Thursday, August 21, 2008

Some Cooking Tips

After a recent cooking session with a friend, I realized other people might like some cooking tips. Because really, aren’t we all busy enough? I used to spend an hour in the kitchen on each meal, but once my daughter arrived, that went straight out the door! Prep time has to be at a minimum. I don’t care if something has to cook for 6 hours, but I can’t spend an hour chopping, sautéing and straining. My hands-on time is now for my kids, not my food. So, I’ll now share some of my favorite tips.

First, if something can be doubled easily, double it and freeze some for later. If a recipe sounds huge, such as a recipe for soup, make the whole thing and freeze it. There’s really very little that doesn’t freeze well – creams and uncooked potatoes, to name two – so as long as it’s not a cream-based soup, it will freeze just fine. So, I make a huge pot of chili, then portion it into sizes we’ll eat at once and use my handy vacuum sealer (LOVE that, by the way) so we can eat it later.

Second, make big batches of ingredients you can use in other things. Don’t just make enough mashed potatoes for dinner tonight – make a triple batch, then freeze the extra. When you want to make a shepherd’s pie, or just want a side dish, just grab them out of the freezer to skip half an hour of prep time. And never make just one batch of brown rice – make a huge pot. If it’s going to take an hour to took, you may as well spend one hour cooking 6 family-sized portions instead of just one. Keep it vacuum sealed in the freezer and you always have a quick side.

My very favorite tip? Every time chicken breasts are on sale, buy them in the giant value pack. Throw them in your crockpot with one can of chicken broth and enough water to cover, then cook them on low for 8 hours or high for 4. When they’re cooked, they’ll fall apart, so shred them and freeze them in 1- and 2-cup portions. Next time you want to make any sort of chicken casserole, soup, salad or pasta, you’ve saved yourself 30 minutes of cook time. Sure, it takes a little extra time to package all of that up one night, but it’s so incredibly nice to know you’ll save all of that time later.

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