Hate to Cook? Nail Your Food Prep. [RECIPES INCLUDED]

I have a confession to make: I don’t like to cook.

“Wait, Lisa, don’t you run the Cooking Club?”

It’s true. I’ve been running the unofficial Mark Fisher Fitness Ninja Cooking Club for close to four years. And I don’t like to cook.

The thing is, I don’t do the Cooking Club in spite of not liking to cook. I do it in large part because I don’t like to cook.

I should clarify. I actually do like to cook when it’s a big deal. Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people? I’m your girl. The kick-ass Seder I throw with my roommate every year? ALL ABOUT IT. But cooking for myself on a weeknight? UGH.

The Cooking Club came about because I noticed that a lot of Ninjas starting on Snatched in Six Weeks journeys seemed overwhelmed by the nutritional aspect of the program and moving away from ordering Seamless to cooking for themselves. They were hesitant to actually use their kitchens and didn’t know where to start planning how they’d eat for the week.

I thought that maybe if we got together and prepped in a group, it would reduce the anxiety. I guess I was right because three and a half years later and we’re still going strong!

I was pleasantly surprised by how much the Cooking Club helped make cooking for myself feel less like a chore. When I’m cooking in a group and doing a bunch of recipes at a time, it just doesn’t feel like cooking. Dice a bell pepper here, throw stuff in a slow cooker there, saute some ground beef … and all the pieces just come together into a slate of healthy meals for the week.

Of course, not everybody can come to Cooking Club. A lot of you aren’t in New York City and some of you who are can’t spend six hours in Astoria food prepping. So I wanted to pass on some things I’ve learned and help you take some of the things we do in Cooking Club into your kitchen to make your own food prepping more efficient and effective.

It all starts with choosing your recipes

When I choose the recipes for Cooking Club, variety is key. Variety in ingredients, variety in cuisines, variety in cooking methods. This helps me feel satisfied all week because I’m not making myself eat the same thing every day. And it makes for more efficient cooking because I’m not doing one recipe at a time on the stove.

So consider your kitchen and appliances and think about recipes accordingly. I definitely recommend adding a slow cooker to your arsenal if you don’t have one, and starting your plan simply by looking for one recipe for your slow cooker, one for your stove and one for your oven.

All up in ya fridge

Now, consider your cuisines. If you’re making an Italian dish in your oven, consider something very different for your slow cooker. Don’t make Chicken Parmesan and Bolognese and Lasagna. You’ll feel like you’re eating the same thing all week. Mix it up and engage different tastes.

Similarly, I try to choose different ingredients as well. I don’t want all the recipes I’m cooking at the same time to have crushed tomatoes with basil in them. And I don’t want all of my proteins to be the same. If I’m using chicken breast in one recipe, I’ll try to use ground beef in another… or pork or fish.

For example, one very simple slate of recipes might be Pulled Pork in the slow cookerInside Out Turkey Parmesan Meatloaf in the oven, and Picadillo on the stove. For a bonus (and because it’s super easy, super fast, and super delicious), I might throw in Mustard-Maple Roasted Salmon in the oven when the meatloaf is done.

Shop til you drop

After you’ve chosen your recipes, put together your shopping list. I copy all the ingredients from the recipes into one document on my computer, then combine the same ingredients across recipes (an onion here, an onion there), and then split everything into categories (meat, produce, dairy, etc.). Then I “shop” in my kitchen and remove everything from the list that I already have. That leaves me with my shopping list.

Call to Order

On the day you’re cooking, the next step is figuring out the logical order of things. I always start with the slow cooker because it takes the most time. So wake up, put your ingredients in the slow cooker and turn it on. Boom! You’re practically done with Recipe #1 already! Then you can turn to your other recipes.

If you’re not going to be miserable cooking on the stove with the oven going, I recommend getting the oven going next. That’s the next “least-attended” thing after the slow cooker. Based on our example recipes above, go ahead and set the oven 350 degrees. While it’s pre-heating, put your meatloaves together.

