Deep Mexico: Ingredient-Driven Mexican Meal Prep

Come along as we dive deep into Mexican food for a month-long cooking and eating adventure. We're calling it "Deep Mexico," a concentrated effort to combine three food shopping, meal planning and meal prep techniques into good eats and good fun. We're only on Day Two so there's lots yet to come, including new recipes for both Kitchen Parade and A Veggie Venture. How will it all turn out? Will we make it to Day 30? Time will tell!

Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep ♥ KitchenParade.com.

Getting Food to our Tables.

It's a challenge for all of us, yes? Even for those of us who l-o-v-e to cook, the fact is that we spend less time actually cooking than the more mundane chores of "figuring out dinner" and "getting groceries" plus the dreaded "cleanup". It's not the cooking that wears us down, it's the planning, the shopping and the dishwashing.

It's no wonder that meal planning services, meal delivery services like Blue Apron and grocery home-delivery services are gaining popularity. (Ha! Who else notices that nobody but nobody is offering to do the dishes?! Well, restaurants, I suppose ...)

Every cook has his/her own system that works (or doesn't ...) in his/her own situation. But here's what's working in mine plus something we're experimenting with.

Three Techniques That Might Help & Might Inspire.

For a couple of years, I've been reading and watching and thinking about three things that might help us meet this common challenge.

An Ingredient-Driven Pantry. A year back, I changed my whole grocery routine. Instead of planning meals and then shopping for what I needed in the way my home economist mother taught me (and all her students), I began to shop for and stock up on our personal "grocery store" of ingredients, the ingredients we use over and over again. Now we cook from what we have: much less goes to waste and much less time is spent wandering grocery aisles. And I think like a chef, making sure that every ingredient in our household pantry, especially the shelf-stable ones, can be used in two or three or more different ways.

(Yes, I'm nerdy this way. I actually tracked the time associated with meal planning + shopping + cooking + cleanup. The shocker? Shopping took more time than cooking and cleanup together! And that's for someone who lives within a couple of miles of my favorite food sources such good grocery stores and who has the time flexibility to shop during the week vs busy weekends.)

Weekly Meal Routines. Meatless Mondays. Taco Tuesdays. Pizza Fridays. Saturday Soups. Sunday Suppers. Some families simplify their meal planning by designating Mondays for vegetarian suppers, Tuesdays for tacos and so on. This idea intrigues me so I tried it. But it just didn't work here. It would be Monday and I'd have chicken from the weekend that needed to be eaten. Or it would be Tuesday but I wasn't excited about tacos because the corn tortillas I'd used the prior Tuesday had little bits of mold on them. This form of meal semi-planning felt all hurry-up-and-slow-down and herky-jerky to me, with little flow or continuity from one day to the next.

Meal Prep. Some cooks ease that just-home-from-work pre-supper scramble before weeknight dinners by doing "meal prep" on Sundays, everything from prepping vegetables to cooking a big pot of soup for the week to putting five days of lunch salads into mason jars. Earmarking precious weekend time for meal prep isn't for me but I took the general concept to heart and made it my own. A few months ago, I started my own "meal prep" routine by starting supper 30 or 60 or some times even 90 minutes before I "have" to start cooking in order to get dinner on the table. And oh my, has this relaxed our rush-rush time before dinner. I make salad dressing for the week. Or cook a pot of quinoa. Or make granola. The extra time means there's a few minutes to put chicken stock in canning jars or inventory spices or mix bread dough to rise overnight in the fridge or print the recipe for tomorrow's supper or clean out a sticky refrigerator drawer. I might even fold a load of laundry or pour a glass of wine on the patio with my husband.

Enter ... Deep Mexico.

And so almost on a whim, I proposed that we combine – and give hyper-focus to – the three concepts of an ingredient-driven pantry, a meal routine and meal prep.

As I write, we're on Day Two of a cooking adventure we're calling Deep Mexico, a month-long dive into fresh, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep, cooking and eating. Wish us luck!

On Day One, we made a list of "Mexican" ingredients and went grocery shopping for vegetables and fruit, beans, a few sauces. Our local Walmart is more likely to have good-quality tomatillos and poblanos (for starters) so we spent $60 there, then another $20 at Sam's Club. The fridge is p-a-c-k-e-d but the idea is that it will last a week, feeding three people three times a day.

Why the Name "Deep Mexico"?

Deep Mexico is a family phrase of aspiration, no single place, no particular state, no particular time. Instead Deep Mexico is a state of mind, an intense feeling of immersion and inspiration, whether we're at home making salsa or somewhere tucking into tacos. A first taste, a first sip of good tequila or mezcal, even the hues of a sunset ... any one might just momentarily whisk our minds back to Mexico. The feeling can last a moment, an evening or even longer. That ... is Deep Mexico.

And since we're asking the ingredients, not cookbooks and not recipes, to drive our cooking, what ends up on our tables may not turn out to be authentic Mexican, it might be more, hmmm, let's call it Mexican-ish. It might make pit stops in the American Southwest and Tex-Mex. We'll see. As I say, it's only Day Two!

I hope you'll come along for the "trip"!



Fresh papayas in Oaxaca, Mexico, inspiration for Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep ♥ KitchenParade.com.

Deep Mexico Pantry & Shopping List

Nearly all of these ingredients are already familiar in most (and our) kitchens. But since Deep Mexico is a month-long adventure, we are excited to learn about and incorporate a few new ingredients too!

VEGETABLES
Avocados Bell Peppers Chayote Corn Green Beans Hearts of Palm Jicama Mushrooms Nopales or Nopalitos (Cactus Pads)
Onions especially White Onions Radishes Spinach
Summer Squash especially Tatuma (aka Calabacita)
Sweet Potatoes Tomatillos Tomatoes

FRESH CHILES & (THEIR DRIED/SMOKED COUNTERPARTS)
Poblano Peppers (Ancho)
Anaheim/Chile Colorado (Seco Del Norte)
Chilacas (Pasilla or Negro)
Chile de Arbol (same)
Jalapeño (Chipotle)
Mirasol (Guajillo)
Serrano (same)
Chipotle Chiles in Adobo Sauce Green Chiles Salsa Verde

LEGUMES, GRAINS, CEREALS, RICE & SEEDS
Canned & Dried Beans Hominy Lentils
Quinoa Cornmeal Rice Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)

MEAT, CHICKEN, PORK, FISH, SEAFOOD & PLANT PROTEIN
Chicken Eggs
Beef Lamb Pork Lard Sausage
Fish Seafood
Crab Scallops Shrimp Tuna

FRUIT
Bananas Limes Mangoes Melons Papaya Pineapple Strawberries

DAIRY
Cheeses especially cotija, queso fresco, queso Oaxaca & queso blanco
Cream Cheese Crema Sour Cream Yogurt

PANTRY STAPLES
Tortillas Masa Masa Harina
Pasta (Fideo)
Coffee Chocolate especially Mexican Chocolate
Hibiscus
Piloncillo Cajeta Dulce le Leche
Evaporated Milk Sweetened Condensed Milk
Fresh Herbs especially Cilantro & Epazote & Purslane
Dried Herbs & Spices especially Mexican Oregano, Mexican Cinnamon (Ceylon vs Cassia), Whole Allspice, Annatto (Achiote, including Achiote Paste)

FYI I've linked the familiar ingredients to current Kitchen Parade and A Veggie Venture recipes: there are recipes there, not Mexican per se, but which can be adapted to fit our Deep Mexico vision. Regular readers will recognize the Pantry & Shopping List as a Deep Mexico-specific version of Recipes By Ingredient and for vegetables, A Veggie Venture's Alphabet of Vegetables. For anyone interested, there's also a cuisine-specific list of Mexican recipes.

What Have We Missed? What Doesn't Belong?
What's Not To Be Missed? Let Us Know Your Thoughts!




Spice bags in Oaxaca, Mexico, inspiration for Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep ♥ KitchenParade.com.

Deep Mexico Meal Prep:
What to Make First, What to Make Often

This is where "meal prep" steps in. Make any one and preferably several of these and you're all set for a Mexican feast. The good news is, no one thing takes very long but the payoff is big. Much to my surprise, I'd already fixed on some of the very basics, even before launching the Deep Mexico project.

