04 October 2012

Kitchen Time Savers

Being a full time mom, a full time employee, and a full time student has me wearing a lot of hats. Preparing healthy and fresh meals on a daily basis is something I strive for, but having the time to do this sometimes can be challenging.

I have found a few things to be helpful for saving time in the kitchen. I'd love to hear your ideas on what you do to save time, here are a few I can think of at the moment!

1. The crock pot is your (best) friend.
I often think about getting a second crock pot. I do not cook vegetables in my crock pot because it renders them soggy and nutritionally void, however I DO use vegetables to season meat. The best thing i can do some days to save time is throw some meat into the crock and walk away. Don't forget to turn it on and MAKE SURE IT IS PLUGGED IN. I made that mistake once. I turned it on, and left for work, came home, and the food was cold. Hmmm, then i realized I had never plugged it in. Yes, even I have my blonde moments!

I have cooked hamburger meat, chicken (all cuts), boston butts (to make some really good/tender barbecue), roast, pork, etc etc.. All of it comes out tender and good!

We try to do mexican once a week. Why? i love mexican and it can be healthy and easy. Chicken falls apart in the crock pot and becomes so very tender. Perfect for chicken fajitas, tacos or burritos. Add a little cumin and you're well on your way! You can even do ground beef in the crock, but it cooks a LOT faster than i anticipated.  Either way, fall is upon us and that means more crockpot cooking!

I like to stock up on whole wheat wraps (i like the Ezekiel brand even though they fall apart)

2. Prep veggies (way) in advance.
Not the veggies you serve plain, like broccoli (we eat about 4 lbs of broccoli every 10 days, and 2-3 lbs of raw spinach a week!) But the veggies you will need to complete a recipe, like carrots, onions, zucchini, etc.

For example, I make homemade Ginger Salad Dressing that tastes JUST like my favorite local Sushi hangout. After tweaking a few recipes i found online, my recipe calls for 1/2 cup onion, diced - really it's pulverized. i HATE chopping an onion, even if i'm using my handy food chopper.  So rather than doing this every time i need to use an onion, i spend about 30 minutes with one bag of onions, I get out my food processor instead (because it will hold around 3 cups of anything), and i chop the entire bag (after peeling them of course). I then use a measuring cup, measure 1/2 cup at a time into Ziploc baggies which I then put several at a time into one large freezer bag. Toss it into the freezer.

I also do this for carrots, zucchini, and whatever else i think I might need for a recipe SOON in chopped form.  Notice i said soon. I would not recommend freezing these raw vegetables for longer than a few months. I don't know why, but it seems to be the general consensus on freezing things raw.

Since my grandfather has a farm and my dad a garden they gave me a gazillion tomatoes this year. I was up to my eyeballs in tomatoes and didn't know what to do with them because Sloan and I couldn't eat them fast enough, so i had an "aha" moment. I quickly boiled them and bagged them. Perfect for making tomato sauce. Rick will actually eat tomato sauce made from scratch, just not raw tomatoes. Silly Rick.

3. Herbs can be frozen too!
I LOVE cilantro. I think it makes everything taste FRESH! Rick does not like it AT ALL. So i find myself buying a few stalks and then throwing it into everything I eat before it goes bad. Good cilantro will only have a shelf life of about one week, if you are lucky. So what to do? enter the handy chopper again. Take the cilantro leaves off the stalk. I usually leave the stems with leaves, it's a lot easier than peeling them all plus the stems have good flavor! I throw them into the chopper and basically mince the cilantro. Then I get creative. Spoon cilantro into BPA free silicone ice cube trays. I like to use my green sprouts trays, the same ones i use for making applesauce (and baby food prior to Sloan growing up and eating big girl food)
green sprouts Silicone Freezer Tray, Green
I spoon the cilantro into the tray and cover with water. It makes into a nice cilantro cube perfect for sautéing into bell peppers and onion for fajitas! This concept can carry over into garlic, rosemary, basil, or any other herb that you would like. The reason this is nice is because dried herbs lack flavor. But if you buy fresh in bulk, you may not get to use them all. Sure you can freeze them whole, but with a little water it seems to lock in the flavor best!

4. Pair Every Meal with a salad.
There is no better way to get your daily intake of vegetables than to eat a raw salad. As I mentioned before, we go through 3 lbs of  Spinach in a given week. Sloan is now starting to like it too! Rick takes his with oil and Balsamic Vinegar and when he is good he gets blue cheese dressing! I serve his salad plain if i can help it (he is a pound of cheese, loaf of bread for croutons kind of guy).  I usually put any raw or cooked vegetable we have lying around into my salad. The more the merrier. Sloan likes her with ginger dressing like me! Since I know the ingredients in this homemade dressing, i don't mind her having a little. Plus, she is getting acclimated to the taste of raw spinach. Can you think of anything healthier or faster? Open bag, grab spinach, place in bowl, drizzle, serve.

This is all i have for now. I tend to spend no more than one afternoon a month prepping this kind of food and usually my frozen prep lasts for more than a month. Setting out the crock pot in the morning takes minutes and meat can be frozen to start! What are your favorite ways to save time in the kitchen? I'd love to hear them !

The best part about saving so much time? More time to play dress up ! She LOVES dress up and baby dolls and brushing her teeth. We brush them at least three times a day due to high demand!
Did you really think i'd finish a post with just one picture of this sweet face?


  1. I'm so glad you mentioned how to freeze herbs. I have a ton of basil and rosemary growing, and I wanted to do something with them before the first frost kills them. Now I know what to do! We always end up wasting cilantro too, so I will definitely freeze that as well the next time I buy a bunch.

    The main time-saving thing we do is plan our meals in advance every week. It helps when we come home and know what's for dinner instead of opening up the fridge every night and wondering what to make. I wish I could do more crock pot recipes, but there aren't too many good ones that are vegetarian. :( I do love to make chili in there though!

  2. Gigi! What a great review of achieving balance with motherhood and healthy eating!! So proud of you for being so healthy- it feels good to eat well and it shows!! Xoxo

  3. Oh so another important note: while cooking vegetables in the crockpot takes away nutrients from the actual vegetables, they are not lost. The resulting liquid stock gets the benefits. This broth is precious so do not discard- eat with the food or bag and save (once cool of course) for processed-free (and $ free) stock!!

    My favorite time savers are 1- menu planning 2- prior prep and 3- keeping it simple. Complicated is fun but the kids prefer simple and it keeps the hassle and prep minimal!!
    Best for last 4- cook smart!! Cook once eat multiple times- use chicken for several days in various ways, or marinara sauce, or beans- whatever it is pick "it" and get creative!!