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Cultivate Simple 57: Saving Time in the Kitchen

December 16th, 2013

MINIMIZE kitchen stuff.  It’s much more efficient to work in a space that is clutter free.  You don’t need more than one set of measuring cups or spoon, rinse out after use and put back.  Invest in a few quality items that will make cooking easier and much more enjoyable.  It’s also easier to maintain such items.  Good quality pots are easier to clean than cheap ones.
real_pumpkin_pie 7
Don’t fall for the lies, you don’t need 2 vegetables, a fruit, a grain and meat for a meal. sometimes one pot meals are easiest and healthiest!
When making biscuits, don’t roll out and cut in circles, pat into a big circle on the cookie sheet (or big cast iron pan) and cut like a pizza, or roll into balls and fit into a cast iron skillet for baking.
While you’re waiting for one thing to cook, start something else.  One day this past week I was baking something and decided I may as well cut and cook up onions for breakfasts while I was working.  Boiling a big pot of potatoes once a week is also a great idea, then you at least always have potatoes for a quick meal or to use for breakfasts.
Learn to make a few recipes that can be easily adapted to ingredients.  Master the art of making

  • Crepes: they’re so easy and can be used for main dishes when stuffed with savory ingredients or with sweet ones like fruit and whipped cream as a healthy snack.
  • Omelets: are also a good thing to master, they can be enjoyed for breakfast and dinner and can be stuffed with all the little bits of leftovers that aren’t enough for a meal.
  • Soup: is one of the best recipes to learn how to make.
  • Hash: throw everything in a skillet with different herbs.

One of the keys for this to work is to learn which herbs/spices pair best with different vegetable & meats.Double or triple every recipe, especially if it’s soup.  Freeze them in meal sized containers and you can pull them out of the fridge in the morning before you go to work for dinner that evening.  This goes for cookies and stuff as well, double the recipe and freeze half.  Or if you don’t want to eat an entire batch of cookies, freeze the cookies already cooked or the cookie dough.
Cook up a few staples at the beginning of the week.  Onions are always good to have in the fridge so you can make quick omelets.  I like to cook extra potatoes to keep them on hand.  You can use them for hash brown for breakfast or as a dinner side.  Mashed potatoes can also be made quite easily if needed as a quick side.
Learn to be creative with leftovers and learn to be creative with ingredients.  Make a pot of chili, eat chili on night, skip a night then the third night eat chili over baked potatoes with cheese on top.  You could also make chili lasagna and throw it in the freezer if you want a third meal option.
Wash dishes as you go when you have bits of time, by the time you’re done with dinner, all the prep dishes will be washed.
Maintain a well stocked pantry, have ingredients on hand all the time for quick meals.  Have a few meals that are quick and easy in your repertoire and keep those in mind for busy days.  I keep a few jars of home canned tomato soup on hand for such days.  Having a well stocked pantry will also mean that you’ll have ingredients on hand when you’re cooking.  Maintain a pantry based on your need, not what others say you should have.

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15 Comments to “Cultivate Simple 57: Saving Time in the Kitchen”
  1. Misti on December 16, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Haven’t listened yet, but I’ll tell you, one of my pet peeves are people who don’t clean dishes as they go. Just seeing the dishes makes my head feel cluttered!

    I love your herb drawer. We’ve been trying to come up with an idea for displaying our herbs besides the rack that hangs over the pantry door; it came with the house. Our problem is that we have all of the little jars of herbs.

    Reply to Misti's comment

    • misti on December 16, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      Now that I have listened I can add that my husband is an avid watcher of YouTube to figure out how to do things. He was initially going to pay someone to recover a pool table he got on Craig’s List but instead watched a bunch of videos and decided to do it himself. He did a good job but does admit he’ll likely hire someone next time—it was a bit more difficult than it was worth,I think. He’s taught himself a ton of things by YouTube.

      Reply to misti's comment

  2. Emily on December 16, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Great tips! I have never owned biscuit cutters. I used to use a glass, but now I pat the dough into a rectangle and make square biscuits. I love that there are no scraps.

    Reply to Emily's comment

  3. DebbieB on December 16, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Lots of great ideas in this podcast!

    Here in Louisiana, we eat a lot of rice (we eat brown). I make a large amount of rice at once, then it’s in the refrigerator and ready to warm up to go with different meals. I’m very fond of making stews – throw in meat, veggies, spices, broth and cook down, then serve over rice. Stir fries are the same – toss in whatever I have, oil/veggies/meat/spices, serve over rice. I’ll often make a soup out of leftovers, by adding broth, and make it more hearty with (you guessed it) some rice.

    It’s great to have a few staple recipes that can be varied and expanded. I’d love an eBook on this subject, Susy, hint hint! And it would be well worth a few dollars to support the blog/podcast.

    I make drop biscuits, so there’s no cutting or flouring of boards or counters.

    I do the “multi-tasking” thing too… as something’s simmering or browning, I wash a few things, chop a few things, put away a few things…

    I had to laugh at myself – I’ve got one of those boxes full of measuring cups and measuring spoons! Yet I never ever ever use the 1/3 cup, or the 1/8 tsp., and I certainly don’t need 3 of each size! None of them are cute or collector, they’re just extras and IN THE WAY. 2014 will be the year of getting rid of all the extra craaaaap!

