What's your go-to cooking shortcut?
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Buy a rice cooker - that way you always have leftover rice in your fridge!
It's also good to remember that meals don't always have to be complicated; they can be very basic and easy, yet still satisfying. When I'm in a bind for a quick meal for my family, I'll cut up some apples, grab a protein (whether that is leftover meat, lunch meat, eggs, and/or almonds), we'll have a salad or another type of veggie, and possibly some rice or quinoa.
Quick and easy... sometimes that's the best way to go!
When I am making Chicken Noodle Soup which is one of my kids favorite soups, I boil extra chicken. I take it out when it is done cooking, run it through the food processor with some onion and celery, add a little mayo, dill, onion powder, salt and pepper, and I have chicken salad - two meals in one!
I love boiling water for pasta and then before I put the pasta in I take a whole head of broccoli (uncut) and stick it in water with the floret side submerged under the water. Then I set the timer for 3 minutes. In 3 minutes it is perfectly done and I run under cold water just to stop cooking a little. Then I cut the florets off right onto the plates with a paring knife. You don't even need a cutting board to cut the florets off. I usually save the stem in the freezer for soup.
Also, soak brown basmati rice in warm water for 8 hours and it will soften the outside and make it faster to cook. My kids tend to like brown rice better when it is soaked. I guess it is a kind of strange shortcut but it actually makes cooking dinner faster.
Herbamare seasoning - add 1tsp to boiling water and you have instant veggie broth! And it's delicious!
For some recipes, I like to double it and freeze half for another day. One shortcut I love is buying soup from a box or can and then adding more veggies to it. For example, buy a box of Pacific Red pepper soup, add your own veggies and serve atop pasta, quinoa or brown rice. An easy meal that is delicious!
I use an egg slicer (this one on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000I1YJ80/ref=as_li_ss_tl/?ie=UTF8&tag=ohmade-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399349&creativeASIN=B000I1YJ80) to cut mushrooms - had to think of new use when eggs weren't safe anymore!
I try to make extra whenever I'm cooking so that I can freeze prepared meals for those days when something quick is needed.
Definitely the Pressure Cooker. So, at one go I can cook rice, vegetables, lentils and beans and even some meats in different containers stacked one on top of the other in less than half hour. Sometimes I even add the seasoning to the lentils, beans or meat. So, the dish comes out ready to eat. This way I manage to do the prep work for 2 or more meals at a time.
I triple my pancake recipe and freeze the leftovers in between squares of freezer paper and wrap. We can pop in the toaster when needed. This gives us quick breakfast, lunch or dinner (because breakfast is ALWAYS appropriate!) We have even used pancakes to whip up a quick pb&j when gf bread isn't readily available!!
Cooking the meats for casseroles is always the most time consuming part for me. To save time, I always fry up a big batch of ground beef and ground sausage and boil a big batch of chicken. Then I place 2 cups of the meat (which is about 1 pound) into Ziploc bags to store in the freezer until ready to use. I place the smaller Ziplocs into a large freezer Ziploc then mark the day I put it in the freezer and what meat it is. Then when I'm ready to cook, I just grab a bag of the meat and either let it thaw in the fridge or microwave it until heated. Quick and simple. Plus, I buy all of my meats when they go on sale so it also saves money.
Puree everything (almost!) If I have any fruit, veggies or meat that is not big enough for a meal but can't be wasted, I puree it, plop it into an ice cube tray, freeze, then I keep them in a bag in the freezer. Then, whenever I need some fruit, tomato, anything, I can simply take it out of the freezer and add it cube by cube.
I like to cut up my veggies ahead of time, (usually on Sundays while I'm listening to "The Splendid Table" on NPR). Then I store them in glass containers in the fridge which look pretty and are enjoyable to use, instead of plastic bags which can get kind of sticky. This espcially helps with things like green onions which can be tossed on a wide variety of meals, and baby carrots, which I buy pre-cut, have become a great filler snack.
1. Slow Cooker
2. Rice Cooker
I'm a big fan of ready-to-use greens, especially kale. I like to throw a big handful into our fruit smoothies and blend them up, chop some up to add to soups, or toss some in the food processor and grind it up fine to add to cooking rice. It's a great way to get all that nutritional goodness without a lot of effort. One bag can provide extra greens to several meals.
I avoid washing a mixing bowl for wet baking ingredients by using a 2 cup glass measuring cup to measure AND as my bowl. I start with oil (so thick sweeteners don't stick) and proceed from there. For example, 1/3 cup oil and then 2/3 cup rice milk might make the 1st cup. Then I might add 1/4 c maple syrup to put it at 1 1/4 cup, add a teaspoon of vanilla, then mix right there and add to the dry ingredients.
I try to make a recipe that is versatile. For example make a big pot of chili, some can go into the freezer, some can be made into chili cheese tots, chili dogs, frito chili pies. It is nice to make something that gives you the night off from cooking the next night.