Cooking and baking are two of my favorite pastimes.  I love serving my family by preparing healthy foods for them.  It is so rewarding to see their smiling faces and hear them ask for another helping.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to teach my children how to cook for their own families one day.  However, one thing I don’t like about cooking is some of the prep work involved and then of course the clean up.  I’ve found some helpful tips to shorten my time in the kitchen without diminishing my enjoyment:

Don’t just collect useful kitchen appliances and gadgets.  Take them out and USE them!  My favorite gadget is a food processor.  I have had one for quite some time.  In fact, I recently sent one to the appliance graveyard.  I have to admit I really didn’t use it to it’s full potential, but I LOVED using it to shred blocks of cheese and puree veggies for sauces.  I would have used it more, but it was big, bulky, difficult to clean and store.  As I was shredding cheese recently, a very important piece broke off my food processor.  It held the grating blade level in the machine.  I tried everything to fix it, but it was a light plastic piece that just gave way.  I hollered for help from my sweet hubby (which is my usual routine when something breaks).  Unfortunately, he discovered there was no way to repair it.  Being the “fix-it-man” that he is, he began researching food processors so he could solve my dilemma.  Even though I didn’t use it often as I should, it was a lifesaver and time saver in the kitchen.   We eat so many fresh foods now that it really is a necessity.  After much thoughtful consideration, we decided on a Cuisinart food processor.  It was on sale and we were able to use some discounts to get a very good deal.  We paid only a little more than we would have for a less reliable brand.  I am a very visual learner, so I was thrilled when I saw it came with an operating DVD.  I had also received a brown box of veggies from our produce co-op.  I love the produce co-op but I don’t always have plans to use the produce right away.  You can shorten your time in the kitchen by prepping and freeze lots of fruits and veggies ahead of time.  I used my food processor to chop onions, garlic and peppers.  I set aside the ones I would need for the week and froze the rest.  Be sure to label your freezer bags with the date and item name before filling.  Another favorite gadget of mine is a tortilla press.  It saves so much time rolling out homemade tortilla dough.  It makes evenly round and uniform tortillas.  It has been a lifesaver not only on time but for my carpal tunnel!

 

Choose a day to do all of your prep work weekly or monthly.  Chop all of your produce, breadcrumbs, and the like on this day.  Once you have chopped the onion, garlic or other produce, you can line a mug or container with a labeled  open freezer bag, scrape the chopped veggie out of the food processor and scoop it right into the bag.  Check some of your recipes and freeze average measurements.  Then seal it up and throw it in the freezer.  You can freeze broths and other liquids in ice trays.  When you have recipes calling for chopped veggies, broths, etc. you just pull out what you need.  You can also prep yeast doughs and make sauces in the food processor and freeze them until ready to use.

Prepare make-ahead freezer meals.  One thing that has saved myself and my sweet sisters-in-law is freezer meals.  We have been meeting on a Saturday every couple of months.  We make around 10 meals that are mainly chopped veggies, sauces, seasonings, and raw meats that we dump into labeled freezer bags.  Then we take them out on the day we want to feed them to our family and put them into the crockpot.  There are several useful cookbooks for freezer meals:  From Your Freezer to Your Family, Don’t Panic – Dinner’s in the Freezer: Great-Tasting Meals You Can Make Ahead.

Remember spiritual health of our families holds more eternal value than the physical.  I love cooking, but I love my family more!  These advanced prep steps have shortened my time in the kitchen during the week.  I have more time to spend with my four precious blessings after our long school day, and I have more time to catch up with my sweet, hardworking husband when he gets home!  I’m so thankful the Lord is helping me make the most of every moment!

 

Mandy
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