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May 14, 2009 07:44 AM

What are your cooking "shortcuts"?

I usually try to cook from scratch but I do use jarred spaghetti sauce when I amke spaghetti. I buy rotisserie chickens from the market. What else?

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  1. Pre-cook rice and freeze it in serving-size or meal-size portion. Best cooking shortcut I've ever discovered.

    Well, and speaking of freezing... when you cook something lovely and homemade and you SLAVE for HOURS over the stove, make twice as much. Or three times as much. It doesn't take that much more time or effort, and you have two more meals in the freezer.

    I roast garlic in massive quantities when I have the oven already heated up, then freeze the cloves on a cookie sheet, and when they're frozen I store them in a plastic baggie.

    Most of my shortcuts, as you can tell, are in-advance, like on the weekend to save me time during the week.

    1 Reply
    1. re: LauraGrace

      I do the same things. I'll roast about 15 heads of garlic and store the cloves- makes the best garlic bread.

      I also make double quantaties of lasanga, baked ziti, mac and cheese, spinach tart, and tomato sauce. All freeze well in a large container or in single servings.

      Rice is always great frozen- brown or white. I also buy the Steamfresh rice when it's on sale and I have a coupon. 5 min in the microwave, a little salt, and fresh rice is on the table.

    2. one shortcut is using the frozen chopped or sliced bell pepper melange. easy to find in any grocery's freezer case. currently, we have trader joe's version. the birdseye brand -- also good -- is pictured here:

      i use them in sauces for chicken, in spaghetti sauce, in breakfast scrambled eggs, in toppings for fish, in asian-style stir fry, in yellow rice with chicken and smoked sausage &/or mixed frozen seafood for a quickie jambalaya/paella type dish.

      some versions also have sliced white onion, and those versions are good, too.

      ps, to amp up your jarred spaghetti sauce, add some freshly ground fennel seed (about a good 1/2 T, and some fresh sliced garlic. the fennel makes an *incredible* difference. btw, if you have cubed eggplant, it does quite nicely in spaghetti sauce -- esp. with some minced onions.

      1. I used bottled Italian dressing as a marinade for boneless chicken breasts, before grillling when I am in a hurry.

        Also, I'll cook potatoes for baking for 10 minutes in the microwave, while the oven is preheating, which shaves about 1/2 hour off the baking time.

        6 Replies
        1. re: masha

          that italian dressing is a good marinade for beef steaks, too. <purists, don't scold me>.

          1. re: alkapal

            I also use Italian dressing or (my fav) Newman's Own Parm, Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil dressing to marinade cheapo meat, like london broil, before grilling. Also makes great chicken marinade.

            Most of my shortcuts involve advanced prep work to make weeknight cooking faster. Making a big roast on a weekend to use leftovers is a great time saver. I'll roast a chicken or turkey and use leftovers for quesadillas, burritos, tacos, soups, sandwiches, etc. You can even carve off the breast and freeze it whole.

            I'll also make large vats of soup, freeze portion sizes, then take them for an easy lunch at work.

            1. re: mels

              Ihat's reminding me that when I was a kid, I read you could marinate London broil in French dressing, and I used to use that creamy orange stuff.

            2. re: alkapal

              We won't scold you, but your post has been reported to Alice Waters. Needless to say, she's horrified.

              1. re: Rmis32

                well, alice can add me to her "to scold" list. i'll be number 731.

            3. re: masha

              I use the microwave for potatoes, then rub the skins with butter and salt and broil them in the oven to crisp the skins.

            4. I agree with everything that's been said, especially that Mr Freezer is Our Friend, and would add this: you can make a surprisingly good very quick stir-fry meal by starting with a package of the pre-shredded cabbage meant for coleslaw. Dump it into a skillet with a little oil and a sliced onion. While it is cooking, locate anything you want to add, like a cut-up pork chop or a few shrimp from the freezer. Season the whole thing with soy sauce, sherry, a garlic powder, and a teaspoon of sugar. A couple more quick things: Near East cous-cous, which requires no cooking at all; frozen tortellini, with extra basil added to a jar of sauce; cook a whole pound of bacon at once, on a wide bun pan, by baking it in the oven until it's nearly done; drain on paper; refrigerate; wrap a couple slices in a paper towel and zap for 30 seconds when you want to use it for breakfast or a BLT. Ah, one more brainless meal: deli sliced roast beef heated in a jar of beef gravy, with baked Idaho potatoes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Querencia

                I do the stir fry thing too, except I use broccoli slaw.

              2. One of our favorite shortcuts is to grill the whole meal: meat, potatoes, veg. The husband wraps cut up potatoes in foil with salt and butter and puts that on before the meat. Then he puts on the meat, and lastly puts on the oiled and salted veg, such as asparagus. Added bonus is not pots or pans to clean.

                Another favorite is meal-in-a-salad. Take your leftover fish from the night before, and throw it in with some greens and leftover cold cooked rice. Toast some nuts in the toaster oven and toss it all together with vinaigrette. Monkey work and totally tasty.