Friday, June 10, 2011

Cooking Basics: Kitchen Efficiency

This is #3 in an online workshop series called Kitchen Basics

If you're just stopping by for the first time, be sure to look back at Parts 1 and 2:  Meal Planning and Stocking Your Pantry

Kitchen Efficiency. 

Making the most of your time in the kitchen. 

Killing more than two birds with less than two stones.

Here are a few of my tips:

Leftovers Go Incognito...
  1. Make one entree whose contents can be used for other meals later in the week.  For example, a pot roast.  You can make a large beef roast (or two), and then use the leftovers to make:
  • Roast Beef Sandwiches
             Use a food processor or two forks to shred the beef...spread bread with your favorite mayonnaise or mustard, toss on some lettuce or fresh spinach, and enjoy!
  • Beef and Vegetable Soup
Image credit:  jefferyww
    Click here for a great beef and veggie soup recipe.  Just modify it a bit to add your leftover roast.
Substitute ground meat for shredded beef. 
Saute the onion in a skillet and then place in slow-cooker with other ingredients and follow recipe as written. 

  • Shredded with BBQ sauce in a bun
Image: here

Recipe for the BBQ sandwich in the image is here.  Looks delicious.

See?  One hunk of meat, five different meals.

Now that's some sneaky recycling!

     2.   The same principle applies to a roasted whole chicken:

(You'll need to roast more than one chicken at a time
to get enough meat for the week...)

  • Night 1:  Eat the roasted chicken and swim around in the squeals of culinary delight rising from your table. 
          Yes.  It's that good.

  • Night 2:  Using leftovers, make Chicken Enchiladas.  Unless you live in Texas.  If that's the case, please do not make your own enchiladas.  Get in your car and drive to the nearest Tex-Mex restaurant.
Photo credit:  D. Sharon Pruitt

Image credit:  Edwin Bautista

(Modify to include pre-cooked, shredded chicken.)

(Modify to include pre-cooked, shredded chicken.)

And While You're At It...

The following principles all go back to meal planning.  When you know what you're going to make for the entire week, you can do some of that pesky prep work beforehand. 

Chopping Onions
Since you're standing at the counter vigorously chopping an onion to make the King Ranch Chicken Casserole for Night 4, why not also chop the onions you'll need for Night 6 (Chicken and White Bean Chili) and Night 7 (Chicken and Kale Soup)? 

Keep in mind that half an onion, chopped, translates to about 1/2 cup.  Now you can determine exactly how many onions you need to chop for your weekly meal-making endeavors. 

(Just put those stinky bad-boys in a stout Zip-Lock bag or in a sealed glass container while they hang out in your fridge waiting to be used later in the week. Otherwise it will smell like a big, burly man with bad BO is hiding in your crisper drawer.)

Also, one clove of garlic, minced, equals about a teaspoon.  

Chopping Veggies
If you're chopping veggies for a salad (carrots, broccoli, red bell pepper), chop up a few extras to serve as snacks or an appetizer the following day. 

Chicken Breasts
Cook/Saute/Bake/Grill several chicken breasts at once.  You can reheat them later in the week (or wrap well and freeze for much later use).  Cut them in strips for stir-fry, fajitas, or to top a chef's salad.

Browning Ground Meats (Beef, Bison, Turkey, Chicken, etc.)
When you're browning meat to make something like spaghetti, brown a couple of extra pounds of meat and use later for lasagna, tacos, chili, etc.

Make Entrees on Sunday
I've had a few working moms tell me that they designate Sunday afternoons as their cooking day.  Spending several hours in the kitchen on Sunday preparing their entrees for the week (such as casseroles, baked chicken breasts, etc.) allows them to pop something in the oven when they arrive home in the evenings.  While it's heating, they can direct homework activities while they steam fresh veggies, make a salad, or bake some frozen garlic bread as a side item. 

Double Up
Double the recipes for entrees like casseroles and lasagnas and prepare another pan, freeze it, and bake it another night.


I hope you find some of these tips useful and that they are practical for you to implement into your life. 

And please:  if you have a kitchen efficiency tip, please share it in a comment or email me at! 

Also, please take a look at the other installments in the Cooking Basics series: