This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read my blog here.
FAMILY MEALS CAN BE EASY AND NUTRITIOUS WITH THESE QUICK COOKING IDEAS
No matter how well-equipped your kitchen or the number of cookbooks you own, food doesn’t cook itself. It still takes a little talent and some time to turn the food you buy into healthy, easy family meals. The skill can be acquired with training and practice, but the time must be stolen.
After 35 years of making meals from scratch without compromising on good nutrition, I’ve got some quick cooking ideas that can help you find the time you need.
The goal is to do as much of the prep work in advance as possible. One way is to chop, dice and slice in big batches and freeze for future use. Another is to repackage foods into smaller units so they’re ready for assembly. And to save time and money, there are ways to salvage foods you don’t use up, but may need again, especially when they are not in season or always in your larder.
Quick Cooking Supplies
The only way these cooking ideas will help you save time is if you know what you have on hand and can find it. That’s why you need a white board to keep a running inventory of what’s in the freezer. Then you must make sure you label each item with the contents and date.
- White board and pen
- Zipper-top freezer bags in 1 quart and 2 quart sizes
- Clear plastic food wrap
- Plastic ice cubes trays
- Stackable plastic food containers with tight-fitting lids
- Permanent markers
- Freezer tape or labels, or masking tape
Prepping for Easy Family Meals
Follow the steps in bold type to get foods and ingredients ready for future meals. I do all of these things, but even if you only adopt a few, you will be that much closer to getting meals on the table fast.
Chop, dice or slice, bag, label, freeze:
- Sweet onions, yellow onions, shallots, leeks – ready for the sauté pan or soup pot
- Bell peppers in different colors – for stir-fry, chili, omelets
Clean, stem, bag, label, freeze:
- Hot peppers – leave whole and chop while still frozen
Cook, cool, bag, label, freeze:
- Long-cooking whole grain brown rice, barley, farro, buckwheat, quinoa – for quick side dish or stuffing
- Rolled or steel-cut oats – thaws in refrigerator overnight, costs less than instant packets
Trim, individually wrap, label, bag, freeze:
- Boneless cutlets of chicken and pork and small steaks – to cube or slice or use whole
- Bone-in chops, shanks or chicken quarters – to enrich a sauce or stock
- Patties made from beef, poultry, pork or fish – thaw, crumble and cook or season for other uses
- Sausage links, 2-3 per bag – use whole or remove casings
Shred, bag, label, freeze:
- Hard cheeses Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Swiss, Provolone, Romano – ready for sprinkling and melting
Quarter, bag, label, freeze:
- Lemon, lime and orange in skin (scrubbed) – squeeze juice as needed or add pieces to beverages
Bag, label, freeze:
- Pancakes, French toast, waffles, sliced quick breads, muffins – ready reheating in microwave
Section into single servings, place in containers, label, freeze:
- Cookies, brownies, unfrosted cake, fruit pie – helps deal with leftovers and regulate future portions
Crush, bag, label, freeze:
- Crackers, pretzels, chips, cereals – coat nuggets, fish cakes, tofu slices
Crumb, bag, label, freeze:
- Bread crusts, stale rolls, unused hotdog buns – ready for meatballs, stuffing, crumb toppings