COOK SOME BEANS
Creamy Slow Cooker Beans

COOK SOME RICE
Red Rice with Tomatoes (with Mexican-style spices, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, say)

ROAST SOME CHILES
Recipes from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
How to Roast a Pepper on a Gas Stove (for one or two at a time)
How to Roast Peppers in the Oven (for an electric stove or many at the same time)

ROAST SOME GARLIC
Recipes from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
How to Roast Garlic

PICKLE SOME JALAPEÑOS
Pickled Jalapeño Rings

MAKE BIG BATCHES OF SALSA
The House Red Salsa (recipe coming soon)
Avocado, Cucumber, Mango Salsa Green Chili Sauce (Salsa Verde)
Blueberry Salsa
Strawberry Salsa with Sweet-Cinnamon Baked Tortilla Chips

Recipes from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
Roasted Nopalito Tomatillo Salsa
Slow-Roasted Tomato Salsa

MAKE CREMA
Crema (recipe coming soon)

MAKE SOME SALAD DRESSING & OTHER SAUCES
Recipes from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
Easy Salsa Dressing
Microwave Green Beans with Tomatillo Salsa Dressing

GET GOOD AT GUACAMOLE
Recipes from A Veggie Venture, my food blog
Avocado Dip
Homemade Guacamole with Tomatillos
Laura's Famous Chunky Guacamole

LEARN HOW TO MAKE TORTILLAS?
Will we do it? Let's see!



Fresh tortillas in Oaxaca, Mexico, inspiration for Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep ♥ KitchenParade.com.

Deep Mexico: What We're Making (Notables Only!)

STAPLES & EXTRAS (MEAL PREP)
Days 3 - 30 to go!

BREAKFASTS
Day 2: So pretty! A crisp tortilla (leftover from the night before) softened and warmed in a skillet with a little half & half, sprinkled with cinnamon; topped with a dollop of cottage cheese for protein: covered and surrounded with fruit (mango, strawberry, blueberry, banana); drizzled with lime juice and a squirt of honey.

LUNCHES
Days 3 - 30 to go!

SUPPERS
Days 3 - 30 to go!



Fresh chiles in Oaxaca, Mexico, inspiration for Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep ♥ KitchenParade.com.

Deep Mexico: What We're Learning

I love the take-aways from projects! So I'll keep track, here, of what we learn from our Deep Mexico project.

If you already have an arsenal of Mexican recipes, lean on them. This is supposed to be fun, not all-consuming.
Buy lots – lots! – of cilantro!
Poke into a little Mexican market for inspiration and specific grocery items. Our closest has fresh nopales!



Fresh moles in Oaxaca, Mexico, inspiration for Deep Mexico, ingredient-driven Mexican meal prep ♥ KitchenParade.com.

About the Photos

All the photos were taken by me in Mexico. The main image at the top was taken in Puerto Vallarta, grandkids and pseudo-grandkids at sunset on the beach. The remaining images were taken in Oaxaca, a foodie paradise. (I wrote about our time there, including a cooking school, in Chayote Soup with a Kick and Mexican Mango Trifle (Ante de Mango).)

As an aside, on the Oaxaca trip, I did exactly what you're not supposed to do and packed a brand-new camera. But I had such great luck with what was that Nikon D90, I literally opened the box the night before leaving and read the user manual on the airplane. But I set it on automatic and clicked away. I loved the pictures from that trip!


Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

I love this concept, even if I feel a little overwhelmed Looking forward to seeing where this takes us.
 
Linda ~ Oh dear, I do so hope to “un” overwhelm you with a couple of super-simple recipes in short order here. You’re a cook, right? We’re finding it super simple to let the subset of Deep Mexico ingredients guide what we cook -- even for me, a “recipe” cook, I’m totally inspired. Stay tuned!
 
I’ve done something similar to this many times, though usually for 7-10 days. In addition to helping with meal planning and prep, I think it’s more economical than eating from all over the globe weekly or even daily. Additionally there’s some evidence that you eat less when variety is limited which may help prevent weight gain or possibly lead to weight loss.

I got the idea when I read this: Weeks and weeks of meals
http://yourhealthisonyourplate.com/2013/07/weeks-and-weeks-of-meals/

Late last year I found Batch Cooking. You make a sauce, a grain, a protein, a salad and some veggies, then mix and match with some other additions. Nourished Planner Batch Cooking Basics
https://nourishedplanner.com/batch-cooking-basics-healthy-eating-meal-prep-plan/

I’ve found these basic dishes combined with tortillas can make a large variety of meals.

Sally
 
Sally ~ Very thoughtful additions, thank you! I can definitely see moving to a 7-10 day variation, especially for cuisines we’re less familiar with. And I’m so intrigued by the connections to grocery expense (and likely food waste too) and weight loss. The links are super interesting ... thanks for chiming in!
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna