heavy” and it’s time to transition to more warm weather foods (though the snow we got last week would say otherwise – seriously?? Don’t visit Central Oregon in May). We’re nearly through all the frozen meals in our freezer, so it’s time to restock with summer fare. Pesto!!

    Taco filling is also a great one to make and freeze – works for traditional tacos, burritos, or salads.
    .-= Alissa’s last blog: What’s after Survival? =-.

    • Snow? And i thought I lived in the Great White North! :)

      Great idea for the taco beef. You’re absolutely right; it’s fast, freeze well, and makes the base for many family-friendly meals.

      We’re anxiously awaiting our side of local beef!

  11. What great ideas. I really need to get over my dislike for nuts and make pesto. I love how you froze them!

  12. A great (and more affordable) replacement for pine nuts in pesto is walnuts. The taste is almost the same at 1/4 the cost.

    Also, any herb can replace basil, so if your mint patch is going nuts, you can make mint pesto. The flavor here is way different but changing things up is always fun.
    .-= Hanna’s last blog: What I Hate About My Garden =-.

    • Excellent suggestions, Hanna.
      Tonight’s pesto was with organic pumpkin seeds. We had it over fusilli with some grilled asparagus.
      It was delicious and is an ideal alternative for those who have nut allergies.

  13. Such clever and helpful ideas! I especially love the pesto one. I will definitely be using that this summer! :-)
    .-= Krista’s last blog: Little Things and Marionberry Crème Fraîche Gelatin =-.

  14. I love these, Aimee. The pesto is a great idea and although I’ve heard people mention this idea I never seem to remember to do it myself. I’m going to give it a go now. I think I’ll like having a bunch of frozen goodness on hand.

  15. MurfeeCait says:

    I love fruit crisps and never thought of freezing the topping. A better option for my kids than sugar treats. I also love the pizza dough recipie! Thanks for the inspration.

  16. Hannah Hudgin says:

    Thanks for the great ideas! I love how you froze the pesto. :-) And the crisp idea is awesome. I never thought of that! I just made up several batches of dry ingredients for coffee cake and muffins for quick baking in the cool mornings and then snacking all day.

  17. Love the freezer crisp topping idea!

    Thanks for sharing. I have added this to my recipe bookmarks!
    .-= Mrs Little’s last blog: Maybelline Eye Studio =-.

  18. These are all such great ideas. I will definitely be adding some of these to my repertoire. Wish I could think of something to add to your list, but I’m drawing a blank. I would say hamburgers are our most popular meal to freeze in the summer.
    .-= Cheri’s last blog: Hunter Green Monday =-.

  19. MaryBeth L. says:

    Aimee,
    Thanks so much for this post. I am due to have our second baby in 6 weeks and want some meals in the freezer and just could not bring myself to make a huge batch of lasagna or chili or my other fall/winter standbys. Thanks for helping to pull me out of my fall/winter freezer rut!

    • MaryBeth, I am so glad I could inspire. We all get in those ruts sometimes, don’t we.

      Congratulations on the upcoming birth of your baby!

  20. Jennie L says:

    Love the fruit crisp topping idea! I must say I have loved Simple Bites. You have covered a lot of great topics!

    The only summer batch meal I can think of is when I made homemade spahgetti sauce from our garden tomatoes and froze it. All I had to do was defrost it, cook pasta and grab another vegetable from the garden to serve on the side.

  21. I, too, LOVE Simple Bites. Keep all this great stuff coming, please.

    Do you defrost the burgers or just grill them from frozen??

    For summer, I love to freeze meats for grilling in marinade. That way I can just throw the meat in the cooler for a camping trip or take the meat out of the freezer the night before to throw on the grill when we get home from work. Then a side salad or grilled or microwaved veggies round out the meal.

    Great ideas. Thanks!

    • Hi pt,

      Thanks for reading! I defrost my burgers slightly, but throw them on the grill while they are still partially frozen. But I like them medium rare inside, and not everyone does. If you know where your meat is coming from, it’s perfectly safe to do so, and you can treat your burgers much like a steak. Give them a good sear, then move them to a less hot place on the grill to continue cooking.

  22. I love the crisp idea! We have lots of fresh crisp-worthy fruits around in the summer.

    My freezer tip is this: If you like marinated meats just toss your favorite meat&marinade in a freezer bag then into the freezer. Then when you want to cook it just pull it out, thaw and it’s ready to cook!

    I also love to get fresh beef and make up all kinds of stuff with it to go in the freezer. I make meatballs (freeze them raw), seasoned and cook some for using in tacos, casseroles, spagetti or whatever I fancy, making up hamburger patties, etc. I do the work up front but it saves me at dinner time!

  23. Crystal says:

    I make crisp frequently in the summer, but never thought to just do the topping and freeze. Thanks!
    A favorite summer freezing idea. I host a marinade party in May before school is out (like a cookie swap, but with marinade). Invite 10-12 people, everyone brings 12 gallon-size freezer bags of the same marinade that can serve 4-6, come to the party and swap. You leave with 12 bags of different marinades. I buy my meat the next day, pack in the bags, throw in the freezer and tell my husband he’s in charge of the grill for the next 12 meals. I’ve also made the party into Mama’s Night Out Margaritas and Marinade, I had a larger turn out when I added the margaritas. ;)

    • That sounds like fun Chrystal. I host semi-annual cookie swaps–and even hosted a jam swap last year. Perhaps this should be next on my list.

