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Cooking - Best Time Saving Tips?

l
littleflower Sep 23, 2013 02:13 PM

I have been battling some health issues lately, and hope to sometime in the near future try and ease back into a little cooking again if I am able to. Please share your tips with me on how to save time in the kitchen so that I can prepare a good meal (Chow-worthy or otherwise!) without exerting too much energy or having to stand at the stove for an extended period of time.

Also please do share any kitchen tools (pressure cooker for example) that will help to cut down the time I have to spend in the kitchen. I eat a variety of foods, with an emphasis on meats for good protein. Thanks in advance for your advice!

  1. p
    pine time Sep 23, 2013 02:16 PM

    Cook once, eat twice (or more). Some people eschew leftovers, but I purposely make enough for planned-leftovers. That way, we can either have them the next day, with no cooking, or freeze a few portions for a later day when I don't have the oomph to cook.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pine time
      l
      littleflower Sep 23, 2013 05:05 PM

      I have no problem with leftovers...good idea - will try to cook once and see how long I can stretch it out for more than one dinner.

    2. j
      John Francis Sep 23, 2013 02:25 PM

      The greatest time-saver in my kitchen is a large-size toaster oven (Breville or Krups). I've never had a microwave oven but that too is a time-saver, for such foods as it's suitable for.

      10 Replies
      1. re: John Francis
        l
        littleflower Sep 23, 2013 05:07 PM

        Good one, John - I do not have a toaster oven, but I could put it in an area of the kitchen (so that I don't have to stand at the stove) where I can sit down and just wait for the food to finish preparing. Plus, it should save me some money on my electric bill if I do not have to heat up an entire stove to cook up a slice of say, garlic bread.

        1. re: John Francis
          l
          littleflower Sep 23, 2013 05:29 PM

          John, besides some of the obvious ones (making garlic bread, quick snack - "english muffin pizzas", etc.) do you have any recommendations on how to use the toaster oven to make simple dishes? If you use it for this purpose, any ideas would be appreciated.

          1. re: littleflower
            greygarious Sep 23, 2013 06:31 PM

            Eric Ripert has/had a deal to promote the Cuisinart toaster oven. In that connection, he has a blog, "Get Toasted", of toaster oven recipes that should be useful regardless of brand.

            1. re: greygarious
              l
              littleflower Sep 26, 2013 06:11 PM

              Grey I googled it but ended up coming to this:
              http://www.aveceric.com/recipes-get-t...

              I would love to see his toaster oven recipes - I wonder if they are featured anyone else online???

              1. re: littleflower
                greygarious Sep 26, 2013 09:53 PM

                Hmm - I'm not seeing them anymore, either, but found this link to a Get Toasted video series: http://blip.tv/eric-ripert-avec-eric/...

            2. re: littleflower
              KarenDW Sep 23, 2013 08:52 PM

              In our house, the toaster oven (Breville, convection, larger) is used for: roasting a split chicken; baked potatoes; roasted vegetables; bake a 9" square pan of squares or cake; bake a dozen cookies from pre-portioned & frozen dough; bake 6 biscuits; dry herbs; bake fritatta; cook bread puddings in individual ramekins; roast 4 pork chops or a 1 lb pork tenderloin; cook a pizza.

              1. re: KarenDW
                l
                littleflower Sep 26, 2013 06:15 PM

                Wonderful, Karen! How much does one of those cost? I am looking at a slightly limited budget now...hoping to purchase a decent one under a hundred dollars.

              2. re: littleflower
                d
                DevorahL Sep 24, 2013 01:18 PM

                You can do pretty much anything in a toaster oven you would do in a normal oven, except that it is smaller so larger dishes won't fit. It isn't recommended for really finicky baking recipes, but I've made cookies, muffins, cheesecakes, etc., in one with no problems. Foods tend to cook slightly quicker, so keep an eye on them.

                1. re: DevorahL
                  l
                  littleflower Sep 26, 2013 06:14 PM

                  Oh trust me I don't think I will be preparing too many chef-y memories right now...just trying to get decent food that doesn't always have to be all take-out.

                  Thanks for the tip on the time it takes for foods to be done in them...good to know.

              3. re: John Francis
                s
                Sharuf Sep 27, 2013 01:39 PM

                I cook most of my dinners in the toaster oven. One favorite is chicken legs with some veggie sharing the pan (zucchini or green beans, usually) and a sweet potato baking in there as well. Also, sausage with baked beans or winter squash works well.

              4. e
                ErnieD Sep 23, 2013 02:44 PM

                Roast! You can put things in the oven and let them do their thing, staying within smelling distance but on the couch or wherever. You can also roast multiple things (e.g. chicken parts or pork and some kind of vegetable) and either but them all in at the same time, or only have a minute on your feet to add the later thing. I prefer almost every vegetable roasted. You can also slow cook, either in a crock pot or a dutch oven, with minimal prep time and nice results.

                4 Replies
                1. re: ErnieD
                  l
                  littleflower Sep 23, 2013 05:09 PM

                  Ah, excellent!! I thought of roasting (I love to roast pork loin, leg of lamb, etc.) but did NOT think of roasting more than one thing at a time.

