As a mom and home chef to a hungry family of six (one big man, three boys, a daughter and myself), I’m always looking for cooking shortcuts. The only catch is trying to find those timesavers without losing the yum! It wasn’t until hurricane Irene hit my area and we were out of power for almost 4 days that I realized the neat little tricks we were already doing that made our lives much easier. Although our power-outage prompted this post, these cooking shortcuts can be used anytime to make you and your little cook’s life easier. I hope you enjoy mine favorite five. If you have any, please share in the comments section!
#1 Pre-cooked Pasta – Save 10-15 minutes off your meal preparation time by cooking your pasta on the weekend and freezing it. When you need a quick meal, just pull the pasta out of the freezer, place it in a strainer and rinse with hot water. As long as it’s stored properly, it will remain fresh tasting for 5-6 months.
Kid-friendly activity: When storing the pasta, let the little cooks rinse the hot pasta off with cold water and place it in a freezer-safe bag or container. When thawing the pasta, if they are old enough, they can heat it up using the hot water, while you prepare the sauce.
#2 Frozen Wheat Bread – We love the buttery bread found in the freezer section of the store. Unfortunately, it’s filled with tons of unhealthy fat. So, here comes the redemption of the local family bakery – buy fresh bread! Our kids love the fresh aroma. Even more exciting to them is that when they pick out the bread, they can flex their muscles carrying the enormous loaf around the grocery store for all to marvel. When we get home, we simple cut it into inch-width sizes and freeze. When it’s time to eat, simply thaw the pieces by setting them on the counter for an hour, browning them in the oven or popping them in the microwave. – awh, so many yummy options! If stored properly, bread can be frozen and remain tasty for up to 6 months.
Kid-friendly activity: No time to cook? Let the kids take over this recipe. Use the bread for a tuna melt. It’s quick, fast and delicious!
#3 Cook extra oatmeal! – Mornings in a family kitchen can be more hectic than Grand Central Station. Make the process go smoother by cooking triple the amount of oatmeal that your family can eat in one breakfast and store the rest in the refrigerator. Over the next two days, simply put the amount of oatmeal you want to eat in individual bowls and heat them separately in the microwave (don’t reheat the large main bowl). Then each person can add the toppings they like best. In our family we like raisins, craisins, banana’s, peanut-butter, milk agave and peaches.
Kid-friendly activity: If the little cooks are young, this is a great way to allow them to make their own breakfast. You simply heat the bowl in the microwave and let them do the rest. For the older little cooks, have them be creative and prepare the oatmeal add-ins for the family. If they are creative enough, in addition to adding extra fiber in their diets, you may get them to eat a couple extra servings of fruit!
#4 Freeze Soynut or Peanut butter & Jelly Sandwiches. Yep, make ’em and freeze ’em! This not only saves you time when making lunches everyday, it will help keep your bread from going soggy when it’s in their lunch box.
Kid-friendly activity: Let the little cooks do the hard work. If I learned anything about being a parent raising little cooks, making sandwiches is one of the first activities they grasp. The gift of knowing how to spread PB&J on bread (while licking the rest off their fingers) is an invaluable and exciting talent!
#5 Use the Slow-cooker. Ok, so maybe we didn’t do this during the power-outage, but we could have because my hubby had the foresight to hook up the generator. On the other hand, me and the little cooks took advantage of the opportunity to eat plenty of hot-pockets instead! So, I’ll post the homemade recipe we used soon. But, using a slow-cooker as a timesaver can never get old, tired or played out. It simply is one of the most wonderful cooking aids around. Especially when you’re running all day and want to prepare delicious and healthy good food for your family.
Kid-friendly activity: Most little cooks love to help! Give them the job of making sure you turn on the slow-cooker when you leave for work in the morning or before they go to pre-school. If you didn’t have time to prepare the meal, they can help you by grabbing a pack of their favorite veggies from the freezer. You grab the chicken broth, cream of chicken soup and a couple pounds of chicken. Wash and season the chicken and dump all the ingredients in the slow-cooker. This should take you no longer than 5-7 minutes and you’re little cook will be amazed at how good the food tastes and will be excited to help you cook the next meal.