Thursday, March 24

WFMW - Finding Shortcuts in the Kitchen

So, I promised to write more about my marathon-o-cooking that took place last week.  Trust me, it was NOTHING compared to the cooking days I had in preparation for Henry's birth (you can read more about that here).  I do, however, like to set aside find make time to do some small things in the kitchen that help make my daily cooking adventures a bit easier.  So, from time to time, I will do a few days like this (usually not all at once) to keep my freezer stocked.  So here are a few ideas that I've found to help me keep up during busy times by being prepared for our families needs. (NOTE: Our family is different than yours, not better or worse...just different.  Find what works for you and try to make time to fit it into your schedule to make it easier on you at other times when you just CAN'T find one extra second.)

1. Browning large quantities of ground beef at once.  I don't like to brown too
much b/c of fears of freezer burn, but having some already browned ground beef that can be quickly thawed for dinner can shave off some serious time in dinner prep--especially if you're like me and often forget to thaw the raw ground beef you need to start fixing an hour.  Last week I browned about 16 lbs of ground beef, stored it in 1 lb portions in Ziploc bags, labeled them with the date and contents of the bag, and put them in the freezer.

2. Cooking up several pounds of cinnamon apples.  Carter loves cinnamon apples for breakfast, I quite enjoy them in oatmeal or grits (I true Oklahoman apparently likes sweet grits, but I'm a transplant), and James enjoys cinnamon applesauce for snacks or lunch.  I core and dice several pounds at once, cook them with a bit of cinnamon and sugar, and then put them in canning jars.  One usually goes in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.  Also, this is a super easy way to make applesauce, just puree the apples in the blender after you're done cooking them (or after you've thawed them in the fridge).

3. Blanching and freezing potatoes.  This is something that never occurred to me before last week when I was upset, once again, for having so many potatoes about to go bad and not knowing how in the world I was going to use them all.  My solution was to dice them into approximately 1" chunks and blanch them for about 5 minutes in boiling water.  I then put them on a cooking sheet and in the freezer.  Once frozen, just pop them into Ziploc bags.  This works great as we really love cheeseburger soup, stone soup, and cheesy potato soup, and makes the cooking time on all of these a lot faster also!

4. Sauteed onions and celery.  Celery is another thing that usually goes bad before I can use it all.  Today I chopped several stalks of celery and about 1/2 a large onion and sauteed them in butter, laid them out on a cooking sheet, froze them, and then bagged them up for use in future soups and stews.

5. Cooked, chopped/shredded chicken.  Usually at least once every 3-4 weeks I cook two small roasting hens in the crock pot all day.  Then I take the meat off the bone and shred/dice.  I package it in 1 cup portions and freeze them.  This is also convenient for use in making quick meals (like this one).

Well, that's what's working for me right now.  Are there shortcuts you use in the kitchen that make dinner prep easier?  I'd love to hear about them!

This was posted for Works For Me Wednesday, hosted by We are THAT Family.  

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