                  1. re: littleflower
                    d
                    DevorahL Sep 24, 2013 01:20 PM

                    Bon Appetit did a great feature a while back (http://www.bonappetit.com/uncategoriz...) of Sheet Pan Dinners, i.e. dinners that cook on one sheet pan, protein and veg together. They sometimes instruct you to put the ingredients on at different times, to accommodate cooking times, but they make for easy, simple dinners. My favorite is the wasabi salmon with bok choy and mushrooms.

                    1. re: DevorahL
                      MidwesternerTT Sep 25, 2013 07:00 AM

                      Thanks much for this tip - I found several I want to try.

                      1. re: MidwesternerTT
                        The Dairy Queen Oct 1, 2013 06:25 AM

                        Me too!

                        I went searching for the Bon Appetit link (not realizing Devorah had already provided a link) and found this story with a few other sheet pan dinner ideas, too. http://www.buzzfeed.com/rachelysander...

                        ~TDQ

                2. greygarious Sep 23, 2013 02:57 PM

                  Mise-en-place: Sit down while you measure and prep your ingredients. Put the containers on a tray. Use cupcake papers in a muffin tin to hold your measured seasonings and other small ingredient amounts. You can toss them, or shake them out to reuse, and won't dirty the tin. This will minimize the time spent standing at the counter and stove.

                  I don't use the cupcake papers because I have a set of 6oz silicone cups from Amazon. They are easy to rinse out, and to pour from.

                  Casseroles, stews, and other one-dish meals would help you.
                  I make a lot of legume-containing soups, 3 qts at a time. But in summer, I want to avoid heating up the kitchen, and eating hot meals, so I make a large batch of multi-bean salad - about the only time I buy canned beans - and eat that for my daily bean equivalent. When it's finished, I add seasonings to the remaining liquid to turn it into salad dressing.

                  Cut your raw meat into bite-sized pieces for quick cooking. You can do stir-fries, of course, but there's no rule that you can't cut your steak before you pan-sear it. Instead of roasting a whole chicken as is, spatchcock/butterfly it, or roast parts, and put chunked vegetables onto the same pan to roast along with the chicken.

                  Bake a pound of bacon strips on a sheet pan (375-400F, watch it at 15 min and remember it will cook more after it's out of the oven as you wait for the pan to cool a bit). Let the cooked strips drip before transferring to paper towels. Pour off the fat and refrigerate it. The bacon will keep for over a month in the fridge. Then when you want to make bacon and eggs, use the fat to cook the eggs, toss in some bacon at the end to warm it through. Breakfast in a few minutes.

                  To shorten your cooking times, present yourself with the mental challenge of how you would cook if your stove had a meter you needed to feed with quarters. Ditto for reheating leftovers - cut your food up before you rewarm it.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: greygarious
                    l
                    littleflower Sep 23, 2013 05:13 PM

                    Grey, you ALWAYS have such great ideas - thank you!!! Love the one about the cupcake holders for mise-en-place and the cutting up raw meat into bite-sized pieces first - stir frying will be a helpful way to cook b/c the food can be cooked in no time.

                    1. re: greygarious
                      fldhkybnva Sep 24, 2013 12:57 PM

                      I usually try to do a big mise en place every few days or so. I just camp out in the kitchen with music on and go to won. If not for the next day then at least for the meals that day. It's so useful to have it all ready to go. Also while in the kitchen, I try to prep anything else that I can for the day, trim and prepare any meats, assemble any things that can just be popped into the oven, simmer a sauce for later while I'm chopping, shred any cheeses, etc.

                      1. re: fldhkybnva
                        c oliver Sep 24, 2013 01:01 PM

                        I do that sort of things when we entertain. ANYTHING that doesn't suffer from sitting around all day gets done ahead. Salad dressing, app, dessert, mise en place. It feels so great when, in mid-afternoon, I can say "dinner's basically done." And I physically feel better cause I've spread it over the whole day. And then I hap :)

                        1. re: c oliver
                          fldhkybnva Sep 24, 2013 01:33 PM

                          Exactly. I might e lame but Friay night is usually the prep night. Last week for example I roasted tomatoes which were quickly pureed afterwards and stashed in the fridge until Sunday, while the tomatoes were going I used the processor to make salad dressing for the weekend and to chop broccoli stems into slaw which made it's way into the freezer, sauteed mushrooms and garlic to be used for stuffed mushrooms the next day, etc. I love walking into a kitchen and just knowing it's all ready to go. If I did all the prep separately, it really adds up since every time I have to get out supplies, clean, wash, repeat. This way it's all done at once and my knife gets and cutting board are taken out and cleaned once.

                    2. c oliver Sep 23, 2013 02:58 PM

                      Mise en place. Not because it actually saves time but because I can do that part ahead of time and then the actual cooking goes a lot faster. And I can do it sitting on a stool in the kitchen.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: c oliver
                        l
                        littleflower Sep 23, 2013 05:15 PM

                        Awesome thought about the stool...I am searching around online to see if I can find a comfortable chair with a back that is high enough where I can place it in front of the stove (when I have no other choice but using my burners) so I do not have to stand long. One with wheels would be a plus as well so that I can just wheel from one part of the kitchen to another on days where I am totally exhausted.

                        1. re: littleflower
                          p
                          pine time Sep 24, 2013 01:07 PM

                          Wish I had room for a stool in the kitchen, but I don't. I have joint problems and pain problems, though, so I bought 2 of those gel mats for under the stove and under the sink--they do make a difference in standing on hard kitchen tiles.

                          1. re: pine time
                            c oliver Sep 24, 2013 01:12 PM

                            I bought those also - great price at Costco. They make a huge difference. And one can be moved to where slicing and dicing is going on. I still have to remind myself to sit for larger jobs.

                            1. re: c oliver
                              fldhkybnva Sep 24, 2013 01:34 PM

                              I don't have a stool either though now that you mention it should just get one. I often use the kitchen table but it's just not quite high enough to be comfortable so after a while I start to feel it in my back and feet. Thanks for the suggestion of a chair..duh!

                              1. re: c oliver
                                p
                                pine time Sep 25, 2013 09:52 AM

                                Got mine at CostCo, too, and while I initially was skeptical, I'm a convert. Plus, 'cause of the joint/back issues, I pull out a lower drawer and rest one foot on it to reduce the pressure on my back. Between the mats and the drawer-trick, has reduced my cooking pain a lot. My table is too low for comfortable chopping, so I still do it at the counter.

                                1. re: pine time
                                  l
                                  littleflower Sep 26, 2013 06:24 PM

                                  Forgive me if I have asked this already, but does anyone have a recommendation for a comfortable chair with a back that would be suitable to use in the kitchen? That would be a tremendous help to me - I even thought about purchasing an comfortable leather office chair that way I would be 1) comfortable since I tire easily and 2) the height could be adjusted on it hopefully to use at the stovetop.

                                  1. re: littleflower
                                    j
                                    justalex Sep 26, 2013 08:52 PM

                                    We recently purchased a rollator/walker for my mother at Walgreens. It was around $150.00. It's not lovely, but she uses it to sit on when she doing different things. It has a low back and the height of the seat is adjustable. It's quite small and can be collapsed for travel. The light weight of it allows her to use her feet to move around. It might fit your needs.

                                    Hope you're feeling better soon!

                                    1. re: justalex
                                      l
                                      littleflower Oct 1, 2013 04:21 PM

                                      Thank you, justalex.

                                    2. re: littleflower
                                      cronker Sep 26, 2013 11:46 PM

                                      See if you can track down a drafters chair, used by graphic designers, architects etc. they are basically a tall office chair on wheels. Adjustable, padded seat and back.

                                      http://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&n...

                                      1. re: cronker
                                        l
                                        littleflower Oct 1, 2013 04:24 PM

                                        That is what I had in mind actually...a chair with a comfortable back, one that was adjustable in height, and had wheels. I really like the one for 124.00 with the high back chair (second row from the bottom, first chair in that row). Great one, thank you!!!

                                      2. re: littleflower
                                        p
                                        pine time Sep 27, 2013 07:52 AM

                                        You might also look at what's called a "shower chair," but with a back. While I've not seen them with an adjustable back (they do have adjustable heights), they're low profile, and you can also use it, natch, in the shower, which can add safety and comfort while bathing. When I was recuperating from knee replacement (and a few other medical issues), I was shocked at how exhausting just getting a shower can be.

                                        Best wishes.

                                        1. re: pine time
                                          l
                                          littleflower Oct 1, 2013 04:25 PM

                                          Already looking into this...this is an essential for me and key to being safe in the shower. Thank you so much for your well wishes.

                            2. LA Buckeye Fan Sep 23, 2013 03:34 PM

                              Slow cooker. Doesn't take less cooking time but breaks up the work. Chicken tenders with stock. Frozen peas and a slurry added later. Frozen gnocchi added. Chicken stew .

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: LA Buckeye Fan
                                l
                                littleflower Sep 23, 2013 05:16 PM

                                Thanks for the recipe ideas - I need these, too!! Chicken stew sounds yummy and quick to prepare.

                              2. l
                                littleflower Sep 23, 2013 05:04 PM

                                WONDERFUL tips, everyone!!! Thank you so much for your advice...keep 'em coming! I can use all of these helpful hints to help speed up my time needed to spend in the kitchen.

                                1. bobabear Sep 23, 2013 06:53 PM

                                  I try to do the a Sunday night large meal (we are 2 people). So it'll be a whole roast chicken, a beef roast, a few steaks, a few chicken legs, whatever protein we want for a few days in bulk.

                                  Cook it simply: roasted chicken with just S&P, seared steak with just S&P...

                                  Then you have leftover, ready cooked protein base for the next few days! Ideas include steak/chicken salad, chicken pot pie, stir frys of any variety, pastas, rice dishes... Get imaginative!

                                  Cooking the meats ahead of time means I only have 20 minute cooking time from Monday - Wednesday during the week.

                                  --

                                  Alternatively, I did a similar thing over the summer with veggies. Anything I could roast on the grill in bulk, then save leftovers for the weekday. Salads, grain salads, pastas, stir frys... Now that it's getting colder, you could do the same with roasting veggies in the oven.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: bobabear
                                    c oliver Sep 24, 2013 04:20 AM

                                    When I'm not using the grill for meat, I frequently roast vegetables in the over. High temp on a baking sheet, oo, s&p, stirring a couple of times.

                                    1. re: bobabear
                                      l
                                      littleflower Sep 26, 2013 06:26 PM

                                      GOOD suggestion...quick question - what temperature do you set the oven at to accomodate for the various meats? I am assuming you vary the cooking time per item??

                                    2. t
                                      tastesgoodwhatisit Sep 23, 2013 07:36 PM

                                      For meats - you can batch cook stuff and freeze it for quick use. I often find meat the most time consuming part of the meal, when you include prep and food safety.

                                      For example - roast, stew or braise a chunk of meat (ham, roast beef, pot roast, pork shoulder, beef shanks, etc). Cool and slice and freeze in one or two meal portions. I find that drizzling a bit of stock/pan juices/gravy over the sliced meat before freezing keeps it moist when reheated. Roasting and braising take time but little effort - sometimes I'll do it in the evening after dinner, for the next night. Toss vegetables in the bottom of the pan while it cooks (onions, cherry tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, garlic, parsnips, squash), or bake potatoes or squash in the oven at the same time.

                                      A rice cooker is a real effort saver - set the rice going when you start to prepare dinner, and when the rest of the food is ready, it will be done, and happily waiting for you. You can vary things - use brown rice, use things like stock, wine, tomato juice for some of the water, add herbs or spices or butter, toss in some other grains (millet, Chinese 5/10/12 treasure oats), add some diced vegetables.

                                      Prep your salad veggies when you bring your groceries home. Wash the lettuce and put it in a lettuce keeper, wash/peel/trim various veggies and put them in a bin. Then you can prepare a garden salad in very little time.

                                      Ultimately, though, the thing I've found made the most difference in cooking efficiency is lots and lots of practice - so that I can cook stuff efficiently without having to think about it or use a recipe, and can do multiple things at the same time.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                        fldhkybnva Sep 24, 2013 12:58 PM

                                        I always prep veggie when I get home. Sometimes I try to skip it and then remind myself that while it takes longer now, it saves a ton of time in the long run. I always remove stems from mushroom and plop them into paper bags, remove ends of asparagus and put in bowls of water, cut broccoli florets and put stems in bags to be frozen, blanch any veggies while I'm in the kitchen and wrap them up for fridge and freezer.

                                        1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                          l
                                          littleflower Sep 26, 2013 06:31 PM

                                          Love the suggestion on slicing the meats/drizzling with residual pan juices and freezing them for individual meals!!!

                                          Speaking of cooking rice...I need to ask a very non-Chow-worthy question on it, so bear with me. Due to my current situation, I can digest rice that is soft/kinda mushy much better than I can the way you would normally prepare rice. Any tips on how I can achieve this??

                                          1. re: littleflower
                                            t
                                            tastesgoodwhatisit Sep 26, 2013 08:10 PM

                                            Use more water. A short grain rice will also tend to be stickier than a long grain rice.

                                            You might want to try rice porridge. You cook short grain rice with a lot more water than you would usually use (10 cups liquid to one cup rice on the stove, 6 to 1 in a slow cooker) and cook for a long time (simmering for at least an hour and a half, until it reaches the texture of a thick porridge, and the rice grains have lost their shape.

                                            One nice version uses about 1/3-1/2 chicken broth and the rest water. Toss in some chicken, skin and fat removed, and when it's cooked shred it and toss it back it. Season with thinly sliced ginger, green onions and scallions.

                                            This is classic Chinese comfort food - when you're sick, it's like chicken noodle soup - and is very easy to digest.

                                            I also like it with pork and thousand year egg, and I've had it with seafood as well.

                                            1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                              g
                                              grangie angie Sep 27, 2013 04:41 PM

                                              Yes.....congee ! Delicious!

                                              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                l
                                                littleflower Oct 1, 2013 04:33 PM

                                                I am definitely trying this with my slow cooker. Excellent idea!! Love the fact that it is easy to digest as well as being comforting and tasty.

                                          2. KarenDW Sep 23, 2013 09:00 PM

                                            Sometimes I plan the "major" cooking for a time of day when I have the most energy. i.e., roast a couple of chickens mid-morning, so that I actually have some time and energy to package for freezing later. I find that the time after an evening meal is when I have the least energy!
                                            Additionally:
                                            * peel/dice/package vegetables which I use most often: carrots, onions, celergy, parsley; I choose one and make up packets for the freezer.
                                            * shop at a "higher energy" time of day, so that I have time to put things away.
                                            * pre-portion meals before freezing, so that they are ready for low-energy days
                                            * invite a friend to come and help me prepare a meal, and we make extra of everything
                                            * if I order meal delivery, I get containers ready while I'm waiting, so that leftover food is properly stored
                                            * if budget allows, purchase some vegetables pre-chopped (especially squash!), and conserve energy for other items.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: KarenDW
                                              l
                                              littleflower Sep 26, 2013 06:34 PM

                                              Karen, thank you for your thoughtful post - I appreciate your added tips on cooking with limited energy. I will definitely put your tips to good use - esp. the purchasing pre-chopped veggies and inviting a friend to come over to assist (and
                                              I would enjoy the company!) :-)

                                            2. Chemicalkinetics Sep 23, 2013 09:07 PM

                                              I didn't read all the response, but here I do.

                                              Obviously cooking for leftover same time. In other words, cooking for several meals in one sitting save time.

                                              In general, there are two kind of cooking. The dry and fast cooking -- like pan frying and sauting and stir frying, and the moist and slow cooking -- like braising and stewing. Although the moist and slow cooking take longer absolute time, it actually takes less time on the cook. In other words, you may have to wait for 1-3 hours for your meal, but the time you are in your kitchen in shorter. The extreme case is the fool proof crock pot. It takes very little user time, but you will need to wait for hours (4-12 hour) before getting your food.

                                              Baking is another one of those long time cooking, but less investment from the users.

                                              Pressure cooker I have. It is one of those tools which save the cooking time, but not really your kitchen time.

                                              1. m
                                                mwk Sep 24, 2013 07:40 AM

                                                The Slow Cooker and the Pressure Cooker are your friends. The Slow Cooker is great not for time savings but for effort savings. Dump all the ingredients in, set it and forget it until dinner time.

                                                The Pressure Cooker is a fantastic time saver. Making soups, stews and braises in the cooker will save a lot of time. You can have a delicious beef stew in 30 minutes, or cook dried beans from scratch in 30 minutes.

                                                Two cookbooks that I love, and offer up simple and low-effort recipes are Pressure Perfect, by Lorna Sass, and Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson. Both will give you some great ideas for easy and low-effort meals. Much of the Nigella Express content is available on the Food Network website, so you can check out her ideas first.

                                                Also, one of my favorite things to eat is soup. Soup is so easy to make and it's hearty and healthy and delicious. For instance, a box of good Chicken Stock, a box of frozen chopped spinach, a bag of frozen tortellini, boiled in a pot together until the tortellini is cooked through, sprinkled with some grated parmesan cheese, and you have a delicious and hearty meal.

                                                Also, think big (as mentioned). Instead of buying a small chicken, buy the biggest oven stuffer roaster you can find, and put it in the oven. You can eat for days, just slicing off meat for sandwiches, or just eating it cold or warmed up with some steamed veggies on the side. If you find you have too much, stick it in the freezer and you have it for putting in soups (see above) or a very quick sautee with some frozen vegetable mix.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: mwk
                                                  l
                                                  littleflower Sep 26, 2013 06:40 PM

                                                  Awesome post...many thanks!

                                                  Two quick questions (by the way, I love Nigella Lawson's recipes - will look into purchasing this book).

                                                  1) Good store bought chicken stock - recommendations for the best to use that comes *close* to homemade?

                                                  2) Recommendation for a good electric pressure cooker under a 100 dollars?

                                                  1. re: littleflower
                                                    fldhkybnva Sep 26, 2013 11:15 PM

                                                    I really like kitchen basics line of stocks.

                                                    1. re: littleflower
                                                      m
                                                      mwk Sep 27, 2013 11:48 AM

                                                      Kitchen Basics is very good because it's relatively low in sodium and has good flavor. I also like Pacific brand stock. Most stores will carry both brands, although Pacific is usually found in the "natural foods" section of the store.

                                                      As for pressure cookers, don't get an electric one. A plain old stove top one is much cheaper and will work better. You can use it to brown meats before cooking, too. Make sure to get one that has a pop up regulator, rather than the weighted jiggly kind, as I am told the pop up ones are safer and keep better pressure regulation. I have a Fagor brand that I bought on Amazon and I really like it.

                                                      One other thing with pressure cookers; get the largest one you can, certainly no smaller than a 6 quart size. The reason is that you can't fill a pressure cooker more than 2/3 or so, and a small cooker will really limit what you can make in it. Also, if you have a larger cooker, you can make enough for those leftovers we are all telling you to have ready.

                                                      1. re: mwk
                                                        l
                                                        littleflower Oct 1, 2013 04:27 PM

                                                        I had always thought the stovetop pressure cookers were all on the "dangerous" side to use, I didn't know that there were variations even among the stovetop kind. Thanks for the tip on the size of the pressure cooker...will stick with a 6 or 8 qt.

                                                  2. fldhkybnva Sep 24, 2013 01:01 PM

                                                    In addition to what I've mentioned above, I always clean as I go but what is also useful is to put away anything after a meal that's been cleaned. If I'm done eating and the dish is dry, it goes back where it belongs. If there are spare minutes in the morning, which there usually are just a few, I empty the dishwasher, and put anything in the drying rack away. I also set out food for that morning and afternoon the night ahead of time, including the food for the cat ready to be plated so I can just run out the door and then when I get home the kitchen is cleaned and ready to go.

                                                    1. d
                                                      DevorahL Sep 24, 2013 01:25 PM

                                                      I don't know if the reason you are pressed for time is that you are cooking after a long day at work, but if you are, this tip might help. I find it helps a lot when I plan exactly what I am making in the morning, and take about 5 minutes to get it ready. That means anything that will need to defrost goes in the fridge, ingredients stored in hard-to-reach places are taken out and left on the counter, vegetables are gathered in the fridge and left on the center shelf, and I do a quick check that I have all the ingredients I think I have (I hate realizing that I ran out of something right when I need it!) You can even slice or prep vegetables or soak brown rice in the water you will cook it in. If you pre-soak brown rice, it only takes 25 minutes instead of 50 to cook. Spending a few minutes getting organized in the AM saves a lot of time when you are tired and hungry at night.

                                                      1. fldhkybnva Sep 24, 2013 01:35 PM

                                                        Another handy tool is a timer with multiple timers, then you can do more than one thing and not have to worry about forgetting about it.

                                                        1. Caroline1 Sep 24, 2013 03:10 PM

                                                          I have physical challenges such as arthritic AND weak hands, so putting things into and taking them out of an oven when my housekeeper isn't here is a dangerous undertaking. The very best investment I have made that avoids all of this is my Sous Vide Supreme! Yes, it often takes a day of planning ahead, sometimes even two for very tough meats, BUT... NO danger of burning myself. NO hot ovens. Nothing that isn't easily managed, even when I'm alone.

