- Cook enough food for two dinners. Most food can be easily reheated. Consider steaming to reheat food. Place a bit of water in a pan and place food on it. Cover. Check frequently to ensure that the water doesn’t completely evaporate and burn the food; add water as necessary. This method heats food as fast as a microwave, and no nasty altering of the food takes place.
- Play music if you enjoy it. Music can make cooking more enjoyable and relaxing.
- Be organized when you cook.
- Determine what to cook and the approximate cooking times for all of the food.
- Pull out the necessary ingredients.
- Begin cooking the item that will take the longest.
- “Prep” food. Chop, mince, food process and so on all of the ingredients, if all ingredients are added at the same time. If you are sautéing a meal, begin by chopping onion and garlic, for example, and continue to cook and chop vegetables as the first vegetables are cooking.
- If you don’t already own professional quality knives, buy them and keep them sharp. Nothing save time in the kitchen like working with sharp, quality knives. (Wusthof is my favorite.)
- The trick is to never stand still when you cook. While food is cooking on the stovetop, for example, you can chop, clean empty bowls and put ingredients away. Unless you have help, the object (well, my object) is to have virtually everything cleaned by the time the meal is finished cooking. I also find that if I am continually moving, the process is smoother because I must concentrate on what I am doing.
- Some convenience foods are really handy and all natural. Canned beans, tuna fish, olives, coconut milk, some natural sauces, some prepared spices and herbs and dried pasta are staples in my kitchen. For most of us it is unrealistic and unnecessary to prepare everything from absolute scratch every day.
- Keep indispensable items on hand. I always purchase often-used items in quantity. This saves both on fuel used to make those purchases and makes cooking dinner much easier. For example, I always have coconut milk on hand if I want to make Thai food, or soy sauce for Chinese. The following items are ingredients that I always keep in my kitchen. Virtually all items are organic.
- Olive, grape seed and canola oil.
- Sesame seed oil and roasted peanut oil, refrigerate.
- Variety of vinegars; including balsamic, cider, red, white and cooking wine.
- Chicken, beef and vegetable stock in cartons.
- Prepared sauces. My favorites are San-J© all purpose Szechwan Hot and Spicy Sauce; Thai® Kitchen Red Curry Paste, fish sauce, soy or tamari sauce. Natural sauces like the Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste, are a huge time-saver. They use only natural ingredients, such as like galangal root and lemon grass—ingredients that take forever to prepare yourself.
- Mustards, capers, olives, anchovy paste.
- Variety of hot sauces.
- Variety of dried organic spices and herbs (keep frozen or in airtight containers).
- Fresh garlic, onions, ginger.
- Canned coconut milk, olives, tuna fish, clams, variety of beans, artichokes, baby corn.
- Dried pastas, risotto, variety of rice (including basmati, white, brown, wheat berries and wild rice), dried cloud ears (black fungus), which has been used in Chinese cooking since the 6th century. It has a crunchy texture, is loaded with nutrients and its black color looks great in a dish. Soak in hot water for fifteen minutes—it will expand several times—rinse, remove stem and chop. Add to dish near the end to preserve crunchiness. Experiment by adding them to a variety of your favorite dishes.
Store dry ingredients, like rice and grains, in airtight containers. Also, note that organic produce does perish more quickly than non-organic produce. Apples are a good example, without the “protective” wax coating, they begin to soften after a few days.
Copyright 2007, Norma Lehmeier Hartie
Copyright 2007, Norma Lehmeier Hartie
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