Kitchen vision – time savers

Kitchen got you down? Living out of your freezer? Bored with it all? Let’s face it, you’ve got better things to do than be a slave to meal times. Or stumble on a glitch in the kitch. Road blocks like ‘there’s nothing to eat’ and ‘I have no time to cook.’

Out of 20, I guess maybe 1/4 of a person actually knows what they are going to eat over the next 5-7 days. Well, I’m lowering that number. I’d say none. Now, up the players, and I’m comfortable with that average. Here’s why. We work too much, we play too long, habits form around take-out and quick serve meals, and we end up noshing on crap. Yes, C.R.A.P. aka processed junk. Crackers, ice cream, mac ‘n cheese from a box with powdered cheese, handfuls of cereal with fake fiber, chips and salsa, Hamburger Helper, frozen veggie burgers and Tater Tots or Amy’s one-bowl wonders. Did I forget anything?

It seems counter-intuitive to carve out time to create meal plans, a grocery list, and food prep when you get home from the market as time-savers. It works though, somehow, magically, and we end up sated, happy, content and grateful to have made that 2-hour chuck happen.

Here’s how you can do it.

  1. Write down 4 menu ideas for your supper this coming week.
  2. Make a grocery list for those items you don’t already have. Buy only those items.
  3. As soon as you un-bag your groceries, rinse, spin dry, chop, dice, cut, and slice your produce. Dice all the onions you’ll need for your 4 suppers that week. Slice the celery. Bag the cleaned lettuce – or better yet, go ahead and completely make your dinner salads and keep them refrigerated (dress just before serving to prevent wilted lettuce) in Tupperware. Or RubberMaid, I’m not particular. You get the idea. That stir-fry you wrote on your menu plan for Wednesday night? It’ll take 15 minutes start to finish now that all the parts (broccoli florets, snap peas, sliced carrots, and clean green beans) are ready for the fry-pan finale.
  4. In that vein, portion out the hamburger or chicken pieces for a family meal and freeze. You can also freeze individual portions for nights the fam has other plans. It’s a snap to thaw and cook.
  5. Double up. If you’re making soup, lasagne, beans (even rice), double the recipe and freeze half. Set the frozen casserole on the counter to thaw in the a.m. and bake for half an hour while you’re taking off your work clothes or getting the kids settled. If Trader Joe’s can make a killin’ off frozen cooked rice, you can to!
  6. For your favorite dish that you make often, portion out all the spices it takes and label them in Zip-loc bags. Boom badda boom, you’re ready in no time next time.
  7. Soak beans – and grains – overnight. Cooking time drops significantly.
  8. And, lastly, get thee a slow cooker, friend. 15 minutes in the a.m. and another 15 minutes in the p.m. and you have a piping hot, nutritious supper ready when you walk in the door.
Here’s a supper I made this week – super fast, easy, and quite delicious:
White Bean and Kale Soup
1 1/4 c. small white beans (it’s OK not to soak overnight since you’re slow cooking)
3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 large whole shallot, peeled
3 bay leaves
2 quarts vegetable broth (de-fatted chicken broth optional)
Freshly ground pepper
1 T. Spike seasoning
1 bunch kale, thinly sliced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 t. salt
1 T. tomato paste
1 t. red pepper flakes
Place the white beans through the Spike ingredients in a 3.5 quart slow cooker (no need to spend lots of money here, a $10-20 cooker without fancy options is just fine) and cook on high 6-8 hours. An hour before eating, thinly slice the kale and place it in a large bowl. Add lemon juice and salt and scrunch with your hands for 5 minutes to break down the fibers (you’ll end up with about one-half the volume). Add kale and remaining ingredients and cook another hour or until ready to eat.
That’s it. A wonderfully healthy, warm and vibrant supper for less than 30 minutes – and only one pot to clean! Enjoy.
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