If you’re like us, you love your time in the kitchen. It’s so much fun to whip up new recipes and cook large batches of food that can be frozen in smaller portions for later use (our own version of a healthy frozen meal). But, if you absolutely despise cooking and want to minimize the minutes you have to spend preparing meals, check out these tips to get you in and out faster.
Tip #1 – Make a marketing list: It may sound so simple, but take some time once a week to sit down and plan out all of your meals for the upcoming week. From this well-organized schedule, you can make a very comprehensive marketing list. Then hit the market (on a full stomach, of course) and get all of your ingredients. Once you have everything, making meals each day will be a breeze – just consult your menu and food prep will be quick.
Tip #2 – Buy pre-cut items: If you want to save time in the kitchen, buy the pre-cut vegetables from the produce section and keep bags of frozen chopped vegetables in the freezer. Likewise, shop for peeled and deveined raw shrimp or already cooked shrimp, ground turkey breast, and boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs. These foods cook quickly, reducing your kitchen time.
Tip #3 – Time-saving gadgets : Save time in the kitchen by using some key kitchen tools like a toaster oven, an immersion blender, a food processor, kitchen scissors, and a mandolin. Cutting, chopping, slicing, and blending never went so quickly when you use these items. Also, make sure your knives are sharp – not only does it make food prep faster, it actually reduces your chances of cutting yourself (more accidents happen with a dull knife blade). If you don’t know how to sharpen your knife, take it to a professional once or twice a year and in between use the honing stick (which came with your knife set) to refine the blade.
Tip #4 – How to boil water: Boiling water is important in so many recipes – making pasta, rice, hard-boiled eggs, soup, for peeling tomatoes and peaches, and blanching vegetables. Did you know that if you cover your pot of water it will boil faster than if you left it uncovered? I know it seems so simple, but it saves time.
Tip #5 – Cook once, eat twice (or three times): To us, leftovers are no big deal. If we love a recipe enough, we can’t wait to have it again and again. So, when we are making a particularly favorite recipe of ours, we make a big batch so we can eat it in the days to come. That means no cooking the next day or the day after – the only time we have to spend in the kitchen on those days is the time spent reheating it in the microwave!
Tip #6 – Pick ingredients with a flavor punch: It’s amazing how much flavor you can get by adding some lemon juice, vinegar, fresh herbs, dried spices, toasted nuts, and capers to a dish. When buying nuts, make sure to buy them already shelled, sliced, or chopped (refrigerate them when you get home) and toast them before using to bring out their flavor. Fresh herbs have a short shelf life, but you can extend that life by blanching and pureeing them, pouring the puree into an ice cube mold, and freezing them. When you need it later, all you have to do is thaw the cube(s) or pop it right into the dish you are making. Dried herbs like smoked paprika, ground cumin, chili powder, garam masala, and turmeric really pack a flavor punch, so make sure to keep some on hand at all times. If you’re a spice novice, just pick up a salt-free seasoning blend, like Mrs. Dash, at the market and use it to season just about anything. Seasoned food tastes so much better than bland food.
Tip #7 – Thin slices of meat cook faster: When cooking chicken, turkey, beef, pork, or lamb, cut them very thinly or pound them out to about 1/2-inch thickness before cooking. Then get your pan screamin’ hot and sear the meat for about 1-2 minutes per side. That’s it. FYI – if you’re going to slice the meat, make sure to freeze it for about 10-15 minutes before slicing, as the firmer pieces makes it easier to get super-thin slices.
Tip #8 – Quick glaze for protein: The quickest glaze for a protein, whether it be fish, poultry, meat, or tofu, is to take an all-fruit preserve and paint it on the protein in the final few minutes of cooking. This is best used on grilled or roasted proteins, where the direct heat source can caramelize the glaze. You can also take the preserves and mix with some Dijon mustard (grainy or smooth) or soy sauce for a sweet and salty or sweet and tangy taste.
Tip #9 – Easy clean-up: We are the queens of lining our baking sheets with aluminum foil, so we don’t have to wash the baking sheet when we’re done using it. Simply remove the dirty foil, ball it up, shoot it into the trash can. Now that’s easy! Also, try pouring water into dirty pots and pans while they’re still hot to prevent the leftover food from sticking. Scrubbing will take a fraction of the time. Another great tip is to keep a garbage bowl (as popularized by Rachel Ray) on the counter or what we do is hang a plastic grocery bag on a cabinet handle next to our food prep area and throw away scraps as we go. Lastly, clean as you go – wipe down counters, wash off knives and cutting boards, and clean those pots and pans as soon as you use them.