budget talk

Cooking Quick Tips, Shortcuts, and Tricks

‘If I only had more time or another pair of hands’. Most of us mumble those words at some time or another. When you’re desperate to get dinner on the table, the temptation to head to the nearest restaurant can be overwhelming. But don’t panic, here are cooking shortcuts I use when time isn’t on my side.

Boiling Water
You know the old saying about watching milk boil, seems water’s no different. When I’m short on time, pasta usually comes to the rescue. However, waiting for a large pot of water to boil sometimes slows things down. I know the guideline is that water for pasta should be as salty as the Mediterranean Sea, but one cooking instructor told me that salted water takes longer to boil. I tried leaving out the salt and she was right. So now I add the salt after the water has reached a rolling boil. And here’s another shortcut. I boil the water ahead of time using an electric kettle and add it to the pan.

Smelly Foods
Okay, so the cooks on TV make it look so quick and easy to peel and chop garlic. Slam your fist down on the clove and chop away. I love using garlic in recipes, but hate the lingering smell on my hands. I found the perfect solution…jars of chopped garlic. It’s also great for adding to butter or margarine to make your own garlic bread.

Cooking Vegetables
If I’m boiling or steaming vegetables and I’m in a hurry, I usually cut or dice them into smaller than usual size pieces. Make sure they’re all about the same size so you don’t have to wait for just one piece of vegetable to cook. I do the very same thing when I’m throwing together a quick soup or casserole containing veggies, especially root vegetables. If I’m roasting them, I usually parboil them first. Just long enough that when you put a knife into the vegetable it pierces about a quarter inch of its outer layer.

Melting Butter or Chocolate
I did buy a double boiler for jobs like this, but find I use the microwave more often. Just watch things carefully though. Don’t cook them too long or you’ll end up with a separated or curdled mess.

Don’t Try Anything New
When time is short I always rely on recipes I’ve made so many times before I could probably prepare them in my sleep.

Collect Everything You’ll Need
Gather up every single ingredient and cooking utensil, pan etc. you’ll need before you start to cook. No more running back and forth to the pantry, fridge, etc.

The Right Equipment
Always make sure you’re using the right size pans or dishes for the recipe and sharpen your knives once in awhile. There’s nothing more annoying than a blunt blade when you’re chopping lots of foods.

Speedy Clean Ups
I always line hard to clean pans with aluminum foil and use a vegetable cooking spray for things like lasagna or when I’m roasting vegetables that I want to caramelize.

Put Away The Blender
I have lots of soup recipes that require you to puree the soup once it’s cooked. A couple of years ago I invested in an immersion blender. No more cleaning hard to reach blender blades.

Those Tough Vegetables
After cutting my fingers a couple of times, I now microwave tough skinned vegetables like squash before I peel and chop them. I piece the skin a couple of times with a fork and then microwave them anyway from 30 seconds to a minute, depending on the size and variety of the squash. Press the skin and if it yields just slightly, it’s ready for chopping.

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