Monday, February 9, 2015

10 more ways to make cooking suck less

A few weeks ago, I told you guys that being your own prep cook on Sunday is a great way to make weeknight meal prep a little easier.

Here are some more ways to make cooking suck a little less, with an eye toward the parts that everyone seems to hate the most: Planning, prepping, and cleanup:

1.       Think ahead: It might make for a painful half hour, but take the time each week before hitting the grocery store to meal plan. I usually plan for 5 nights, realizing that one night will probably be leftovers night and one night will we’ll get take out, go to a restaurant, order pizza, etc. If you’re the main chef for a family full of complainers, enlist their help. Ask for a meal request from everyone. And remember, as my friend Brianna pointed out, breakfast for dinner is always a crowd-pleaser.
2.       Drink: Pour yourself a glass of wine and relax.
3.       Use the oven when you can: The more you cook in the oven, the less you have to tend to on the stovetop.
4.       Use a single pan when you can: Roast a chicken in the same pan that you cook veggies in. Do the same for things like pork loin or pot roast, too. This works really well with harder veggies, like carrots, white and sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, and gives them a lot of extra flavor, too.
5.       And when cooking in a single pan in the oven, line that pan with aluminum foil, parchment paper, or a silicon baking mat: Avoid foods sticking to cookie sheets or roasting pans by using one of the above. I like silicon mats (available anywhere, but here they are on Amazon) because they’re reusable, can go in a dishwasher, can withstand crazy-high heat, and nothing—I mean nothing—ever sticks to them. Depending on what you cook, you might not have to wash the pans at all; just wait for the liner to cool and put the pan away (you'll have to wash the liner, though, lazybones!)
6.       Make a lot: Double recipes when you can and freeze the extras. I do this a lot with pancakes.
7.       Think tacos: Whether you have leftover roasted chicken, beef, pork, or veggies (or all four) make leftovers tacos part of your meal plan, and add taco shells and fixins to your weekly grocery list. On taco night, mix your leftovers with taco seasoning or salsa for more flavor.
8.       Learn to love eggs: Eggs are so versatile and easy. You can make everything-but-the-kitchen sink omelets, frittata, scrambled eggs, or quiche by adding whatever leftovers you’ve got hanging around into your egg dish. Throw in everything from leftover deli meat and cheese, veggies, bacon, etc. I sometimes also hard boil a shitload of eggs all at once and save them in the fridge for egg salad sandwiches for dinner (add some of your pre-prepped veggies for sides) or just for snacking.
9.       Screw cookbooks: If you hate to cook, don’t bother buying cookbooks or cooking magazines. Instead, buy a three-ring binder and hit the library. Bring home a couple of cookbooks and experiment. Before you return the books, use the library’s copy machine to make photocopies of the recipes you liked and store them in the three-ring binder.
10.   Embrace the staples: It’s super helpful to have a handful of easy, know-them-by heart, go-to staple recipes that you know your whole family likes for nights when you’re really tapped for ideas. In my house it’s ravioli with mushrooms and spinach; chicken pot pie; and breakfast for dinner!

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