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What are your cooking "shortcuts"?

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lilmomma May 14, 2009 07:44 AM

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. l
    LauraGrace RE: lilmomma May 16, 2009 06:51 AM

    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
      c
      cheesecake17 RE: LauraGrace May 16, 2009 06:37 PM

      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. alkapal RE: lilmomma May 16, 2009 07:49 AM

      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: https://www.birdseye.com/inspiration/...

      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. m
        masha RE: lilmomma May 16, 2009 08:45 AM

        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
          alkapal RE: masha May 16, 2009 08:52 AM

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

          1. re: alkapal
            mels RE: alkapal May 16, 2009 01:47 PM

            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
              Shrinkrap RE: mels May 17, 2009 10:24 PM

              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
              Rmis32 RE: alkapal May 17, 2009 11:03 AM

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

              1. re: Rmis32
                alkapal RE: Rmis32 May 17, 2009 05:21 PM

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

            3. re: masha
              s
              salsailsa RE: masha May 18, 2009 01:51 PM

              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. q
              Querencia RE: lilmomma May 16, 2009 05:09 PM

              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
                j
                jules1026 RE: Querencia May 17, 2009 05:54 PM

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

              2. Cafe Mich RE: lilmomma May 16, 2009 05:29 PM

                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.

                1. h
                  himbeer RE: lilmomma May 17, 2009 11:41 AM

                  I have to say that trader joe's pizza dough is good enough for me to stop making it from scratch.

                  I must confess that I now use microwavable boil in a bag rice packets. Just before my oven conked out, I seemed to have lost my timing touch with rice. then the oven conked out, so it was my microwave and my toaster oven for meals. I can zap the rice, then my veggies. Rice usually retains heat or maybe pop in for another minute. I love not having to hover in the kitchen.

                  1. Boccone Dolce RE: lilmomma May 17, 2009 09:38 PM

                    Forgive me if I go a little Rachael Ray on you (I can relate to her-she's Italian, she's not afraid to make fun of herself and she likes to eat!) but it helps me lots to prep stuff when I buy it- get the veggies cleaned, chopped and bagged- get the meat seperated and vac-sealed, and getting creative with leftovers... Not being afraid to eat leftovers 6 + days later has also 'freed' me and I am throwing out a lot less. (I'm not recommending anyone eat old food!)
                    No shame in jarred sauce, canned beans and cold pizza for breakfast either!

                    1. CPla RE: lilmomma May 18, 2009 02:36 AM

                      One of the things I like about Thai curries is the use of curry pastes, like red and green. Granted, these have to be prepared ahead (or buy them ready made if you prefer), but once you have a batch in the fridge, cooking the actual dish is a breeze.

                      Compare that to Indonesian / Malay or Indian curries which typically start from scratch and you will see the big difference.

                      As I get fresh ingredients here, I just make up a batch of curry paste on the weekend and use it for weeknight meals as and when. I store the paste in a jar in the fridge - it keeps fine for 3 - 4 months. If it starts to lose its flavour, I toss it out and make a new batch.

                      CPla
                      http://www.chefpla.com

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