With busy lifestyles it can be difficult to make time to provide the healthy, home-cooked food that we want to give our families.
It may be difficult but is by no means impossible if we take steps to get organised. Being prepared will soon become a time-saving habit and there are all kinds of additional tips and hints that we can take advantage of.
Keep An On-going Shopping List
Attach a list to your fridge or kitchen notice board, and add items as you need them. You will always know exactly what you need on your trips to the shops.
Plan Meals In Advance
Meal planning saves time and helps you shop more quickly. It reduces waste of ingredients.
Buy Prepared Foods
If cutting down on preparation time is the difference between serving a home-cooked meal or not, then it makes sense to go for prepared salads and vegetables once in a while.
Invest In A Steamer Basket
If you don’t already own a steamer basket make a point of getting one. It saves on washing up since you can cook two or three kinds of vegetables in one go; and the results are tastier and healthier.
Keep A Supply Of Parchment Paper
This has so many uses, from lining baking sheets and dishes to wrapping food in parcels to bake in the oven. It withstands high heat, won’t let the food stick, saves on washing up and prevents food burning.
A Slow Cooker For Family Meals
For the working household this is a sound investment. Delicious, nutritious meals can be ready when the family get home. You will soon be making your own favourite recipes.
Organise Your Recipes
How many times have you ended up spending hours looking for a particular recipe? You are more likely to have variety in your meals if everything you need is handy and easily accessible. Mark favourite recipes in books; or put cuttings in binders. Ask the children to help.
Cook In Bulk
Most of us take advantage of the freezer and cook in bulk when we can so that at least one extra meal can be frozen.
Freeze Handy Portions Of Ingredients
Freshly made breadcrumbs freeze well, an ingredient in many home-cooked dishes. Grated cheese frozen in small portions is ideal for sauce-making etc. Leeks cleaned and chopped are a fast addition to soups and flans.
Cut Cooking Time With Smaller Versions
A succulent meat loaf might take an hour -and-a-half to cook. If you’re in a hurry put the mixture into bun tins to make mini loaves in 25 minutes.
Improvise With Ingredients
If a recipe calls for buttermilk and you don’t have any, use sour milk. To get this stir 1tbsp of either vinegar or lemon juice into 225ml skimmed milk and leave it to curdle.
Quick, Creamy Sauce
When cooking a dish in stock or vegetables, stirring in two tablespoons of whipping cream at the end (for a dish for four) will give the sauce a satiny smoothness. This won’t spoil your healthy eating plan. Fromage frais is another good choice.
Chopped Onions With No Tears
Leave the root end of the onion intact before chopping it - this is where the sulphuric compounds are concentrated. Alternatively freeze the onion for 20 minutes first.
Dried porcini mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes keep for a long time in the store cupboard. They are wonderful taste enhancers and enrich dishes quickly without adding any fat, sugar or salt.
Buy spices whole and toast them for maximum flavour. Toast them in a dry non-stick pan and keep them moving with a wooden spoon. When the flavours are released and the spices crackle they are ready for grinding and adding to curries, casseroles and other dishes.
Freeze leftover portions of puree - from potatoes, parsnips or other vegetables. Use them as quick thickeners for sauces and casseroles.
Keep a whole vanilla pod in a container of sugar and use this for custards and baking. The pod may also be placed in milk or other liquid which requires heating, then dried and stored for re-use until its flavour is too weak.
Buy Frozen Berries
Frozen fruit may be a better source of vitamins than fresh fruit that has been badly handled or stored for too long. Use frozen berries for quickly-made blender drinks and smoothies.
Whether flaming brandy for a pudding, for crepes or for a meat dish, pour only a tablespoon or two of spirit into a long-handled ladle. Heat the ladle over a flame until you see the vapours rising, then light the warm brandy and add it flaming to the hot food. Wait until the flames die out before serving.