Everyone thinks her mom (or grandma) is the best cook ever. My grandma was an excellent cook, and my husband’s mother created some meals that he looks back on fondly. Their meals took hours: I remember my grandmother starting preparations for Thanksgiving days ahead of time, and even simple meals — like ham and beans or chili — took from sunup until mealtime.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of time. I need easy, delicious recipes because between work, social obligations and spending time with my husband, I’d rather not spend hours cooking — particularly during the week. So, what are some shortcuts you can take that won’t compromise quality but will shave time off preparation?
Many stores have vegetables precut, including mixes for stews, stir-fry dishes and many other purposes — even mirepoix (celery, onion and carrot), which is the base of so many soups, stews and other dishes. While I find chopping and dicing relaxing, it can be pretty time-consuming for a busy cook. Let your grocery store do the work for you so you can focus on other parts of your simple, delicious recipes.
Deli chickens are my go-to shortcut. My grandma made a fantastic roasted chicken, but sometimes I don’t have the time to both cook it and cool it before I need to use it. You can, of course, just eat roasted chicken with salad or sides, but I love to break down a roasted chicken to make chicken salad. Just add mayonnaise, onion, dill relish, salt and pepper, and you have a quick, easy dish. Roasted chickens are also great for enchiladas, pitas sandwiches, salads or any other easy, tasty recipes where you’d use cooked chicken.
Sometimes, I really want chili, but I don’t want to take the time to make it (and canned chili isn’t my thing). Instead, I use seasoned, canned chili beans. I’ll brown my onions and beef (or turkey or chicken) like I normally do, then use the canned beans to make easy, delicious recipes. This way, I don’t have to spend hours simmering the beans and spices.
I love roasted beets, potatoes and sweet potatoes, but they can often take an hour or more to roast. The trick to doing this faster? Parboil them. Simply peel your root vegetables, cut them into chunks and boil until not-quite tender. Then, drain them, toss them in olive oil and your favorite herbs and brown them under the boiler. Quick, easy and delicious.
Utilize Your Slow Cooker
You don’t have a smoker (much less 18 hours) but want pork shoulder for barbecue sandwiches? Slow cook it. Are you craving lasagna but don’t want to layer pasta, cheese and sauce right after work? Slow cooker. Taco soup to warm you up? Slow cooker. Your trusty slow cooker gives you the taste and complexity of a dish you’ve labored over all day while you’re away at work. If you have a combination slow and pressure cooker, you can also use it to easily steam rice in no time. They’re handy kitchen multitaskers.