Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday Tips: Cooking Time Savers

Like many, many people, I have a very busy lifestyle. I have 4 kids that often need to be taken to or picked up from sports and other activities. I work for 3 different companies from home. I love to bake and enjoy cooking meals, and I especially like to try new recipes. I also have a house to maintain, laundry to wash, chores to do, and to top it all off I've decided I want to grow a garden this year.

Therefore, anything that can save me time is a God-send. I've learned a few tricks along the way and want to share just a few of the time savers I use regularly. 

Hopefully they can help you too!

Double Chop
When I have a recipe that calls for chopped onion, I will chop up two large onions, use what I need for the recipe and freeze the rest. While frozen onion doesn't work well on salads or sandwiches, it's perfect for sauteing, tossing into an omelet, soup, chili, or anything else that calls for onion as a cooked ingredient. Keep it in zipper sandwich bags or a tightly closed plastic container. This also works great with mushrooms and bell peppers, which happen to be delicious in egg white omelets!

Condiment Dishes
You've seen them on cooking shows or on cooking tutorials on the web. Those cute little glass dishes that look like miniature bowls and hold about 1/2 cup of ingredients. They cost about $0.89 at WalMart, or you can usually find them at thrift stores for half that price. I have a stack of them in the cabinet. Whenever I am making a recipe, especially one I haven't made before, I measure out my ingredients first, placing them neatly into these little dishes. When it's time to add them to the recipe, just pop them in, no last minute measuring or rushing around.

Make Extra
If I make a meatloaf, meatballs, or even breaded items such as Chicken Piccata or Schnitzel, I always make extra and pack it away in the freezer for a future meal. I layer pounded and breaded chicken or pork between sheets of wax paper and then wrap in plastic wrap. Placing them between sheets of wax paper makes it much easier to remove individual portions after they are frozen. Then I place that into a zipper gallon freezer bag and mark the outside with a Sharpie. To save space with meat loaves and meatballs, I freeze meal sized portions in zipper bags, but I freeze them flat so that I can stack them once frozen. 

Read the Recipe!
I think we have all learned this lesson the hard way. You get all excited about trying a new recipe, maybe you've even added it to your menu for dinner that week. It comes time to make it and while you made sure you bought all the ingredients necessary, you neglected to notice that the meat needs to marinate for 24 hours, or the dough needs to rise for longer than you want to wait. Always read through a recipe's instructions, ALL the way through, from beginning to end, so that you are totally prepared for what you are going to need.

Healthy Snacks
It's so easy to grab potato chips. Making a salad is so time consuming! I've gotten in the habit of buying fresh vegetables and chopping them before I even put them away. That way I have celery sticks, broccoli heads, trimmed radishes and chunks of low fat cheese at the ready. I am experimenting now with some tasty dips as well. For those times that I really crave the chips, I have switched to whole grain Sun Chips. They have some great flavors and aren't as fattening or sinful as Doritos and potato chips. I also peel oranges and break them into segments, portioning them out into sandwich bags I keep in the fridge. I do this with grapes and melon as well. 

Wash as You Go
I love to bake. I usually bake something 3 or 4 times a week. Trying new recipes is one of my favorite things, and some recipes can generate a lot of dishes! Instead of waiting until the end to do that massive pile, I try to wash them in manageable chunks. If the heavy cream needs to be whipped for 3-4 minutes, that's plenty of time to wash measuring cups and mixing bowls. I also wipe the counters down as I go as I am not blessed with as much counter space as I would like. This really helps keep the kitchen efficient.

Those are just a few of the things I do to save me time in the kitchen. What do you do?

~ Amanda


  1. Such good ideas. I am doing more of the "washing as I cook"-- I at least fill a sink with hot soapy water to get things soaking.

    The healthy snacks sound yummy. We try to do lots of oranges, apples and occasionally I make homemade crackers.

  2. Great tips. I do a lot of them already. As for onions, I will chop extra and keep in a plastic bag in the fridge. Almost everything I cook ends up having onions in it, so it always gets used in a day or two, and it's still good for salads and sandwiches.

    I kinda do this with garlic too. I chop a bunch and keep in a small cover dish in the fridge, cover in olive oil. If I need minced garlic, I spoon some out (for most recipes it doesn't matter if there's a little oil on it). I also have garlic flavored oil for sauteeing or for salad dressings. I try to make only enough to be used within 5 days or so, then do it again.

  3. Many of this tips I routinely follow.

    Thanks for sharing!


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