Frozen Grains

At the end of a long workday, assembling a healthy, tasty meal isn’t always what we have time or energy for (especially if you are a chef like me, and you spend your time feeding other people for a living). And while there’s nothing wrong with takeout, it can get pricey and redundant. But, with minimal planning, you can have an easy and tasty meal on the table within minutes. For real. Fresh, healthy, affordable food doesn’t require a ton of time in the kitchen or crazy good knife skills. It’s about stripping away the time-sucking kitchen processes that make us want to program Dominos into our speed dials.

For example, one of the things that takes the longest to cook in the kitchen is grains. Why wait 45 minutes for a pot of rice to boil when you can have an entire meal delivered to you in that amount of time? I have an answer: Freeze them. Making a gigantic batch of rice, quinoa, barley, or farro ahead of time and freezing it into portions guarantees that you can feed your family before your takeout delivery driver can get to your door.

It couldn’t be easier to freeze your own grains, and because you're in charge, you decide what types of grains and how much — you can even mix them and make your own special blend for color, flavor, and texture. Any whole grains will work. Simply cook them plain, in broth, or flavored with fresh herbs. Once they're cooked, allow them to cool completely. It helps to spread them out evenly on a sheet pan while they cool off. Measure them out in half-cup, one-cup, or two-cup servings, label the bags, and freeze them flat to save room. And this is a totally doable task for a nanny or housekeeper, if you are lucky enough to have one working for you.

When you're ready to eat your grains, remove the bag or glass container from the freezer. Pour the contents into a bowl to microwave or reheat in a small pot on the stove top with a drop of butter or olive oil. You can even add frozen grains right from the freezer to hot pots of soup or to sauté pans when cooking or sauteing some chicken and broccoli. Or place the frozen bag of grains in your lunchbox before heading out the door, and it not only serves as an ice pack, but your grains will also be thawed by lunchtime, just waiting for a can of olive oil-packed tuna, some hard-boiled egg, spinach, and fresh tomato. They'll make meals and side dishes in minutes — perfect for hot breakfasts or stir-fries, mixed into your bowl of greens, layered in your lunchtime mason jar salads. You can even reuse those plastic freezer bags — just rinse and air-dry.