What kind of quality cookware and kitchen items are available out there to save you time and energy in the kitchen?
In winter, I seem to have less time to get things done, especially when it comes to putting food on the table. So it may be worth the investment to take a look at some helpful appliances and cooking techniques that save time and/or energy in the kitchen.
Cookware for Fast Dinners and Easy Meals
Pressure Cooker: Over the years, I’ve heard a lot about how pressure cookers can save time. Because they cook items faster than on the stove top, you might save energy too. I’d like to try out one of Presto’s pressure cookers with a meal like ham and vegetables, or goulash — both can be on the table in about 30 minutes. As a bonus, if I ever want to follow up on learning how to can fruit or veggies, I can use the pressure cooker.
Rice Cooker/Steamer: However, the workhorse of my kitchen has to be the rice cooker/steamer. The last time I needed to replace mine, one lady stopped me to say that her rice cooker has really helped her marriage of 35 years! Besides making fabulous white and brown rice, I’ve been able to steam artichokes, cook up a spicy lentil dish, and more. The next time I go shopping for a replacement, I want to try the Zojirushi brand — I’ve heard good things about it.
Microwave: Like a lot of other people, I make popcorn at least once a week in my microwave (thank you, Alton Brown). In addition, I use it to bake potatoes, melt chocolate, defrost meals I’ve frozen, and to cook vegetables when I want them in a hurry. Since I use my microwave so much, I might want to consider upgrading to a commercial one. There’s no doubt that the microwave saves me time in the kitchen each week; as a bonus, it saves me energy, too.
Bread Machine: My bread machine keeps my family fed, too. Each week, I make my own pizza dough and bread; on occasion, I also make pretzel dough, loaves to give as gifts, and dough for wraps. Unfortunately, my bread machine is getting pretty ancient, so I’ve got my eye on a Sunbeam Breadmaker next, which is available at several places, such as Cooking.com.
Grill: As for grills, I love my little indoor electric grill. It makes tasty grilled cheese sandwiches which are fantastic with homemade bread. Also, I use grilled chicken in everything from chicken noodle soup to barbecue chicken pizza. When it turns warm here again, I’d like to make my kitchen mobile and pick up an outdoor grill.
Meal Preparation and Cooking Techniques To Save Time, Energy and Money
1. Use a kitchen timer.
Each time I cook, I use a few kitchen timers. After a few times boiling away the pasta water and overcooking a dish or two, I’ve learned to rely on the timers as a must-have tool. Plus, with a timer, I can make cooking fun and challenging 😉 ; I’ve figured out that I can beat the pizza delivery person when it comes to racing the food to the table — I can put penne and a simple sauce with chicken on the table in less than half an hour!
2. Prepare ingredients for several meals at once.
Another technique that can save me time and energy later is prepping ingredients for several meals. For instance, if I’m going to use onions for pasta sauce one night and tacos the next, I can bring out my food chopper and dice them in one batch. Another idea is to cook double batches of ground meat. Use one batch that night and save the other half for the next night’s meal.
3. Slow cook to save energy.
Speaking of ground meat, you can put this into a slow cooker in the morning for chili. I also like to make stews in the slow cooker, perfect for evening when the weather’s cold. According to a story at dallasnews.com, the slow cooker is a good choice for energy savings because you can cook a meal for less than a dollar’s worth of electricity.
If you’ve got to bring a dish to a party or event, I’ve found that making a brisket or roast beef is a snap in the slow cooker. For one office party, I even slow cooked a turkey breast. Cooking.com has a good deal on a Rival Crock-Pot that’s tempting me to upgrade.
4. Store extra meals and leftovers properly.
If my activities keep me too busy to stick to my weekly meal plan, I can always store a salad or a stack of sandwiches in storage containers and make an impromptu picnic somewhere. And bear in mind that many one dish meals are candidates for double batches and once a month cooking marathons.
Making your meals this way — by cooking in larger batches — can save a substantial amount of time later; this actually saves a lot of money too! Just remember to defrost the extra batches and frozen meals you’ve stored in a timely manner. I like to make double batches of soup or chili for those times when we have to rush out of the house in the evening.
How about you? Any great cooking tips and favorite kitchen secrets you’d like to share?