Monday, January 31, 2011

In the Kitchen

I've been thinking a lot lately about my kitchen - what works, what doesn't, gadgets that I wouldn't want to be without and ones that were a total waste of time, etc. So, this is the post in which I will brain dump. So, in no particular order:
  • I love, love, love my food processor. It's a Cuisinart 5 quart (I think). I have used it for pretty much everything from chopping onions, to pureeing soups to making pie crusts and cake batter. While I wouldn't call it a true need, I would surely feel differently about cooking without it.
  • If you don't have a crock pot/slow cooker, get one. Or two. Seriously. Not only is it wonderful to load it up with stuff in the morning and have dinner ready with the titchiest effort, but you can cook the cheapest cuts of meat and have it turn out moist and tender in a way the oven could never do. Plus, it's a lot cheaper to run than the oven, and keeps the heat in the kitchen to a minimum (and in our house in the summer, that's a major bonus). Next time you bake potatoes, do them in the crock pot - drop as many as you need in there with a sprinkling of salt and maybe a little smear of butter and turn it on low for 6-8 hours. I'm tellin' ya - try it.
  • I have been menu planning for years, but have recently embarked on a new idea. I've often liked the idea of having a "pattern" to cooking - Monday night, beef; Tuesday, soup; Wednesday, chicken - but felt too pressured to come up with something interesting and non-repetitive for a month, but I didn't want to do the whole "Monday means meatloaf" thing, either. So, in an attempt to compromise, I'm planning for two weeks, and then repeating those two weeks. For example, a couple nights ago, I made a double batch of corn chowder. We ate what we needed for the night, then froze the rest. Then in a couple weeks, we'll eat it again. This allows me to spend less time on planning and cooking, since I can often make the big batch and freeze half. I was also able to buy all the non-perishable food I needed for the whole month in one shop at Aldi, which means spending less money and time doing the shopping.
  • Unless you live by yourself or with one other person, don't buy a waffle iron that only makes one waffle at a time. Friends have one by All Clad that makes four good-sized waffles at a time. Considering the expense (and it is expensive), it'll be an investment to work towards. But with the frequency I cook breakfasts, combined with the number of people I'm feeding, it'll be worth it.
  • Cooking dry beans in the crock pot over night is sooo easy, and quite a bit cheaper than buy thousands of cans. If you cook with beans often, give it a try. Whatever you don't use immediately can be frozen, 1 lb per sandwich bag.

I'm sure there's more, so I'd love to hear from others to see what interesting hints and tips I've been missing out on! Please share...


Danielle said...

Love all your tips. I'm due for getting a bigger waffle iron for sure.

Have any favorite slow cooker recipes to pass on? Still trying to find some that we're all fans of. And I'm definitely going to try implementing your menu planning idea in the near future. Just stocked up at Aldi today!

Briana Almengor said...

I just thought today, "I would really like a food processor."
I think your meal planning is a great idea. THe thing w/ meal planning is you've got to figure out what works for you. I have a friend who meal plans for the entire month all in one shot. I think my head would explode trying to think that far in advance.
I meal plan a week in advance.

Zoanna said...

I never thought to do JUST potatoes in the crock pot. Do you put a bit of water in w /them so the bottom ones don't burn?

I have been all over the board w/ meal planning, but the easiest I found that's gives great variety, I found @ Home Sanctuary.

Leanne said...

Ditto Danielle, any favorite crock pot recipes? I love the crock pot but my husband is fearful of dry meat, so I'm always on the lookout for recipes with moist meat.