  24. Nichole says:

    I love it, makes me excited for summer’s bounty, and anyway I can avoid “heating” up the house with these kinds of little cheats I am all for it!

  25. Love that this is summer themed! Will there be a fall themed one as well? It makes me so happy to find recipes that use a lot of in-season items.

    I make pesto, dough and crisp already and I can’t wait to take this next freezer steps and spend more time outdoors!

  26. Can you do the pesto sauce from something like spinach? We don’t have any of these herbs fresh, that I know of, where I am.

  27. Susanne says:

    Great post! The dessert idea sounds really good, too – I could need some additional advice though. I’m from Germany and fruit crisps are not really well known over here. What kinds of fruit would (or could!) you use with the topping you shared? (I’ve only had a dessert like that with apples before). What amount of fruit would you need, at what temperature do you bake it and for how long? Is it just cut up fruit and the topping?

  28. I love having pesto in the freezer, it’s definitely a staple in my house!

  29. Maybe I’m missing something, but what temperature and for how long do I bake the pizzas?

  30. I just subscribed to your blog and love it! (I found you through Good&CheapEats.) Looking forward to reading through the rest of your blog!

  31. Thanks for these recipes! This is my first summer with a large freezer and I am enjoying filling it up. I had never thought about freezing fruit crisp topping in glass jars – I will definitely use that idea since I am trying to reduce the amount of plastic in my kitchen.

    For Susanne in Germany — I am only a beginner cook but I make fruit crisps a lot and the basic recipe that I use is around 4 to 5 cups of fresh peeled uncooked fruit (peaches are great, also cherries (fresh or frozen), apples, or apricots) placed in a buttered dish, add the topping and cook at 375 F for 30 to 50 minutes or until topping is golden brown and fruit is bubbling and tender. Serve fruit crisp warm with cream, or vanilla ice cream.

  32. Hey- I’m a novice homemade pizza dough gal…if I decide to use one of the 4 loaves immediately (instead of freezing them), would I still let it rise until double after the first rise of 30 minutes?

    • If it already rose once till double (30 minutes is about right with that amount of yeast), you should be able to roll it out and use it right away. The time it takes to top the pizza is enough rising time in my experience, since it doesn’t need to be high like a loaf of bread! After freezing it’s good to let it rise for extra flavor and especially to be sure it’s thawed all the way!

      I just made this recipe for dough for the 2nd time, but since I didn’t have enough bread flour it was much too wet. I had to substitute some all purpose and whole wheat flour, and those flours don’t “suck up” the water as well as bread flour. I had to keep adding more flour while it was being kneaded, and it turned out a nice soft ball of dough, perfect for quick rising! :) Thanks for sharing!

  33. Thanks so much for this post. The pizza dough is my new favorite recipe and I’m making a double batch to stock my freezer today. I have tons of fresh basil, and plan to try the pesto soon. I really love this blog-you’ve helped me learn that food doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious.

  34. I’m planning to use the extra portions of pizza dough to make some hand-held veggie pies that I found from the last weekend’s roundup here! (http://onehungrymama.com/2010/08/recipe-parenting-the-only-back-to-school-lunch-post-youll-need/)

  35. Angelina Degelder says:

    Could you substitute potato flour in this pizza dough recipe?

  36. Miranda says:

    Do you thaw the dough, then let it rise in the fridge or at room temp? Thanks!

  37. Brandette W. says:

    If you are going to use the dough right away to make pizzas, at what temperature and for how long do you bake it?

  38. just made the pesto and I didn’t have pine nuts so I used planters salted peanuts and WOW. it smells amazing!!!! Thanks for the recipe. I did have to add a little less than a tablespoon of warm water, but looks great. can’t wait to use it in a chicken dinner this week!

  39. Thank you for sharing these fantastic ideas. Now it came to my senses that I can cook in advance and refrigerate it for easy preparation in the next busy days.
    Naoemi’s last post: Pizza menu coupons

  40. I tried the pizza crust recipe and absolutely love it. It froze well, rose beautifully, and I am actually debating buying a KitchenAid mixer just because this recipe is so great.

    I wonder, though, can you add a few steps for me after it’s thawed out? I got a little confused. I thaw it in the refrigerator then bake or thaw in fridge, then put on the counter to rise more then bake? How long do I bake it? Do I prebake it? Will it double in size in the refrigerator?

    Thank you for a great recipe! I subscribed to the newsletters and heard about you from moneysavingmom.com.

  41. I just made your pesto. Still in the food processor, and it smells. Ah.maze.ING!!!! I am also going to try your recipe for pizza dough. We love homemade pizza around here. Hope you don’t mind, I linked you up in my most recent post. Have a great labor day weekend!
    Sharon {Grumpy, Sleepy, and Bashful}’s last post: Links to Love

  42. Love the pizza dough recipe! Made it today, put half in the freezer and cooked the rest with the family (it was make your own pizza night.) My famous shrimp pizza has never been better. This will forever be my go-to crust. Thanks for sharing.

  43. My pizza dough doesn’t raise after it is frozen, what am I doing wrong

  44. My pesto doesn’t look as pretty as the picture, but has good flavor. I kind of think it needs a little salt. Maybe thats just me.

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