September Monthly Mouthful

Some may say that the mark of a good cook is flawless technique or impeccable food. This may be true, but I think that home cooks are grossly under-appreciated for their resourcefulness and wit in the kitchen. Which brings us to this month’s Monthly Mouthful, where we asked food bloggers:

Tell us your best kitchen-timesaver (or other “tricks”).

Read after the jump for clever timesaving tips and kitchen tricks you’ll be dying to try! Got any that weren’t mentioned here? Add them in the comments below!

Radish from Sassy Radish:
My best kitchen time-saver is softening butter in the microwave. Sometimes (always) i get an urge to make cookies and the butter always has to be room temperature – which requires foresight and planning (something I often lack!). So instead of sitting around for a few hours and waiting for the butter to soften, I pop it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds max and it’s perfectly softened. There, I just saved you 2 hours!!

Marc from No Recipes:
This is going to sound ridiculously simple, but I’d have to say my biggest kitchen timesaver is my Kuhn Rikon Epicurean Garlic Press. It’s heavy, so I use the side to lightly smash each clove which makes the dry skin practically fall off. Then I just pop the cloves into the hopper and press away. Cleaning is a lot easier than most garlic presses because of the design. This thing not only saves me the time and tedium of mincing, but it also saves me the time and annoyance of getting that garlic smell out of your fingers.

As far as techniques, I always think think about ways I can cut down on the number of dishes/pots/measuring cups used. For instance, I’ll try to measure out the dry ingredients first, so I can use the same cups for measuring wet ingredients later. Another thing I do is to chop things in the order I need them, using the cutting board as a staging ground, so I don’t need to get extra bowls/plates dirty. Lastly I make frequent use of the microwave to do things like melt chocolate or heat stock for a risotto.

Tenina from Steam Oven Cooking:
So my best timesaver in the kitchen has to be my Thermomix! Called the ‘Bimby’ in Italy (where they sell 100,000 units per year) it was developed for baby food originally, but is the Food processor of the Gods to me! It can do hollandaise, mayonnaise, ganache, risotto, chop, dice, mill all grains, weigh, steam and is generally my sous chef. LOVE it, cannot imagine life without it. (Sorry to wax so lyrical over something so run of the mill, but to use it is to LOVE it!!)

Melissa from Alosha’s Kitchen:
I wracked my brain, but unfortunately, I don’t have any! I’m one of those cooks that always seems to take the most complicated or time-consuming road possible. I should really make it a priority to find some time savers here and there though. It would save me a lot of energy.

Sharon from Chocolate Chipped:
I’m not too proud to use box cake mixes, brownie mixes, canned frosting or any other pre-made baked stuff to give me a head start in the kitchen. I then add special ingredients to those bases, and you cannot tell that I started with a mix.

If I do a brownie mix, I’ll add spiced nuts to it, or do a kind of exotic frosting that’s homemade. If I do a cake mix, I’ll add stuff to it, or I’ll do an elaborate frosting (a flavor you cannot buy in a can.)

You can also doctor up canned frosting–buy the basic kind, then put it in a bowl and whip it for a few minutes to get that light and fluffy effect. You can add flavorings to the frosting, or melt a chili spiced chocolate bar and add it in for some heat.

Spicy nuts (in a brownie) or spicy/hot chocolate bars (in anything) are great add-ins to basic desserts to really kick things up a few hundred notches!

Mansi from Fun and Food Cafe:
I use chopped onions for almost every dish; so I chop onions and bell-peppers and refrigerate them in separate zip-lock bags; ditto for other veggies like carrots, coriander, cabbage or cauliflower – just put them in air-tight containers or bags, and you’ll save tons of time while cooking.

Also, while cooking vegetables or meat for stews or curries, its better to pressure-cook them rather than let them cook on stove-top. This is a great time-saver, as well as renders a better flavor to the curries!” The remaining boiled veggies can be refrigerated and preserved for another 4-5 days.

And last, but not the least, it helps a lot if you have a meal plan ready for the week! that way you can finish your groceries on the weekend, and don’t have to rush for a missing ingredient while making dinner! And if the cards are on your side and you do end up having more time on your hand, ditch the plan and prepare something fancy instead – but it always pays to be organized!

Stef from Cupcake Project:
My timesaver trick is to think of times where you can use the microwave instead of the stove. For my cupcakes, whenever a recipe calls for melting chocolate in a double boiler, I use the microwave. I also use the microwave for getting butter to room temperature. You just need to be careful to not burn the chocolate or melt the butter. I microwave for about 15 seconds at a time depending on how much butter or chocolate I am using.

Becke from Columbus Foodie:
My best kitchen timesaver is to clean the dishes up as I’m cooking instead of letting them pile up. Not only do I stay more organized, it also means a lot less cleanup later in the evening.

Christie from Fig and Cherry:
My absolute favourite thing to do is freeze stuff! My ice cube trays are my best friends. Finely chopped herbs, pureed overripe fruit, homemade stock, leftover pesto and anything else I don’t want to waste gets packed into my trusty trays and frozen. Then they’re transferred to freezer bags and labeled ready to save the day at a minutes notice! It sounds stupidly simple, but chopping fruit for late night cocktails is no laughing matter. I need it ready asap without the risk of ruining my party dress! :)

Gilli from So So Simple Food:
This is not really a timesaver but since watching a lot of TV Chefs I have learnt some good tricks.
I find that cooking pieces of meat and meaty fish tastes so much better by searing both sides and then into a hot oven in the same pan for about 5-6 minutes. Not only does this deliver almost perfect steak/meaty fish, but it also keeps your hands/ hot plate and eyes free to complete other parts of the meal… or even more importantly to sit down momentarily with a glass of wine.