Once you get your meatloaves in the oven, you can turn your attention to your Picadillo on the stove. When your meatloaves are done, go ahead and bump your oven up to 400 and when your Picadillo is simmering, prep your salmon.

You can clean up and do other things around your home while your slow cooker finishes doing its thing.

How long will this take?

After just a few hours of work, you’ll have at least 2-4 servings (adjust the recipes up or down as you see fit) of four different recipes – you may even have to share or throw a few in the freezer!

Pulled Pork

Originally featured on my blog, Spodalicious

This recipe is super easy to adjust depending on how many servings you want.

Ingredients

  • Boneless pork tenderloin, half pound per serving
  • Per pound of meat:
    • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
    • 1 tsp. Hickory liquid smoke
    • 1 tsp. garlic powder
    • Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
    • ¼ c. BBQ sauce

Directions

Place pork in the slow cooker and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add vinegar and liquid smoke. Cover and set to high for 6 hours. The pork is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees and shreds easily. Remove pork to a large dish; reserve liquid into a cup and set aside.

Shred the pork with two forks and put it back into the slow cooker along with the BBQ sauce. If it seems dry, you can add some of the reserved liquid back. Stir in sauce/liquid and cook on low one more hour.

Inside Out Turkey Meatloaf Parmesan

Originally featured on my blog, Spodalicious

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. lean ground turkey (I like to use half 93% lean and half 99% lean)
  • 1/2 c. Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/3 c. grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp. cup fresh minced parsley
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 c. marinara sauce
  • 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients and mix gently to combine. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray or cover with foil. Form turkey mixture into ¾ cup football-shaped mini meatloaves. Bake 45 minutes or until they reach an internal temp of 165 degrees.

For each of 6 servings:  298 calories, 11 grams of fat, 10.3 grams of carbs (.7 grams of fiber), 41.2 grams of protein.

Picadillo

Originally featured on my blog, Spodalicious

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs. lean ground beef or turkey
  • 2 cans Badia Sofrito
  • 2 diced bell peppers
  • 1 7 oz. jar alcaparrado, roughly chopped by hand or in a mini food processor (Make sure you get PITTED alcaparrado. If you can’t find alcaparrado, you can just get green olives and capers and add to taste.)
  • 3 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 14 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • Kosher salt, fresh pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Directions

Brown the meat on medium-high heat and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Drain all the liquid from pan. Add sofrito to the meat and cook an additional 3-4 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chopped alcaparrado (plus brine from the jar), diced peppers, and spices, lower heat and simmer for 15-30 minutes.

For each of 8 servings (made with 99% lean ground turkey):  334 calories, 6.1 grams of fat, 13.4 grams of carbs (2.5 grams of fiber), 57.6 grams of protein.

Mustard Maple Roasted Salmon

Originally Featured on FoodNetwork.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. light mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. pure maple syrup
  • 4 5-ounce skinless center-cut salmon fillets
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Mix together the mustard, 1 tablespoon of the cilantro, the mayonnaise and maple syrup in a bowl. Put the salmon fillets on the baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread some of the mustard mixture evenly over each fillet.

Bake until just cooked through, 10 to 12 minute. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro and serve.

MFF Ninjas, past and present, can join Lisa’s Cooking Club by requesting to join the Facebook group. Outside of NYC? You can get great recipe ideas from Lisa’s website and follow her on Pinterest.


A long time ago, in a gym far, far away (well, 41st Street) Lisa Spodak asked new trainer Mark Fisher for some help with a circuit workout. The rest, as they say, is history. Lisa isn’t a chef and doesn’t like to cook, but she started the Cooking Club in 2013. When she’s not swinging a kettlebell or doubling the protein in every recipe she finds on Pinterest, Lisa loves going to the theater and training for marathon breast cancer walks.

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