I get the same question a lot.
“How in the world do you have time to cook, like actually cook, every.single.night?”
The answer? Meal planning and shortcuts. Meal planning is my passion and is a whole other post in itself, but as I was cooking a delicious concoction of sweet and sour chicken, fried rice and roasted green beans one night last week, I realized that I had used every single go-to shortcut that I am loving at the moment and knew I needed to share.
Time is what we all need more of. Time is what we don’t have. Will these short cuts save you an hour or two? Probably not. But, if I can find a way to save myself, and you, a few steps or even a few seconds, I’m in.
So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite time savers of late.
Rachel Ray has sworn by garbage bowls for years and I understand why. Many times I find myself traveling back and forth to the trash can as I am prepping food. By putting a bowl (any bowl you have will work, if I am chopping a lot of food I use my big one, but usually medium sized bowls meet my needs) next to your cutting board, you can simply throw all of your excess into the bowl and then make one trip to the trash can at the end of all of the prep. Not only will this save you time, but there is no dropping bits and pieces on the floor or having to wash your hands in between trips if you accidentally touch the trash can. Yuck.
TIP: Sometimes if I’m feeling really fancy I will even line the bowl with a plastic grocery bag and then just throw the whole bag away and put the bowl right back into the cabinet. That makes clean up a cinch!
I LOVE THESE…like, I really love them. These little golden jewels of garlic-ness are hands down my favorite go-to when cooking anything that calls for garlic. It tastes just as good as fresh garlic, however my hands aren’t stinky and I don’t have to worry about getting just the right size on my chop. I mean, who wants to bite down on a big chunk of garlic?
These packages come frozen (I buy mine at Trader Joe’s), but the cubes can be thawed to add to dips, cheese mixtures, etc. I simply just pop them into whatever I am cooking and enjoy the aroma.
TIP: 1 cube equals 1 clove
This is one of the oldest tricks in my book, and I still use these every single time I cook. I call them tasting spoons, and basically it’s just a small container of spoons situated near all of my other cooking tools.
I often found myself wanting to taste what I was making during the cooking process and would always have to walk over to my silverware drawer and get out a spoon. That was annoying in itself, but then, I was constantly running out of spoons! Double annoying!
So one day, I just found a small cup, went to IKEA and bought a cheap pack of spoons and put it with my spatulas, tongs and whisks and haven’t looked back. They are quick, functional and provide easy access without having to stop and go to your drawer every time you need to give a little taste test.
TIP: I have since put a small container of spoons next to my coffee maker for stirring my coffee in the mornings.
My top two favorite frozen food shortcuts during the week right now are brown rice and premium breaded chicken tenderloins.
I love to cook yummy meals during the week that taste like I spent hours on them, when really I only have about 30 minutes (if that). By using steam-in-a bag frozen rice you are saving time by not having to dirty another pot. Score! The texture I have found to be better than if I do it on the stove top and it’s ready in 5 minutes (microwave). Added to veggies, it makes a delicious and healthy fried rice. I have even added it to soup for texture!
The other food that has helped shave valuable time off of my weeknight cooking is breaded chicken tenderloins. Found in the frozen foods section, I don’t have to worry about thawing chicken the day before or taking the time to get my breading trays out and do the whole flour/egg/breadcrumb trio; messy and lots of clean up. I have used these chicken tenders recently in Chicken Parmesan as well as in my Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe and oh my goodness, they are so tender and sooooo delish. I literally just take them out of the bag, top with whatever sauce I want and bake for 30 minutes. Bing, bang, boom.
TIP: Check the serving sizes when it comes to frozen foods. The brown rice I use only comes in 2.5 servings per bag, so many recipes may require two.
Do you have any time-saving tips for the kitchen?