Making ‘Day to Day’ Easy
Cooking everything from scratch can be challenging at times considering the demands of modern living.
Over the past couple years, it seems I have found ways of organising myself so that dinner can still appear on the table despite days being filled to beyond bursting with school commitments like making Victorian costumes, kids’ extra curricular activities like dance, mundane jobs like cleaning football boots and trimming garden edges, as well as more purposeful endeavours like exercising and updating websites…
Unlike many people, I do not tend to do a lot of batch cooking for the freezer. But one thing I do is look ahead of the day and for example, make a casserole which will cook in the oven by itself for a couple of hours before I pick up the girls from school. It cooks whilst I am out and is ready for dinner time.
These kind of tricks and tips are the glue that helps me keep it all together and I hope that you will find them useful too.
1 – Getting ahead of myself:
There are a number of basic foods which I always have ready in the fridge because they are key to other dishes. Once a week, I steal five minutes here and there to make bone broth (stock), coconut yogurt and fruit compote, as well as to pre-cook vegetables.
Stock is a base for numerous dishes (check the recipe in Basics) but primarily I use it so I have a base for soups, which are easy to put together at any time of day, particularly with leftovers (see below).
Coconut yogurt is lovely with fruits and I often have it with my breakfast. So I make a couple of pots which last me the week – unless my five year old decides she is in the mood for yogurt…
Fruit compote: at some point in the week I will make compote to avoid throwing some fruits away. It is very useful to have during the week for quick desserts, as is, with coconut yogurt or for a last minute Crumbler for guests.
Pre-roasting vegetables in their skins: this has to be the most time saving tip I have. Let’s face it, the proteins generally, are not the most time consuming to prepare. Vegetables are. And during the week, I do not have the time to prep loads of vegetables. But when I pre-cook them in the oven in their skin (after washing them and wrapping them in foil), then I have saved time and effort (no peeling no chopping) as well as washing up (no boiling). Indeed, once the vegetables are cooked, I let them cool down, cover them and then keep them in the fridge for up to a week or so until I need them. What it means is that I can have mash, chunky soup and warm winter salads or chopped fried veggies in an instant because the vegetables are already cooked. Although I still peel and chop, it takes no time at all. This works for root vegetables (celeriac and beetroot for examples love this kind of treatment), sweet potatoes, cauliflower and squashes. I even throw in red peppers, fennel and celery.
2 – Making the most of the time when I am already cooking:
The principle is very simple really: if I am already cooking and all the equipment is already out, making a casserole for example, a little more chopping of the same thing will not be as time consuming.
So if the oven is already on, it makes sense to throw in a few root vegetables to pre -roast roasts (see above).
If I am already chopping vegetables, I chop a few more to make stock or soup.
If I am already making a cake and have a spare yolk, it is a good time to make custard…it is always a good time to make custard!
3 – Making the most of my leftovers:
Beside my aversion to throwing food away, this is why I have a whole section dedicated to leftovers – because they are incredibly useful.
Re-inventing the wheel: clearly the major disadvantage of leftovers is their looks. However, their advantage is that they are already cooked. Indeed, with a little re-invention, in ten minutes you can have a delicious meal. Check out the Fish cakes and Choc and hazelnut pudding in the Leftovers section, or the Chicken wrap in the Quick and Easy section.
Chunky soups: since I already have stock in the fridge, most winter days I have a chunky soup for lunch by adding leftover vegetables (roasted, mashed or boiled) and leftover meat or fish cut into strips/chunks to a couple of ladles of stock. The soups are always surprising, never the same twice and always delicious because the ingredients are already tasty from their first cooking. For that reason, Monday’s soups are generally the tastiest due to the Sunday roast. But I have to say, the biggest surprise was the teryaki salmon in with the spaghetti squash and kale soup with a dash of coconut milk… who would have thought!
Blended soups: or the compost soup like my eldest calls it. This is because I throw into it all the vegetable parts that are less attractive, less palatable but yet still very tasty. By that I mean fresh carrot tops, beetroot tops, cauliflower leaves etc…as well as any leftover vegetables I have left in the fridge, including mashes, roasted or sautéed. I put them all in a pan with stock or water until all is tender and then whiz so no one can pull a face…and I have to say, they are always tasty. As my grandma would say: ‘Of course it’s tasty, only tasty things went in it!’
4 – My fast foods:
Making my own food does not mean I do not have access to fast foods – although they might not be the ones people generally think of…
Ready made and transportable (on the go, packed lunches etc…): I always keep a steady supply of these ingredients for snacks and lunches on the go – avocado, tinned fish, Droewors and billtong (artisan made), macademia and brazil nuts (no soaking needed), coconut shavings, dried fruits (untreated), and fresh fruits.
Super fast:when I have 15 minutes to make dinner, I generally go for fresh fish, steak or eggs. In terms of vegetables, I go for mash sweet potato and frozen spinach. Check out the Sea bass and sweet potato mash recipe.