What Turns a Rock Into a Diamond? | Pressure Cooking: The Ultimate Meal Prep

When I think of pressure cookers I think of the 70’s; accompanied by casseroles and David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs Album, oh! And pressure cookers. Not only are they the ultimate meal preparation tool; but they have been around much longer than the 70’s!

The origin of the pressure cooker was derived way back in the mid 1600’s; a French physicist Denis Papin, better known for his studies on steam, invented the steam digester in an attempt to reduce the cooking time of food. His airtight cooker used steam pressure to raise the water’s boiling point, thus cooking food more quickly.

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The more modern adaptation known as the second generation pressure cooker was developed around 1973, and lastly just in 1991 came along electric pressure cookers. This is the modern tool I will be talking about in this post to better utilize your time when it comes to meal prep.

I started using this tool during my second competition prep to cook large amounts of meat and vegetables at a easy and efficient manner; though a close friend of mine now encompasses his business around this cooking technique! Shawn Guiney– an entrepreneur, best-selling co-author, Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer; who is passionate about transforming lives one meal at a time utilizes the pressure cooker to it’s highest potential.

Shawn has a system for “done for you” service for meals that works; and the main appliance he uses, the pressure cooker. For more information on Shawn and his business Fit and Fresh Solutions click here.

For now; let’s dive into the pressure cooker (not literally, that would be quite the heat wave!) The modern, electric models look much like a slow cooker (and many often offer that function.) They are incredibly easy to use; often the press of only a couple buttons gets you up and running to set and forget while tackling other tasks (Click to watch a video of Shawn and I cooking with pressure cookers, and the various activities we accomplished while our meals cooked!) The pressure cooker we used in the video can be purchased here: Crock-Pot 6 Qt 8-in-1 Multi-Use Express

Alright so let’s get to cookin’! Most models have a browning function; now this is extremely helpful since browning your meat is essential if you want rich, caramelized complex flavor. It’s as easy as adding some Extra Virgin Olive Oil to the pot, set on the browning setting, and allow the oil to heat thoroughly; your meat should be browned in batches to prevent the pot form cooling down and steaming the meat instead of browning!

Once the meat is browned (again, you can skip this step entirely if you want just pulled chicken or pork or to save on time) you will add the remaining ingredients to your pot (vegetables, etc.) Or, if you have more than one unit, and you are meal prepping in larger quantities like Shawn and I did; you utilize one cooker for meat, one for vegetables, and one for the optional starch such as rice. Needless to say; you select the setting and time you will be using, and then the pressure cooker should get up to pressure within 15–20 minutes depending on the model and conditions. This is when the actual cooking time has begun, and the unit will start to countdown. What is great about these modern electric cookers is the ability to automatically depressurize; much like I wish I had a “let off steam” function– these appliances do!

Be extremely careful when around and using a pressure cooker; modern technology has made them much safer than they used to be, but still be cautious. Now is the fun part! Remember, the food inside is especially hot–as a friendly reminder: steam will come out, watch your face! (Unless of course you didn’t have time this week to make it to the spa and you would like a facial, in that regard; embrace –JUST KIDDING, DO NOT USE AS A FACIAL MACHINE.)

Your meat should be cooked to the ultimate tender fall off your fork perfection, vegetables will still have a little crunch to them, and rice has never been so easy! Flavor with any sauces, spices, or fresh herbs and enjoy! This makes freezing meals super easy as well.

I hope this opened your eyes to new ways to make your meal preparation not only more efficient, but also easy! The possibilities are endless to the combinations of ingredients that can be placed in a pressure cooker; let me know what your favorite combination or meal prep in a pressure cooker is below in the comments!

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The Secrets of Meal Prep

As many of you know; and some may not, I competed in my first fitness bikini competition in 2016. In some areas of my life; I am a black and white kinda girl, and I don’t mean in how I dress. I am naturally a perfectionist (which I am growing day by day away from, or trying to at least!) Which means when I started my new meal plan back in 2016 I was very precise, 11 almonds meant 11 almonds not 10, not 15; not a handful, but 11.

While taking out a food scale and weighing 4oz of chicken, 4oz of sweet potato, and a cup of broccoli was cumbersome; it instilled the procedure and dedication I needed to keep me on track. But this way of meal prep isn’t for everyone; and it certainly isn’t for me anymore, and probably isn’t for you either.

So what got me from 2016 to 2018 (where I am now) and how will this help you? Well what got me from 2016 to 2018 is a loaded question of ups and downs and learning curves for sure, but we won’t get into that here; but we will pause on learning curves.

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Through the diligence of being so strict, I learned the basic principals that I still carry with me today. After weighing chicken and vegetables for countless days; I now have a keen sense on what an approximate 4-6oz looks like, and in the everyday healthy lifestyle sense–it is good enough! When you are not stepping on stage at a certain body fat percentage; the extra gram or two of chicken won’t hinder your day to day healthy physique.

Another valuable lesson learned was how to shop at bulk superstores like BJ’s Wholesale; not only does it save you money, but when you eat a lot of the same food it is easier to get larger portions saving you trips to the grocery store each week. Now, my weekly trip to the store looks like 10 items or so rather than a cart full. Every morning my green smoothie consists of frozen vegetables which are not only cost effective, but their longevity far outlasts that of fresh. Which leads me to frozen fruit and vegetables are not only cost effective; but already cut, clean, and when talking about vegetables– already partially cooked. Which means less prep time for you during the week!

Typically I eat between 5–6 meals a day because I love eating and snacking. Eggs are a big staple in my diet not only because I love them; but because they are also cost effective. I usually add one whole egg to egg whites, and while egg whites are more expensive sometimes than buying eggs; they have a high protein complex.

Let’s do a little recap; shopping at wholesale clubs, frozen vegetables and fruit, eggs–which brings me to whole fresh fruit, and pre–packaged vegetables. Now depending on whether you are looking to save money, or time (because let’s be honest here, they go hand in hand) both of these topics may be beneficial to you–as they are to me. I love snacking on fresh fruit; which means my go-to are usually apples, and berries which are pre-packaged and when I want any kind of melon, or pineapple I buy the whole fruit and cut myself to save on cost. Whereas with something like pre-cut and washed vegetables or even frozen are sometimes more appealing to me than taking time to chop various veggies and blanching.

The grill and oven are probably my favorite meal prep tools; not only can you cook large amounts of ingredients at the same time, but they come out really tasty as well! Grilling chicken, and roasting vegetables changes things up, dedicated a day of the week (Saturday and Sunday usually work best for the 9–5 corporate world schedule) to go to the store and pick up anything you may need, and then prepare, cook, and pre-portion out your meals for the week. This makes each morning a breeze of just grabbing and going with your already planned out meals for the day.

I could go on and on about my favorite topic of food; so I will end with services such as HelloFresh and Home Chef, which make the modern life easier and healthy. Our family subscribes to both and while I prefer the majority of Home Chef meals over HelloFresh (HelloFresh is a lot more kid-friendly with their meal choices.) Anything from Salmon with Green Goddess Sauce to Chicken, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Grain Bowls make for delicious, healthy, no–brainer dinners. Each week; these companies send you a box with ice packs, and all of the ingredients you will need to cook the meals inside. As well as directions, and sometimes the vegetables even come pre-cut for you! This makes dinner a breeze, to come home after work, cook for on average 30 minutes and from kitchen to table you are able to enjoy time with your family through a communal meal. Because let’s face it; as much as we meal prep, and stay on schedule of a healthy lifestyle–food is sociable, and we need to not only enjoy it, but in good company!