Cooking Shortcuts – Make a Double BatchWhen you’re bringing water to a boil, cutting up ingredients, measuring, stirring, and getting pots dirty to make a meal . . . why not make twice as much? Now you can have two meals of the same food, and it isn’t anywhere near twice as much work! My family is just 4 people, so it’s easy to make more food than we’ll eat in one meal. We store leftovers in reused glass jars in the refrigerator. A two-cup jar is perfect for my lunch at work; I can microwave it right in the jar (lid off). In our normal routine, leftovers are mostly for lunches and snacks. When life gets busy, I plan double batches and re-run each dinner on a busy night!Cooking extra food is key to making myself healthy breakfasts when I have to get to work on time. One breakfast I like is fruit, plain yogurt, and granola. Another is scrambled eggs, sauteed vegetables, and toast. Some fruits are good to eat raw, but just cutting up fruit takes time; cooking takes even longer. On a weekend or a morning when I don’t need a shower, I chop and cook enough fruit or veggies for 3 or 4 breakfasts. Keep leftovers in a jar in the fridge, and just scoop out some fruit or veg and warm it up!
Food Prep Shortcuts – Prepare an Ingredient All at Once for Different UsesBoiling rice for a side dish on Monday? Cook extra rice and plan for Broccoli Casserole on Wednesday and Fried Rice on Friday! You’ll only have to wash the rice pot once, and you’ll reduce prep time on Wednesday and Friday.Nobody will complain of “too much rice” when it’s served in such different meals. You could even spend an extra couple of minutes rolling up the rice in seaweed, like sushi! Boiling pasta and steaming broccoli for tonight’s Italian-style dinner with Marinara Sauce? Cook double pasta and broccoli. Two days later, make an Herby Olive Oil Sauce in a big skillet, throw in your leftover pasta and broccoli, stir until warmed, and top with nutritional yeast flakes and sunflower seeds for a quick High-Protein Pasta Salad!Baking sweet potatoes or winter squash alongside your Honey Baked Lentils? Bake extra, and make Sweet Potato Burritos, Squash Burritos or New England Yam Bake later in the week. A baked sweet potato also makes a great breakfast, with plenty of butter and maple syrup. Cooking dry beans? Plan two or more meals using that type of bean, and cook them all at once, plus some to freeze for the future. Planning several meals that begin with diced onion browned in olive oil? Chop and cook all those onions at once and store the extras in the fridge. Once you have a jar of delicious browned onions, you’re going to want to add them to everything! Serving salad two nights in a row? Wash and prep all your salad at once on the first night. Refrigerate the extra salad immediately: Pack the lettuce loosely into a bowl and cover with a dish towel. Salad that’s made more than 24 hours in advance and/or crammed tightly into storage will be noticeably less fresh.
Clean-up Shortcuts – Using your Food Processor? Cut Everything!All the parts of my food processor except the base can be cleaned in the dishwasher. However, by the time I have a full dishwasher to run, shreds of food have dried and stuck firmly to the food processor parts. If I use the food processor when the dishwasher is almost full, there isn’t room to fit in all the parts.It’s best to hand-wash the food processor immediately after use. Those few minutes of effort seem more worthwhile when the food processor has done more work for me. When I plan to cut or mix something in my food processor, I also think about what else I might need to cut in uniform shreds or slices…
- Vegetables from my CSA farm share that will need to be cut before we use or freeze them. Get those veggies in the freezer quickly (minimizing nutrient loss) or use them in tomorrow’s cooking.
- Bread heels that I can make into breadcrumbs if I simply toast and process them now. Breadcrumbs freeze very well.
- A two-pound block of cheese. I can grate 3/4 of the block for two meals this week plus a bag of grated cheese in the freezer, leaving a half-pound of cheese in the fridge for snacking.
Your kids CAN make their own healthy breakfast!
Join the Kids Cook Real Food Weekend Challenge: Kids Master Breakfast and imagine your kids making breakfast independently! This challenge contains pro-filmed video lessons you can do at your own pace and finish in one weekend. Perfect for busy families!!
Your Kids Need Life Skills
It’s up to us parents to prepare our kids for the real world. Get a free family pass to the #LifeSkillsNow Summer Camp!
Free Virtual Summer Camp June 13-17, 2022
Prepare your kids for life with solid skills for living that aren’t taught in school!
Meal Prep Shortcuts – Grated Vegetables are Great!Save time and money by making your own frozen vegetables from veggies that are in season or on sale. Package in quantities that are the right size for your favorite recipes!When I pulled out my current stash of homemade frozen veggies, all except the tomatoes (which were diced) were in thin shreds.I’ve found that veggies grated or thinly sliced are best for freezing, for several reasons.
- Grated veggies thaw faster. You can spread them into a thin layer when freezing, or immediately after removal from the freezer (mash the bag against the counter with the heels of your hands). Depending upon the vegetable and the cooking technique, you may not even have to thaw. Simply grab bags of veggies from the freezer and empty them into the pot
- Grated veggies cook faster because of their high ratio of surface area to volume. Frozen vegetables often seem more watery than fresh ones. With thin shreds, rather than chunks, it’s easier to turn that excess water into steam when you saute the veggies. You’ll finish with a flavorful dish that isn’t soggy in the least.
- Grated veggies are easy to sneak into meals! Easily work more vegetables into soup or spaghetti sauce with thin shreds that blend right in, softening to an almost unnoticeable consistency. No more chunks that picky people will scrutinize while demanding, “What’s this thing?!”
- Grated veggies work well in baked goods! Zucchini bread, carrot cake, etc. They can even be used in place of oil or applesauce in most muffin recipes.
- Grated veggies don’t need to be blanched before freezing. That saves time, effort, and energy.
- Grated veggies are less prone to freezer burn because it’s easier to get all the air out of the bag. This makes thawed-and-cooked veggies taste as good as fresh-and-cooked ones, instead of tasting like stale ice cubes!
Meal Time Shortcuts – Eat from the Freezer and PantryFrozen vegetables, whether store-bought or homemade, are convenient for making quick, healthy meals. Keeping a well-stocked pantry will help you to be ready for healthy cooking. When you feel like you have time to cook or time to shop, but not both, check your freezer and pantry for inspiration! Maintain a list of what’s in your freezer so you won’t have to dig around in there.One of our trusty pantry-and-freezer meals is Mexican Beans. Packed with fiber, protein, iron, and Vitamins B and C! Leaving only one pot to wash!
- Brown fresh or frozen onion in oil (if you need to use dried minced onion, add it in step 2).
- Drain and rinse 2 cans or 2 cups of precooked beans (pinto, black, or kidney). Add to the skillet with 1 cup fresh, frozen, or canned tomatoes and 1 cup fresh or frozen bell pepper (can sub salsa for tomatoes and pepper), and chili powder to taste. Cook until hot.
- Serve with corn chips, cheese, guacamole, cilantro, olives, etc. Dinner’s ready in 15 minutes!
- American Beanwich – tastes like a McDonald’s cheeseburger, but you can make it faster than you can get through a drive-thru!
- Green Ribbon Lentils – Italian-flavored, comforting on a cold night, yet not too steamy to cook on a hot day.
- Lazy Loubie – easy version of a Middle Eastern dish, using canned or frozen vegetables.
- Homemade Halvah – or chocolate tahini. Gives a great energy boost! Dip apples or a banana, or just eat it off the butter knife.
- Yogurt Sundaes – feel like dessert but loaded with calcium and protein. Plus, a way to use up random fruit.
- Tomato Toast – wonderful breakfast or snack – with protein and B vitamins – when you have fresh tomatoes handy.