How to Cook More

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Long work day, soccer practice, battling rush hour traffic — there are a lot of things that can prevent you from cooking dinner. And it’s an all-too common problem as I constantly meet people who have the best intentions but who can’t find a way to make it work. I recently served up solutions at Pamper Me Fabulous and thought I’d share them here too. So, here you go: ways to get dinner on the table in the time you’d normally wait for the delivery to arrive.

Plan Ahead

You never going to want to cook if it becomes an affair every time you plan a meal. The solution? Plan ahead. If you’re really committed, you can make a plan for all 5 dinners each week and go to the store with those meals in mind. But don’t get overwhelmed because it doesn’t need to be that extensive. Most produce and proteins can be used in multiple ways so instead of buying 5 types of greens, buy one and just prepare it multiple ways. Take, for example, spinach, which can be eaten raw in a salad, stirred into a pasta at the last second, sauteed with garlic, or steamed with a squeeze of lemon — and that’s just one ingredient. The bottom line here is to look for items that can multitask.

Pimp Out Your Pantry

Having a well-stocked pantry is a lost art form. That may seem like an overstatement but it takes a certain attention and finesse to have a pantry that’s at once utilitarian and exciting. There’s nothing but upside to investing in your pantry as the payoff is that you can cook more with way less effort. I’ll be talking specific pantry planning on Monday during the Family Food Summit, so check back then for pantry must-haves and recipe ideas.

Work with Your Schedule

Cook what’s doable in the time you have. When I first started cooking, my enthusiasm would get the best of me and I’d start in on an elaborate meal only to find myself an hour later feeling ravenous and cranky and with the end nowhere in site. Learn from my mistake and be realistic. Something as simple as a salad with seared shrimp or an open face sandwich or an omelet can all be prepped and on the table in 10 minutes time.

Don’t Be Overly Ambitious

It’s not to say you shouldn’t experiment because I’m all about finding your food adventure. But keep ambition in check with a dash of reality. When it comes to cook, always have a few no-brainer recipes in the mix (like a steamed vegetable or roast potato) so that you can focus on the harder part (usually the main dish) without stressing out.

Mise En Place

Those who love competition shows have heard this kitchen term — meaning literally “everything in its place — and it’s with reason. When you mise en place by not only measuring and cutting your ingredients before you start cooking but also by reading the recipe through so you understand the technique, you’ll fare better once you fire up the stove.

Cook More Now For Less Work Later

Every time you go to cook, stop for a second and identify foods you’re already cooking that will make good leftovers. If you make foods in excess now (such as chicken, tofu, grains, beans, or roast vegetables), it will cut the prep time for tomorrow’s meal.

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

My goal is to get our generation back in the kitchen and to become the effortless cooks that many of our grandmothers were. But, that’s not going to happen if we expect to be perfect from the start. So, ditch your Martha Stewart tendencies for perfection and be forgiving, adventurous, and, most of all, have fun.

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