                                                          And there are other advantages as well. Sous vide cooking results in extremely tender meat from what are normally extremely tough cuts. Last week I cooked a grass fed chuck roast to medium rare that was just incredible! It was Angus beef, and while still frozen I coated it with clarified butter, then scattered some crushed thyme across it and some fresh garlic, then cryovac(k)ed it and cooked it at 139F for about a day, then charred it with my kitchen torch. I've had perfectly cooked Porterhouse steaks that were tougher and less flavorful!

                                                          I cook all of my proteins EXCEPT seafood sous vide. I think cooking fish sous vide is folly because it is so fast and easy to cook normally! I adore sous vide Japanese style eggs where the whites and yolks are close to the same texture. I've never tried custards or scrambled eggs sous vide but have read that they're exceptional. I just can't seem to wrap my mind around weird shaped custards!

                                                          Anyway, a Souse Vide water oven is the best appliance in my kitchen when it comes to making cooking easy as pie! They aren't cheap, but they are sooooo worth it!

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                                            bobabear Sep 24, 2013 04:31 PM

                                                            I second a sous vide machine! I just got the Dork Food sous vide thing for my birthday and all it does is plug into my slow cooker and turn it into a temp controlled sous vide.

                                                            This past weekend, I made about 6 steaks in the sous vide, some veggie sides, dropped them in an ice bath and then put them in the fridge. All cooked and ready to eat for the weekday nights when I'm tired from work. I just warm it up and sear it quickly for a delicious complete meal.

                                                          2. juliejulez Sep 24, 2013 03:36 PM

                                                            I've been having to do a lot of quick cooking things lately. I'm not a fan of eating the same meal more than 1 night in a row (I'm fine with leftovers for lunch), so I do still like to cook every night even though I'm exhausted after a day at my crazy job.

                                                            One thing I've found that helps is cooking up larger batches of things like green beans or rice. I'll blanch 4 nights worth of green beans when they're on sale, for example, and then when it comes time to finish them, it only takes a few minutes because they are pre-blanched. Same with rice, I'll cook up a large quantity and use it in different ways throughout the week. So I really only have to spend one night spending more than maybe 20 minutes in the kitchen, but I still end up with a good meal.

                                                            Also rice freezes very well, I put it in individual sandwich baggies and just pull one out, take out of the bag and put in a bowl with a bit of water, and pop it in the microwave for a few minutes to heat it up.

                                                            The point about roasting too is a great one. You can roast up like 6-8 chicken breasts at a time, with just salt & pepper. Then, use them in different ways, even freeze them. Makes for good sandwiches, fajitas, tacos, enchiladas, pizzas, throw etc.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: juliejulez
                                                              p
                                                              pine time Sep 25, 2013 09:55 AM

                                                              Akin to your basic seasoned chicken, I also will brown a huge pan of ground beef, s & p only, drain the grease, then package in smallish freezer bags. So nice to have a head start on tacos, meat sauce, etc.

                                                              1. re: juliejulez
                                                                l
                                                                littleflower Sep 26, 2013 07:08 PM

                                                                Good to see another familiar "face" from the What's for Dinner threads, jj! I will definitely use your idea about cooking up multiple chicken breasts and didn't think of that before (usually I just roast up one or two skin/on bone-in at a time).

                                                                I use Ina's method of roasting skin-on, bone-in with butter/herbs applied underneath the skin and on top. Makes foolproof juicy, flavorful chicken breasts every time. Now I need to remember to buy a big batch of them vs. just one or two at the local market. :-)

                                                                1. re: littleflower
                                                                  juliejulez Oct 1, 2013 08:06 PM

                                                                  Yup the "cooking en masse" can be done with any protein really. I used this tonight... diced up 2lbs of chicken breasts and cooked them all at once... used half tonight, and I'll use the other half Thursday night.

                                                              2. Minavenus Sep 24, 2013 06:56 PM

                                                                I like to cut up vegetables and meat during the weekend, then freeze them for later use. During the weekdays, add them to noodles or rice to make stir fry, stew or soup. You can even cook the noodle or rice in advance and freeze them in freeze bag.

                                                                1. l
                                                                  littleflower Sep 26, 2013 06:07 PM

                                                                  Thanks so much everyone - I am super impressed with the great MUCH NEEDED tips that you are giving me. I wasn't well enough to post the past couple of days, but I would like to try and respond back to as many of your posts as possible. Bear with me here... and please do keep these fantastic ideas coming! :-)

                                                                  1. l
                                                                    littleflower Sep 26, 2013 06:19 PM

                                                                    Actually, on second thought...I do not want to bombard your inboxes with all of those replies! I will definitely hit the "recommend" button on many of these though, and will only respond with a post to those I have a question on.

                                                                    1. v
                                                                      Vidute Sep 26, 2013 09:39 PM

                                                                      Since you have difficulty standing at the stove, have you thought of purchasing an induction cooktop? You could place it on your kitchen table and I think it would be more comfortable for to sit at the table.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Vidute
                                                                        l
                                                                        littleflower Oct 1, 2013 04:28 PM

                                                                        Yes...the NuWave one in particular. Ming Tsai was touting the NuWave induction cooktop and I must say I was pretty impressed with it.

                                                                      2. cronker Sep 26, 2013 11:51 PM

                                                                        If you don't already have one, definitely purchase a mandolin with multiple cutting blade sets. These are excellent for cutting up vegetables very quickly.
                                                                        I make fries freshly cut in about one minute, and leave the skin on.
                                                                        It's great for carrots, onions pumpkin etc. anything really.
                                                                        Very helpful for saving time.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: cronker
                                                                          Caroline1 Sep 27, 2013 06:41 AM

                                                                          It's true. Mandolins are great! I highly recommend Benriner. Mine zipped past its 50th birthday a few years back, I can still buy replaceable blades, should these ever get dull, and lately I see most of the super chefs on TV using them, and no I'm not talking Chopped or programs like that. The really expensive mandolins are really cumbersome and a pain for a home cook to deal with.

                                                                          That said, when someone is ill or dealing with health issues, stamina is often a problem, and under such conditions, a food processor with slicing and/or grating blades beats a mandolin all to pieces! And then some. They have nothing to do with my arthritis, but I do have a good assortment of helpers in the slicing and dicing department. In addition to my very old Cuisinart that has 10 different disks plus other attachments, I would hate to give up my stick blender. I use the mini-processor that came with it to do small chopping chores when I'm cooking. You don't want to know how many kitchen toys live in my house! Buttttt...

                                                                          My point is that gadgets are great -- IF you already have them when illness strikes, or an expensive PIB if you have to buy them now or eat crackers and cheese three meals a day!

                                                                          Little Flower, good luck with the cooking while dealing with health issues. May your recovery be all that you hope it will be and more!!! Much much more. :-)

                                                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                                                            l
                                                                            littleflower Oct 1, 2013 04:31 PM

                                                                            Aww thank you so much Caroline, I just really miss being in the kitchen. I am getting a bit tired of eating rotiserrie chickens and other prepared foods. :-)

                                                                            1. re: littleflower
                                                                              Caroline1 Oct 2, 2013 09:21 AM

                                                                              Well, here's one glass raised in a toast to you being back in the kitchen with no holds barred very very soon! Bon santé et bon appetite!

                                                                        2. a
                                                                          Ama658 Sep 27, 2013 04:25 AM

                                                                          Well, this may or may not be "chow" worthy, but... :)
                                                                          A little while back I seriously injured my arm and it got to the point that any sort of cutting/chopping was painful. So, both at home and work I started using either frozen or pre--chopped vegetables.
                                                                          If you want to make soups or stews, adding a bag of frozen vegetables adds nutrients, saves time, and bulks out a meal. Things like broccoli slaw, shredded cabbage mix, or even a fresh "stir fry" pack make meals really fast. A quick sear and slice of a protein, add salad or vegetables, and I've got a meal out.
                                                                          Also, I found that often cooking/prepping of meats took a lot of time. So, I started doing it in batches. While the chicken was on the stove, the bacon was in the oven and perhaps some beef was in the slow cooker or also in the oven. And, If I could it was enough for each meat to be divided into several meals. Keep the seasoning neutral so you can add it to any meal...even if that means opening a bag of salad greens and veggies and putting the meat on top. :)

                                                                          1. s
                                                                            schrutefarms Sep 27, 2013 03:53 PM

                                                                            Some people might not be on board with this, but I love steamer bags. Ziplock makes them. Two to three minutes and veggies are perfectly steamed. You can do fish, and I think chicken, in them too. Plus you can add olive oil, butter, spices, whatever. Also having potatoes on hand- 10 minutes to nuke em and you have dinner, or just wrap in foil and bake for a while. When I'm in a super-hurry, I will nuke a large russet, and then microwave a packet of Jolly Green Giant broccoli and cheese sauce, and pour it over the potato. Now, in no way is this gourmet or nutritious, but it gets the job done.

                                                                            1. boogiebaby Sep 27, 2013 04:20 PM

                                                                              My mom can't stand for too long due to a weak leg after a stroke. She will sit down at the breakfast table and cut up all her veggies in the morning or afternoon, so she doesn't have to be in the kitchen for one long stretch in the evening. She will also chop things like onions and keep them in the fridge in a Tupperware, so when she needs some, she just has to scoop some out. You can also do that with other veggies like carrots, celery, bell peppers, garlic, etc.

                                                                              Cook extra, and freeze it. You can freeze soups, stews, casseroles, etc. If you are going through the prep work to make one casserole dish, chop a little extra and make another dish for the freezer. Cut it into individual servings and freeze on a cookie sheet, then once they are frozen, place in a freezer bag or container. When you need one, you can thaw and heat one portion.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: boogiebaby
                                                                                p
                                                                                pine time Sep 30, 2013 03:46 PM

                                                                                Your mom's situation reminded me: if a person, after a stroke, or because of other medical problems (like my RA), has difficulty using a knife, there are adaptive utensils available, such as the "rocker" knife. While the ones I've seen aren't high-end knives, they are easy to use 1-handed, or with less strength in the affected hand. (You can google medical devices, adaptive utensils for various other ideas, if needed.)

                                                                              2. j
                                                                                jbsiegel Sep 27, 2013 04:55 PM

                                                                                Parchment paper and tin foil. Save a whole lot of cleanup! I line EVERYTHING!!

                                                                                1. elegraph Oct 1, 2013 08:03 PM

                                                                                  If your grocer has a salad bar you can load up with pre-cut vegetables for soups and stews. Also many produce departments sell these. Use them soon after you buy them.

