We all want to have a beautiful meal with a lovely presentation when we entertain, but we don’t all want to work so hard to get there. At least not all the time. For a busy mom, there is always so much to do in so little time. Summer, especially, is the time for laid-back meals and minimal effort. Finding shortcuts for your cooking routine will help get you the results you want in less time.
Buy in bulk. Buying chicken and meat in family packs will save you money and time. Purchase family packs that are cheaper by the pound, or buy a lot when it goes on sale. Separate into the servings you most commonly use and place into large ziplock bags. You can season and add a marinade to them directly in the bags so that next time you need them they are already portioned, cleaned, flavored, and ready to use! Make sure to seal the bag tightly and remove any air before freezing. When you need it, pull it out and place in the fridge. It will be marinating as it thaws!
Big-batch cooking. Everyone knows you can cook a big pot of soup or meatballs and freeze half for later, but you can do this with sauces, rice, quinoa, and legumes as well. Freeze in small ziplock bags and defrost quickly in a bowl of warm water. Use as is or in stir-fries, soups, and stews. Double most recipes, especially cookie batter or pie-crust doughs for a shortcut for later use.
Parboil or microwave. Sometimes you don’t have time to sit and wait for root veggies like potatoes and carrots to cook in the oven. To cut the time in half, parboil (partially cook by boiling) the veggies in boiling water until almost cooked through. Then toss with olive oil and throw in the broiler to finish off for a crispy result that cooks up much quicker. You can also use the microwave to start off the cooking process. This works well with onions to get them caramelized in the pan much faster.
Save your fruits and veggies. How many times have you purchased a big bag of fruit or veggies and it started to go bad before you finished it? Take a mix of these fruits and veggies and make individual smoothie packs. Bananas, strawberries, spinach, kale—whatever combination you like—can be frozen in ready-to-go bags. Throw the fruits and veggies into a blender and purée with yogurt, milk, or juice. Fresh is always healthier, but at least the produce won’t go to waste. You’ll save leftover produce and have quick, delicious smoothies for yourself and your family.
Fresh herbs. Not only are fresh herbs from your garden not available when it’s snowing outside, but they can be expensive at the grocery store. Especially when you use a little for one recipe and the rest goes bad before you use it. Take fresh herbs, place in ice-cube trays, cover in olive oil, and freeze. Then place in labeled ziplock bags for later use in any recipe that calls for fresh herbs. The same works well for fresh garlic or ginger. No need to defrost; just toss into your soups, stews, fresh pasta, or rice to add a punch of flavor. You’ll be ensuring your herbs do not go to waste and, even better, you’ll be saving yourself the time of cleaning and chopping your herbs when you need them! v
Citrus Herb Chicken
1 cup onion, chopped
2 bunches fresh cilantro or fresh oregano
2 bunches fresh parsley
juice of 2 oranges
juice of 2 lemons
juice of 2 limes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves
12 pieces bone-in chicken
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Combine first eight ingredients in food processor and blend till smooth. Remove ½ cup of mixture and set aside. Place chicken and remaining herb mixture in two large ziplock bags and seal. Place one bag in freezer for later and marinate the other bag in refrigerator for at least an hour, turning bag over at least once.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove chicken from bag and discard marinade. Place in roasting pan and sprinkle with salt, cumin, and pepper. Roast in oven 45–60 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Place on serving platter and drizzle with reserved marinade.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook that you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.