    Reply to DebbieB's comment

    • kathi Cook on December 16, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      I do the same with brown rice. Since it takes 40 min to cook, I like to make it once for the week. I love to eat it warmed up for breakfast mixed with a scrambled egg, spinach, then topped with cheese. It’s quick,healthy and filling.

      Reply to kathi Cook's comment

  4. Jenny on December 16, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    One of my favorite ingredients to cook once and use in multiple ways is baked potatoes. I bake about 5 large ones for the two of us and we usually eat 1 or just a half each. The first night, we just eat them normally, usually with butter and sour cream, as a side dish to a roast or something.

    Then the next day I cut them in half lengthwise and hollow out the skins, but leave a good layer of potato on the skin. Then I use the inside of the potato for baked potato soup. The next day I take the skins and fill them. You can just do potato skins with bacon and cheese to have as another side, but I like fill them with something more substantial to be another meal.

    You can do beef (maybe leftover from the roast) shredded with a little bbq sauce and cheese on top, pulled pork, chili and cheese, or whatever else sounds good to you.

    Another time saving tip is to brown up lots of ground beef (or venison) at once (maybe with onions fried in it if you usually use them together), drain it, then freeze in small containers. Then it’s very easy to pull out and make a quick meal such a spaghetti, chili, or shepherd’s pie. You can also taco season a bunch of it before freezing, if you use a lot of taco meat.

    Reply to Jenny's comment

  5. Bettina on December 16, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    One great idea for crepes is to make a few extra (not sweet, neutral ones or maybe with parsley and chives in the dough). Then roll them up when cool and cut into thin strips. They freeze well and make a great addition to any beef or chicken soup instead of dumplings.

    Reply to Bettina's comment

  6. kristin @ going country on December 17, 2013 at 6:51 am

    I always feel safe when I have cooked potatoes in the refrigerator, as if anything is possible for dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch. I love potatoes.

    Cleaning as you go is much easier with a dishwasher. And without a small child literally clinging to your knees and screaming as you shuffle around the kitchen in half-step to get dinner done.

    There will come a day when making dinner at my house will not resemble a bad sit-com, but that day is not now.

    Reply to kristin @ going country's comment

  7. Krista on December 18, 2013 at 3:46 am

    Suzy, could you share your ganache with cocoa powder recipe? Can you still call it a ganache? Is it thick enough to make truffles? I suppose I could play around with butter, cream, cocoa powder and sugar but I don’t want to end up with more than I know what to do with and eating it is not an option :P

    Doing dishes after you’re done with them and not the next day helps to save time. That way you don’t have to scrub hard all that dried food. But I always end up doing dishes once a day to save water (and water saving is big in Australia) and that usually happens before I start cooking dinner, and so when I’m done cooking I don’t have any space to put the clean frypan to dry. And I refuse to get a dishwasher (to all those people who say that it saves water when washing, what about all the energy and materials that went into making it the first place?).
    The solution is very obvious, really. Do the dishes after you dirty them and not when you have a massive pile. And get the husband to put them away so that I don’t have to.

    Who would’ve thought I could ramble on about doing dishes so much?

    Reply to Krista's comment

    • Susy on December 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      Yes, here is the cocoa powder ganache recipe:

      It would be thick enough for truffles and is quite good.

      We too do dishes as soon as we’re done eating and I’m with you on the dishwasher saving energy. When ours died and we started washing dishes by hand both our electric and our water bills went down. That’s the only lifestyle change that happened, so I deduced that the dishwasher used a ton of energy.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Krista on December 18, 2013 at 3:57 am

    I realised I didn’t quite finish my thoughts on the dishes thing.
    And when I do the dishes after I’ve used them, I wonder if I’m using more water than when I do a big batch because with the former I usually let the tap run but with the big batch I plug the sink and use the same water for most of the dishes.

    Yes, I get stuck on the little things.

    Reply to Krista's comment

    • Susy on December 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      I used to wonder this, but when our dishwasher died our water and electric bills both went down when we started doing dishes by hand – proof enough for me!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. Jan C. on December 18, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    Store chopped onions, peppers, etc. in canning jars. They stay good for a much longer time.

    Reply to Jan C.'s comment

  10. BJ on December 22, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I was listening to this podcast as I cooked supper and realized that I did one of your tips this morning. I was frying some bacon for egg sandwiches and I cooked some extra bacon for the dip I will be making for Christmas Eve! Now I won’t have to get the frying pan out again on Tuesday to cook bacon :)

    Reply to BJ's comment

  11. Sheila Nielsen Rocky Top Farm on January 26, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    loved the information!! went straight to my kitchen and tossed everything in my drawers i do not use.. my husband was ecstatic!! we are slowly going through each room and getting down to the bare minimum of what we use or really love.. nothing else.. so freeing! also enjoyed your cooking hints. i have three hungry, growing boys and my hubby to cook for and it is a chore!! :) but good, healthy food is so important!! thank you for the podcast!! :)

    Reply to Sheila Nielsen Rocky Top Farm's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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