                                                                                  1. The Dairy Queen Oct 2, 2013 07:43 AM

                                                                                    Fun thread! I found a lot of great advice in this Real Simple article and on their website in general (though I hate hate hate the slideshow approach they use to drive up their clicks). I've called out the specific sections I like in several links below, but here's the link to the overall story: http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/quick-easy/dinner-solutions-00100000065673/index.html

                                                                                    I like the idea of preparing spice rubs in batches in advance. It's a quick way to turn a plain protein into something interesting:
                                                                                    http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/healthy-dinner-ideas-00100000087720/page4.html

                                                                                    One spice rub I always do in a big batch in advance is this one from Homesick Texan. I then cook the pork roast in my crock pot for 10 hours on low. I'm sure the sauce that goes with the spice rub is good, too, but I've always used commercial bbq sauce: http://www.homesicktexan.com/2010/05/texas-pulled-pork-oven-recipe.html

                                                                                    I like these ideas for doing some prep in advance or bulk cooking on the weekend:
                                                                                    http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/menu-planning-00100000087554/page9.html

                                                                                    I like these ideas of "mix ins" to jazz up healthy grains:
                                                                                    http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/cooking/learn-to-cook-00100000066305/page8.html

                                                                                    I don't necessarily love these particular recipes, (they aren't terrible, but they aren't that memorable either), but I love the idea of grain and legume side dishes you can make on weekends in advance:
                                                                                    http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/cooking/picky-eaters-00100000066684/page8.html

                                                                                    I like these ideas to "dress up" frozen vegetables:
                                                                                    http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/cooking/picky-eaters-00100000066684/page4.html

                                                                                    As far as appliances: in addition to what everyone else has mentioned, I also love my rice cooker (I cook grains in it, too) and my apple wedger. Also, I have a little piece of equipment that does hard boiled eggs. It's not that difficult to do hb eggs, but if you do them a lot, this is super helpful.

                                                                                    As far as cooking time-savers:

                                                                                    Grocery shopping: shop in bulk for the things you use often. You can often get a good price that way and then you always have certain items on hand. Also, if you can spare the extra expense of a grocery delivery service, you can shave off time that way. Maybe you don't have your weekly groceries delivered, but just the bulky things once every month or two. Our local grocery will even bring them in your house for you.

                                                                                    -As you buy new cooking tools, don't buy anything that can't go through the dishwasher, even if you have to pay a small premium for it vs. the non-dishwasher safe version. You might even check the measurements to make sure it will fit in your dishwasher. If you have older kitchen items that you use a lot and aren't dishwasher safe, consider gradually replacing them with newer models that are.

                                                                                    -Start every cooking session with an empty dishwasher so you can put dirty items in as you go.

                                                                                    - One pot cooking saves in search for pots and pans, cleaning up after cooking, and in the number of storage containers you'll need (and eventually have to wash) for the leftovers.

                                                                                    -Adding frozen corn, frozen peas or a handful of prewashed spinach (which I always re-wash by the way) is often an easy way to turn something into a one pot dish.
                                                                                    - Using food release makes clean-up easier. You can line baking sheets with foil or parchment if you don't mind the waste. Or with a silpat sheet, which is less wasteful and needs to be washed, but is easier to wash than a baking sheet with food caked to it. They also make plastic slow cooker liners, but I've never used them because I don't like cooking in plastic. But I know people who swear by them for easy clean-up.
                                                                                    -Lean towards recipes that call for ingredients that don't need a lot of chopping. Blueberries. Frozen peas. Frozen corn. Beans. Frozen pearl onions. Shrimp. Asparagus stalks where you merely have to slice off the ends then wash...

                                                                                    For instance, in the one tray oven recipes, I love this one roast chicken breasts with garbanzo beans and tomatoes because nothing needs to be chopped: not the tomatoes, not the beans, not the chicken. Just rinse, season, assemble and go.

                                                                                    http://www.epicurious.com/tools/searchresults?search=Roast+Chicken+Breasts+With+Garbanzo+Beans%2C+Gorgonzola+%26+Tomatoes&x=26&y=7

                                                                                    Or Melissa Clark's roasted broccoli with shrimp if you use prechopped broccoli florets http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/14/dining/14appe.html?_r=0

                                                                                    I have more to say but my computer seems to be seizing and I think I'd better reboot.

                                                                                    ETA:

                                                                                    Continuing:

                                                                                    - Thinner really is better. A spatchcocked chicken will cook faster than a a regular roast chicken. Pounding your chicken breasts and pork chops thin speeds up cooking time.

                                                                                    - Some foods are naturally quicker-cooking: most seafood, tofu, orzo, couscous, quick cook polenta, angel hair pasta, rice noodles... Start keeping a list of these things that you can turn to when you really need to save time.

                                                                                    Here's real simple's list of "quick cooking" proteins and a master cooking method for each:
                                                                                    http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/cooking/picky-eaters-00100000066684/page7.html

                                                                                    - Some dishes are quick cooking (like stir fries) and some (like roasting or braising) take a lot of passive time but may still require minimal effort in the kitchen. Develop a repertoire that includes both that you can draw on when the occasion is right.

                                                                                    Finally, if you develop some recipes you can easily do in batches, (eg., roasting two chickens at once and the like), consider finding a friend who also wants to spend less time in the kitchen and do a dinner swap once a week:
                                                                                    http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipe...

                                                                                    ~TDQ

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