The kitchen of
often looked at in pain, "I hate cooking" you say.
Well, it doesn't have to be that painful. How? you ask... by
One of the main reasons restaurants do so well is the fact that people
don't plan for the "at home" meal, so, it's just easier to
"eat out". Easy? yes, More expensive? YES! How often I see two
income families paying extra to eat out (frequently) when they don't
really have to (and they could be spending their hard earned dollars
elsewhere). Fast food is the best example, and for the most part, nutritional
value is not there. Don't get me wrong, a fast burger or something
every once in a while hurts nothing at all, but when it's four nights a
week something's amiss.
Let's look at a few things you can do that will allow you to cook more
Time is the biggest issue normally. It's a good excuse but,
with some planning, can become a non-factor.
One of the worst things you can do is to dream up a "spur of the
moment" meal and try to rush through it. Frustration will surely set
in. Now when I say meal here I don't mean ham sandwiches. A meal would be
a three or more course serving such as pot roast, green beans, a salad and
bread. Preparation is the key.
I'm too busy to cook!
I hear so often "I don't have time to cook, I work". It's
true that the workday leaves us little time to dedicate to a big meal,
but, there are ways around this. Planning is the key so plan your meal the
day or week before.
Here's a few things you can do to prepare.
First of all make up your mind to take a day a week to prepare for the
next weeks' meals. Incorporate that day with other activities that allow
you to work with your cooking plan. Let the kids help if possible.
Before jumping in here sit down and make a list of all the possible
dishes you would cook; and I mean everything. That's your menu! For some
this is a big list, and now you have something you can work with. With
that menu you can plan out an entire month of meals if you like. Oh how
dull, now I know what I'm going to eat three weeks from now....
boooorrrringggg....you say, okay, leave some of those days open for
a surprise. We all need a little surprise every once in a while so work
that into the mix. If you're the Mom (or Mr. Mom) it's your duty not to
publish this list for everyone else to see, it's your secret! You're the
cooking Santa Clause!
Here's an old phase I learned long ago, "Plan your work and work
Okay you get the idea about planning, let's get to the
We'll break this up in phases.
Phase 1: Getting ready
Phase 2: Putting it together
Phase 3: Cooking
Phase 4: Take a nap after you eat....
Phase 1: Getting ready
How would you like to get ready to cook 10 dishes all at once? Sounds a
bit crazy but it's really easy. Look at it like this, I've got 10 dishes
that each use one onion. If I chop 10 onions all at once I'm ready (with
the onions) to cook all 10 of these dishes. You getting the idea? Where's
the real advantage? If I got ready to cut one onion at a time 10 times I
have to get the onions out, get the cutting board out, chop one onion,
clean the cutting board and clean the knife 10 TIMES. Getting a better
idea now? What's the other advantage? Money honey! If you get your onions
on sale you can chop up the whole bag and freeze it! That also means they
won't start growing in your onion box!
Chopping vegetables, making sauces, etc.; all seemingly "little" things take time
as described above. This all can be done the day or week before, put in the ice box
or freezer and
tomorrow it's ready to go. You can even get lazy and buy all of this
pre-chopped at the store but it will cost you extra (hey, save your
money). Don't hesitate to chop the veggies up and freeze them, they'll
keep for several weeks. Sautéing the
vegetables the day before and throwing them in the ice box is also
Make a roux and other mixtures the day before and refrigerate or
freeze them. Here's another time saver, when making a roux make
twice as much as you need, refrigerate what you don't use. Same
holds for basic tomato sauces, make a bunch of it and freeze it in small
The previous two subjects (veggies and sauces) are the base for several
meals. Now to the identifier, or, meat. The meat can be chicken, shrimp,
beef or whatever. It "identifies" the meal.
The bigger the piece of meat the longer it takes to cook, you already
know that. Here's what can be done to take care of the longer timed cuts
such as a roast. Season and/or stuff the roast. Bake it in the microwave
or oven, let it cool and throw it in the freezer. Here's the trick! Do
this while you're doing other cooking stuff. That's right, hey, you're
already chopping veggies or cooking a meal and you've got to be at the
stove already right? Take advantage of the time, cook the roast too. Same
holds true for a hen, that takes a long time to cook. Sit down and
think ahead, then, consolidate your activities.
Phase 2 & 3: Putting it together and cooking
You can put a fantastic spaghetti dish
on the table in a mater of 30 minutes if you prepare for it, and, it's all
"home made". If that don't make you feel good I don't know what
The day before the meal, take the spaghetti sauce and meat you are
going to use out of the freezer and put it in the ice box to defrost. The
day of the meal put the sauce and meats in a pot and cook it all up the
proper time, boil the pasta, make the salad, fix the garlic bread and
bingo your the "Italian Stallion".
Defrost the already cooked and de-boned hen, throw the roux you made the other day in a pot, add
the veggies you chopped the other day, season it up and magically you have
a homemade gumbo!! Cook the rice and you're an instant hero! You've got to
You can take that pre-cooked roast out of the freezer, make a quick gravy, cook
some taters and whatever on the side and bingo, pot roast on Tuesday in
a matter of moments!
Timing is everything....
How many times have you timed a
turkey to be done at 12:00 noon? Shame shame, that bird should come out of
oven around 10:30 or 11:00 to allow for cooling and carving. You'll most
likely have buns to bake in the oven too. Even if you have a double oven
get it all done a little early. You can slice the turkey and put in back
in the pan in the oven on 200ºF basting every ten minutes and it'll be
even better. What's my point? Start everything a little early. It makes
for less stress and everything tastes better because flavors have time to
come together (marry).
You don't have to be a time management expert to do all of this, just
sit and think a while.....
Consider buying a freezer... it will pay for itself.
Phase 4: you're on your own here....
Plan your work and work your plan. You'll be pleasantly surprised and
what you can "whip up" when you plan it.