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Cooking: Saving Time and Tips

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Hi everyone,


I am looking for ways to speed up cooking prep. I do make mostly everything from scratch and am almost allllways chopping onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes.


I know I can freeze onions. What other time-saving tips do you have that I can do in advance, on a weekend or something.


Here's what I have do/plan to do so far:


1. Browning tons of ground beef and freezing

2. Making some freezable meals (meatloaf, lentil soup etc)

3. Chopping and freezing cilantro and parsley


Also, where can I find a list/book/site with information like how long bread can be left out or if it can be left out at all without being covered. Or how to best store certain vegetables etc.


Thanks in advance!

Sorry if a thread like this exists, wasn't sure what to search under.

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I plan a menu every week, and specifically plan meals that use leftovers from previous days.


For instance, Monday I made crockpot chicken chili. I threw an extra 2 lbs. of whole chicken breasts in the crockpot, and saved one pound for Tuesday's chicken enchiladas, and froze the other pound for future use. Friday we'll have ham and rice, and I'll make plenty so that I can make fried rice on Saturday. I'd rather spend a little extra time planning ahead so that I can be more efficient in the kitchen, because I'm basically a lazy cook.

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I don't think I've actually ever done it, but seriously, at this point, something has to give. Up until now I have been making at least 4 separate things every night for dinner, besides the lunches and breakfasts for myself and the kids and I just can't do it anymore. He'll have to wait for his 4 course meals until after they've grown a bit.


edited to add: The "4 separate things" is not because each person is requesting someting. It's because my husband "has to" have certain things, like his mom used to make.

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ONe thing I used to do a lot when I was cooking for the whole family ( I only have one left at home and he is engaged...not home often..)

I would put a frozen turkey breast into the crockpot on Sunday or Monday night..froze solid. I put it in at night, with nothing..maybe a little seasonings, but you don't need water. In the am it is done, moist and there is several cups of broth. That week we have lots of turkey sandwiches, turkey casseroles, turkey soup and turkey hash at the end of the week. I could get at least 6 meals out of that turkey breast for our family of 6.

Turkey Tettrazini is a favorite of one of my sons, and I usually made two casseroles and froze one for a later date.

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I have washed, cut up and frozen green and red pepper in the freezer. Now when I need some I can just reach in and grab it. It's great in scrambled eggs, stir fry, pasta dishes.


At the beginning of each week I usually cook up a batch of sausage gravy and a batch of O'Brien potatoes. I keep them in the refrigerator and then when we want a big breakfast, part of the work is already done.


I bake nearly everything from scratch. To save time, I have put together "mixes" containing all the dry ingredients in canning jars in my pantry. I usually keep mixes for blueberry muffins, southern biscuits, chocolate chip cookies and bread on hand. They are neatly labeled and include the recipe so if my husband actually feels like making something, all the information is there for him.

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chop up and freeze onions. More than 80% of my recipes start with chopped onion & olive oil ....and sometimes when I get home late, the thought of chopping that onion is just too overwhelming. So chop a whole bunch of them and freeze them.


grate a whole bunch of cheese and freeze


I freeze cooked table potatoes to put into curry for a vegetarian option when I'm making chicken curry. (curry purists complain about the texture of the potato changing but honestly I don't notice it.)


rice can be frozen very well so you can cook it ahead of time.


double up whatever you're making & freeze the excess for another meal


cube & brown whatever meats you use in your regular recipes; then you only have to quickly thaw and mix into the recipes


organize your kitchen so you can find things quickly


keep track of what you have in your fridge & freezer so you don't forget about the left-over or ready-made meals

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Whenever I cook potatoes for dinner, I try to cook extra so we can have fried potatoes (a.k.a. hashbrowns) for breakfast the next day.


Same with spaghetti noodles - I'll cook extra and put them in the fridge. The next day for lunch, I'll mix up some soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar and stir it into the noodles (with whatever veggies I have) for an asian style meal.


I also make up a large batch of tortillas filled with scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese every now and then. I wrap each in wax paper and pull them out and nuke them in the mornings for dh's breakfast.

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I make a massive bolognese sauce (umm, 7 or 8 pounds of ground beef?) and freeze it in batches. If I have time I'll turn some of it into lasagne and freeze that for future also. That's today's job, but probably not the lasagne.


Soup - a giant batch of pumpkin soup (pumpkin, onion, celery and water) and freeze that in portions. Also a few casseroles - if the oven is going to run for 2 hours it might as well cook 4 dinners. Then they can just be microwaved at the last minute on a busy day.


There are some great freezer cookbooks, but a lot of regular recipes freeze well.



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I use Smartground now, in place of ground beef. It's already brown, just needs to be heated up and then you add it to the pot or add other ingredients to it. I love that there's no concern of cross-contamination, I'm not constantly washing my hands and swapping spatulas, don't need to drain it, etc. You can freeze it too.

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Recently I knew dh was going away and I was working on sleep issues with ds, and was really at the end of my tether. So before he went I roasted a couple of chickens, and chopped and froze the meat in meal-sized portions. What you can do with precooked chicken is pretty much unlimited - pasta, pies, curries, wraps, tacos, soups, even pizza toppings. It was a life-saver.


I have chopped and frozen tomatoes before. It won't work for everything, as they become watery, but if you are throwing them into a meal where liquid will be cooked off, it is fine. Personally, I find tinned tomatoes too much of a time-saver to skip on. I buy the cheapest no-brand types.

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I have chopped and frozen tomatoes before. It won't work for everything, as they become watery, but if you are throwing them into a meal where liquid will be cooked off, it is fine.


My mother in law taught me to cut the blanched and peeled tomatoes in half and squeeze all the seeds/liquid out, then cut, bag and freeze them. She threw the water away, but you can save it and put it into soups and stews. A chemical in the jelly surrounding the seeds helps prevent prostate cancer, but it has to be raw. You can offer the liquid/jelly to your husband to drink as is or mix it with another drink.

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For ginger, I like to make a ginger syrup (excellent as a base for hot/cold beverage, added to stir-fries, oriental salads, etc) and either "pickled" ginger (the ginger used for making the syrup put into a clean jar and covered with vinegar) or "crystallized" ginger (the ginger used for making the syrup rolled in sugar and dried)--at least two useful "products" at one go. :-)


How I do it:


1. In a 3-4 qt saucepan, bring to a boil 3 cups sugar mixed with 3 cups water. Make sure to stir while heating until the sugar is dissolved.


2. Meanwhile, peel (scrub if the skin is very tender) your ginger. I think I use a good size root, maybe 6-8 oz. The exact amount isn't critical. Sllice the ginger thinly.


3. When the sugar water has come to a boil, stir the ginger in, and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Simmer 45-60 mins, stirring occasionally. Take off heat and let cool.


4. When cool, strain the ginger, saving the syrup and slices separately. I keep the syrup in a bottle in the frig and use it often. When I end up with extra lemon juice (eg. some recipe calls for juice of half lemon, I will juice the whole thing and add the extra to my ginger syrup bottle--the blend is very complementary).


5. With the slices, you have choice. They are still very tasty and gingery. I usually stick them in a clean jar and pour cider vinegar over them. I imagine you could chop before storing in the jar. I keep them in slices because my husband often likes to use them "as is" as a condiment with meat and/or oriental dishes. Other times, I make crystallized ginger with the slices. Take the slightly damp (from being cooked in the syrup) slices, toss with some granulated sugar, spread on a tray and dry. Mmmm. A great digestive.


Just so you know, in a savory dish, the slight tang of vinegar has never been an issue. If I need ginger for a sweet dessert-type dish, I chop my crystallized ginger.



Edited by vmsurbat
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