Post #645 The Shortest Ways – A Dozen Short Cuts in the Kitchen

May 23, 2019 at 8:03 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Since starting work full time, dinnertime has taken on a slightly frantic, but creative flair.  We get home fairly late at the best of times, and if we need to stop on the way home, it’s nearly bedtime by the time we finish eating.  We’ve never been ones to eat leftovers, so we cook only what we’re going to eat at that time.  Occasionally we cook in army portions, but that’s with the specific plan to freeze it for later.  Things like soup, and spaghetti.

Over time, though, we have developed some short cuts.  I’m not a big fan of cooking loads of food on the weekend and freezing meals for the week.  It smacks of leftovers, and doesn’t taste fresh.  At least, to me.  So we cook fresh, but we cook quick.  And it’s usually tasty and good for us.  Usually.  So here’s some of our short cuts that work for us.  Try them or not, it’s up to you.

  1. Salad and grilled animal flesh – How many times have I chatted about this one?This one is a full meal start to finish in less than 30 minutes.  It relies on small cuts of meat, and a salad kit.  Usually, we use either a chopped Asian salad, or a Cesar salad.  Our favorite meat is steak, rib eye to be exact, although we don’t turn our noses up at sirloin or New York strip.
  2. Breakfast for Dinner – Again, under thirty minutes, but it relies on doing two or more things at once.  If you can’t multitask, it will take longer.  Usually, we bacon or sausage, scrambled eggs, and toast or biscuits.  Everything is done at the same time, and is hot and tasty.  But there’s a secret to this one in short cut number three.
  3. Frozen Biscuits – Biscuits are the success story of frozen foods.  So much better than the old standard of refrigerator tube biscuits.  In my younger days, I once tried to open a tube and use half and save the others.  It was a disaster.  Once they’re cooked, they never have the fresh baked taste.  Although it’s a stretch to call them fresh baked.  Frozen biscuit, though, can be used in whatever increment you want at the moment.  I never follow the directions though.  I set the oven to 400 or 425 and bake them for 18-22 minutes.  They rise in an explosion, and the flavor is wonderful.  And I didn’t have to make them from scratch.  They can be used as the basis for any number of meals, or as a side, or as breakfast.
  4. Another frozen breakfast item we use a lot is the shredded potato patty.  Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pan until it shimmers and throw two of them in for a few minutes on each side.  Drain and sprinkle with a little salt and they are tasteeee!  We usually enjoy these as a side, but I’ve also used them to hold sauces.  Sloppy Joes, chili and cheese, pizza sauce, all of them on top of these guys make a great crunch dinner.
  5. Frozen berries (I usually use blueberries) in a tossed green salad with pecans and bacon turn the salad into a whole meal.  I got the idea from a commercial on television.
  6. There’s another frozen product that can be made into dozens of different things, limited by your imagination.  It’s called puff pastry.  Ever use it?  You can get it in sheets or cups.  Thaw them out before cooking.  Once they cook, they live up to their name and puff up into gigantic things.  We’ve made bread sticks, Danish, small tarts, appetizers, pizza, all kinds of things.  Cut and shape the sheets, or use the cups.
  7. Tacos, but nuff said right?  Tacos are fast and easy.  We use pre-shredded cheese and lettuce a lot of times.  We don’t use taco shells because we don’t like the flavor, but they are certainly another short cut that you can use.  Sometimes, when I don’t feel like putting them together, we have taco salad and for the corn tortilla effect, we use Fritos!  So good.
  8. Chili dogs are way good and way fast.  Sometimes we use brats or other sausages, but mostly it’s Ball Park franks, cuz you know, they plump when you cook ’em.
  9. Pasta and butter/olive oil.  Hard to beat it.  My mom used to make butter noodles for us as kids all the time.  As I got older, I started playing with it, adding and taking away.  Then I found out that Italian cuisine has been doing this for centuries and found hundreds of perfect combos.  Doesn’t matter.  Play with it and find what works for you.  My ex-wife used to but seeds and nuts on it.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see her put peanut butter on it.  I like it with lemon and parmesan.  Sometimes I use butter; sometimes I use olive oil; and sometimes I use both.  You can even make this healthy by cutting back on the amount of fats, and using whole wheat noodles.
  10. One of my favorite short cuts is the rice kits.  But not all of them.  Most of them go way overboard on the salt.  Through trial and error, I found the Near East brand tastes really good.  Really good.  We’ve tried nearly all of the different varieties and haven’t found one yet that we didn’t like.  You can make them with either butter or olive oil, but I haven’t decided which I prefer.  BUT, the big short cut that I like so much is one I sort of invented.  I take left over beef roast and cut it into small bite-sized pieces and add it to the pot at the beginning.  Then I just follow the instructions on the package.  The roast becomes so tender it melts in your mouth and the rice takes on added richness.  So good.
  11. Okay, so I’ll admit it, cake mixes.  Once in a while, when there’s a time crunch, a cake mix does it, and it’s easy.  And they taste good.  And they’re foolproof.  So stop smirking.
  12. The star of shortcuts has got to be instant mashed potatoes.  Way back in the day, they were flakes or buds and the process to make them was long and involved and seldom resulted in tasty potatoes.  Now though, the pouch makes two cups in the time it takes to boil two cups of water and whisk the powder into it.  And the flavors are good, too.  They even have one with lumps in it for a more homestyle effect.  And they keep the price way down on these guys, too.  We keep four or five pouches around all the time.

So, yeah, we use short cuts when we need to.  I’ve been snobbish in the past about how good cooking is done from scratch and is really a matter of scheduling.  But there are times in busy lives when that just isn’t reality.  Short cuts are.

So, what short cuts do you guys use?  Share with everyone.  And always feel free to share the post if you like.

As always,

2 Comments

  1. One shortcut I like is cook once, eat twice. I boil double the amount needed for tonight’s Mac and cheese, the extra pasta after cooling, is made into macaroni salad. Last nights roast chicken is tonight’s chicken salad.

    I know you don’t like leftovers, but I don’t think of these things as leftovers as they are all transformed into something new.

    • I’ve used the cook-twice method and occasionally find something we like. Recently, I made pulled pork sandwiches, barbecue-style, and used the leftover pork the next day over oven baked tater tots with a side salad. We do tend to take what minimal leftovers there are for lunch the next day to avoid buying from the hospital cafeteria. The food is good but pricey. Take care!


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