Fun with food

Sometimes cooking is just a chore and it can be a real pain. Some of my other posts have talked about cooking efficiency and this post is about reducing hassle in the first place.

Listen to something you love

If I am in the kitchen, I have to listen to something – especially if there is a long period of waiting or stirring. If I can’t decide on music, I usually settle for The Ricky Gervais Show. Sure, I know it off by heart but I still find it funny and engaging enough to keep listening during the more mundane parts of cooking.
Other times, I’ll be grooving to music, getting my dance on while the sauces simmer. Yeah, I am cool.

Enlist help where you can 

I know this won’t work for everybody, but if you’ve got a partner, this can be a fun together activity. My partner usually helps by chopping/prepping/grating while I work on getting the food cooked. It saves time and we have fun catching up.

If you have flatmates that you’re reasonably friendly with and have similar food needs, perhaps see if you can share the burden – shared meals can save costs and most importantly, time!

Make many meals in one go

If you loathe the kitchen or are pressed for time, this is a great option. Plenty of recipes on here can be made in a large batch and stored for a few days or frozen for a few weeks, for lunches on the go or back up food if you just really cannot be bothered.
Sure, it is a bit repetitive, but it makes sure you keep fed during the day.
Or, make a combination of a few things – a couple of salads and a quiche to switch up between throughout the week.

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Boiling Veges

Here are four handy tips to keep your veges firm but not rocks and not a slimy goopy mess when boiling.

Add to water as you chop

You will be familiar with this phrase throughout this blog, as it is mentioned frequently. Leaving chopped and peeled vegetables out in the open leaves them vulnerable to oxidisation – browning in colour and becoming less palatable. This is especially true for potatoes. 

To prevent this, after you chop each vegetable, plop it in your pre-prepared saucepan with water and a bit of salt.

Use cold water, not pre-boiled water

I like to be quick in the kitchen and I admit, I often pre-boil my saucepan water to save a bit of time. However, this morning it was pointed out that using cold water that boils alongside your veges helps to cook them through.

Chop small, use minimal water

Chopping up your veges small will speed up your cooking time and so will using as little water as possible. You want your veges to be covered in water but not drowning. Too much water means more time to heat it all up – and more likelihood of bubbling over!

In my mashing experience, chopping the potatoes small with just enough water takes about 10-15 mins to cook. By contrast, larger potatoes or too much water brings that up to 20-25 mins. Urgh! 

Chop evenly

I don’t mean to get out your ruler to make sure everything has exactly the same size, just make each chunk a similar size as that will help with even cooking.

 

 

Meal plans

I know it lacks spontaneity and sound pretty dull, but it really helps regarding the bank account and general effort.

When creating your dinner menu, use recipes that involve ingredients for multiple meals.
For example, using guacamole for burgers, avocado chicken and maybe even nachos. Or buying a big pack of mince to make a shepherd/cottage pie and meat balls or burgers.

The plan does not have to be day by day and you may shift it up a bit to suit your schedule but thinking about it will make a mole hill out of the mountain that is cooking and help everything slot into place.

In the future, I will come up with ideas for weekly meals as well.

Kitchen Karma

No one likes a messy cook in the kitchen, so here are some tips to keep the kitchen clean and your cooking efficient.

Before:

  • Get out all the ingredients you need and place them where they need to be. (i.e by the chopping board, or near the stove top)
  • If you are using raw meat, fill the sink with warm, soapy water so you can quickly rinse when swapping to other tasks to avoid contamination.

 

During:

  • If you need to chop meat and veges, chop the vegetables first, then the meat to save washing up later.
  • Time-block – while something is simmering or in the oven, prepare the next step.
  • Wash up as you go to save time and keep you focused on the task at hand.
  • Use timers for each stage.
  • When you finish with pots/pans, clean them or leave to soak.

After:

  • Clean up after dinner, getting into that habit will really help.
  • If you have done most beforehand, you will have little to clean up.
  • Before you drain the sink (unless it is scummy), wipe down all the surfaces you used with a cloth. It won’t take long and makes the weekly cleaning far easier.

Why I love Couscous

Couscous is an excellent base for many meals and for low effort cooking it has to top the list. It requires very little input, is cheap and versatile.

InputAll you have to do is pour boiling water over it, cover and leave for 8 minutes. Then flake with a fork and you are done!

Cheap: Okay, it is not rice cheap but it is still very reasonable and won’t leave you with a stodgy mess if you forget about it. A box of couscous is cheaper than those delicious microwave rice sachets, too.

Versatile: Whether you do nothing, a little or a lot, couscous is a delicious accompaniment to many dishes. You can simply add sliced banana or sultanas for a summery feel, or some sauteed mixed veges as something more substantial. A great addition to curries for extra texture and even a vegetable crumble topper, couscous can do it all.

Plan, plan, plan

  1. Plan your week of cooking beforehand. 
    – Choosing recipes with some shared ingredients can help keep costs down.
    – Makes that shopping list easier to stick to.
  2. Keep the recipes you like in rotation.
    – Spend less time thinking about what to have.
    – The more you make them, the speedier you become.
  3. Time block. 
    – Get everything you need out before you start cooking.
    – Do your washing up while the food is in the oven.
    – Use timers so you can prepare other parts of the meal while other bits are cooking.
  4. Left-overs. 
    – If you don’t mind repetition, make enough for you to have for lunch or maybe freeze to save for those days you really cannot cook.
  5. Lists! 
    – Checklists are a great way to keep track of what you need and what you have done.
    – When planning out meals, keep record of what you are having for each day. It doesn’t matter if you shift them around, but keeping to what is on the list should really help.What else do you use to keep you on track in the kitchen? Tell us below!