Carol from Paris Breakfast:
Rice Vinegar is my best time saver, even though it sounds like an ingredient. You can save time sprinkling a bit of Rice vinegar on, for example, just washed artichokes ready to go in the microwave for 4-5 minutes (instead of lemon). They’re ready to eat right out of the micro.
Rice vinegar is also great on a salad of chopped red cabbage, green apple, celery, shredded carrot.

Jessie from Cakespy:
I will make icebox cookie dough in advance, so if I have unexpected guests coming over, I can always pop a batch of cookies in the oven and look super-prepared!

Ruth from Once Upon a Feast:
First, I’m always looking for timesavers in the kitchen – just lazy I guess. So it was extremely difficult to settle on just one. So here are a few of my favorites:
1. line baking sheets with parchment for cookies and foil for everything else. I even place a big sheet of foil on the counter under my Griddler so I don’t have much grease to clean up. Guess it’s time to buy shares!

2. before squeezing a lemon, I zest it and add it to a baggie in the freezer. That way I always have some on hand for garnish and seasoning…it’s much tastier than dried.

3. when I find a bargain at the meat counter, I buy in bulk and freeze in individual portion sizes.

4. I store my nuts in the freezer for freshness. Keeps the shopping trips to a minimum and the spontaneity factor for cookies, cakes and other dishes high.

5. My mother’s two best tricks – when making fried chicken, or anything breaded and baked or fried, leave it in the fridge for an hour before cooking. It keeps the coating on the meat, chicken, fish. And, if you’re making large batches of grated or sliced potatoes, For the peeling, grating, slicing, First peel, let them sit in cold water while you’re slicing or grating and as you do each batch, again place them in clean cold water. Drain, pat dry and use them for whatever your dish. You won’t believe the white/yellow color of the potatoes…gone are the gray or weirdly pink.

There are probably a million more, but that’ll do for now.

Anne-Marie from This Mama Cooks:
My biggest time saving trick is to clean up as I am cooking. First, I insist on a clean kitchen before I start. I empty the dishwasher and the dish drying rack and put everything away. Then as I dirty bowls, cutting boards, and utensils, I put them in the sink. In the “downtime” between food prep and cooking, I wash a few things. My aim is to get all the pots and pans washed before we sit down to dinner. That way the only clean up I have after dinner – when I’m tired – is just the dishes and glasses we used to eat. There’s nothing more daunting than facing a kitchen full of dirty dishes after having a good meal.

Warda from 64sq ft Kitchen:
My best kitchen-timesaver is that I always cook as if we were six at home, when in reality we are only three, and freeze the rest for the lazy days. My freezer is always packed with homemade tomato sauces, homemade tart dough, roasted peppers, banana bread, for Sunday’s breakfast, jars of homemade pesto, phyllo dough, and ice cream. Gotta have ice cream!

The pantry should have different kinds of pasta, grains, cereals, canned beans and, of course, chocolate.

As always, thanks to everyone who participated! If you were not contacted for this month’s Monthly Mouthful and would like to be included in future Monthly Mouthfuls, please e-mail us at chewonthatblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

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  • http:/// Stef

    Great roundup! All of these freezer tips makes me think that I need a bigger freezer!

  • carmen

    One of my favorite time savers is a meat mallet. I wack the garlic with the flat side and Voila! The skin is off and the garlic ready to chop. One of the most important things in a kitchen is a good knife. Worth the investment!

  • gilli

    Ruth love the lemon zest tip. Never thought of that.
    Hillary great round up again very interesting.

  • Chocolate Chipped

    What an excellent group of replies!

    I also had never thought about freezing lemon zest–I need to start doing that.

    And I also like the one about making ice box cookie dough and having it on hand for impromptu guests. I actually did that last Christmas, and when a visiting family member asked me if I had anything sweet on hand for dessert, I said “sure” and I just whipped out these amazing homemade cookies, fresh from the oven and spur of the moment. Everyone was in awe :-)

  • Christie@fig&cherry

    Great round up again this month Hillary!
    Love the nuts in the freezer idea. Clever.

  • JEP

    The Monthly Mouthful round-up is always fun to read & of course learn some good tips from the best cooks…thanks! My biggest timesaver is having someone else in the kitchen who does all the cooking…lol :)

  • Margaret Pearce

    After peeling or chopping garlic, run your fingers over the stainless steel kitchen faucet. Odor goes away.

  • melissa

    It turns out I do have some, I just didn’t think of them that way – like I do everything Marc does. And I also clean as I go.

    I love the chopped onion storage idea from Mansi. And also the lemon zest one from Ruth. Dang, I wish I had read that yesterday when I wasted two perfectly good lemons on just the juice!

  • clumbsycookie

    Great tips everyone! To save time I rely on my freezer most of the times. I like to do things in advance or double quatity and then freeze!

  • Mary

    my BEST kitchen timesaver is when I need sliced olives for a dish, I use my egg slicer to slice them! I can slice up to 5 olives at a time and it is more economical to buy whole pitted olives & slice them myself!! My daughter in law even showed our family trick to her “Foods” teacher @ school and won a contest for it!! Her teacher now uses it every year in her class!

  • Simona

    I like to wash all my fruits when I get them from the store, like blueberries and strawberries or grapes, and then I let them air dry on a huge bath towel and throw them into the original contaner. When I need them I just toss them into a smoothie or right onto my kids plate.

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